Friday, September 27, 2013

let the madness begin!

September ushers in a long - loooooong - stretch of holidays, birthdays, and other festivities.  Just within my immediate family, there are 12 birthdays in September and October, never mind all our friends!  So Cowgirl and I have been busy making gifts.

An old favorite is this faux tie dye/batik t-shirt craft.  It is so simple, I cannot believe I haven't made more shirts.  All you need is some of the clear blue elmer's glue and acrylic paints watered down.  The full directions are here

My bunny design was a little too busy - simple is best. I ended up using a black fabric pen to draw in the outline and some details to make it more legible. (But in my haste, forgot to snap a photo.)

Cowgirl's snake design came out much more true to batik.  The bottom of the shirt has the name of her buddy (yes, a birthday gift!) with yellow for added pop.  She signed her name using the black fabric pen to further personalize the shirt.

We then moved on to make some Japanese Kokeshi paper dolls. I found a cute book on designing the kimonos and different style figures and thought it would be fun to add our own creations as part of a gift for a friend. 

Using a broken down cereal box, we cut out and gessoed the body shapes.


I had some scraps of origami paper, so we designed our kimonos (Cowgirl added a fan.)

We painted the faces (Cowgirl pointed out I made sad eyes in contrast to her happy face - but then her doll required a nose job!)

And then glued everything together using mod podge and a glue gun for tooth picks (hair sticks) and popsicle sticks to turn our dolls in to puppets.

Did I mention that a certain girl celebrated her birthday this past week?

A full day of festivities including mom delivering her a special order for lunch: 

Chinese dumplings and fried rice of course!

Busy times indeed.  And we are only just winding up September with much, much more to come in October.  I just realized Halloween is quickly approaching.  Good thing I quit my job when I did ... I need the extra time for all this fun!

✽           ✽           ✽           ✽           ✽           ✽            ✽

There is still time to sign up for my Mandala Moon Play offering.  The first new moon of October is a week from today.  Also, I am excited to share I have contributed to an amazing project Fearless Sisters Oracle Deck.  Forty-four artists from around the world have created original artwork to create a deck of 44- inspiration cards.  Accompanying the deck will be a booklet where each artist shares the affirmation/channeled message or story behind their card.  

The decks are in production and we are expecting to receive shipment sometime in December. (Hopefully, in time for the holidays!)  Right now I can offer a discount price of  $19.95 through October 4th.   After that, the price goes up to $29.95.  I have a limited number of decks I pre-ordered and if you are interested in purchasing one, I would be happy to hold a deck for you at the sale price. Contact me  by October 4 if you are interested.  I haven't researched shipping costs (I am thinking overseas/international would require me to charge a shipping fee) but am hoping to keep it under $5.

    My card?  Why Trust of course ♥

Monday, September 23, 2013

why i don't own a smartphone (and probably never will)

Hello, my name is Lisa and I am a Luddite.

I do not own a smartphone.  My cellphone is actually my husband's cast off and I reluctantly took it when my cellphone provider would no longer service my beloved flip phone. (Remember those?  It was like a communicator from Star Trek.) I'm not totally tech-phobic ... I love my laptop (which stays at home) and I made the switch from film camera to digital (but I cherish my Polaroid SX-70).

In all honesty, I don't have a smartphone because I am cheap.  I cannot stomach the notion of the monthly fees.  Even with the best bundled simply-everything-plus-really-complete package plan (did you see that episode of Portlandia?) I cannot justify the expense.  (And by-the-way, I don't pay for texting ... so please don't text me because that costs me.)

Okay, so perhaps I should say "Hello, my name is Lisa and I am a pathological cheap-skate."  

But in fairness, I choose to allocate my resources for things I deem valuable: travel, art supplies, books, film (for Luddite camera), good food, handmade products, online courses.  So we make different choices and that is the beauty of variety and choice. I honor your choice to put your hard earned money towards your smartphone (with that sexy new skin) but the pressure to conform has been intensifying and I feel the need to call out some unsavory developments that are worth considering.

If you dare ... read on ...

