Eleventh Heaven

By Amanda S.

Maybe I was looking for stability. Dad used to manage Target distribution centers – he’d get them up and running for 18 months, and then our family was off to the next site/state. At some point in eighth grade, deep into a diary one weekend, I decided I needed something that would ground me, keep me me, and that the number 11, with its mysterious pull lately, was the answer. “It’s the first two marks when you’re drawing a smiley face!” I reasoned in the diary. Okaaay.

And then, 11 changed my life.

I started small, making wishes at 11:11 a.m. and 11:11 p.m. and setting my alarm clock for 7:04 or 9:02 because the digits added up to 11. I felt me, and it got sillier. I’d eat 11 M&Ms at a time, watch TV at volume 11, cheer anyone in a #11 jersey.

In a move that sticks with me today, I decided that the 11th of each month, I’d do something new and different – that no matter how many times my family would move, how many new schools full of strangers, I’d have one thing for me. Maybe a new shirt to wear that day, or sampling a new food (still hate you, mushrooms!) Bigger attempts have been made, like horseback riding, trying peanut butter beer at the Great American Beer Festival, flying first class, and getting tossed from a mechanical bull.

mechanical bull ride

The point is, it’s a built-in way to challenge myself.

Sometimes it’s still a small act – I’ll use all my Birchbox products for the first time on an 11th, or I’ll see a movie at a theater in a part of town I’ve never been to on an 11th. And sometimes it’s a big act – I adopted a cat on a November 11th and named her Ellie. I tried like mad to get married on 11/11/2011, but so did every bride in Arizona, so my anniversary is 11/5/2011. On 11/11/2011, though, I nailed a $300 PaiGow Poker hand and ziplined across the old Las Vegas strip, so it’s not all bad.

I thought I may get engaged on an 11th, but Kit knew that and he waited until the 12th. When he brings home flowers just because, there’s always 11 stems. The extra ends up with a coworker or a stranger outside the store. (Oooh that MAN.)

I listen more than speak and tend to be an introvert, and I think all the moving, with the finite time to meet people and grow friends, made me a people-pleaser more than I care to admit. So I cling like crazy to 11ths. Just ooone day a month, I can nerd out, do what I want, find or add meaning to whatever I want. There’s always a buzz in the air those days.

Sometimes it drifts to others. Every so often, someone will mention making a wish at 11:11 or forward me a news link that “11/11 is the equivalent of ‘Black Friday’ in China.” Warms my dumb old heart. As it turns out, I have traditions that are freeing and all me no matter where I am.

God’s Garden

So here’s what showed up in my backyard garden this week.

Gods_Lettuce

It was in a far corner, directly opposite from where I planted lettuce seeds last spring. It is January, albeit in Texas, but it’s still January. We are under water restrictions and I have not been out to visit the garden since I covered it over with wire mesh to keep the falling leaves out. Must have been sometime in October.

I’m taking this as a sign that I need to sow new seeds indoors and plant them earlier this year.

By LK 

Supernatural Mysteries

By LK

Have you ever read something that dynamically changed the way you think? Recently I have and now I want to share it with everyone.

My daughter is a freshman in college and her psychology professor added “Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue” by Neale Donald Walsch to the syllabus. She purchased the book early at full price because she was worried it may not be available once the reading began in earnest. Her haste was not because this is a new release; she just likes being prepared.

I saw the white cover with an intriguing title and asked if I might read it. “Sure,” she said.

Not having heard of this book before I had no preconceived ideas. My mind was open to all of the possibilities. The premise is that the author was writing an angry letter to God, full of questions. When he stopped, God took over his hand and began writing the answers.

One of the more mind expanding ideas in “Conversations” is that humans keep re-living life until they get it right. When they are satisfied, they are ready to join God.

You can find a lot of online discussion about the veracity of the claims made in this book. I don’t know if they’re true but I feel lighter having read them. I believe in God and that he has a Son and that there is a Holy Spirit. I read the Bible but I’m no scholar and at times I feel that I’m not getting the message. This book put everything in a contemporary context and felt more relevant.

