Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year

The new year begins in gratitude....thank you, brave souls, for adding your voice!
Here is our group affirmation-manifesto for 2011:

I feel limitless because I am strong and resilient.
I feel hopeful because I've weathered a lot so far.
I feel secure because I have inner resources.
I give myself permission to be creatively productive because I am self motivated and creative.
I am a healthy person so I will get enough rest and exercise to maintain a strong body.
I feel calm and accepting of wherever my path takes me because I have the skills to creatively adapt and flourish.
I feel powerful because I stand each day in what I know is true and avoid spiraling into negativity.
I am loving, so I am loved.

I love it! Thank you all...may we all draw on each others' wisdom and strengths.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Manifesto 2011

Here is an invitation for you. I love the power of the group, and thought it would be uplifting if we could compose a manifesto together. A manifesto for 2011. I originally wanted to call it a "mother's manifesto" but it seemed too limiting.
There is much written out there about how to best construct an affirmation, and you are welcome to add your ownway of composing an affirmation. One thing I came across and like is the use of "I feel" rather than "I am". "I am" felt too pretentious tome...especially if I didn't think I could quite live up to what I was trying to affirm.
So, my suggested format for this affirmation is as follows:
I feel :            because I am:
The first part is something you want to strengthen...affirm in yourself. The second part is something you already feel is a strength of yours.

For instance, I can be snappy and crabby. I can also be nurturing. So, I can capitalize on this and have my affirmation reflect the fact that because I am nurturing, I have the capacity to choose nurturing in any given moment, even the crabby moments.
Hence,
I feel calm and accepting because I am nurturing to myself and others.

Now, your invitation has been extended. Please leave your contribution to the manifesto in the comments (comment anonymously if desired) or on Facebook. I will compile them all by Friday and we shall have a collective, strengthening, powerful vision of hope for the new year. I do hope you will join me in celebrating our strengths and supporting each other in who we are becoming, whether we have met or not.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Coming Year-Reminder Pictures

There was little time for stillness and reflection while swept up in the busy::sleep-less::scattered past few days. Lucky for me, I had found moments to reflect and be calm before the holidays started swinging.
My first thought was reminder pictures. Reminder pictures are a tool we use at our school to help children hold an inner picture of themselves as doing the right thing. For instance, if a child has been reminded in class to stop goofing off with his neighbor, and continues to do it, he might be given a reminder picture where he draws himself working quietly. In thinking about the holy nights, I was reminded of the things I need to cultivate within myself.
The second thought was of my home. In looking around my home, there are few things that truly speak about who I am, who this family is. Maybe someone from outside would think differently, but I feel there is an emptiness there. I believe the things you surround yourself with affect you.
The third thought I had was about art and creativity. Art has always been a compulsion for me....a way of being in the world...a way of making sense of my personal history...a way to process, organize, and express. It has been a compulsion and a drive. Ultimately, though, living the creative process has been a way for me to heal. I want to bring consciousness to that.  I want to work on strengthening my voice.
I want to paint.
I fear painting. I buy canvases on sale and tease, "oh, those are for retirement. I will paint when I retire." But when I look deeper, the truth is, I am scared. I am scared of being empty. I am scared of being imperfect. I am scared I won't have something to say. I am scared that what I produce won't be good enough. I am not the most skilled artist in the world.

I am going to summon the courage to work through that fear. I am going to listen to the parts of me that say, "so what if it isn't good enough?? So what if it isn't this or that? SO WHAT?" I am going to paint through all those parts that say this and say that and find my Self, my voice. This is important work! This is healing.
So, I would like to do a series of reminder pictures. I would like to use them to strengthen the qualities I have, and help remind me that I am developing areas of weakness. However, I am not going to limit myself to just painting. I would like to allow myself to write poetry, sew, knit, draw, whatever inspires me. I will allow myself to be inspired by others instead of stifling myself with this illusion that I can somehow be original.
My list is going to come in the next few days. I think words like tolerance, nurturing, kindness, family, openness, lack of anxiety, spirituality, connectedness, organization, creativity...these are things I'd like to nurture. I'd like to think of more so I have a pool to pull from. But if I process, through art, one word a month (sort of like the holy nights but different), at the end of the year I will have "pictured" myself....and remind myself who I am, where I come from, and who I would like to be. At the very least, I will have a strong inner journey. And just maybe I will be able to surround myself and our home with these pictures.
Whew! Thanks for reading this. If you were around last year, you know from my Hero of the Sanctuary (see labels) journey that I am fond of new year's plans. Tomorrow I have an invitation I would like to extend to all of you, and you can join me and be part of a collective affirmation. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 24, 2010

