Category: Best Sister Page 1 of 2

Forgetting Jillian

 

 

 

 

 

I take in the scenery from my favorite spot on the front porch.  The bounty I can see around me is just a small piece of my growing Empire.  This is my Victory Garden.  Everywhere I look is evidence that I’m creating a life worthwhile.

Is evidence necessary?  Certainly.  What’s the point of Worthwhile Witchcraft without the show?

The Bean Ranch is alive and well.  Unusual and fascinating developments unfold here on a routine basis.  Orbs abound.  Real time coinky-dinks come in rapid-fire succession, and good shit happens here.

Daily.

Setting aside the time to take pictures, record my observations, and edit my words to post on this website has become, well, considerably less exciting.  Or necessary.

I still love to write.  That hasn’t changed.  I write for myself, every day, just as I always have.  Whether or not my words will be read is never more important than my passion to write them.  If I’m not inspired to publish whatever it is I am writing about, than there is no point in sharing.  Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

All the stories, revelations, and winning recipes for a bountiful life are in constant flow.  I no longer feel any sense of urgency in writing this stuff down.  I tell myself, “If it’s important, I’ll remember.”  And I do.

As it turns out, Amazing and Powerful Worthwhile Witchcraft really isn’t so complicated.  Writing about it for this blog, or thinking that I had to, is what had made it so.

Since October of 2009, I have published a total of 167 articles on this site.  My original intention to share “the art of living a merry and worthwhile mortal life” is intact.  I am the Ruler of My Empire.  I am the creator of my experience.  I am God.  And You Are Also.

Big sisters are the best.  Without Mary Jo, a modern Victory Garden would not be a story worth telling.

Home Blend

I was home from college for the weekend and all I wanted to do was sleep.

The scratchy wool rug on my sister’s hardwood floor was not a deterrent.  I tucked my arms underneath my chest, cradled the side of my face within the palms of my hand, and willingly surrendered myself to slumber.  I was making the full commitment, allowing myself to drift effortlessly within that magical realm where consciousness is suspended.  Physical awareness was yielding itself to the soothing waves of relief that were beckoning,

beckoning,

beckoning me,

ever so gently,

toward the glorious sea of tranquility…

“Ahhh…”

…And then there is something, somewhere, within this ethereal state of bliss that feels mildly incompatible.  It begins as a slightly foreign sensation, fluttering somewhere near the fringe of what I vaguely recall to be my right ear.  This curious signal audibly rises, producing a rather persistent disturbance, until I manage to register the intrusion of another human being.  A miniature voice releases a soft puff of graham cracker breath near my cheek, and I am finally able to discern the lyrics of the chorus that was now ringing through my head.

“Aunt Jilly,… Aunt Jilly,… Aunt Jiiilleeee…”

I have no recourse but to re-enter the world of the living.  My retreat into dreamland has been successfully thwarted by a pack of toddlers.

“Ugh.  Remind me to never have kids,” I vow in silence.

Sesame Street had just ended.  Currently, this was the one and only television show that my sister allowed her preschool-aged children to watch.  Twelve-hour broadcasts of Nickelodeon Junior and recorded episodes of Blue’s Clues were nonexistent.  Satellite television was science fiction.  None of us knew what a DVD was.

Had today’s technology been available, I suspect that my sister’s list of approved programming may have been more lenient.  As it was, Gen had a good bead on what, when, and how much media exposure to prescribe for her kids.  “The Electric Company” had not yet made the cut.  Leaving the television on for another twenty minutes or so (to let Aunt Jill catch some shut-eye) was not an option.

These were three smart, beautiful, well-behaved kids who promptly turned the television off during the final credits of Sesame Street…Because that’s what their mom had instructed them to do.

Splendid human specimens.  But I prefer to sleep, thank you very much.

Thirty years later with three grown children of my own, I obviously changed my mind.  Who needs sleep, anyway?

Parenting may be mostly instinctual, but I credit my sister Gen with the basic framework that I relied on to foster those instincts effectively.  Had it not been for the time I spent with Gen, (not sleeping), during her early years of  motherhood, I may have fumbled around for guidance and resources more than I ever felt like I had to with the Bean sprouts.

