Standing at Attention

Hello Beautiful-stuffers,

I missed last week’s blog due to some conflicts with my reason to care, but I’m back again with a stirring edition of The Beautiful Stuff and today, I’m talking about kids. Particularly the three to eight crowd whom I typically work with in my karate classes. You see, this week is testing week.

It’s the exciting hours when those little bright-eyed darlings bound out on the floor (hopefully remembering to potty first and bow upon crossing the threshold) to ‘earn’ their brand new belt and no doubt bragging rights the next day.

Now heading the school’s instruction team is a stoic former Marine and a stalwart of rules and order on the floor. Absolutely excellent in the face of a rowdy teen or an unsure adult in need of the structure and control.

Absolutely useless and frustrated in the face of the giggling, juggling mass of pent up life force.

And testing time is rarely different.

Though the potential for their future of order and restraint is glimpsed (and I suppose that’s why they come to the school in part) some of the instructors will roll their eyes at the still inadequate control. While I stand in the back and  lament the beauty of their childhood being chipped away.

I was told repeatedly that “the Dragons class will eat you alive”. Both male instructors said so, shaking their heads and trying to bury the horrors of war. I nodded, in that reassuring way you do when someone has no idea.

Son (I call them son because I’m grow’d up over them by a few good years), I’m a mom. And on top of that, I’m a mom that actually enjoyed the ages of my daughters when I had to staunch nose picking while watching them ping-pong off the couch and sing “Let It Go” at the top of their lungs. Every day. All day. Seven days a week, most nights, and EVERY vacation.

So when those little bouncy balls landed on line tonight, wiggling in their gis until their belts untied themselves, and the jaws of less-seasoned warriors clenched, I glowed. I smiled. I adored and dote on.

Want to know why?

One of the greatest beautiful moments in life is when the life in us cannot be contained in man-made illusions of order. It’s in the misdirection and distraction. It’s the exuberance and unconditional love. It’s all that we lose as we age, either by the weights of life tying us down, or from being told repeatedly to stand straight and stop wiggling.

Ok. I understand that order has to exist. Ask any of the poor souls on I-25 while the uninformed attempt to merge. We do have to learn order and self-control. Or everyone would just live on cake and would never go to work, and we’d get into fights and stray from our homes… I’m not saying that order isn’t important.

But order imposed on a mind still fluttering like a million startled butterflies in a sunny meadow, is like trying to…well catch a million startled butterflies in a sunny meadow. At some point. You need to just let go and enjoy the ride and the sunlit flash of pure color. Keep them safe, keep them engaged, and love every odd-ball story and uncontrolled giggle.

I hope you realize I’m not just talking about from kids here. From the people in your life. Encourage, especially the adults in your life (You TOO reader), to barrel through it all with a bit more frivolity and joy.

Sometimes we’ve been so long from it that we’ve forgotten how. It’s not so hard to find your way back. Here are some things that may help:

Go barefoot in the grass

Dig for worms, put them back in the garden.

On the way to your car from the grocery store, work up a good speed and hop on the back of your grocery cart…ride it all the way to the car.

Say no. To them. To yourself…to every “how to be perfect” blog or article you read.

Read the comics first and throw the rest of that shit away.

Go for a bike ride with your kids around the block and name your bike like the noble stead it is.

Tell a dirty joke.

Laugh at dirty joke.

Laugh at a fart.

Fart (and pull the covers over your spouse’s head so that they may truly enjoy it…if your marriage is really meant to last it won’t matter. If it matters well…then I’m going to let you think about that for awhile)

Belch in front of your kids, and follow it with a “Holy cow! That was awesome!”

Grab a bowl of lucky charms and watch some cartoons (Teen Titans is my fav these days).

Wiggle

Dance

Sing “Sweet Caroline” LOUDLY out your car window at the stop light. Those who don’t join in or at least smile are to be pitied.

Never say no when a child wants a hug.

Always kneel down to meet them, their perspective is so much better anyway.

Tell people you love them.

Tell them you love them without needing it to mean anything more than just what it is.

Move on.

Forget.

Someday, remember just the good bits, fondly.

You see, kids and older people get what we’ve forgotten. That the beauty of life comes from the dancing in chaos, not the standing still on line.

Still, go potty before you try the standing still…it does help the wiggles.

 

VerseDay 4-25-19

Mornin’ kids. I hope your Thursday is starting off sweet and slow.

No matter what your plans are or how many ‘to-do’s’ you’ve packed into this day, carve out some time to get outside and find your quiet.

Haze

 

Gray cascades of fogged memory

Blanket the distance

And everything seems so much closer now

Kinetic in wait.

