Thursday, February 26, 2015

my everywhere ...

The rain is turning over to snow and I pause in my day to consider what now?  I've been up for hours tending to those things that each day requires me to tend to  ... making the coffee, emptying the dishwasher, making breakfast, putting a load of laundry in, walking the dog, tidying up the always threatening tower of paperwork that seems to increase even with vows of "paperlessness" ... Are you jealous yet?

Not that I've made much headway as for every paper dropped into the recycling container, I've managed to drag out bulkier odds and ends - tub of paints, pile of fabrics, cards, notebooks, knitting, books - and now here I sit staring at the visible expression of my inner landscape.  I wonder if the earth feels the same way? Heavy and full with all that awaits release, expression, transformation and slightly bogged down by it all?

I realize the beast that stalks me is the notion of something BIG ... my Big Project that keeps to the shadows yet never let's me feel fully at ease.  Even as a child I think I believed there was something Big, something Important I was meant to be doing.  I now wonder if I've been stalking it? Or has it been hounding me? 

I am dabbling with this dangerous thought: what if that something Big (a.k.a. worthy, worthwhile, significant, valuable) isn't some grand beast? What if my Big is actually no one thing, but rather the many little things that make up my day?  What if my Walden Pond or Portrait of the Artist or Starry Night is no one thing, but all these tiny pieces, fleeting moments, slips of paper, images capture, doodles dashed off and scraps of fabric stitched into prayer flags all one giant Big rolled up and held together simply because they are mine? 

Dare I admit an epiphany came while grunting away on the elliptical machine in our basement, watching a recorded episode of Girls?  I guess I dare.  In the episode Hannah, who is in the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop and tormented by the whole experience, is having dinner with her father. She wants to quit and while she wants someone to tell her it is okay to leave, she can't quite buy his advice to do what's right for you.  He then shares with her that her mother once wrote a book and was miserable in the process. But afterwards, she was able to return to doing the things she enjoyed doing. 

Which leads me to consider how I might be rather miserly with myself, parceling out odd moments to the things I love doing or worse, while so engaged looking over my shoulder thinking "Yes, but there is that beast in the corner not so patiently waiting for my attention."  

Not to say I might not one day gather my courage and head into the woods, but right now right here before me are the pieces of my life in all their wonderful chaotic beauty.  I look around me and I see much room for play and joy. I look around me and everywhere this is what I see ...

Dragons.  Dragons asking to be embraced, not slayed.  Dragons help not harm is what my girl often writes on her pictures.  So too the many bits and pieces of my passions, my interests.  They offer me opportunity to build upon happiness.  

So I am learning to see rather than focusing upon the creation of one massive opus, my way is more like japa meditation: each piece of my day, each seemingly haphazard moment of creative play  or engagement is like a prayer whispered over a single bead in a mala necklace. Slowly, mindfully I try to spread my prayers across the beads that make up my days. Eventually, if I stay committed, my life will be held together by all those prayers. And won't that be something massive and love-filled? 


Time for tea and dreams.  What about you?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

my little Black Belt

"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

It's been a long road ...

Over six years, many belts, a couple of uniform changes, 2 pairs of sparring booties, and a small fortune going to Yoyo Berri (frozen yoghurt establishment conveniently located next door to martial arts studio) for celebratory treats ... hours for me sitting on what I call "the waffle iron" but my backside surely knows as "the rack" ... countless trips to class and tournaments schlepping giant equipment bag along with bo staff, nuchaku (nunchuks), sinawali (double sticks), wooden sword and foam sword (we have a small arsenal of hard and soft weapons) ... essays, book reports (I ask you, would YOU want to read a 2000 word essay by a 10 year old? What Black Belt means to me) and checklists completed ... push ups, sit ups, jumping rope (and I started running in anticipation of the 2 mile run only to have them drop that requirement once I was hooked back into running!) ... sizeable dent to my bank account ... and I know you are wondering: Was it worth it?

For the smile on that face? For the confidence, swagger, intensity, focus, and pride in her achievement?  


