HanuKwanaChristmas ~ Michelle Church

It was Ghandi who said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

I’ve thought quite a lot about Ghandi and his observations. Most importantly I wonder what Ghandi might see in me were he to accept a brave and ridiculously random dinner invitation from me.

Would he see a true heart, a loving soul and the desire to alleviate pain? Or would he see a soul so far astray that he could hardly recognize the source of my religious inspiration?

Last night as we visited the restaurant of a dear friend, she wished us a Happy HanuKwanzaChristmas. And it made me smile. And I did feel happy, perhaps because she meant it in all the inclusive and loving ways.

I am not so interested in the religion to which you subscribe, the club that claims you or the sports team for which you cheer. In fact, these things make no difference whatsoever.

These things are not relevant. Whatever I choose to align myself with is not at all as important as how I choose to play that belief out. I don’t mean in how I tell you that you should live your life, or in making sure you have the opportunity to believe the way I live.

I mean, when I walk down the street, how I react and act, do these things align with those the same things I align myself to?

ghandiThough the rain shooshes down the gutters and the cold winds blow through the bare and lonely trees, this month we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. While my beliefs shift and change as I grow, one thing that has not and I dare say will not, is my desire to live a life that honors him.

How sad I would be were I to discover that the life I live in no way resembles or respects the life of Jesus Christ… “Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

As we each celebrate the holiday season in the ways that are unique to ourselves, our families and our communities, may we do so in ways that celebrates goodness, reveres generosity and celebrates diversity and inclusiveness.

My friends, I truly wish you a happy HanuKwanzaChristmas. May you celebrate with love and laughter and the traditions that make your heart feel at home. We are each children of the Universe and this season is the time to remember we are brothers and sisters every one.

Like, share, comment tweet and hear those sleigh bells ringaling, tingtingtingaling too…

The Path To Success Is Paved With Cookies

The desire to cook struck me at a young age. I don’t think it was entirely a creative venture for me at that point. Mostly it was baking. I didn’t feel like there were enough cookies in my world and I was willing to do something about it. Not. Ok.

As a young, married woman I delighted in the mental image of a 1950’s style homemaker and I dug into cooking with great fervor and creativity. Not having had a ton of experience, the creativity could have been put on the back burner at least until I had the basics down.

Let’s just say that Mr Dreamboat and I call that time my “Puff Stage”, wherein I covered everything I cooked in filo. It wasn’t a really strong era for me.

The years I was busy with children and their activities and trying to nourish a family of 7 were not always the most fun, to tell the truth. Spinning the plates of taste, nourishment, limited time and food preferences always seemed to leave me depleted at the end of a meal. More than a plate or two was always dropping.

It is for this reason that if you question any one of my children as to what one says when someone offers you a meal, they will reply in unison, “That smells delicious. Thank you.” The sincerity of the gesture really wasn’t pertinent at that time.

I once baked a cake quite similar to this for a fancy party. Fortunately I wasn't suffering from depression or I would have taken it much harder.
I once baked a cake quite similar to this for a fancy party. Fortunately I wasn’t suffering from depression or I would have taken it much harder.

It is not unlikely that the combination of more time to myself, less mouths to feed and years of experience have changed my cooking practice. But what I believe is the main ingredient as I chop fresh herbs and try to cube my vegetables into neat and uniform piles is the willingness to give into the experience.

No longer intent on some outdated image of what I should be, that every meal should be built into a perfectly balanced nutritional experience, I enjoy my time in the kitchen exponentially more.

Shopping, slicing and creating the gifts of flavor for myself and for those I love is now a privilege. Mincing is more meditation than monotony. And more time far more regularly than in years past, the meal is savory and delicious.

The phases and fads we endure as we learn and grow are all equally important. From cookie making to child managing, each of the chapters is significant.

Perhaps the only real control we have over each stage is to give in and enjoy it.

Like, share, comment, tweet and pass along your famous Christmas cookie. If you do, I promise I’ll make it!

Airing My Dirty Laundry One Post At A Time

Today I am again reminded of a story that took place many years ago. So many are the years that even my children wouldn’t recall this time. The truth is that I am nearly certain no one actually remembers this particular story and for this reason you will have to simply trust me. Can you do that?

At the time I had only two small children and what appeared to be, by modern standards, an oversized beach ball in my abdominal region. Many months pregnant with our second boy and third child, I was tired and cranky and the size of some of the smaller countries and larger than Rhode Island.