 

The world was never so quiet

Nor so still.

Even as rain needles pierce my neck

And trace frozen rivulets down the valley of my shoulder blades.

More pleasant a day I have not lived.

 

Here in the stillness.

The quiet and uncomfortable

The shivering slip of feet and

Icy hands

Scuffed against granite and lichen

In search for hold.

 

How we’ve come to fear being alone.

How we shy from homegrown reflections,

And shudder at the thought

Of being solitary amid the rain and rock.

 

We don’t even know to mourn

The tremendous loss

of keeping our own company.

 

Perhaps the gray residing in our hearts would be lessened,

The stormy mind;

Hurricane of worry and doubt, would dissipate

If we more often paroled our bodies to the rough beauty of nature

The purity of what is real might bring us back ’round.

Clarity borne from the muddled haze.

IMG_0008

VerseDay 4-18-19

In observance of the Boston Marathon bombing that occurred 6 years ago Monday, I’m reposting a poem I wrote the day after.

Running on a dark highway, under speckled stars and the approaching dawn, I felt the legs of thousands of runners alongside me. The shrapnel of fear and terror, echoing thousands of miles away, gave rise to such indomitable hope and strength for so many.

runner

Runner

 

Today I ran.
Not out of fear,

not out of obligation to a scale or a time.

Today I ran to remember why we run,

to share the heavy hurt,

to find the solace that only comes in the gentle cadence of the body and road.

Today I ran for them,

For the hearts and soles that carry the world with them as they go.

just as I do.

Down pavement, and sidewalks, and dirt trails we fly

Down these paths to lighten the burdens of life.

Today I run with my countless brothers and sisters.

Those who came before me,

those paced beside me,

those still on their way.

For all of the tireless legs, the calloused feet, the hardened lungs and loosened smiles.

For those that find their peace and promise where feet connect to Earth.

I don’t have to know you, to know you.

You are me.

In the dark morning, pavement shining in just-stopped rain.
In the quick wedge of afternoon between meetings and bus drops.
In the long weekends when we find out what we really can do in the hours

and hours

of loving devotion.

With hope and in respect,

Today, I’ll carry your burden,

Until you’re back on your feet.

Today I ran.

Fear and Loathing in Middle Age

Hey kids…

Let’s talk about fear and how it changes us, how our fear changes over time, and what purpose it all serves.

This all began in yesterday’s yoga class when we were told to try a handstand, with and without the use of the wall. The instructor is amazing and even at 5:30 in the morning, she’s been able to get into my pre-caffeinated head and merge my body and mind in a beautiful symbiosis of breath, and heat, and general bendy awesomeness.

But yesterday…

Yesterday I began the morning by suffering through five miles of a run I didn’t enjoy. The week itself had been long and the weekend was short on sleep…yesterday was a cumulation of unhelpful factors.

So even though I was on my mat, carving out my own space in the universe to detach for an hour, I was still too much in the world. And watching my tiny little guru flip herself upside down effortlessly, knowing that my ass is WAY bigger, and understanding that I wasn’t on the most solid of ground emotionally, didn’t help my middle-age sense of insecurity.

While hopping up on one leg repeatedly in a effort to find balance the thought of “Why is this so hard, I’ve done cartwheels, I’m tough…my ass is big but I’m a sturdy girl all round, I got this…why, can’t I just–“?

*grunt*, *groan*, *heave*, *plop*.

It came down to fear.

I was afraid.

I was afraid that my own body would overcorrect. That to avoid pain, I’d swing my pendulum too far to the other side and really end up in a mess. Even though the wall was right there to catch me and there were no demands for me to even achieve the pose.

My physical fear was manifested out of my emotional fear of going too far.

Sure I worry for my rotator cuffs, and I don’t like the idea of barreling into the wall, but I think I was more afraid I would leap out into the world, heart on sleeve, hope in eyes, and fall off the edge. The headstand was a metaphor, for the cyclical “Why bother–you’ll just end up hurt” pattern that affects so many of us.

I held myself back physically. Because I was trying to protect myself emotionally.

I gave it effort, but not:

maximum effort

 

I knew I could do it, if I’d let go of the expectation of perfection and the fear of falling. Just like anything in life.

But humans are funny creatures and we spend a lot of time trying to protect ourselves from past physical and emotional pain by avoiding the effort that resulted in that pain.

Yesterday’s lesson brought up an honest question about my fears and where they came from and how they became so entrenched beneath my surface.

Fear serves the purpose of protecting and defending your life and your livelihood. But it also cages you. It stops attempts before they start. It can even set you up to fail.