Then I found out that there are two more volumes.

After my daughter finished with the book for class, I asked if I could buy it from her. I found the other books in the series and gifted all three to my brother. (I didn’t know until we, as adults, were driving back home after my uncle’s funeral that my brother accepted Jesus as his savior in Las Vegas as I had done, many years ago.) Of all the people I could have given the books to, his name stood out.

When he’s finished reading, I want to talk about the ideas in the book. Of course, he’ll need to loan back the two volumes I still need to read. And then I want us to pass them on — because it’s comforting to think that God provides all the answers and he has a sense of humor.

You’ll just need to read the book(s).

Retreating from Sensational Pain

Imagine stretching during yoga practice and feeling great and then bending to put on your street clothes and having your back refuse to let you stand upright.

I have had trouble with my lower back off and on through the last few years so I certainly didn’t think yoga practice was the problem. But I stayed away from practice, primarily because I couldn’t stand to sit in my car for the 30-minute commute to the office. Slowly, I regained flexibility and eventually felt so good that I paid for a weekend yoga retreat that included writing exercises and gluten-free food! This was a big deal because I don’t spend money easily and I have never been on a retreat.

Seems as if a lot of the people I know share that attitude: they were not interested in spending $ on something so foreign. So I reached out to a long-time friend who I have been out of touch with for way too long.  Turned out that Teri, who also is a writer, practices yoga and … the most critical part … was willing to make the financial commitment.

So we were both very excited and then my back went out again.

Should I stay or should I go? I didn’t want my investment to go to waste. The drive to the east Texas lodge was only about an hour and a half but I really couldn’t drive. Teri graciously agreed to be the chauffeur.

So you are wondering if I just lay in savasana all weekend? No, I did not. The practice included restorative yoga (yes!), yoga nidra and poses that I eased into as best I could. At the end of the weekend, which also included much wine drinking, I sobered up and felt well enough to drive back home. IMG_1281

If this happens again, I’m going to a back doctor but I will not stop practicing yoga because it helps.

By LK

Practicing Balance

The wonderful building where I work provides free yoga classes at noon and after five on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When I first heard about an opportunity to exercise for free, I had to check it out.

One day I slipped into the practice room in street clothes to watch. The instructor seemed reasonable and the class fairly diverse. I could fit in here.

So cautiously, I started coming to class, stretching in new ways, but placing my mat at the back of the room so I could learn. There are some accomplished students – mastering crow, bridge and monkey poses.
Black birds on wire

Feeling a little out of my league, I focused on the instructor’s voice.

“Listen to your body. Maybe you don’t feel like grabbing that foot behind you today. Maybe you just want to stay in savasana, go ahead and lie there like a corpse. It’s OK. You’ve already done the hard work. You’re here with your mat.”

Really? She gave me permission to take it easy. That kind of exercise is a far cry from when my personal trainer told me I wouldn’t achieve anything without running. For me, yoga practice has been the best. I attend regularly now and sometimes I even set my mat closer to the front of the class.

Balance poses are the most troubling; my tree [pose] rarely sways in the wind without falling down. But we laugh; might as well, right?

I get to enjoy humor, oxygen, and better circulation every time I practice. My employer is benefiting too because post-yoga I feel energetic and alert. While I recommend yoga to everyone I know, I suggest that if you give it a go, try not to compare yourself with other students. This isn’t that kind of thing.

By LK

How the Texas sun, a friendly ride and a $20 bill lifted me up

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Relocating to Texas was a bigger deal than I bargained for.

My heart brought me here, twice. The first time it was for a relationship. The second time it was to leave a relationship and come home.

But coming home is harder when you come alone. And when you feel broke(en).

Back then, I had a good job but the lawyer and the move back were costly. And there was some debt that had built up on the cards. So I picked up a weekend job that helped me make some headway for these accounts.

