Monday, January 25, 2010

remembering martha edna compton

January 23rd would have been my Mamaw's birthday.

Even though she passed away while I was in my early twenties, she has remained with me and continues to be an influence during those times I need a bit of guidance.

While Mamaw was born on what some call Compton's Mountain, she was not born a Compton. She came into the world as Martha Edna Dingus, one of fourteen children born to Paddy and Nannie Dingus. The Dingus family was poor and the family shared just two rooms in a shack that held no luxuries, not even that of running water.

Martha counted herself lucky to make it through the second grade when she then had to drop out to cook for the men and help raise the babies after her elder sisters had married and were starting families of their own. Now that I am grown, I am awed at the dedication and desire to learn she had to teach herself how to read and write. She had beautiful handwriting and rarely a misspelled word.

She married late by 'hill' standards. I think she and my Papaw married when she was nineteen. I wouldn't venture to say that life was easy then, but she married into a well respected family who owned a butcher shop, local stores, and had the wealth of much land. Somewhere along the line my Daddy was born. Ten years later Uncle June arrived. The stores closed, Papaw left the mines and Mamaw became the breadwinner by working in a sewing factory.

During my childhood she lived in a four room shack without heat or water. She began the day when it was dark and stoked the coal cooking stove to make breakfast as much as to heat the house. She fed her family, worked a full day, and fed her family again in the evening. No fast food meals, most meals included her yummy buttermilk biscuits and fresh food from the large garden my Papaw tended. Her Saturday's centered around a trip to the laundry mat and grocery stores where she not only took care of her home's needs but also that of her elderly mother. Sunday was for church, often both morning and evening.

In my tenth year my Mom and I lived with my Grandparents for eight months while we awaited housing to join my father in Bamberg, West Germany (there was a West Germany then). That year my grandparents moved into their new home. It was made of block and brick and held six rooms. Running water did not come until later and always remained hit or miss as it relied on rainwater caught in a cistern. There were still trips to the laundry mat and heating with the fireplace when heating costs were high, but my Mamaw had nicer things and loved her home and the land on which it sat.

All of her life she lived on the mountain, within a mile of the shack in which she was born. She loved the land and had a real appreciation for all of God's creatures large and small. She shared with me her love of being with nature - the beauty of a butterfly, the antics of a groundhog, the gifts of the trees and berry bushes.

When I think of Martha Edna Compton, first my heart fills with warmth of having been loved well my an amazing woman. Then my thoughts turn to a woman who created a good life from hard beginnings, who knew the value of learning and growing, who never complained, nor had a harsh word about others, who loved her family and loved her earth. Still, I am learning from her and from the example of how she lived her life with a kind heart, determination, and spirit.

Happy Birthday, Mamaw...thank are greatly missed

Friday, January 22, 2010

picking up an instrument

Today I checked off the first box to completing one of my 2009 New Year's goals. Yes, I know it is 2010, but this one took a little longer to get to the root of.

See, I am a music lover. Music interweaves with just about every part of my life. I start each and every day with my 'start the day music'. Music to get me centered to start the day joyfully. Rarely is there not music playing in the background as I go about my day (right now am I listening to Nawang Khechog's music as medicine). Much of my social life is centered around music events, whether seeing favorite (or new) local musicians or the big names that come through town. The only place music is absent for me is during work. Not that there is a barrier to me listening to music as I go about my work day (that is when I am working), but I get lost in the takes me to other places. Not so good when you have objectives and goals to meet.

My love for music began early. Gotta thank my Mom for that one. Some of my earliest memories are of her putting on 50s and 60s tunes and she and I dancing the night away. As much as music has been a part of life from the get go, I have never played an instrument. Not sure why really. I could give you the excuse that we moved alot when I was a kid. That many of the schools I attended were too poor or too understaffed to have band. That would be true, but plenty of folks figure out how to teach themselves and make it happen. I didn't.

My friend, Marilyn, figured it out. She played French Horn in High School (maybe even earlier) and majored in music in college. I first met her many years ago at an annual music event she hosts. Not only does she play french horn, she also sings, plays guitar and keyboards, writes her own songs, and plays a mean cowbell. She ignited in me a little flicker that I might be able unleash my inner musician and play an instrument, too.

I spent a year savoring the thought of picking up an instrument. At first, it was those type of instruments you can actually pick up...the bango or the guitar. Then, I landed with the piano. Can't say why for sure, but I can say I am happy with my choice and happy with the new (to me) digital piano that sits in my loft waiting for me. Now I just have to learn to play it. Let the journey begin...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

taking on the happiness project

As we begin each new year I set aside time to reflect on the previous year and set some goals for the coming year.

Last year I took a stab at a new angle and wrote about it here.

I wouldn't say I failed, but I will say that I missed the mark to hit it in 2009. Revisiting the post I realize that these desires have lived with me as goals this past year, but seem to be more likely to manifest in 2010. This very afternoon I am off to look at a set of keyboards to get that 'learn an instrument' goal underway. And, in my new job search, I am focusing on roles and companies that meet that passion I seek in my work life.

Just as I was beginning to think about the coming year and what my desires were for 2010, "The Happiness Project" book arrived on my doorstep courtesy of my aunt and her family. The objective of the book is something I can certainly get into for the New Year...BE HAPPIER!

After devouring the Getting Started and January chapters, I have taken the first steps in the journey to create more happiness. Some of it is very little things...some take a more consistent commitment. I am looking forward to the road that lies ahead and look forward to sharing it with the author, Gretchen Rubin, chapter by chapter as the year progresses.

You can check out more of what this is all about on Gretchen's blog. Interested in joining the happiness journey? She has also invited us all to join the 2010 Happiness Challenge by signing this petition.

I am tossing in my January list as much as a reminder to myself as to share it with you. I'd love to hear what you are shooting for this year to increase your happiness and live more of the life you love.

*Get more sleep
Shooting for 8 hours plus. Making it more days than I used to. AND, when I do hit that 8 hour mark, not only do I have more energy and greet the day with more enthusiasm, I am also a more patient, kinder soul.
*Provide myself a time buffer
Instead of using up every last minute and rushing to get to where I am going and arriving in a flustered state, I am giving myself a bit of extra time. Amazing how this provides a calmer arrival and me in a more receptive state of mind.
* Move more
This crud I have had for 4 weeks has thrown a wrench in this, but I am targeting more movement to the tune of Yoga 2x/wk, Dance 2x/wk, Being Outside 2x/wk
* Do it now
Adopted this one from Gretchen and it is making a difference already. If it takes moments to do, I am addressing it in the moment instead of putting it off. The result is a shorter to do list, less mental tracking of what I have not gotten to and fewer piles yelling at me. Nice!
* Declutter
I am a pretty neat person already, but have to fess up my office has gotten out of hand. Tackling it a little a day and look forward to having it done by the time we roll this month over to February.