Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Holiday Baking Failures

Christmas Day has come and gone, and I am still working my way through holiday cards and baking. The baking, alas, has not gone well this year. My gingerbread fell, leaving a crater perfect for a huge dollop of whipped cream. Then my mini pound cakes overflowed and the batter fell onto the heating element, filling the kitchen with the smell of burnt cake. I stood in the kitchen like an idiot with my hands over my mouth as my husband scraped the batter into the middle of the oven floor, where it promptly caught fire. He smashed out the fire with the spatula while my daughter cheerfully suggested throwing water into the oven. If that wasn't bad enough, on Christmas Eve, I put baking powder instead of baking soda in the chocolate chip cookie dough. I added the bakig soda in a lame attempt to fix things, but the cookies melted and spread into each other in the oven. They ended up tasting like gooey chocolate chip flavored crackers. My younger daughter, who evidently has not yet developed any taste, enjoyed them immensely although she ended up covered in chocolate. I decided maybe the mess would work better as bars, so I now have squares of Cookie Disaster for dessert. No one on my list has received baked gifts or cards yet, but I remain ever resolute and optimistic, holding out for the Feast of the Epiphany as my new deadline. Next year, I'm sending Valentines.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

90-Day Goals: Day 32 - Discouraging Moments

One of the most important aspects of pursuing a goal is handling discouraging moments. We all have them--Lord knows I do. This past week I felt so down about everything I abandoned my evening routine and crawled unwashed into bed leaving the dishes in the sink and the floors unswept. My nine-year-old had forgotten part of her homework at school and could hardly remember do finish the part she brought home, so taken was she by the flickering light of Disney Channel or even PBS Kids. My three-year-old behaved as if she had grown springs on the bottoms of her feet--and on her bottom, judging from the way she kept leaping from her chair at the dinner table. The soup spilled and the bowl ended up on her head. I called her name and she fled pell-mell in the opposite direction. The tiniest difficulty sent her into a screaming rage. I felt a little bit like screaming myself.
I can't live like this, I caught myself thinking, I can't handle this. It wasn't until later that I realized I'd forgotten that I was receiving the energy I was giving out, responding to my own negativity. I had forgotten the positive messages I was supposed to be showering myself with. I'd forgotten that I have the power to change myself when I can't change the situation directly. If I can just stay centered and see the discouraging moments for what they are, I can let them pass. If I work on myself, then I can weather the storm. Sometimes I just need those moments with my head under the covers, hiding from the world, gathering the strength to face it on my own terms. And if nothing else, at least I'm not wearing my soup bowl on my head. Not yet, anyway.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fifty Years

I woke up this morning and realized that today would have been my parents' golden anniversary. Since my father has been gone for the past five and a half years, it was an ordinary day, full of daily cares and plans and worries, yet slightly bittersweet underneath. Life has a cruel way of going on without the ones we love, even when we desperately wish it would stop. This anniversary makes the landscape of my life seem a bit bare, like a stretch of desert with a bit of tumbleweed blowing along. The empty spaces are never really filled, except perhaps with longing. And tomorrow is still another day.

Staying Focused

It's Day 15, and I'm starting to wonder if I'm getting a little obsessive. It's hard to stay focused on a goal when other priorities keep muscling their way to the top of my list. I am supposed to be finishing a writing project, but instead I end up in the pediatrician's office staring down two monster Q-tips. My daughter and I are both alarmed. She's smart enough to know what Miss Nurse is planning to do with those monster Q-tips, and I'm smart enough to realize immediately that the week is over. It's Wednesday morning, and I can look forward to another two and a half days with a germy, snotty, cranky, hyperactive toddler.
I'm organized so I get my little bit of writing work done. I'm stirring the pot and the concotion I'm creating isn't growing cold. But all my creative energy is focused on sanitizing any surface my adorable little germ factory might touch with her wet, sticky fingers. Sometimes life is like that. I just have to stay focused.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Weaving the Silver Lining

