Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Out with the old

I have a confession. I like to collect people. I don't like to say goodbye, and I don't like to discard people. I like to remain friends, to transform relationships, to stay in touch, to honor their value as a person. I realize now that is a nice ideal, but it doesn't hold water in the real world.

 I realized that I did not discriminate in collecting people, and that meant some of them ended up being insensitive, unkind without apology, judgmental, or bossy.  I tried to stay with people who were hurtful and could not clean up their emotional messes. I would then take on their blame and actually feel guilty for being emotional or sensitive, while they traipsed off happily unburdened by pangs of conscience or guilt.
Gee, I wondered to myself, why on Earth am I trying to make something work with people who are consistently hurtful?
It has left me cultivate intolerance: intolerance for criticism, intolerance for contempt, intolerance for not taking responsibility for one's actions, intolerance for dishonesty, intolerance for double standards, intolerance for demeaning behavior, intolerance for hypocrisy,  and intolerance for my own masochistic tendencies. I realized I simply could not stay in relationship with someone who made a habit out of making a big 'ole hurtful mess of things and then leaving me to clean up after their lack of awareness.
This led to a commitment to authenticity. I have set boundaries and let go of those people, and that was hard. It leaves me free to focus on the people in my life who are trustworthy and safe. Going a step further, I am also looking to women who are older than I am to usher me into the next phase of womanhood. I have a few in my life already who probably don't even know I have designated them "mentors" but I soak in their wisdom.  I am pickier about who I choose and make sure their character is one I can emulate and learn from. Gosh, I need more help developing compassion, not less.
That was a hard, painful lesson to learn but it was years in the making. I do believe it is compassionate to not tolerate the cruelty of a fellow human.
It's an awkward subject. Sometimes we have to break up with friends. Sometimes there is no hope that a person will ever "get" it. Sometimes we have to give up our belief in that person. Sometimes people just have their season in our lives.
I read once about a Buddhist vow that involves not adding to the suffering of the world. When I have put myself around people who add to my suffering it is easy to ignore my own blind spots. Being with safe, like-minded people gives me a place to be vulnerable and correct where I might add to the suffering of others or the world.
And love is where I want to and grace and compassion.

We smoked a lot of hope
We did our cryin', too
We're finally waking up
To what real love can do

From "Round of Blues" Shawn Colvin

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Single Mom Whining

There is a blog out there called "Single Dad Laughing". It's actually really good. But this weekend, I was certain I could start a blog called "Single Mom Whining." After all, it's the Christmas season, and if being a single mom isn't hard enough, there is the pressure and stress I feel because of the issue of , well, stuff.
What brought it on was my almost 6-year-old's upcoming birthday. In our community, when we have a birthday party, we try to make it about the child and his or her friends and the experience. Presents are either hand-made or optional. We love it because it is a win-win. No one has to stress over what latest toy to buy, and the birthday child (and his family) are not inundated with more stuff that will be used once then tossed aside.
But I couldn't help but have pangs of wishing when my son asked me if he could have a "real" party, one where he gets lots of presents from friends. Single mother guilt kicked in. Parenting guilt kicked in. Am I depriving my child? Am I just wanting to compensate him for having divorced parents? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that isn't the gift I need to give my child. A stressed, financially-depleted, guilty mother does not serve anyone. Friends who are stressed because of you don't either. Besides, I'd rather teach my son what really counts, and give him an opportunity to learn self-control.
 I gave my son three choice toys I knew he wanted and I could mostly afford, he had a party complete with making graham cracker gingerbread houses and sweet handmade or handed down gifts from friends, and a hike in the woods where the highlight was finding an old wagon tire that was the perfect size for 6-year-olds to roll down hills. We had spent the day cleaning and anticipating the party. My children went off to their dad's in high spirits and I doubt my son even remembered he had asked me for that "other" kind of party. And I felt foolish for even thinking that was better than this:

The night before, we had picked up and set up our Christmas tree. I was in a slightly irritated mood because we had been shopping, and again, that is stressful because I am reminded of what I don't have or what I can't give to my kids. I inwardly grumbled that I had to carry in the tree by myself, that I have no partner to cheer me on, that I am taking on mortgage, car repairs, and parenting all by myself. We set up the tree, and I wanted it done a certain way but my eleven year old wanted it done the "right" way (because mom is increasingly not "right" in the eyes of an eleven-year-old). We exchanged irritations with each other, finally got the ornaments down and the tree up. As we took out the ornaments, I was flooded with such sentiment. There are such precious things here. Most of our ornaments are hand made and gifted to us. Thirteen years of teaching and so many of those ornaments are treasured gifts from students and families. Sweet ornaments from when my twenty-somethings were small. Serena and Davis enjoying each and every ornament "Oh!!!! I remember this!!!" It was like they had never seen ornaments before. Christmases over the years came to memory, friends and family who were in our lives, loved ones who had passed on. Gentle tears came, for so many dreams have been put to rest, and there is still so much to learn, and people to love. The irritation was soothed and I came into the present. I was immediately grateful for my sweet children who teach me so much.
Our tree ended up being beautiful:

In the midst of a bit of feeling sorry for myself, of my child's impatience with wanting something he couldn't have, of my own impatience turned intolerance in a charged mother-daughter interaction, I forgot the value of anticipation. Isn't that what this season is about? Anticipating something joyful, anticipating the light. You don't have to have it right now, and in fact, it is good to unload some old things before you do "get" it. It always comes. The gift is the anticipation.
I'm still making as much as I can for gifts this year, as I've done for some 20 years now. I'm telling the kids we are keeping it simple. We have projects going pretty much every day. They don't always get done but we have projects. We are planning gathering with family and celebrating loved ones, the REAL important stuff.
I can be Single Mom Whining for awhile. I have every right and reason to grumble some days. But I also have every right and reason to be deeply, humbly, and ever-grateful for this life. And I am!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Be an Anarchist

 "most anarchists are gentle people" and seek only "for all people to live in peace, following their own stars."- Anna Zilboorg 
I want to be an anarchist. My daughter came to visit this weekend. We start to engage in deep conversations, for she is wise beyond her years. We had a lovely evening of talking and went to church this morning with a friend. I had put on a pot of soup the day before and was looking forward to our visit. Listening to my daughter talk, and hearing what she was saying about accepting yourself, being comfortable in your own skin, and having something to contribute to the world, made me think about how rare this quality is...this quality of congruence in who you are. It is anarchy. 
Making things is also anarchy. There is the simple fact of our living in an exchange-value, capitalistic culture. But make something yourself...gather your yarn from a local farm, spin your own yarn, create your own garments, and you have committed an act of gentle anarchy. If you weave your own fabric, take your time to work through a process, sew your own clothes, make anything with purpose, you have committed an act of anarchy.
Renate Hiller, a dear woman to me for I spent four summers learning from her at Sunbridge College, says of the fiber crafts: "I feel I am experiencing my inner core because it is a meditative have to find your way, you have to listen with your whole being, and that is a schooling that we all need today. Because we are so egocentric, and this makes us think of what is needed by something else, so we are, in a way, practicing  empathy: empathy with the material, empathy with the design. I think this practicing of empathy that we do in the fiber crafts is paramount for being healing for our world, and it is a service for the divine that we are surrounded by. " Listen here: 

Wow, fiber crafts as a way to develop empathy, and empathy as an act of service. Sounds like pure anarchy to me.
It's true that in this day and age, empathy is most certainly anarchy. This morning, I took my daughter to St. Stephen's, a very energetic and lively church. The sermon this morning fit right in with the concept of empathy as an act of service.  If you have been in church, you might remember the story of Joseph, who was cast off by his brothers and left for dead. Later, he was put in a position of power to help his brothers, but would not help them unless they brought back the youngest brother, Benjamin. He made them "reach back" for their brother. In the ultimate act of empathy as anarchy, Joseph then helped his brothers. The pastor characterized what Joseph was saying as this, "Yes, I know you are haters and I know you are no good." and then he recognized, "God sent me before you to preserve life."
This was the ultimate act of anarchy on Joseph's part. Here his brothers had tried to get rid of him, and he had every reason to spurn them and withhold from them. But he recognized the bigger picture, and gave to them. When when THEY had the power, they deceived and left him to die. When HE had the power, he gave and saved their lives.  
It was funny because the pastor quoted a verse about hypocrites: "If you bring a gift to the altar, and remember your brother has something against you, leave your gift and first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24 paraphrased) In other words, be an anarchist. Have good character. Let your words and actions match up. 
In some Buddhist traditions, bodhisattvas vow to not add to the suffering of the world. It's different than preventing, or ending, or fixing suffering. It is not adding to the suffering of the world. Sometimes this is all we can hope to not make someone else's life harder or add to their burden, especially when we have done so in the past. This is an act of grace in anarchy as well.
Ok, please bear with me as I offer one more video, another short TED talk from an anarchist that is worth the four minutes of inspiration today: 

Empathy, service to our fellow man, spinning, weaving, speaking your truth, making things, growing things, and a pot of homemade soup. I am inspired to cultivate anarchy. Won't you join me in finding our inner stars and following them?
In a world full of haters, love is the highest anarchy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Richard Parker

