Little Pearl Onion

What will you show me?

At first glance

in this slice of light,

you seem perfect, round & whole.

Poised on wooden cutting board.

The light shifts through glass

to coat your way home,

pristine and alone.

I see you and I wonder

What bigger picture

could such beauty hold?

What happens to the

thinly layered fear of

not enough

when it is answered

with ease

one

by

one?

 Little Pearl Onions,

where one becomes many,

each carefully peeled and prepared.

A reminder that we are all

uniquely alike,

beautiful alone 

but also delicious

when gathered together.

What begins as one, grows into many.

Until a full medley mounts

mouthwatering and ready

to be seasoned

and finally served.

This rich inner life

which happens

in the mundane,

quietly ordinary moments.

 

This is where miracles reside.


Hope is sparked by one

but when gathered up

makes a miracle complete.


Little Pearl Onion.

Thank you for showing me.

.

In the smallest moments, there is an opportunity to find a richer meaning. For the month of April and May, in blog posts and workshops, I will be exploring how to expand the simple moments into places for creative growth and inspiration.  Additionally, I will be exploring my own creativity in the small moments, and sharing them with you through words and images. 

Will you join me in this springtime renewal?

Call me today for a personal exploration for creative answers to the thoughts that bring you pain, the questions left unanswered, the hope that is floundering. robin@robintilly.com

Or share with us your own insights discovered in the tiny moments, send pictures or stories that delight your senses, uplift your spirit and expand your heart.

Alone we are beautiful, but together we are a full feast.

Note: As I prepared dinner, the pearl onions brought to mind a story I watched earlier in the day that brought me to tears, and later inspired this blog.  It is a story by Steve Hartman of CBS Sunday Morning who meets Kimberly Marshall, who is reunited with the man who saved her life as a baby in war-torn Vietnam. His act of bravery, saving this young woman he named “Precious Pearl” is an uplifting reminder that “you never know what one act of kindness will do.” You can watch the story here. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50144754n


 

In the middle of September 2012, I found gold in the Oklahoma hills.

Solid, liquid-soul gold.

I found it on the MS150 bike ride, which followed Route 66 from Tulsa to Oklahoma City.

I had to unearth dark thoughts that stopped me from hitting the veins of gold, so I could learn, then savor and now share the nuggets of new understanding with you today.

By riding beyond what I imagined personally possible, I met my own true nature. Given that my longest training ride this year had been no more than ten miles, from my house, on the awesome biking path, and along the River. I seldom pushed myself, just enjoyed watching our city thrive as new construction enhanced biking.

From the start, I signed up with the hope to ride ten or maybe even 20 miles each day and then grab a volunteer-driven “sag” wagon to haul me and my bike to the final stop. I was so sure this was my plan, that I even called the MS150 coordinator and asked how I could help once I ‘quit’ for the day, since the notion of riding more than 20 miles a day was all I could hope to achieve.

“What is stronger, fear or hope?”
Lance Armstrong, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life

I see the hill in the distance. It is day two. I have rested and caught a sag wagon only 13 of the total miles. I started out exhausted, sure that I would only be able to ride ten miles. Yesterday’s 40 miles had taken a huge toll on my body. But the first ten were manageable, so I rode another, and another before I rested a couple of stops and hitched a ride for 13 miles and then got back on my bike to ride again.

The finish line at the Oklahoma State Capital is 8.8 miles away. By the final rest stop I have arrived spirits sunk low with despair. It seems impossible to continue.  Jim smiles, rubs my calf muscles, listens to my story of impossible hopelessness with a calm and supportive ear. A volunteer gives me ice-cold towels, I drink Gatorade, fuel my body with snacks. The volunteer at this stop tells me how he has dealt with his own MS, using food and yoga.

Lifted by the drink, food and total lack of judgment from others, I think I can cross that finish line. We push off and head down the road a bit until I see THE HILL, and I come to a dead stop.

Straddling my bike, I evaluate the situation, my sweetheart standing by my side, even though he has trained almost every day for a full year for this ride. Jim has biked ten miles almost every day no matter the conditions.  Drizzling rain, triple digit heat (we were the hottest place on the planet this year for a few weeks and I’m not kidding about that weird fact) but still he rode.  There were days he bundled up in winter gear and rode his bike, having to thaw out in a warm tub after his ride. Nothing stopped him, even my mothering attempts and pleading words of caution. I didn’t get the suffering and pain, St. Johns has a beautiful gym for inclement weather. But he was TRAINING for the MS150.

He lost weight. He looked fit. He started eating more vegetables and fruits. I watched. I observed. I went to the gym to exercise, and Jenny Wren taught me a great interval training 25 minute workout which we did together three times a week, but biking? No, I wasn’t into it, I rode now and again.

Jim is getting fit by riding ten miles a day

I had a plan. I wasn’t going to try very hard. I had excuses. I have MS. I didn’t train. I had REASONS to quit.

He easily could be on his bike far ahead of me, with the fast and the first. He’s earned the speed, endurance and mental ability through training relentlessly, dedicated to riding 150 miles for MS.

More than a year ago, MS had my butt in the hospital bed. And he was just as dependable when I was flat on my back, so why am I still so surprised that he loves me as much as I love him? As a coach, I know this is part of my journey to self-love, being able to imagine that another human being wants to walk with me side-by-side.  Jim makes that easy by showing up again and again, on a bike or by a bed.

Here he is again, this time we are up and on our feet in spandex (lord help me) and he stands beside me, forfeiting the right to ride with his athletic peers so he can encourage, protect and accompany me as I bike forward, rest often and all at a turtles excruciating slow pace. In fact, we discovered it is possible to move only four miles an hour and not fall over on a bike.