Day 14 of 90 Days to Reach My Goal found me standing in front of the kitchen sink swishing toys around in the dish tub, rinsing them, then submerging them in another tub of warm water with bleach for two minutes before placing them in the dish drain to air dry. My child has too many toys. I've only just santized the first set, so I'll be setting up the soap-water-and-bleach assembly line again before the week is through. The toys will one by one quietly disappear to take their baths until my child will have nothing left to play with except used tissues. By then I hope she'll have no need for tissues, clean or used.
I could allow myself to feel a sense of accomplishment for doing all tasks I had set for myself to achieve my 90-Day Goal. I have been steady inching toward my goal since Day 1. Yet all I can think about is what I haven't been able to accomplish with a sick child at home. I feel so unproductive, especially when she looks so pitiful and sniffly. I want her to get better so she can get on with her own life and enjoy preshcool and playing with her friends. But because it is "just a cold" I get impatient.
Maybe in the end, this lesson is all about learning some patience. As John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." I can be disciplined about doing what it takes to achieve my goal, but I can learn to be satisfied with modest accomplishments on days that I have other priorities. Children get sick--it just happens. I just have to find a way to fold nursing a sick child into everything else with serenity and calm. Even if it means spending a couple of hours sanitizing an embarrassment of toys. I can look at it as an opportunity to sort through and give away some of them. Practicing the fine art of weaving the silver lining.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Being a parent means learning to be flexible. At least for me. I make a plan. I evaluate the plan. I motivate myself to follow through with the plan. Then the plan evaporates has the unwelcome truth sets in. I greet my little one with a sunny, "Good morning!" In return I get, "Goot borning, Bobby." She's all sparkling eyes, big smile, and glistening upper lip. "By nose hurts," she informs me cheerfully.
I'm wiping her copiously dripping nose with one hand and grasping for the remnants of my plan with the other. The snot fairies have taken over, ripped my plan for the day (and most likely the next day) into tiny pieces which are blowing just out reach. Oh well. It could be worse. It could be the vomit fairies.
With that cheerful though in mind, I take the puzzle pieces of my plan and attempt to put them together another way. My life has become a Rubik's Cube. If I can't work it in one way, I figure out how to work it in another. I'm flexible.

90 Days and Counting...

I created DreamCrafters as a forum for my writing and musing on crafting dreams--pulling dreams out of the realm of wishes and manifesting them in the physical world. It's time to start putting stuff out here in the blogosphere that addresses that. Confession time--I've been scared to do that. I've been scared to make myself vulnerable and share my mistakes with anyone out in cyberspace who happens to stumble upon this collection of random scribblings. But now is my time to step out into fear.
So I'm sitting here at sunrise typing away while baking cupcakes for my daughter's birthday. I was going to bake them last night, but time got the better of me. I decided that the wisest course of action would be to mix up the dry ingredients and take my tired behind to bed. The clock struck eleven and I turned into a pumpkin. I can't say it was a successful plan just yet since the cupcakes aren't baked yet. However, I slept fitfully, dreaming of chocolate and baking and fighting a stalker with weapons. I might have slept better if I'd had some cupcakes cooling overnight, but I wouldn't have slept as long. Oh well, it was the best I could do with the time I had.
I really enjoy making this particular chocolate cake for my daughter's birthday. It's a vegan cake, baked originally to accommodate birthday guests with milk and egg allergies. I still haven't figured out how this recipe works--a really delicious cake made without butter or eggs. It must be a chemistry thing. The secret is baking soda in the dry ingredients and cold water and vinegar in the wet ingredients. The batter is mixed life muffins, which makes it sinfully easy, but the best things is that we can all lick the bowl. I am unfailingly strict about not tasting cake batter--even the tiniest lick can make you sick if the raw eggs are contaminated. But the cake is made without eggs so we can lick the bowl until our foreheads are covered in chocolate. That's big fun! This wonderful recipe can be found in The Joy of Cooking--see And I think the cupcakes are going to be fine, despite the fact that I woke in the middle of the night and realized I didn't have frosting. Powdered sugar will have to do.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fear and Faith and the Next Step

Today I've been thinking about fear and faith and moving forward. So often when we decide to pursue our dreams, we get stuck. We get confused. We get lost--as though someone gave us only half of the directions we need to get to our destination. We may be absolutely sure we are meant to arrive, we just don't know where we need to be and how to get there.
Fear is what keeps us from starting the journey until we are completely certain we know the way. Sometimes this is a good thing. Our fears can shine a spotlight on an areas that requires more preparation, more education, more practice. No one wants to live the nightmare of standing alone on stage about to recite the poem they haven't yet memorized and practiced. Other times, our fears just hold us back. We become paralyzed, unable to make the first move.
This is when we can rely on faith. When we know we are meant to do something that fills our hearts with joy and everyone else's with gratitude, we can have faith. When we know that we are following God's will or our destiny, whatever we wish to call it, we can have faith. We can know to the depths our being that the universe is supporting our efforts and be content not knowing what to do next or how to do it. We simply have faith that those important details will be revealed to us at the right moment. We can relax, putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that the next step will be illuminated for us. We don't have to see all the way down to the end of the path in order to keep stepping. We just have to see the next step.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Heat Wave

