On Public Toilets and Mother Theresa

I have this recurring dream, probably for at least 2-3 years where I’m in need of a bathroom and the only ones available are in public restrooms with lots of toilets and no dividers. I will use it anyway. Often without fear, embarrassment or anything to the like; as everyone else in there seems comfortable doing their thing and that normalizes it enough for me. A few days ago I actually went into a restroom where I saw this to be a reality and literally pinched myself in wonder of whether or not I was dreaming.

I couldn’t help but then Google what this dream means, and I learned that it signifies (not surprisingly) a lack of privacy in one’s life.

For many years I did feel a lack of privacy – mostly in the way of being myself since I moved in with my husband and step children. That is coming up on almost 10 years ago. I often felt like I was on a stage and that every move of mine was being watched and judged by the critics in the audience. Likely because it was.

Something I would say with no malintent like brushing your teeth after eating before school makes more sense than before eating, or having a phone conversation with my ex husband about our children’s grades or something would come back to me or my husband a few days later in some form of judgement or ridicule.

The food I made or some ingredient that seemed foreign was meant to purposely exclude someone who didn’t like it. The norms or rules I lived by before (that most parents have in place) were now viewed as capricious regulations I set forth because I wanted to control the step kids.

I let the kids watch family shows for an hour after homework at night, I had bedtimes, I tried to limit screen and video game time, I made a variety of different dinners and insisted the kids try new things in order to eat dessert (with my own biological children long before meeting my husband) – and all of it was picked apart, criticized, or judged. Nothing I did was right. It was exhausting for me and my husband to constantly have to talk about or defend what seemed to me like normal behavior.

Going back home at the end of a long day and being in a new situation is tough enough. But then worrying about every ingredient I used, every conversation I had (even behind closed doors and on the phone), every song I listened to, everything I read, how my yoga was weird, EVERY move I took made it positively exhausting. I felt like I was unable to ever figuratively let my hair down and chill out in my own home. There was no where to go. No where to run to in order to just BE.

Then I really started to stress. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Not too long after, the PTSD I had lived with my whole life came to life and went out of control. For the past 3 years or so I’ve been metaphorically purging my past. A lot of yoga, time off, and time in an outpatient mental facility will do that to you. I started blogging around 3-4 years ago and going very public with my struggles. No privacy – absolutely. Was I ok with that? Not really, but it was something I could live with.

But feeling like I can’t be myself, allow my natural feelings to flow out of me however they may, now that I truly had no control of the emotions I had locked up years ago and was working through in therapy… THAT was another story.

I like self discovery. I can’t say a lot of what I’ve gone through was pleasant, but I wouldn’t change it if a magic wand was handed to me and I was able to go back in time and do things another way.

Life is not supposed to always be pleasant. I believe we are here to learn and examine when we are in discomfort. Making connections between my feelings, my dreams, my values and why they all have a positive or negative connotation makes it all part of life’s beautiful and super messy journey. How boring it would be otherwise!

As I’m growing older I am not just going through the days of my life, but living the days and experiences while examining my role in it, however small. I’m looking to the sages and teachers before me who tried to instill the wisdom they’ve learned. They know what makes life worth living. They knew and tried to tell us that you have to take the good and the bad, and not resisting any of it makes it easier and, dare I say, more colorful! We get so many conflicting messages from society that it can be difficult to know what the best way to do anything is. One lesson I’ve learned but continue to struggle with is self care.

In a separate but very related story a few days ago my husband and I bought a Hygee card game. We sat down with a glass of wine and started to ask one another thought provoking questions. Some questions seemed silly at first and we started to skip some. But a few cards in we realized even the silly ones can be deep and there was no need to rush through them. The richness was in slowing down and really exploring why you would answer in a certain way.

A few hours later we pulled out the cards with my youngest step son. One of the questions asked was the type of person we most admire. The type… hmmmmm.

I had to think about that and spoke my mind’s reaction aloud to Devin and Daren. My immediate reaction was the Copernicus types. People before me who ultimately knew a truth and were not afraid to go against the grain of the masses to pass it along. My second reaction was the Mother Theresa types. People who give without any type of return expectations. Then strangely enough I said- “actually I don’t admire Mother Theresa.”

I thought about why. Now – don’t get me wrong, I cannot say I know very much about her and how she spent her days, but the impression I’ve received through the years is that she gave relentlessly. That’s wonderful right? But did she rest? Did she take time for herself? Get a massage, a mani/pedi, meditate and clear her mind from outside influences, eat food that would nourish he body and soul? I don’t know. Maybe. But my impression is no.

So my third answer was the Dali Lamas over the years. They do mediate and practice self care. They preach what we all know to be the truth inside. I can’t really argue with their messages. Maybe others can, I don’t know.