So we stand, side by side, together until we finish.

But I am alone with fear.

In front of me there is a long flat run of country road, then the ascent. Other cyclists climb, the strong ones that left early and fast. My son and his friend are in the strong pack that eats up the miles with whirring wheels. I lost sight of them as quickly as the day began. Chris finishes in three hours what will take me six. For miles we stayed in the center of the crowd, but finally as I tire and frequently stop to rest, we are left behind with the last wave of riders.

The other riders already on the distant hill remind me of insects moving in a line to the horizon where they appear to fall off the edge of the earth. I have the thought that it is impossible to master that hill, that it is too high, too far away, to daunting. I’ll fall off into nothingness.

I’m afraid.

My legs are burning, feet are fluctuating between electronic sensations of numb and fire, my calves are pulsating, each contraction of my thigh muscle is joined by a tight neck, aching arms, and the thought, “I can not possibly ride up that hill” and with that thought I feel the full force of fatigue.

Not just in my body, but in my spirit. I am drained by the thought, unplugged from the energy source of hope.

Fear wears a thousand different veils. It sounds like pain. It feels like defeat. It smells like impossible. It tastes like dismay.

Hope rises up. It pulls back the curtain of “NO WAY” so a shaft of “YES, THIS WAY” lights up the body and spirit. It is stronger than fear, and where fear is poison ink messages, hope is the catalyst for potential beyond known measure.

I decide to not focus on the hill. It is far away. I am here. On flat land.

Clicking my shoes into the pedals, I decide I can move forward, for as long as possible. I determine I will rest when I need to rest, but now I will move forward, one circling pedal at a time.

I listen to my body, and ask it what small change can I make?

Answer appears, I can shift to find a place of less resistance, if only by a whisper. I mentally scan my body, seeking a spot that is not in pain. I find the front of my ankles. I ask them if they would be willing to absorb the pain, ease the other aching muscles. By focusing on this tiny measure of human flesh, I find relief.

I sing, “doe, a dear, a female dear, ray a drop of golden sun,” Over and over again, wondering why I can never remember what goes with La.

I cry out in a big out-loud voice, knowing no one can hear my own self-coaching 101, “Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling, just like life, just like life, you can do this, you can do this…”

Before long, I found myself at the bottom of the hill, and surprised to notice that the hill seemed smaller now. In fact, it appeared POSSIBLE.

I wondered how many times in life I had wasted time worrying about distant problems, big hills of bills, or kids with problems, broken hearts, or scary health diagnosis that I faced with worry and fearful thoughts.

Sure, sometimes it is a big hill we have to face, some sorrows, experiences and fears are mountains to be scaled.

It requires gear-shifting, body leaning forward, big muscles engaged. Sometimes it requires stopping altogether and walking instead of riding to get to the top.

That is exactly how it can be in life. We have to shift internal gears, lean forward into the future and engage our biggest muscle, the heart. Sometimes things can be so painful we have to stop and rest, and find another way to the other side of the mountain of concern.

I thought about fear and how it drains the spirit and tricks the eyes into believing a hill is a mountain of impossible.

Hope fuels the energy of forward movement. Hope is blind to the answer of exactly how, but clear-eyed and faithful about what IS POSSIBLE.

I am thankful for this experience. Thankful that with MS I am learning again and again what IS POSSIBLE.

I am thankful for the MS150 staff and volunteers who made it all happen (lord knows how they do it). I am SO THANKFUL for all the donations, Lee’s Bicycle shop and team that gave me an emergency tune-up at the 11th hour and made riding with a team fun, and owner Adam & pretty Elaine for greeting us at the finish line. I am filled with gratitude for the support of friends and strangers along the way who encouraged and inspired me as they faced their own challenges. Like Chris Ford, who sagged with me a few rounds and showed me how to stretch my heel, he has done this ride like 18 times or something, and now it does it with Parkinson’s. He is such a cool guy, check out his shirt in the picture below, he has quite a story of triumphant after adversity, and the shirt makes a perfect show and tell.

I want to shout out to all my FB friends who cheered us on as I posted along the way. You all made me want to rise up. This is the power of social media, like getting to call dear friends up and let everyone know what is happening all at the same time, a great big awesome ‘peeps’ show, and we live in an amazing time to connect one to the other through the sheer power of social media.

I am grateful for my family, my fast-riding and brave son Chris and his persevering and smart friend Joel.

Joel and Chris are ready for a fast ride

And my appreciation is bigger than any mountain for Jim, who gave up his own optimal experience to make sure I could finish the ride. He showed me the face of love.

But most of all I am thankful for HOPE, which is kryptonite to fear. And for pain and suffering, which gave me an exquisite insight into what IS POSSIBLE.

Because Lance, hope is bigger than fear. And you got it right, it was never about the bike.

“Suffering, I was beginning to think, was essential to a good life, and as inextricable from such a life as bliss. It’s a great enhancer. It might last a minute, but eventually it subsides, and when it does, something else takes its place, and maybe that thing is a great space. For happiness. Each time I encountered suffering, I believed that I grew, and further defined my capacities – not just my physical ones, but my interior ones as well, for contentment, friendship, or any other human experience.”
Lance Armstrong, Every Second Counts

 

MS150 2012 Photo’s

I am ready to roll, with a ten mile plan and a smile

Chris is fit and in shape

 

Jim is ready to roll from the start

By the end of day one, we are ready for a bath and bed

 

View of starting line on day two

Cloverton the deaf dog, he rode the race with his Colorado owners, he likes to sit on his dad's lap, you can FB him, so much fun

Last year when I was in the hospital from MS, Kim Doner organized decorating this "bird bike" which was displayed this year at the Tulsa airport and last year at Mayfest

Our volunteer sag wagon driver and his wonderful wife is in the passenger seat, she has been living with MS for 30 years

Fun to see friends riding along the way, here is Chelsea McGuire, her mom and friend

I am one proud mom, Chris was so FAST!