The great thing about being a grown-up is that you get to choose what feels right and healthy in the nurturing of new arrivals.  It always felt right for me to follow Gen’s lead.  Patience, kindness, an abundance of humor, age-appropriate mindfulness, and an unwavering focus on the individual nature of each and every little person who chooses us for a parent…these are the basic ingredients of Gen’s “home” recipe that I chose.

Now when my twenty-year old son tells me that he loves me, out loud, or my twenty-four year old daughter wants me to join her for a drink at the local pub, or my seventeen-year old baby brushes the side of my hand to hold it while we’re waiting in line at the store, I feel content with the decision to waive my right to sleep when they were much younger.

Thanks, Gen.  I may have tweaked the recipe when needed and incorporated a few substitutions, but I stuck with the basic ingredients that you gave me.  Your concoction has allowed me to foster a few of the best damn people on the planet…right there next to yours.

Congratulations, Grandma Genevra.  The fool-proof recipe continues:)

Best Witches

Boundaries blurred

Whispers heard

Be mindful of your spoken word

Let not intention be recanted

From seeds once planted

Requests be granted

Equals only be enticed

Review the guest list once or twice

Then light the candles

And fire up the blender

‘Tis no better night for wishes rendered!

Orderly Chaos

If the best laid plans go awry, then why do we bother making them?

It could be that surprises in life are what keep our interest in life itself.  Wondering how things may turn out could quite possibly be the one unheralded force within us.

Recent observations would indicate that the world seems slightly off-kilter.  There is an unmistakable feeling that defined normalcy is being altered.  It has recently been duly noted by many of us who cannot help but notice weirdness:)  For lack of better terms (or because we are beyond the need to explain the evolution of mankind to ourselves) we describe these observations as “shifts.”

Texts get lost, dependable routines produce curious monkey wrenches, and even the weather seems oddly out of its normal pattern.

So what’s the big deal?  Take a deep breath, sister, it’s not as if we do not know what to do.

Consider that we have been practicing for just such a human experience over many lifetimes that we have danced together.  We have learned to expect the unexpected, smile with abandon, and embrace the outcome.  When we place our unconditional trust in the highest good, we cannot get it wrong.

Right?!

I remember the time that we were in the mountains during one spring season many years ago.  As we walked down the path of a quaint local attraction, I couldn’t help but covet the endless rows of day lilies that lined every walkway we traveled.

With focused intention, I planned the layout of our driveway back home, envisioning an infinite row of blooming specimens that would fill the border along the brick path from the house to the road.

Within weeks upon my return, one of Durwood’s associates offered an unlimited supply of product from his nursery in lieu of monetary compensation owed Durwood for completed work.  Eureka!  He had day lilies galore.

After choosing over a hundred potted beauties in glorious uniform color, I spent several days preparing the soil and planting the lilies in orderly fashion, while being ever so careful to space them evenly along the entire length of the long driveway.  I set the irrigation timer appropriately, sat on the steps of the front porch, and marveled at the abundance of day lilies I was so fortunate to have obtained.  Some were just starting to bloom, and the rest were gearing up to produce a fabulous display of uniform color.  With great satisfaction, I looked forward with eager anticipation to a vision of endless day lilies blooming throughout the upcoming season ahead.

It was a season that never happened.

It wasn’t but a few days later that every single one of those day lilies just disappeared.

To a horse, a flower that is accompanied by tender blades of greenery represents a gourmet salad.  Lack of communication and fate led to the occasion when Katarina would let her horses roam around our property while she cleaned their stalls.  As the inevitable was fulfilled, it seems that I had provided a bountiful equine buffet that was eagerly consumed right down to the ground in one short afternoon.

So, yes.  I have practiced expecting the unexpected.  Many times.

As you, I have been provided with countless opportunities to let go of perceived developments.  I have practiced feeling my way around the unfolding of seemingly chaotic events.  I am becoming more familiar each day with reaching toward what can only be my interest in our highest good.  At this point, I am confident that sheer curiosity is what feeds the desire to hang around on the planet a little longer.

I am eager to see how it all turns out, sister.  Shall we dance once more?!

In the Meantime

There are many things about my sister Evie that I adore.  Among her many attributes, she maintains an attitude of nonchalance toward most things in life that many human beings might have a tendency to get ‘hung up’ on.