credit: Life of Pi movie

Tigers are exciting. Their lithe, rippling movements are fascinating. They are ready to spring, playful, stunning in the beauty of their markings. They are fierce and animal, tigers in every way.
In Life of Pi, Pi was saddled with a tiger in his boat, drifting and lost in the vast ocean.. He and the tiger formed an arrangement. Although Pi believed he had trained the tiger, there was an understanding that at any time the tiger could attack and kill him. Therefore, a certain dependency ensued, with the tiger relying on Pi for food and Pi relying on the tiger to not eat him, and to even protect him.
Pi attributed human qualities to the tiger at times. The tiger's very name was Richard Parker. When their little boat washed ashore in Mexico, Pi was heartbroken that Richard Parker just lopped off into the woods without "saying goodbye". His  gestalt came when he declared that the tiger kept him alive.
I have tigers in my life. Most often I invite them in, attribute human qualities to them, and bring them into my boat, set up an arrangement, and rely on their protection. These days, I am questioning why I need a tiger in my life.
I have wondered if the answer is in how Pi said the tiger kept him alive. Even though he thought he was keeping the tiger alive, the tiger triggered in him a state of hypervigilance enabling him to think on his feet and mobilize limited resources for survival. Once he got to shore though, he was heartbroken and moved on, because you cannot go chasing and bringing back a tiger to make him say goodbye. Tigers, as attractive as they are, are still animals. They will accept you into their realm as long as you have something to feed them, or are of use to them somehow. But they cannot be reasoned with, demonstrate empathy, show compassion, or forgive, for those are human characteristics. A tiger will always be a tiger. Pleading, cajoling, and classical conditioning will not change that. Pi ended up sad that the tiger did not acknowledge him in the end. The truth is the tiger was not capable of acknowledging him.
But what if you can't just put your tiger on the shore? What if you have tiger children that you have to place in the tiger's boat from time to time? Wha if you have to see the tiger every day at work? Or the market? This is what I struggle with...finding a place for the tiger in my life that does not involve me placing qualities on the tiger that are not congruent with the state of being a tiger, and making the tension and conflict  of interacting with a tiger does not become a need. It causes me suffering.
So I try to not become sad when the tiger says "I won't be a tiger, I promise" and then acts like a tiger.
I wonder, is fear is what I know of being alive, of being human? Is this why I have called tigers into my life?
Tigers are everywhere: in government, big business, and anywhere there is a definite discarding of human qualities in favor of a base, animal nature. We even call this "dog eat dog" to describe ambitions that do not count the human cost, ambitions that are rooted somehow in survival, and nevertheless, cause suffering in other humans.
In humans, there is a fragility that arises in adopting a tiger-ish, narrow view of what is tolerable, a headlong drive to the top. And what is tolerable does not include other people. Which is why the tiger must roar and hiss and scratch and keep you out of his narrow tiger world and discovering how frail and scared he really is.
I read an article that spoke of our survival in regards to parents and parenting:
The attachment system is a primary motivational system similar to other primary motivational systems for eating and reproduction.  It developed over millions of years of evolution involving the selective predation of children.  Predators are seeking the old, the weak, and the young. 
Children are prey animals.
Children who bonded to parents, i.e., to specific individual people, received parental protection from predators.  Children who bonded less strongly to parents fell prey to predators (and other environmental dangers).  Over millions of years of the increased survival advantage provided to children from bonding to their parents, a very strong and resilient primary motivational system developed that strongly motivates children’s bonding to parents.
Bad parents expose the child to predation and to other environmental dangers. Children who rejected bad parents died. Children who were MORE STRONGLY motivated to bond to bad parents had a better chance of survival than children who rejected bad parents. Over millions of years of evolution involving the selective survival advantage provided to children from an INCREASED motivation to bond to bad parents, the attachment system expresses an INCREASED child motivation toward bonding to bad parents.

So you see, bonding to something we consider "bad" or dangerous has a survival intention. Adults do this type of bonding too. Pi bonded to a predator, and so did I, and even though it has afforded me some illusion of protection, it has also afforded me sorrow. Like Pi, I can change my mourning and sorrow into something good, and use wounds from the tiger to transform and thrive. Now, I have a gift. I can smell tigers from a mile away and avoid them like the plague. I also have a liability in that I become a powerless, afraid-of-tigers person and yet again try to persuade the tiger to act like a human. I'm undergoing Yoda training to help me with that.
There is an Indian story that relates to this, about a boy who is persuaded by a snake. The snake wants the boy to pick him up and put him inside his cloak, and the boy resists, saying, "you will bite me!" The snake insists that he will not bite, that it is ok. When the boy picks up the snake and places him inside his cloak, the snake bit him. The boy, incensed, asks the snake "Why did you bite me? You said you wouldn't bite!" The snake replies, "yes, that is true, but you knew I was a snake when you picked me up."
I have picked up snakes and yoked myself to tigers. Collectively, as a culture, we have picked up snakes and invited tigers to make decisions for our daily lives. We know they are snakes, we know they are tigers, and still we expect something different. Tigers and snakes have their roles, and if anything, and ideally, lead us to our humanity.

Monday, October 13, 2014

By Definition

Two things:
1. Online dating is a funny thing. While I have tried it, met some really nice people, and had a good time, it just got boring after awhile. Or something. Others I know have a lot of success with it, some play with it and use it to just flirt, and still others roll their eyes when I mention online dating and usually have a funny story about a strange guy (and apparently there are a few of them out there-the nice guys often apologize for their fellow man's behavior). There is also this perception that certain sites are just "hook-up" sites and you will get different opinions about that from different users. So there is no one-size-fits-all description for online dating. That's my empirical data to date.
That being said, OkCupid does have this cool thing that appeals to the psychology student in me. It's a personality assessment based on your answers to the questions they give you.
Here is mine:

I was rather pleased with this assessment.
Here is one from a man just to give you an idea of the categories in which they place people:
This guy had a lot of "more" and a few "less" but I could not fit it all on the screen.
So take that for what it's worth. The logarithms that assigned those characteristics could be off, or they could be spot on and indicate a person's self-awareness or lack thereof (because it's there for all to see if you are worse mannered, less literary, or sloppy based on answers YOU gave) I think you have to answer a LOT of questions to get a lot of characteristics.
One thing I will say about conversing with people through sites like these is that you get bombarded with sadness. Hearing stories of how people have so deeply and casually hurt others is just sad. It is hard to hear the depth of people's pain sometimes.
By the way, I'm an I/E NFP if you are into Meyers-Briggs.