At the finish line, WE DID IT!

While in the hospital last year I wrote a quote by Mary Oliver on the dry erase board, "What is your plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" I plan on riding forward with hope, and trust what comes naturally

 

 

Sometimes it can take four decades for a boy’s secret broken heart to mend when it comes to loving and losing a dog.

When my sweetheart Jim was 11 years old, his beloved hound and best friend was hit by a car and he went with his mother to take the dog to the veterinarian.  The vet told Jim that the dog was in serious condition, and that he would keep him for observation through the night.

The next morning Jim was told that his big brown-eyed pooch had died. But secretly Jim didn’t believe that the vet had told his parents the truth. He was sure that the dog had survived, and that the vet had kept the dog for himself, or had given the dog to another family.  He was sure that a dog that special, that dog-gone good was living in another home, with people that needed a perfect dog.

For years he would carefully eye any basset hound dog sporting the signature long body, big brown eyes and long floppy ears to make sure it wasn’t HIS dog, snatched by the doctor and given away to a family in dog-love need.

Fast-forward four decades.

Jim was taking a 35-mile bike ride in preparation for the upcoming MS150. A three digit hot Oklahoma day, he was travelling on a bike path, in an isolated area between the small towns of Sperry and Skiatook, when he spied a dog that looked like his own beloved childhood pet.

She sat next to the path on her fat little bottom, collared but not tagged, looking calm and pretty and like she was just wondering when he would appear. He determined if she was still there when he turned around at Skiatook then he’d bring her home and find her owner.  Sure enough, once he had ridden to Skiatook and headed back on the path there she sat, patiently waiting his return.

They walked three miles, Jim pushing his bike, and little dog walking steadily on her short legs, a little slower in the shaded areas than in the full burst of sunlight sections.

“Can you come get me, I’ve found a little girl dog,” Jim asked when he called me.

I hopped in the car and headed to the agreed upon rendezvous location and found them sitting contented together, like long lost buddies.

We brought her home, and she stole our hearts. Sweet, patient, soft ears like velvet fabric, and eyes that invited affection. We wondered if she’d been dumped or escaped on her little legs following her blood hound nose far from home.

We posted messages, called the pound, and sought out the basset hound rescue group for help to find her home. We contacted a friend that would consider adopting her if we couldn’t find her rightful owners.

Secretly, I wanted her to be the newest member of our family, although clearly our beloved black lab Sheba was not too keen on sharing our undivided adoration.

I tried on names from Shorty to Little Bit but Daisy kept coming up in my mind. Since Jim’s Aunt Daisy had passed, I asked if it was disrespectful to name a dog after her, even if it was a sweetheart of a pup.

I made and printed posters and Jim set out to hang them all over the area where he found her, although most of it was remote. He remembered a diner near the bike trail in Sperry a few miles away from where she was found and on impulse decided to stop and see if they’d put a poster in the window.

“Why, a lady just left and put her poster in the window, I think that is the same dog,” explained the waitress.

Sure enough, it was her and she was named Daisy all along.

Grateful owners came to pick up Daisy and told us that their son Cooper had cried himself to sleep two nights straight. They even had to explain to his teachers why he was in such a state.

“I told Cooper to pray and if it was meant to be then we’d find Daisy and if not some other family just needed her love more than we did and we would need to bless them,” his mom told us.

They were grateful for the return of Daisy, who had her own young boy missing her like crazy and a sibling basset hound that was howling through the night with grief. Just look at the happy reunited trio below, and Coopers touching thank you note.

As we waved goodbye, I turned to see Jim with tears in his eyes.

Full circle.

A man and his good heart reunite a boy and his dog.

And in the process of helping a boy find his pup, more than one heart found its way back home.

We never know when healing from loss will happen, or how long it will take, but if Daisy is any indication, then dog gone it, keep the faith.


 

She twirls in front of me. About five, maybe four. A pink tutu, a leotard and a wand. Her hair is brown and has soft, unorganized curls. I cannot see her face clearly because she is going in circles, but I catch a smile and brown-eyes.

She looks like twirling joy.

I love her already.

We have not met.

Yet.

I’ve known her since I was little. Throughout my childbearing years I imagined I’d bring her into the my world like Chris, my blond, blue-eyed boy. Through love, labor, or some adopted doorway. I didn’t care the transport that brought him into my arms, because he was alive inside my inner knowingness.

My twirling girl is that way for me. Already announced to my mother-heart. Her doorway from spirit to earth is curious to me, a mystery I can’t wait to live, but when she arrives and how is of no concern to me.

I know her already.

I was around ten when Chris occurred to me. And the twirling girl at the same time. Although they were not a pair but separate in my unexplainable vision.

I owned it loud and clear to whoever happened to listen to my little girl chatter, playmates or my family, who can remember the small details when the subject is so big? What I do remember is what I knew. That these children were mine already and it was just a matter of waiting and living, a matter of fact.

I knew them then as surely as I knew my own skin.

In college, to friends, over and again, I announced their coming. I described them without pause or question.

