Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: My Yoga.

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In many ways yoga has saved my life. Or at the very least kept me from being a total train wreck. My daily practice has taught me how to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. And my spirit ever reaching for heaven. It has opened my eyes to the exquisiteness of my life in its domestic ordinariness. The beauty of the day-to-day. The rhythm of regular rituals. The well-crafted commonplace I love.

For I am an ordinary woman.

My yoga has aged with me. I can no longer do the poses the way I once did. But I can still bend and fold and breathe. And allow grace to gently do the rest. I surrender to a higher wisdom.

I salute the sun and whisper thank you to the morning light.

These photos were taken by daughter, Melissa Adams in our living room where I do my yoga every morning.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Fountain of Youth.

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Dear Beautiful Sarah Jane,

You saw my photograph and asked me, “If I found the fountain of youth?” On the one hand I took this to be a wonderful compliment, but I also saw this as an earnest question worthy of thoughtful reflection and consideration. It is however, a bit like asking, “what’s the secret or meaning of life?” The short answer is, “I don’t know.”

The Fountain of Youth is something I’m not in search of. Perhaps that’s the secret to finding it. Stop looking. What a gorgeous paradox this is.

I am now safely on the other side of young. But it wasn’t necessarily an easy journey getting here. Learning to accept that I am aging. Growing older in this Earth Suit that will one day expire. Accepting the changes to the way I look has at times been difficult. I’m still startled and spooked by the old woman who stares hauntingly at me in the mirror. But thankfully I’m less preoccupied these days with hanging onto the young “me” I once was. I am now more interested in being well, in particular, well in my soul. Could be another secret Sarah Jane.

This is who I am now.

Today, in this photograph, I look like this. Some days I look worse. Tragic even. Rod Stewart put it best in his song Maggie May, “the morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age.” It’s true. Morning light can be a real buzz kill to an old broad like me. Ah, but afternoon light, after a good night’s sleep and a cup of chai tea with someone you love, works miracles. One more secret maybe Sarah Jane.

I have always looked younger than my age. Possibly because I’m physically small and spiritually large. I look inwards more than outwards. I explore fearlessly my interior world and let the exterior grow out of that. I meditate and do yoga every day. Is there some clue in this practice Sarah Jane?

I eat well and wisely most of the time. But then I also devoured a big bag of Lays potato chips last night. I never go to bed with makeup on. I brush my teeth three times a day. Take vitamins. Drink gallons of water daily. Laugh out loud a lot. I burp like a pig. I play music. Sing in the shower. Sit in the shade on sunny days. Go for long walks up country roads. I take tons of pictures on my cell phone. Read books and write something every day. I keep my mind open to the possibilities. Pursue wisdom and knowledge. I never stop learning. And most importantly, I hang out with dogs and good people of all ages. A secret there perchance Sarah Jane?

I love fashion. But ironically hate to shop, unless I’m with “my girls.” Then it’s fun. Especially if we stop for lunch and gossip. I do love clothes though. I’ve learned that if worn well, they cover up a whole host of not-so-pretty issues that develop as you age. Some people probably think I dress inappropriately for my age. I say fuck them. Or that I’m too old to wear my hair so long and dye it red. I say fuck those people too. I swear. And I’m unapologetic. I don’t know if there’s a secret in that Sarah Jane.

Then there’s just plain old luck and good genes. My mother was Italian. She was small physically, spiritually large and had beautiful flawless skin all the days of her life. She also dyed her hair jet black right up until the very end when she was too ill to do so. She taught me all the things I have just shared with you. Except she didn’t swear.

One last thing Sarah Jane, my sweet butterfly. Stay fierce about life in all its colors and complexities. Never let go of your curiosity and always stay close to the ones you love.

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Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Wide-eyed Wonder.

 

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The exquisite thing about aging is the reawakening of wide-eyed wonder.

All the oohs and aahs of life seen through my own magical gaze. And not those of my children or grandchildren.

For decades I saw everything through the eyes of the young in my charge. Enchanting as the dust of fairies. Dazzling as the diamonds in the sky. All things spellbinding and sparkly, cast from the wands of wizards.

I saw it all through their crystal-clear unfettered perspective. It was a beautiful awe-inspiring view. A sacred privilege, the memory of which I hold dear in my mind’s eye, and as close to my heart as humanly possibly.

But now, all things fascinating, enthralling and magnificent, dreamy and delightful are again fresh and new, heaven-sent and divine.

Like never before.

I see the world around me as if for the very first time, with my own precious child-eyes. It fills my heart with such gladness.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Growing The Compassion Muscle.