2. Subsequent relationships become defined by what I did NOT receive in my marriage, or, sometimes, relationships. I ask the questions of myself, go back through the incidents. No matter how mundane or innocuous, these were things that mattered then and matter now: would he come help me if I had car trouble? would he help me with the children's bedtime? would he value my family or does it have to be all about his? would he help with dishes or would he be critical? would he have a word of encouragement for me when I'm down? would he hold me if I had an unnamed sadness? would he hold me if he said something insensitive or unkind? does he apologize? is he comfortable with my having needs? would he ever just ignore me? does he support my interests and accomplishments or is he threatened by them? does he LIKE me? would he stand up for me to his mother? would he behave in every way like my friend? would he care for me financially? does he accept me for who I am or is he already making me his project?
Every day things. These are what I ponder.

“I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers." -Kahlil Gibran

Ok, I really have still been making stuff. Those kinds of posts are brewing...bear with me!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Extraordinary Life (aka, things I learned from my second divorce)

These are the things I wish I'd known or been able to tell my newly-divorced self a couple of years ago:

-There are things you could have done and things you did do that didn't make a difference. In the end, it would have been the same no matter what you did. You do not always have that kind of power over situations or hearts. Sometimes, it is the other person's issues that you are taking on, or their messages about your worth. Besides, the pursuit of being "good enough" for someone is an aimless and unworthy pursuit in life.

-It gets better with time. There was a time when I could not even LOOK at an intact family without having to excuse myself from whatever it was I was doing and go cry. Yes, seeing families made me cry, with a dad's arm around mom or asking her what she wanted him to do with a kiss to her forehead for comfort. I didn't want to lose my family, or even the dreams and illusions I had of what that should look like. But that passed, and I am much better now. My family is what it is, and we are a single-mom family.

-You can't make a person: love you, like you, be aware of themselves, apologize, care, accept you, acknowledge you, value you, tell the truth, respect you, hear you, hold you, listen to you, make peace, make amends, feel remorse, stand up for you, want to be married to you, put in an effort, be compassionate, support you, do what they say they will do, be who they say they are, recognize how they have hurt you. These behaviors are a choice. You cannot MAKE anyone do these things for you, and their choice not to is a good indication of what they are able to offer you (hint: not much.). (This goes for ex-family, too. If tempted to engage with them again, remind yourself it only brings more hurt).

-People who are shut off like that inspire in me an urge to explain, persuade, and prove my worth. See above. That is no longer where I need to put my efforts in life and I am sad that I got sucked into that kind of situation, that most unworthy of pursuits.

-Chances are your gut instincts were right. And are still right.

-healing takes a long time, and anger lingers for a longer period of time than you are comfortable with. You still have to travel that path, learn what you need to, and know that a commitment to spiritual healing is absolutely vital. Divorce, especially the second time around, is deep pain on so many levels. It causes you to grapple with humanity and suffering and meaning in your life. It hurts. It sucks. You loved deeply, and you cared about your family and marriage. That deserves ALL the energy and ALL the emotions that come with sincere healing.

-You can maybe compete with another woman, but you cannot compete with a man's mother. If he did not stand up for you to his mother, that is just sad. Lesson learned.

-Rejection can be a gift. If you had been living a half-life and were forcefully booted out of it, then a whole-life is waiting for you, and it is never too late to have an extraordinary life. Now you have the freedom to do it. No, you are not too old, too broken, too worn out by love, too caught in the wringer. You can start now, and your life will be full of grace.

-control is not love, love does not hurt, and walking on eggshells is not a normal state for a happily married woman. It's true. This should help you get over him.

-it is possible to be grateful for those who have deeply hurt you and it is possible to forgive without having any closure (or hearing apologies). Forgiving heals your soul, them apologizing heals theirs. Here's the catch, though: you can only heal your own soul. Quit expecting people to do things they are incapable of doing. Make the apologies you need to make and then move forward. So much grace is to be found in this type of gratitude!

-Men, or a special man, will come along and show you what the other side can look like. You will have the time of your life and laugh raucously again for the first time in years. You will be treated with a queen! Your heart will fire up when you thought it was dead. You will feel more alive and loved in those moments than you have in years. You will even begin to hope and (gasp!) love again. You are not permanently damaged and you do not hate men because of your experience. No, it will not "take a crowbar to open your heart" again, even though you go around saying that all the time (stop that!). You will realize too that you DO have things to offer a man, no matter what someone else did to obfuscate that fact. Wonderful things. Because love and joy and lightness are your natural states, your birthrights, you will absolutely reclaim who you are, and then some.

Now go, have a splendid, extraordinary life!
(and by the way, it's my mother's birthday: Happy Birthday to the best mom ever! AND it's Michaelmas. For further reading:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Video Share

I love everything about this video! I hope you do too...thanks to a friend for passing it along.