Every monthly cycle where procreation acts created potential pregnancies, I wondered, are they coming? My boy? My girl? And when I was relieved because timing would have been a challenge, I also had a parallel sense of grief, as though waiting at the dock for a ship carrying precious cargo was once again delayed. I knew dismay along with relief, and it puzzled me.

Chris came on December 8, 1984 in the early morning. After his Dad had left to pick up his seven year old sister Kelly and bring her to the hospital; we sat together, alone in the big double bed in the birthing apartment unit. I held him in my arms, his little face peering up at me, body wrapped up like a little cone of deliciousness.

I whispered to him, “What took you so long, I’ve been waiting.”

I explained to him that I knew him already from when I was little, and that I would love him forever and a day. And I do. And I will.

My years of being able to create new life in my body slipped away. First through my thirties, then my forties, and now I’m smack in the middle of my fifties.

But I’m not worried.

I know she will twirl in front of me one day, pink tutu, wand in hand.

I love her already.

They imprint on our hearts, our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, little ones we meet, all the children that come into our lives from one doorway or another. Fresh life touch our mother-hearts, even if we are men or without birth children. Mother-hearts don’t claim gender or lineage but share the ingredients of tenderness, unconditional love and awe.

Some children we know are coming, and others take us by surprise. It doesn’t matter. All we have to do is open wide our arms and hearts.

Welcoming them all home.

It’s grand, this mother-love. It knows how to love what it sees, love what it knows, and love what is yet to come.

Who knows, maybe the growing baby in our girl Kelly’s belly is my curly haired girl.

Or not.

And I don’t care.

Because I love this baby.

Forever and a day.

I always will.

I already do.

 

 

 

The Tender Kiss

When my son was very young, so tender in age that his list of spoken words measured less than a bakers dozen, he taught me a lesson about the nature of true love.

At that time, I worked as an outside saleswoman and spent my days jumping in and out of my car. My husband was terminally ill, but healthy enough at the time to stay home and take care of our son. I remember pushing my feet into my panty hose each day with a rush of anger. More days than not, I was tired, frustrated and hostile. Underneath the defensive feelings, I was afraid of what might lay ahead. During my pregnancy, before the cancer diagnosis, I had imagined motherhood would entail my wearing pearls and enriching my son’s life with reading and field trips. Instead life handed me what I considered a lemon, and most days I was not in the mood for lemonade. In fact, my soul paddled frantic dark-river dreams at night and my body felt a decade older than it really was. It may have been the prime of my life, but my spirits were not in prime shape. In retrospect, I am so thankful for the years my late husband spent shaping and molding our fine son. His handiwork is clearly evident in the sterling young man that exists today. I’m glad he packed into those early years the daily influence and lessons that he would not be available to offer later. I suppose that is a quick study in trusting the troubles of today to yield potential gold tomorrow. But that is another story.

One hot August day I came home dusted dry by the Oklahoma heat. I plopped down on the couch too tired to talk to my husband or even hug my chubby toddler, just nodded to them both and stared at the TV. My body ached with the stress of unclosed sales and unpaid bills. My boy came over and started pulling at my shoes. “What are you doing baby?” I asked with some irritation, pushing him away gently with the side of my foot. “Leave Mommy alone, she’ll play with you later.” But he was not to be stopped and he persisted in struggling with the buckles on my shoes until he had freed my tired and weary feet. Then he tried to pull off my panty hose, stretching out the toes with a look of total determination on his soft, rounded face, lips puckered up with just the tip of his pink tongue poking out in concentration. I laughed softly, and reached down to pick him up, but he pushed my hands away firmly.

And then the miracle happened.

He gave up the pantyhose battle and took one of my feet into both of his hands and began to kiss the toes, each one carefully. Then he kissed the tops of my feet, and the bottoms too. After careful attention to each foot he looked up at me with clear blue eyes shining with love tendered compassionately.

Pure radiant unconditional love.

And I understood that he was kissing my feet as I had kissed his tiny, precious toes a thousand times. He had seen my weary soul and knew the emotion of love was the healing balm I desperately needed, and he must have remembered the package it came in. What mother doesn’t grab her babies feet and shower them with kisses, linger on each tiny toe, kiss the tops and brush the bottoms of their feet with her lips? They are divine chocolate morsels for every mother, sought out hungrily from the first moment the baby is placed into her arms.

Then I remembered the story of Jesus walking all day, bone-tired from the burdens of his mission. I could imagine him arriving at the home of a friend and sitting down in the chair, all dusty and weary in mind, body and spirit. I can picture his burdens so heavy that he must have bailed buckets of tears in his dreams at night. I can just smell the kitchen odors and hear the sound of the women busy cooking up a feast for their visiting king.

This was a proper group of women, trying to be humble and impressive all at the same time. Then I can feel Jesus’ startled surprise when one woman kneels before him and quietly removes his dusty sandals from his weary feet and begins to soothe them with ointment and tender touches. She must have looked up at him with eyes of pure love.

Well, the other women clucked their tongues and got a bit jealous when the quiet efforts of a single woman outshone their elaborate group gestures. When the women cried out in tones of righteous indignation, he gently scolded them a bit; reminding them that true love is not found in the flashy show of a gesture, but it is housed in the intention behind the action. It was her tender, unconditional loving actions, performed without a desire to receive praise, but with a desire to give praise that served the Lord that day.

Christ must have simply been thankful for the true love of human kindness overflowing from her hands onto his feet and into his tired soul. I can imagine it clearly because so many years ago, I too was touched by true love.

