Friday, July 23, 2010

Takin' Care of the Pearly Whites

On all of the blogging communities I belong to, a common topic is about how to keep coming up with fresh things to write about.

My problem isn't thinking of ideas. I think of ideas constantly. The difficulty for me is remembering them. To counter this (and with my recent commitment to write more often), I try to keep a small notebook handy at all times.  Get an idea; take a note.  When that fails, I record voice notes into my phone and send them to myself.   No dissertation; just a few words to jog the old noggin.

So the last one was "Peggy Sue. Teeth."

Let's discuss.

Alone in my hotel room in Denver a few nights ago, my TV choices were Peggy Sue Got Married or a repeat of Deadliest Catch.

It was a tough choice but I went with the 1986 Kathleen Turner movie. (As a side note, Kathleen Turner was the keynote speaker at my college graduation.  She walked by me on her way up to the stage and pointing to my Golden Key Honour Society sash inquired, "What's that gold thing mean?"  I mumbled something as she walked away.  I'm sure it sounded like, "It means I can't form a sentence in the presence of celebrity. Blubbub. Fub. Dub. Wait - come back!")

Awful movie but the one scene in Peggy Sue Got Married which always stands out to me is when Peggy Sue asks, "Grandpa, if you had a chance to go back and do it all differently, what would you have changed?"

Barney replies, "Well, I woulda taken better care of my teeth."  

So of course that made me think of my step-mom / aunt, whom we'll call Moo Moo.  That's what my kids call her and you know how I love using nicknames here.  (No, she's not fat.)

Growing up, Moo Moo was obsessed with clean teeth. Or so it seemed in my youthful mind.

Oh yeah... in case you've been wondering about the whole "step-mom / aunt" thing, it's as simple as this:
My dad was remarried to my mom's sister. Yes, the younger model. No, that's not why my mom and dad got divorced. Everyone got along just fine.  Mom remarried years ago too. Yeah, maybe something which would be on Jerry Springer. "Uncle Dad" - yep, wicked funny.

You can imagine how many times I've said all these things in the past 40 years since it all went down.

But I digress. We were talking about oral hygiene.

Up until about about the age of eight, I got away with the toothpaste on the shirt trick.  My parents never asked "Did you brush your teeth?"  They just saw the mess in the sink and the white pasty spot on my shirt and assumed it was so.  They also assumed I was a total freakin' slob which wasn't ideal, but I had to pick my battles.

When I finally went to the dentist and had like, five cavities, they caught on.   I was screwed.

You know how the mothers in old fashioned TV shows would always ask their kids if they were wearing clean underwear before they left the house?

Every other weekend and during all school vacations (re: custody agreement), Moo Moo made my and my siblings' dental hygiene her personal mission.  Nobody left the house without a full inspection.

"Let's see those pearly whites," she would sing in her best June Cleaver voice. 

If I somehow escaped without going through the Colgate lineup, she'd hunt me down. You can only imagine how embarrassing it was to get a phone call at a friend's house and have to drearily explain, "I gotta go home and brush my teeth."

Don't worry, eventually I figured out on my own that not brushing the ol' grill was just plain gross.  Probably around the time I decided that boys weren't gross.

And then just the other day, I actually caught myself chiding my kids, "Let me see those pearly whites."  

I admit that actually have to hold Spidey's face in a headlock some days to get the tops of his gums to gleam.
It must be genetic.

In terms of a handy tip I can offer on the topic, it's BrushPicks.   I think I mentioned in an earlier post that when my dad died, we found these things everywhere.  Every room, every drawer, every pocket.

Now I know why.  BrushPicks totally rock.  (And no, this is not a paid advertisement.  I seriously can't live without these things now.)

Flossing is so 1986.

If you do nothing else for yourself today, take great care of your teeth. 

Best,
Charlene
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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Taking Out the Trash

Last year, I wrote about having dinner at my mom's house with my brother and sister. Out of my four siblings, these are the only two with whom I share the same mother and father.

We three get along really well somehow despite being so different.  Not only from each other but maybe more so from the rest of the "normal" world.   Something I think we have all learned to embrace over time.

Personally,  I've gotten a lot of criticism throughout my life for being "too put together."  In Junior High School a girl caught me outside Science class and yelled, "OH, YOU THINK YOU ARE MISS PERFECT, DON'T YOU?!"  Then she punched me in the head.

I consoled myself with the thought that it must have been my new hairdo which sent her over the edge.  My "I'm Farrah Fawcett-Majors and I'm Worth It!" coiffure was simply too much.