When I was traveling abroad I admit I was feeling vulnerable moving outside of the range of my pathetic Fischer-Price phone.  What if I needed to contact someone?  What if I ran into delays - how would I procure information?  Then it struck me that I would do what I did in the paleolithic age before cell-phones and smartphones (and ipads - of course I don't own one of those either!  Kindle - nope. Nook - pas de): I would ask for assistance.  I would approach a stranger and trust in their kindness and willingness to help me out.

One argument for a smartphone is the GPS system.  Well, I like reading maps.  I am excited to know Cowgirl is learning how to read a map in school (it gives me hope that maps may continue into the 21st century).  Yes, I get confused and lost and here again I fall back upon a trusty skill: asking for help.  Or better yet: I turn getting lost into an opportunity to explore, risking discovery of places unexpected, sharpening skills of observation and navigation.  I look around, I pay attention to where I am and where I am going.  

The Husband (who does own a smartphone and a Kindle, although he is considering reverting back to an "old-fashioned" - what Cowgirl calls antique items) tries to press upon me the Suggestion feature on his phone for restaurants and activities for when we are vacationing.  Maybe we are doing something wrong, but honestly - have you ever gotten a decent recommendation from your phone?  Is it too threatening to - gasp! - talk to a local shop keeper or resident and ask for their suggestions?  What has happened to our ability to engage in small talk and niceties?

Because what I see is everyone walking/driving around with phones bonded to the side of their heads.  Or worse - in a tractor-beam lock with head perpetually tilted down towards phone, fingers madly texting (will we eventually shed one vertebra to accommodate this lifestyle habit?) We are not engaging with each other, with our community, the environment or the world around us.  A friend gave a talk to a group of high school students and she asked them "Can you tell me the color of your best friend's eyes?"  She said the teens squirmed uncomfortably in their seats.

Many of my friends - appealing to my love of photography -  talk about the ease and convenience of their phones for capturing the fleeting and golden moments of their day and how wonderful it is for sharing those memories with friends and family.  I agree - I see more of my nieces and nephews lives due to the convenience of Facebook and emails with those instant photos downloaded and available for instant access. I will confess though, given the overwhelming glut of images, I tend to look and see less and less.  In the past, a picture may have been worth a more than a thousand words but in the absence of meaningful discourse, I would rather hear the stories rather than be inundated by the barrage of images. (Oh, I own my contribution to that sea of images!)  

In college we had a visiting artist from China come to speak to our art history class.  He told us how he once rode his bike a hundred miles to visit a friend who had a postcard image of a Monet painting.  One hundred miles to see a postcard!  Is more really better?  I cherish the one album of photos from my mother's childhood, pouring over the sharp black and white images for any clues, any details into her life.  Given all that is available to us, do we invest any quality time looking, talking, thinking?

The other issue I have with all the iphone (and digital in general) images is the false sense of certainty that these images will be seen and cherished by future generations.  Most people I know rarely print any pictures out and have the files stored on CDs or hard drives which may not be accessible in the future without proper archival care.  Can you tell me where your pictures from summer vacation 2009 reside?  (If nothing else ... I hope I convince a few of you to make photo books ... they are true treasures and a way to cull through those thousands of images to find the ones that tell the story you want to remember and share.)

All our modern devices seem to offer this allure of certainty and connectedness.  But what exactly are we connected to?  Whom are we reaching?  What is the depth and value of those connections?  All the options of texting, cellphones, email, facebook, twitter present an illusion of being in touch and plugged in, but my experience is clear communication is utterly absent.  If you doubt me, try organizing a child's birthday party.  Despite giving people multiple options to respond, I still end up - in vain! - trying to contact people for a answer.  Now, it may be a trend of obtuseness (which morphs into "rudeness") but I think the root of the problem lies in the false of sense of instantaneous connection. I know I can reach you in any number of ways in any given time, so I put it off.  And then I forget because I am swimming in an overload of information, messages, images, and stimulation.

It's not that these devices are inherently bad, but the behaviors they encourage are cause for alarm.  The Husband does not remember anything outside of what his Google calendar tells him in a pop-up reminder on his phone and in email; Cowgirl finds it impossibly boring to sit through a restaurant meal without dad's phone for entertainment.  We cave in; but I am remembering the stories I would hear as a child while listening to the adult conversation.  If I had had a smartphone, I would never have known about my demure aunt running around with a wild crowd, stealing a chicken and having her mother fry it up and feeding it to her friends. I would not know my father's stories from the Navy during World War II nor would I have known the fuller picture of life during the era in which I grew up if I hadn't been present for dinner time conversations with other families and friends.  I would have missed the clues to a larger life outside of the one contained in that small rectangular box. 

