Thursday, December 31, 2009

Leavenworth Pictures Christmas 2009

Here are some Leavenworth Pictures taken by LoveHubbie Mark. Since there were quite a few, I uploaded them to Facebook. Even if you don't have Facebook, you can see them here. I hope that you like them and can get a sense of what I wrote about the trip.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Back from Leavenworth

We are back from Leavenworth and from our adventure to recreate Christmas. Like most adventures, it was filled with unexpected surprises of all types. It was a wonderful trip.

LoveHubbie has yet to upload his pictures, as he is hard back at his job with a huge backlog of work to do, so until then I'm sharing with you some gorgeous pictures taken by Abendblume Pension, the bed-and-breakfast where we stayed.

The town of Leavenworth, WA is set up to look like a German town high in the mountains. Everything from the McDonald's to the Starbucks is special, with alpine-looking facades and everything set to convince you that you are really in Germany. The whole town is surrounded by mountains, as you can see in this first picture. It was bitter cold, and we were fortunate that although the snow was piled up everywhere, there was none on the roads so traveling was safe.

The Abendblume Pension is subtly Christian throughout and the owners are lovingly and caringly and hospitably Christian. There was a peaceful spirit that permeated the entire place that is unlike most Christian places I know. I just loved being there, and I would think that anyone, no matter what their beliefs, would feel the same.

This is a picture of the dramatic circular staircase in the entryway. I just loved looking at it.

LoveHubbie and I were disconnected from the rest of the world while we were there. It made for a very intense time. LoveHubbie and I both have many issues around Christmas and this was a perfect place to be together and to learn how to experience Christmas in a different way.

It was the most positive experience I've had of this time of year in a long, long time. I actually began to love the decorations and to feel fondly towards the holiday season. I really enjoyed the other people who were there. They seemed to be quiet, peaceful, and like us in seeking a time to be together yet away from home and to relax.

The beds were made up in a European style, which we really enjoyed. Instead of sheets, there were two duvets on each bed with duvet covers. I slept like a baby every night, all night through, wrapped up in my duvet.

I didn't bring my laptop, so I felt cut off from all of you. I didn't like that too much, but it allowed me to focus in on just LoveHubbie, so that was probably a good thing. Even though I did have my iPhone (and thus FaceBook and Twitter) it wasn't the same, and in the mountains our iPhones weren't very reliable. Still, being isolated ended up being a good thing. I liked that LoveHubbie and I focused on each other and on our feelings about this time of year.

This is the breakfast area; here you can see the beautiful style of all of the decorations. This is hard to explain, but in the totally strange environment, completely absent of anyone familiar except LoveHubbie, I allowed myself to let in good feelings about Christmas. It was a very safe place, safe from bad family memories, safe to create good positive ones. It is hard to put into words.

We were alone when we needed to be but with others when we needed that as well. It was a very romantic environment and it seemed that the couples who were also there had been together for many years. The group we were with was mostly older folks, so their company was particularly enjoyable--people who have been married for many years and who were successful at building and maintaining loving relationships.

The food at breakfast was amazing. I had the best omelet I ever had in my life, as well as lots of other great food. Both LoveHubbie and I sampled everything that was there, including the treats that were presented each night. I pretty much abandoned my normally restrictive diet and just enjoyed myself.

We ventured into town most days either to eat or to look at the little shops. Downtown Leavenworth is a little Bavarian village. It was quite crowded at this time of year, and even though everyone seemed very friendly, we don't enjoy crowds much, so we hurried back to the pension to relax by the fire. To read. To talk.

We had some very intense times. I witnessed a lot of LoveHubbie's pain, and he mine. I cried a lot. I forgave a lot. I feel like I am only just starting to heal, but this was a beautiful way to start, in a safe and lovely environment, and even, in community.

More pictures, our own pictures, and more reflections to come. I haven't processed everything yet, because I wasn't alone or writing much, so I'll do that here. And share it with you :)

~All pictures are from the Abendblume Facebook site and Website

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Recreating Christmas

So as many of you know, LoveHubbie and I are going to Leavenworth, WA to have a romantic getaway in an attempt to recreate Christmas from a holiday of tiresome depressive-type memories to something good. We are both pretty excited about it. I will be satisfied if we simply rest, relax, and focus on all of our many blessings, including each other. It 'tis the season for Gratitude!