I grew up in a Catholic school and in the Catholic Church. It was ingrained into me to give ceaselessly. To be a Mother Theresa type. Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I’m not just reading the words of the sages and of the Bible quickly without thinking and making a checklist of ho hum, yeah got it. Like the Hygee cards stopping to think about what the words mean and how I may want to interpret them and live my own life.

Most of us have heard the Bible quote “To love thy neighbor as you love yourself”, but what does that mean? Do unto others… but what if you don’t love yourself? What if you don’t practice self care? You can do what I thought of as a “Christian” thing and love them and give them more than you give yourself, but that is exhausting! And if you loved yourself and made self care a priority- wouldn’t the world be a better place if then we took THAT person, attitude and energy to our neighbors. Without the self care the model is tiring and teaches the neighbor only to take. If we showed them what we do – like rest and give, they in turn can do the same. Otherwise shortly down this chain of relentless giving, we will experience burnout.

I didn’t go into this much detail with my husband and step son the other night. But it’s a combination of the Dali Lama and Copernicus types that I most admire and a small part Mother Theresa. A balance of love, self care, giving and teaching from the heart.

The day we played these cards was the same day I saw this public toilet. Granted- these two toilet bowls were in one stall with a door, likely for a mother and child. But it brought my awareness to my recurring dream and my curiosity was piqued just enough to google it.

Yes, I don’t have too much privacy- BUT I’m also not practicing the self care I know I so desperately need. I admire these people, but I’m too exhausted to do any more to be like them. Perhaps for all those years when my children and step children were younger if I did practice self care (mediated on what I’m mediating on now) I’d have realized earlier on that I shouldn’t be affected by what other people think, and should feel good about doing what I really knew to be the right things rather than worrying and living in constant fear of judgement.

If I practiced self care I may have been an example to teach them all the same. To go to a private space and just take care of yourself in any way that feels rejuvenating and fulfilling to you. To love thy neighbor as you love yourself means you have to love yourself first and foremost. Or the model just doesn’t work.

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The Unassuming Pear

The pear has little to no reputation. It is in a few desserts. It isn’t as popular as the banana. It’s not used in any popular lessons (such as the famous non comparison- apples to oranges). It’s not considered exotic like a papaya or coconut, it’s not a popular “pick your own” fruit, was never “in” like the avocado, or so heavily used in food or drink like the grape that fields and farms are required to keep up with the demand.

It’s just an unassuming pear, which is why I chose to paint it. 

The pear is like almost every other living thing amongst us. And like most things we don’t give it a second thought most of the time. 

The pear, the apple, the banana, the trees that produce these fruits, the flowers, our pets, sea life and of course humanity all live through a cycle. It’s as natural as nature itself. Humans are the only ones who sometimes fear or fight it. The rest of the planet accepts it as the flow we live in.

The flow and these cycles are shown to us by nature and what governs living. Particularly through the seasons. 

The pear painting goes from left to right, top to bottom through it’s very own abridged life cycle.

Winter
Winter is when most consider their surrounding closest to death. Life as we know it rests and hibernates. We hunker down and wait out the storm, most of us complaining along the way and wishing away the time until spring.

However, in the midst of the storm, under ground, and right below the surface, Mother Earth is preparing for the next cycle. The frost and subsequent defrost are laying the ground work for what is coming. Perhaps we may even consider it to be where life truly begins.

Like the architect on an empty lot where a new building will one day stand, the architect is surveying the surroundings and mentally creating what will later manifest as a structure using what is available in that time and place to make it so. 

In that time where there appears to be nothing, there is a vision of the future bubbling right under the surface- waiting to be put into action once the sketch is complete.

Winter is the sketch. It’s the time to not do, but just be and know that the spring will come, and with it there will be work to do. 

Under ground the trees and perennials are preparing the seeds that will come forth in the spring. Compared to sentient creatures such as us humans, it is the time when the mother’s egg prepares to be fertilized. 

It’s actually where all the magic is taking place. All that we cannot see or understand in the material world. It’s that beautiful dark little slip of space and time where the spiritual world intersects with the physical one. It may be the most auspicious time of the year.

Spring 
The thaw. The flow of water and life. The sun is with us longer. Dirt is tilled. Seeds are planted. The egg is fertilized.

Of all the planted seeds (the seed of man and animal as well in the form of sperm), only a small percent actually sprout forth into life. The lucky seeds that mesh perfectly with the womb of mother/Mother Earth, the ones that happen to have the prime conditions that nurture it’s growth, are so very lucky. We take it for granted, but we are fortunate to be alive and to experience life. The spring is the time of rapid growth where what makes it lives through its early days to survive through to maturity.