She has an expression that I love.  It is her all-inclusive “whatever” look.  There is a subtle shrug of the shoulders and a slight elevation of the eyebrows.  With a dismissive smile and a quick twitch in one corner of her mouth, no words are required to convey a clear message of indifference.  When Dr. Richard Carlson wrote his series on “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” he must have had someone like Evie in mind.

In the midst of a burgeoning love/hate relationship with her career as a full-time educator, raising two children, and focusing on the value of family-life while her husband works at least 16 hours a day, Evie always keeps her socks on straight.  She is a directional beacon.  Frying her big fish one at time, she never fails to properly disregard the several million sardines and minnows that are swimming through our life.

I watched Evie execute her trademark expression just last night while she was standing in our kitchen.  While describing the tumultuous events brewing throughout her recent day at work, I observed with amazement while Evie paused in mid-sentence to notice her son.

One-year-old Anson was cruising past us with an adult-sized toothbrush clenched between his teeth.  I quelled my reflex to confiscate the toothbrush and demand to know where in the hell he found it, opting instead to witness the tactics of my sister.  (After all, a big sister would be gracious to allow her younger sibling to take the lead on her own affairs.)

Evie displayed a momentary expression of curiosity as Anson proceeded to remove the toothbrush from his mouth, turn toward our beagle (who had been following him through the kitchen up to this point), and gently guide the slobber-soaked toothbrush down the surface of the dog’s back.  In one seamless motion, Anson took another  brush stroke along the dog’s coat, this time ending at the tip of her tail, and then finished his impromptu grooming session by opening his mouth to gingerly re-insert the now hair-filled bristles back into his mouth.

This is when I watched in adoration as my sister executed her ‘whatever’ shrug flawlessly.

Without a dramatic word, Evie calmly retrieved the toothbrush from her son’s mouth.  The trademark shrug was issued.  Without remote concern, or even the slightest bit of fanfare, my sister returned her attention directly to the conversation at hand.

Apparently, we have bigger fish to fry than entertaining the pointless energy of panic one might associate with a germ-ridden, fur-covered, throat-impaling instrument in the hands of a one-year-old.

Sugar and Spice

My brother Lou always says that there is never a problem knowing where our girls are playing.  The exact location is easily detected by simply listening for the source of the screaming.

It is a fool-proof system, really.  Wherever our young female charges are gathered together, there are sure to be some high-pitched verbal cues within their vicinity.  As sure as the sun will rise every morning, we can rely on the signature screams of little girls at play.

Boys, on the other hand, tend to keep the sound level of their adventures more discreet.  Discerning their exact location is not always as readily obtainable, as it seems that they would prefer their activities to remain a mystery.

Not much changes once we grow up.

Most big boys are often as verbally deficient as big girls are expressive.  The pleasure of having married a big boy and raising a son offers an ongoing opportunity to acquire a minimal set of communication skills.  I had some fun writing about this topic in a post titled, “What Is That Smell?”

It would appear that a variation of ‘screaming’ remains a common element of female energy, often rearing its abrasive characteristics throughout the many hormonal stages of maturity.  Female energy may indeed contain plenty of sugar, but it is the spice component that commands the most attention.  Many a poor and unfortunate soul have suffered the wrath of a woman scorned.

Undoubtedly fanning the hormonal flames of her early teenage years, we used to refer to Katarina as “Katie-Kaboom.”  After an initial attempt to playfully mention this nickname in her presence, we agreed to keep this description of Kat’s explosive behavior to ourselves.  It became a lot less stressful to just wink and nod to each other.  We preferred to huddle behind the bunkers every time Kat was in one of her heinous-bitch moods, since initiating some form of sane communication was futile.

I remember having to calculate the appropriate time to approach Kat.  I seized every opportunity to offer her guidance toward understanding her volatile moods, and made suggestions in order to deal with them.  Of course, she welcomed these conversations about as much as she liked going to the dentist.  When Durwood grew weary of her tirades, he decided to remove the hinges from her bedroom door one day while she was at school.

“Let her try and slam that damn door now,” he proclaimed.

This tactic may have delayed our progress toward understanding and compassion for teenage angst in the Bean household, but it did serve to improve Durwood’s position in the power struggle.