I wonder if that’s why Christ so often reminded us that we should be like children. Perhaps he meant to be childlike in the way we give love, to remember the purity of giving that sits inside each one of us, ready to pour from our fingertips into the souls of others.

In the growing sanctuary of mother love: I wrote this some years ago, I share it as mother’s day approaches. Today Chris is a young man, succeeding at life with the same kind heart he held when little. Kelly, Wayne’s daughter is a beautiful grown woman newly married to Dave, a great man and they are full with all that the future holds.  Her mother Linda has let me share in the years of her upbringing, and I am thankful for that chance. My mate and sweetheart Jim, has added his own smart and inspiring kids to my life, Kara and Matt, both of them thriving and amazing young people preparing for college when we met, now both have growing careers and fruitful adult lives. Below is a picture from our wedding on 08-08-08. Megan and Matt Tilly married just a year ago and she is a treasure and a whipper snapper, and we adore Kara’s boyfriend Matt with all his smarts (although two Matt’s can be confusing I know!) And finally there is Sheba, who is our four-legged beloved, who thank goodness (and with the promise of a warm bed, love and food) will never grow up to leave home.

In this new unit of family, love keeps expanding ten-fold. And I begin the dream in every mother’s heart, that the grand-unborn souls in waiting are coming, approaching my waiting arms. I long for them, I dream of their toes which I will kiss.  In the waiting, I cherish all the children that I get to love, not only by birth, but by heart.

This is grace unfolding.

 

 

 

 

Nike has a campaign that became a national tagline.

Just Do It. Catchy. Works. Sometimes…

I have to start with a simpler step.

Step one.

JUST. SHOW. UP.

A year can make a big difference. I am writing this blog with a spirit of gratitude. I felt grateful last year too. But it was from a hospital bed where I found peace and bendy straws, which I wrote about here. Send me a note, I’ll send you a bendy straw and a glass treat. Some days it helps. It was tax time, and Matt & Megan Tilly’s wedding weekend. An event we got to attend, driving straight from the pink palace to celebrate new beginnings between two very special people.

You have to just show up to know what time will tell. It’s story is always different than dreamed, and it’s always unimaginable.

Here is me circa 2011 at the pink palace hospital, smiling in pj’s and on a pillow girlfriends provided and check out the bedhead.

Robin 2011 in Hospital

I was grateful last year, but I was IN PAIN. Unable to walk across a room without pounding, and I do mean pounding like a sledge-hammer-tackling 18 inches of solid-steel kind of head pain.

I had to lay down, and it was better not to get up. So, I found myself at tax time in the hospital for ten days and having a battery of tests, I’ll spare you the details, but let’s say their titles and descriptions included daunting words like tap, dye, drill, scan, contrast, specimen.

Tests results did not contain answers for our local doctors. So, my awesome Jim took me on a road trip for answers at the Cleveland Clinic. He showed me what it looks like to be there for a mate ‘in sickness and in health” and it’s bigger and harder to do than to say. How can one girl be so lucky?

He even made it fun. We saw a Bela Fleck concert in a beautiful park in Cleveland, and last week we saw Bela again, except in Tulsa at Cain’s. It was great, and even better when we climbed into our own beds instead of between hotel sheets.

This year is different than last year. Leaner. Happier. Healthier. Stronger.

Last year I gained 36 pounds. Quickly. We came home and changed our habits. We began to eat differently, first with a program of fresh fruits, veggies and juicing. I started to walk — at first a little, then a couple of miles each day. I joined a gym where I take all kinds of classes.  I spent time with a diet life coach to figure out where my personal food blocks resided. I learned from great instructors and trainers and my fellow gym mates at St. Johns Health Club.

Jim started to ride his bike every day for 10 miles. Rain, snow, sun beating down, vacations, colds, dreary spirits, there are no excuses. He bikes. Which inspired me. Since January, I decided his energy and decreasing waistline was something I wanted for myself.

Workouts vary. At times I join water aerobics classes where I can look around me and think about what it looks like to be a few decades down the road. Sometimes I take interval and intense weight classes with people more often younger than myself, so I can remember what it was to walk in a young body. Yoga, or machines, water or land. It is about movement and motion. I vowed not to be embarrassed or intimidated, and I keep that promise to myself. We even rode in the MS 150 last year, Jim and Val the whole ride, and I did 30 proud miles, and you can see the fun we had by the picture below.

While I was in the hospital, artist and bonus-girlfriend Kim Doner gathered up a big group of friends to decorate the bike below to promote the MS 150.

Again, how can a girl be so lucky?

Today, I’m feeling a bit of pain, but that satisfying sore muscle pain that comes from challenging my body to its limit.  This morning, I took a class with a group of lean, fit people at St. John’s Health Club called Blast & Furious. Or how it felt to me this morning: Wild & Crazy. I’m out of my element. The truth of the matter is the class is filled with people that are stronger, leaner and more fit than I am. But it didn’t matter. I showed up.

Finally, at the end of the self-paced 10 reps of 10 cycles of four movements, and I was the last person still working to finish I smiled through that last lift.

I passed the first step: JUST. SHOW. UP.

I might as well finish it off and JUST. DO. IT.

L-R Rose McCracken, Valarie McKeowen, Kim Donor, Robin Tilly Mary Fitzgerald and Debbie Williams

Just Show Up and Find A Village Of Friends

L-R: Rose McCracken, Valarie Keown, Kim Donor, Mary Fitzgerald & Debbie Williams surprised me with “The Flying Artist” bird bike promotional  for MS 150 during Mayfest 2011. Other artists that created this beautiful bike and not shown include: Betsy Perry, Linda Stilley, Dennis England, Shan Goshorn, Victoria Hoge, Mary Ann Hille, Tony Essman and PC Cast.