Moving was a challenge and because I had two small children I was doing a lot of it regardless of the wear. I was tired. So very, very tired.

A friend of ours had borrowed a computer screen and when he called to ask if he could return it, I told him to come on over. We will call him “Chester”, because I don’t want to identify him and because it is a name too infrequently used in my opinion.

When Chester came to the door I was in my best hausfrau dress, no make up and about five loads of laundry sitting in our family room awaiting their turn to be folded.

dirty laundryAs he stood in the doorway I felt the enormity of the growing beach ball in my stomach that would eventually turn into a human being. I felt every bit as dowdy as you imagine I was, and I felt ten different kinds of self-conscious.

And so I was stunned to a cherry colored red  when I opened the door and Chester proclaimed, “I can smell your dirty laundry.”

I was horrified. I was near tears. I wanted to shout at him, punch him in the face, hide under the laundry and never, ever show my face outside my home again. In that mortifying moment, what I nearly said was, “It’s not dirty! I just haven’t folded it yet!”

There must have been one, small and lonely sane brain cell remaining to me and instead I followed its command and asked, “Excuse me?”

Chester stated, much clearer this time, “Where do you want me to put this?”

I succeeded in directing him to the basement office and herded him out of my house as fast as I possibly could.

Because I felt so humiliated, I remember that feeling of embarrassment and shame quite vividly to this day. But so much more important than what I felt was what I learned.

Chester was not a bad fellow. I don’t believe he ever would have purposefully shamed me or brought up my lax housekeeping habits. I don’t believe that now and I did not believe it then.

The only reason I heard what I did that day was because I was looking for evidence of judgment. I felt shame and I sought evidence to prove me shameful. The world is not what we perceive it to be, but what we are.

We so often receive not those things that are given us, but what we imagine we deserve. Even the brightest of compliments can be changed into something harsh and painful when we try hard enough.

Reality isn’t the b*tch we say she is.

I am deeply grateful for the one, lonely brain cell that came to my defense that day. I hope she has duplicated herself since then and has a few friends now to keep her company. I hope she is in charge of all the positive messages, or at least the neutral ones and I am better able to recognize the world as the paradise it might someday be.

Like, share, comment, tweet and pull those shoulders back and own the room.

What Your Gut Is Trying To Tell You

I’ve heard not a few times in the last little while that we have memories in our hearts, we have emotions in our guts and we are wired for observation, all the while our subconscious is running like a super computer, processing everything we see and gently spitting out data for us.

The idea is magnificent. There is so much to process on a day to day basis and to do so successfully we cannot weigh ourselves down with the, albeit important minutia, minutia nonetheless.

Many years ago as I stood in line at the grocery store my heart and gut were going crazy. It was late at night and because of a time sensitive project and small children I hadn’t been able to get out at a decent hour.

I was in a safe neighborhood and one I knew well and yet alarm bells were going off like fire crackers in the hands of wayward teenage boys.

Ahead of me in a fairly long line was a man who made me deeply anxious. His attire was in no way noteworthy. No nervous twitches sent up conscious red flags, yet as I stood there with the occasional comment back and forth, I became queasy and anxious.

instinctStanding there in familiar surroundings and pedestrian circumstances, my brain raced, thinking about where I’d parked my car, if I should ask to be escorted out and wondering if I was going ever so slightly crazy. Or crazier than usual at least.

Once the man had completed his purchase and began walking out the door, I took my place in front of the cashier who looked at me with big eyes and said, “They’re going to arrest him.”

“What?” I managed.

“They’re going to arrest him, she repeated. And sure enough Security swooped in and took him a way with little fanfare and no explanation.

I think about that night and the messages I was receiving from I knew not where. I wonder if it was micro-expressions, pheromones, angels on my shoulder or gut instincts and heart help. Perhaps a mix of all.

What I know for sure, this far down the line is that looking over the history of my life, I can just as easily account to you the times I didn’t listen to those instincts. The people I should have smiled at and walked away from. And I can promise you those stories do not end up as tidily as the one at the grocery store that dark night so long ago.

We have so many resources at our disposal, but it is my experience that far more reliable than yelp or google are the messages we receive from ourselves. It’s simply a matter of learning how to listen to them.

