Saturday, October 26, 2013

Learning positive self-talk from Emma Peel

When I was seven, I wanted to be Emma Peel.
What girl wouldn't want to be beautiful, sexy, smart and confident?
Think back to a time when you felt beautiful, powerful, intelligent, confident. Maybe even sexy. What inspired you to feel that way about yourself? I clearly remember my inspiration: Emma Peel.

When I was seven, the TV screen was populated by one Western program after another, and few offered any suitable role models for a young girl looking for adventure. I tried pretending to be Miss Kitty from "Gunsmoke," but she was uninspiring.

Then one night, my older sister, Becky, tuned our TV to "The Avengers," and the confidant, beautiful, sexy Emma Peel entered our living room wearing a tight, black leather catsuit, black boots and lipstick. She drove a convertible sports car too. Mrs. Peel exuded confidence like no other woman I'd ever seen. She had my attention.

An expert at karate, fencing and all manner of weaponry, Emma Peel was not the usual kind of female TV character who needed to be rescued by a man. In fact, she often rescued Mr. Steed from danger. Emma Peel was a spy. A secret agent. And she was super cool. Now here was the kind of woman I wanted to become!

My cousin, Donette and I had spent our time playing pioneers and "I Dream of Jeannie," but now we started playing "spy girls." I don't remember much about our spy missions, but I still smile when I think of how much fun we had creating exciting adventures as invincible girl spies solving crimes and saving the world.

All the way through elementary school, I felt I could do anything. I was an intrepid girl spy, after all. But then something happened to my self confidence.

How old were we when we began doubting ourselves and stopped believing we could do anything? Was it at puberty? When we first began noticing boys? When other girls starting demeaning us?

Entering the awkward, geeky junior high years, my confidence waned. I certainly did not look like Emma Peel. Nor did I feel powerful and confident. I didn't need other girls to demean me because I did a pretty good job of it all by myself.

Through my teens, twenties and even thirties, my inner conversation with myself went something like this: "You're not good enough. You're not pretty. You're fat. Your nose is too big. Your breasts are too small."
The saddest part is that I often vocalized my self-talk even after I became a mother, and my daughter heard me belittling myself constantly.

Shame on me. A woman should love herself. And that includes loving her body.

It wasn't until I was in my late forties that I began to channel Emma Peel again. Don't get me wrong. I know I am never going to be a spy. But I began to find that strong inner voice again.

When I catch myself thinking negative thoughts about myself, I replace them with positive thoughts. "You can do this!" has become my new mantra.

I've since apologized to my young adult daughter for putting myself down in front of her. All of her life, I've made a point of telling her that she's beautiful and smart. She is.

Now I can admit that I too, am smart. And even beautiful.

In the past few years, I hope that I've shown her that any woman, even a middle-aged woman, can be smart, confidant and beautiful if she believes in herself.

The next time you have a negative thought about yourself, stop. Take a deep breath. Then pretend that you're Emma Peel, confident, sexy spy. Tell yourself how marvelous and brave you are.When you hold your head up high and believe in yourself, others will believe in you too.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Taking risks to try new adventures

Farewell to Wisteria Cottage. Hello, next adventure!
I wrote this post on my last night in Wisteria Cottage, a cozy 540-square-foot artist's studio my cat, Anakin Skywalker, and I have called home for the past three months.

Wisteria Cottage and the surrounding property are being sold, and Ani and I must move again to our fifth home in less than two years. Living so simply has allowed me to breathe deeply for the first time in a long while. This past summer was one of the best of my adult life.

I've enjoyed special time with my daughter Katie, who lives next door in what I call the "Big House." We've picked sun-ripened berries, hung out and talked and made meals together that we've shared over Netflix movies.

My pared-down life at Wisteria Cottage taught me that I'm built of strong stuff, likely passed through the genes by my Swedish grandma, Lydia Blomgren Smith, who raised 11 children in a remote log cabin with no running water or electricity. Although my Wisteria Cottage summer pales in comparison to Grandma's challenges, I proved to myself that I could live three months without immediate access to a bathroom, kitchen or running water. It's given me the courage to take risks and be open to trying new adventures.

I sang karaoke with fellow reporters 20 or more years younger than me.

For a second season, I've paddled a dragon boat with the Mighty Women, and felt my stroke--and my arms--growing more powerful as the summer progressed.

On a blue-sky June day, my friend Patty and I paddled kayaks and enjoyed front-row sightings of multiple blue herons and other water fowl at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. That paddle had been on my bucket list for a decade.

I learned to shoot a bow and realized it's much more difficult than Legolas makes it look in "The Lord of the Rings" movies. By my second lesson with Kirby, I managed to hit the target, an empty milk jug, with three of my four arrows. If I ever encounter a ferocious orc, I'm ready to take him on!

Kirby and I paddled kayaks a few times this summer. My favorite was when we paddled with more than a dozen others in handcrafted skin-on-frame kayaks at the confluence of the Colville and Columbia rivers in Northeastern Washington where I was raised.

With Kirby I also camped along the Deschutes River, hiked the Old Columbia River Gorge Highway trail, toured Maryhill Museum of Art, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and saw Native American petroglyphs along the Columbia River. All these had been on my bucket list for years.

