A Prayer

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God, Goddess, Spirit that be,
I pray this night watch over me.

Hold me in the arms of angels,
Safely from all harm and danger.

Bless all those I deeply love,
And tend their needs from up above.

Thanks to you for the gift of life,
Courage and patience to journey through strife.

My gratitude from deep within,
Please open my heart with your love, Amen.

*I wrote this prayer in 2007 and came across it in one of my old journals yesterday. It always surprises me when my writing has more profound, personal meaning, years later. The photo is a retablo of Our Lady of Guadalupe by New Mexico artist Lynn Garlick.

April Yoga Flow

Here’s my playlist from the yoga class I taught today at Yogaview. Do you have favorite yoga or workout tunes? Please share, I love finding new music!

On another note, I am so grateful to be a part of the yoga community. My students teach me so much and I am honored to share my love of yoga!

Love for the Creative Process

I have a lot of love for the creative process and its mysterious ability to discover me. Lately, new projects, ideas and stories keep finding their way into my dreams. It’s simultaneously inspiring and overwhelming. Slowly but surely, I am honoring these gems with the time and attention they deserve.

These little collages are from one of the new art collections I’m working on: LOVE. Stay tuned, more artsy stuff is on its way!

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Love letter from the past

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I attended a winter yoga retreat in Lake Geneva with the fabulous Dorie Silverman a few weeks ago. During the retreat, we were guided to write a love letter to ourselves, self address an envelope, and hand it in to be mailed at a later, unknown date. I received my letter in the mail a few days ago. I won’t share all the details, after all it’s my personal love letter, but here is a line that I am drawing a lot of inspiration from: “Magic is created in the woodlands, but it can survive in the city if nurtured by the sun and water and your dreams.”

There’s something really special about receiving words of love and wisdom from your past self. If you’ve never tried it before, I highly recommend taking the time to write yourself a love letter. You don’t even have to send it, just set it aside and mark your calendar for a random day a few weeks or months from now. There is even a website, http://www.futureme.org, where you can send yourself an email at a set, later date.

Even if you have a regular journaling or reflection practice, it’s amazing how sometimes, turning inward and writing a letter of love to your future self can bring the encouragement and support you need, right when you need it most.

Grandma Jean

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Grandmothers are special people. My Grandma Jean was a wise friend, reliable confidant, engaging storyteller, vocal cheerleader, expert baker, tradition keeper, hard worker, savvy shopper, warm hugger, fierce protector, and more. I am grateful to have been her granddaughter and for her friendship and love.

Since her passing, I’ve been thinking a lot about our time together and the small, thoughtful ways she made everyday special. A crystal donkey dish filled with Hershey Kisses set out for me and my sisters, warm grandmother hugs and favorite story books, getting tucked in at night with kisses and the scent of fresh laundry, shopping for shoes, and long talks while baking oatmeal raisin cookies and burning a few, on purpose, for grandpa. I never want to forget those memories, or her.

“You won’t. I know a little about that. When you lose someone they take a bigger place in your heart, not a smaller one. Every day it grows because you don’t stop loving them” (The Shoemaker’s Wife, Adriana Trigiani, page 78).

Grandfather Christmas

It’s funny how the scent of gas station hand soap can turn a 29-year-old woman into a nine-year-old girl. Something in the fragrance reminded me of his warm hugs and Ralph Lauren Polo cologne, instead of a pit stop on the way from Chicago to Lake Geneva. So, I breathed in the aroma and allowed myself a few moments to remember a loving, yet complicated man.

When I was little, Grandpa Drag kept a glass Mason jar on a shelf next to his cologne. Every dime, penny, nickel, quarter and half-dollar of spare change went into that jar. When grandpa came to visit, he put the clinking coins into an athletic sock and tied a big knot at the end. After requisite hugs and kisses, he would pour the contents of the tube sock onto the floor as my sisters and I scrambled to count, roll and divide the money evenly among the three of us.

“Okay whipper snappers,” he’d say when we had finished rolling the last of the coins. “Let’s go to the bank and cash it in.”

A trip to the bank meant exchanging the coins for crisp new bills, never less than 50 dollars for each of us. And, we got to save or spend the money however we wanted.

One year, my sister, Melanie, bought grandpa a two foot-tall vanilla ice cream cone bank. “Hey grandpa, why don’t you fill this up for us?” Melanie challenged with a smirk.

“It will take me a little longer to fill that sucker up,” grandpa joked.

“That’s okay,” Melanie replied.

After a visit or two and the absence of coin filled tube socks, Melanie rethought her initial request. “Maybe it doesn’t have to be all the way full for you to bring us the money,” she said.

When my family visited Grandpa Drag in Silver City, he would often take us girls, sometimes just me, to Dairy Queen in his old, lime-green, Bronco truck. I remember chastising him, “grandpa, put on your seat belt!”