Summer has crept up behind us unnoticed, until we opened our doors one morning to be greeting my stifling heat instead of evaporating nighttime chill. It’s as though the weather glanced at the calendar, jumped up in surprised guilt, and immediately set about giving us temperatures worthy of opening outdoor pools on Memorial Day.
The heat dulls my senses and settles in my mind like a stupor. Summer noon renders me just as unproductive as those cold, dark winter mornings when I’m reluctant to throw off the covers and put my bare feet on the chilly floor.
The sun melts my thoughts and fear crawls in my belly. A wave of heat rolls over me and I break out in a sweat. I feel ill—maybe I’m coming down with something. I want to lie down under the breeze of an electric fan until just one good thought comes to me. Instead, I find the thought and then I rest while it sinks in. “Make haste more slowly,” it says softly. “Build your dreams one brick at a time.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Shelter from the Storm

[First Draft]

1. Sometimes terrible things happen in our lives that are beyond our power to control. However, one person can harness the power of love to make wonderful things happen. Focus on what is within your control to make the world a better place in small ways. It is enough.
2. It isn’t what happens to you but how you handle it that counts. You can be defeated or empowered by your troubles. Remember that broken hearts are still capable of great love.
3. Ask for help when you need it. You don’t have to face your problems alone. Besides, the one who helps you may need your help someday.
4. Take extra good care of yourself during crisis times. Try to eat nourishing food and get plenty of rest (as much as you can get away with). And don’t put off going to the doctor or dentist. You don’t need anymore to deal with than you already have.
5. Take regular showers with your favorite soap—it’s a good place to cry where no one can hear you and it refreshes your senses.
6. Treat yourself to small luxuries during hard times since that’s when you need them most. A quiet cup of tea, a bubble bath, a nice pen to write with, or a long chat with trusted friend can lift your spirits.
7. If you don’t already have a firm sense of spirituality, allow yourself to believe in a benevolent, divine power supporting the universe. If you live your life as though the force that created the heavens and the earth loves you more than you can imagine and you reflect that love in all that you do, your life will be much richer for it.
8. Follow God’s divine plan for you and have faith in spiritual support. When you believe you have the power of the universe behind you, you won’t give up. You’ll keep looking for ways to keep going, even when everything seems hopeless or impossible.
9. Don’t be afraid to rebel against the idea of putting your dreams aside. If your deferred dreams will not give you any peace of mind, then you are meant to follow them.
10. Don’t blame yourself or anyone else for your troubles. Blaming others or yourself never makes a bad situation better. Ask yourself what you can learn from your problems or how you can make things better.
11. Have faith in your talents. If you are good at something and it brings you joy, then it is a gift from God. You deny it at your own peril.
12. Get up and do something—anything to get your energy flowing. Bake cookies, mop the floors, heat up a can of tomato soup and make a grilled cheese sandwich, change the lightbulbs that have blown out. Fear and depression often masquerade as overwhelming fatigue, and if you keep giving in to your desire to spend your free time napping you’ll end up paralyzed with inertia. Stir yourself up a bit and you’ll feel you’ve earned your rest.
13. Write things down—goals, affirmations, feelings, petty thoughts, things to remember or do. Doing a brain dump relieves stress, and writing down your thoughts helps to spot patterns and bring clarity to your situation.
14. Listen to your fears. Then gently and lovingly move through them. Facing challenges directly and on your own terms is easier than having them hunt you down and find you.
15. Make small positive changes, one at a time. Write down several small changes you can immediately make in your daily life, then choose the one or two that will make the most difference. You can transform yourself one good habit at a time.
16. Allow yourself the time and space to grieve for your losses, whether it is a loved one, a hometown, a marriage or romance, a job or career. Whatever you do, don’t tell yourself you should be over it by now. You don’t get over overwhelming losses, you get through them and in your own time.