Another longtime dream of mine was realized when we camped in a tipi, something I'd wanted to do since seeing tipis in Montana many years ago.

We swing danced on the grass at the Great Circle Music Festival near La Grande, Oregon, to the music of Bitterroot, Kory Quinn and my cousin, Janis Carper and her honey, Cris Peterson. I also hula-hooped to the music with my new friend, Ryleigh, a gutsy first-grader who already is paddling her own canoe.

After a three-decade hiatus, I took up drumming again. Both Kirby and I had been drummers at our respective high schools, but I hadn't played since then. At Rhythm Traders, a really cool percussion store in Portland, we played many African djembe drums in our quest to find the perfect drum for me. love having a drum again! I I'd forgotten the joy that drumming brings me. Why had I stopped doing something that makes me happy?

Over the summer I've played my drum to accompany Kirby's guitar playing and singing in the garden at Wisteria Cottage, under a star-spattered sky in Eastern Oregon and then for a few nights around a campfire under a full moon, while surrounded by Kirby and other buckskin-clad primitive skills enthusiasts and musicians at the Echoes in Time gathering at Champoeg State Park.

Through the window at the peak of the ceiling in Wisteria Cottage, I've watched the moon progress through the sky many a summer night as I played my drum alone, finding a beat that's true to the joyful woman I've become.

I'm going to miss that inspiring view of the moon through that high window. But I'm looking forward to tapping out new rhythms as I explore the view awaiting me around the next bend.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Moving, zombies and the unfortunate raspberry sorbet incident

            Zombies invaded Portland last October. I witnessed it--and survived.

I'll tell you a little secret: Zombies scare me spitless.

Are you with me on this? Or are you one of those people who is not creeped out by zombies?

You know that supposedly hilarious British zombie movie, "Shaun of the Dead?" To most people, it's a classic zombie comedy. To me, "zombie comedy" is an oxymoron. When the zombie action got too intense, I ran around breathing heavily. I screamed. Multiple times. Zombies are seriously scary.

Moving is scary too. And it's hard, hard labor. I ought to know. I'm the maven of moving. The diva of downsizing. The cheerleader for change. I get Frequent Mover Miles from U-Haul.

Recently my landlord raised my rent, pricing me out of the rental he refused to maintain or upgrade. So I moved rather than live through another stifling summer in that sauna. Thankfully, I had the help of many friends, my daughter, and this time--professional movers--to accomplish the move on a sweltering summer day.

The day after moving day, cleanup day, was even hotter. With my security deposit at stake, my dear friend, Holly, and I spent hours scrubbing in that hot-as-Hades duplex. As a treat, I'd bought a pint of raspberry sorbet to eat when we finished. I'd scrubbed the fridge and stuck the sorbet in the freezer. The unplugged freezer. And forgot about it.

I was wearing my Moving Pants, light khaki cargo pants with big pockets, and plenty of them. Moving Pants are essential on both moving day and cleanup day for keeping track of all the last-minute stuff I ran across: the key to the new apartment. The hardware to assemble my bed. The missing knob from a dresser. By the end of the day, the pockets of my Moving Pants were stuffed with essential odds and ends I'd need at the new place.

With much shoving and prodding, I crammed into my Subaru the last load: vacuum cleaner, broom, mop, bucket and household stuff, a strawberry pot and yard stuff that was left. It didn't all fit. Dear Holly took a load in her van. I'd pick it up later. 

Then I remembered my raspberry sorbet. I retrieved it from the unplugged freezer. It was liquid sorbet. I didn't have a garbage bag and the garbage to the dump already had been picked up. I'd have to take it with me. Holding the melted sorbet in one hand, I gingerly climbed into the packed car and looked for a secure place for it. I set it down next to me, atop a stack of stuff. Dumb, I know.

I started the car, rounded the first corner, and SPLAT! The sorbet container tipped, and melted sorbet cascaded onto my khaki pants, spreading a dark red stain, much like blood.

Arriving at my new place, Wisteria Cottage, in a very nice suburban neighborhood, I got out of the car. My tan Moving Pants were soaked in what appeared to be blood. I must have been a sight for the well-heeled neighbors, who undoubtedly were watching from behind their curtains, aghast that an unkempt murderess was moving into the neighborhood.

A few nights later, I was eating dinner with my daughter and her boyfriend, who live next door to the cottage. I was just beginning to know the tempo of life at Wisteria Cottage, which had no bathroom. I had to brave the elements, even in the dark of night, to use the facilities next door in my daughter's house.

"Do you like zombie movies?" Casey asked me, popping a movie into the DVD player.

"Not really," I said. "Zombies are scary."

"No, this is 'Zombieland,' a funny zombie movie," he said.

"Uh-huh. Right."

It started. I tensed up. I flinched. And it was only the opening credits. I bravely watched seven minutes of the movie until I could take no more and excused myself from the scary zombie comedy, and walked briskly to Wisteria Cottage.

That night, when nature called, I willed myself NOT to think about zombies. Zombies in the dark yard, just waiting for a middle-aged maven of moving on a midnight pilgrimage to the bathroom to wander unsuspecting into bloodthirsty zombies.I ran to the bathroom that night. If any zombies were lurking about the yard, they couldn't catch me.

But I made a vow that moonless night: No more zombie movies for me.