Friday, November 30, 2012

putting ourselves first (standing up to my biggest fear)


I am so proud of my girlfriend who is presently traveling in Morocco, a 40th birthday gift to herself.  She is with another girlfriend while her husband stays home and cares for their two children, one being Cowgirl's BFF #1 (Best Friend Forever.)  Our families met while we were in China adopting our girls and ever since we mommies have been BFF's as well.  Whenever I call her, I joke "did you see my bat signal?"  This friend has been a source of incredible support, mothering insight, in addition to lots of laughter, wine and chocolate.  She is probably the most generous and caring person I know (and I know a fair good number!) so I am extra thrilled that she is taking this time and celebrating herself with this trip.

Before she left, she wrote me this (as she is traveling, I hope it is okay to be sharing her words): I am a few days away from taking my big trip to Morocco and maybe I'm feeling a little guilty about leaving the family or maybe this is really a question to ponder for women like us who believe in taking care of ourselves. The question is. . . am I too selfish? Or, how do I know when I'm being too selfish?

She added that it was a female friend who could not understand the decision to travel without her family or take the time away from work and others who may need her.  How do you reconcile taking time for yourself while the rest of the world thinks you should be there to take of them?

These questions got me thinking a lot about this practice of self care that I've been preaching. The more I ponder it, the clearer it becomes that caring for ourselves is how we show up for our lives awake, present and full.  It seems to me if everyone tended to their own needs - by which I mean first love and honor themselves as worthy, sacred, whole - then we wouldn't need to take from another, we wouldn't be manipulating people and our planet to fill ourselves with meaning or importance.  When we deny ourselves that which nourishes our spirit, our bodies, and our Joy-selves, then any action we take will have some Shadow aspect at play.  I've seen and received the giving which has emotional strings attached.  I know I have given out of a need to feel needed, accepted and loved and never has that exchange satisfied myself or the other person. 

But if we care for ourselves and come to our relationships already full, we allow others the space and permission to do the same.  And then we are contributing to an environment of love and trust because others will not perceive us as needing something from them.  It is when we feel a lack within ourselves that we seek to gain or take something from another.  


I know as a woman the greatest gift I can give my daughter is to model loving and caring for myself.  It seems to me, women suffer more from this belief that to put their needs first is to be selfish.  I just don't buy that.  If I care for myself, then I have the energy and resources to be present for those who need me.  But I also allow them to focus upon understanding their needs AND then being empowered to fill them.  It seems to me it is about empowerment.  If I constantly do and give to you, aren't I sending the message that you are not capable of taking care of yourself?

These were all my responses to my friend, written in a moment of well ... feeling pretty empowered.  And then I watched this trailer and a monkey wrench of sorts landed in the middle of my neat and tidy theory.

Documentary Lost in Living go here for more info

I have found it easy to establish firm boundaries around self care when it comes to my physical being: staking claim to time for exercise, rest, nurturing my body and even my spirit in order to stay healthy and minimize stress and tension.  But when it comes to my supporting my creative well-being I admit, I do waver. 

I crave chunks of time to burrow into creative pursuits.  Writing and painting are practices that benefit from sustained effort. (I can so relate to the analogy of feeling like a car that cannot move beyond second gear and yet craves to speed down the open highway!)  I cannot feed those kinds of projects in 10 minute increments shuffled between  homework, making dinner and  bedtime. I come home from work and have to choose: tidy the house (rarely happens) or use the hour for my real work.  For this is how I think about it: I have my day job but the work that nourishes me, the work that fulfills and excites and contributes to my inner growth is this work here - this essay, the canvases waiting for me to continue the conversation, the larger projects that require my undivided attention and which take me on a journey of discovery and self discovery.  

And yet, I fail to vigorously defend the worth of these practices.  I find my conviction lagging as I explain to the Husband why dinner was thrown together haphazardly in a last minute frenzy; I find myself swallowing bitterness and anger when after a full afternoon of being with Cowgirl, I am the one to go upstairs and do the bedtime reading even though the Husband said he would, because now is on an important phone call.  I pass by my cluttered table of projects perpetually uncompleted.  

I know what I do is also important, but when its importance appears to be measurable by oneself, it is hard to stand firm and steady.  Yet this is what I know I must begin to do.  For if anything fills me up, promotes my complete well-being and by extension the well-being of my family, it is this work of my heart and soul.  It is tricky terrain.  More so because I am taking steps to allocate more of my time for it while restructuring and redefining career goals in ways that probably won't make sense to others outside of myself, my husband and kindred friends. It requires stepping into what will probably be considered selfishness and most certainly irresponsible.  Here I cling to Helen Keller's famous words: Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.