17. If you can, try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day. This helps regulate your body clock and allows you to get the rest you need.
18. Build routines that bring true comfort into your life. Four drinks before bedtime creates an illusion of comfort that evaporates into a hangover in the morning. Sticking your feet into a small tub of warm water before bedtime creates a feeling of bliss that won’t haunt you the next day.
19. Be flexible in your approach to everything, from following your daily routines to pursuing your fondest dreams. Not every strategy works all the time, and situations have a way of changing just when you think you’ve figured them out. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
20. Take frequent breaks. No matter what you’re going through you need to stretch and rest your body, clear your mind, and refresh your spirit. You won’t do anyone any good if you’re burned out.
21. Sometimes you will feel discouraged when working through difficult times, and sometimes these feelings have nothing to do how well you’re working though a problem. Whether things are really falling apart or whether it just seems that way, remember that discouragement is only a feeling. Be compassionate with yourself as you guide yourself through your low moments. This, too, shall pass.
22. If you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, wash a load of dishes or laundry, then put your feet up for a while. You’re going to need clean clothes and dishes sooner or later, and you definitely need the break.
23. Expect to feel sadness, resentment, discouragement, disappointment, disillusionment when going through difficult times. You won’t always feel upbeat and optimistic, and that’s fine. Accept your down moments with prayer, journaling, and compassion. Gently guide yourself through these valleys, knowing that your ability to feel joy will return.
24. When your pain seems too much bear, reach out to someone else who may be hurting. You can pick up the phone and call a friend or family member who is having a rough time also. You can volunteer and help a stranger in need. Extending a helping hand to someone else in pain can make you both feel better.
25. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself from becoming bitter—as long as it isn’t dangerous or hurtful. Allow yourself to be angry, to be self-indulgent, to feel rebellious. Hang on to your sense of yourself and your mission in life, and don’t let yourself be absorbed or identified by your problems.
26. Let your negative feelings bubble up and release them. Go ahead and open Pandora’s box and let the nasties float up and away like helium balloons. Keeping them locked up isn’t going to make them disappear. Acknowledging them and letting them go allows you to feel peace. A private journal is a really good place to do this.
27. Always get dressed when you get up in the morning, whether or not you plan on going anywhere or seeing anyone, especially on those mornings when you have to drag yourself out of bed. Just the act of washing your face and putting on clean clothes can chase away the doldrums and give you a bit of momentum. And even if it doesn’t, at least you won’t be embarrassed if the doorbell rings.
28. Make an effort to bring some discipline into your work. Set modest goals and keep working toward them, even when you don’t feel like it. Steady effort does pay off in the end.
29. When looking for solutions, tap into your intuition. Write in your diary, doodle on a sketch pad, pray, meditate, practice yoga, keep a dream journal. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, knitting, and even beating egg whites with a fork can be meditative, a doorway to your subconscious mind.
30. Don’t neglect your looks, let your hair grow shaggy, forget to shave (wherever), or go around in your sloppiest outfits. You don’t have to be impeccably dressed at every moment, but you want to treat yourself kindly enough to take care of your appearance. Do it for you.
31. Don’t neglect your home or current living space, let the dishes and the laundry and the mess pile up, and forget to sweep and vacuum. You don’t have to be a clean freak to create a home environment that nurtures and supports you—you just have to keep yourself comfortable. Treat yourself regularly to a loving home space, even if you’re living in temporary digs right now. Do it for you.
32. Always, always make decisions and take actions based on love. Especially in conflict, treat others with love and respect. Even when they don’t deserve it. If you live a life grounded in love, you will live a life without regrets.