Natalie is sixteen now, and I am happy to report that her bedroom door remains on its hinges.  She definitely has her share of Katie-Kaboom moments, but the level of progress in the Bean domain appears to have advanced considerably.

With a compassionate smile and a nod of understanding, our twenty-two year old Kat will catch my attention during one of Natalie’s tempestuous outbursts.  With complete awareness, she will offer her most sincere condolences:

“For the love of god, Mom, I am sooo sorry…”

And may the female energy rage on:)

With Friends Like These…

One of the first suggestions made to clients who are seeking recovery from any form of addiction is to “find new friends.”

Seeking freedom from an addiction, or simply choosing to adopt a new and often unfamiliar approach to life is slightly smoother when you discontinue frequent interaction with others who engage in behavior that you view as personally destructive.  Eliminating unhealthy relationships might be one of the more obvious methods to improve your chances of a making successful changes in your life, but it is not always an option when these relationships include family.

As my sister-in-law Bethany would say, “We get to choose our friends, but we are always stuck with family.”

Since she married my brother, I suppose that would make us ‘stuck’ with each other…Bethany may be my sister-in-law, but we are also friends who support each other in healthy ways.  Making changes in your life is exciting when you have positive encouragement from loved ones, but what about other family members who continue to promote behavior that you are attempting to change in yourself?

I had a colleague who would remind people that they had two choices:  Sever your family ties completely, or accept that your relationship with family members will be superficial.  This makes perfect logical sense, but the theory is often difficult to carry out.  Emotional ties run deep.

For what seems like too many painful and frustrating years, I ignored the two-choice option.  Determined to change our family dynamics, I held on to the notion that I could somehow convert my loved ones.  All of my training and experience went right out the window as I continued to pursue a starring role in the “Jillian Saves Her Family” Chronicles.

This is what is referred to in psychology circles as “the bargaining stage.”  Like all phases of an emotional process (in this case mourning the loss of a family who will never know who you truly are), you eventually get through it.  In the end, you can only be true to yourself.

The process of knowing when to release your emotional ties with other individuals can only be determined by you.  You are the one who will always have your “best interest” in mind.  Should you find yourself in a circle of friends, or family, who are unable to appreciate, understand, or even acknowledge the choices you make, you can always smile and ask them how the weather has been lately:)

Once you make a conscious decision to ease yourself toward more suitable avenues of companionship, the genuine company you desire will manifest.  As true magic unfolds, you will notice that old friends and new acquaintances will flow into your experience at times that will benefit you both.

Perhaps the heartache of attempting to crack a few tough nuts in your life can be minimized by offering appreciation for their chosen path.  Honoring the choices of others facilitates the energy of your own growth, and releases the judgment that often accumulates within the unseen nooks and crannies of our soul.  It would seem futile to try and convince others to “see the light,”  when your ‘light’ is your own.  Allowing yourself to honor their path can only bring honor to your own journey.

Depending on the eyeglasses through which we are looking, what are we if not someone else’s version of a nut?

Crazy Train

Every family has their quirks.  Some are more deeply rooted in dysfunction than others, but all human beings who are associated through blood or marriage seem to have what could be defined as character flaws.

Among the several definitive features on my mother’s side of the family, there is one annoying custom that has persisted for at least a few generations.  I would describe it as a tendency to transform information about a family member into a widespread discussion topic, but it is basically nothing more than a propensity for gossip.

The likelihood that anything I share with my dear mother or one of my older sisters will be honored as a two-party exchange is slim.  Preemptive requests for discretion are futile.  The inherent pull of the extensive Vesela grapevine is so powerful that a fierce loyalty to consensus between sisters overcomes restraint.

Vesela women have traditionally bonded throughout history in their struggle to survive among their various alcoholic and often abusive husbands.  The custom of clinging to each other for strength seemed to be their only course of action, as if ‘leaving’ an abusive relationship were unheard of.

Not all of the Vesela sisters of my mother’s generation, and that of the one before hers, chose abusive husbands, but those who did continued to honor their marriage vows for better and usually worse.  Vesela women seek their comfort in religious devotion and the companionship of their sisters.