On the Eve of Christmas

Love and Light

At Christmas Eve dinner




There's one in every neighborhood! The nicest neighbors.....



What can I say? It was the best picture we could take considering the dog was there.

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holy Nights

 For years now, a group has met to contemplate and meditate during the holy nights. I am not always able to go to these gatherings and hope to this year. Following are the themes we are given to discuss. I do not know who wrote it, so I wish I had someone to attribute it to (anyone?)
There is also Lynn Jericho's Inner Christmas, which also has some good spiritual food for the soul.
 
                               Virtue                                                           Its Opposite

Dec. 24 (January) courage becomes the power to redeem             timidity, anxiety
Dec. 25 (February) discretion becomes meditative strength            comment, criticism
Dec. 26 (March) magnanimity becomes love                                 pettiness, narrowness
Dec. 27 (April)  devotion becomes the force of sacrifice                no concern, spring fever
Dec. 28 (May) inner balance becomes progress                            externals take over, too busy
Dec. 29 (June) perserverance becomes faithfulness                        loss of grip, giving up
Dec. 30 (July) selflessness leads to catharsis                                  self absorption, willfulness
Dec. 31 (August) compassion leads to freedom                             heartlessness, insensitivity
Jan. 1 (September) courtesy becomes tactfulness of heart              lack of consideration, insensitivity
Jan 2 (October) contentment becomes equanimity                         complaint, dissatisfaction
Jan 3 (November) patience becomes insight                                  hurry, loss of temper
Jan 4 (December) control of speech becomes feeling for truth        gossip, judgment, slander
             

Friday, December 17, 2010

Greyscape

We woke up to this:










 Lots of ice, icicles, "skating", and trying to walk outside.
Lots of baking, making, and snow day celebrating inside.
My heart has been wrapped in my home, and I have savored being present there this time of year.
I did a guest post on Magic Onions.
Thinking of you with gratitude...thanks for reading and sharing with me this year.

Monday, November 29, 2010

snapshots

We woke up to this:




There is peace in wondering at clouds...we took pause to take pictures and take in the sharp air. I have an endless fascination for clouds. I could have stood there all day and watched them. I am grateful for being there when these hung so close we could see their colors.
Awake and off to school, where Serena thrived and I struggled with one class in particular. It is the day after a break, after all, a little chaos is to be expected.
Back home after trying to balance intervention with letting them work it out, and then trying to balance the same thing at home. After school playdate for Serena. Davis is cranky...he has been sick. I nurse him. He is easily frustrated. After much wanting to be held, and being held, nursing, and complaining in a 23-month-old's way, we settled down to make soup. Chop, chop, choppity, chop, we sing, we are both soothed by this, until another wave of un-communicable toddler frustration ensues. Somehow, the soup gets made, pumpkin muffins get made, and we all eat it for dinner. Clean up, a bath, a story book read five times, and a long story for Serena while Davis nurses to sleep.
It is 7 p.m. Serena has me to herself, and takes full advantage of my newly-freed attention. I listen to her stories of the day, her wishes for christmas, writing a letter to Santa (I think I'll write an "A", she says. I explain that there is another meaning for "letter") Daddy comes home, they talk, she goes to bed.
And now, a peaceful rain is falling on our neighborhood, among the newly-hung lights. The house is quiet, my mind is not. This holiday madness is a joyful kind of stress.
Everything is bigger at Christmastime....traffic, schedules, money. Wonder, hope, love.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A recipe for you!






