Saturday, December 31, 2011

year- end inventory

On this final day of the year I found myself hustling out the door to attend a yoga center meeting. I was hoping for a quick outing into town although the piles of papers - coupon for Dick Blick's, holiday checks for the bank, knitting pattern in case I hit the yarn sale - and the two packages to post (yes, my final holiday gifts completed and ready to ship!) should have clued me in that this would be anything but a brief jaunt.

As I drove down the highway I noticed a dozen or more wild turkeys foraging on the side of the road. If this year has taught me anything, it is to welcome such signs and receive the message with a wide open heart. I cannot think of a more appropriate symbol for my life right now than turkey; the abundance of mother earth is so strongly evident in my life right now along with the experience of moving fluidly within the circle of giving and receiving. Shared Blessings is one way Turkey's medicine can be described and it is a beautiful description of the year that is passing as well as a suggestion for what I know lies ahead.

"Less is more" is one of my favorite directions to offer when teaching yoga. Recently I had a new student attend my class and
when he was in a seated forward bend, I gave him this advice while straightening his spine and moving him more upright than forward and down.

After class he thanked me and then said he was confused about what I meant when I said "less is more." Initially I was perplexed; it seems like such an obvious concept. I also like to tell inflexible students that we don't have to work as hard as flexible students as we feel the pose sooner. We don't have to go so far as we come upon our edges much faster. (Contrary to urban myth, all yoga teachers are NOT super bendy pretzel-types) Less is more in the sense that when we avoid pushing past our edge - which is when we risk compromising the structural integrity of the pose such as collapsing the spine in order to reach the toes in the forward bend - we inhabit the place where insight, understanding, opening, change, or transformation can occur. We gain more by doing less when doing involves force and ignorance of one's reality.

Less is more. I have said this so often, but only now do I see it is more complicated than I initially thought and in fact I too fail to practice my own advice.

Ask me to describe my day and most likely I would say I am spinning my wheels. My perception is I generate a lot of energy, but very little happens. I have this image of myself as not getting much done; that I squander my time and my resources and at the day's end see only what I did not accomplish.

Earlier this week as I sat at my sewing machine,finishing up the second of two last minute holiday gift projects, I had an unusual moment of clarity and honesty: I do a hell of a lot. I was thinking about the recent rash of sewing projects and then a parade of projects from the past few months flashed through my mind.

I do a hell of a lot of stuff.

In no particular order here is an inventory of my various crafty works - the ones I can remember:

3 felted holiday crowns
3 pennant banners and 2 felted banners
1 tent

1 sock puppet
6 pairs of knitted, fingerless gloves
9? 10? zippered pencil bags
7 paintings for charity (raising over $1400)
100 holiday postcards mailed
21 poems in 21 days
3 sets prayer ties (hanging in Omaha, Sedona and by Squam lake)
various SouLodge craft projects including meditation stick, smudging fan, protector spirit
49 postcard sized paintings
numerous other paintings in journals, notebooks, posterboard
6 painted journal covers

Spinning my wheels?!

Yes ... you may bitch slap me now.

Perhaps I have slapped some sense into myself. For I am ready to put to rest - nay, drive a stake through the heart of this phantasmagorical delusion that has colored my perception of myself far too long.

Less is more. Perhaps what I really mean by this is when I am focused upon what I am doing, intent upon where and how my energy and attention is directed, I am able to fully appreciate the fullness and depth of the experience. I am conscious to the scope of what I am creating or offering and in turn I am aware of the gifts of inspiration, insight, play, joy, or pleasure that my work affords me.

I am seeing and experiencing abundance as it extends to me and in turn moves through me. I don't necessarily believe I want to be doing less; I just want to be appreciative of all that I do do and to fully enjoy the process and myself.

Less is more in the sense that whatever I do, I pay attention to what is created or generated rather than fixate upon what might have/should have/didn't happen. There is so much to value and appreciate in the smaller moments which when viewed with some perspective take on a great fullness of being. Those little "lesses" add up to one huge something - in my case an outpouring of love and gratitude in felt, wool, paint and paper.

This is a first step in my embracing Clarity for the new year. Today I saw the abundance of wild turkeys and I heard their message loud and clear: my life - and your life - is nothing but one of many gifts within an abundance of blessings. It's time to celebrate and give thanks.