I suspect that the practice of accepting hardship and whispering anguish between them is what may have led to our family heritage of depending so unconditionally on the input of each other.  The habit of discussing and formulating opinions toward another family member (or a potential one), without directly confronting said person in question, is what may have led to this warped sense of discretion.  Vesela bloodlines carry a certain entitlement to evaluate the situation and behavior of others under the guise that “this is the way it is done.”

The good news is that subsequent generations possess the fresh perspective to recognize ingrained family dynamics that may be contributing to inherited dysfunction.  I recall an occasion several years ago when my nephew illuminated our family’s character flaw with insightful precision.

For many reasons (that I could write a book about some day), Nick and I have always been regarded as the “black sheep” of the family.  Both of us have been accused of several mysterious infractions concerning family protocol, one of which includes not knowing when to succumb to the unspoken rule that “blood is thicker than water,” even when ‘family’ is blatantly in the wrong.

I do not recall the details surrounding Nick’s predicament during this particular occasion.  I only remember what he said when I suggested that he relay his tumultuous feelings to his mother.

“No, thanks,” he spoke with conviction.  “It would not resolve anything between us.  Telling her how her behavior has made me feel will only incite a three-day-long crying fest among the aunts.  Just because it is something between me and Mom does not mean it will stay there.”

And there it was.  The obvious flaw among Vesela blood that would prevent a son from confronting his own mother.  Telling my sister the details of Nick’s anguish that her behavior had caused would ultimately only contribute to the madness.  I could only hope that offering Nick a level of deep understanding that would remain between us would suffice.  What a mess.

With time and effort, there are those of us with Vesela blood who have managed to break the cycle of dysfunction within our own relationships.  The ability to reject ingrained behaviors and adopt healthier methods of interaction with our loved ones is always an option.   For those of us who seek improvement, we would be mindful to recognize that this change is an individual accomplishment, and may not be desired among those that we continue to interact with.

Humor is a viable coping mechanism within a family dynasty that continues to promote disturbing habits.  I have a niece who fondly refers to the rapid movement of shared personal information between the women in our family as “The Vesela Express.”  Sharing a personal situation with certain Vesela women will most likely end up on the information highway.  Like a speeding train, the information and all implied extenuating circumstances will be discussed, evaluated, reviewed, and reconfigured appropriately across all available Vesela phone lines.  Once a consensus is established, the original situation will have taken on a life of its own.  Those of us who are aware of the powerful Express are ever mindful of what comes out of our mouth when speaking to a Vesela woman.

Now that I am about to click the ‘publish’ tab on this post, I can practically hear the train whistle blowing already:)

He’s Baack…

Upon further review, Aunt Jillian Olive Bean has retracted her formal resignation from child care.  I feel quite certain that my obligation to my nephew is not complete.

In a recent post titled “The End of an Era,” I described the recent events surrounding my decision to retire from watching my sister’s kids.  Evie is a full-time teacher, and I had been taking care of her daughter for the first two years of Caroline’s life.  All was going quite well with young Caroline until the third year when certain stressful circumstances began unfolding in my own life.  With the arrival of Caroline’s brother last spring, my blind determination to take care of him and his sister had helped to send me over the edge of reason.

With my level of sanity in question, my sister Evie had enlisted the assistance of other babysitters throughout the week to alternate days with me.  Most of this juggling routine was orchestrated in order to avoid any prospect of sending our precious babies to daycare.  Although Caroline was faring quite well with the rotation, Anson appeared unhappy.  So was I.  I spent the first eight months of Anson’s life crying as much as he did.  Both of us were cranky and difficult to be around.

My dear sister, in her infinite wisdom, decided to save all of us.  After countless interviews and research, she found a most satisfying alternative means of childcare.  Close to home and highly-rated, she located an exceptional daycare center where the kids could have the comfort of a home environment.  The center is brand new, the teachers are highly qualified, and the setting is warm and friendly.

It has been well over a month now since my niece and nephew began attending this state-of-the-art child care center.  Caroline is three years old.  She is in her element.

Anson, on the other hand, had spent the first few weeks crying.

Every baby needs an adjustment period, of course.  It had been a tough year for the little guy, but consistency would eventually factor into the equation.

“He’s going to be just fine,” Evie assured me.

“Of course he will,” I agreed.

“He gets to go to school with his sister every day, see other babies, and interact with the same caregivers on a daily basis.  He will adjust to his new environment soon,” I reminded my sister with great conviction.