Like, share, comment, tweet and feel how it feels. That’s the first step.

Your Very Own Personal List Of Ten Must See Holiday Movies

With less than two weeks left until Christmas there are some important tasks that need to be attended to. I’ve taken the liberty of making a list. I did not, in all actuality, check it twice. That is for you to do. The following is a good, but far from comprehensive list of movies you must watch for the holiday season. If you find, and I suspect you will, that it is incomplete, I beg of you to add your own, pop some popcorn and snuggle down with your hunny.

Get to it!

1. Elf, because it is sweet and charming and there’s a little bit o’ Buddy in all of us and there’s a touch of curmudgeon too, if we’re being honest. Buddy begs us to toss out cynicism and run to embrace the magic of the season.
2. There is something so charming and delightful about Meet Me In St. Louis. The costumes, the era and oh! the music! Not technically a Christmas movie, you won’t remember that fact when you’re crying with Judy Garland as she sings Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Go. Go now and watch and cry and feel the old fashioned love.
3. I’m putting the cart before the horse, but I started watching Meet Me In St. Louis because of the modern family Christmas movie The Family Stone. There’s a bit of a reverence in the modern movie that made me curious about the classic. I’m convinced they’ll both be classics someday.
4. I still fantasize about being left home alone, maybe not over the holidays, but who amongst us hasn’t dreamed that same dream that the movie depicts? Home Alone is a holiday must.
5. Speaking of the holiday, The Holiday is another recent movie that is about misery and magic. A tasty holiday combo, no calories inherently involved.
6. The classic cartoon, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is short enough to be a mid-afternoon snack and poignant enough to set us on the right track to happiness. “How could it be so? It came without ribbons!… it came without tags!… it came without packages, boxes, or bags!”
7. Harry Potter. Okay, I know they’re not, all eight of them, harry potter christmasChristmas movies, but if you’ve got some time on your hands, you’re going to do it up right and stay in your jammies all day and indulge, Harry’s your guy. Plus, if I remember correctly, there’s at least one Christmas scene in one of the movies.
8. Bill Murray is a man of the ages. While I can’t in good conscience recommend Zombieland for your holiday pleasure (by all means, if you’re inclined, don’t hold back), Scrooged will get you where you want to go if you want to feel good. Wasn’t there a Christmas scene in one of the Ghostbusters movies? You could watch that too. Can ya ever get enough of Bill?
9. A Christmas Story. You love it, I love it and it plays for 24 hours starting on Christmas Eve. Watch it and don’t shoot your eye out.
10. I know it’s not a movie, but enjoy the lights. Sit in your darkened room under the glowing lights of your tree, drive through neighborhoods and look at the Christmas lights. This is the lighting for the movie that is your life. Live it.

Like, share, comment, tweet and have a cookie and pretend you’re Santa all year long.

Losing My Religion ~ Michelle Church’s

As my children grew up a little, from time to time when something happened that vexed them just a bit, I would tell them God was punishing them for not honoring their mother properly. I was joking and they knew it and my needling them drew out the anticipated eye roll.

It’s a game we would play and they would turn the tables on me from When the opportunity arose. Telling me I had elicited God’s wrath in some form or other. Turn about is fair play.

I’m not yet sure whether I regret the provocation or not. Only time will tell, though I don’t think you find this sort of game in any reputable parenting manual.

Regardless of the parental wisdom or lack thereof, I will tell you that then, but even more now, I wasn’t really dialed into the Angry God model.

From all appearances, the way we shape our belief in God has way more to do about us than it does about our creator and if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not be any of the following things:

Monty-Python-God• Angry… obviously
• Jealous
• Vengeful
• Manipulative
• Randomly tormenting
• Legalistic
• Misogynistic
• Fill in the worst things you can think of or have been told here_________________

There is a place for order, good manners, integrity, kindness and love in this world. That place is the center of it. Further, I would submit that I’ve met some very fine atheists as well as Jews, a few Muslims (only a few because I don’t personally know that many), Christians and a Buddhist or two (again, I don’t get out much) who have these and other admirable qualities in spades.

When we define the world in which we live, we see what we are. Likewise, when we imagine a god we are contemplating exactly what and who we are, not who she/he/it is.

When I look out at my Fellow Travelers I most certainly might find thieves and abusers. If that is what I look for, I’m unquestionably going to need a god who is as incensed about this and can bring justice to a world gone wild. You know, like a spring break in Florida, only with demons and stuff.

