Thank you

I have spent the last month listing things I am grateful for every day. Honestly, I had read accounts of this process changing people’s hearts and lifting spirits. But I was still doubtful. I am here to tell you that, although I am not a completely new person, this practice is transformative. Gratitude is like a wave, with each thankful moment folding into itself. By the end of the month, I was wading in an ocean of gratitude.

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Acknowledging all of the beauty and privilege that I experience every single day was humbling and moving. The ocean is vast and I have an incredible amount of things to be thankful for. I have kept up this practice because no matter how bad the day is, there is always something to be thankful for. It also gets me to clear my head for a few moments and get connected with the gifts that the Divine has given me.

I wanted to list everything I was thankful for this past month, but it was a very long list. So here are some of my favorites-

THANK YOU:

  • for this inkling of hope I hold on to
  • for strawberries on my salad
  • for David’s face near mine
  • for sun on my shoulders
  • for the song I sing in every darkness
  • for cold water
  • for Leon Bridges
  • for purple
  • for green smoothies
  • for feeling strong
  • for the pain that lets me know I am alive
  • for Jenny and young love
  • for forest park
  • for home made coffee
  • for my spirit being full and empty
  • for the train going by us through trees
  • for sleepy anticipation
  • for Tennessee rain
  • for flickering lights like stars or souls around us
  • for waking up at Anna’s house
  • for no more late nights
  • for intimacy at midnight
  • for sweetness at dawn
  • for You
  • for Me
  • for it All

 

 

 

Weekday Reading

Consider this a “state of the union” of sorts. At the beginning of the year, I resolved to read at least 50 books. My definition of what a “book” is is loose. I was previously writing little reports on what I liked or disliked about the book and key quotes. That hasn’t happened in a long time! I have not stopped reading, but I certainly have stopped writing about what I’ve been reading. So here is the comprehensive list (so far) with comments:

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  1. Finding Ultra by Rich Roll: This is a delightful read if you’re into ultra racing or a vegan lifestyle. 
  2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: So so good and insightful and moving. Loved it.
  3. What do we know? by Mary Oliver: Lovely poems with a soft touch that only Mary can give.
  4. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: Funny and informative. A must-read if you have hiked any part of the Appalachian Trail. 
  5. Three Stories by Gustave Flaubert: Short and sweet with some intricate characters. 
  6. Namaslay by Candace Moore: To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed about how much I enjoyed this book. It explains basic yoga asanas with a memoir-esque narrative sprinkled in. 
  7. Poetry Magazine “March Issue”: This issue was full of lyric poems and a selections from Max Ritvo-a poet who died before the issue was published. 
  8. What I talk about when I talk about running by Haruki Murakami: This book was a slow, meditative journey through Murakami’s experience with running. 
  9. One More Thing by BJ Novak: Such a good book to bring to work! It contains funny and engaging short stories ranging from 1-12 pages long. 
  10. Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: This book is truly transformative. I loved it and plan to revisit often.
  11. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: A collections of essays and thoughts on writing and living a creative life. Totally motivating and encouraging and I now want to be friends with Ms. Gilbert.
  12. The Feather Room by Anis Mojgani: It’s no secret-I love this poet. This is a magical collection that will take you through mystical scenes and real feelings. Sigh.
  13. Maron by Marc Maron: Though funny, this book definitely made me feel uncomfortable at points. I’m still iffy on about liking this curmudgeon. 
  14. Botanical Color at Your Fingertips by Rebecca Desnos: A beautiful how-to on natural dyeing and harvesting materials.
  15.  20. The first six books of The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket: David and I have been reading these aloud to each other on trips and such. This is my favorite children’s book series (sorry Harry Potter people) and I forgot how fun and suspenseful it is! 

So there it is! I have 23 weeks to read 30 books. I am back on track and beyond excited. Now let’s get reading.

Warmly,

Mary Emily

Outdoors on Sundays

The morning here is cool and birds are singing (thank you, Oregon) and I’m sipping on some cold brew. I’ve waited a long time to write this post because it’s incredibly dear to me and of course, that makes me nervous to share it.