I'd like to believe that any positive change for our world, any possibility of healing for the planet will have to begin with each one of us. Our homes, our families, ourselves finding fulfillment within rather than from without.  As my dear friend and Shero Jane would say, I'm pulling on my big girl undies and stepping up to the task.  This is a conversation needing to take place. I'm not sure if it is just with myself, with my husband or with the entire bloody world?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

my holiday routine

The laziness of the Thanksgiving holiday belies the storm that is a brewin' in my mind:  now begins the wild ride to see how many gift projects I can complete in one month's time!


What I've noticed over past holiday seasons and what I've failed to rectify in any sane manner, is a natural law whereby with each passing day on the advent calender, incredibly wonderful ideas for holiday gifts manifest and I frantically attempt to achieve the unachievable.  In past years I've knit ungodly numbers of mittens and hats; sewn increasingly crazier crazy quilt-like tote bags; painted, stamped or drawn home made holiday cards; attempted baking projects well beyond the scope of a novice-can't-follow-directions baker; aspired to personalize photobooks and journals; and engaged in far too many last minute and late night crafting sessions.

I also declare each year that this year I will choose a saner path.  I will plan, I will prioritize, I will be realistic.

Yeah, right, silly me!  It is the energy of the pressure cooker which transforms kernels of ideas into a popping frenzy of possibilities and ideas.  


So here I go!  Sewing, stamping, knitting my way into this first week.


First, I will be sure to fortify myself for the long days (and nights) ahead.  Thank goodness for left-overs!

I seem to be operating in a out-of-time way (okay, call me chronically late) but I would be remiss not to mention this beautiful and free offering created by a lovely Soul Storm sister, Joanna.  It has already started, but there are still many days of goodness ahead. I cannot think of a better way to move through these magical holiday days.

30 Days of Gratitude from Joanna on Vimeo.

My gratitude, always centers on this face:

May your season be merry, bright and full of glitter and joy!  xo

Monday, November 19, 2012

what self care looks like ...

The benefit of offering a course on self care is the constant awareness to practice it!  I am so very grateful I've learned to trust that when an idea comes to me in a flash, I am follow it forward despite the almost immediate ruckus of doubts and obstacles tossed my way by the shadow-loving gremlins of fear and insecurity. Certainly the best course for me to lead is the one I need most in this moment.

I've been in building mode: creating the course, planning some local offerings and new adventures and projects.  It has been invigorating but it also has been exhausting. The shorter days have also taken their toll and in the interest of modeling exquisite self care, I have found myself scaling back, doing less, resting more.  The unexpected core of my self care practice has been slowing down, doing one thing at a time and being mindful as to who, where, or what I am directing my attention towards.  So far, the result has been I am feeling less scattered, more focused and energized. I am finding a reserve of patience, kindness and loving care that sometimes falls by the wayside when I am frazzled or stressed.  I am seeing relationships reinvigorated.  Time with my girl has become more creative and playful despite the fullness of our day and schedules. And - knock on wood - so far our entire family is staying healthy while colds and viruses run through our respective schools/workplaces.  

The joy of slowing down is choosing carefully what best nourishes me in any given moment.  And as this building phase winds down, (well, maybe ...  I have since been invited to contribute to two other projects!) I find myself returning to the practices I had to let rest while I worked elsewhere.  My life feels like an English cottage garden: from a distance a bit random and haphazard, but upon closer inspection there is an order and logic present to its layout.  While one bed rests fallow, a bit of manure heaped upon it for nourishment, another requires weeding while a third may be in full bloom and a fourth, ready to seed.  


So this past week I tended to some favorite beds, turning up the soil, getting my hands messy, creating, destroying, preparing.  This is how self care appears in my life.  



I bow my head in gratitude for this jumbled, sometimes frustrating, always in process and always vibrant existence.


I guess I am more like a whirling dervish or a plate-spinner than I care to admit. But I'm in good company. ♥

The drawings are part of a go-at-your-own-pace course called Capturing the Essence by Katherine Dunn of Apifera Farm.  The course is still open and there is plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful lessons which center upon the colorful hooved, webbed and paw-footed residents of the farm.  It has been my sanctuary to visit there, albeit virtually through my laptop screen. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

has blogging died?

The vitality of blogs and blogging is a topic that has been floating around the matrix for quite some time.  It is something I have been chewing on and bemoaning as I find some of my favorite bloggers drifting away from their creations, for various reasons.  Perhaps it is rattling just me and my old fashioned ways, which is humorous as blogging is coming to feel more like letter-writing habits of an elite class of 18th or 19th century thinkers when considered alongside Facebook or Twitter or the general habit of texting versus - gasp! - real emails!