 

 

 

 

 

Let me start by admitting I’m a bit of a homebody. So, the adventures I’ve encountered in the last few weeks have me feeling thankful to return to my natural state of being and in the arms of my honey, but I am also eager to share what I have learned while on Robin’s Big Adventure.

Two weeks ago, I attended the 2012  Martha Beck Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. I learned, I laughed, I cried, I hung with old friends, made new friends, shared my art glass and new product, “Creativity Brain Kits” for individuals, coaches, groups and workshop leaders. It was BIG fun. Because I was already half way across the states, I headed to San Francisco to spend time with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. From there, it was  a quick flight to San Diego to see my daughter Kelly and new son-in-law Dave. I wrote a bit about that flight in my blog post about Uncle Elmer and Aunt Faye Hope. Dances.

I learned all kinds of new things, and this is the one that keeps popping up the past few days. It is about WILL. POWER.

This is what I figured out. I use my WILL POWER as a form of energy to accomplish things. And it works. Certainly.

But what happens when I use the energy of POWER WILL

Am I splitting hairs, playing word tricks?

I don’t think so, and let me explain how these two things might be very different.

Yesterday on my bike, I played with the different way it feels in my body when I have two different thoughts: WILL POWER; POWER WILL.

When I was pedaling into a brisk wind and had the conscious thought, “I will use my WILL POWER to pedal this bike,” I found myself pushing with a force that started with my heart. I literally pushed the energy from my heart to my limbs. I moved with force on the bike. But I quickly felt a sense of fatigue. Because I was quickly tired, I had to repeat the same thought again and again, I will use my WILL POWER to pedal this bike. Heart pumps hard, muscles respond.

Then I tried something different. I held the conscious thought, “the POWER of moving smoothly WILL pedal this bike” and I found myself moving in a fluid motion. It was still me pedaling into the wind. But the thought POWER WILL and my responding physical reactions and actions were different. Pedaling smoothly was easy. Something I could do for hours. Using the thought WILL POWER was tiring, and required forceful spurts of high energy.

Neither are wrong, but using the POWER of (insert descriptive verb) WILL (desired action) is a more efficient way of creating movement. This is why a honed athlete appears to run that last amazing lap with no seeming effort.

Here is an example of the same energy experiment I tried at the San Diego Safari Butterfly Exhibit. I wanted a butterfly to land on me. I tried to use my WILL POWER. I listened to the guide explain that by standing without movement a butterfly is more likely to land. But more importantly, the butterflies are attracted to calm. I could not settle down my sense of internal force, it felt like excitement and my heart was beating too fast. I stood still for ages. No butterflies. Not one landed on me. I finally gave up and was pondering how I could learn to stop TRYING so hard.

Then I came upon my daughter. Kelly, like all of us, has super powers. And one of the biggest ones she possesses is this natural sense of calm. It is part of her inner beauty that shines externally, and I have marveled at it since the day I met her, which was at the age of five. She has always been able to stand solid in her own dance space. For someone like myself, more likely to be a whirling dervish of energy and sound, being with her is always a calming experience.

It is something nature responses to. A butterfly was sitting on her hand, while she calmly poised for photographs. It stayed there for a long period of time, at least ten minutes. Content to stay in the calm that is her natural state. Here she is from a photo on my phone:

Martha Beck discussed the power of energy at the conference and I can’t begin to repeat all that I learned. You can get the juicy content by reading any of her books, but the last one is filled cover to cover with practical ways to work with energy and a must-read, Finding Your Way In A Wild New World: Reclaiming Your True Nature To Create The Life You Want.” She writes about how animals respond to this inner calm and centered behavior.

As I told you in my blog Becoming A Creative Entreprenuer: I’m Ready To Dive. Right. In. I was introducing a new product and stepping out as a creative entrepreneur at the Summit of 325 Martha Beck Life Coaches with “Creativity Brain Kits” which are easy-to-use, no-art-skill-required play kits. Each one comes with everything necessary to have a great time exploring the joy of creativity. But the fun doesn’t stop there, because each kit contains a unique hand-designed glass piece that can be used as a touchstone, necklace, pin or placed on the box once decorated.

I had three times during the summit to sit at a table in the Marketplace to share my wares. I also had the good fortune to sit with my friend and Shiny Object School coach Sarah Yost, who helped me take my idea out of my brain and into reality to share with you all today. Here is one of my glass treats:

During the summit I discovered that when I relaxed, was myself and enjoyed meeting people they came naturally to our table. Being calm, answering questions about my glass or letting them find their very own ‘glass word’ for the day was a pleasure for me and I hope for them. It was much easier than when I first began and was anxious with thoughts of fear and limitation. As I developed my product the month leading up to the event, when I stayed focused on the task at hand, the long hours of preparation were fun and pleasureful.

Which leads me back to will and power.

I like the idea of changing how I use WILL and POWER. The thought “centered POWER WILL allow me to achieve my goals and aspirations with smooth effort” fills me with a sense of ease and purpose.

Try it on yourself and see if switching your will gives you more power.

Then share it with the rest of us here!

 

Marriages and Marathons

Marriage is a fresh new start from one to three. I say three because the alchemy of public declaration and union creates a separate and individual spirit that is composed of the two individuals. A coupling of intention creates a holy trinity.

My daughter recently married a smart and nice guy. When asked what we want for our children most often we say happiness, and for me this is the big picture of parental hope.