“What’s my name, what’s my stations, oh, just tell me what I should do, I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you. Or bow down and be grateful and say “sure take all that you see” to the men who move only in dimly lit halls and determine my future for me.” -Fleet Foxes

This year has been full of changes in the world and the country and I think it is safe to say it’s got a lot of us thinking “What’s next?” For me, the shift in the US government has made me turn into a reluctant activist. I am a passive white girl who has had very little in the way of adversity in her life. But watching my friends hurt because of racial tension, people I respect make plans as if they are going to lose their jobs because they work in the arts and the administration’s blatant disrespect for the environment has ended my passivity. I can’t rely on others to protect what I hold dear. That’s my job now.  And, if I may be frank, it’s yours too. Obviously, I am not putting the pressure of saving the whole world, resolving wars and conflict, mending a broken education system, etc. on our shoulders. But I am saying this: Find what you love and fight for it.

If you know me or have seen this blog, you know that I love nature. The outdoors are my church, inspiration, and motivator. I have found myself deeply devastated at the way things are unfolding for environmental agencies. With climate change as an imminent threat, this disrespect is not only upsetting but dangerous. You, like me, may be asking “Why?” Here’s my (probably wrong) conclusion: People in general, do not care for what they do not know. That is my only way to understand most of the decisions made. So I decided to try to give those around me the opportunity to get acquainted with nature. Thus, the Outdoors on Sundays Project was born.

The idea is simple: I go outside every Sunday and invite whoever wants to come along. I have gone outside the 6 weeks and have committed to another 9 (16 weeks in all!). Rain or shine, sickness or health, I’ll be outside with whatever person I’ve managed to drag there with me. I just want people to get to know their beautiful home. I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but we don’t know how long our home will be this beautiful.

If you didn’t read any of the above and just looked at the pictures, please stop and read:

  1. I want to get the word out. If you are in the Portland, Oregon area and want to go outside with me, let me know.*
  2. If you are not in the area, commit to going outside more. Even if it’s a picnic in a park, the grass and trees will do you good. If you do go outside on a Sunday and are fond of Instagram, use #outdoorsonsundaysproject so I can see! 
  3. I am challenging myself and you to do something to help protect and preserve the world around you. I recently gave up meat because of animal agriculture’s environmental impact.  Recycle more, cut out grocery bags, get a reusable straw, sign petitions, go to rallies, etc. There are literally so many things to do. and they are all important and helpful. 

Honestly, I haven’t even said all that I wanted to about this. I know I’m not perfectly informed and I know that with everything that’s going on, it’s hard to see clearly what can be done. However, I know that nature belongs to all of us and that is a game changer.

Now, I am off to go outdoors. It’s Sunday, after all.

This is the link to my original Instagram post about this project.

*it is assumed that you aren’t a creep.

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Adventure seeker

It seems like I have blinked twice and the summer is already half over. If I am completely honest, this summer has gone by the quickest of any I have experienced in the past. There have been only a few markers or events to even denote the passage of time. Real question: is this what getting older feels like?

Regardless, that is not what this particular post is about. I have been thinking more and more about having a life of adventure. I recently finished The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and have started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Both books are about creative living and I highly recommend them. In a nutshell, they are both about pursuing your dreams in a real way within the structure of your real life. Since birth (most likely), one of my dreams has been to live a life of adventure. I have always wanted to be an independent, free-spirited adventuress who writes and paints and runs and rides horses and etc. In May, I got a great full-time job as a tile painter. And just like that, I became a “weekend warrior” type. The adventure-seeker-free spirit inside of me yelped and I became anxious.

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I asked myself “what does this mean?” and “am I giving up my dreams?” and “Julie Cameron would shake her head if she knew.” A few weeks after accepting the job, David and I decided to make good on a new year’s resolution: to hike the Wildwood trail (over 30 miles) in one day.  We started the trail at 6:15 AM on the hottest day of the summer. I wish I could say that it was easy peasy and such, but it wasn’t. It was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was hot, my feet swelled to twice their size, and I came face to face with my weaknesses. However, it was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done. I got to spend the day with my best friend, I was outside for almost 14 hours, and I came face to face with my strengths. Additionally, I feel a whole new connection with Forest Park and for that, I am grateful.

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What does the Wildwood trail have to do with Julie Cameron, dreams, and adventure? Well, that day spent on the trail graciously showed me that I am pursuing my dream of an adventurous life. I get so focused and frustrated on what I am not doing, following, experiencing, that I ignore all that I am saying “yes” to: I have been to the coast seven times this year, I have run a lot of miles in the woods, I have spent time outdoors every Sunday for the last 6 weeks, and I have written almost every day since December. I am not intending to sound arrogant or braggy. I am intending to show myself and you that we may already be following our bliss, whether we feel like it or not.

