Friday, July 5, 2013

Bring On The Flood

words seem to fall short right now, but i will try.

we lost my Dad last week. it was unexpected but not shocking at the same time. he'd been battling illness for years, and though he wasn't sick at the time of his passing, we all knew he was exhausted. and so, in an empty house on a sunny Sunday afternoon, my sweet Daddy laid down and went to sleep. not in a hospital hooked up to tubes and machines, with all of us gathered around saying tearful goodbyes, but comfy and safe in his own bed. he left this world in utter tranquility, and was instantly freed of the chains that bound him here.

needless to say, however, the fallout has been devastating for my family. one thing is certain: there is no walking around death. it is only by walking through the pain that we reach the other side, and right now that pain is acute and deep for us all. when i heard the news, my instant prayer was for my Momma and siblings, that our Creator would give us some measure of comfort to fill the sudden gaping hole in our lives.

and my prayers have been answered in the form of angels on Earth. we have received an outpouring of Love so deep that i stand overwhelmed and humbled at the grace of others. in this time of incredible despair, i also find myself feeling immeasurable gratitude and joy.

my goal has been to be as fully present as possible, knowing the great challenges we all will face in the coming months. Grief and i have learned to live with each other over the past two years. i know her well. i've walked this path before, but this time i feel more equipped. this time i must take the lessons i've learned to help those around me navigate these dark waters. this time will be different. this time i will not fall.

while i am in such deep sadness, the highest part of me now understands and recognizes that there is always a bigger picture. i do not know what the higher plan is, and for the first time in my life i'm totally ok with releasing a need to know. why should my little human self ever attempt to control the uncontrollable? if i've learned anything over the past two years, it's this: God has a plan and His plan is good. always.

a heartfelt "thank you" to every single person who has held up my family in any form over the past two weeks. may you recognize our deep gratitude for helping us walk through this time. we could not do this without you. we Love you all.

xo, morgan

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Money Musings

When I said changes, I meant serious business. My husband and I have recently both put in resignations at our current day jobs, and are starting our respective new ones on the exact same day in july. There is substantial risk here, for we are taking a pay cut and leaving the comfort and safety of insurance and benefits. The exchange? More flexibility with our hours, which means increased creativity and more time with each other and our loved ones. For once, we are shifting focus away from the worry of the dollar sign and toward the light of our intuition. Like I said in the previous entry: Simplicity and joy. Bottom line.

For the Me of even one year ago, all of the changes necessary for a life overhaul would not just have seemed terrifying, but damn near impossible. Back then, it was a good day if I took a shower. But conscious growth and intentional living are powerful tools, indeed, and I now find myself poised and ready for whatever life brings. 

So far, I've found true change isn't pretty or comfortable at first. It requires you to sit and marinate in your crap for awhile. It requires you to detach from yourself and look at the situation to see where you may have screwed up to get you here in the first place. It requires you open the closet and let the skeletons fall out on top of you. It requires forgiveness. 

In short, change requires you to be really, really brave. And brevity isn't about not being scaredquite the opposite. It's about feeling the terror and walking through it anyway, a yearning to be on the other side of the pain. And it is in this holy instant that pure alchemy takes place, for it is through even the smallest willingness to see things another way that miracles occur.

For me, a big block in the way of my happiness has been finances. Like many, I grew up with parents who were not always wisest with their money (they would tell you this themselves if you asked!). Many of these habits have slowly and unconsciously seeped in, going mostly unnoticed or ignored for my entire adult life. It is only through going through the discomfort of facing the mistakes I've made, and looking at the numbers objectively that I felt moved to change the story, once and for all. This meant taking a long, hard look at our spending, resulting in an overhaul of our entire budget. We are looking at the situation through different lenses, and are spurred to embrace what we once ran from: paying bills on time, massively cutting expenses, and actually picking up the phone when Sallie Mae calls.

i've enlisted many helpers along this new path. One is the book "Peace and Plenty: Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity," by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Comforting, yet practical, this little gem has had a marvelous impact on the way I see abundance in my everyday life. It is divided into short, daily chapters, allowing you to take her sensible advice in bite-sized chunks. I don't know about you, but just thinking about finances can get me tense, and this book certainly eases the pain. It helped me to understand that I have it within me to face my past hardships while still being kind and loving to myself. Also, this book is chock-full of thrift and household tips to help you improve your living on a budget.

Which leads me to the next tool that has aided me in my financial overhaul. Living Well, Spending Less is by far my newest blog addiction. Writer Ruth Soukup is a thrifty mom of four with a beautiful story and a fabulous voice. Her user-friendly site has advice on everythingclipping coupons, Do-It-Yourself home projects, organization, and wellness. The website has way too much content for one visit; I recommend starting with her series, The Beginner's Guide to Savings. Make sure to download these awesome free budget worksheets

Overall, I am feeling more confident about my financial future than I ever have before. I've faced the demons, and now there's nowhere to go from here but up. 