Friday, September 19, 2014


One of my capacities is that of untangling. Give me a free moment and the worst pile of knotted threads or yarn that you've ever seen and I will patiently, and somewhat obsessively untangle it. Given the amount of personal insecurity I deal with and the strength of my internal critic, this is one thing I have to hold on to: the ability to attend to and make sense of.
For you see, untangling yarn requires an inordinate amount of patient attention. It is frustrating to be dealt a situation that on the surface, appears impossible. There are many who will not even try to untangle yarn. It is easy to start and give might take months, or years. It will get in the way, and it will be an eyesore of a mess until it is cleaned up.

But give it patient attention and time, and it will start to become less chaotic, smaller. The initial knots must be followed back through the mess and found. Once you have found the source of the knot, or multiple sources, a snowball effect happens. Bring movement and energy to that knot, ask it with your fingers...gently, never forcing. Then, once that is out of the way, the rest of the winding up happens smoothly and quickly.
It can take some time to find your way to that knot, and many times the scissors and trash can are tempting options. But I am stubborn and will not use scissors unless I absolutely have to.
Relationships are like this too. They become knotty, tangled, chaotic. They look impossible to resolve. And many are, and do need scissors. Yet I think what it takes is two people who are willing to follow the thread through to the knot...the tenderest, most tangled, impossibly stubborn place, the place that is holding them back. Once the knot is found and brought to light, it takes incredible patience, asking when what you want to do is tell what to do, and tidying up the chaos. A sincere apology whispered over the knot, a holding of hearts in love, a deliberate placing aside of anger, a conversation full of remorse and even fuller of care for the relationship...these loosen their hold on the threads.
I've seen this method of taming thread on Pinterest. My students love it and it is easy for them to handle. Here, it looks like a mummy!

Transforming is another option. Sometimes a playful re-configuring of the tangled mess is called for (picture coming this weekend!). Sometimes the scissors can be used to prune that which no longer serves the relationship. Take scissors to it, and you can still make something of beauty by adding to it, bringing in the right resources, forgiving and starting over. The thread can't be used in the traditional sense, but it can be used for beauty nonetheless. A playful, think-on-your-feet improvisation can work wonders.
This is my bare minimum standard now for relationship, given my experience. I think women are certainly cultured to give more in a relationship, but why should a man not have or be given the chance to cultivate patient perseverance and courage to face and untangle knots with us? Not the one who so easily gives up and discards you, makes more of a tangled mess, then blames you. The one who sits and cries with you while you grieve and search in your life and makes whole and makes good. That is the one who loves.
I heard once that love is "to stay with". To me, that doesn't necessarily mean a literal "staying with". It means a being present to, a curiosity, a loving compassion towards each other. Where we bring our love, knots untangle.

For further reading:
Before a girl could get married in my village she had to prove that she was patient enough for the task,” she told me. “They would give her a bundle of tangled yarn,” she would say, as we would struggle to untangle wool, or rope or extension cords. She told the story as she wound yarn into balls for knitting. “If she could not untangle the yarn, she could not get married.” I remember that story every time I have something to untangle. I would never settle for a village marriage, but patience is a skill applied to any task worthy of completion. (

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ladies, Ladies, Ladies

I told you I was going to write a social blog post, and here it is.
Recently a friend on Facebook posted this:

To the young men I have fallen in love with in the past: It is my fault for believing everything you said, for words are meaningless without follow-through. It has been an assumption of mine that being motivated leads to success/happiness. However, without commitment & discipline, motivation stays in the mind...there must be practice. As with most people I meet, I believed in you more than you believed in yourself. I was never put first - by you or by me.

Moving forward: I am my number one, and forever will be. I will keep myself open to the universe's possibilities, but some of these walls are staying up for healthy measure. I still believe humans have limitless potential. However, if you have not accomplished at least one of your major life goals, don't waste either our time.

(credit goes to Heather Marcus-way to go!)

