A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Thursday, 23 February 2017

How the Hopi helps with housework

You know your bathroom is disgusting when your neighbour's daughter, who has autism, will not pee in your toilet. But I have discovered a strategy that helps me overcome the shame, and let's me tackle the housework without resentment.
By the way, to figure out how to get this toilet bowl clean I had to watch alot of Kim and Aggie of the British show "How Clean is Your House?" The secret was a pumice stone that could scrub the stains off the porcelain without scratching it - who knew?!!

The "Before"
I hope that I have previously established that I am not a hoarder. And I'm not a hoarder in denial - really! But I do have a problem with STUFF! Sorting stuff, putting away stuff, and cleaning stuff. And, with five years of poor health, things had really piled up, literally and figuratively. When you deal with depression, tasks that are routine for most people can feel overwhelming – washing the dishes, doing the laundry, opening the mail, filing papers, or... cleaning the bathroom.

When I would look around me and see all the stuff that I had failed to do, I would beat myself up for letting this happen, worry that I would never get it all done, feel guilty and overwhelmed, and stick my head back in that hole in the ground. I believe it's called denial. (Remember, one of the ways to get your head out of the ground is to dig your way out like the dung beetle or scarab.) When I recognized how difficult it was to get on top of the housework, I used one of my first knock-off beads to remind me of the importance of creating a home that is comfortable, safe, and peaceful. I later replaced this with the Pandora Hopi charm on my "Lucerne Recovery" bracelet.
The Hopi charm, to the right of the tulip with the dangle

When I first started this journey of recovery with Pandora, I wanted this Hopi charm because it reminded me of my grandmother Holmes, or "Granny" as we called her. She spent her winters in Arizona and had a string of silver beads that I loved, made by the expert silversmiths of the Native-American Hopi. As I shared in a previous post about her, she always liked to show me her jewellery and tell me stories of the places she'd visited in the world, where the jewellery was from.

Oh, I just realized something! She started me on this journey of having jewellery for "unforgettable moments," as Pandora calls them. I don't know who inherited those beads, so for now, in addition to the Hopi bead, I have some earrings in that style and a turquoise Mii bracelet.

But I digress. When I looked into "Hopi," I discovered that there was another reason for me to have this charm.

The word "Hopi" means "behaving one," one who is mannered, civilized, peaceable, polite, who adheres to the "Hopi Way." Wikipedia describes the Hopi Way as "a concept deeply rooted in the culture's religion, spirituality, and its view of morality and ethics. To 'be Hopi' is to strive toward this concept, a state of reverence and respect for all things, to be at peace with these things, and to live in accordance with the instructions of the Creator or Caretaker of the Earth." For the Hopi, all of daily life is part of their religion, and their belief is to help others improve their lives.

When I started to dig out of this disorganized and dirty mess a few years ago, I tried making schedules for myself. In my agenda I would put "Paid" and "Unpaid" work, which of course I then resented. Then I scheduled time for "chores," which of course made them feel like... well... a chore. So now I schedule time to do things that are "Done with Love." It's similar to when someone really bothers you, and instead of cursing them, you bless them. So I started with a daily "Bless This Kitchen" and then moved on to a weekly "Bless This Bathroom." It really does change your outlook and attitude.

My typical morning, the blue representing self-care

Rather than beat myself up, and get anxious or overwhelmed, the Hopi charm reminds me to "practice the religion of daily life and be at peace with things." Or, to keep the affirmation shorter, I say "Don't Worry, be Hopi." (You have to watch the video so you can use the correct accent when you say it.)