The weekend after she took a leap of faith from Green to Kootman, Kelly ran a marathon.

In a way they are the same thing, marriage and marathons.

Training for a marathon takes preparation and a dedication to show up for training when it rains and when the sun favors a runner relief. You have to sign up for a marathon, do the paperwork and plan the next step, follow the process laid out by the rule makers. It takes a dedication to putting one step in front of the other, and to keep persevering even when that famed ‘wall’ is hit. The right nourishment for the body, plenty of water and rest help both before and during the race.

In the beginning, while waiting for the gun to fire, or late in the night when wondering if it is even possible to complete the race, there is a sense of exciting expectation and a rush of emotion to meet the unknown.

In the end, crossing the finish line makes a person a bit of something they never were before, In the doing, there is more of the essential self to spread around the world. The power of accomplishment is showing up for the preparation. And while you can run a race beside another, the deep breaths are taken in by one set of lungs. The passing scenes taken in by individual eyes.

Hugh Prather said, “Love the magician, knows a trick, whereby two people walk on separate paths and yet remain side by side.”

Marriage is a marathon. You step into it for the long stretch. It is deeply steeped in rewards and challenges. It’s everything imagined and nothing imaginable.

photographer: www.melissamusgrove.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My heart is square dancing today because I met Nana Faye and Uncle Elmer Castor. Elmer like the glue. Castor like the oil. I just have to share the sheer joy of getting to sit next to a couple of senior citizens so in love the glow bounced right off them into my heart.

They gave me permission to share their story because I suspect it will make you want to jump up and dance just like it did me.  We exchanged phone numbers and addresses, and they might not read this blog like you are right now because 91 and 88 year old eyes might enjoy reading it the old fashioned way, on clean white paper, 16 point type and sent through the US Postal System. I picture them glad for the mail, because getting old can be a lonely thing, and you can bet they’ll get a copy and a call from me, I know when I’ve touched gold.

But until then I’ll tell the story with electronic impulses, because it doesn’t really matter what generation you are born, the heart of everyone walking this planet is looking for one single thing. To be loved and to love. Truly loved and to truly love.

And Faye and Elmer have found that with one another. Not without a fight, not without having to hold out hope when it must have seemed like a pretty silly notion. But they held out. And when they found it they knew what we all should remember. Hold it close to your heart, cherish it and lord, don’t waste time fighting, especially when you are headed to bed for the night.

They have been married for 43 years and swear they’ve never had a fight, never laid down with a grudge and a question about the perfect placement of the body next to them. That wasn’t always the case for either of them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I saw them disagree over a detail or a fact as they shared their life stories with me on the flight from San Francisco to San Diego. But what I noticed most was they didn’t seem to have to be RIGHT. When she would lapse and forget a word, he supplied it with ease, so they made one single voice, like fabric with complimentary colors that pleases the senses. Separate but united.

Faye has a way of turning from 91 to a charming young woman with a quick downward tilt of her head, upturn of her mouth and downward flap of her lashes.  In fact, when I asked how they met, she started the story but then stopped and said, “You tell it so well Elmer, you go ahead.”

They were born in the depression in Oklahoma. Right where my own story started, Texans today, Californians most their life, but here I am an Okie that is sitting next to some Okie born folks. No mistaking it was exactly where I belonged.

Faye headed to California as a young woman to pick cotton and get rich, with a giggle she said neither happened, but really it was to marry a man that wasn’t kind, and to leave a family so strict she wanted freedom. Those days most likely many a woman jumped from one cage to another. Choices were more limited then, and it is easy to see how a girl would think a man might be the best next thing.

She had kids she loved with this starter husband. Today the “girls” are senior citizens themselves. Faye tried to honor her childhood teachings, and gave that marriage a good long run, I forget the exact number of years but it was more than 30 years of expecting a man who just couldn’t love her to stay home and not stray. She even forgave him having a baby with another woman while they were married.

Something she and Elmer have in common. They both forgave, and forgave their first mates through all kinds of acts of unkindness. Maybe they were practicing so when they found one another they’d already know how to be faithful, forgiving and kind.

Finally, she had all she could swallow and let go of a man that didn’t love her and a man she didn’t love back. Loving someone that treats you with disrespect and cruelty is just a waste of a precious life.

And so did Elmer. He had offered to raise the baby his ex-wife made with another man, and even asked her what she needed from marriage. She told him she needed stability, and somehow she mixed up an alcoholic second husband as the face of dependability. Lord rests her soul and may she know peace.

So, around the same time Elmer and Faye found themselves single again as middle-aged folks with five kids between them. I can’t imagine how much courage it took to do the thing that people just didn’t do those many decades ago…get a divorce.

A friend that worked with Faye knew Elmer too, and suggested they go square dancing together. Well, they danced, until 1:00am in the morning. From that night forward they were a pair and never apart. They are still dancing together today. Oh, they can’t cut a rug with their bodies, and that is frustrating for them both, because the spirit is willing, but the legs are a little weak.

They were on a plane, because they took care of a little girl from six months to five years old decades ago while her parents worked and when gone on trips. That little girl is grown up today, but she still loves Nana Faye and Uncle Elmer. She just got married in San Francisco this weekend. She called them and asked them to come to the wedding, and Elmer wasn’t sure he could. But she insisted, and made all the arrangements, got them tickets, and the airlines provided a wheelchair ride from one plane to another. Their church family back home will pick them up when they get back to Texas.