Hiking Wildwood trail, committing to my writing practice, Ms. Cameron, Ms. Gilbert, and the “Outdoors on Sundays Project” (which I hope to unpack more next week!) have all been incredible teachers to me. They have taught me that, yes, I do long for an adventurous life and yes, there are always new and better things I can accomplish. But they have also shown me that adventure seeking is in my blood. I don’t have to worry about living complacently, and neither do you. When we find those things that make us feel alive, we won’t be able to stay away for long.

Body talk

It’s been a while and honestly I dislike saying that every time I blog so I vow that this is the last time that I will say that. Period.

It’s been a while.

Anyway, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. I am starting training for an adventure race in June (that I will not miss) and I am starting a new job in a couple of weeks. Spring might actually be springing here in the PNW (!!!) and there are big, cool things in the making. All that said, one of the most lovely developments lately is my relationship with…myself. (please don’t stop reading) (just kidding) (but not really)

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Going through training for my last race and being so dedicated taught me a lot about what my body can do.  However, I still find myself faced with the challenge of accepting how my body looks. For some reason, I am able to completely separate the shape of my body from what it is capable of. I have read so many articles about body-positivity and loving yourself and etc. that you would think I would’ve gotten the message by now. But honestly, it wasn’t until reading this post by Kelly K. Roberts that it dawned on me-I have been doing an incredible disservice to my body by hating on it. When I started running again last fall, I felt slow and heavy and unsure.  Every time I ran, I would get discouraged by how different my body moved and looked than other runners I passed (let’s get real, mostly they passed me). Luckily, I was running in the winter, so I found comfort in covering myself with loose sweatshirts and (most often) rain jackets. The real test happened a couple weeks ago when the temperature rose.

I was on an easier run with David and the sun was out and I made the decision to run in just my sports bra and running tights. I was completely unaware of the liberation that would ensue. Growing up in a (super well-meaning and wonderful) conservative household, I was taught to cover up. I can still hear “modest is hottest” and other such sayings in my mind. I never felt suffocated by my upbringing and carried a lot of the principles of modesty into my adulthood. However, while I was running with David, I felt so fast and so free. More importantly, I felt beautiful. By “uncovering” my body, I was embracing my own strength.

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I’m not telling you to run in your sports bra because that will fix all of your problems (LOL what if I was just telling you that.) I am telling you to give your body a chance. Don’t make excuses for it, just love it as it is and be proud of how it is shaped. I am still working on giving my body the admiration it deserves and that journey might never end. But I am fully committed to being a part of the #sportsbrasquad (weather permitting) and I am never looking back.

P.S. As an exercise this week, I wrote an objective love-letter to my body. I honored it for its hard work and beauty. I told it that I love it. Not “I love you body, no matter how you look.” Or “I love you body, even though you’re not the way I want it to be.” Just “I love you body.” I made myself look at myself how others see me. I wrote thank you’s to every part. It felt narcissistic and weird, but the discomfort was worth the healing.

for the joy of it.

It has been a hectic two months. So hectic, that I didn’t realize it had been two months until I checked when the last time I blogged was. Sheesh.

Last weekend was a big first for me. You know that race I mentioned in my first post? Well, I missed it. I mean, I didn’t sleep in or get sick or anything. In fact, I was incredibly prepared and pumped. I just went to the race a day late! David and I pulled into McIver Park’s parking lot last Sunday expecting a plethora of runners and weird, too-loud music. Instead, there were two people taking a leisurely Sunday morning stroll in the rain. I was so crushed.

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We both spent the next hour upset and trying to process how this happened and what to do next. “You want to race next weekend?” David asked. I looked up prospective races, but it didn’t feel right. I kept thinking “Today was supposed to be it. The milestone.” To be honest, I was being a little drama queen in my head. But the race felt like it was supposed to be special. In fact, the race was supposed to be something special, but I was looking at it all wrong. After the disappointing morning, my friend Jen (who visited from Chattanooga!), David, and I went on a cold adventure to salvage the rest of the day. I guess Oregon rain and large waterfalls tend to get my mind back where it needs to be, because everything in my head and heart was at rest by the end of the hike.