Now failure isn’t a bad thing. It helps us grow and learn. And it’s not as Churchill so aptly said, “fatal”.

So why can’t I put my ass over my head?

Maybe the answer lies in the day I was having, maybe it’s that I wasn’t physically stable enough yet…maybe it’s because I’m afraid I’ll get it right.

Because sometimes failure is more easy to accept than success.

Why is it scary to succeed? Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do, in life, in our writing, in our day to day?

You’d think that’s what we want for the effort we put in. But self-sabotage is something most of us have done before especially at that hair-breadth distance away from obtaining our goals.

Maybe it’s the unknown aftermath of success…or the expectation to always be searching for the next success, climbing ever farther, faster, higher. If we stay mediocre. If we give up or don’t try…then we can stay nicely tucked into our pajamas on the couch midday, and no one would expect anything more.

Maybe if we start off mediocre, then any effort or tiny improvement we make seems like a mountain climbed.

And that’s just us lowering our standards.

Is it good to let our fear pigeon-pose…er…hole us into mediocrity?

I dunno. I think that’s something you need to talk to yourself about. Maybe it’s a good measurement of what we really want in life, and what we really hold dear.

If you no longer want to give it your best then maybe it’s not worth doing all

Thoughts and comments appreciated on this discussion.

Until I hear from you, I’m going to go find myself a wall and see if I can hoist this ass over my head, in the privacy of my own home where my grunts and groans will be mirrored in the aging basset taking over my yoga mat.

 

grayscale photography of basset hound sleeping
Photo by Maximiliano Ignacio Pinilla Alvarado on Pexels.com

VerseDay 3-28-19

Good morning ladies and gents. I don’t know where you are living these days, but Spring is making a coy arrival here (followed, of course, by a snow storm forecasted for the weekend).

But, as I am working towards living in the present moment, here are some thoughts on this hopeful, anticipated season. Enjoy and share!

 

The Quiet Fury

 

The silent rustle of Spring

Comes renewed in partial glances

A robin’s canter, coy flash of red breast, 

Among the tender buds, 

Tucked tight arrow tips.

Fearful, of irrational snow

And wind still chilled by winter’s breath.

 

The sun creeps round the curtain, lessens her stage fright

Staying for longer moments on horizon’s stage.

Life stirs below ground, within dark chocolate soil

And harbingers of decay make their case like tender pink accordions.

 

Where last have you slowed the pace of expectancy

To stare in wonder at the world?

When last did you marvel,

Explore,

Dissect and rescue

The gentle, beautiful

Living

Things?

That when in Spring do rise to the occasion

In bursts of sound and furies of color.

 

VerseDay 3-14-2019

Hello Lovies,

Today’s Verse Day is brought to you by the amazing and talented, one-of-a-kind, Rebecca Cuthbert.

Rebecca (Schwab) Cuthbert lives and writes in Western New York. She is a hopeless believer in “the beautiful stuff,” like gardening, caring for shelter dogs, reading and writing, and spending time with people who fill her heart up.
Please enjoy and share this gem of writing. Don’t forget to send me your own entries for consideration!

 

Intermission

“It’ll be just like playing house,” she’d said. “You’ll wear slippers, but not cologne. I’ll wear an apron, but only on Thursdays, only in April and June, and not if I’m not at the bus stop.”

 

She made me a key, but I saw the framed pictures, coffee rings and toast crumbs I didn’t leave.

 

Her hair smelled like hyacinths. She left the porch light off when she kissed me goodbye, ignored my declarations, told me not to creak the gate.

 

It’s August now and I sit behind her on the early bus. She focuses on her crossword or stares out the window, and I wonder if she’s pretending now, too.

 

Inaugural Tuesday Blog: “Doing Better”

Okay, that title makes it sound way more important than it is. It’s really just a normal weekly blog post, but I thought I would make it sound more official. It’s “Inaugural”…makes it sound like a need a fancy dress and an invitation… neither of which I have.

From now on, my weekly blog will be posted on Tuesdays. I wanted to spread The Beautiful Stuff out a bit more and appreciate your continuing to follow me.

Let’s get into stuff.

You all know I love this lady…and this is one of my favorite quotes from her:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou.

I never expect perfection from myself or others. True beauty lies in the quirks of our imperfections, after all. That being said, our larger-than-comfortable-for-birth brains have no excuse for not changing behavior that is damaging. We have this funny little thing called foresight and allows us to think ahead, from the point in time we’re at to where our decisions can lead.

Learning is one of the greatest gifts we were given. Learning from others, from books, from experiences; our mistakes, our pain. We learn most from struggle and strife…and hopefully use that knowledge to do better the next time around.