I am a relative juvenile when it comes to blogging.  This little habit of mine has been in place for 3+ years, begun well after what seems to have been some kind of golden age of blog writing.  Do you remember when you would find a new blog writer whose words or images or life snagged your attention?  How you would then spend hours pouring through their archive of posts, like reading a serial novel a la Dickens in reverse?  Piecing together how the blogger arrived at the point when you first joined them, as if unraveling their narrative would perhaps shed light upon your own?

Call me antiquated, but I still love a good blog.  Not the flashy, highly edited and styled blogs that exists as storefronts for online businesses (and I have a version of that myself, so I'm not throwing stones here) but blogs that are like someone's kitchen or dining room table in that they reveal whatever is currently central in a person's life.  Yes, that may mean loads of sappy poetry-prose illustrated by equally vintage-golden photographs of flower arrangements, kittens, sunsets or flower arrangements (check, check, check I've got them all!) but I rather like the idea that anyone can post whatever they deem of value in their lives and for whomever they are hoping to communicate with because at least there is an intention to share and maybe, just maybe, communicate.

I can look around my home and see evidence of bloggers' influence.  The first blogs I read were knitting ones, reviving and augmenting my forgotten yarn skills.  I can pick up any number of hats, scarves or sweaters and tell you which blogger introduced me to the pattern. If I was a motivated blogger, I would share photos of those pieces with links to the original spaces where I discovered them - another aspect of blog reading I enjoy: the experience of discovery.  Alas, it is late and I am being a lazy but honest blogger so I'll spare you the trip down knitterly lane.

I am grateful to the group of bloggers who shared their adoption journeys so candidly and publicly, for it was those stories that gifted me the ability to know something about the process and to envision and believe we were capable and indeed eager to pursue it as a means of creating our family.  So many new perspectives, creative ideas, books, philosophies on living and family, along with a sense of community have come about due to this thing called blogging.  

I know the discussion has raged on about sanitized blogs: people carefully constructing the image of themselves and their lives that they want others to believe.  Isn't that another form of fiction and if we don't see through the ruse,  doesn't the artifice eventually become wearying and we move on?  Yes, there is the whole comparing-my-life-to-that-prettified-life-and-finding-mine-lacking hazard, but honestly, I never stay long at those kinds of blogs anyway.  I mean, they are like Glamour or Elle magazines and I don't buy those either (except when needing collaging materials.)  Maybe the Martha Stewartesque crafty blogs warp my sense of what is achievable but even those I know only photograph the cleared table with said project, ignoring the chaos behind the camera (count me guilty as charged!)


Here's the thing: I know we all edit and select what we want to publicly share but hasn't that always been the case?  Friends come over and I shove the clutter of mail and papers into a drawer, stash my bins of supplies in a closet and give a quick wipe to the countertops.  And maybe I am just quirky, but what I choose to blog about is not so much what I want you, dear reader, to see and know about me as much as it is what I want to explore and understand about myself.  

A friend recently asked me how blogging differed from keeping a journal.  I've been chewing on that question for awhile now as I realize I much prefer my blog to anything I've scribbled in my journals.  In fact, I consider my blog to be a more accurate reflection of me and my life.  When I write in a journal, there is no audience so I should be free to express all my thoughts, dark and light, crazy and mundane. Maybe it is because I write for only myself, I never push myself to fully develop my ideas, thoughts, opinions as I do when I write for this space.  The knowledge that someone else will read my words compels me to gather my thoughts and work my way towards some kind of understanding or perspective.  I force myself to clarify what is often murky when I start out writing.  A kernel of a thought or idea brings me to the laptop and as I write, I dig into the jumble of my thoughts, seeking to uncover some deeper meaning, seeking to understand what it is I truly know and believe about myself and this journey that is my life.


That any of this would be of use or interest to another, well, I don't know.  I hesitate to say "I don't care" but truly I do this for myself and if it amuses or benefits another in some way, wonderful.  Still, I show up here for myself.  This space is a place of accountability. It is my form of mindfulness I guess.  It is a lot of work.  If no one reads my words, would I continue?  I would like to believe I would because I do this first and foremost for myself. The historian/academic in me does this with a thought towards the future and the possibility of these words enduring so that some kind of snapshot of the life and mind of one 21st century Joy Warrioress mama/artist/dilettante will be visible.  I do this so my girl may know her mama in a way that I never was able to know my mother.  

All pie in the sky, I'm sure but I also joke that I was attending yoga classes back when people wore sweatpants (no Lululemon techno-intelligent fabrics back then!) and I will still be on my mat when the herds have moved on to the next trend.  And while the world lives in the sound-bites that is Facebook and Twitter, probably morphing into space-age virtual texting via brain-graphs, I probably will still be here blogging with my lap blanket, pot of tea and the fading afternoon light reminding me it is time to get up and back into the life that so compellingly caused me to pause and wonder and write.