Just as recently I saw someone I used to know with a man. She put her arm around him while he coolly held his beer. She kissed him on the neck. She held his hand because he didn't take hers. He was cool and aloof, daring not to reciprocate any of her overtures. She was into him; he was using her.
That someone was me at one time, acting in complete and total deference to a man. My preferences were his preferences. I believed he was what he said he was. I loved the thought that I wasn't good enough for him and that I now had a goal, and he had a correct me, to make me his project. 
What was wrong with me? It isn't just me, either; this is a common occurrence.
WHY oh WHY do we do this?
There are a million articles online about this very topic. But we still don't learn. We don't. 
Where the answer lies is debated among therapists and psychologists, but I believe we do it because it is familiar. They do it because to demean and diminish is familiar. It feels good, chasing, being thrown the occasional crumb that you so desperately long for. Somewhere along the way, we have been taught that this is all we can expect. And men are taught that is all they are capable of giving.  Bad boys, or those who under-function in life keep you on a variable-ratio schedule of reinforcement. It is similar to playing a slot machine. There is the excitement of never knowing if he is going to show up or not, if he is going to do it or not, and then when he does, ooooo, fireworks! A pay-off! And then one day you wake up, pissed off that the lever yields a pay-off less and less. And that you've spent your life savings. And he could care less.
The thing is, when we are on an in-love high, we think we've really got something here. This is it! We've got a catch. This could go on FOREVER. This is great! We excuse bad behavior, because, as Heather said, we believe in HIM more than he believes in HIMSELF. 
The sad reality is that it is just us, staring at the slot machine, taking what we can get, spending more than we have.
Recently I had an epiphany. I had received an email from someone in my life who is a taker, kind of like the guy my friend was dating. In this email, the person was upset that I was not grateful for a crumb they had thrown me after a l o n g time of taking more than they were entitled to take. 
I thought, "I am no longer grateful for crumbs." That used to be me, but it isn't me any more. I will not be grateful for crumbs, because I have more worth and dignity than that.
My therapist gave me a quote: successful people go all the way in. This is so true! If I go into a relationship whole-heartedly, then my partner should, too, at the very least. Crumbs not accepted. Words and actions must match up. 
 The simple truth is, there are men out there that at first, seem trustworthy, but are in reality just prettily packaged bullies. Another simple truth is that we KNOW what we are getting into. There are always signals we ignore, things that tell us something is not quite right, or this is familiar in the way chronically hurtful things are familiar. And yet we choose to ignore those signals, listening instead to our insecurity or fear, or thinking love can fix anything. This does not, however, give them an excuse or a way out. Everyone makes choices, and men who are selfish or hurtful are that way because they choose to be, not because you ignored the signals.
Precious women friends, let's help each other, as sisters, believe in ourselves.
for further reading to help strengthen your sense of self (please overlook the labeling of others if it bothers you, for there is good content in these:!t=1006

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Quiet Constructs

Ahhhhh, the pace of our lives picked up considerably. So much is happening all at once. The kids are growing, birthday season is coming, and school for mama and children is in full swing.
Yes, we have a birthday season: 4 birthdays in 3 weeks. It's a great time of year to celebrate loved ones, especially when surrounded by the glory of autumn in Kentucky.
My school is stretching me in ways that are at once stressful and invigorating. It is so nice to be immersed in writing and thought and to remain hungry for learning, and to remember that  I am, in many ways, and despite my insecurities, smart (in other ways, not so much!). My classes this semester include Cultural Anthropology, Lifespan Development, Abnormal Psychology, and Sleep and Dreaming. I am pinching myself a bit for these classes are just so rich and even though I'm losing a lot of sleep to late-night papers, I am loving it.
I have a whole post coming on my soon-to-turn-eleven-year-old. She, too, is changing and growing up in so many ways.
Our days are filled with more busy-ness than I am comfortable with. But it is all good, and this morning I remembered I do have constructs in place to help us remember to breathe, to just be, to express freely. One of those constructs is Sunday morning waffles. It's the only day of the week I get out the waffle maker and make proper waffles. The other construct is the music nook:

Serena and Davis regularly engage in drive-by music making. We have on our piano a jar of recorders, a dulcimer, and a drum. And the piano is in constant use these days. Serena has discovered the minor scale on the piano to the tune of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". Every day, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". And she plays several songs from school on various recorders; wooden Choroi flutes, penny whistle, and plastic recorders. This morning, I was so grateful for the music in our home, and this little nook that encourages it.
This Sunday morning has blessed us with beautiful weather, and the coolness, a harbinger of seasonal change. I was tired of some pieces in my wardrobe, and so, honoring this relentless drive to transform that lives so faithfully inside of me, I dyed those pieces with indigo. The cure for tired clothing is most certainly indigo.

Indigo on linen and cotton in the sun....surely a pleasurable sight.
But a better sight is that of my imaginative boy:
Happy Sunday friends!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Catch my breath

"Thank you" is my mantra these days. Life is a whirlwind of activity and progress and I'm soaring in the process of finding my voice. I'm loving school and carrying a 4.0, something I never thought I could do. 
I just emerged from a deeply moving women's retreat, and I would like to pause and write about some things that were stirred up, some subjects that have been brewing but that I need to put out there in the interest of bringing some insight and awareness around certain topics, and to encourage a focus on healing. 
I've taken shelter in the fact that this blog holds many facets of my life, but I am feeling the need to streamline a bit. Being in school makes me feel all writer-ly and so forgive me for my awkward practice yet to come but I do have some ideas to put out there and possibly develop into articles. Who knows, I may decide writing is a "thing" for me. 
Speaking of blogging, my poor Waldorf handwork blog has been sorely neglected. It has been on my mind for some time now and I am in the planning stages of bringing more into it. Summer will give me that opportunity.
So after a brief foray into a few social and psychological issues on this blog, I will return to the joy of making things. (also, I have a garden now!)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thinking, Thinking