If we are looking at spring through a seasonal lens, it’s the time we lay the seeds, nurture what is planted and help it along until its strong enough to be on it’s own for whatever reason it is here to be. 

Ayurveda calls this time “Kapha”. It’s cool, wet and dense, just like the earth in the spring. It is strongly rooted to its source; very grounded. It grows quickly, and puts on weight easily.

In the chakra system it’s close to the roots. It’s red in color like the root chakra. All life needs a strong root to connect to the earth and then hold it strongly enough to keep it safe but light enough to allow it to grow.

Through the lens of a human, it’s the time of fertilization and early growth until young adulthood. Baby fat, rapid physical maturation, rosy cheeks, dense, learning-growing, needing a bit more nurture and support from the source as the child matures. For the mother who housed the egg and was in rest during the “winter” of the relationship with her own child, the work arrives in the form of carrying the child and then helping it arrive safely in young adulthood.

The pear… it isn’t quite ripe. If it is off the tree, it will be light in color; tinged by that red root that held it close to the branch. If eaten it’s a bit bitter, not quite ready. It has yet to mature. It’s a child. It’s in the spring or Kapha cycle.

Summer
Sun. Teaming life. Hot. Moving for purpose. Lighter, a bit dryer & quick to inflammation. 

The earth and it’s fruits are mostly in full bloom. Growth slows but it’s at the peak of maturity. The seeds no longer need help- they have the ability to live on their own, fighting off bugs and weeds without much outside help. The result of those spring planted seeds are here doing and being precisely what they are meant to do and be.

In Ayurveda this is “Pita”. Hot, quick to fire. Sustaining of life as we know it. Chakra-wise it’s lighter, and yellow like the sun. It is the chakra of digestion. It gives and supports life by helping everything keep moving as it should. Like digestion it’s lit by “Agni” or that internal moving fire.

Humans are now young adults to middle aged. In their prime. Taking care of both the young and old. They have an inner fire to make things happen, to sustain life, get things done, and keep the world going. They are the largest source of income generation. They have the energy and drive to keep it all going. They are like the full summer blooms, doing what they were meant to do.

At this time the pear is ripe. Mission accomplished. It’s the time to eat it or bake with it. Despite its color, it’s tinged with yellow undertones.

Autumn 
The change. Colors deepen. The temperature starts to cool and the air is lighter and drier. The days begin to darken. It feels like a welcome relief. The trees start to relax and succumb to nature. The leaves allow themselves to deepen, change, and finally let themselves go. Before the leaves do let go, that tree never seemed so beautiful.

Ayurvedically speaking this part of the cycle is “Vata”. Whether you are a half empty or half full glass type of person, it can be seen as the time of death or the agent of change. The necessary change that needs to take place so the next cycle of planning and development can take place. Chakra-wise we move up the body to the color blue or the throat chakra. The throat representing voice. With a mature and wise mind, humans have less energy but are able to speak their truth and guide the next generation.

Humans at this part of life also begin to slow down and let go. They often feel colder and have a more deep and philosophical understanding of this cycle and their own part it in. They are closer to spirit and that magic time of “winter” so to speak.  Generally they have more trouble keeping on weight and become drier. The skin is tinged with blue and darker undertones. They are like the fall.

The pear, if uneaten, becomes darker too. Blue & brown undertones. Overripe. More age spots. Soft to the touch. But the sweetest and juiciest it will ever be if you can handle the mess! Another proverbial day or two in its own cycle and it just becomes a pile of mush. Mush to turn the seeds inside to something new perhaps? The opportunity to begin the cycle again as we head back into winter.

Circle of Life
It’s a beautiful cycle. It is nature. Each part has its very own purpose and feeds right into the next. There is no real beginning and no real end.

We should keep in mind that there is truly nothing to fight. Try… but we will not win. It’s easier to just understand nature and accept and open up to where we are are in it.

Nature is bigger than us. She will carry us through each awesome, perpetual, ongoing, self sustaining cycle so we can play our own special part.

Like the seed that created the unassuming pear, we are each a seed lucky enough to have made it. 

 

I painted two versions of this. One with the raw primary colors and the other with a softer tint of each.

Below I used photography and light alteration to show the same concept.

The original pear this blog was written about is the one to the bottom left of the first photo.

