Friday, January 31, 2014

Yearly Rituals

For once I was fully prepared for Chinese New Year. Truth be told, I was ready a week early, by accident.

There are yearly preparations that often forgot until it is almost too late - buying the red envelopes which we fill with candy and joss money to give to her classmates.

We are to start the new year fresh and clean which means getting a haircut (Cowgirl and the Husband are ready but sadly, Moose and I will be entering the new year shaggy and gray!) donning special clothes (thank goodness Cowgirl's dress from last year still fits!) and the biggie - cleaning house.

I was a maniac cleaning the house from top to bottom which, trust me, is a rare occurrence.  I had the main floor dusted and mopped in the nick of time.  Until I doubled checked online and discovered I was ready a week ahead of schedule! (I swear, since becoming a mother I am never on time with anything and I suppose this year I over-compensated by being ahead of the game.) Cowgirl was furious with me but we needed the extra time to buy more red envelopes and candy for classmates she wanted to include in the celebration.

Last night we smudged the entire house and Cowgirl rang our special Tibetan bell to cleanse the space and make welcoming the environment for helpful, positive spirits and guardians.  We lit incense for our ancestors and sent our love and wishes to family we know only through our hearts.

This morning Cowgirl had steamed dumplings, rice and tea for her breakfast - heaven for her.  (A normal breakfast might be left over spaghetti, a bean burrito, or her favorite - ramen noodles!)  Tomorrow we will attend a special luncheon complete with Lion Dancers and a Dragon parade.  This has been our tradition for 7 years now.  

We began our family celebrations with the year of the Pig

then the Rat


The Ox


My year, the Tiger

 The Husband's year, the Rabbit seems to be missing (what? a gap in the record?! From what I can tell based upon my massive photo files, someone was ill that year? Or a snowstorm?)  But we picked up the following year with The Dragon.

Last year was the year of the Snake and talk about shedding one's skin and bringing in change!

And now this year, we welcome the Penguin!


Oops ... make that welcome Horse! Saddle up, it's going to be a wild ride! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Can we do it again? (Heart Offering)

I've been in the trenches.  Lucy in the chocolate factory busy with creating work to share in the upcoming 21 Secrets programYou should see my set up for making art demonstration videos.  On second thought, no you shouldn't see because the visual chaos belies the order that I trust is operating below the surface. 

Still, I have the art tubs open which is akin to Pandora opening her box (or vase as the story goes in our book on myths) of caran d'ache and derwent and liquitex and my god, the pens!   No idea what I've released but it is a colorful mess!

But there is this voice that keeps whispering in my ear ... a devil or an angel tempting me ... a call to peer out from my hermitage, adjust the leaves that are entangled in grey streaked hair, smile a less crooked smile (in the final months of invisalign braces ... they don't warn you that a side effect is diurnal bruxing so add to this visual me chattering like a squirrel) and invite some guests over.

Well, not into my home (which is cleaned and ready for the Chinese New Year ... sweeping out the bad luck to make space for good to flow in!) but into a virtual space.  Feeling the pull of another round of Heart Full Living.   

I believe I said it best a year ago:

What does my spirit crave?  Connection.

What do I want to make space for in my life? Community.

What do I need to nourish me in this season of dark and cold?  Conversation.  Deep listening. Being heard.  Hearing the truths of others. Sharing and through sharing, learning, growing, and healing.  Settling deeper into myself and embracing my truth, my story.

Last year my intention was Possibilities.  I still embrace that concept ... but adding Desire and Ease as directions on my compass means going to my edge but in a manner that respects flow rather than pushing, allowing rather than controlling, and welcoming the unexpected and the unplanned for to the conversation.

So, what do you think? Are you up for some heart full conversations? (I'm keeping the costs low - $20 -  because I want to encourage attendance but I also want there to be a commitment.)

All of the details are here.   

The video I made for the first gathering really says it all ...


password: heartfull
direct link to video here

I would love your company.  Last year's gathering went beyond the stars ... dare I say, I desire more?


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

my humble offering (praying true)

I confess my spirits have been on a monster ride of a roller coaster these past few weeks.  A recent setback challenge had me questioning the Universe's resistance to throwing me a bone just this one time.  Of course when I came out of my funk I realized that in truth the Universe is certainly pelting me with bones that clatter to the ground unnoticed and unappreciated.  