Think of the amazing things that have come from this process!

As a species we’ve made great advances in society with science and medicine, saved species, and ended disease. Now…that doesn’t mean we don’t fall in equal and terrible measures and sometimes fall back into dark areas of ignorance and inflexibility.

We’re still losing species, spreading old diseases that used to be nearly eradicated. Some of us are falling off of the edge of a misconstrued flat world, it’s true. Idiocy is a hard condition to fight and I don’t have enough words to do it today, so let’s just focus on the theme.

Do your best. Until you know better. Then do better.

Our survival depends on the constant improvement…the evolution, if you will, of our knowledge.

When you become aware, when you wake to a cultural fallacy or the inconsistency of a prescribed “truth” don’t stay stagnant. Don’t support the norm out of fear, or worse, laziness. Ask the questions, the hard ones, and when you see the dark lying beneath, use what you know to bring it to light, and fix it.

This is a large scale hypothetical and it feels overwhelming to the small human. So, I urge you to think about it in terms of your own life. It doesn’t have to be vast, sweeping, cultural change to make a difference. Sometimes changing ourselves, piece at a time, can be the spark that starts the big fires. So start with you. What can you do today to “do better”?

Standing up for the fallen? Extending a hand to the broken? A kind word? A donation of time or money? A voice against injustice?

It doesn’t even have to be something so altruistic. What about an acceptance of your own happiness? Saying no to what you don’t want, or to that which makes you heart or soul sick? Letting go of the habits and addictions of your past to do better for you?

Taking a goddamn nap when you want one, eating that piece of chocolate cake, saying no to that glass of wine, or yes to that bourbon. I’m not going to tell you what you can do to “do better”, but I will tell you this;

Sometimes “doing better” is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Because better is often a rocky path, a steeper hill. It’s so much easier to falter, to roll down that hill, to let yourself go…and we’re all going to stumble. That’s ok. Remember? Imperfections are beautiful.

Just keep on, doing your best, until you know better…then do better.

Let me know what ‘better’ you’ll shoot for today? What about for the week? Year? Longer? I want to hear it all, throw some inspiration my way.

Let me know humans have it in them to do better.

VerseDay 3-7-19

Before I wow you with my versatile verses here are a couple of quick announcements:

 

Send me your poetry for consideration in the The Beautiful Stuff 2019 Poetry Anthology. If you don’t write poetry, but know someone who does, encourage them. Contributors will get two free copies of the anthology and bragging rights. And we all know bragging rights are way better than a cash payout…um…ahem…(*nervous throat clearing).

You can send entries via the contact page on this website or simply by emailing it to me at sereichert@comcast.net with “2019 Beautiful Stuff Poetry Submission” as the subject line.

Also, The Beautiful Stuff’s weekly blog post will now be moved to Tuesdays of every week, as I want to spread out all the thought. I will be looking for guest bloggers at the beginning of April so keep your eyes open for that announcement.

And now…a little scuttle into Sarah’s latent memories.

 

Recollection

 

Remember days, sunlit and spread

Tentacles of diving suns and

Russian thistles, green teeth bared,

Before winter tumbled them dry.

The sand blasted faces, relentless wind,

Grit swallowed with water from the hose.

 

Remember the stolen boards,

The battle of nail and hammer; an engineering feat.

The tree house mansion at the end of the road

That dropped my brother from leafy heights

And gave him the best scar of the summer.

 

Remember the joyful toil

Sticky hands and brown feet

Mosquito bites torn into angry holes,

Captured horny toads, succumbing to belly rubs

Such degradation of the regal king of sagebrush.

Awe filled fascination, as blood fired from their eyes

A defense of true dragonry.

 

Remember settling into M*A*S*H with dad,

Never noticing the sting of war around the click of Klinger’s heels.

Or the soft, seeking peace of Radar’s eyes.

The MacNeil Newshour always put me to sleep on the floor.

A sleep that never paused for the bustle of adult worry, or nuclear meltdowns.

 

Remember toe-headed boys and dirty-dishwater blondes,

Running naked round houses on dares,

Unfathomable speed of youthful freedom

Still not faster than motherly wrath.

When laughter tickled like a persistent cough

And sadness reserved itself for opened knees and epic bike wrecks.

Wounds that healed far faster than the heart.

And left scars you bragged about, not buried.

When life was immortal and endless,

Possibilities not yet limited by the bottleneck of time.

 

Remember the stolen, joyful days

Dragonry and castles in trees

The naked hearts, and pauseless sleep.

Before we settled into toil?