For all the access to a wider world, it feels like we have become increasingly self-obsessed.  The Husband points out that Facebook feels more like "Look at Me!" and less about dialogue, inquiry and the process of self-identification and understanding.  Remember when we identified our Tribe by the music we listened to? I knew my friends interests and tastes, I knew about their dreams, desires and secrets.  Do I really know much about any of my purported -yikes! -372 Facebook friends?  Honestly, I need to purge so I can focus upon the people that do matter.  I think that may be the deeper and honest truth: that we may have access to more, but it is impossible for our brains to process all that data, never mind engaging with it in any rich and meaningful way. We cannot commit because we are too busy contemplating the vast array of options, life streaming by faster and faster like the chocolates on the conveyor belt in the infamous Chocolate Factory episode from   I Love Lucy.  

I don't want to shove life into my mouth.  I want to be present for it. I want to talk to you about your life, your thoughts.  I want to make the time to hear the stories and to understand the narrative that is playing out in my life.  

And now ... step away from the laptop Lisa ...

Closing the lid and turning my gaze to the very full world waiting for me right here in my kitchen. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

buoyant ...

I am such a creature of habit.  The thing is, I easily settle into routines and structures but quickly find myself squirming against the confines of self-imposed schedules.  Craving spontaneity and freedom, I bust free.  The wheel turns and I find myself longing for something to lean up against, some form of constancy and regularity.

In Ayurvedic terms, my Vata (wind element) and Pitta (fire element) are constantly in battle and adjusting, rearranging, and resetting.

This week I threw a monkey wrench into my system of daily writing, painting, and home-oriented tasks.  On Wednesday I spent the day ( at Cowgirl's school assisting in the preschool classroom as a teacher's aide.  In a fit of "I need more options" to generate income flow, I applied as a teacher's aide in my public school system and have presented myself as a substitute.  I've been dodging calls but finally was able to accept one assignment.

I actually enjoyed having the break to my routine.  The entire day was spent being focusing and present for the kids, but not in a stressful way.  In a "I can drop everything else and just do this" kind of way that felt like a good balance to all the time I've spent in my head.  

I just played (we went on a car trip to McDonalds - that is real imaginary play for me; I introduced them to soda - here it is known as pop - they thought me hilarious and odd), read stories, pushed kids on swings and attempted to decipher the language of 3 and 4 year old little people. The kids were very sweet.  We had a praying mantis hanging out on the window screen all morning and when it was time for recess I told them "Let's see if we can walk down the hall like a praying mantis."  They did the very best slow motion walking meditation possible for creatures designed with only off and high switches. 

I left feeling good, sorry that I didn't have another gig scheduled.  Once home, I hit a wall.  I was utterly, completely, fully exhausted.  I mean, draped-over-the-couch exhausted.  My brain incapable of doing anything but hard-wired action: cook dinner (if tossing frozen fries in the oven and a bag of green beans in the microwave constitutes cooking), walk the dog, brush teeth, read to Cowgirl and veg out with some Netflix.

Where am I going with this?  Well, I had hoped to slip back into some form of my previous routine today but ... I am on a 24-hour clear liquids only fast for a medical test and I feel like not only has the stuffing been taken out of me, but I am ready to devour it!  (Okay, so now you understand the genesis of this ramble ... my brain turning in upon itself out of lack of fuel ... I know, I am such a wimp!)

I've been pacing ... living from 8 ounce glass of clear beverage to bowl of broth to bathroom (and the fun hasn't even begun!) and feeling - gasp! - so sorry for myself.  Life feels overwhelming and unmanageable with a full bladder.  Unable to concentrate, questioning myself and probable-futility of my efforts.  I would cry but doing so would result in an accident.