Word Count: 1,488
© 2006 Allyson Denise Walker. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Spectacular Failure

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."
--Winston Churchill

This is one of the most encouraging quotes I've ever come across. I found it this morning while doing a bit of writing research--it was a bit like unexpectedly running into a friendly acquaintance after many years. Or like getting a hug just when I needed it.
I've been plagued by Fear lately. Not the kind of fear that makes my heart pound or my shaking fingers grab for the switch that lights a darkened room. No, I've been beset by the kind of sneaky Fear that masquerades as fatigue or apathy, the kind of Fear that lures me into taking a nap when I could be doing something productive or exciting or both. "Don't worry about emptying the dishwasher," it says soothingly, the voice of the devil. "Best to lie down for the next ten minutes...and the next...and the next."
Once I realized the Fear for what it was, I pushed through it--and consequently ran across the quote. I read it and thought that I might as well go ahead, make the leap, fall flat on my face, and try again. Why fail timidly and quietly, when I can fail flamboyantly and outrageously! That takes the sting right out of the Fear. At least for the moment...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Griefshare Journal 2

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 NASB
How do you go on with your life after losing someone you love? In the end, the answer is simple enough, I suppose—“to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” But how do we face these simple tasks when our pain is so great?
For me, the first step is survival, figuring out how to get through each day, how to navigate through the fog to get dishes and clothes clean, rooms swept and tidied, food on the table, and still have the energy to cuddle my children at night. I want so much more from life than that, but I must learn to crawl before I can walk.
Sometimes we have days when it’s all we can do to get up in the morning and face another day without the one we love. It happens. Sometimes we are dragged most unwillingly out of bed by a crying child, a job we need to pay for food and shelter, or any number of obligations. All we want to do is wrap ourselves in a cocoon of self-pity, but we can’t. So we add resentment to the seemingly endless list of negative emotions blowing like storms through our souls. That happens, too.
I wrote myself a note soon after my father died, a note I found in my bedside table not long ago. I’d written myself a list of reasons to get out of bed. At the top of my list was, “Dad would want me to.” It’s important to remember that the one you grieve for would want you to get up in the morning and go on with your life.
If you’re feeling too down for that idea to have any appeal, remember this. If you lay in bed drowning in sorrow long enough, you’ll eventually have to get up to go to the bathroom. While you’re in there, you might as well have a good cry in the shower. You can cleanse your body as well as your emotions and use the momentum to get dressed.
This is how we get through each moment of each day. We may feel that the tragedy that has befallen us is just wrong, wrong, wrong. This wasn’t meant to happen. This isn’t the way life was supposed to work out. We may feel as though we are living in some evil parallel universe, and if only we could break the spell we could have our old lives back.
Perhaps this wasn’t meant to happen to us, but we are meant to live our lives with purpose and with joy, despite the sorrows. God does have plans for us, if only we open ourselves to them.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

GriefShare Journal 1

I decided to attend a grief recovery workshop nearly five years after my father’s death. I have a desire to explore any unresolved grief I might still be carrying around me with and that might be holding me back. I have also lost four other close family members since then—my sister, my father-in-law, my grandmother, and my grandfather—and I’ve already learned from the workshop that multiple losses extend the grieving process. So here I am.
The two weeks since I attended the first session have been rocky emotionally for me. I found myself moving through the familiar heavy numbness of early grief. We all grieve in different ways, and for me early grief feels like a heaviness, and not just a heaviness of spirit. My limbs feel as though they’re made of lead and the smallest tasks require a tremendous amount of energy. J.K. Rowling described her grief after the loss of her mother as paving stone weighing on her chest—an accurate description.
After a loss, I feel as though I’m swimming through a sea of molasses. I move slowly from room to room and find myself standing in the kitchen wondering why I’m there. Oh, right. I need to empty the dishwasher.
That feeling revisited me after the first session of the grief recovery workshop, compounded by the fact that I did not have the comfort of my normal routine. I was caring for my three year old daughter after her surgery, a daunting task if ever there was one.
Never one to take it easy, Ana did not curb her desire to jump off the furniture and bounce on the bed. Occasionally, she would clutch her ears or mouth and look pitiful, and I’d give her medicine for pain and a popsicle. Mostly she became irritable and demanding and given to throwing tantrums when she did not get her way. I moved through my fog to tend her, and by the time my fog had lifted I was ready to sit down on the floor and kick and scream myself.
I’ve been beset by the lingering need to cry for many months, a tightness in my chest aching for release. I pick at it, like a scab, and occasionally get out a tear or two, but I’ve been having trouble getting all worked up. I spend a great deal of energy studying the glass and willing myself to see it as half full, so I guess I don’t have much left to cry over unresolved losses. Instead, I cry when I lose my special pen or my glasses or my keys.
The strain of confinement finally cracked me, however, and I spent much of the last couple of days sobbing into my pillow. I wish I could say it was just leftover grief floating to the surface, but it was more despair over my ability to go on with my life and my relationships with those who have been left behind to grieve with me.
Many of those who have lost a loved one feel an unbearable loneliness. Those whose homes are fuller rather than emptier after a loss are in a unique place. You wake up one morning after a loss and find yourself sharing your home with widowed parents or motherless children, or you find yourself moving in with parents, siblings, or grown children to save heartache, money, or both.
As devastating as it was to lose my father, my own household remained the same. My husband, daughter, and I still lived together, and though my life changed in other ways, my family was constant. When my sister died, we took in her baby to raise as our own, and that changed all of our lives forever. I am daily reminded of my sister and of the pain of losing her. I see her in my youngest daughter—yes, daughter, for that’s what she is to me now.
Perhaps that is part of the pain of grief, despair at ever figuring out how to go on living without the one you love, at ever finding the courage to put your life back together. Although those of us who grieve may be stuck in the past at times, it is the uncertain future that drags us down in the end. How are we to live life fully and joyfully without the one we lost? How are we to find the strength to finish our work here on earth when someone we love has already gone on to the next life?
These are the questions that have led me to attend this workshop. I know the answers are there, sliding in and out of my mind depending on how wise (or unwise) I’m feeling at the moment. I feel the truth hovering about my consciousness, feel it as a blind person feels their way around an unfamiliar room. I sense its presence and learn to trust that it will reveal itself to me in an acceptable time.