And because I am bad with beginnings and endings ... and because Mr. O'Donohue excels with them both (and all the words in between) ... and the discovery of his work is a true treasure of this past year for me ... I offer his blessing At the End of the Year for us all:

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.

Blessings and love and gratitude from our hearts to yours.

Happy New Year! See you 'round the corner ...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

our winter break

The entire family is off this week and we've been busy enjoying ourselves. There have been many nights spent in a pup tent ...

A bounty of Christmas cuddles ...

and high jinks

Despite the cheeky expressions,
these two "good" kids received a remote controlled helicopter

which has logged in hours of flight time already

Last minute sewing (it seemed like a good idea on Christmas Eve to "whip up" a couple more holiday crowns ...)

I followed this tutorial for our crowns

I avoided last minute holiday shopping by becoming obsessed with creating the latest addition to our family - Sock Moose!

inspired by the puppets by Katherine Dunn
who so wisely noted in her book
"Puppet making is the antithesis of creative block."

I can just imagine the adventures he will have in 2012.

The usual arting and crafting has been taking place. Cowgirl has expanded her repertoire to include sharks (they have teeth) and whales ...

Cowgirl brought home from school
over 2 dozen of these cut-out aquatic creatures

Along with her perennial favorites, Monster Trucks Blue Thunder and Grinder.

I've been taking the time to reflect upon the year behind me and setting my intentions for the year to come using this great workbook.

I've also created the cover for my Books of Days project inspired by the free year long workshop with Ms. Effy Wild. I've settled upon my word for 2012: Clarity and marinating in all the possibilities it implies.

In these final days of what was my year of Shine, I am celebrating what was while calmly
anticipating what is to come - another year to stretch myself, roll up my sleeves, get messy, have fun, and seek out Joy.

Of course I am also finishing up a couple of gift projects which I have every intention of finishing before the year end. I see some nights of sewing ahead of me ...

Santa brought Cowgirl a Shark kite

... unless the sharks get hungry and eat my supplies. In which case, I will just keep Wassailing!

Friday, December 23, 2011

solstice blessings ✸

I had planned on writing about my process in preparing for The Mother of All Releasing Ceremonies ...

How Cowgirl got the ball rolling on releasing the night before when she lost her other front tooth ...

How I had been keeping a list for a month now of what I wanted to shed in order to step into the New Year ...

How that list kept growing and growing ... and then how I sat with it on the night before my private ceremony and realized my "baggage" could be honed down to some key obstacles: doubt, fear, resistance, denial, regret and my life-long companion, perfectionism ...

I planned on sharing my thoughts on this whole idea of releasing and why I don't necessarily believe we then need to open or bring in anything else because once we shed these layers or false beliefs we are in a sense clearing the lens to perceive the truth of who we already are: Love, Beauty, Wisdom, Compassion, Truthfulness ...

I was going to write about how we don't need to change so much as we need to let go ...

But the real story begins the morning of the Solstice when I drove to a nearby park to burn my bundle in one of the grills. It had snowed the night before and it was cold and windy (although I was in denial about all that) but I was just going to pop in for a quick little burn before heading into work ...

But the grills were in the open and I couldn't get my bundle to stay lit ...

So I moved inside a shelter and tried burning it on the concrete floor ...

And instead of a satisfying, mighty flame to purge all that I was ready to release what happened was a slow, erratic smoldering/smoking ...

Which I feared would alert a park ranger to what may or may not have been legal activity ... so I moved back to a grill and proceeded to develop a blood blister on my thumb from repeated use of the lighter ...

And did I mention the cold and the wind? And my impatience with the whole thing (and my knowledge that impatience was one of my slips of paper inside that very bundle) ...

So what was to be a fire ceremony turned into a hour and a half long smudging ceremony ...

And I knew somewhere Coyote was laughing her ass off knowing I was receiving the first lesson of the new season which was all about surrender and the folly of expectations and releasing attachment to how I want things to happen and the time frame in which I believe my journey ought to move ...

All the while (in that very long hour and a half) geese were circling around the nearby lake and as I heaped some lavender and sage over my still smouldering bundle (because by then I had given in to this being a Process unto itself and outside of my deluded notion of timeliness) a flock broke off and flew directly overhead and I could hear the flapping of their wings and I tried to take a picture but by then my hands were so numb, my fingers could not get the lens cap off ...

