Saturday, December 22, 2012

'tis the season (my holiday balancing act)


I obviously must enjoy challenge and pressure because this is how I craft the final weeks and days leading up to Christmas.  Two days, three nights to go and I have a knitting project I'll be casting on after supper later tonight.  Under normal conditions it is a 4 night project, but factoring in afternoon time tomorrow and Christmas Eve and I'm confident I'll be sipping spiked hot cocoa and laughing mirthfully at the folly of last minute mall shoppers.

Of course I still have holiday cards to finish writing.  Ah, but in my wisdom I've learned to make them seasonal and consider New Years as the true cut off date, buying me another week and some change to go!

What I didn't factor in was 1) coming down with a nasty sinus infection that had me working from my bed, a Celtic Frida Kahlo if you will, and 2) a blizzard and 10 hours without power.  

I may harbor fantasies of Little House in the Prairie, but I humbly admit I would have either succumbed to the elements, illness or madness the first long winter.  Bundled in every woolen item I've ever knitted, I was still a icy wreck.  Even the dog shivered under his Woolrich hunter's plaid dog jacket and blanket.  The highlight of the adventure was hot tea and ramen noodles for breakfast.  The girl was happy as noodles are one of her favorite breakfast items!

But my one superhero power is my ability to complete a task under the most trying of circumstances and so, while huddled another another blanket in the quiet and the cold,  I finished knitting a shawl which I promptly wrapped about my already knit-bulky person.  And then the power came back on!

Cowgirl and I sang a song of thanks to the power people (working in frigid temperatures with howling winds, I do not begrudge them their pay increase that is bundled in our rate hike) and we tossed in for good measure thanks to baby Jesus and "whose his mommy?" Mary and Ganesha (when hovering close to extinction, you want to cover all deities) and Moon Goddess.  

Then we warmed up and head out into the snow.  




This is our holiday madness.  May your world be merry and bright.  May you and your loved ones enjoy this time together, celebrating the miracles that come your way each and every day.   

May you not only survive the holiday season, but find within the tumbled chaos and merry making time to savor those things that bring you true joy. And may that joy inspire all around you to share the love and warmth of their own hearts, their own shining if sometimes snow covered selves.

Warmest of holiday wishes,
xo Lis, Cowgirl, & Moose

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

holding tight (hands=heart)

For Warmth

I hold my face in my two hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands
to keep the loneliness warm -
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hand preventing
my soul from leaving me
in anger. 
-Thich Nhat Hahn

Right now I feel I am holding tight to my soul lest it slip away from me in sorrow and despair; I believe anger will come later.  Anger for the unwillingness to see how our culture and society have contributed to disconnection.  How the media - movies, television, music, video & computer games -  glorifies violence and de-personalizes human life.  Anger over the dragging of feet when it comes to gun control.  Anger stemming out of frustration and a sense of overwhelm when it comes to righting the course of things. The task it seems to me is how do we instill values of connection, care, respect and true dialogue?

Friday I had to resist the impulse to drive immediately to Cowgirl's school.  To see her and hold her and remind myself of the goodness of this life; her being a tangible expression of love and hope for positive change.  When I did go to pick her up, I had to control myself and not run to her and snatch her up in my arms.  I did give her an extra long hug and then proceeded as if everything was the same as usual.

Because things are the same.  This is the world we inhabit.  Cruelty and senselessness have always been in place.  Children are freed from sweatshop enslavement but more remain. The trafficking of human lives takes place across the globe.  Our planet continues to be raped on a daily basis. When I preach being present for my life, that presence includes these soul-crippling realities.  The impulse is to numb myself to all that is painful to bear, but that tactic enhances a sense of powerlessness and hopeless that I refuse to accept.

Being a parent, I am constantly challenged to clarify my thoughts and beliefs.  I strive to be truthful when talking with my daughter.  Children manage to ask the questions we adults have learned to avoid. So here is my opportunity to seek clarity and determine what it is I truly believe about this painful and beautiful life.

I do believe who we are at the core is goodness and love.  That said, I do believe evil exists.  I believe whenever we forget our essence is love, whenever we believe ourselves to be disconnected, damaged or cut off from the whole, then we align with that mis-perception of ourselves.  Evil is born out of this mis-identification. I tell my girl that people who do bad things do so because they believe themselves to be bad; they have forgotten or lost their sense of innate goodness and wholeness.  At a very basic level, they hold themselves to be unlovable.  