I won't be taking my computer, but I'll take some pictures to post when we get back. I wish you all a wonderful time filled with gratitude for all we each have, because no matter how we spend this holiday we are surely blessed with abundance. Some of us will be having family challenges (like Mary Catherine) and opportunities to extend forgiveness, others will be enjoying the blessings of solitude and peace and absence of drama. Some of us are in different places from their loved ones, like Rick and Julia. Others of us have family members serving our country overseas. Some of us will be dealing with health challenges, like little Carly, who is again in the hospital; please pray for her. Others, like Kelly are starting whole new chapters in their lives. Still others are traveling...

One thing I know for sure is that we all have our greatest blessing in the people who love us. I am blessed with all of you, and I will carry you in my heart this Christmas season.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: Feeling Loved

Thank all of you who left comments on my last post. They were funny, affirming, sweet, and loving beyond measure. You all are wonderful, my friends!

I had an experience early on in the week that has stuck with me and that I've thought about daily. Our house is heated by a wood stove and it has been cold here lately. We have some little space heaters in the wall that can be used to generate some heat in an emergency but they are tiny, the house is large, and they're electric and expensive. I've been running those but it was down in the single digits and I was still freezing and trying to write every day.

Tuesday it dipped down to 8 degrees. I woke up and decided that no matter what, I was going to get the wood stove going that day. It involved setting up our portable humidifier and getting wood in from the woodshed. I needed a man. Or a woman with a stronger back than I had.

So I recklessly called people on Craig's List. I didn't care if they were licensed, bonded, or could spell. I wanted someone then so that my fingers would thaw out and my nose would stop running. I ended up connecting with several nice people, but Ed answered first so he got the job. Ed came over and cleaned and assembled my humidifier, he filled my wood round, he started a fire. He refused work gloves and our firewood carrier, saying he liked to do things "the old-fashioned way" and carried the wood in his arms. While he was there, he also cleared the debris from the storm last week off of my driveway, out of the front and back yards, and blew the roof off and cleaned out the gutters too. He worked fast. He was really concerned that everything was the way I wanted it and that he do a good job.

I don't really know anything about Ed. I don't know why I trusted him from the moment I talked to him on the phone.

But what I've thought of again and again was something that happened when Ed started the fire. I picked up our broom and started to sweep up the dirt and stones and wood fragments that always litter our hardwood floor from the back door to the fireplace whenever wood is brought in. Ed said, "No, no...leave it; I'll get that." It startled me, but I left the broom, and sure enough, he swept up after himself.

Even writing about it makes me cry for some reason. I felt a feeling I haven't had in a long time. I felt cared for. I know it was a little thing, a small thing, but it gave me a feeling that is rare in my life.

Growing up I didn't feel cared for. I knew that my parents would begrudgingly provide, but that I was to "earn my keep" and that I was there to serve them, to make their lives better and to justify my existence. I lived for the day I would turn eighteen and get to leave home. Since then, I've tried to give back in relationships and jobs and life in general and to make sure that others know how much I care for them. And I've sort of recreated my home situation again and again I fear.

So when Ed went beyond and seemed to care---Ed the Stranger---Ed the cleanup guy from Craig's List---it broke my heart open this week. It was especially tender that he was a man. Sometimes I think that angels come to me in male form because God knows that I expect so little from men and She wants to surprise me.

I called Ed and thanked him for his good work but I couldn't really expressed how he'd touched me so deeply; I didn't know how to explain it in a way that would make sense. That happens often to me. Sometimes I try to convey to people how I appreciate them and how they've touched me by signing off (say on a comment on a blog post) with what I want for them and to thank them in my signature when I wish them peace and love or joy and blessings or hope and rest and peace. It's still hard to convey, though.

As hard as it is, that is what I wish for Ed and for each of you. Thank you for touching my life and for helping me to feel loved.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Season, Estrangements, and Unconventional Christmases

I was moved by Rick's post on the JJL blog the other day about his unconventional holiday plans. I wrote a comment after the post that I want to expand here.

It's about what we call "the season".