But I knew in that moment this coming year would be a time for Clarity and Surrender. And feeling completely exhausted, emptied and inspired I got into my warm car and headed into work.

Only two hours late ... but for the first time in a long while, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. I felt like I was exactly how I was supposed to be: tingly alive, exhilarated, smokey and satisfied.

So what I want to share is that while releasing can be frustrating and challenging and exhausting it does offer the possibility of a clear and fresh perspective and a sense of beginning anew.

Blessings of the new season to you. In gratitude for all my sisters. Aho!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

my story

Yesterday I received one of the best gifts ever

I'm not really sure where to begin or how to explain the magic of it all. But here's a start:

A year ago I met a beautiful woman - a painter, a story teller, a bright and shining being who immediately became a sister-of-my soul. We have been Fearless Painters together and more recently have journeyed round the Medicine Wheel twice in SouLodge. From those journeys, I knew Jane was full of wisdom and love and that we shared many similar aspirations including mindful parenting, creative living and a desire to express ourselves through artistic means. And I think we both are dissent daughters unraveling our preprogramming, striving to live the lives of our dreams and learning to love ourselves with all our imperfections.

Oh, and we share a love of Seinfeld dialogue, particularly the very quotable Kramer.

When Jane created her Reframing Your Story project I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to do. As a lover of novels, stories, fairy tales and film I often find myself feeling like I am a character in a narrative thread - quasi comic and dramatic with just a dash of wistful melancholy. Perhaps a little bit Steve Carell or Jim Carrey in a drama? So the idea of restructuring my story line to fit the Me I am learning to believe I am was too delightful an opportunity to pass up.

In addition to writing a new story for you, Jane offers a variety of package options with artwork to accompany your story. I will admit, I was excited for my story but was thinking the real treasure was going to be Jane's artwork.

The entire process is so lovely - there is a guided meditation to help you uncover your story and some questions to answer to assist Jane in crafting the story and the artwork. Once you've done this prep work, you Skype with Jane to flesh out the ideas. In my case, my ideas were pretty bare-boned ... I was more like Skeleton Woman with bones of ideas and images scattered all over and I handed this heap to Jane and said "Here, see what you can do with this mess!"

With great excitement and little idea of what to expect, I opened my package from Jane and this is the first treasure that greeted my eyes:

And then this:

It was my own private Christmas and Jane was a personal envoy from Santa himself!

Then I picked up my story ...

I started to read and the tears began to flow. And flow. And flow.

Once upon a time a baby was born.

She came into an ordinary family in an ordinary world. But she was extraordinary. This girl had a light that was so bright it was almost blinding to those around her. It emitted from a place deep inside her ...

It felt like my soul was thawing and emotions raged. It was totally unexpected and I cannot even begin to explain or understand it all but this I do know for certain: by witnessing myself in a story written with love and sensitivity and deep wisdom, I felt whole and seen and loved in a way I'm not sure I've ever fully experienced. There is something incredibly powerful about having another person listen to your words, look deeply into your eyes and your heart and then present back to you their experience of who you through a story that describes your struggles, aspirations, and gifts.

We are all living in stories. Stories handed down to us by our parents, our society, our culture, our heroines and guides. I know I had a story line in my head compromised of those 7 basic thoughts that Mr. O'Donohue mentions - the thoughts or narrative that shape my life and my choices. One of those thoughts is "It has to be hard" with the subtext "for me." Another thought "There is some piece missing and my task is to find it."

In my story, what I learn - what I've known but not allowed myself to believe - is that all I've ever needed and will need is within myself. The key to unlock my light has been in my grasp all along, I just didn't know I could use it.

Sometimes all we need is the chance to see ourselves inside a different possibility and then change starts to happen.
- Jane Cunningham

I now have a new story and a list of suggestions to transform this story from paper into reality - into the life I was born to live.

Yesterday I received a number of gifts in the mail ... but the real treasure is this new vision Jane has given me. And the treasure of Jane and her friendship and support.

Wow ... it really is a season of angels ... and Joy Warriors extraordinaire.

And I'm seeing things - myself included - with fresh eyes. The very best gift of all.

*all painted images by Jane Cunningham with the exception of the first "doodle page." Photographed by me in less than ideal conditions for the paintings are truly radiant. *

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Count down has begun ...