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On the Other Side of the Window

This first day of 2019 I sit in my dining room after a long run with a warm cup of tea in the sunshine, not far from our dog who has also found comfort & post holiday solace in a beam of sun.
Across the room are two potted plants I purchased this past spring. They are geraniums mixed with a few other plantings. They very happily lived on the front porch for the spring, summer, and early fall. As they began to die off when the weather cooled, I just happened to be reading a book where a woman in England talked about having her geranium plant for 13 years. She would bring it indoors each fall and back to the outside each spring. Instead of emptying the containers in the woods behind our home as I normally would have done with these plants, I decided to try my hand at keeping these two lovelies alive through the winter.
This morning when I opened the blinds to the new day and new year, I happened to see a little red bud on one of the plants! While I don’t believe the plant should be blooming, I was excited to see that my efforts are taking effect.
However, this afternoon while sitting in the same room I noticed the rose bush just on the other side of the window. It’s dead/hibernating in every way. There is also a little red bud on it that stopped growing mid-bloom during the first frost, and will never open to what would have been its full potential as a rose flower.
The difference is the warmth, care and attention I’m giving the geraniums. They get monthly plant food. They are shielded from the cold, just on the other side of the window. They have a fighting chance at survival. How is this not different from the way we treat others in the world?
Folks on the other side of the tracks. The homeless on the other side of the window from our homes, jobs and businesses we frequent. The children that do not have the same opportunities to thrive to their fullest potential as perhaps many of their other classmates due to their home environment and lack of warmth/nurturing.
Last Thursday I drove down to Branford during rush hour. There was an accident on I-95 North at the ramp, and the signs on the highway suggested finding an alternate route. I followed my GPS and a few turns later I didn’t recognize where I was or fathom how a few turns away things were SO different. Suddenly there were really really busted up houses, apartments and abandoned buildings. Check cashing stores, pawn shops, scary looking package stores, one too many convenience merchants advertising the sins of the world. Folks were walking around hunched over with old clothes and hardly any outerwear. Drunken people around my age just wandering the streets alone or with another drunk counterpart, barely sober or alive enough to pay attention to oncoming traffic.
Just on the other side of town… As the rose bush is just on the other side of the window.
If the rose bush was also potted and brought it, the flowers would continue to thrive as well through the winter as they continue to bloom non-stop in the warmer months.
I am fully aware that I’m not comparing apples to apples. The rose bush outside alone is a perennial and will resume its duties in the spring. The geranium would not be alive next year if it were left out all winter.
But people are not flowers. We are born the same, not with such different gene sets like these two flowering plants I speak of. However our circumstances decide if we thrive or not. It’s the warmth and caring of our environment, town, parents, and community which determine if we bloom to our fullest potential or flounder all of our lives just trying to stay alive.
It’s not fair. Just on the other side of the window the ones with are safe and warm have a duty to do something; simply because they have the power, energy, and stamina to do so. Because they can, I humbly believe that they should.

Peace ☮️

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Christmas Eve Hike

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Gingerbread Cookies Abridged Version

Reprint of older blog post on making ginger bread cookies this year…

I opted to make 3 little indentations with an appetizer fork on their bellies for buttons as well as on their feet to mimic a little cuff. For the eyes I used the back of a lobster pick. I decided against a mouth, nose or cuffs for the arms.

As I decorated the first batch I couldn’t help but notice how different each cookie already looked. I attempted to make them all the same, but the place in the dough where I cut and the ever so slight differences in the eyes, buttons & cuffs made each and every beautiful little Gingerbread person unique in it’s own way.

I popped the first two trays in the oven and set to work on the second two trays. It was immediately apparent that the dough was already slightly warmer and a bit more difficult to cut. However, making the indentations was easier.

The first batch came out and I loaded the second one in. I let the first two trays cool for a minute before beginning to carefully remove them with a spatula for the cooling rack.

These cute little confections puffed up in the oven and began to sink back down as I started to lift them. As with many cookies (especially complicated cut outs) a few broke a little arm or leg in the process, some had less deep button indentations, some just cooked a little more than others depending on their place in the oven and how thick the dough was. Despite my attempt to make them uniform; nature, chemistry, and my own artistic abilities made each ever so slightly dissimilar to one another.

Some had gotten so puffed that they combined with a neighboring cookies. I had to carefully cut them apart so I didn’t break either in the process. For some it was difficult to distinguish which overlap belonged to which cookie.

Like people and animals, these little cookies were all distinct. Where does one person really begin and another end? Those cookies that stuck together came from the same batch. Where they overlapped it was hard to tell who was who, as they are made from the same stuff. And does it matter other than to the eye that they are separate? It’s all just cookies that will taste more or less the same.

Then I thought… What if somehow these Gingerbread cookies became conscious? Would they form a society and create a hierarchy of “better” or “worse” cookies based on cut, color, consistency, button deepness, etc? How crazy would that be? Not too long before that they were just ingredients in the store, then my fridge, then in a ball together… Why would they create a structure in which some have dominance or perceived superiority over another?