Fear not my friends! In the middle of all this fruitless teeth gnashing (how many times have I almost and inadvertently stuffed something in my gob?) bubbles of wonder, sun beams of hope showered down upon me.  If you've ever doubted the value of your words, your attentions I am here to tell you: YOU MATTER.  Each gesture of kindness, of love and acknowledge matters.  Hugely.  A short email from a friend saying she was excited to be joining in on my mandala play offering was the life-saver tossed out to me and now my head is above water.  I am floating ... in many ways ... and trusting I am moving towards shore. 
As I explained to another of my regular life-savers, at times it can feel like I am preparing an elaborate meal: I am filling each dish with love and care, preparing my home to be welcoming and restful, an oasis from overwhelm and overdoing.  The fear - always that gremlin of fear! - is that no one will show up.  There is huge vulnerability in holding out my hands and saying "here, I made this ...this is my heart ... what I love ... I hope it will feed you well."  There is vulnerability and uncertainty as I shift from defining myself as a contribution in the form of a monthly direct deposit (not that I could ever really explain what my salaried job was) to something more intangible: a welcoming space, a source of permission and possibility, a keeper of the small moments that weave together into a life celebrated rather than survived.  

Each of us matters.  No act is too small.  Take this moment to turn to the person next to you and tell them why they matter to you.  Tell them what you love about them - what you admire, how they inspire you.  And be prepared to receive from them similar sentiments.  You.matter.  We all matter. This moment matters.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

the moments in between ...

Years ago a friend said to me: I jump from this and that when what I really want to know are the moments in between.

Indeed. I know all too well the sensation of being a frog, leaping from one lily pad to another.  I am aware of skipping those liminal moments ... I am becoming aware of what it is I am avoiding by my compulsive busyness.

I am avoiding the discomfort of this moment of stillness and quiet.  While I have craved such, to be in it is hugely disorienting.  I am aware of the sound of the clothes tumbling in the dryer, the hum of the refrigerator, the steady rhythm of my dog breathing as he sleeps by my feet.  I am aware of the glow of the kitchen light, harsh in contrast to the darkness outside.  The false brightness emphasizing the gloominess of the weather and the dimness within me.  

I am aware of the compulsion to be doing something.  The other inhabitants of my home are out in the world and engaged in their tasks while I sit here ... doing what?  Abiding?  Waiting?  

Paying attention.  Trying to grab hold of what constantly slides through my fingers, aware of a shadow at the edges of my consciousness.  I envy my dog his lack of anxiety over what he does or doesn't do.  He simply is.  

I am aware of my defensiveness regarding my day.  The Husband comes home and in a spirit of genuine interest and curiosity asks me, "What did you do today?"  I snidely reply "I sat around eating bon-bons."  I am aware of feeling guilty if I cannot account for myself, my actions, my productivity. But I know too well that busyness and doing does not equal living nor does it make for a satisfying life.

I have joined with the participants in The Gift of Practice in experimenting with a new practice.  I took the advice of David Whyte and am taking the step that scares me, the one I've resisted for much of my life.  I am sitting every day and spending a minimum of 5  minutes watching my breath.  I am not doing, striving, perfecting ... I am attempting to simply be.  Sit. Breathe. Be.

In the process, I am watching the cloaks and hats and labels I've dressed myself in, peeling away one by one.  The longer I sit, the more layers I discover.  Perhaps one day I will come to the end and discover what I've been seeking my whole life: to truly know myself. Just me. Simple, plain, perfect in my imperfections.  Sitting snugly, comfortably within myself. 

If Life is a gift ... and truly, I believe it is such ... then each of us is a parcel of wonder, a treasure to be shared and enjoyed.  I want to sit in that space in between the scattered wrapping paper, torn off bows, savoring the moment of receiving. 

Time to turn off, stop typing and start being ...  

Friday, September 13, 2013

everyone is my teacher

This first week leading The Gift of Practice has been an intense one for me.  In a good way ... in a "Beam me down/beam me in Scotty" sort of way.

I confess to feeling fraudulent as each participant is showing up with so much trust and bravery and willingness to dig in.  It is a big thing,  because deep in my heart I know what I am holding is the space for each to find her way more fully into trusting herself.  But I am the one holding the door open, smiling and saying "yes, yes ... come on in ... it will be fine!"

