January warning signs

_MG_9742Take heart, folks.  Things are not as bad as they seem.  The heart attack warning signs you feel gripping your chest? Are just your lungs and heart responding to sub-zero January temperatures as you struggle to breathe. Feeling faint all the time, depressed, light-headed?  Your New Year’s resolution to loose 10 pounds must still be effective. Does your workplace feel like a prison where you never see the light of day?

It’s January!

If you can just hold on a few more weeks, the weather will right itself.  You’ll be pleased with your new body. The sun will be back and you can take regular outdoor excursions before and after work. In the meantime, give a little extra grace to those around you.  I trust they will do the same for you.

Be good to yourself. Read your email by the light of a full spectrum bulb or sit on the sunny side of the house. Fill the bathtub to capacity and give yourself the luxury of a long soak (candles and bubbles if you are female).  Plan some mid-day outdoor time on weekends – even if you have to skip lunch to do it.

And hold on!  It’s going to be a glorious spring!

Hell or Love ?

_MG_0201There are many times I have been in need of a confessor.  Someone to whom I can spill out my guilt. One who will not be shocked; who will not tell me that if I just leave off sinning and do it the right way everything will right itself. Ah, you will protest, “We no longer need a high priest.  You can go straight to Jesus.”

But that is precisely who I cannot touch.

So, instead, I will step inside the confessional, the inner closet of my heart; draw the curtain and in the quiet I will weep and rage.  Finally, blubbering, I will whisper,

“Father, I am troubled.”

“Speak what is on your mind, my child.”

“What would you do if your boyfriend said to you,

‘You will marry me or I will make your life miserable’?”

“My daughter, nowadays we know to run fast from this type of man.  He is the type of man who will also make your life miserable if you do marry him.”

“Well, what if your family says,

‘Don’t you love your mother?  Don’t you love your grandma?  Your Mom and Grandma are going to be in agony for the rest of their lives unless you marry him’?”

“Child, you cannot be held responsible for the feelings of your mother and grandmother.”

“But, my mind and heart are such a morass of guilt, shame and confusion.”

“Why are you so troubled, daughter.  Have you already given yourself to this man?”

“Yes, yes I did once.  It was a long time ago. They told me he would send me to hell if I did not accept a relationship with him.”

“Gasp, but did they say nothing of love?”

“Yes, they told me I had to love him with my whole heart or be lost.”

“But did they say nothing of his love for you?”

“Oh, yes, they said I was not worthy of that kind of love.”

“But child, God is love.”

“They told me I couldn’t get to God unless I loved the man first.”

“But you believe in God anyway?”

“Yes, but I still struggle with the son.”

“Did they not tell you that the father and the son are one? You have been told that to get to the father you come through the son. Does not it follow that when you come to the father, you are coming to the son?”

“But that’s not what they said!”

“It doesn’t matter what they said, daughter, it matters what you know. Do you know God?”

“Oh yes, as creator, the essence of which everything is made. The spirit by which everything is held together.”

“And how have you found God to be?”

“God is love.”

“Have you ever considered that really love is all you need?”

“I would like to believe that, but sometimes I can’t feel love at all.”

“It’s not something you have to do at all, child.  It is something I do.  My love is big enough. My love is all you need.”


The bunny at my house lives free and uncaged

Cottontail on Monument Trail, September 2012
Cottontail on Monument Trail, September 2012

The bunny at my house lives free and uncaged, hippity hopping at will over an acre or more of desert terrain.  He is a common cottontail – born in the wild in one of the warrens underneath the juniper cedars in my front yard. I see him every morning in the half-light before dawn and every evening at dusk as he scavenges in the flat sandy areas of my small adobe house front, or sniffing his way around the carried stones of the meditation maze in back. He nibbles with delight at the occasional tossed apple core, yet never turns up his nose at the winter starved rabbit brush, scanty saltbrush, or shadscale.

Today, in the fresh scouring of snow, he ventured completely up on the flagstone porch, whiffling in the cold powder.  What did he find there? Some unknown nutrient blown in with the snow?