Even within my own (step) family, I've endured the same judgement.  Ironic really.

If you know me personally or had read some of my more candid early posts (many of which I've since taken down as my my blog became more "public"), you know that my childhood and life through my first marriage was anything but perfect.

All that said, back to that dinner I was talking about...

Myself, my brother and my sister each had our respective partners with us; married (me), engaged (my brother) and "it's complicated" (my sister).  As I reflect on the conversations we all shared that night, I find myself creating possibilities of what each of our guests might have been thinking.

"Wow, and I thought my family was screwed up."

        "I can probably make it to the border if I start running now."

                 "This is why people drink."

Poor souls. Obviously, they really love us.  Or something.

Naturally we spent some time reviewing childhood memories. One topic which always seems to come up during these mini-therapy sessions is TRASH.

At our childhood home with mom in Suburbia, USA, we had this cute little shed in the backyard. When we had a full bag of trash in the house, one of us would carry it out and throw it in the shed.

Eventually the shed would be completely filled with trash. Wall to wall; floor to ceiling. Our rotting trash became a critical link in the food chain for several types of living things.

You'd think that when one of us went to throw another Hefty on the pile and saw the other bags moving, it would trigger a red flag to say, "Take the trash to the curb."

For a variety of reasons, that just didn't happen.

By the time we thought there might be a problem, it already seemed too big to handle. We were too tired to deal with it right then or had something else which needed our attention more. It's already a mess so what's one more bag? Let someone else deal with it; I got enough going on.

This would continue until there was simply no possibility of ignoring it. The shed was more than full. New species of insects were crawling around and flying out of the cracks. The neighbors were complaining.

I have many vivid and horrible memories of emptying and cleaning that shed. It was a chore made even more difficult because of the tears which blurred my vision and made me shake so badly I almost couldn't hold the bags.

The silver lining came when the shed was finally clean. I remember once making little curtains and turning it into a playhouse/secret reading spot. I felt proud of the accomplishment and enjoyed the space more because of what went into creating it.

However, the same patterns of action and inaction persisted. We never created a process or a plan for keeping the shed empty. The cycle always started again. It was such a chronic issue over so many years; no wonder my siblings also had nightmares about the shed, the trash and the bugs.

Although the story is pretty embarrassing, I've had many people tell me about problems in their lives which clearly relate to my "Tale of the Trashy Shed."

The mile-high, maggot infested trash might be debt. It might be excess weight, depression, failing marriage or out of control kids. Issues in our community. It could be a lot of things.

Somewhere along the line, we had warning signs. Somehow we at least helped to create our circumstance through action or inaction. We lacked process. We were lazy in some regard. We felt overwhelmed and helpless. We thought by ignoring the situation, it might just go away on its own.

   "I'm already so far in debt, what's one more charge on the credit card?"

        "I'll start my diet on Monday. Might as well enjoy these Oreos now."

               "I don't have time to deal with this right now."


Whatever that mountain of trash happens to be; it doesn't get there overnight and the longer you don't deal with it, the bigger it gets. Until it's just so big, you don't know what to do.

Until it's so out of control that you are forced to deal with it.

Like so many folks, Big D. and I have been going through a pretty trashy financial situation over the past couple of years.  Exactly one of those situations I just described with a lot of help from a stinking real estate market.

Again, overshare.  Yet I feel like maybe one of the reasons you keep coming back here is because I tell it like it is.  Even when it's not pretty.  Maybe you can relate?  Dunno.

The great news is that this past week, we finally saw the first glimpses of a clean shed floor.  Hope.  Light at the end of the tunnel.  New habits, hard work and following my own strategy (internal/external/support) is all finally paying off.    Okay, so a little dumb luck doesn't hurt either.

Where are you at?    Do you feel like you're in an episode of Hoarders, living in the light or somewhere in between?

Thanks for visiting,
Charlene
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Meditation Monday - Let the Energy Flow!

GROUNDING YOURSELF & RUNNING ENERGY

This meditation is one of my all-time faves.  It is from Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. Reading Shakti Gawain's books is what really got me into meditation back in the mid-80's.   (A time also famous for my audition photos which inspired that whole Flashdance incident.)

I LOVE Shakti because she has such a calming voice, figuratively and literally.  Her meditations are also very user-friendly. Some of the other meditation books and recordings out there are more like a game of mental Twister. ("Bend your body into the shape of a pretzel and then put your left shakra on the color green.")

Seriously? Who wants to get stressed out trying to relax?  

FYI: I recently downloaded Shakti's audiobook of meditations from iTunes and I highly recommend!