Still painting ...

Still receiving support and inspiration from my angels ...

Still knitting ...

Still writing cards ...

Contemplating drinking ...

Miles to go ... it's the North Pole or bust!

How's your holiday season going?

For some inspiration (rather than desperation) check out my offering for Margot's Love Gift series. Each essay is the perfect balm for a holiday weary soul.

Monday, December 12, 2011

all my angels ...

Well, I am embarrassed so many old friends turned up for my pity party post ... but thank you all for the concern, sympathy and virtual tea! I'm not sick often so when I am, I tend to become a tad - ahem - dramatic? Although it doesn't help that today a colleague shared with me a story about a man who ignored a tooth ache because he couldn't afford dental care and the infection went to his brain and killed him! And as misery loves to seek me out, another colleague had a similar sinus infection caused by an infected tooth and had to have it pulled (the tooth, not the sinuses). Unsolicited he shared with me the dirty details about the pain and discomfort of it all.

So, yeah, I am feeling much better on antibiotics AND I have an appointment to see the dentist next week.

While I'm not 100 percent, I am trying to draw upon decades of training that tells me to recognize any experience or sensation is just one of many that flow through the field of my awareness. And that my awareness of sensation, feeling, or thought is constantly shifting and changing. In any given moment a multitude of experiences fills me and I can expand to encompass it all. (I am loving this mini-version of a yoga relaxation practice which has guided me in cultivatiing the above teaching.)

In other words: I can feel tired, cranky, achy AND be energized, enthused and contented. If I allow myself that space, but of course I am pretty good at wedging myself into tight corners and believing I have to stay put.

That is when my angels come to bail me out.

I used to be perpetually waiting for a sign of angels presence in my life. I would listen over and over to the songs Calling All Angels by Jane Siberry and U2's If God Would Send His Angels" acknowledging "I sure could use them here right now."

Much like the old joke about a man pleading for god's help as he stands trapped on a roof top with flood waters threatening to drown him, I believed the benevolence of the Universe would appear to me in a mystical manner. I always tend towards the more complicated and intricate in everything.

Then one day I was sitting in a circle of 50 people listening as each shared their story - their fears and triumphs - after an intensive first week in a month-long yoga teacher training. In that moment of witnessing their honesty and vulnerability, I realized that circle of people were my angels for they inspired me to believe I could be equally as present for all of my imperfections and aspirations.

The signs are everywhere if we choose to see them. The tricky part is to believe we are worthy of the seeing. That is where I get hung up. I believe angels are everywhere but that I am somehow undeserving of their presence.

Or so I used to believe. Of course it is hard to experience the blessings of angels when one has trouble with receiving in general but I am getting better with practice. Today I received my Giveaway gift from a SouLodge sister:

We each shared a piece of magic or medicine with another in the lodge as a practice of releasing and receiving; ultimately connecting with the sense of abundance that is always present in our lives when we are able to open to it and allow it to flow.

What could be more fitting than this piece of medicine for a weary joy warrior:

This is what I am coming to believe: that whenever we listen to our hearts and act upon that guidance, we are following the guidance of our angels. Each time I give from my heart, I am acting on behalf of my angel and when I receive your gifts - your words, smiles, hugs real and virtual - I am receiving the blessings of angels.

As the days grow darker and we near the Solstice, I am thinking about the Me I want to step into as we transit into the period of increasing light. I am ready to shed doubt about the worthiness of my offerings and any question about my right to receive. This doubt has been such a heavy burden and as I've said before, my tendency is to believe releasing it will be a complicated process.

Ah, but then another of my angels passed onto me this piece of medicine about releasing:

just to be clear: that white "thread" is a trail of poo falling in the air

It can be that easy. Just lift tail and drop that crap!

Seasons come and go, I change and yet I don't change. My intention for myself - much like these prayer ties covered in frost - hangs in there. It's not so much about wanting to change myself; rather I want to know myself as being vast enough to hold all the contradictory aspects of my being. And then be okay with that.

Yes, today an angel whispered in my ear and she said the one word that could shake me back into myself: Joy.

Hands together in humble gratitude for all of my angels. And yes, I'm talking to each and every one of you.

If you haven't heard about it already, Pixie Campbell is hosting the Mother of All Releasing Ceremonies for the upcoming Solstice. Details to construct your own releasing bundle are here. Do add your flame to the light.