Conversely, when I look upon this world and I see the tender gifts humanity is always inclined to give, when I focus on acts of generosity, lost purses returned in tact, children being cared for and chance encounters that change the world, it is then my mind creates a beneficent being, a god of love and wonder.

Perhaps the best way I can know god is to go out into the world and act exactly as I imagine she would act. Daily aim for a more accepting, kinder, gentler, more thoughtful way and in our tiny little offerings, perhaps we can shift the world just a bit closer to what we imagine heaven on earth could look like.

I’m searching for a god of love. And in doing so, I am certain that is what I will find.

Like, share, comment, tweet and seek the world in which you wish to live.

Myths Lead To Madness ~ A List Of Ten

It’s amazing to me that we grow up and get jobs, we pay bills, grow plant and people, and yet we somehow miss the memo explaining that not everything we’ve been told, observed or embraced is true.

Maybe it’s that we learned the lesson to respect our elders and authorities too well and we continue to apply it even when it’s no longer relevant. Sometimes the things we’ve been told are no more valid than getting your annual leaching for the sake of good health.

Maybe it’s that we’re so busy growing plants and people that we don’t have time to clean out our misguided belief systems the way we are obligated to clean out our closets.

I am here to save you a bit of work. Think of me as you Psychological Organizer and take my advice on ten things it’s time to throw out to make room for yourself:

Life’s List Of Common Myths

1. You are not “supposed” to be or do anything. No one has ever been, nor will crazy2they ever be you. You do you and throw “supposed” out.
2. Feel what you feel. “I shouldn’t feel this way” is a little silly if you think about it. It’s like looking at the warning lights on your dashboard and thinking “That light shouldn’t be on,” instead of getting to the bottom of why it’s on. Good way to burn up an engine or your brain. Either way.
3. There is NOT only one way to do things. There’s not one belief, a certain job or way of life that fits all. We are individuals and our paths cannot and should not be prescribed by a single line of thought.
4. Exerting control over others is a bad way to control others. It’s sort of counterintuitive, but control leads to lack of control. Just stew on that a bit…
5. What you think something means, good, bad, ugly, whatever, doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means. Toss out the judgment and wallow in curiosity. Life is more fun that way.
6. Wasting time isn’t automatically time wasted. Unless you do it in a pattern of avoidance and you know if this is you and that is a horse of a different color.
7. Being nice isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Nice is Kind’s ignorant and superficial cousin. Nice is window dressing, kind is charitable and always lovely.
8. Checking boxes to make sure you’re doing everything “right” or the way you’re “supposed” to will not definitively give you exact results. Life is like a Joke Recipe book. You put in the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and you open the oven to find pumpkin pie. Since this is the case, you might as well throw in the ingredients that make you happy. And who doesn’t love pumpkin pie?
9. If you’re looking at the world and thinking it’s all going to hell in a handbag, you’re focusing on the wrong things. People are good and kind and anyone who tells you different is either in the media or running for office. Check your sources, make adjustments accordingly.
10. Most everything in life is simply made up in your head. “Truth” is often subjective. So if you don’t like the story, change it. You’re the writer. You’re always the writer.

Like, share, comment, tweet and tell me a bedtime story I’m gonna love.

A Girl’s Guide To Profanity & Easy Living

Yesterday afternoon, despite precision planning and casting off the urge to reset my alarm clock for another generous 30 minutes, I nearly missed my flight to Las Vegas.

I am not an infrequent traveler and so this near miss was vexing to me.

My flight was scheduled to leave the haven that is the Portland Airport. I am accustomed to the drive to and from it and so I scheduled a generous amount of time to get there.

As it turns out, I am not in charge of the world and I wasn’t even on my toes as the rerouting of my day took me places I hadn’t planned to go and doing things I hadn’t planned to do.

I was thereby mentally diverted from obligatory tasks that eventually gave me not a slip of room for error as I drove away from the Young Family Ranch & Zombie Apocalypse Sanctuary.

On a perfect day, on a day with simple rain in it, or say, a few clouds here and there or even a completely overcast sky, no margin for error is fine. But the imps of chance were in full form and wind storms and whimsy were abroad.

rain-drivingFirst, the tiny burg of Battle Ground was a veritable New York City traffic nightmare. Go figure. And not more than five miles down the highway, only a stones throw from the freeway that would, indeed, set me free, a traffic light was out, jamming up traffic to make rush our in L.A. blush.