Still, there are moments when one must kiss the emotional skinned knee, wipe away the tears of my tantrum and with washed eyes and soul consider what is before me.  What positive change can I make within myself? 

I can create, I can offer my words, my prayers for something beyond my own immediate sense of satisfaction or self fulfillment. (I know I tease you by not mentioning what exactly disappointed me, but in all honesty while I felt immense frustration with the course of my efforts, I also am able to perceive within the larger scheme of things where my actions are tiny and where they hold the potential for immensity.  And so I choose once again to align myself with possibility ...) 

There is a beautiful movement - Praying True -  happening in my least favorite of places, yes ... Facebook.  A call to prayer, a call to creative acts of love and healing for our planet, for ourselves, for all of life.  To quote one of the co-creators of Praying True (and my beautiful friend, Jane):

The idea of gathering through time and space in a monthly practice to nourish our beloved planet is a cornerstone of our creative response to what we know to be damaging. We gather with a belief that the world is hungry for our attention and our gratitude. Our prayers grow synergistically when we remember how this commitment to Praying True joins us together, holding hands in a circle right around the globe, we are offering something beautiful to replenish this world from which so much has been taken.

This yearning to contribute and to support healing that so urgently needs to take place within our communities, within families and especially for our planet has been brewing within me for years.  Even as a child I remember my dismay at learning about the threat posed to whales due to hunting driven by insatiable demands of human consumption and greed.  And I remember wondering how could I possibly make a difference. 


It seems I needed to begin with myself.  Honoring my gifts, my ability to generate change within the tiny orbit of my life, I can envision my efforts pooling into a collective stream of prayers, actions, and attitudes that will result in change.  There has to be a shift from the mentality of take take take and dropping the sham that our actions have little impact. Because that is the lie that has lead to destruction, to depletion, to a neglect that has our waters polluted, our oceans toxic, our planet stripped and suffering. If I can harm, I can also heal.

When I feel cut off or isolated that is a red flag for me not to burrow deeper into my cave, but to seek out sources of Light and inspiration.  So overcoming many resistances (not least being Facebook) I turned to Praying True because, well, I hadn't felt myself able or up to the task until now.

Praying True is a worldwide community for everyone who wishes to give back to the earth with simplicity, loving intention and compassion. Our vision is to bring back love to our human relationship with All That Is, to encourage people to pray regularly for our world in whatever way flows through each person, creating ritual from the heart and in the moment with what is at hand. Then afterward, to share their truth through art making of any kind, posting it here to inspire others to honor the gift of life on this beautiful planet. (from Praying True Group Page)

What I do, I do first for me, for the repair of my own heart.  Borrowing words for a Metta or loving kindness meditation, I make my way to my meditation cushion each morning and after I light a candle (the only light in the dark of my morning) I repeat to myself this prayer:

May I be safe
May I be healthy
May I be strong
May I live with ease 

 In Metta meditation you begin by offering the prayer first to yourself. I silently repeat the prayer until I feel it seeping into me, until I feel myself allowing myself to receive the well-being behind these wishes. I then extend the prayer to a loved one, my words flowing out to them.  I continue to expand the prayer to cover someone I may know, but I feel neutral towards (holding no strong feelings of attachment or aversion) and then offer the prayer to all beings before ending with my prayer for Mother Earth itself. (In true Metta meditation one will also offer the prayer to someone with whom there is difficulty or a conflict; this is the advanced practice!) 

Wanting to connect even deeper and more mindfully with a regular practice of connecting my desire to heal myself with prayers to heal our planet, I found myself making a string of prayer flags.  

I am reminded of a story about a king offering a sufi mystic a gift of a pair of golden scissors.  The mystic informs the king that while the gift may be beautiful, it is useless to the mystic.