We never have conventional Christmases. For the last ten, my husband has been mourning the loss of his children via estrangement after a difficult divorce. Each Christmas is a painful reminder of what he has lost. He makes calls and waits for them to be returned, which they rarely are. He knows they will never visit nor will they welcome his visits any more than his calls. He is accepting that he will probably never know his grandchildren. Since LoveHubbie's father died a few years ago, his extended family has also drawn apart. His stepmother is still grieving, mourning her husband, forgotten by the rest of his family. We call her and cry and miss Dad. His brothers may or may not talk but they are no longer close. For LoveHubbie, Christmas is all about family and about how he doesn't have it anymore.

I have not always enjoyed the holiday myself as my mother attempted suicide on Christmas Eve and then died ten days later; this was a capstone to many dreaded Christmases before that. As an adult, I’ve never been successful working myself up to be consistently enthusiastic about all of the festivity although I do make efforts occasionally.

For example. When LoveHubbie lived with his children, no one ever gave him presents, as his wife encouraged gift giving solely between herself and the children. LoveHubbie too would give to them, but no one would give dad gifts. This was their tradition. So for one of our first Christmases together, I gave LoveHubbie 100 gifts. Most were very small, and collected for several months beforehand and each wrapped individually. It took the whole day just to open them. I wanted him to know that he was loved and to make up for all of those years that everyone decided not to bother. My efforts grew less enthusiastic and eventually have extinguished over the past several years, deflated by LoveHubbie's despair and inability to enjoy good things at this time of year as well as the loss of my Dad (my father-in-law).

I have found a peace about the season, though, because I have been given a precious gift. I know how weird this is may sound, but the one thing that gives me warm feelings is that I am estranged by choice from my own biological family of origin. I was the "black sheep" of the family for years, and each and every year I celebrate inside that there are no more arguments, no more recovering from cruel remarks, no more dreading hearing the phone ring. I am safe from what they offer me. I wish my family love, blessing, and the togetherness that they share. I harbor no ill will for any of them; I wish myself only continued absence from their group. I do love them, very much, but from a distance, the only way I can survive. Every year at this time I marvel that another year has gone by and I haven't heard from them. Marvel in a good way, that after years of not respecting me in any shape, manner, or form, they have indeed respected this fervent and expressed wish of mine and left me out. Holiday gifts come in unusual packages sometimes.

This year LoveHubbie and I are having our first hopefully-romantic getaway in our married life at Christmas in Leavenworth, WA, a town that has recreated itself to be reminiscent of Germany. My husband and I fell in love years ago at Christmas time on our way to Germany, back when we’d first met each other so we both have high hopes for this. However, I’m moderating my expectations by hoping that it is at least easier than Christmases past with my husband. I will be satisfied with whatever this quiet adventure holds, open for magic, but glad to be alive and to have each other whatever happens.

For some people, Christmas is a time that highlights the absence of family, the losses of the years (because most of us started out with family of some sort), and the general sense of not fitting in with the pacing of the culture, especially if we don’t share religious beliefs either. If we don’t bake, or shop, or decorate, or rush—and don’t want to—it can be a time of alienation and of feeling alone. I wish for everyone--especially those of us who are different--especially us--an astonishing holiday season filled with joy and peace in finding a way to celebrate being alive, to celebrate being loved by God/Universe, and to celebrate being cherished by so many others, even if it's not by those who are blood-related to us. As my friend Chani says, to create new rituals. Rituals that connect us to Spirit and to each other.

As for me, I am grateful for all of you, my extended blog family whom I cherish, and who make happyluau a lovely warm blog home for me. This season, I celebrate each and every one of you. Know that you have made a huge difference in my life. You cannot know how blessed I have been to have you as my cyber family.

To some of you who have close families, a virtual family may seem pitiful or a false family or a poor substitute for the real thing. As LoveHubbie sometimes says, "For God's sake, Olivia, you've never even met them, they aren't even REAL!"

Let me tell you---as I tell him---it is life---you are life---life---for many of us, for me. It allows us to have a taste of what it feels like to be loved, to be known, to be listened to. It allows us to experience a corner of life's experiences we'd never otherwise get. I would be out in the cold, this I know. I would not be happy. I would not believe in myself. I would not be writing a book. I might not even be alive, for all I know.