YouTube video of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy"
Seems appropriate that the late Robin Williams is in this video

I have spent so long worrying about the mess of our home, and feeling ashamed of it, that I didn't even realize how much it has improved. When my daughter and her friends wanted to start a cat account on Instagram (@cats_of_the_truenorth i.e. Canada), I said my only stipulation was that pictures of our cats could not show how dirty our house is. When she started posting photos I was pleasantly surprised to see that our bathroom was clean - not perfect, but clean!

photo credit Taylor Hayden

In her book "Simple Abundance: a daybook of comfort and joy," (which I mentioned in a previous post about gratitude) author Sara Ban Breathnach says, "The Quakers, or members of the Religious Society of Friends... refuse to segment their lives into the Sacred and the secular. Quakers believe that all of life's daily experiences are spiritual in nature, from preparing a family meal to protesting political policy." She quotes the British writer George Gorman who observed that "the essence of Quaker spirituality is the certainty that everything we do has religious significance. It is not cutting ourselves off from life but entering deeply and fully into it."

This is similar to the practice of Mindfulness, which can be described as "paying attention on purpose." Practicing mindfulness of daily living is to do each thing with all of your attention, intentionally bringing your mind to the present, even if that "present" is the enviable job of cleaning the toilet.

I have the "Bless This House" charm sitting in my jewellery box, waiting until we complete the Clean Sweep of the whole house. The charm will require, quite fittingly, a lick and a polish before I can add it to my all-silver timebead bracelet.

I am pleased to say that we now "Bless This Bathroom" every week, each of the four of us with a different task (as well as other non-bathroom jobs) as part of our "Saturday chores." We are now in the maintenance phase! And Yes, it's me that does the toilet - and nobody is afraid to pee in it!

What I wear with my Lucerne Recovery bracelet

Related Posts:

Clean up with the tea cup - a story about the start of the Clean Sweep, with "Before" and "After" photos of our sunporch, and my most important affirmation in dealing with negative self-talk about the state of our home - and the charm to represent it.

Bellies and babies and "girlie parts" - a story about one of the reasons our house got so messy, the health problems I battled, including those things that women just don't talk about - and the charm to represent it.

My Pandora journey of recovery - how it all began - a story about my first knock-off charms, how I use charms as rewards, and how charms help me in my recovery.

You can search the blog, at the bottom of the website version, using key words. You can also see all of the stories about the charms from my first bracelet by clicking on the label for "Lucerne Recovery bracelet."

Photo Gallery

The "Before"

The "After"

The "After"

shower curtain rings to match the handles on the sink faucets
a clean bathroom with a drawer unit under the sink for supplies and toiletries
a garbage AND recycling bin to keep the toilet paper rolls off the floor

this angel ornaments was the inspiration for the bathroom colours

Martha Stewart curtains in the colour scheme of sage green and lilac

an antique plate of my mom's with purple violets

A Wedgwood sage green "Jasperware" plate from my in-laws

original hexagonal bathroom tiles

a new white shower curtain as a reward for cleaning the bathroom
IKEA's brilliant solution to the tub mat
that would always fall off the edge of the tub,
drip onto the floor, or stay down in the tub and get mouldy

a tray for the back of the toilet for candle holders and Kleenex

a few purple accents on shelves above the toilet

The "After"

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

A love story and a poem - a reflection on Valentine's Day

After being married for almost 25 years I was surprised to find that the best description of marriage I've ever seen was in a book on my teenaged daughter's shelves. Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely places, including novels, poems or fables. I was even inspired to write a poem of my own, as a gift to my husband on Valentine's Day.

One of my earliest charms, the red vines, was a gift from my husband for my "Always and Forever" bracelet, about our love and marriage. I had this vague notion that vines could represent a marriage, but since I hadn't written a blog post about the charm, I hadn't put my thoughts into words - until yesterday, Valentine's Day. Now, in doing some research and writing this post, I have discovered that I was on to something; my instincts were correct.

If you had asked me over 25 years ago what makes a marriage I would have given you this poem "On Marriage" by Kahlil Gibran. In fact we had a friend read this in our wedding ceremony.

"Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving seas between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup, but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow."
- Kahlil Gibran

I wanted us to support each other, nourish each other, and celebrate each other. But I did not want to lose myself. Little did I know that I would not lose myself, but find myself, a new self, changed by the years together.