I didn’t realize until I was driving the wrong way down a one way street at midnight that I was reaching my limit to cope. I wouldn’t have realized I was going the wrong way because there was no traffic at that hour. But the police did.

I lost it. I started spilling all the raw details of my life and the officer listened, gave me a warning and told me to be careful getting home.

That’s just the backstory.

At the end of the shift at my weekday job, a colleague said he was going to the outlet stores in San Marcos to buy a wedding gift for a mutual friend.

Would I like to go? Would I? Yes, I would like to go somewhere with someone and not have to drive and not have to be so responsible for everything every minute.

So we headed south as the sun was going down and the sunset was magnificent. The weather was starting to turn and I had put on a jacket I hadn’t worn since winter. I was a little worried about dinner, like I didn’t want to be a burden, you know?

My hands started getting colder so I stuffed them into the pockets. I felt some paper in the right one and pulled it out. Imagine my surprise when I found a $20 bill! Immediately I offered to pay for dinner, feeling richer than anyone should on a short trip with the sun setting in Texas.

By LK

Shaky Leg Triumph

By Jan K.

I’ve been afraid of heights my whole life. My earliest memory of this dates back to third grade. My school’s third through sixth grade classrooms were on the second floor of an 1890’s era building in the Midwest, with a basement that rose several feet above ground level.

Jan(2)

For an eight-year-old, those two-and-a-half stories seemed as high as the Empire State Building. Fire drills were done on a regular basis. The fire drill route from this classroom was out a window and down the two and a half floors on a wrought iron fire escape on the outside of the building.

I still remember the terror I felt at the anticipation of taking that first step out onto the fire escape. I tried as hard as I could to not look down through the iron bars, but the fear of falling down the stairs forced me to look. My legs shook the entire way down, and by the time I reached the bottom, I could barely stand. Even worse was the climb back up when the fire drill was over. I was too shy to admit to anyone how afraid I was, so I suffered in silence, dreading the next drill. How happy I was when I graduated to the seventh grade and a classroom on the first floor.

Fast forward several years. I’m a big history buff, and have always been interested in the Aztec, Inca and Maya cultures. While reading an article about the pyramids in Teotihuacán, Mexico, I told myself that if I ever went there, I would climb one of those pyramids, no matter how high it was. My opportunity came a few years later when a friend organized a group tour to Mexico, and Teotihuacán was on the itinerary.

Pyramid of the Sun

Finally there, I surveyed Teotihuacán, wondering which of the two large pyramids I would climb. I determined that if I were going to go through the combination of agony and exhilaration of climbing one, it would be the tallest – the Pyramid of the Sun – at over 200 feet, the third largest pyramid in the world.

As I began the ascent, I thought back to that fire escape, my shaky legs and the internal torment I was sure to go through. Would I really be able to do it?

The Pyramid of the Sun is built in levels. At each level on the way up, I stopped to catch my breath, renew my energy and stamina, and encourage myself to go on. Each step up made my already-shaky legs even weaker. I found if I only looked up, I could make it from level to level with the least amount of agony.

When I finally stepped onto the top ledge, I felt a rare sense of accomplishment. I walked around the top of the pyramid, taking in the view, and recording the moment with my camera. I had really done it – climbed one of the tallest pyramids in the world and lived to tell about it. Even though I’d felt the fear in every step, I had wanted to do it badly enough that I continued anyway, no matter what.

That experience convinced me that fear will only keep you from doing things you don’t want to do badly enough to overcome the fear. In other words, if you find a reason to avoid doing something because you’re afraid, you don’t want to do it badly enough to work through the fear and do it anyway.

Tackling something so full of emotion is difficult to do all at once. Scaling a pyramid seems a daunting task when it’s viewed from the ground. Climbing it was easier when done level by level, one step at a time, with time to rest and reflect.

I learned to always look up. Never look down. The future is ahead, and looking back only makes you want to retreat to the comfort zone that kept you imprisoned for so long. It’s all right to be afraid. It makes the accomplishment that much sweeter. And if you slip, regain your footing and keep going.