Somewhere between the raindrops, I:

  1. Realized something supremely important that (of course) I had learned before but never seen illustrated so clearly.
  2. Asked myself a supremely important question.

IMG_41491. There is a cliché about the journey being more important than the destination that honestly causes me to involuntarily roll my eyes. But when multiple people consoled me through sweet text messages and comments (I forgot to mention: social media was definitely involved in this humiliating experience) saying that I had “done the work” and already had something to be proud of,  that cliché rang true. As I have mentioned before, I love to run and that is a new experience for me. Something about this race was going to solidify that in my mind. For instance, if I raced well and had a good time to show for it, this new way of living would really begin. That is equal parts ridiculous and understandable. Racing is so satisfying and needed to keep fueling that competitive nature that resides inside of me. However, racing doesn’t mean a thing. Missing my race made me look back on the time I’ve spent training and be proud of that instead of a personal record. And man, I am so proud.

2. The “supremely important” question I asked myself was “Why do you run?” I am not an extremely competitive creature. I don’t run to win races. I do run to beat the clock, feel alive, reduce stress, etc. However, I learned near the end of my training that running is only a purely positive force in my life if I am first and foremost running for the joy of it. That outlook has crept into my other hobbies and passions and jobs and all of a sudden, my whole world is transforming. The only way I could make it through the last few miles of long runs was to remember that. The only way I could go for a run this week (I am not going to lie, I was tired and still disappointed) was to remember that.

What’s the moral of the story? First, don’t let yourself go two months without blogging. Because your skills get rusty. But also, the journey is more importan-just kidding! I think I would definitely say, be proud of hard work even if the “end result” is less than satisfactory. Hard work is well, hard and I respect the cuss out of people who are disciplined enough to try something new. Finally, find something to do just for the joy of it. Better yet, rework joy into the heart of something you’re already doing. I promise you it will only do you good.

Weekday Reading

I am feeling a little off today. I think it is because I slept in, or maybe because I skipped church (I am a creature of habit), or maybe because I had diet coke and pizza for breakfast. Regardless, I am here at Either/Or (one of my favorite coffee shops) and I’m trying to get my juju back.

I tried to read two books over the last two weeks. I am sad to say that I didn’t finished either title. One book I didn’t finish on purpose, the other I am reading a lot slower than I thought I would. Because they are unfinished, I will not number them among my 50 books. But since I like to write about everything and coffee is finally in my system, I figured I would tell you about them anyway.

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Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

This book is a treat and I am planning on finishing it this coming week. I first listened to Richard Rohr speak the beginning of this year. He was on one of my favorite podcasts (Comedian Pete Holmes’s You Made it Weird) and I knew we were kindred spirits. It’s a good episode and worth the two hour listen. Anyway, I picked this book up at the library last Monday and am only on the 39th page. Rohr dives into the notion that humans have a two-part spiritual journey with some sort of “falling” in the middle. The book is relevant and inclusive to people of all faiths. Here are a couple of my favorite moments thus far:

People who have never allowed themselves to fall are actually off balance, while not realizing it at all. That is why they are so hard to live with. Please think about that for a while. (p 28)

and

Our Western dualistic minds do not process paradoxes very well. Without a contemplative mind, we do not know how to hold creative tensions. We are better at rushing to judgement and demanding a complete resolution to things before we have learned what they have to teach us…This is not the way of wisdom. (p 36)

I can tell that Rohr and I will be fast friends at the end of all of this.

Scary Close by Donald Miller

So this is the book that I have no plans of finishing. I am usually a Miller fan (I even mentioned him in my previous post), but this book fell a little flat for me. Miller’s tone seemed to not be as warm or inclusive as his previous titles. Part of my jaded attitude might be the fact that he spends much of the time talking about being real and open with your partner. I know I have so much more to learn in marriage, but David and I started our relationship off as two broken human beings making clumsy mistakes. Even at my most guarded, I am awful at hiding my flaws or faking confidence. So I guess Miller lost me a little bit. I think when I’m a famous author with some large businesses and a public presence to maintain, I will feel the same as he does.

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to challenges and resolutions, so thanks for bearing with me and forgiving me and sending me love and maybe some chocolates and a new pair of shoes.

Warmly,

Mary Emily