A needle I need because a needle puts things together. I teach love. My whole teaching is based on love — putting things together, teaching people communion. I need a needle so that I can put people together. The scissors are useless; they cut, they disconnect. Next time when you come, just an ordinary needle will be enough. 
(story from Osho NeoTarot cards which are no longer available, but the text can be found is here)

I sewed together the individual squares using my mother's sewing machine.  I found myself thinking about her generation and how necessity compelled them to re-purpose and reuse materials.  My mother would tell me how her grandmother made her dresses from fabric that had once been flour sacks.  Scraps of twine, tin foil, paper all were saved and used again and again.  How quickly these habits of conservation were abandoned once the immediate need was gone.  For my mother, homemade signified poverty and lack, but now we are attempting to revalue the repaired, the refurbished, the re-purposed.  

As I pieced my prayer flag together I was reminded of the fact that any true or lasting change will have to begin at the level of home.  I am trying to teach my girl the importance of conserving water, thinking environmentally and recognizing how choices like packing her lunch in reusable containers can have a deep and lasting impact. She reminds me to turn off lights! (As a child I had a cardboard placard that read Don't Be Fuelish hanging on my wall ... my father having worked on that energy campaign in the 1970s.)

Completing my flag, I took a fabric pen and wrote  out my prayers so that the winds may carry my heartfelt wishes to Mother Earth. Inspired by the mindful actions shared in this video by Jane, I carefully selected my totems and words.

owl for wisdom and to see in the dark; stars to include air and space

bee for her vital role in sustaining our green world

bear because if ever there were a time to summon the energy of mama bear, it is now

frog for cleansing and for the health of all creatures of water and sea

strawberries for the sweetness that is Life and a reminder of what is at stake

Now I watch the flags dance in the stiff winter winds and I find myself connecting again and again to the prayers that align my heart with the hearts of so many.  May we all be safe, may we all be healthy, may we all be strong, may we all live with ease. And may our prayers surround our planet in a cocoon of love and support so that she may recover and heal from the wounds of our ignorance.


What words, what prayers, what gestures are yours alone to make?  Will you add your voice to ours?  Open your hand, open your heart, open your mouth and release the prayer that is yours alone to make. It is needed.  And it will bring you home in a way that cannot be explained but joyfully experienced.


Friday, January 17, 2014

gradual thawing (my sketchbook practice)

Some of the best things happen to me when I am busy being distracted by the little fender benders occupying the edges of in my life.  

I blame credit my new morning routine which has allowed me tiny bursts of focused attention within my day. (Thank you Mel for being such a good student by inspiring this teacher to put into action what I effortlessly preach but struggle to remember and oh my stars, how excited am I to know this is on its way to my mailbox?!)

Without really knowing it (okay, so I did suspect, but chose not to tell myself ... you know, tricking myself into this new arrangement ...) I've seemed to have carved out for myself a little practice.

All that I've struggled to implement for the past year (drawing practice, water color painting, a visual journal) seemingly falling into place ...


I know, I know beware such hubris but dare I say it, I think I am hooked?

No, I am committed to following this through in whatever form it decides to assume ... having found a few spare minutes while waiting for the evening kettle to boil, I now I can also make time to draw, sketch or paint some aspect of my day as part of a visual journal (again, thank you Mel! I love the freedom in this concept or perhaps the freedom from expectations that I associate with art journaling; instead a fresh template that I can define in any manner that suits me!) 

And having been re-inspired to haul out my pile of journals, I am in the thick of it explore the feminine through Connie Hozvicka's Painting the Feminine online workshop. (I hope she offers it again as it has been soul-saving!)  She shared with us her love of oil pastels and finally finally something clicked and I am like Augustus Gloop falling into the chocolate river in Wonkaland.  

Just pure play which is all I required to begin an early thaw even though Winter still has us in her icy grip.  But now I happily reach for a cuppa, my notebook and a pen, paints or pastels.  Within a few minutes, I find myself slipping into the spell, shedding the heaviness of the day and opening into the spaciousness of the world around me.

Nothing earth shattering and certainly not high art but my life artfully experienced and expressed and in the end, that is all I seek.

The beauty of this life ... my life ... noticed, celebrated and remembered.

How will you remember this time in your life?  I see I have a good half hour before sunset, so I am off to paint with my favorite painting partner (it's always good to have a buddy!) 

... extra eyes to see new surprises!  Happy weekend, happy play!

Monday, January 13, 2014

and the winner is ...