I'm not a position to argue over the source of this disconnect.  What I want more than anything is to stop debating, to stop trying to place blame outside of myself and look towards what is my responsibility.  When I talk about self-care I really mean so much more than good nutrient, rest and physical care.  The heart of what I want to offer is an experience of caring for, loving and honoring the goodness within ourselves.  To remember ourselves as worthy of our own expression of love and cherishment.  To then extend that care to those around us. To be fully present, loving and attentive to the people in our life.  To cultivate true bonds and relationships that are more than just Likes on a Facebook page or hits on a website.  

I want to know the color of your eyes, the shape of your smile, the person behind the avatar.  I understand the razor's edge I walk here: I am a digital entity to most of you, but   the real force for change has always been through words.  This is the gift of online life: sharing words, sharing ideas so that we might each recognize the power of our own words  as a force for positive change. 

Here are my thoughts on this grey December day: I want to remember that what I feed my child is more than just organic, healthful food but ideas and beliefs.  I want to raise her on a diet of loving values; entertainment that aligns with the principles of respect, care, and a valuing of life; kindness and compassion as anchors for living; I want her to know herself as worthy of both loving and being loved. 

I want to nurture and participate in true community.  People bringing their gifts together so that we may all grow stronger, wiser, more loving. Today I may hold my face and my heart in my two hands, but tomorrow I want to use those hands to reach out and bring the wisdom of love into my world.  

If you have suffered, it is only
because you have forgotten
you are a leaf, a flower.

The chrysanthemum is smiling to you.
Don't dip your hands into cement and sand.
The stars never build prisons for themselves.

Let us sing with the flower and the morning birds.
Let us be fully present.
- Thich Nhat Hahn (Butterflies over the Golden Mustard Fields

Friday, December 14, 2012

monkey wrenches and other holiday occurrences

Ha!  I bet had you thinking this multi-passionate gal has taken up auto restoration in addition to sewing, painting, knitting and kamikaze baking (my baking skills such as they are could be seen as threatening to all.)

Alas, dear friends, while I do enjoy the British show Wheeler Dealers (even Cowgirl sits transfixed by the nuts and bolts transformation of classic cars) the monkey wrench that has been tossed into my engine is merely the common cold that has me in bed, cutting out fabric stars for the holiday gifts I must get into the mail, um, yesterday?

The count-down has begun.

Inspired by Maya Donenfeld and Liz Lamoreux who each have created artful prayer flags (Maya using her own carved stamps and Liz using antique hankerchiefs) I decided to play with making my own.  I love carving rubber stamps - it is a very soothing and relaxing process. (I've blogged about makings rubber stamps before both here and here ; here is a nice video tutorial for making your own.) 

I wanted to create a set of flags for a friend embarking upon a new phase of life and so the rather Spring-like new beginnings theme in this prayer flag banner. 

I also made lavender sachets filled with the most fragrant lavender from Apifera Farm.  The smell was pretty heady and I believe I may have had a lavender-induced  trip or two which is my excuse for some crooked but expressive sewing. (And yes, these creations were also inspired by Maya's work - I couldn't resist this wise old hoot owl to accompany me into the land of nod.)


Why do I do this to myself year after year?  There is fabric, inks, paper and art supplies strewn across three floors of the house (since I am recovering in bed, I've dragged my wares upstairs making complete the transformation of home into hovel, albeit a colorfully festooned crafty hovel.)  Obviously my body is sending me the message to slow the hell down and I really have no choice.

And yet.  In my Dayquil addled brain new ideas spring forth and the improbable seems possible.  Could I knit a few pairs of wrist warmers for family gifts?  (Meaning: I don't have to worry about getting these gifts in the mail, so that allows for Christmas Eve - nay, Christmas morning! -  knitting.)

And now here's a new thought: what about creating Word of the Year Prayer Flags?   Depending upon the word, I would use theme-appropriate stamps or fabric appliqué with the word printed on the middle flag?  Would that be something you might be interested in enough to purchase?  I'm thinking when I finish my gifts, I might be up for creating a few custom orders.  So let me know (although I reserve the right to plead Dayquil insanity should the response become overwhelming.) 

So here I lie, spinning plates in my mind while downstairs there waits projects to be completed, packages to wrap and cards to be written.  No wonder Santa has his elves! 