The Serena Sweater
Yarn: Brown Sheep Cotton fleece
Needle: Size 7 circular (It was a long one) and set of 5 size 7 double points
For a size 6/7 girls', Cast on 74 over 4 double points , join for knitting in the round
Knit 2 rounds. On second round, knit 13, PM, K1, PM, K 10, PM, K 1, PM, K 25, Pm, K1, PM, K 10, PM, K 1, PM, K 12 (place different marker here to indicate beginning of round if desired)
Knit, increasing one stitch on either side of marked stitch (k to marker, K 1 f&b, slip marker, k 1, slip marker, k 1 f&b)
Knit a round in between increase rounds.
Knit until the sweater just meets at the armpits. I knitted mine until it was a touch longer, to add for growth.
Place the sleeve stitches on scrap yarn and join the bodice for working in the round. Count your stitches. At the underarms, cast on about 6 extra stitches. The goal is to end up with a multiple of 3. On this sweater, it was 120 stitches.
Knit one round.
Feather and fan round: * K2 tog (3 x) K 1, YO (3 x)*, repeat from * * all the way around.
Knit 2 rounds plain.
Repeat feather and fan round once more.
Knit, adding side increases every 3 inches.
When sweater is desired length, k a round, p a round to create a garter stitch border. Mine was 10 rounds.
Cut yarn. Place sleeve stitches on double points, adding the same number of  extra stitches that you did at the underarms. Knit until sleeves are desired length, adding a garter stitch border as above.
Repeat for second sleeve.
Weave in ends. If desired, crochet around the neck edge for stability (that's what I did but it's your sweater)
That's it! now watch your 7-year-old daughter wear it every day. It just warms your heart.
And now, the Thanksgiving picture that beat out all the other ones:
Thanks for the haircut (s) Grandma!(We had a wonderful time. Thank you for EVERYTHING)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Slowly....

Making has happened here very slowly, not unlike driving in holiday traffic (yes! it's happening already!).
Finally, things to take to this gallery.


Everything is grey here today. Still, grey is lovely and carries a mood of expectancy...of hesitancy...of waiting. What are you waiting for? What is coming toward you this season?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Love is the Movement

The day after I posted about my struggles with depression (it comes and goes for me) I had two students come with a message written on their arm. They said they wrote it on their arms to remember teenagers who had committed suicide. There was such sweetness in their heart for the world, and sadness at the thought of such dark burdens.
There is something to be learned from them. I have had all kinds of reactions to my own depression over the years: judgment, pity, criticism, compassion, support. Things said like, "keep your chin up!" "Just be grateful for what you have" "get a grip!". I am sure there were many more things said that were inappropriate that I can't remember right now. I do believe that while those words ultimately hold concern and loving intention, most of them reveal how misunderstood depression is. Loving, accepting, understanding words have also come and have been a healing balm. It is outside the scope of this rather scope-less blog to educate about depression, and it is curious to me that I choose to write about it here. I do find some support here and it does make me feel better to know I am not the only one in the world who deals with sadness.
Most of the time my depression is pretty manageable. I try to have a holistic view of it as a spiritual dis-ease, and address it with therapy, spiritual work, exercise (not very consistently!), working on eloquently speaking my truth, handling my emotions (especially anger) and diet. This is what I do. I have tried different drugs over the years and so far they just don't work for me. For the most part my depression has more to do with my seeking, insecure nature than a desire to leave this life. For me, it can also be a gift that lets me know I am out of balance, ignoring a message that is important to my soul, or spinning so fast I disconnect myself not just from my feelings, but from the spiritual world. I know there are so many shades of gray though and many have deep, ongoing, painful struggles with the disease.
I was so touched by my students' love for those in pain, the reminder that depression is a serious issue,and it made me ever so mindful of how lucky I truly am.
I pray I can only continue to grow in finding compassion and loving acceptance of others.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I like big butts and I cannot lie