What if they split off into groups and started hating on one another? Hating on one another so much so that they began destroying one another as they saw fit to their own Gingerbread beliefs. Wouldn’t that be kind of crazy? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of making the cookies in the first place? Why would they fight over differences rather than celebrating how each is unique?

Why do we think we are any different from Gingerbread people?

 

Carl Sagan’s quote sort of describes how I was feeling at the moment:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

 

Alan Watts famously said:

“Look, here is a tree in the garden and every summer is produces apples, and we call it an apple tree because the tree “apples.” That’s what it does. Alright, now here is a solar system inside a galaxy, and one of the peculiarities of this solar system is that at least on the planet earth, the thing peoples! In just the same way that an apple tree apples!”

 

The Alan Watts quote might be a little more confusing, but I listened to a Podcast one day that expounded upon this quote. Watts said something to the effect of imagine a few million years ago some advanced aliens were roaming around the universe and hap-chanced upon planet earth. They may have took a look at our planet and said ‘eh it’s nothing but a pile of rocks’. A few million years later the same alien race came by the earth again and noticed us humans walking around. This time they said ‘Hey look – this rock peopled.

 

We are all from the same stuff. To some extent as humans, like the Gingerbread men; we are from the same batch of mixed ingredients that were provided by the earth, solar system, Milky Way, and universe. Deep down we are all the same. It’s only nature, some chemistry, and the artistic work of our creator that makes us ever so slightly different in appearance and thought. We were created for the same purpose and should only celebrate what makes us so uniquely beautifully different.

Lessons from the Gingerbread People

One of my cookies-

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On the Wrong Way to Experience Disney – Disney Part II of II

I’m convinced that those who have actually set foot in Disney and still don’t like it have experienced it the wrong way. What is the wrong way? Going in with a car on a one or two day pass, having to eat only at quick service stations, being there at a time it is crowded and even being there with strollers and/or a whole lot of loot to lug around. If that was all I ever experienced I would save myself a lot of time, money and energy and hit up the local Six Flags.

The “Wrong Way”
The parks are too big, too busy and arouse way too much stimulation to walk in off the street for a day or two. As mentioned above- Six Flags does that. But you can pop in & out of Six Flags and call it a day after doing pretty much every last thing there is to possibly do. I wouldn’t bother coming if that was all I was able to do either.

With Disney you need to spend months on the property to experience most all of it. If one even undertook such a lengthy endeavor, by the time they were done, so much would have changed that there would already be new things to do.

Most haters think of the rides, crowds and lines; the rides with the accompanying lines are only a minuscule portion of the experience. It’s also the details, views, stories behind the stories. The tours, shows, sit down dining experiences, the hotels, with each and every one having their own personal themes aligned with the decor that runs seamlessly through the hotel rooms, lobby, pools, shops, restaurants and extra curriculars offered there.  The hidden side of the parks. The things you can be encouraged to find like hidden Mickeys, autographs or trading pins with any staff member. The parks and experiences that aren’t on the big four list (golf, mini-golf, speedway, EPSN, water parks, signature dining). Fast passes of course. Out of this world customer service. Singers, dancers and artists around various corners with at times more talent than you might see on Broadway. Fireworks at every park every night with enough change for the seasons and year to year that it’s still always new.

But my personal favorites are the underlying messages about love, getting along with others and nature, following your dreams, and embracing diversity. It’s everywhere and it’s embraced.

What’s not to love about all of that?

Part I: https://esterinaanderson.com/2018/12/17/on-the-beauty-of-disneys-artificial-environment-disney-part-i/

 

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On the Beauty of Disney’s Artificial Environment – Disney Part I of II

I often wonder why the world can’t look and operate a lot more like Disney.

Daren and I are have been talking a bit this past week about the mixed reactions we get from family, coworkers and friends when they find out we are going to Disney. It shouldn’t be a destination that elicits so many strong feelings, but for some reason it is. There are lovers and there are haters. I’ve yet to encounter many in between. As Daren said- if we said “We are going to Paris”, almost no one would light up like a Christmas Tree and declare their devotion to the place, nor would they proceed to let us know how much they can’t stand the city. It would be something in between without such a strong reaction.

When it comes to Disney, I’m on the lover side. I first went in Jan 1987, almost 32 years ago. Between Disney World and Disneyland I have been there about 20 times and hey- I’m still going!

I kind of get the hater side too. The main reason that folks aren’t Disney fans that I  hear most of all is that it is a lot of money to see and experience things that are not even real. True, I almost can’t argue with that. However there is a truly good business and perhaps even governmental lesson to learn in this argument as well as the ability to experience the world without leaving the country or breaking the bank.