Of course, I cannot predict how things will unfold and I know that space of not-knowingness (!) is where the magic and gifts reside.  Still. I like to know.  I am a planner but this process - any process embarked upon for discovery and growth - requires me to trust myself and believe if I fully commit to taking just one step and arrive in that place, the next step will present itself to me.  It's like feeling one's way in the dark: touching with fingertips what is before me and shuffling slowly along, guided only by that touch.

I guess I must project some sense of having a handle on these things and really, I don't.  I am willing to admit such is the case and that perhaps qualifies me to share with others my process.  All week I've been thinking about a rich teaching experience courtesy of that great laboratory of human experience: the retail environment.  (Have I never mentioned my 12+ years working in retail?  Oh my ... stories to tell!

I was working the cash/wrap at a major bookstore and it was during a typical lunchtime rush. I fell into a brief conversation with a woman dressed in the robes of a zen monk. I think she was a trainee of some sort.  There is a zen center in my town that I have always been curious about, but fearful to explore.  While she was waiting for the next clerk and I was finishing up a transaction for my customer, we chatted. I asked her about programs for newcomers and she enthusiastically encouraged me to check out one of the open house events. 

The sales clerk next to me became available (I remember him as a was a very gentle, sweet, young man) and the woman moved on to her transaction while I turned to my next customer.

The next thing I knew, zen woman was screaming and yelling at my co-worker.  It had something to do with a discount she believed she was entitled to, but wasn't receiving.  The clerk was trying to calmly explained to her why she wasn't getting the discount but she wasn't listening.  In a phrase - she lost her shit.  Big time.  Before we could call a manager, she stormed out of the store.  I swear, everyone stood stock still, mouths hanging open.

Not that we didn't encounter angry, irate customers on a regular basis; it was the incongruity of a person dressed in the garb of a spiritual aspirant going ape-shit wild.  My response to the stunned customer before me was "I guess I won't be visiting the zen center."

What I didn't understand then, but what I've come to learn, is that the  deeper we go, the messier we become.  Or rather, we become more willing to own and explore the messy, ugly and inconvenient parts of ourselves.  Practice doesn't erase the discomfort of being me - in fact, it brings me repeatedly into my most tight, sticky, painful places - but it does offer me an understanding that who I am is more than just the ugly bits.  I've got to work with what I've got.  And if I am willing to show up and do the work, it is there (so I've been told) the shit gets cleared away and what I will discover is precious treasure waits within.

Yesterday I was surprised to see a picture of our neighborhood pizza shop owner on the front page of the morning paper.  The photo captures his spirit and energy. Then I read the story line: Little time left, but he isn't crying in his pizza.

Well, I am crying.  Repeatedly and unexpectedly, I find myself slipping into moments of mouth-wide-open, snot-running-down-my-face convulsive sobbing.  I am tearing up right now as I think about this man - who we know as Mr. Pudgy - and the fact that he is dying from terminal cancer.  And my heart breaks wide open thinking about him shouting out to Cowgirl How's it going Chicken Leg! because when she was 3 that was what she told him she wanted to be called.  

Yes, life is messy and so it shouldn't come as a surprise that more often than not, I feel myself to be a mess.  

It is painful because it is it so joy-full. It is challenging because anything worthwhile requires all of me - mind, body, heart and soul - to be in the game.  I choose to show up because I cannot imagine accepting anything less even though I know I am going to endure some pretty intense moments. 

I guess if a pizzaman named Pudgy can crack open my heart, making tangible the fragility and immensity of love and connection, and an impatient zen practioner reassure me we all are works in progress (she returned to the store to apologize), then I too can step into the space of teacher. 

Look around, teachers abound.  

a juvenile cardinal who shows me a glimpse of myself ... awkward but with red plumage beginning to peek through ...

Monday, September 9, 2013


Today is supposed to be a power day for me ... moon in Scorpio ... The Gift of Practice launched today ... a wonderful group gathered to receive my brain droppings ... no, I am proud of what is manifesting and I really have to bow down to the truth that my way is always about process and being in the flow, so I have little idea where we will end up but I am trusting the magic of the group and our collective intentions to carry us all someplace wonderful and important and vitally necessary for true growth.

All of which scares the bejeezus out of me, which means I must be in the right place!