Heather Dakota!

Thank you everybody for your comments, for sharing the link with others, and for virtually visiting Apifera Farm.  The story of the Misfits continues and I hope that like me, you enjoy the benefits of supporting such heart-centered work.  Thank YOU Katherine for being such an inspiration!  And more importantly, for delivering to the barnyard all our messages, care packages (cookies for a donkey, sunscreen for a pig), and love.

Friday, January 10, 2014

hitting the reset button ...

In countering the downward pull of Winter inertia, sometimes the only thing to do is dive right on in ...

2014 Mandala *

It takes discipline and a great deal of clarity to discern where I want to put my energy and what truly restores me (reading one of the many good books stacked by the bedside versus vegging out before the television; creative practice versus facebook chatter) and then implementing routines to support those choices.

Yes, I am putting myself to bed early (thank you dear Mel) which makes so much sense given I am winding down with Cowgirl anyway.  So now I segue from reading with her to reading my book in bed, preferably with a cuppa Sleepy Time by my side.

Then it is up early (again, thank you Mel!) for some meditation/mindfulness practice.  Easing myself into the day with candle light, smudging, and time to listen for the shy, quiet, small voices that speak the essential truths needed to fortify me for the challenges ahead. Enjoying the stillness of the day before the others are up and about.  Taking time to return to my art journals and play which is how I often stumble into the deeper matters that bang about the hallways in my grey matter.  Painting those conversations and clearing space for new ones to enter and educate me.

Don't get me wrong ... I am still set to slowwww motion ...

But finding my way back in, finding my rhythm and making the moves towards new growth, new expansion and fun projects.

Already cast on another knitting adventure (oh, the fun of felting!  You'll have to wait and see!) but a peek at completed pieces ...

My cap is Dustland pattern - super fun and easy

Cowgirl wearing slouchy version of knit hat found in Issue 8 of Taproot Magazine

So yes, change is in the air. Adventure surely will follow ...

And speaking of pigs (didn't you know that's what we are talking about now?) just a couple days left to get your name into the hat and possibly win an autographed copy of Misfits of Love by Katherine Dunn.  And the author has promised to send the winner an art card with artwork from the book!  All the details are here.

No doubt the upswing in my mood is the result of this amazing bundle of Winter Self Care goodies created by the equally talented and amazing Mandy of attualmente.  

I hardly ever win anything (I once won nurse's timer at a work sponsored Holiday party) so this was the mother lode of goodies and given my winter funk, they arrived in the nick of time!  In fact, I am off to enjoy a trifecta of treats: bath bomb, vanilla creme lotion and homemade limoncella.  Buona notte miei amici e buona fortuna!

(* My mandala madness is in preparation for my contribution to  21 Secrets Art Journaling Workshop which will be released April 1, 2014.  It is a a stellar array of artists offering techniques and ideas for creative art journaling and when you sign up, you get all 21 programs in one handy & beautiful eBook to keep and return to forever!  Sign up now for the special pre-sale discount of $89!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

With a little help from my friends = *Give-away!*

Winter break is over ... we had a one-day extension due to excessive wind chills (as if any of us could forget, it is Winter!) and now it is business as usual.

Well, not exactly.

I find it vexing that the impulse of Winter - slowing down (who's kidding whom? total inertia!), inward focus, deep rest and quiet - contrasts sharply with the energies of a new year and the directive to start anew with projects, programs, regimens for wellness and health.  I know I am struggling over here to emerge out of my cocoon of blankets, sweaters and hot beverages. And while part of me is attempting to embrace (with frozen fingers) this time for reflection, deep listening and receiving of guidance another part of me is crying out for rescue from slothdom.  The mind is willing, but the body heavy and slow to awake.

Such is the time when I draw upon the light and inspiration of friends near and far.  Seeking sparks of life and energy in others words, work, and life examples, slowly slowly slowly I feel the crusty shell of ice and inertia fracturing, my being ever so slowly moving, awakening.  I cannot even begin to name all who lift me up (you may not even know it ... but yes, that dead weight you feel you are dragging just may be me clinging to your back) but I hope you/they know.  