Then I saw him.

Apparently, state-of-the-art childcare does not include allowing sick children to attend.  Anson was running a fever (most likely some bug he picked up in DAYCARE), and would have to stay with Auntie O until he was cleared to resume future participation at the daycare center.

He was here for two days.  Small children are typically needy when they are sick, but my instincts were alerting me to a deeper requirement.  Anson’s little spirit was yearning for a shot of confidence that only a one-on-one nurturing act of ‘trust’ can provide.  It did not seem fair to me that Caroline had been provided this opportunity, and not her brother.  I had been too preoccupied with my own personal issues to offer this little guy the one-on-one time that every baby deserves.

I wanted him back.

As a mother of three grown children, I now recognize the fleeting time span  of precious babyhood.  As many times as my own mother would remind me that “they do not stay babies for very long,” I was not able to appreciate this wisdom while I was so damn busy raising them.  In the complete spectrum of one’s entire life on our beautiful planet, the first few formative years of infancy are but a blink-of-an-eye.

Amidst some speculation that Auntie Jillian “O” Bean just doesn’t want to get a real job, little A-man and I will be taking this blink-of-an-eye period quite seriously, thank you very much.

Lower your eyebrows, people:)

Dealer’s Choice

My sister Evie is a very gifted teacher.  She spends every school day (and more) working with 11 to 13 year-old middle school students.  Young minds benefit from her fundamental words of guidance that apply to every human being.

“We all make choices,” Evie reminds us.

Right you are, dear sister.  How often we forget that we have options!  We are making choices constantly, even in our choice to believe that we do not have options.

There is a common belief among many human beings that most of what occurs in our life is out of our hands.  As active participants in the human realm, it is not our fault.  This is the way that it has been done for thousands of years.

Coming to terms with the idea that we have the ability to pick and choose our preferences in life is a foreign concept for most of us.  It is not until we have allowed ourselves to arrive at a turning point in our journey that we can even begin to entertain the notion that we are receiving everything that we are asking for.

We are comfortable with our excuses.  We are adept at adhering to the established belief systems that justify the concept of limited control.

“These are the cards that I have been dealt.  My only wiggle room lies in my decision concerning what I will do with them.”

Who questions that?!  It makes incredible sense in our conscious mind.  It is what we have been told, what we have learned, and what we have been programmed to accept as truth.  It is the reasoning that we have been offered by the powers that be for thousands of years!  We consider this to be sound and rational advice.

What if I were to decide that I do not want to accept that any more?  What if I were to decide that I wanted to pick the ‘cards’ myself?  I would declare that fate is not the dealer.  I am.

Here would be a typical response:

“Good luck with that!”

And there it is.  The propagation of self-doubt.  Just the right dose of logic and well-defined sanity to deflate our expansion toward a sovereign birthright to choose our cards from the Universal realm of Unlimited Potential.

Until we can imprint an unconditional belief in the privilege to choose our own hand of cards, our perceived potential will remain limited.

How does one begin the process of imprinting a new belief system?  When our hearts whisper the truth and yet our mind continues to speak loudly,  forward progress can be initiated by providing the conscious and rational mind with some evidence.  Evidence for the conscious mind can offer a ‘back door’ approach to adopting a new belief system.

(Most of us have had that desire when we just want our ‘head’ to keep quiet and stop playing the ‘devil’s advocate’ every time our heart seeks a Universal Truth.)

This example may be a relevant example to consider:

“Getting fired from that job was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Of course, it may not have felt that way at the time.  It is unlikely during circumstances such as these that we even care to admit the possibility that we have chosen the cards that caused the loss of a job.

What do we accept as our truth?  Is it that we had determined this fate ourselves, but only when it is apparent, and therefore convenient to do so?  Or do we let ourselves off the hook by assigning the responsibility to a Higher Power who knew what was best for us at the time?

Isn’t there always someone else to blame, or give credit to?  Our conscious mind would have us believe so.

You are the Master Dealer.  Trusting in the Master’s hand is a process that requires your full attention.  If you do not care for the cards that you have been dealt throughout this particular round, perhaps it may be time to change the deck you are choosing from?

Try not to answer with the rational mind.  Look to your heart on this one:)

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