Fake It Till You Make It

Nook & Cranny Mercantile, one of the shops I visited yesterday (click to visit webpage)

Since about 2005, Nettl and I have had one car between us and since she’s the one who works outside the home, I’m without wheels every day. Unless I have a doctor appointment or need to run some errands, I’m pretty housebound. That’s not a bad thing, though. I mean, where am I going to go? I used to walk a bit, but with knee surgery looming in the near future, that’s out.  I’m a bit of a homebody, anyway, so it really doesn’t bother me. Yesterday was different. Because Nettl’s supervisor picked her up to go to OKC on business, the car was left here, which didn’t really hit me until I went to the kitchen to get my coffee and I saw the car in the drive. The day was beautiful, warm, and sunny so why not go out?

I didn’t do much, really, but there are a couple of items I’m wanting for our new look in the living/music room (a combined space connected by a lovely Craftsman columned divider), and I decided to hit some antique and used furniture shops. We’re really tired of the cottage look and are now shifting to what I call a “well-traveled Woodstock hippy Zen” look. You know what I mean. Persian area rugs, steamer trunk coffee table, low-profile sofa, comfortable club chairs, tasteful art on the walls, tweed, leather, etc, and little things having to do with eastern philosophy. That. Soon, the lace curtains, the doilies, the hanging “grandma” plates, and the figurines will be stowed away in the garage; we’ve already picked out the new sofa and chair and will be ordering them in the next week or two. Yesterday, I located the rugs, drapes, and the trunk, and they’ll follow soon after.

Anyway, as I drove around town yesterday, the sun roof open and my favorite station playing hits from the Seventies, I felt free, alive, and grateful for the life I have. Yeah, I live with chronic illness and its unpredictable ups and downs every day, but so what? The more I focus on the world around me and feel grateful for all I have (and I’m not talking about possessions here, I’m talking about my family, my friends, and my creative projects), the less in focus illness becomes. I exercise a little Bradley Method over the pain and it all slips into the background. Soon, I’m not focusing on myself at all. I’m noticing other people. I open doors, I allow pedestrians to cross in front of me even when I have the right-of-way and, when asked by shopkeepers and clerks, “How’re you doing?” my answer is, “Actually, I’m having a great day!” Instead of the question being one about how I feel, it turns into one about my mindfulness of the day itself. The paradox is, the less I think about how I feel, the better I feel!

I admit, all this friendliness and love of life is something I’ve had to learn to enact. “Fake it till you make it” and “Be mindful of the moment” have become my mantras over the past decade, and it hasn’t been easy. The secret, though, is that the more I “faked it” and the more I turned my awareness to life around me, the easier it became. Now I’m not faking it anymore. What it took was getting damned bored with myself and my private pity party. I had to stop being negative and start realizing that it’s my body that’s in rough shape, not me. It’s like having a tire that always goes flat and not having a spare or the means to buy a new tire. I can either sit on my ass and bemoan my situation, or I can keep a full can of StopLeak in the trunk. Yes, of course the tire is going to go flat again, but I can keep refilling it. I’m not the tire, damn it, and I’m not even the car. I’m the driver. That’s how I look at my body vehicle and, when this car wears out I’ll get a new one. Meantime, I keep a supply of StopLeak on hand.

Look, I know from my own experience that sometimes it’s nearly impossible to be so positive. I have my off days, too, but at last I’m learning that I am my own self-fulfilling prophecy: how I choose to perceive myself is exactly what I manifest for myself.

“You should feast regularly on the society of joyful minds.
Every day you should associate, if only for a little while,
with joy-instilled persons—those who meditate and feel
the joy of God as a reality. Seek them out and feast with
them on this most vitalising food of joy. Feast on laughter
in the company of these really joyful people. Steadfastly
continue your laughter diet once you have begun it,
and at the end of a month or two you will see the
change—your mind will be filled with sunshine…
Cheerfulness is very important to health.
It is the best antiseptic that you can have—plus
the thought that you are all right.”
Paramahansa Yogananda

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The First Gift of Christmas

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The Polar Express from where I stood.

Last night the Polar Express went through Stillwater. Seems it’s moved from Bristow, OK and is here to stay. We’ve been hearing it go by all week as Santa’s elves rehearsed their parts and learned the fine art of serving hot cocoa and cookies on a moving train.

Because we live less than a block from the tracks (which I love as I’ve almost always lived near train tracks), we can hear the Polar Express’ whistle when it’s a mile away, and we feel its rumble when it’s two blocks away.