Anyhoo...The purpose of today's meditation is to get your energy flowing, clear your mind and generally feel more balanced and open. 

Shakti says it is also helpful to "keep you firmly connected to the physical plane so you don't space out during meditation or any other activity."   That means ADD people - this one's for you!!

Sit comfortably with your back straight, either in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. (More overshare but I also do this one standing in the shower and imagine being under a waterfall on a tropical island.)

Close your eyes; breathe slowly and deeply, counting down from ten to one until you feel deeply relaxed.

Imagine that there is a long cord attached to the base of your spine, extending down through the floor way down into the earth. If you wish, you can imagine that this is like the root of a tree, growing deep into the ground.

This is called a "grounding cord." Now imagine that the energy of the earth is flowing through this cord (and up through the soles of your feet if you are sitting in a chair... or standing in the shower) and flowing up through all parts of your body, and out through the top of your head. Picture this until you really feel the flow well established.

Now imagine that the energy of the universe is flowing in through the top of your head, through your body, and down through your grounding cord and your feet into the earth.

Feel both these flows going on in different directions, and mixing harmoniously in your body. Sometimes I visualize each one with a color and the colors mixing as they interact; cleansing and energizing my whole body.

This meditation keeps you balanced between the cosmic energy of vision, fantasy, and imagination and the stable, earth energy of the physical plane. This balance will increase your sense of well-being and your power of manifestation.

All good!

Namaste,
Charlene
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Movies, Tears & Wine.

My father died on April 24.  People keep telling me, "It gets easier."  For the record, I still don't think it does. 

Sure, life gets back to normal.  It has to.   After about a month I figured out that while it wouldn't do to keep bursting into tears every time I felt that sad twinge, I couldn't fight it either.  I learned to tip my hat.

And yet, even as I try to follow my own advice, there's no big hand to take this particular pain away.  This level of loss isn't a singular thought which can be swept or flushed. 

It's like air.  Always there.  Part of me and in everything around me.  In some odd way, I feel like I need it; this emotion which ebbs and flows, but keeps me connected to him all the while. 

Last night I went to the movies with Big D (hubby), Miss M. (age 10) & Spidey (age 5).   We saw Avatar - The Last Airbender.  Great movie.  Highly recommend, despite what my friends posted on my Facebook wall about "scathingly bad" reviews.

Total side note, but I feel the need to confess that I smuggled a Grande Chai Skinny Latte from Starbucks into the theatre, despite the sign which proclaimed "NO OUTSIDE FOOD OR DRINKS ALLOWED!!" Yes, two exclamation points and I did it anyway.  I'm a rebel.  I know.

When I got home, I got such a tidal wave of sadness.  (No, not because of the whole chai latte smuggling thing.)  This may sound trite, but I was thinking about how much my dad truly loved movies.  Even when he was married and his wife / my step-mom / aunt (long story) never wanted to go, dad went to the movies by himself.    He saw every movie as soon as it came out.  Well, almost all.  He avoided those which contained what he called "gross humor."   Sorry Something About Mary.

Anyway, there was just something last night about seeing a movie which I know my daddy would have really enjoyed... and knowing he would never get to see it.  It just made me so sad.  For him and for me.

After the kids went to bed, Big D poured me a glass of Cabernet and we sat outside in the warm air by the lake.  I let the tears pour too.  Really sad, but somehow okay.

Not sure why I am sharing all this. (Then again, I do have "overshare" in my title subheading.)   I actually meant to start with an intro about my dad and segue into the hot air balloon story which I promised a couple of weeks ago.  Guess you'll have to wait a wee bit longer on that one.

I guess if there's a "moral to the story" it's that we can only control so much.  We feel what we feel.  Despite my prior post, sometimes it's good to just let it happen.   

A friend to talk to and a glass of wine doesn't hurt either.

Best,
Charlene
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sweep It. Flush It. Let It Go.

I thought about saving this for the next installment of "Meditation Monday" but decided to go ahead and lay it on you today.  I did promise to post more often and this came to mind.  So, why not?   This is my idea of living on the edge. 

Sad, I know.

At any rate, this tip is technically a visualization, not a meditation.   That doesn't necessarily mean anything since y'all know how I like to bend the rules with these things.  I'm just sayin'.

So... 

Are you a ruminator?  An over-thinker?   Have you ever had a hard time falling asleep or focusing on the task at hand because you can't get something else out of your mind?

Yeah, me too. 