Lately, this article has had me thinking. The summary of the article reads:
"When the brain's analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed, researchers have found. The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time."
You'll have to read the article, which, like many studies, leave more questions to be answered and a rich ground for further discovery and study.
After I read this, I immediately thought of the people who others describe as "being in their head". I do think people who rely too much on the logical network risk becoming repressors and avoid feelings at all costs (being completely cut off from emotions is called alexithymia). What goes along with that are all kinds of negative behaviors, because if you cannot understand or care how your behavior affects another, then you will have a tendency toward behavior that is dishonest, deceitful, or downright harmful to others. Those who rely too much on empathy risk being naive and overly trusting and are taken for granted. Our culture (in a broad, general sense) seems to favor a high level of detachment, and does not know what to do with feelings.
My next thought was education. Could the way children are educated be helping them rely too much on the logical network and not enough on the part of our brains that use empathy?  What if we were all taught and encouraged, as the article says, to be fluid in our use of both parts of our brain: the logical and the empathetic?
 In my work at a Waldorf school, I find that people have different reactions to the Waldorf way of educating children. Often, people think Waldorf is an "art" school,  and therefore not academic enough (I know in other parts of the country this is not the perception). Waldorf schools have an emphasis on teaching children how to think for themselves, and how to truly be in relationship with others. It is a paradigm that is much different from what most of us are used to and art and music and drama are integral parts of Waldorf education. It is a way to develop intellect in a way that does not ignore the heart of a child. I believe studies like this highlight a real strength of Waldorf education, for practicing the arts in a certain way can help us cycle between empathy and logic
(Waldorf education is a long subject and the internet is full of sites extolling its virtues. If you want to know more, start here.) 
This is where education has the capacity to be most healing for our culture.  I once knew a little boy who grew up hearing from a parent, "Logic would dictate..." as a critical way to address his behavior. That parent was right. Logic WOULD dictate, but empathy would understand. .  I wonder how our society would be different if we were taught in our homes, schools, and workplaces, to value this ability to move with fluidity between our heads and our hearts? Developing intellect is easy; empathy, not so much. I feel like developing deep empathy could take me a lifetime, and in difficult circumstances, it is meted out in moments of quieting my own anxiety enough to open my heart. Other times, empathy comes easily. It takes fortitude and courage, though, to muster empathy when you are feeling angry and unsympathetic. That being said, empathy leads to peace and understanding. It is the basis of love. We truly need more empathy in this world.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

crocheting again

I crocheted a quick project for bringing spring indoors.  I took an empty spice jar, crocheted a tube to fit and added a small loop for hanging, and then hung it up. It would have been more effective to crochet three more and have a proper display, but that takes more time than I have right now. Yarn from Adrienne, dyed by me. I think some daffodils are in order.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

summer camps

I am happy to be teaching two camps this summer. I'm searching for inspiration for projects right now and here is a taste of what is inspiring me in planning for these camps:

Summer camps: “ART OF THE HORSE” CAMP:
It is the Chinese Year of the Horse. Campers, ages 5-12, will celebrate all things “horse”! We will learn all about these magnificent animals and venerate them through sculpture, painting, drawing, and drama. Camp will conclude with a visit with real horses. Taught by Angela Davis. Held July 21-25.
8.00 am - 3.00 pm; $245 per week
Waldorf School of Louisville’s infamous handwork teacher, Angela Davis, will be teaching campers ages
7-14 to knit (or hone their knitting skills), felt, weave, dye and crochet. Projects may include tapestries,
wall-hangings, a knitted treehouse, small animals, and silk scarves. Some building with wood will be
incorporated as we will build an Earth Loom together. June 23-27.
8.00 am - 3.00 pm; $245 per week

I did not credit all the photos....arrrgggghhh. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

broken windows

The broken windows theory has intrigued me for some time now, especially when I read somewhere (I'm sorry I cannot give proper credit) how it was applied to human relationships. Basically, the broken windows theory says that the appearance of an environment affects the way people treat it. For instance, if a neighborhood is littered and run down in appearance, people will feel free to toss their litter on the ground or leave a door broken. This attitude, in turn, invites other forms of misbehavior and increases crime rates.
When I read about this theory as applied to relationships, the author was saying there is a relationship between how you treat your inner house and how others treat it. In other words, if you allow your windows to be broken, others might feel free to smash your windows or bust a door frame. You might even invite them to trash your inner space with you. In talking about this with a friend, he said, "but not everyone will break the windows. Some will help fix it."
That was profound for me. It didn't occur to me that people make choices about how they treat their environment and also in how they treat other people. I've always blamed myself. Perhaps something being in a broken state makes it more vulnerable because it is attractive to the type of character who would cause even more destruction, both in environment and relationship.
It made me appreciate the people who have empathy and compassion, and made me want to seek those people out. The truth is, we all have some windows that are broken, some doors that are jammed shut, some furniture missing and in disrepair. What if we all purposed to be the safe kind of person who can hang out in someone's inner space and say, "hey, I know that hurts. Let's get a hammer and nails and we can make that better."
It seems I have a pattern of inviting people who harshly judge my inner space, or who I allow a mutual wrecking, and give the wrong messages. My friend's message was impactful for me because it showed me a way out of my shame for having "broken windows" and gave me hope. Not everyone breaks your windows, my dear.
I think this applies to women who get in situations where they feel like they give too much in their relationships, and get little in return. It's true that men and women differ in their approaches to their emotions, but things like kindness, empathy, attentiveness, acceptance, tolerance, and presence are gender-neutral. Either you show up in each other's broken houses and make things right, or you don't. Give all your gifts and furniture away, and give it away to a person who will give you something better in return. It all sounds so idealistic, doesn't it? But I think on a basic level give and take and improve and heal is how it operates.