And so I came to see that, although we were separate trees, our roots had grown together and our branches had become intertwined, as JRR Tolkien described in this poem to his wife Edith.

"Lo, Young we are and yet have stood like planted hearts in the great Sun of Love so long (as two fair trees in woodland or in open vale stand utterly entwined and breathe the airs and suck the very light together) that we have become as one, deep rooted in the soil of Life and tangled in the sweet growth."
- JRR Tolkien

Turns out that my idea, that a marriage could be represented by vines, was not such an original idea after all. The vine has long been seen as symbol of marriage, in particular the vine and the elm tree. In Italy, and other wine-producing countries, they would "grow wine" on trees. It was a common practice, at least into the 20th century, to have orchards of elm trees that were pruned to be used as supports for vines.

Tuscan country life 1849
There were many examples in Renaissance literature using the vine and the elm as a symbol of marriage, and fables were created from the association. The stories would tell of an elm tree, that did not produce fruit, inviting a vine to grow among its branches. Although the vine initially declines the offer, after being exposed to the harsh weather, the vine "creeps feebly to the Elm's embrace; and in his arms finds sweet solace; United thus they storms defy. And mutual grace and aid supply." I love this representation of marriage.

Without the vine, the elm would have nothing except leaves, and would not feel productive. Likewise, without the elm, the vine would trail along the ground and not produce fruit in abundance, and it's fruit would rot.

Some stories told of a fruitful vine that acknowledges its debt to the little tree that supports it. Some tales say that the vine learns that we often can not rely only on our own resources, a sign that you are not alone. This image is often described as "the living union of a married pair" with grateful dependence and mutual support.

Abraham Bloemaert 1620
Between the 16th and 18th centuries, in many European countries, artists commonly painted the image of the pairing of the vine and the elm. In the myth of Vertumnus and Pomona, Vertumus takes the shape of an old woman and urges the reluctant goddess to marriage by pointing to the vine in her orchard.

But still, the best description I have ever found, of a loving committed relationship, whether a marriage or not, came from a YA (Young Adult) book: "Allegiant" from one of my 15-year-old daughter's favourite book trilogies (if you haven't read "Divergent" and seen the movies, please do).

"I used to think that when people fell in love, they just landed where they landed, and they had no choice in the matter afterward. And maybe that's true of beginnings, but t's not true of this, now.

I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me."
- Tris from "Allegiant" by Veronica Roth

Using this quote from "Allegiant" I made this sign for my husband for Valentine's Day last year.

This year, inspired by poems and fables - and a YA novel - I wrote my husband a poem.

And when my husband needs reminding (and because The Simpsons is his all-time favourite TV show) I will simply tell him that "I choo-choo-choose you," every day.

In case you're not familiar with the source of this Valentine, check out this 17 second You Tube video of Lisa's Valentine's Day card for Ralph.

 Or you can take two and a half minutes to listen to Lisa tell the whole "love story" of Lisa and Ralph.

 My Valentine's Day gift
Pandora heart charm
"pink bow and lace"
better than flowers
better than chocolate
better than lacy lingerie
on Valentine's Day
"Rose of Hearts"
My work-in-progress representing the year 2017
PANDORA Rose with pearls, moonstones, and mother-of-pearl

Related Posts:

My home, my marriage, my husband and my honeymoon - a story about the symbolism of the lighthouse charm and my first attempt at writing a love poem.

"the deepest secret nobody knows" - a story about how we treat those we love, inspired by an ee cummings poem, and the charm to represent it.

Sheila and Mike's Excellent Anniversary Adventure - a story about a colourful outing for our 20th wedding anniversary and the charm I had engraved to remember it.

I would say "Yes" all over again - a story about how my husband had to re-enact our engagement, with our kids as witnesses.

You can search the blog, at the bottom of the website version. Using the label for "Always and Forever bracelet" you can see all of the stories about those charms, about love and marriage.