When I finally made my escape onto the freeway, going against the major traffic of the evening commute, debris littered the road and drivers were nothing short of wonky and irritating. Wait, that last part might have been me.

Finally pulling into the parking garage, I realized Mr Dreamboat’s giant truck parks not a thing like my little, racy car. Turn on a dime? A quarter? A big fat fifty cent piece? No, but not for lack of trying.

The entire, frustrating and possibly profanity strewn drive, I continued to try to regulate my breathing, stop swearing at other drivers and I imagined sliding into my destined seat, neat as you please. No sweat. No problem.

I did in fact make the flight. In fact, as I raced up to the gate the agent took ticket number B29. I was there just in time to hand them my ticket, B30.

All’s well that ends well. Even if I hadn’t made my flight I was certain I could get on one just an hour or so later. And if not, there’s always a bed waiting for me at home.

In the end we’re all going to get where we’re going. It’s simply a matter of how much stress we allow ourselves and how much fun we choose to have along the way. My evening could have been a lot more pleasant with a better attitude, less expletives and an easier attitude. Live and learn, right?

Like, share, comment, tweet and play some slots for me next time you’re in Vegas because I’m not going to while I’m here!

Dumping Baggage ~ Don’t Get Caught With This In Your Purse

red purseI have a thing for bags. So serious is my bag thing, that my two daughters actually come purse shopping in my closet from time to time. They know as well as I do that a good quality bag is like taking a best friend with you wherever you go.

My most famous purse is a red, patent leather thing. People actually ask if they can touch it whenever I use it. Currently, I’m carrying a sort of mango colored little bag. It’s cute. I get compliments on it too.

There was a time I didn’t want to carry around anything at all. A small wallet and my keys were all I needed. I was self contained and happy to be able to grab and go.

Since that time I’ve gone through bags that were suitable as overnight bags and generously so. Why choose what you need to take when you can take everything? I suppose it was one of those times when I actually won a party game based on what you could find in your handbag.

The hostess called out a letter of the alphabet and you had to find something in your purse that started with that letter. The game ended when the letter “J” was called and I pulled out a utility knife I carried around. The official name of the knife was “Juice”. I didn’t yell out the words, “Suck it!” in a room full of middle aged women when I won, but don’t think I didn’t want to.

We are curious creatures carrying around comforts designed to make life a little easier. It wasn’t until I traded in my red and black bag for something a bit smaller, and then again for the even smaller mango bag that I realized what I thought was helping me had actually been quite a heavy burden.

Just because we can carry things around, doesn’t necessarily mean we should.

I’m sure I’ll switch up the purse situation, make some purchases and let my daughters shop my inventory. The bags will be bigger and smaller and they will change with the seasons.

The older I get the less willing I am to carry everything with me. I am not so interested in party games nor do I think they’ll come around often enough for me to carry heavy burdens on my shoulder that require me to get regular massages.

Worse still is when we’re carrying other people’s stuff about. Things we don’t want or need. Things that simply don’t fit.

My current purse, while relatively small, is somewhat of a train wreck right now. Receipts and tissues and a spare set of plastic keys in case my grandson is about. But I’m planning on cleaning house soon. I feel a deep need to organize and rid myself of the extras that aren’t bringing any specific comfort and thus, simply weigh me down.

Best of all is the idea that in order to be truly comfortable, it’s best to drop the extra baggage and move along. Don’t carry it all, my friends. Don’t carry it all.

Like, share, comment, tweet and do you really need a phone, a tablet and a laptop on you at all times?

Michelle At Play’s 2015 Calendar Available For You!

COVER 2015

Every year for the last 4 years I’ve made a calendar for family and a few close friends. Each year I have a boatload of fun doing it and more and more I’m asked if I would pleasMaye make them available for sale.

So I did! This year’s calendar turned out wonderfully (if I do say so myself)!

Calendars are now on sale and with a little bit of pixie dust and some really hard workers at docucopies.com, they are currently on schedule for your Christmas shopping pleasure.

SeptemberYou can order yours today by sending me an email at michelleatplay@gmail.com all for the low, low cost of $14.97 plus shipping.

Yay!

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