Some evenings, the bunny arrives while I am playing the piano and he pauses, twitches his ears and looks straight at me through the window glass.  I fancy he likes the vibrations stroking his ears. Frequently, the rabbit is a complete distraction to students sitting at my dining room table for tutoring. While a rabbit might lend to research and discussion of mammals, rodents, or the differences between cottontails and jackrabbits; one rabbit does not facilitate a math lesson for nine-year-olds.

There are actually three that I know of. Occasionally, I see two of them sparring over food or territory in the small clearing. One time a third, and smaller, bunny huddled demurely in a clump of ricegrass, intently observing the contenders.

As dusk fell last week, a nine-year-old piano student looked up sharply from the keyboard, “There’s a rabbit!” she exclaimed.

I ponder relationships
I ponder relationships

“Yes, that’s my bunny.”

“Can you hold him and pet him?”

“No but I see him every morning and night and sometimes he stops to listen to me play the piano.”

“Can you put him in a cage and bring him inside?”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“To keep him warm.  It is cold out there.”

“He has a fur coat and long underground tunnels were he keeps warm.  He wants to be out right now.”

When I ponder the bunny in my front yard, some questions cross my mind:

Why would I want to take natural responsibility from the rabbit and smother it with artificial care and provision?

Why do I feel like something or someone belongs to me only if I can control them?

When I cannot control significant people, why do I feel they are no longer mine?

Why is it we want to catch and tame?

Can we not all live free and independent?

In truth, I see this bunny more often than I ever saw bunnies kept in a hutch.  This bunny chooses to hop into my field of vision, forage on my doorstep.  Bunnies in a cage are often forgotten but for chore time.

New Year, same lofty goals. 365 days to live.

This year, I want to know more who I am each day; to pursue heartily the person I am created to be, though it may take me a few degrees outside my angle of comfort.

Cherry Odelberg - I write about relationships Photo credit Kevin Decker 2010
Cherry Odelberg – I write about relationships Photo credit Kevin Decker 2010

Happy New Year!  I am only a few days late, so I’ll make it simple.  My goal this year is the same as last: To live as though I have been given 365 days to live. Why reinvent the wheel?  Some who have gone before have said it much better:

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences (Eleanor Roosevelt).”

“No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets (William Borden).”

Promptly with the new year, a new book crossed my path and was subsequently loaned me by a good friend.  20,000 Days and Counting (Robert D. Smith), is a slim manuscript, in which I found the words of William Borden quoted above.  From the author himself, I enjoyed these nuggets which apply directly to 365 days to live:

“Live each day as if it were your last – imminent death inspires clarity of purpose.”

“There is no thought that will purge your priorities of worthless and worldly tastes like that of your impending death.”

For me, there are still many places to go and people to see.  The year past was not one of travel and travel is on my bucket list.   I still want to see the wonders of all 50 States and some foreign places as well.  I want to talk deep and laugh with my children.

There were things I experienced this year that had not made it to my bucket list, yet made for richer life. I hiked most of the trails in Colorado National Monument; many in solitude, most in sunshine, and once in moonlight with my brother and sister-in-law. I plunged into the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers in a borrowed kayak with no reserves, no retreat, and certainly no regrets. I reclaimed my right to share my musical gift by singing in a quartet and tickling the ivories at retirement centers. My spirit has been too full of fear and reticence for over 50 years. May I remember, “I am always divinely guided…I will always take the right turn in the road…God will make a way where there is no way (Norman Vincent Peale).”


Part 3: 365 or 366 or 370 days to live revisited: A recap of 2012

It’s all about relationships

Cherry with Andrea, Gunnison May 2012
Cherry with Andrea, Gunnison May 2012

In December of 2011, I glibly typed, “People who have only a year to live spend lots more time with family. They renew old friendships and polish up their relationships… I want to invest in life-long friendships and loving and tending of family.” So far, so good. I spent time with grandkids, my son, my DIL, my parents. It would have been nice to see my two younger children as often as I saw my two old friends.

All four generations
All four generations

Then I wrote,  “There is no time to waste on pursuing or flirting with new relationships.