What about the houses that are beautiful on the outside, but cold and sparse on the inside? They do not welcome with warmth. There is not much happening, but their windows don't appear to be broken. Theirs is an illusion...the illusion of caring yet the caring is superficial and there is not much of real value offered. 
Interesting, isn't it? And I'm sure the metaphor could be carried on and helps me pay attention to how I treat others and myself. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring has sprung!

I couldn't be happier that Spring has arrived. The first sign was that I lost interest in my phone. This winter seemed to relentlessly drive me inward, bringing me to a mindless huddle around my phone as a means of escape. Turning outward now gives me great pleasure. The kids and I cleaned out the van today. We then went to one of those places where you can vacuum and hose down your vehicle. I let the kids go wild with the foam brush and spray wand. Now our old van is somewhat clean, and in the meantime we "strung pearls". We opted to plan a camping trip next weekend at our favorite haunt and save some of the fancier, more expensive stuff for the summer.
Other welcome sights of spring: clothes on the line, flowers, Easter egg hunts, and spring cleaning.
Two things have taken over my life: college and circus. This weekend ends our circus stint, and we will be sad but relieved.
Last night felt a bit surreal at the circus. It's odd and disorienting when seemingly disparate aspects of your life show up in the same room. We were surrounded by circus pirates, for that is the theme of this year's show, and someone said there were sheep here. Sheep? At the circus? So we went around to where two baby lambs were. BABY LAMBS. I just about died, and even asked, "how much are they?" Yes, and "I'll just go find a cash machine." I have seriously considered setting up my land for a miniature breed, but now is not the time for that, and what am I thinking??? That is how strong baby lambs are.
Pictures below of all of the above.

Inside the circus: Pirates abound!!!

Outside the circus: Heart-melting livestock


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Had to Share

I had to share this beautiful video.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Two Days

In the course of two days, much happened. Two friends came home with us on Friday and the house was full of children. Said children played with (mostly) peace in the house. We got out the soft pastels and all the children were mesmerized. Many dirty hands and handwashings later, a stack of artwork had piled. Of course, I had to get messy too with the pastels. And I got to make art with a dear friend near by.
We declared Saturday to be art day. More smudging of soft pastels followed by sledding followed by pumpkin muffins and chamomile tea. And then more making art, and much playing, and talking. Saturday night saw a few games of War, Sunday morning more War and then circus practice; a quick violin practice.
Sunday morning breakfast in bed:
Serena insisted that I take a picture of her eating full-on. Well, ok!

When there is art in the house, there is peace in the house and our souls feel happy, blessed, and connected. When there are friends in the house, we feel loved, loving, grateful.
A couple of random thoughts: Garden planning has been foremost on my mind. I'm wondering if I will have time for digging therapy once school starts? I do not own a dishwasher and I have lived nearly a year without a dryer. That's pretty counterculture, I'd say. Dryer will be fixed hopefully soon!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

How to make a fox hand puppet

First, you will need recycled sweaters in foxy colors: reddish brown and white. Other than that, you will need buttons, sewing machine, basic hand sewing skills, and a small amount of wool stuffing. My style in making tends to be very improvisational and experimental. It's a recycled sweater. Time spent making mistakes is not wasted time. Take your time to puzzle over how the pieces fit together, how a soft sculpture is made.

First, cut a sleeve as shown, with a "house top". Use the tip of the triangle as a pattern for the white pieces, as shown:

So there are: 2 ear pieces, 2 ear lining pieces, a tail piece, a tail tip piece, an inner mouth piece, and an outer mouth piece.
The first thing to do is to create a dart on either side of the head. Do this by folding the edge, pinning them, put your hand inside to see where to put them, and then stitch like so:

Turn it inside out and the top of the fox now looks like this:
Now cut the bottom to match the top, so that you don't have all that extra fabric, like so:

Next, sandwich the diamond shape piece between the baseball-field-shaped piece and the right side of the head, pinning the three layers together, ignoring the bottom of the mouth and stitching like this:

Trim the tip of the triangle straight across and turn inside out.
Now you have to stitch the top of the head and stuff it. The rounded side of the fabric fits against the back of the puppet. Pin it in a place that feels good, and stitch, leaving a hole. Stuff the head loosely and stitch closed. Here are pictures:

                                                 This is the INSIDE of the puppet.
                                                 All stitched and ready to turn.

Look, he is starting to look like a fox! Turning, turning, and now pin the right sides of the mouth bottom together and stitch:
Turn inside out. Voila! Almost done! (You may have to hand stitch the sides of the mouth where the sewing machine doesn't quite reach. Have fun! Put on a playful attitude!)
Now it is time to stitch the tail and the ears. Stitch tail top to tail bottom, right sides together, stitch the side seam, turn inside out, and stuff. Hand stitch the ear linings to the ears. Like this:

Now you are in the home stretch. Stitch the ears and tail on, add button eyes, embroider a nose, and tell a fox story.

Now we need a rabbit puppet!