Yesterday, while driving to my therapy group, I was thinking about how depressed I've been lately. I was beating up onmyself..."you are so ungrateful. How can you be depressed? That's so selfish." I looked at this voice and decided it was  Depression herself speaking to me.
Here is what she looks like. She is older, she is dressed as if she is going to church, she has droopy eyelids, an expression of fixed indifference and complacency, and a HUGE butt. HUGE. In fact, it is so huge that she wields it like a weapon. She knocks over things and moves without consideration. She mumbles as she moves backwards, bottom first, like her butt is looking for a victim to sit upon and she sits down on me. It is like her butt is the boss and the rest of us are the helpless slaves. (I use 'us' since I am irreversibly beholden to the IFS paradigm of therapy now.) While she sits on us, she mumbles how much we suck, how we can't get anything done, and says even more things like, "you're wearing THAT today?" "boy, you really messed up that class" Of course we suck because we are under her big butt! We are stuck underneath her. We can't move. We can't breathe. We can't see because it is dark. We try to move her but she is so huge and won't listen to us. She simply sits and showers us with mindless, numbing insults with her droopy eyelids. It makes us so tired we just want to sleep.
Fastened under Ms. Depression, I feel as though we are living the Maori creation myth. We must seperate Mother depression (what is she protecting?) and myself, just like the myth. And because it is a creation story, there is the hope of birth.
A depression is a hole, a thumb in clay, a cave. It is a place. One can curl up in a depression and forget about the cares of the world. One can fill the depression with one's sadness, and keep spiraling further inward, seeing more sadness. That is where one is sat upon by Ms. Depression and fixed firmly under her bottom and I just wish she would disappear.
I am going to turn toward her, and really listen to what she is concerned about. I am going to feel gratitude for her, and find out what she is there for. Furthermore, I am simply going to ask her nicely to get off of me!

I believe in winters of the soul, and springs of the heart. I believe in giving spiritual death its dues, and making way for spiritual birth and rebirth. I believe the tree is alive though all the leaves fall off. This is just life, making its way through me as best it can, teaching me about my impediments, helping me to grow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

We Go Inside

Although we enjoyed an absolutely beautiful day here weather-wise, the early darkness drove us inside to play much earlier than we wanted!
So, we started setting up things for inside play.
I am always amazed at how much children thrive on simplicity and their own ingenuity. Two yoga blocks and a board make a fine balance beam.

Add in the tunnel and the rocker board and you have an obstacle course.















Davis gets lots of crawl time in the tunnel. He scooted instead of crawling, so I am very happy to see him get lots of cross-patterned crawl time to help his growth.
The rocker board...oh, how I wish they were widely available. I got this one at The Hand and Hoe at the Threefold Community in Spring Valley, New York. It has been a favorite toy. Today, the kids made a slide out of it, a bridge, and a see-saw. Just with one toy. I'll venture to say they played for a good hour this way. Any mom knows that an hour of peaceful play among siblings is almost as good as a day at the spa. Almost.
As for the exercise balls bouncing around there...they are a side effect of life with my Rolfer. Other side effects include encouragement to bare our feet and move our bodies, with some yoga added to the mix as well. I'd say those are good reminders for anyone!
I have been very busy of late. Life has been very full and I am already turning to thoughts of the holidays. My recurring theme for the holidays has been "preparing the way". In other words, I'm on a mission to get my house (the internal and external ones) in order before the coming busy days.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hallloween Mysteries


We carved pumpkins. I was feeling pretty good about capturing the essence of each child in such an artistic way, feeling smug, proud...especially proud of the pumkin missing his two front teeth just like Serena, and then....




 Some little woodland spirit or evil presence came and ate the teeth out of our pumpkins. Just the teeth!Serena thinks it was a squirrel. I think it is a mystery apropos to the season!



But it's no mystery....these are some cute kids. The clown costume is circa 1973 and Chance wore it as a child. I love my silly spooks!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boo!