Me and The Old Man

At the start of every new year, I resolve.  I gave up resolving out-loud years ago, but I resolve none the less.  This year is no exception.

Like a lot of people, I’ve resolved to lose –  weight, toxic relationship, bad habits, double chin, muffin top.  And to gain – more knowledge, more money, more fun, more wisdom, more sleep.  This year I thought I’d try something new.  I have resolved to grow.   Not a garden full of tomatoes nor my bank account nor my hair.  The focus will be on one very specific muscle, which really isn’t a muscle at all, but I like to think of it that way. Compassion.  It’s right next to the heart muscle. Not really.  But for argument’s sake, let’s say it is.  Anyway, I want to grow this in a big way.  I want it to be so large I’ll have to give it a name and buy it a wardrobe.

I wish I had resolved to do this sooner.  About ten years sooner, while my father was still alive.  Or probably further back than that so it could have actually had some affect on our relationship.

Little back story.  As far back as I can remember I had this love-hate relationship with my Old Man.  That’s what my siblings and I called him, not to his face of course.  Actually we referred to him as “The” Old Man.  He didn’t even warrant a personal pronoun.  Looking back, that disrespectful name-calling makes me sad.  I guess my compassion muscle is already starting to grow.  In our defense, referring to your father as your Old Man was pretty common back then, even amongst offspring who revered their fathers.

There were reasons for my love-hate relationship with The Old Man.  First and foremost, he was an alcoholic.  And it wasn’t pretty.  He wasn’t the life of the party, the fun guy when he drank.  He was mean and miserable and terrorized my timid mother and her four kids. I being the youngest, and his only biological child had no memory of a father who didn’t drink.  Not that it’s any consolation, but my siblings had a few good years without an alcoholic in their midst prior to my parents meeting and falling in love.  Okay, that’s the hate part –  the ‘I wish he’d drop dead’ silent prayers.

The love part goes like this.  The Old Man was a sweet, shy, funny, give you the shirt off your back guy – when he was sober.  That father took me with him when he delivered bread, went to my parent-teacher nights, took me to baseball games that he umpired, brought home pastries from the bakery, bought me my first teddy bear when I was sick (that I still have), took us for Sunday drives in the country, on trips to Duluth, taught me to drive, hugged me when my heart was broken, yelled at drivers who sped down our street for fear one would hit me, spit on my warts every morning because he’d heard this was a cure, took me to church, loved me unconditionally, thought I was beautiful.  And so much more.

My father’s alcoholism got in the way of things.  It especially interfered with my ability to love him like a daughter.  As I grew older, so did my resentment and impatience.  Even long after he had found sobriety, my detachment and lack of interest in my father’s thoughts or feelings was ever-present and my inability to forgive was paramount.  As he became elderly, he also grew cantankerous and ornery, demanding of my mother.  This was just fodder for the chasm that lay between us.  Even as his hands shook and his gate faltered, his hearing went and his eyes clouded over, as he developed Diabetes, Parkinson’s and Petit Mal Seizures I was unmoved, detached and lacking in compassion.  None of this touched my heart, or if it did, I wasn’t about to tell him.  I was over it, past all that. Emotionally bankrupt.

Of course, I’m not over it.  And probably never will be.  I also have regrets.  I wish I had spent more time with him that last year of his life.  I wish I hadn’t scolded him for sneaking cookies and cake, threatening that  it would send him into a diabetic coma.  I wish I had listened better to his stories at the dinner table.  I wish I hadn’t looked away, called him an asshole under my breath.  I wish I had told him I loved him more often.  I wish I had said ‘thank you.’

My father died of a broken heart five weeks after my mother.  I had this crazy thought in my head when my sister-in-law called to tell me the news.  I was relieved.  Not because my prayer for him to drop dead had finally been answered but because I took comfort in the thought that perhaps he was with my mother.  For the five weeks prior to his death, I worried about her being all alone “out there” and now she wasn’t.

A few months after he died my sister-in-law sent me a small box of his stuff.  There wasn’t much in it – his wallet, watch, ring, a few photos, a Finnish Bible and a Song Book that belonged to his mother and some newspaper clippings which included his obituary and an article on his days driving a horse-drawn bread wagon, the last of his kind.

In his wallet was a photograph taken by my mother of The Old Man and I when I was about three months old.  It was tattered, torn and cracked, barely recognizable.  I didn’t know it existed.  He had carried it with him my entire life. I love that photo.  My heart expands when I look at it.  As does my compassion muscle.