But it has been horribly hot again - HOT and muggy which saps my spirits and drains me of inner resources.  Yet I am managing to lumber along, propelled by the good vibrations generated over the weekend at my friend's 50th wedding celebration ... which was a wedding ceremony ... a Hindu ceremony (appropriate for a life-long yogini who built a temple to her guru on her country property) and the groom did arrive on an elephant ...

accompanied by trumpet blasts by Tibetan monks ...

the majority of female guests in saris (we were aided in our draping by Indian aunties who gathered beforehand in the temple to assist us - it was quite the sight!) ...

there had been the mehndi party the night before ...

even the young flower girls got their hands decorated ...


dressed in their finest ...

but all of us eagerly awaiting the arrival of the bride ...

radiant in her appearance ... escorted by her friend, a Catholic priest - she had all her spiritual bases covered: Christian, Buddhist, Native American and Hindu blessings were all included ...

a rich, spiritual and playful ceremony ...

reminding me of the importance of Love, celebration, partnership, friendship and dreaming colorful, big, wide-as-the-imagination-can-span dreams.  As often as I catch myself drifting into the rut of "how things are done"/ought to/should be/the way life is,  last weekend was a reminder for me to ask: Why not?!

Why not see how high we can soar?  Why not open wide the doors to my most dangerous thoughts?  What are my most colorful dreams and why am I not planning for that party?  

That is the celebration I intend to show up for ... every day ... in small but steady ways. Every day. No excuses. No more wasting time.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
- Mary Oliver, When Death Comes 



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mandala Moon Play

As I prepare for The Gift of Practice online offering, I am finding myself inspired to dive deeper into processes that have nourished me in the past.  One practice that I have turned to repeatedly for guidance and insight is the Mandala.

A mandala is a circular format representing the wholeness of existence.  At a basic level the circular template means there is no one area of dominance (top versus bottom) other than a central point : inner flows into outer, top flows around to bottom and back up again. Working within the shape of the mandala, our eye and hand travel around the surface, often spinning the mandala and shifting perspective as we work within it.  

According to psychologist Carl Jung, mandalas are "the psychological expression of the totality of the self." Jung posited that in working with mandalas, we tap into archetypal symbols and messages that constitute the collective unconsciousness.  Jung equated the mandala with the eye, expressing the action of Seeing merging into Consciousness.  To create a mandala is to See the play of our physical and spiritual impulses, urges, desires, struggles and triumphs.  

Given the round format of the mandala, it seems natural to equate it to the fullness of the Moon.  Thinking about the natural cycle of the moon as it transitions from empty (new) to full, and back to empty again, is a beautiful example of our own energy patterns.  Emptying myself of what no longer serves or describes me, opening to fill and receive new insights, new possibilities, transiting into an every expanding understanding of myself and life.  From that new perspective, I begin once again the process of shedding what no longer fits into this new perspective.  And so I roll!

According to different world cultures, each month's full moon offers symbolic teachings attuned to the seasons.  As part of my mandala practice, I will be meditating upon the life lessons of each month, utilizing the energy of the New Moon (new beginnings) to assist me in setting an intention for myself for that moon cycle.  What I hope to create is a monthly "snapshot" of my inner growth tied to the seasons along with a kind of monthly mindfulness practice.  

Knowing that any journey is enriched by like-minded company, I am proffering this handmade invitation to have you join me:

direct link to video through vimeo here

Mandala Moon Play will be a  once a month email with written prompts and ideas; material suggestions; an audio link to a recorded guided visualization on that month's moon energy; and a private flickr group account where we can upload our images and share through comments or discussion threads.  As I sit here brewing all this up (literally, on the spot!) I am envisioning postcards or a group journal to commemorate a seasonal or yearly cycle of mandalas. 

The first cycle - the Autumn moons - begins October 4.  Each month's email will arrive in time for the New Moon (November 3, December 2, January 1 & 30; March 1).  You can opt to join for Autumn or Winter (3 practices) for $21 or for the entire 6 months (last half of the seasonal year/6 practices) for $30.

Registration will open on September 16. I can't wait! (Well, I couldn't wait ... I already worked on this months Mandala for the Harvest or Brown Bear Moon.)  

Feeling the cooler breezes and hints of Autumn reawakening and recharging me.  Time to harvest the wisdom from the previous seasons of intense work and play. I'd love to have you join me! (registration info will be posted over on my InnerGlow Self Care page.)