Wrapping pipe cleaners with black wool....scary!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Homemaking

Davis has been sick. When he is sick I sit around and nurse. A lot. And I think about the state of my home, and that I have had to stop running a household for a little while in order to care for a sick child. The state of my home suffered, of course, right along with my sleep schedule and a fevered boy.
It got me thinking about Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart is my guilty and guiltless pleasure and she is looked upon as the epitome of having it all: a business career and the capacity to make a home. In this sense, making a home means arranging the furniture just so, crafting a wreath for your front door, placing artistic touches here and there, bringing in fresh flowers. My home is rarely like that with the comings and goings of so many people, and with my recent discovery that the secret to a clean house is to never be home, and with the random moods and needs of children. My husband tolerates so little of the mess of daily living, and I can't quite keep up, and often feel I fail miserably in this area.
But is that the making of a home? Is that all there is? When my children come to me for a hug, when the house smells good from all the cooking, when hands are messy from art or dirt, when attention is given to the tone of my voice and irritability is put aside (again!) to meet a child's falling apart...this is not just parenting...this is making a home, too, is it not? It is a small epiphany for me. I have never seen it before, but home resides in the connections and conversations and the paintings we create with our words....our moods...our deeds. Our days are less presentation and more comfort. My children won't talk about the pillows one day. They will talk about the time they fell down, the time they tricked mom, the time they had a bunny, the time they fought with their sister, the time a strange person visited, the time we heard Indian chanting across the street, their birthday parties, and sometimes, the time the house is clean, and will know that their Mom was there to care for them.
Ah. I can breathe a sigh of relief. I DO have my priorities in order!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Aromatherapy

Sometimes I can smell something and a memory is triggered. The smell of fried food and hamburger joints remind me of my grandmother and her little restaurant. Nag champa incense conjures up images of old apartments, old boyfriends, and Lilith Fair. Peppermint, cinnamon, and ginger are holidays and comfort. Even the personality of a home is expressed in its smell. you can walk into the home of a friend and be greeted by a familiar, welcoming smell...not an artificial smell, but just their smell.
 To me, the kitchen is the heart of our family's life. The smells that emanate from the kitchen, and the living we do there are at the core of nurturing. It is where we come together, listen to each other, have conversations, it's where our phone is. It's where shoes are taken off, where projects are started, where company comes a-visiting. Yes, the kitchen is a center of energy and flow in our home, where a lot of problems get worked on and where a lot of love happens too. Of course, I do cook in my kitchen too. In my small-ish home, once I start cooking something, the whole house, upstairs and down, takes on that smell. The love and care I put into preparing our food, the pride I take in preparing healthful meals, the spirit in which certain foods are received by my family and the gratitude for such abundance....these nourish everyone's sense of life, including my own.
And the rooms take on the energy of those smells...what is happening in the kitchen wafts through the house, scenting our rooms with comfort and cinnamon, coffee and bickering, garlic and laughter.
While I do occasionally light scented candles, sprinkle lavender essential oil on the carpet and window frames, or clean with Meyer's Clean Day, the best aromatherapy I can think of comes from the kitchen. Who needs anything artificial when there's a loaf of bread in the oven? Whose mood is not lifted by cookies baking? What sickness doesn't respond to a bowl of warming soup?

I wish everyone a beautiful day of baking something good-smelling and delicious. Aromatherapy at its best!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Report