Daren and I balance plenty of travel to other destinations and I feel I can in some way put it in perspective- at least from my vantage point.

The “Fakeness”
Yes it’s absolutely an artificial environment. But many people are frightened to travel too far or cannot afford to have experiences any other way. Perhaps going on a boat scares the living pants off of you. Or you never met anyone from China and had what appears to be an exotic and foreign-looking ritual explained for the first time. Or traveling to Africa on a safari is too expensive. But a boat ride seems ok in a controlled environment in Disney which may lead the frightened individual to love it so much they are inspired to try the real thing. And when having no choice but to follow your friends or family to the Chinese theater dispels your previous notions about something you saw… you are left to realize their culture is not so different than yours and we as humans are more similar than not. And what better way to experience a safari or surfing lesson without the hassle of going to an exotic locale? Perhaps you learn that surfing isn’t your shtick and reconsider the trip to Tahiti or wherever the worlds best waves are supposed to be.

Additionally, why  can’t we create a world  that is similar to Disney? Minus the rides and experiences that would be too difficult to create of course!

It’s fake because Disney takes pride in everything; In Every Last Detail. It’s clean. The administration is constantly looking to make things more efficient and pleasing to their customers- and does!

There is ample public transportation and opportunities to walk to your destination. Every flower bed is pristine. The streets, walkways, railings, parking lots- everything is shiny and kept in good, working and aesthetically pleasing condition. The employees are all nice to the guests- every place you go!

When each area is designed, it is designed with efficiency for staff, guests, people movement, product movement and the environment in mind.

Why can’t our local towns and streets and even homes be like that?

Why can’t we employ more folks in our towns to care for public parks, trails, transport, flowers, trash, fix curbs, keep walkways clear/painted/free from breakage, to direct traffic even simple traffic (not just at major walkways during key school hours) and to greet others AND take pride in this?

Taking it even further- why couldn’t we expect service with a smile, someone attempting to make our experience special, and someone dressed for the part they are being paid for? And for a living wage (not declaring Disney does that… but they are not employing towns either and this is really a whole other topic).

Taking it even further, would it be completely insane to employ or mildly compensate our own local citizens to showcase their unique talents at places where we are stuck on lines, are in traffic or just have high levels of pedestrians meandering by? – be it singing, dancing, playing an instrument, demonstrating a cool hobby, making us laugh, or sharing a part of their culture…

Couldn’t we improve public transportation? Create more places to walk and keep healthy? Re-engineer towns to flow more efficiently for their staff, citizens, traffic and take advantage of the natural environment?

Couldn’t we keep our own lawns and homes clean and well manicured? Many other countries have zoning and aesthetic laws- not so dissimilar to Nantucket. These places look great and feel great because the cities, towns and people in the community do not allow their citizens to let their property go to pot.

Couldn’t we be nice to one another? When we are in contact with anyone other than ourselves attempt to “be on stage” and treat them with love and respect?

It would be hard to do, but not impossible. It’s only impossible if it’s never an expectation or ideal.

It might be “Fake”, but it’s inspirational and an example in a microcosm of a world that is possible.  One of the reasons I love Disney. It inspires me to leave the world a better place than I found it. I’m only one person, but it doesn’t mean I can’t do small things with great love.

Part II: https://esterinaanderson.com/2018/12/17/on-the-wrong-way-to-experience-disney-disney-part-ii/

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Anderson-Messeder Holiday Card 2018

Another Year passed already!

 

As I write this in early December 2018, Tom is 21. Gabby is 19. Kieran is 18, and Devin is 15. It’s been an interesting year. When I sat down to decide how to write this year’s e-card, I quickly glanced at a few older ones and had to chuckle about how I continue to write that the current year has been a growing experience for me. I can say without a doubt it’s again true this year, more true than ever. It’s been tough, but I’ve also enjoyed every small step of the way – even the ugly ones… because this is it. It’s the only life we have and we are to experience and take in whatever it brings with it.

 

For me it was the year of PTSD, running, and blogging more than ever. Here is a quick highlight from each season for our gang –

 

WINTER

January – always the opportunity for a new start. It’s a cold and dark time of year. This one kicked off with my brother Mario coming to stay with us for a while, trying his hand at Uber and beginning a new life. Tom moved back home from college and started working locally. Daren & I took a birthday present trip (for Kieran’s 18th) to NYC to see the Opera Tosca. Daren made his first batch of beer. In February I went on a work trip on weekend with Daren to Austin, TX where we had the WORST wine tasting ever. Koji hurt his paw and was on limited duty for a few weeks. In March Daren and I went to Costa Rica with a great group of folks from my yoga studio, and then on another work trip that I accompanied him to down to New Orleans, LA. We spent as many weekends as we could in Branford, and at the end of March brought in the new season of renters, but not before we got back down to the city for Devin’s birthday present from his girlfriend who took him to see an Islander’s Game while we enjoyed some grown up time (eating Ethiopian).