I once shared with my BFF that when this happens, it helps me to picture a hand picking up the person or situation (as if a scene in a shoebox) which might be inconveniently occupying my mind.  Then I watch the hand carry it far away. 

For example... when my boss at a previous job pissed me off undermined me on a regular basis, I would lay in bed at night and picture a giant hand with pinched fingers holding him by the back of his pants and carrying him through empty space outside my mind while he kicked and screamed.  And I laughed.

Instant stress relief.   Ahhhhh.

There's also the quantum theory: "What you resist persists."   This says that the more you focus on something, the more of that thing you attract to into your life.  Therefore, the worst part about obsessing over stressful thoughts isn't lack of sleep.  Those mind treadmills are actually making the negative energy stronger and more prolific.  Crazy, I know.  But true.

Since then I've been given two more similar visualizations which I use all the time.  One is to visualize sweeping the persistent thought out the door.  Open the door, sweep it away, close the door and watch it get blown away by the outside wind.   

If you're convinced you need to address the situation later but just need a mental break to focus on something else or get some sleep, you can always sweep it into a special room (or padded cell or whatever; it's your head) and lock the door.  You can always let it out later. 

Life can be stressful. Sometimes we have to be creative in order to get those brain synapses to stop firing in repetitive, non-productive ways.

The other visualization which may sound gross but also works really well is to picture flushing especially negative thoughts down the toilet. 

Buh-bye crappy thoughts!   *pun intended*

LET GO AND GROW!

Carpe diem,
Charlene
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Monday, July 5, 2010

The Return of Meditation Monday

I know really haven't been a very good blogger lately.  I've stayed away too long.  I've let you down.  

Will you ever forgive me? 

You will?  Whew!  Thanks!!   (And if you can find the three Followers I lost in the last week, tell them to come back too. Or maybe you can find me three new ones.  Free beer.)

One request I had recently was to revive my "Meditation Mondays" posts.    Ask and ye shall receive.  I'm a givah.

Personally I think of meditation as exercise. Mental exercise. Spiritual exercise.  It's just internal vs. external.   And usually no sweating which is a real bonus for me personally.

You can certainly spend a full focused hour chanting and breathing with great karmic drama.  Alternatively, you can meditate in small subtle bits throughout the day; no one around you will even know you are doing it.

Kegels for the mind.

In the scheme of the Great Juggling Act (family, friends, work, home, community, school, etc), I find that these micro-meditations are super helpful for keeping the balance.  Depending on the person, "balance" might mean not taking a hostage and/or not running down the street in your birthday suit screaming like a banshee on fire.  Hey - we all have our moments.  

The important distinction I never get tired of reiterating is that true "life balance" is internal.  It's not possible to keep those balls in the air in perfect harmony at all times.  Sh*t happens.  Therefore, the real challenge is keeping our mental/physical/spiritual foundation strong enough to handle whatever crap comes our way.

Meditation is a good start.

I've shared this first one before but it's really easy and perfect for those "Calgon take me away!" episodes. 

It's called SQUARE BREATHING.   You'll find me "square breathing" in the car, at airports and at work a lot.  (I also have my kids do this before big tests or competitions and they really love it.)    Pretty much anytime you are feeling generally overwhelmed, anxious or whatever.

It will feel more effective if you read at half-speed.   Nice and slowly now...

                      Breathe in for four slow counts (1...2….3….4). 

                      Hold the breath for four slow counts (1...2….3….4).

                      Breathe out for four slow counts (1...2….3….4).

                      Hold for four slow counts (1...2….3….4).

Do this a few times until you start to feel more relaxed. Once you get used to it, and assuming you're not driving, close your eyes.  Rinse.  Repeat.

If you can’t stop yourself from breathing fast or counting too quickly, count to eight.  Hyperventilating is not recommended.   No blue people.

It also helps me to repeat a personal mantra once I'm starting to feel more calm and centered.  Here are some of my favorites depending on the situation.  You probably have some of your own, but the idea is pick something simple and helpful for that moment and keep repeating it until you really feel and believe the meaning.

                      "This is not life or death."

                      "I am filled gratitude; I have so much to be thankful for...(and list)"

                      "I am welcoming health, happiness and prosperity into my life now."

                      "My life is filled with love and light."

                      "All the answers I need are coming to me easily and effortlessly."

                      "This too shall pass."

I'm also a big fan of the mantra, "Only four more hours until I can have a glass of wine."   It's not very zen, but whatever works.  This is a no judgement zone.

My plan is to do more "Meditation Mondays" and post more often in general.  Thanks again for your great patience, support and positivity!

Best,
Charlene
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