And speaking of elves ... I had mine help me draw a name for last week's giveaway and the lucky winner is ... drum roll ... Kim from The Bodhi Chicklet.  I think there will be some vermouth or java to celebrate!  Congrats Kim.  I will be passing the information onto the Bluestocking Elf in charge of enrollment!  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Planting seeds + Wisdom giveaway!

I think the most challenging part of blogging is crafting an accurate title!

I am loving the response to my last post ... it is so gratifying to see others carrying the conversation into other forums and this is why I churn out words and images on a fairly regular basis. For it is by being In dialogue and discussion with others and that compels me to dig deep and uncover the buried messages and yearnings of my heart and soul. From there, we bring together all our voices so that we can mindfully move forward contributing to the world we want to inhabit and pass on to the next generation.

Lately it seems I have been wrestling with questions that have no easy or apparent answers.  I have been conversation with 5 other brave and word-loving souls regarding the topic of Wisdom and how we each define, experience or find it in ourselves and in our lives.  This lively debate has spawned an offering I am proud to be a part of:

Bluestocking Introduction from Jill Clifton on Vimeo.

Let me just say, explaining what I mean by wisdom (never mind figuring out how I know it or tap into it!) is a pretty heady experience.  I suffered only minor breakdowns in attempting to tangle with wisdom.  I am here (in one piece!) to say that I am pretty chuffed (to borrow a favorite term from a favorite thinker/writer) with my offering.  And while I don't want to spoil the mystery, I will say that in the end I go beyond the wisdom of the body and the breath (and if you know me - and I think you all do - you probably can figure out where I finally discover my own wisdom resides, patiently and lovingly, awaiting my attention.)

I've had a sneak peek at some of the offerings in this 8 week course (6 presenters) and I can honestly say, it is full of juicy and artful morsels along with the protein component of wisdom.  What I love about this project is each of us grants authority to her own process and experience.  Each of us uncovers and shares the wisdom gleaned from women's experiences - creativity, connection and conflict of family life, the body, cycles and nature.  By recognizing we each can create and claim wisdom within our own lives, we empower others to look within themselves to determine and then align with their wisdom.  As a mother, I see the urgency of this message for my young daughter: believe in, and trust yourself.  

In celebration of wisdom, I am offering a spot in the Bluestocking Salon's first e-course: The Bones of Wisdom. The course run January 7 - February 25, 2013.  For a full description of the course and contents go here.  To enter your name for a chance to win, either leave a comment here (one comment per person) or email me to add your name into the hat: Lishofmann(at)novia(dot).   If you are a facebook person, then "like" our page and share with your readers (facebook or blog) to receive additional entries.  (Let me know how you helped spread the word by either a comment here or email.) 

I will draw a name at random next Thursday, December 13 and announce the winner on Friday.  Please be sure I have a way of contacting you (or be sure to check in and see if you are the lucky winner!)  

I mention planting seeds and I as I move through these thoughts on wisdom, which seems to involve self trust and deep listening, I am continually pulled to create or contribute to some kind of project or program involving girls in that wonderfully formative age range of 8 to preteen (of course, Cowgirl is 8!)  Just the other day Cowgirl agreed to an after-school play session with a friend, only to tell me in the car "I really want to be home with you, but I guess I have to make my friend happy and do what she wants."  She feared being honest with her friend, saying "She will be angry with me and tell me she doesn't want to be friends anymore."   Already she is picking up on the negative message to dismiss her feelings and needs in order to fit in or be accepted. 

I can address these issues, but I know deeper and more insidious ones lie far below every day conversations. Somehow, some way I want to chip away at inherited biases and beliefs that bolster gender inequalities.  No small task, but listening to this young woman speak, I am compelled to try to make a difference in whatever way I possibly can:

direct link to video here

(This amazing young woman is part of a documentary Somewhere Between which explores the experiences of four teenaged women adopted from China and living in the U.S.)

So tell me, how do we as women claim wisdom for our lives, our stories?  How can we empower younger women and girls not only trust in themselves, but stand up and fight for their place as makers and markers of wisdom?  Who are the wise ones, the mentors and heroines in our lives? How can we recognize and teach our girls (and ourselves) that, as Fang so clearly expresses it, "We don't have to wait around, we can be our own heroines, our own saviors. But we need mentors."  

This is the soil I am turning.  The seeds I am tending.  I can't help myself.  I love that little face with my entire being. I would love your thoughts. I would love the support.  I am open, ready, and apparently qualified in wisdom (as are you) so let's get started.