I'd like to encourage all of you to seek freedom from your money woes! Ask yourself the question: "What small step can I take today toward financial serenity?" One small step. That's all it takes.

xo, Morgan

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Observations From A Coffee Shop

hands clasped in front.
staring holes through the barista,
who conveniently never catches your eye.
waiting for coffee, waiting for traffic to subside,
waiting to be home.
waiting for the instant when it doesn't constantly feel
like the other shoe will drop.
listless, restless, mindless, 
you constantly grasp for fictitious moments
that haven't quite arrived, and sadly never will.
future is elusive, always one step ahead,
slipping with a whisper, beckoning us
with better things.
so instead of being now
instead of the soft jazz music,
the smell of coffees blended like a nasal symphony,
the taste of expectancy for your afternoon fix
instead of any of this (or in spite of it all),
you fill your mind with jibber jabber,
like an annoying next door neighbor
who keeps you in the yard too long.
the chatter keeps you stagnant,
blocks you from feeling, from knowing, from being
exactly who you were designed to be.
shut up, wake up, smell the coffee!
and the cosmos will arrive at your feet
ready for you to put aside your guilty past,
and your worrisome future.
accept the the fullness of this holy instant,
and the peace and joy you crave
will fall upon you like waves.
the entire Universe is contained within you
as you pretend to wait for a latte,
standing. hands clasped in front.

―Morgan McClure

Monday, June 10, 2013

Emerging From the Fog.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. 
It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” 
― Albert Einstein

For the past ten months or so, my husband Tim and I have been emerging from what I'm now calling the "Mid-Twenties Fog." Looking back, it's as though the past three years were a party we threw to forget that we are growing older. While going through growing pains and loss, we made irresponsible choices, or sometimes just ignored the tough stuff completely. We turned up the music and danced faster, ignoring adulthood and the doom it would undoubtedly bring. And ignorance was certainly blissfor a while.

Now that the bumping base has been turned down, the smoke has cleared, and the guests have gone home, we have awoken from our ego-medicated dreams to the reality of the life we have: debt, bad spending habits, and jobs that leave us unsatisfied. We are looking deeply at our lives and find ourselves on the same page. We are agreed in our spirits that it's finally time to get real and grow up.

Don't get me wrong, I am certainly aware of every single blessing: wonderful family, friends, food to eat, and an apartment that we have made our home. My creativity is thriving. I am healthy. I have a great dog. The list goes on. I will say one thing about a spiritual journey: it will teach you gratitude. Joy and gratitude go hand in handI've found it's impossible to feel one without the other. When one fully allows herself to appreciate the abundance that already surrounds her, joy multiplies and the universe always brings more.

This newfound awareness of the value of what one already has does come with a flip side: "I want more. I deserve the best life possible for me here on this earth." After all, if we're not at our best, how can we ever expect to give our best to others?

So here we are, ready and willing for change. And we're not playing around here. I find myself now addicted to money-saving and thrift blogs, pouring over their contents for ways to cut our expenses. My husband is venturing into the foreign world of car mechanics. We are leaving no stone unturned; there is no idea we won't listen to, no book we won't read, no method we won't try. We are looking for ways to simplify and add joy. Bottom line.

And the results so far? Abundance and blessings are falling in waves. I recently accepted a new teaching and directing position at a local children's theatre, which will certainly add to our monthly income. I'm auditioning like crazy. We are looking at houses.

And, oh yeah...
Yesterday we brought this guy home to join our family:

World, meet Bandit!
Changes, indeed. :)

xo, morgan

Thursday, May 30, 2013

the morning question

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.” 
― Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

i'd like to open with a simple question: how do you spend your morning? no really, i want to know.

if you'll allow me, i'd like to go back about two years and tell you the typical start to my day:
open eyes angrily. roll over and immediately check the smartphone for the ten million INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT things that have occurred in the 8 hours i wasn't connected. scroll through the initial barrage of emails and check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr. feet finally hit the floor. go into the kitchen and immediately turn on the news to see the big headlines. pour a giant cup of coffee (with milk and TWO spoonfuls of sugar, thank you very much). stumble into the bathroom to jump in the shower, texting the boss as i go.

and BAM, just like that! i'm already at my mundane little day job...and i haven't even washed my face.

so now, let's paint a different picture. what if your morning was quiet and without disruption? what if you had a moment or two to begin your day with thanks? what if you acknowledged the incredible miracle of life that allows you to open your eyes and take your next breath? how would this impact your day?

for me, the morning practice carries incredible priority. over time, this routine has taken many forms that have changed and morphed and will continue to do so: i pray, i sit, i read, i stretch, i write. i can always sense an acute difference between the Morgan that is rushed out of bed and into her task (screaming and kicking the entire way), and the Morgan who begins the morning in quiet gratitude and meditative joy. i have come to cherish this time of day. it is here that i connect with the Divine, thus paving the way for peace, regardless of what circumstances may arise.