So thank you, those of you I know who come and comment repeatedly and encourage me. Thank you to those of you who stop by now and again. Those of you who never comment. Those who found me in a search for something and came back. Those of you who became offline friends. You are all a part of my world, of my journey, a part of what enables me to live the best life possible, even to believe that I am loved by a benevolent Universe. There is nothing more real than that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: More Time Explorations

As I've been learning how to experience time as my friend I've discovered a few things. First of all, I'm absolutely on the right road and am just glad to be here. I am totally committed to this lifestyle, and benefiting from it on a day-by-day basis.

I've been hard at work on my book and have been able to create the time to enjoy immersing myself in it. It's required me to give up a lot, but I haven't sacrificed anything. I consider what I've gained worth every bit of what I've given up.

I've tweaked my schedule and cut out more "allowed television programs". I initially allowed myself certain favorite shows that I thought would help my writing or help me greatly in relaxing. Now, some seem to not be so important, and 14-18 hours of television per week seems like way too much. Yes, believe it or not, that's what I'd cut it down to. I won't tell you what I was watching before. I do watch television when I eat, because I only eat about two meals per week with LoveHubbie, and I don't like to eat alone. So this of course includes eating time. That makes it sound a bit better, doesn't it? Well, now I'm down to 7-13 hours per week. That feels much better and it's pretty much only when I eat. At night, instead, I read.

Write down for yourself the shows you allow yourself to watch; you may be as surprised as I was!

I've turned down social obligations that were true obligations instead of joy. This is helping me to have a good holiday season, because I never liked the different parties we attended in the past. There is one in particular I've disliked, a Christmas Tree Festival. People get dressed up in formalwear and go out and eat and drink and bid in an auction on forty or so Christmas trees decorated by different organizations. It is a fund-raiser, so everything goes for exorbitant prices. Then all of the proceeds go to charity. It's a way for people to give that I suppose is fun for many people. The auction goes on for about 5 hours. There is a lead up to the auction and then a wind down. Although you can meet lots of interesting people, and the Christmas trees are creative and pretty, you can't really talk for most of it as the auction is pretty loud and overwhelming for my INFJ-ness once it starts. It is a long night and recovery the next day. This year we'll just give the money outright where we want to.

I've found that it helps for me to work on Saturdays to make up for time I inadvertently miss during the week. LoveHubbie works on Saturdays, so it works out for us. I take off every Sunday for a sabbath rest. I also take off about a half day during the week and work on decluttering and other household chores.

It helps enormously in writing a book about Hawaii to immerse myself in the Hawaiian history for an entire day on an ongoing basis. The writing flows, and I can make connections easier between historical events. Before I'd write for a couple of hours on a given day, then not write anything more on the project for a week or two. Then again I'd write for a few hours, and weeks would go by. I never allowed myself to get into the space of writing on this topic long enough for it to do any real good. I'd forget the difference between Kaumuali`i and Keopuolani and Kauikeouli and Keali`iahonui and Kahekili and Keku`iapoiwa and Kekuiapoiwa. (These are all Hawaiian names and I am not fluent in Hawaiian! All the "K" names would blur.)  Now the hands of the clock roll around in warp speed as I write, oblivious to anything but my adventures in the world of Hawaii long ago.

I wouldn't trade it for anything.

~Photo of me on Dragon's Teeth Labyrinth in Kapalua, Maui. By LoveHubbie Mark. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lumahuli Gardens

For me, vacations in Hawaii are not about the activities we participate in there at all. LoveHubbie felt that in Kauai there was "nothing to do". Exactly. Nothing but relax in the pool, watch the constant rainy squalls, read, sit on the lanai and watch the wild chickens, take long walks, visit sleepy laid-back hippie towns, talk with laid-back interesting people, eat glorious fresh food of all types, sleep, and take pictures of the awesome scenery everywhere.

While in Kauai, I visited a garden called Lumahuli which is populated with native plants and set up on an old ahupua`a ( a pie-shaped section of land running from the mountains to the sea that for the early Hawaiians gave them total self-sufficiency and sustainability by trading and working together within that land unit). Lumahuli is attempting to recreate the ahupua`a and it's gorgeous. Here are some pictures:

It was one of my favorite things that we did on Kauai and I can't wait to go back. Anything related to Hawaiian history fascinates me.

~Photos by LoveHubbie Mark