 

Winter Blogs:

On Giving Gifts that Heal this Holiday Season

On the Mysterious Secret of Slowing Down

Lexapro Journal (Continued)

 

SPRING 

The weather started warming up (just a little at first). The sun shone for more hours. We took a few trips down to Long Island to visit our families. The outdoor work began at both houses. We did not plant a garden this year (surgery for me), but did create an attractive herb garden off the back porch. Gabby came home from college for the summer and took up a job at Stop & Shop (where she also works at URI) as well as weeding during the day for one of her friend’s from high school’s father’s landscaping company. Mario moved along to work with our cousin Paco who opened a pizza kiosk in New York City, just a block away from Columbus circle. Kieran had his senior prom and graduated from high school. I had carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand. Daren and I took a long weekend and went to York, Maine (my birthday present). Tom bought his first car on his own (used of course) and officially stopped going to college for now. Devin completed his first year at Cheshire High School. I completed a 500-hour yoga teacher certification in June.

 

Spring Blogs:

On the Wonder of: What’s wrong with me?

A Frigid New England Morning

On The Monkey Mind vs Spirit

On Our Human Inchoate Brain

On the Sound of Silence

On a Song for Someone

On Vagueness

On the Sun, Moon & Tides

On Being AWOL Through Life

On Understanding Panic Disorder

 

SUMMER

As the summer rolled around the days were officially hot and long. Tom and Gabby worked their summer jobs. We hit up one of the concerts on U2’s latest tour. Daren & I went to Branford for a few weeks but it was cut short by a really bad episode (PTSD related by yours truly) which is how I will pretty much remember this entire year unfortunately. The good part is that I finally took my diagnosis seriously and started pretty intensive treatment. From that point on it is fair to say it’s been my sole focus. Daren, his father, Kieran, and Devin took a 12 day sailing trip along the coast from Mystic to Nantucket and back. My girlfriend Sherrie and I went on a long weekend getaway to an all Women grown up version of camp up in the Berkshires. Around this time I became a bit more serious about running and self-care as well. I spent a lot of time on the trail that is 1.25 miles from our door. I finally got out to NYC to see the pizza kiosk Mario worked in this summer with my friend Lucy & her daughter (before he took up an even better painting job). In August Kieran and Gabby packed up for college. Kieran to Harvard as a freshman and Gabby back to URI as a sophomore. This semester Gabby moved into a beach house with 3 other roomies. I underwent carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand and spent time in recovery blogging and painting with my left hand. Daren and I took a trip to Nantucket after a brief stop in Boston for a work function he had.

AUTUMN

The start of autumn was still incredibly warm for a while. The days however were getting shorter, and the trees more colorful. We did a LOT of weekend traveling this fall. I began by going down to Florida to visit with my aunt Fran who was also hosing my cousin Camille who I hadn’t seen since 1992! It was really special to spend time with them. Daren and I spent our anniversary by going back to Jonathan Edwards where we got married and had a wonderful long weekend in Mystic. We also got out to Cambridge a few times to see Kieran, and down to New York City again to see the Nutcracker and enjoy a truly Nordic meal at Aquavit. Daren had an unexpected trip the ER one lovely Sat eve (kidney stones). The fall baking took place, followed by the fall planting, and then lots of holiday baking! It only got colder and darker as the weeks went by. We had our first snow in mid-November. We’ve hiked a bit, me more so than Daren. I’ve continued to run, topping out at 18 miles for the longest run and shooting for 10Ks for my “short” runs. I’ve also been spending a lot of time by the dark windows meditating and contemplating the beauty of the earth. It’s a beautiful pastime at sunrise and sunset.

Autumn Blogs:

Life in the Slow Lane

On “Her Story”

On the Fluctuating Gunas (The What???)

On Why I Love Teleworking

On the Harvest and our Minds

On Fear and Suffering

On Navigating with Love

On the Possible Spiritual Aspect of Halloween

Rainy November Morning Walk in New England

How I’m Choosing Who to Vote For

Hygee (Hoo Guh) & How I Plan to Embrace Winter this Year

A PTSD Triggered Morning

Weekend in New York City

And speaking of sunsets – … the sun is now setting on 2018. Happy Holiday Season from our family to yours.