one particular exercise that i find useful is the "Morning Pages," taken from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. this exercise allows the very first part of the day to be spent writing, stream-of-consciousness, longhand. anything that pops into your head is acceptable, from "I need to get a gallon of milk," to "How will we afford the mortgage this month?" i find this form of journaling incredibly therapeutic, as it allows me to completely empty my brain of all the thoughts accumulated while sleeping. i am then able to move into my morning with literal peace of mind, which always puts one ahead of the game. i mean, seriously: how can you pray for someone else when you can't get your own crap out of your head? if you're interested in morning journaling and looking for a place to start, it's here.

don't get me wrong. there are many days when it doesn't go so smoothly for me, when my "ideal morning ritual time" gets cut short by some circumstance or another. most times i'm able to adapt somewhat successfully. but there are those days (typically once every couple of weeks) when i can't get past the world. when, for whatever reason or another, my brain starts yelling at me from moment one, and i can't get the train back on the tracks.

and those days are ok, too. we need the lows to fully appreciate the highs.

what i know for sure: my day can veer rapidly off course when i roll out of bed and am connected to my phone from moment one. this brings me to a goal i'm setting for the next week: no technology for at least the first hour that i'm awake. wish me luck!

so now i beg the question: how do you start your day? honesty is appreciated! if you have a morning practice you would like to share, please post any tips or recommendations below. if you don't have any sort of routine, but are willing to start with even 5 minutes each day, please share, too. whatever it is, i encourage you to talk and get it out there. transparency is the first step to healing and change!

i'm grateful for everyone out there reading this! thanks for the love.
xo, morgan

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

art for the bedroom

this week i've found myself on a creative jag. school out and no rehearsal? let the art commence! i wanted to create pieces for two spaces in my home: above my desk in the studio, and over the bed in our bedroom.

i began with blank 8x10 canvasses and some spare frames i got FOR FREE from my sister-in-law. didn't feel like mixing, so i picked up a couple of pre-made colors that matched the bedroom (Academy Acrylic, "Yellow Ochre" and "Burnt Sienna.") the only thing i knew was that i wanted to play with painter's tape and the freedom of splattering the color.

here's what i came up with for the bedroom:

here are all three pieces in their frames.

and here they are, hanging over our bed! i am so happy with the results.

i am working on the art for the studio. stay tuned for the results!

xo, morgan

Friday, May 24, 2013

the obligatory first entry.

"At the peak of tremendous and victorious effort, while the blood is still pounding in your head, all suddenly becomes quiet within you.
Everything seems clearer and whiter than ever before, as if great spotlights had been turned on. At that moment you have the conviction that you contain all the power in the world. That you are capable of everything, that you have wings. There is no more precious moment in life than this, the white moment, and you will work hard for years just to taste it again.
- Yuri Vlasov

typical exchange for me recently:
me: "i'm thinking of starting a blog."
the other person: "what's it going to be about?"

stick with me, dear reader. we'll get there.
first, some history.

the past three years have been chock-full of life for me. after grad school, things kicked into overdrive. i was able to keep the ball in the air for ego was definitely having a great time. in truth, however, i was putting patches on a dam that was about to burst and flood my soul with the biggest reckoning i've faced so far.

almost two years ago, i experienced the tragic loss of a dear loved one. her death shook me to my core. this explosion to my little world was a force that was cataclysmic at the time. it was ugly in me; dark, and murky. painful. full of tears and anger and regret and guilt. inside (and on the bathroom floor), i screamed questions about everything: my faith, my relationships, my sanity. my work started to suffer. my husband didn't know me. we were broke. suddenly, i had fallen more deeply than ever before. i couldn't see out. some days, i didn't want to.  i had become comfortable in the muck.

in hindsight, the funniest part is that i was in deep denial about it all. it's like i was asleep.
Mistress Misery rode my back throughout the days, like a giant black leech of despair and grief, threatening to suck the life out of anyone who stood in her path. she became my new identity, melding almost seamlessly with the selfish, controlling, diva persona that my ego had spent the previous twenty-six years crafting.

then one day, in one holy instant,
i woke up to life.
and everything changed.

i've been told more than once that the third decade of a life is all about figuring it out.
well. i suddenly find myself at the tail-end of my twenties, really awake. maybe for the first time.
i'm looking backwards, forwards, and all around. i feel no closer to knowing who i am. i don't know if i ever will.

and this is strangely ok, because i think i'm finally starting to understand who i'm not. 
i'm not the ugly part of me that's been in so much pain. i'm not the part of me that inflicts pain on others.  i'm not my body. i'm not even the myriad of emotions i feel, or the vicious thoughts that often race through this brain. in fact, none of us are any of those things. that way madness lies.

for the past year, i have been in relentless and passionate pursuit of happiness. i'm eating well. i'm sleeping. i'm painting. i'm exercising. and i'm reading...voraciously. i'm putting together the puzzle pieces of this life to figure out what causes me to be filled to the brim with serenity and joy.

which leads us to this blog. what will it be? i have no clue.
what i can say for sure is that i find myself craving a vehicle to connect with others through words. a little cyber-corner of comfort; a place to ask the big questions, tickle the funny bone, inspire creativity, share art, nurture self-love...and who knows? maybe a DIY tutorial or two. ;)

so, here goes.
may the Force and Gods of the Blogosphere be with me!

xo, morgan