I want to honor and acknowledge one of my litter bearers.  When my creative sparks ebbs, when my faith in the goodness of the world is tested, I turn to the denizens of Apifera farm and their mistress and voice, Katherine Dunn.  

gestural drawings inspired by Stevie (part of "Capturing the Essence" ecourse)

Writer, artist, channel for the stories of each member of her farm, I discover upon each virtual visit breadcrumbs of magic, wonder, love and celebration of both life and death, as well as the gifts of everyday.

Moose sock puppet (left) inspired by project in Creative Illustration Workshop (see below link)

In the past few years I have leaned heavily upon Katherine's instruction in art (her wonderful book Creative Illustration Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists and her online course Capturing the Essence) as well as her blogpost chronicling life on her where she nurtures and shares the stories of the goats, pigs, cats, geese and donkeys that she rescues.  Theirs are stories of survival, of the endurance of love despite pain, illness and death, and the immense courage and gift of standing clear-eyed in the midst of life's hardest lessons. 

Many of my own favorite pieces have been inspired by Apifera and the art of Katherine Dunn.


I want to thank Katherine and Apifera for all the intangible treasures of art and love I zealously gather up and hoard for emotional lean times. I think the very best way to express my gratitude would be to pay forward the gift of inspiration by offering Katherine's latest book Misfits of Love: Healing Conversations in the Barnyard as a special New Year giveaway prize to one of you, my dear readers, who support and sustain me so generously and lovingly. (If you visit the book's link, you can hear a book reading by the author as well as view selected page spreads.) 

sample page spread from Misfits of Love, used with permission from author

I feel particularly proud of this book because in a sense, it was a collaborative effort.  Not only between the author and the animals whose stories she shares, but with her audience who supported her quest to bring this book to life, eventually through self publishing and fund raisers. 

I am fortunate enough to say I had a small part in supporting this project.  It gives me hope to see others supporting art, voting with dollars to sustain a lifestyle devoted to loving care, creative expression and the power of stories to inspire and ignite imagination and acts of compassion and kindness.

And Play.  My favorite aspect of Katherine's work is the strong element of playfulness and invention that takes me back to the imagination I knew as a child.  Imagination that knows no limits.  Imagination that sees possibilities overlooked by tired, adult minds. 

But also there is the child's ability to hold both the hard truths within a deeper understanding of the magic and healing such lessons bring.

 "He [Giacomo, the donkey] died with my arms around him feeling kindness. His grave is now a place of comfort for visitors, as well as for me.

I truly believe Giacomo knew he was in a safe place where he was ready to rest. And I believe he was meant to rest here. He showed me you can trust even after you've been hurt.  I will never forget this creature, and he often comes to me in paintings."
(excerpt from Misfits of Love, used with permission from the author) 

I have one autographed copy of Misfits of Love that I will be giving away as my token of gratitude and as an act of sending light and warmth into our Winter world.  I will select a name at random (perhaps Sock Moose will draw the name out of a hat?) next Sunday, January 12.  To enter your name into the drawing simply leave a comment here, telling me who is your favorite denizen of Apifera farm.  If you are unfamiliar with Katherine's blog, then lucky you!  Follow the link and scroll through past blog posts to discover the many colorful and beautiful characters that call Apifera home.  I don't know if I could single out a favorite, but certainly Aunt Bea is a goat who stole my heart along with a more recent member of the barnyard, Moose. (of course, right?) And I am a sucker for the back end of a very photogenic Pig named Rosie

Comments will close on Sunday night and I will announce the winner on Monday.  Be sure I have a way to contact you. (If you have problems commenting, you can email me at: Lishofmann(at)novia(dot)net.)  Share this post on Facebook (let me know!) and your name will be entered twice.  

And bonus prize: if you are the lucky winner and choose to continue to pay it forward by making a contribution to Apifera  I will make for you a personalized, embroidered bookmark to accompany your prize  (Please note: Apifera is not a 501c registered nonprofit organization. But donations are welcomed: "While you can rest assured that each animal will be cared for, fed and vetted as necessary out of our own funds, we are happy when kind people want to slip us a little money to help defray the costs to maintain the barn animals we take on for life." - Katherine Dunn)

Good luck! And help spread the magic!