Parenting is hard work. Even the experts aren't an expert at *MY* child, and they are not there when crying children start like dominoes falling, and then I start crying right along with them out of sheer frustration.
I had one of those days on Sunday. I was clutzy, they were clingy, I injured myself, I wept.
At any rate, occasionally the experts have something to say. They give me treats to put in my bag of tricks and help me navigate the sometimes murky waters of growing and nurturing children.
One such book was recommended by my therapist: The Parent's Handbook by Dinkmeyer, McKay, and Dinkmeyer. I thought I'd share one treat from the book that I found helpful, and that is a chart. The chart is labeled, "Goals of misbehavior". Now that right there causes me to take pause. Oh, youmean misbehavior has a goal? Of course it does! Yes, that makes sense. The goals as they group them are: attention, power, revenge, or to display inadequacy.
Here is the kicker. Depending on your OWN feelings, you can ascertain the goal of your child's behavior.
Here is what the book says (paraphrased from the book):
You feel: bothered, annoyed. You usually: scold, nag, remind  Your child: stops temporarily, only to begin again later. The goal: Attention
You feel: angry, threatened. You usually: fight back, punish, give in Your child: defies you, continues to misbehave, does what you've asked slowly or sloppily. The goal: power
You feel: angry, extremely hurt. You usually: punish Your child: misbehaves even more in an attempt to get even The goal: revenge
You feel: hopeless, like giving up You usually: give up, agree child can't do something Your child: does not respond or improve The goal: to display inadequacy
What do you think about this? I think we can all relate to having a child who at varying times turns helpless, needy, defiant, or out of sorts. It helps to know there is a valid, rational reason for the behavior, and for me, that takes the "charge" out of it and allows me to be free to respond with firm, loving boundaries, attention, or encouragement.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Every Day Skirts

I love how my clothes have stories.
Take this staple-of-a-wardrobe brown skirt. It started out as an absolutely hideous pink wool jersey that I had purchased at Baer fabrics.  The wool jersey was so fantastic and so deeply on sale that I could not pass it up. I bought 5 yards. Something had to be done about the color, so I threw it in the dyepot, and threw it in the washer and carelessly tossed it in the dryer. And then I repeated.
Of course, it shrunk, and it was this beautiful, nubby, brown, earthy, soft, wooly piece of heaven. I just wanted to touch it and look at it. After I did that, inspiration hit and I actually CUT it. But not too much...it was like cutting out an A-line skirt for a super-size paper doll, and cutting two of them!
On to the serger...two side seams, and a pass around the top and bottom while stretching the fabric. Because, joy of joys, felting the jersey had not caused it to lose elasticity.
I've had this skirt now for 5 or 6 years. I always get compliments on it. It is the quintessential winter skirt for me, long enough to warm my legs, stretchy enough to hug my body through thin times and those other times, and stylishly simple enough to be versatile. Speaking of those "other times", I simply have to roll the top yoga-pant-style to give myself some extra room in there.
So that's "Brownie" and I present her to you in all her wrinkled, worn, out-of-the-dryer glory.
Another skirt with a story. "Stripey" started as 4 bags full of scrap fabric...the most precious scrap fabric imaginable. You see, a friend of my husband's is a long-time, well-known weaver around these here parts. She graciously gifted me with scraps of her hand-woven fabric, which I used some at school in projects with the children, but there were four bags.That's a lot of scrap fabric, and much of it was very small. What to do?
I just started at it, lovingly fondled the fabric, organized it by color and size (my laundry probably suffered that day!)and then I got inspired. I was going to make a skirt!
So, it's a little wobbly, and could definitely use some polishing, kind of like me. I took the lazy route with this one, too, and did it entirely on the serger, except for the elastic waist, where I even skimped there and just sewed the elastic to the right side of the fabric at the top, then folded it over and sewed the top seam, making sure the elastic didn't poke over the top. It WAS a challenge to sew all those pieces of fabric together, for they all had differing grains, and some were downright stretchy.
I tried once to correct this flaw by sewing rick-rack over the seams. That was 4 years ago. For four years, this skirt has needed finishing. I looked at that cutesy rick-rack and just lost heart. For God's sake, I'm 42. I'm supposed to be over rick-rack and on to grey linen. Well, finally, I mustered up the courage to rip off the rick rack and see the skirt for who it was. Without rick-rack, I was free to love again and the waistband went on when I had 5 minutes to sew. Now I've been "racking" up the compliments.

Here she is in all her wrinkled, out-of-the-dryer glory. The fabric is amazing. I am going to properly draft a pattern for this one and can see another, longer skirt made of recycled soft sweaters, or made of designer quilting fabric, scraps even.
So there you go.