“I’m old already and haven’t died yet from not wearing one,” he would reply.

Despite my horror at his refusal to buckle up, our outings were perfect. I would eat a chocolate dipped cone as we cruised with the windows rolled down. The breeze flowed over our faces, rock and roll music blasted over the stereo.

Grandpa Drag was always armed with presents and a mischievous grin. One Christmas he bought my sisters and me a karaoke set. “Let’s see what kind of pipes you girls have,” he said plugging in the machine and adjusting the multiple microphones. We had more fun singing “Baby, Baby” by Amy Grant. And grandpa sang right along with us.

Then there was the Easter morning we awoke to bunny rabbits in our front yard. We were delighted.“Let’s name one Happy and the other Easter,” I said, thinking it was the most original idea in the world. Our mom was not pleased.

But it wasn’t just the sock of coins, or the gifts that made grandpa special. I went to school at New Mexico State University, home of the Aggies. Grandpa was a former basketball coach at Western New Mexico and Adams State College and loved teasing me about being an Aggie and our terrible athletic teams.  But he would always end the teasing on a sentimental note. “I’m so proud of you and all of your accomplishments,” he would say. “Keep getting good grades. I love you.”

Grandpa didn’t have favorites, but just once he told me, “Laura, I have several grandchildren, and I love all of you dearly, but as the oldest, you were the first one to come into my heart.”

As an adult, I’ve come to know another side of my grandfather. He was a complicated man with skeletons in his closet and a rough and tough exterior that I never saw. My grandma, dad, aunt, uncles and basketball players were most often on the receiving end of his outbursts.

When he lost his battle with cancer, there were many newspaper articles written about his life and coaching career. The tributes recounted an often abrasive but charismatic personality that touched the lives of many.  He was a complicated man, yet I’ll always remember him as Grandfather Christmas.

Stella

I have often watched my sweet kitty sleep,

seen her whiskers twitch and sigh so deep.

The thought crosses my mind each time,

what images frequent her thoughts and mind?

 

Perhaps she dreams of the golden sun,

warming her belly till it’s nearly overdone.

Maybe she’s bird watching with her glassy eyes closed,

crouching and stalking, so as not to be exposed.

 

Or sleeping on a pillow nestled next to my head,

climbing bookcases early morning, much to my dread.

Playing with toy mice, batting and pouncing,

and voicing hunger, her loud meow announcing.

 

But, I wonder too if she’s haunted by the past,

her life as a shelter animal, an unwanted outcast.

A cold cage of uncertainty is no place for a kitty to live,

yet millions, just like Stella, are unwillingly captive.

 

So each time she awakens I remind her she’s lovely,

and promise to make up for those who treated her wrongly,

with sunny windows, and bird watching, toy mice, and a soft pillow,

hoping that for other kitties, a forever home will come tomorrow.

Good Little Sugar Cookies

1/3 cup shortening

1/3 cup butter

2 cups flour

1 egg

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon of orange zest

Dash of salt

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add about half the flour, egg, sugar, milk, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Beat in remaining flour. Fold in orange zest. Flour a counter surface and roll out dough until 1/8 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters and bake for seven to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool, decorate with frosting and sprinkles, serve, and enjoy!

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I grab a wooden spoon and stick it into softened butter. Pouring sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk, and baking powder together I ask, “Grandma, am I doing this right?”

It’s a struggle to balance the silver, mixing bowl with small hands while blending the ingredients together in yellow and white swirls.

“Yes, you are,” Grandma Chris says, as she adds flour to the mixture.

Melanie and Staci arrange plastic tubes of red-hot cinnamon dots, red and green sprinkles, silver balls, miniature stars, and white candy flowers on the kitchen table. The room is alive with chatter and warmth from the oven. We look forward to making sugar cookies with Grandma every year.

“The secret is the orange zest,” Grandma Chris says adding a heaping tablespoon to the cookie dough. “You only need a little bit, but it makes the cookies taste extra delicious.” She is wearing a red apron over her plaid Christmas sweater. I feel special knowing Grandma trusts me with her secret recipe.

“Grandma, look at all the pretty colors,” Staci says proudly of her arrangement of the cookie decorations lining the kitchen table. She sways along with Amy Grant’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree blasting from the stereo in the living room.

“Can I roll the dough?” Melanie asks, already knowing the answer will be yes. Her blonde hair bobbed just above the shoulders bounces as she rushes to Grandma’s side. They take the dough out of the mixing bowl and put it on the floured kitchen counter. Melanie flattens the round ball with a wooden rolling-pin as Staci and I stand ready to shape it with cookie cutters: gingerbread men and women, stars, Christmas trees, and angel shapes. The fine and powdery flour covers our hands and the Santa Claus painted with colorful puffy paint on the front of Staci’s sweatshirt.

“We have to make a lot of the angels,” I announce. “They are the prettiest to decorate.”