And it wasn't even on my bucket list
And it wasn’t even on my bucket list

Someone should have asked me: Please explain how you can play gigs at retirement centers, present singing valentines with a quartet, provide private piano lessons and elementary tutoring, be employed as a cashier; without embarking on new relationships?

What I meant was; I will not go chasing men or searching for new best friends.

Actually, a couple friends did question me. They were aghast that I did not feel I needed a man in my life.  I knew better. I know that my singleness is the outcome of two failed marriages.  Ultimately, the culprit in both cases was probably my dependence on the affirmation of a man.

Colorado National Monument Visitor's Center
Colorado National Monument Visitor’s Center

But, what happened was; I found the perfect seasonal job where – gasp – I made new friends.  Now this should not have taken me by surprise. I have a degree in Organizational Management. Over and over in classes such as Praxis of Organizational Health and Growth, I heard: no matter what your field, nor how difficult the labor; it is the people you work with who make it a good job or a bad job.

My summer and autumn months were full of sunshine, enjoyable work, professional relationships, endearing students. And yes, each I had to hold loosely, to stay until it was time for me to go.  Mid-winter approaches. Enough of looking back.  Time to move courageously into the next 365 days. 

I’ll stay until it’s time for me to go. Part 2 of 365 days to live revisited

_MG_9682redAbout this time last year, I determined to live as though I had been given only 365 days to live. I pointed out:

“I could not afford to waste any time. My bucket list would be overhauled from, “someday I would like to have a Phd. in Music,” to “what information and knowledge do I need, right now, to make better music?”

I love studios, microphones and stages. There were still songs unsung and stages untaken. I wasn’t given time to get there solo; but knew I might get there by joining forces with a few talented friends.

_MG_6469January, February, March, and April were a whirl of music as a quartet formed, blended, melded; musically, spiritually in intimate friendship. We sang for a full day of Valentines – and ate and drank our profits. It was almost magic.

And then abruptly, we dissolved. Too much busyness of life and too much baggage caught up and it was time for me to go.

While singing solo may be daunting; Eighty-eight keys are more manageable addressed by one. I received much needed musical fulfillment from playing over 21 pop/folk piano gigs at local retirement residences. There again, as 2013 advances, I will stay until it’s time for me to go.

Writing, when seen through the lens of 365 days to live, also takes a shift. “I want to be published, and achieve a certain amount of acclaim,” becomes, “I want to write my heart, get it all on paper, for the benefit of those who follow after and the great conversation.”

56294_4756203392394_485641455_oWhile I did more writing in 2012, I am not sure I finished everything that needed to be written.  I cut 20,000 words of raw truth from a 60,000 manuscript and added better fiction; reworking several chapters into short stories. I continued to write for Examiner.com, finding that the shear  exercise and accountability of writing to curséd specifications was growing me as a writer.  For a few days, I was hugely inspired by the idea of re-releasing The Pancake Cat – complete with illustrations by Andrea.  All these dreams may come to fruition in the coming year; along with other completed manuscripts; but they did not reach the finish line in 2012.

We are three days into 2013.  Here I will stay until it’s time for me to go. 

I’ll stay until it’s time for me to go. Part 1 of 365 days to live revisited

Andy Williams, Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond crooned, “Then I’ll stay, until it’s time for you to go (Buffy Sainte-Marie).”  Though I am a tenaciously loyal soul, this has been my chosen motto and mission this year.

It is one thing to commit, in marriage, for life.  Quite another to commit wholeheartedly when you don’t know how long the life of a project, activity or job may be.  I am learning, ever so slowly, to hold things loosely, not to base my dreams, goals, or life on any one particular outcome, event or circumstance; not to control the response of another.

I am learning that you cannot force the outcome with relationships; job, social, spiritual, even love.

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image (Thomas Merton)”

One of the ways I let those I love – including me (because how can you love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t love yourself well enough?) – be perfectly themselves; one of the ways I remember to hold jobs and opportunities loosely; is to go about humming quietly:

tongue in cheekDon’t ask why,

Don’t ask how

Don’t ask forever…

I’ll stay until it’s time for me to go.

Elvis, Neil Diamond, Andy Williams; they sang so convincingly.  Now, the task is to convince myself.