~Anderson-Messeder crew

 

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Gingerbread Cookie (Yum) Lesson

It’s the time of year for holiday baking! For a few years I skipped it completely. My friends and family moaned a little, but we used whatever money I was going to spend making cookies and sending cards towards charity. This year I decided to make somecookies. Only a batch of each to keep it all super low key. Also, as long as a nice large tray of cookies would be dropped off at the domestic violence shelter where I often make donations– it would still be for charity.

Yesterday while making Gingerbread men I experienced a little of a spiritual quest, where the words of many who’ve walked before me sunk even deeper.

Monday I made the Gingerbread dough and popped it in the fridge until I was ready to roll it out at a later time. Yesterday I worked from home, and following my lunch walk; I decided to pull out the dough so it was be perfectly soft when I logged off for the day. The cold air outside left me craving the warm smell of cookies in my home.

When it was time to roll, the consistency was just perfect (ever wondered where that phrase came from anyway? “Time to roll”). I preheated the oven and set to work making tiny little people with a brand new cookie cutter I purchased from Zabars on Sunday morning (for an unbelievable price by-the way). They were coming out seamlessly!

I knew I was going to freeze most of them so I didn’t want to frost them. Instead I opted to make 3 little indentations with an appetizer fork on their bellies for buttons as well as on their feet to mimic a little cuff. For the eyes I used the back of a lobster pick. I decided against a mouth, nose or cuffs for the arms. It was a bit too much, as this year I’m keeping it simple.

As I decorated the first batch I couldn’t help but notice how different each cookie already looked. I attempted to make them all the same, but the place in the dough where I cut and the ever so slight differences in the eyes, buttons & cuffs made each and every beautiful little Gingerbread person unique in it’s own way.

I popped the first two trays in the oven and set to work on the second two trays. It was immediately apparent that the dough was already slightly warmer and a bit more difficult to cut. However, making the indentations was easier.

The first batch came out and I loaded the second one in. I let the first two trays cool for a minute before beginning to carefully remove them with a spatula for the cooling rack.

These cute little confections puffed up in the oven and began to sink back down as I started to lift them. As with many cookies (especially complicated cut outs) a few broke a little arm or leg in the process, some had less deep button indentations, some just cooked a little more than others depending on their place in the oven and how thick the dough was. Despite my attempt to make them uniform; nature, chemistry, and my own artistic abilities made each ever so slightly dissimilar to one another.

Some had gotten so puffed that they combined with a neighboring cookies. I had to carefully cut them apart so I didn’t break either in the process. For some it was difficult to distinguish which overlap belonged to which cookie.

This is where my mind went the to aforementioned short spiritual quest.

Like people and animals, these little cookies were all distinct. Where does one person really begin and another end? Those cookies that stuck together came from the same batch. Where they overlapped it was hard to tell who was who, as they are made from the same stuff. And does it matter other than to the eye that they are separate? It’s all just cookies that will taste more or less the same.

Then I thought… What if somehow these Gingerbread cookies became conscious? Would they form a society and create a hierarchy of “better” or “worse” cookies based on cut, color, consistency, button deepness, etc? How crazy would that be? Not too long before that they were just ingredients in the store, then my fridge, then in a ball together… Why would they create a structure in which some have dominance or perceived superiority over another?

What if they split off into groups and started hating on one another? Hating on one another so much so that they began destroying one another as they saw fit to their own Gingerbread beliefs. Wouldn’t that be kind of crazy? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of making the cookies in the first place? Why would they fight over differences rather than celebrating how each is unique?

Why do we think we are any different from Gingerbread people?

Carl Sagan’s quote sort of describes how I was feeling at the moment:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

Alan Watts famously said:

“Look, here is a tree in the garden and every summer is produces apples, and we call it an apple tree because the tree “apples.” That’s what it does. Alright, now here is a solar system inside a galaxy, and one of the peculiarities of this solar system is that at least on the planet earth, the thing peoples! In just the same way that an apple tree apples!”

The Alan Watts quote might be a little more confusing, but I listened to a Podcast one day that expounded upon this quote. Watts said something to the effect of imagine a few million years ago some advanced aliens were roaming around the universe and hap-chanced upon planet earth. They may have took a look at our planet and said ‘eh it’s nothing but a pile of rocks’. A few million years later the same alien race came by the earth again and noticed us humans walking around. This time they said ‘Hey look – this rock peopled.

 

We are all from the same stuff. To some extent as humans, like the Gingerbread men; we are from the same batch of mixed ingredients that were provided by the earth, solar system, Milky Way, and universe. Deep down we are all the same. It’s only nature, some chemistry, and the artistic work of our creator that makes us ever so slightly different in appearance and thought. We were created for the same purpose and should only celebrate what makes us so uniquely beautifully different.

Lessons from the Gingerbread People

 

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One of my cookies-

Weekend in New York City

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