Friday, December 9, 2011

it's really bad when ...

... I dissolve into tears before the Walgreen's pharmacy clerk.

Actually, I knew things were headed down a dark road when I found myself eating cold cereal for supper a few nights back. And really REALLY OFF when The Husband declared his intention to have cold cereal the same night (unaware of my Dickensian dinner) and I told him he couldn't because there wasn't enough milk for breakfast.

I lived on cold cereal as a kid. I probably ate more cereal than any other food item as I was a picky eater and my mother didn't have the fortitude to challenge me. Water goes around the rock and milk flowed liberally into a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Cocoa Puffs.

Given my overindulgence in the flake food group, I rarely eat cereal as an adult. To decide upon cereal as a viable option for my evening meal is a sign of total decline in spirit, imagination, energy and self worth. My father often ate cold cereal for supper. He would state his intentions with the subtext being "no one really cares enough to cook me a dinner so I must settle for this." Sitting at the kitchen island eating Wheaties in the fading light, I was aware things were spiraling downwards.

I don't know if I have a sinus infection or a dental problem, but I have had a low, dull headache and irritation in the upper part of my mouth for the better part of a week. My tendency is to ignore discomfort and hope it wanders away. But today I accepted defeat and went to see the doctor. Of course, she couldn't see if there is anything wrong with my sinuses so I am to take an antibiotic and if afterwards I still feel bad, then I need to see the dentist.

By now, all I can think about is my head - or more exactly the left side of my head which is feeling progressively number and achier with each passing minute. (Did I mention that while I avoid going to the doctor, I do not avoid worrying about the multitude things that could be wrong with me ... much like I worry about my car whenever a new noise becomes apparent.) I wanted relief and eagerly arrived at Walgreen's for the possibility of relief that is my prescription.

Of course, the clerk informed me there was nothing in the system for me. He proceeded to tell me I hadn't received anything from that location in over a year and a half - basically implying I was woefully misguided, as if I were Miss Havisham arriving to collect her wedding invitations. I told him indeed that was the last time I needed a prescription filled. He then searched the general database and no, nothing for me anywhere.

At this point hot and bothered - bundled in woolens, down jacket and purse bearing down upon shoulders weakened by holiday fatigue and woe - I started to crumble. "Can you call my doctor's office?" Of course I didn't have the phone number in my cell phone. I could barely remember the name of the location and for a moment I couldn't even remember the doctor's name.

I mean, it had been over a year and a half, right?

That is when the tears started to roll ...

He gave me the number and I tried calling only to be told the doctor was now at lunch and I would have to wait until she got back in to straighten things out. Clutching my cellphone with snot (hopefully infected) dribbling out my nose, I waddled out of Walgreen's and now am home waiting for a call back.

And that is my holiday wish: that my sinuses that are the cause of my general malaise and discontent and not a decaying tooth which would have to wait until Monday to be seen by my dentist. Oh, and that the doctor will call back sometime today? I mean, when I finally decide I need to see a doctor then know I damn well want my drugs - NOW! (I've been waiting now for over 2 1/2 hours ... still no call.)

All of which is to say ... I am proceeding one step at a time. Head down, just inch forward - pause - repeat. Oh, and it's been snowing here which is really lovely but adding to my headache and fatigue as I gingerly make my way about on icy sidewalks to walk the dog and then crawl into my car and clutching the steering wheel creep about on slushy streets.

Thank god for online holiday shopping.

Two books I meant to mention in my review of inspiring titles are children's books but I love the message that they share about creativity and making art. They both are by Peter Reynolds and the first one is called The Dot and the second one is Ish. Cowgirl and I love both books and find they inspire us equally.

Yes, there have been pockets of inspiration ... as a reminder of better days ... some play from last weekend - my barnyard is filling up while Cowgirl is working on holiday themed pieces for school.

a very BIG pink pig

cowgirl's holiday tree with presents ... a project for her Chinese class

for some reason, in Moose's fantasy life he is French!

For a healthy dose of real inspiration, I encourage you to check out the beautiful series "The Love Gift" being offered over on Studio Margot. (I have contributed a piece that will be up sometime this month.) It is like an advent calendar of love and joy!

I may be down ... but I'm not out (just not having as much fun as my girl ... but holding out hope for the drugs ...)