Here is how big these two hearts are. Elmer was asked to stand up right beside that girls father. He told me with great pride that he was able to manage to stand up on his unstable legs and proudly join in when the preacher asked who was giving that girl away.

I know why they asked Uncle Elmer and Nana Faye to come to the wedding. It’s the kind of marriage we all yearn to live inside. What a good luck charm, and I wish them well and bet they will do just fine. They learned from the best.

I was on that plane for three good reasons, and Elmer and Faye are my real-to-life reminders of those good reasons.

I was headed to visit my bonus-daughter, newly minted from Kelly Green to Kelly Kootman, and her first-best-ever husband Dave. I had just left the warm cozy glow of being with a couple that have 35 years of rock-solid love between them, my sister Dee Ann and brother-in-law David, and the trip was made possible because I love and am loved by my own soul mate.

My first marriage was different than Faye and Elmer.  Wayne was a great guy, and his death can make me cry on a dime to this day. He left behind a space big enough to fill with a second love, and he left Kelly for her mother and I to rejoice in calling our own, and a fine son we fashioned together.

But like Elmer and Faye, I got a second chance at big love. I can’t say Jim and I never fight, sometimes even when we lay down at night I can hold a grudge or nurture a hurt feeling, I’ve got some learning to do. Until then, I can tell you I have a renewed dedication to applying their formula from here until 90 and beyond, because that is how long I want to be with Jim, holding his hand and telling some younger couple that hope dances.

Here is my big take away and what I want to practice from this day forward, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health. Until death do we part, which I hope is 43 and counting years away.

Elmer and Faye wisdom.

If you are living with your soul mate, don’t go to bed mad. Let them have a different way of telling a story without having to be RIGHT. Be delighted in their very presence. Hold hands and hug. Laugh and listen with respect. Let your pride in them show. Be faithful and kind. And let everyone you know how happy you are to have this wonderful person to twirl your heart and spin your days into golden years.

If you haven’t found a soul mate, and you want one. Let Elmer and Faye be your guide. If you are not in a relationship where you truly love and are loved, then it might even be necessary to take a big leap of faith. Because we learned from them that we just don’t know when our own true love will appear, it might seem like forever before they arrive.

But when they do, put on your dancing shoes.

And don’t even think about putting up a fight.

 

Create. Hope. Rising.

When I was 10 years old, I stood on the edge of the high dive at Reed park, my toes curled around the end of the plank.

Terrified. To. Dive. In.

I had gone up and down the ladder a couple of times, making everyone clear the way, before the life guard blew his whistle.

The water or cement.

My choice.

I was ready. I had dreamed, I had schemed, I had watched the older kids dive. I had taken lessons and I had practiced from the side of the pool.

From fearful panic to calm, I threw my arms over my head, bent forward and leaned into the air.

I dove.

Right into that cool blue, beautiful water. It was exquisite full body pleasure. Alive. Fully alive.

Today, I am standing on the edge of a new kind of high dive.

As a creative life coach I discovered that merging my glass art with coaching was a powerful way to make a pathway to change. As I worked with clients and groups of all ages in my office and studio, in their homes, in community centers what became clear was that accessing the right brain, which is designed to activate joy and inspiration was a perfect combination with left brain logical thinking.

So, I took that seed of an idea and began to develop a way to share this with other coaches.

Right this minute, I’m in Phoenix at a Martha Beck Summit of coaches, and I’ve just registered for four days of learning and growing. My Creativity Brain Kit is ready to share with 325 talented and varied coaches from all over the world in the marketplace three times during the next three days.

I’ve been inspired and frustrated, working and learning, failing and starting all over again, which is part of the gig.  It has taken more hours than I’m able to count. All day, and everyday for months on end has turned into a grateful journey from dream to physical reality.

And I’ve gotten help from all corners. My soul mate Jim has always believed I could swim the distance, even when I can’t see the shore. His confidence and love keep me warm inside day and night. My kids and stepkids, Chris, Kelly, Dave, Kara, Matt, Megan and Matt have listened and supported me. My friends have taken frantic calls, bounced ideas, and I still can’t believe I’m so lucky to call them my dearest, thanks to Shan Goshorn, Kim Doner, Victoria Hoge, Shawn Wilson and Teresa Miller.

A special thanks to Rose McCracken, who has gently led me from fear of technology to posting this message today. She did all the heavy lifting, along with Jim, to make what has always stopped me cold become something I am doing with pleasure and ease. She did it so calmly I forgot to listen to my chattering teeth. They know to let the techie details out of explaining how to make it work for me. Patty Hudson has kept me on task, glued and folded, figured out the detals and been not only a partner in business but a creative sounding board. Patty can do everything and I’m in awe of her.

I’ve used all I’ve learned from Martha Beck, master coaches and their books I devour. I’ve been coached by some of the best. Sarah Yost and her Shiny Object School turned an ADD chick into a step-by-step woman. Jenny Shih offered sound advice. I’ve been touched and helped by coaching from Caitlin Way, and buddies Suzan Hirsch, Kiersten Roberts Macreery. A special thanks to Tulsa Kids for letting me work with their readers and Betty Casey for all she gives back to our community.

I also have learned so much and want to thank some of the bravest souls I’ve ever met, the people I have coached. They have been willing to open up and dig in to make changes in their lives. It has been an honor to be in the presence of such blooming.

One of my favorite quotes was written by Barbara Kingsolver in Animal Dreams, “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.”

I feel like I have found shelter. And I’m living under its roof.

I’m ready to raise my arms and lean into the next few days with my heart open wide.

Alive inside that hope.

I’m here for you too, as you seek your own warm waters.