I now return you to your real life.  Thank you for viewing my brain lint!

 I was just interviewed by a dear friend, fellow Joy Warrior, sister-of-my-soul Jane Cunningham for her series SHEros which you can read here.  Of course, Jane is my SHEro and she continues to inspire me with her work, including a new e-course for 2013: Choosing True Over Nice as part of her Women's Soul Workshops.  Thank you Jane for so lovingly witnessing me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

through the dark days

I love the Sunday morning when we wake up and realize we have an "extra" hour in the day.  I love that for the time being, there is some sunshine peeking out when I walk Moose in the morning.  My energy and enthusiasm swell with the rising sun ... but then evening will descend at 5:11 today and the dark nights are only going to get longer and longer in the coming months.


Yesterday I felt the strong, insistent pull of the dark.  It was a grey, cold, drizzly day which only added to my heavy mood. I found myself roaming around the house like an unsettled ghost; I could not transform my restless energy into action.  Truth be told, in the hustle to develop my self care e-course, I've neglected some essential pieces of myself. Even though I knowingly made this bargain - some of my time shifted into building time - I now am on the other side of it and ready to shift gears back to a happy idling mode.  Except, shifting feels rather clunky right now.

In my restless scurrying, I knew the things I could to do to ease me over this hump: grab paper, a pen, some paints and make a mark.  Any mark.  Begin now.  Scribble and see where it takes me.  


I felt clumsy and awkward.  My creative mind feels flabby.  Ideas which normally pour out too fast for me to capture, now seemed lost in the dust.  But I also know and had to trust in this process: that to begin where I am is the first step to taking me somewhere else.  And anywhere would be a change from the dark, dreary and depressing day that threatened to swallow me whole. 

I made a couple of drawings while Cowgirl worked on some dragons.  Her capacity to create new dragons never fails to inspire and astonish me.  If you love it, then just do it. Over and over and over.  As long as it engages you, it is vital and alive.


I felt a little better.  Still rusty, still emotionally wobbly.  But I knew what my next step should be.  I connected with the circle of women who have been my SouLodge tribe for over a year now.  I shared with them that I was struggling, I let them witness me as I was in that moment and I let them hold the space for me to be without apologizing or diminishing the discomfort of my experience.  I didn't need to read their responses, I just needed to voice my truth.  I then closed the laptop and tended to dinner.

Today the sun is out.  Today my energy has shifted as I knew (but cannot always believe) it would do.  I am grateful for the self care practices I have been sharing and I am grateful for the knowledge of what I need to offer myself on a daily basis: art, friendship, community, space and acceptance of all that moves through me, but does not define or limit me.


Staying in flow means moving through the dark and the light.  Welcoming it all as it puts in me touch with the one constant in life: Love.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hallow -Ninja-een


Feeling like the crazy-goodness of September and October crescendo-ed in this final day of October


 The evening was a bountiful one with Cowgirl and her buddy prowling the neighborhood for close to two hours! I was frozen by the end and needed a hot bath and hot water bottle to drive out the chills.  Lesson being: if you run from house to house, you stay warm.   While we were out, FrankenMoose tended to the trick or treaters who dared to brave our house.

 There was also the school costume parade and party, a highlight being a mummy-wrapping contest using toilet paper.  This was an instances when the luxury brand of t.p. is a disadvantage (it kept ripping).


Staying up the night before the party to appliqué a felt dragon onto Cowgirl's tunic reminded me that unless I want to face similar stressful conditions, I had best get started on my holiday projects ... um ... now?! (I know ... who am I kidding?  Last minute and holiday projects go together like hot cocoa and peppermint Schnapps which reminds me I need to stock up on necessary provisions to get me through the holiday season.)


But hey - look at that fire spewing dragon done without the benefit of Schnapps, wine or beer?  Perhaps I need to re-think my approach?  (You can't see the claws, but my goddess they were a challenge with the old Singer sewing machine!  You also can't see the stitch details defining the dragon scales ... oh yeah ... when I do something crazy, I go all out!)

Looking forward to some calm days, hopefully easing into the holiday season.  Meanwhile, we face temptations daily - 

Although this candy stash may be responsible for you all receiving cards, scarves, hats and other sundry crafty-wear.

Happy November!  Are you creating every day?  

Now is a good time to start as there are a slew of people to support the habit.  I just signed up and am number 710!  Go here for more details.   And now I need to do something for today's contribution ... but first, perhaps a little KitKat to get the juices flowing?