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Last night my son Micah and I walked over to the tracks to greet it as it headed back to the Stillwater depot for its last run of the evening. I was able to get a pretty good video, too. I was surprised to see both of the General Class cars empty, but the First and Diamond Class cars were full and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Apparently, the train takes its pajama-wearing passengers to the North Pole and back again while Elves tell the story of the Polar Express. The highlight is when, at the North Pole depot, Santa gets on board and hands out silver bells to everyone. I imagine the train will be much fuller the closer we get to Christmas.

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With all the ugliness and uncertainty that’s going on all around, the Polar Express will provide some much needed lightness and magic. Kudos to the folks at Eastern Flyer, and the City of Stillwater!

You can find more information at the official website of the Polar Express.

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“The thing about trains… it doesn’t matter where they’re going.
What matters is deciding to get on.”
The Conductor of the Polar Express

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A Lazy Dragon Flew Over Tonight

Dave Deken
Tornado wall cloud north of the Stillwater airport (photo by Dave Deken)

When I moved from southern California to Tornado Alley in 2000, the prospect of tornadoes chilled me to the bone. I was assured time and again, however, that Stillwater usually escapes these annual monsters because it lies in a slight bowl, topographically; most storms split up about five miles west of town and then reform a few miles to the east. Once in while our tornado sirens come on, usually because a tornado has touched down somewhere in Payne County, which covers about 697 square miles. I’ve never seen a tornado, but I’ve learned to have a healthy respect for them while not allowing myself to fall into a fit of fear and panic when the sirens blow.

This evening, sometime around 6:00, I fixed myself a taco salad and sat down to enjoy it. The sirens came on, which surprised me because I didn’t know we’d been in a tornado watch all afternoon. Because the light outside was bright and clear—not the eerie yellow-green that accompanies a potentially dangerous storm—I carried on with my dinner while checking my usual weather sites and radar maps. The storm was north of town and blowing slowly eastward. No reason to herd the cats into the closet and get ourselves into the interior bathroom. At last, though, I gave in and went outside to have a look. Sure enough, a monstrous wall cloud was slowly passing north of us. This was a big one, and I finally saw what makes a tornado. It’s an odd feeling watching these things pass by. I noticed this while watching my first wall cloud move across the sky in 2001. It’s like watching a lazy dragon fly by, daring not to breathe in case it notices you and changes its course.

Watching the dragon pass by.

Fortunately, it passed by us without touching down, and after about 45 minutes of sirens and public announcements, we were given the All Clear.

Look at the size of that beast!

I’m actually rather proud of myself. This was the first tornado warning I’ve been through that didn’t send me into terror. Not bad considering it was the worst one I’ve experienced. Once everything was okay I went into the kitchen and baked several dozen chocolate chip cookies. Ah, life at Bookends Cottage.

Be safe!

Post-Tornado Cookies
Post-tornado cookies and Constant Comment tea.

Photo Credits: Thanks to Dave Deken for the title photo.

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Of Lakes, Lawns & Naps

Keystone Lake
Keystone Lake

Unless we could have stayed at the house at Tenkiller Ferry Lake, this has been a fairly perfect weekend. Our only real plan was to drive to Tulsa to celebrate the birthday of Lynette’s father, which we did. After an early dinner at Fish Daddy’s Grill House, we drove back via 51 rather than the turnpike so that we could enjoy the scenery of Keystone Lake and the small ranches that line the highway. We then napped through the evening while Agatha Christie’s Poirot droned on in the background. Because we’ve watched the entire series a couple of times, we find it a nice show to nap to because it’s low-key.

This morning when I came out to get my coffee, I found Lynette making Easter dinner, something I didn’t expect because we’d previously decided to forego it this year. What a great surprise! After enjoying our meal we put on a four-part documentary about Elizabeth I hosted by David Starkey, whom we like very much. His series, Monarchy, is also very good. Of course, naps ensued and we will have to watch it again with our eyes open.

Other than these things the weekend has been uneventful, just the way I like it. The weather has been nice, the lawns have gotten their first mowing of the season, and neither of the cats brought home a dead critter. What more can a person ask for? Sure, a weekend at the lake house would have been nice, but we’ll probably not get that opportunity again. But I’m grateful for Bookends Cottage. I’m also grateful that I’m starting to get my energy back. Hopefully, I feel like doing some recording this week. That’s my plan, anyway.

I hope your week ahead is a good one!

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