You toe-headed boys and dirty-dishwater blondes.

What memories lay, grit covered, on your shelves?

Book Review: “Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself: 101 Acrostic Poems Reshaping Words Used by Bullies”

 

If I could tell you one thing that I know to be true it’s this: Words are power.

Words have weight.

Words matter.

What we say to others will shape not only their perceptions of themselves, but also their perception of us and the world at large.

 

The old adage of sticks and stones breaking bones but words as ineffectual, is dangerously incorrect. Physical wounds heal over. But harsh words, implanted on the heart and brain of a young, impressionable human last and can shape the way a person’s brain is formed.

 

As a parent and mentor I can tell my kids in countless ways and repeatedly why others sling these arrows and try to reason with them that the hatred and hurt is a result of the bully’s own feelings of inadequacy. But it does little to sooth the pain.

 

In the higher stakes of a social-media driven society, words are slung at a faster pace, with a farther reach then we ever had to deal with as kids. Farther than the playground, and in more permanent ways that have lasting and sometimes deadly consequences.

 

So how do we change these verbal arrows from something potentially life-altering, into something that can offer hope and let the victims of bullying take back their power in the situation?

In Dean K. Miller’s latest poetry anthology, “Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself: 101 Acrostic Poems Reshaping Words Used By Bullies” he utilizes acrostic language to change the most common words used by bullies into more positive, life affirmations.

The time he spent analyzing these words and what they could be changed to is evident and Miller offers us a bright light in an otherwise dark topic.

As he says:

“Through the use of acrostic poetry, my goal is to reshape the words used by bullies into positive pictures, thereby creating new lists of a thousand words that spark upbeat feelings, inspire positive self images, and defuse the stress associated with bullying words.”

 

In “Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself”, Miller takes the worst and most cutting words and breaks them down into ideas that can, hopefully, offer an alternative way for victims to think about the word. Like taking a tarnished penny and turning it over to reveal the untouched copper shine, this poetry anthology gives victims of bullying a tool to reshape the negative words into positive ideas.

 

If you’re familiar with Mr. Miller’s work, I don’t need to gush about his poetic prowess (though I could if you had a few hours). If this is your first time hearing of him, I urge you to check out his work. Miller is a master at crafting poetry that resonates and paints images in your mind.

 

If you are a teacher or in another profession that holds responsibility over the health and wellness of our kiddos I highly recommend you check this book out.

 

You can even contact me and I’ll offer it through The Beautiful Stuff at a discounted rate.

 

Here’s the link on Amazon:

 

“Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself: 101 Acrostic Poems Reshaping Words Used by Bullies

 

Also, I highly recommend that you read some of his other work:

 

Dean K. Miller Poetry on Amazon

He does excellent work and programs for Veterans with the use of poetry and the outdoors as therapeutic methods.

 

 

 

 

VerseDay 1-24-19

Before you immerse yourself in this succulent little slice of verbiage, take a moment to remember that I’m still calling for submissions to the poetry anthology and look forward to featuring your work here on my website. IT’S FREE PEOPLE…and you get all the feel-good bragging rights of being ‘published’. So consider and send me your stuff.

 

Okay, proceed to the Verse…

 

 

Puzzle

If I could stand in those empty fields once more.

The sun and wind bearing down,

Driving back the faint of heart.

If I could catch the notes of sage on the back of my tongue,

And the distant blue horizon

Far and stretching for eons

The time of endless days, turned eye-blinks.

If I could walk those creaky halls, and the comfort of shadow

The patterns of wood and love

If I could smell the dust of my bedroom, hear the closet door creak,

Lean against kitchen countertops, where the coffee pot left

Traces of brown on the laminate.

If I could just go back.

To that time

To that girl.

Maybe I could find the pattern of me,

The places before broken lines were drawn.

And piece the puzzle back together.

Maybe in this place, the dirt that grew beneath my fingernails,

The dust that scattered through my hair

The sweet sunshine that painted my cheeks in freckles

And the smell of an innocent child who belonged to the wild.

If I could just run those tracks, single and winding through empty fields,

On the squeaky tires, of the most faithful steed,

Who’s cracked seat pinched tender thighs, if ever the thought to sit occurred.

If I could spend the day on an adventure,

I could find the greatest one yet.

The one that tells the story,

Of a girl who was fearless

A girl who loved the wind and the sun

And the freedom beneath her was a fair gale to wings

Of a girl who wouldn’t give up.

Not ever.

Of a girl who persisted and

Stayed wild.

Maybe I could find the pattern of me,

Before the broken lines were drawn,

And piece the puzzle of myself together again.