Beep beep, beep beep. The timer alerts everyone that the cookies are ready. “I’ve got them,” I say jumping from my chair and pulling large, well-used pot holders over my hands. Melanie and Staci stir red, green, yellow, and blue food colors into ceramic bowls of sweet cream cheese frosting.

The scent of cookies infuses the entire house. Straight from the oven, the first batch of warm cookies doesn’t make it to the decorating table, but instead into our anxious mouths. “Yum,” Grandma says with a nod of approval.

Grandma takes my hand in hers and gives it a soft squeeze. Her hands are strong and slightly wrinkled with the wisdom of raising children, grandchildren. I wonder, what other hands she has held. Certainly children on the playground at the school where she was a teacher, my father’s, aunt and uncles, Grandpa Drag’s. But what other hands has she held?

“You girls are such good little cookies,” grandma beams, referring to me and my sisters and our productive afternoon baking session. ‘Little cookies’ is a term of endearment in our family, going back several generations. I feel extra special each time she reminds me.

Afternoon Tea

“Grandma can I use this one?” I ask, pointing a porcelain teacup with small hand-painted pink and yellow flowers. The handle spirals from the side like the trumpet vine growing and twisting over her back patio.

“Of course my dear,” she replies casually, trusting, without looking. “But, hold it with two hands.”

I remember she once told me that this beautiful, delicate cup is one of her favorite. Carefully, I remove it from a white wooden shelf next to her Victorian fireplace and carry it into the cheery yellow kitchen. It is almost time for tea.

Grandma Chris is a fairy godmother. Every moment with her seems as though it’s straight from a storybook, magic emerging with each flip of the page. She is also loud, fun, and laughs at everything, even when it’s inappropriate.

While water boils in a silver pot on the stove, I grab my two little sisters and head to Grandma’s closet to dress up for our party. I grab a 1950’s floral print hatbox with rickrack ribbon around the top. Inside lives my favorite peach-colored, wide-brimmed hat with a big bow on the side. It’s a little big for a nine year-old, but I think it suits me well. Melanie, who just turned seven, starts rummaging through scarves as though she’s searching for buried treasure.

“Jackpot,” she shouts, pulling out a scarf with gold and pink flowers in a wild print. She drapes it across her neck and slips a pair of five sizes too big, black high heels on her feet. Her arms are dripping with gold bangles. “Ready when you are,” she announces with a toothless grin.

“Staci, let me help you,” I say to my youngest sister who is fidgeting to find an outfit that won’t swallow her tiny toddler frame. I know sometimes I baby her, but Staci’s only two. And some nights, when our parents are fighting, yelling and screaming in their bedroom with the door closed, no one hears Staci crying, except for me.

“I want that one,” she says, pointing to a small black hat with lace veil.

“Okay, you got it,” I reply. I also pick out a long, multi-strand, amethyst necklace and loop it around her head a couple of times.

“Bring me something fun to wear,” Grandma says from the kitchen. I grab a woven red hat and a glittering diamond broach. I wonder where she wears all of these fancy clothes, other than to tea parties?

As we head back into the kitchen, sunlight filters through a crystal prism in the window and rainbows dance across the table. There is a lace cloth spread over the kitchen table. Our teacup selections, a steaming pot of tea, a platter of cookies, and purple-glass cream and sugar pitchers are also present, and there is a small glass vase with yellow daffodils in the middle of the table.

“Good afternoon ladies,” Grandma says with a smile. We find our places at the teacups we have chosen for the afternoon.

“Would you care for some tea?” she asks using an English accent. It’s only proper to speak like proper English ladies while practicing their time-honored tradition of tea.

“Yes please,” the three of us reply.

Grandma carefully lifts and tips the teapot, with gold trim, toward my cup first. The pot is musical, and it plays Somewhere My Love, Lara’s Theme, from Dr. Zhivago. A soft chiming meets our ears as she pours.

“Grandma, what kind of tea are we having?” Melanie asks.

“Tea please,” Staci says, smiling from cheek to cheek as she kneels on her chair to take in a better view of the party.

“Earl Grey today,” Grandma says. “It’s my favorite.”

“Will you please pass the milk and sugar?” Melanie asks.

“But of course,” I say using my best accent and manners, carefully passing the milk and sugar without spilling.

“Would anyone like a cookie?” Grandma asks. Even though they are store bought and come straight out of a plastic tray and bag, the lemon crème cookies, now sitting on a polished silver dish, are delicious.

“Ooh, yes please,” we all say. I take one of the hard cookies and, not so politely, dunk it into my tea. I quickly place the softened cookie into my mouth and it melts onto my tongue, mixing with the spices in the tea.

“Pinkies up,” Grandma instructs. With that, just like magic, our smallest fingers rise off the handles of our teacups and sip the sweet, warm liquid. We are quite the little ladies seated around that table.