In the years of preparation, I've picked up a few things while sitting on the bench (a.k.a. Waffle Iron):  besides choke hold, windpipe chop, horse bite (grab your attacker by the forearm sleeves and jerk down), ear muffs (smack both your hands into their ears, then pull their head down into your upwardly moving knee) I've learned ...

Winning Black Belts know who they are and where they are going. They understand themselves and their goals.

Winning Black Belts keep an overall attitude of optimism and enthusiasm. Winners understand that life is a self fulfilling prophecy - a person usually gets what he or she actively expects over the long run.

Winning Black Belts have the ability to accomplish anything they want to achieve. Winners understand that a strong belief in themselves and hard work will result in achieving their goals.

Winning Black Belts commit to their dreams and goals and work diligently to achieve them. Winners make a pledge to devote their energies to the successful realization of their goals


It was a very good day for all.  It was an important reminder that a strong belief in yourself is the foundation, but relying upon a host of teachers, friends, and family to encourage, support and sustain you is also required.  The hardest thing for this independent girl - and a lesson for me - is acknowledging the need for assistance.  In the end, that may be the most important lesson of them all.

"Most humbling of all is to comprehend the lifesaving gift that your pit crew of people has been for you, and all the experiences you have shared, the journeys together, the collaborations ... the solidarity you have shown one another. Every so often you realize that without all of them, your life would be barren and pathetic. It would be Death of a Salesman, though with e-mail and texting."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine (finally, friday ...)

I love the simple rituals ...

celebrating friendship, celebrating creativity ...

celebrating love in all the ways we experience it (dragons & paint of course!)

Happy Valentine's Day! It's going to be a busy weekend as Cowgirl tests for her Black Belt in martial arts on Saturday.  She's calm but this mama?  Thank goodness for the massive infusion of chocolate!  It's a whirlwind end to the year of the horse. I hope the year of the sheep - which trots in on February 19 - means slower pace, time to linger in the grass and bleating ...

Sheep year is time to heal after the chaos of 2014's Horse year. What is of value now is intimacy, family and close friendships. We can be more caring, kind and sensitive with each other. Develop a gentle heart, open to love and acceptance on all levels. Another theme of Sheep year is to express your creative side. Now is the time for art, creativity and cultivation of beauty. If you ever wanted to explore your creative side, this is your year. Do not give up, be pessimistic or become discouraged because Sheep can only move forward! This animal is unable to move backwards or sideways.

xo Lisa, Cowgirl & Moose

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

piecing my self together ...

The challenge in slowing down, is having life tailgating me as I putter along.

I'm in the slow land for goodness sakes!  Ease up will you?!  

Okay, so it is only me tailgating myself with internal dialogue ... why is this taking so long? When are you going to get around to x,y, or z? What are you doing?!

Ah, but I am learning the art of Sacred Listening (or sacred self listening to caught-in-traffic-of-life self) and winching as I hear myself talking smack about about myself which involves a gentle and loving self corrections.

I'm taking the time needed ... 

it's worth and I'm worth the investment ... 

And my new favorite: I'm creating my own life here and I'll do it my way. (Sounds a bit like toddler talk but then again, I may be in a toddler stage of autonomy and self understanding.)

Which reminds me of Cowgirl as a small girl insisting "I do myself" quickly followed by "Help me." And that is pretty wise now that I think about it. 

I'm finding my way. Grief is an interesting terrain. In the beginning it feels impossible to survive the journey: the weight too heavy, the path indiscernible, the body and spirit depleted, uncertain, and rudderless. But day-by-day I pick my way through, I make my way forward.

Or inward? I'm not sure I really care about getting anywhere so much as being at peace with where I am.  In my case, I believe utter exhaustion was needed for total surrender.  I can't say how, but I have handed the reins over to Sorrow and let it go where it needs to go. So far, I am nothing short of amazed by the process. Specifically, how gentle and nourishing it can be.  

In opening fully to my sadness, it seems a host of other guests have slipped in. Gratitude. Celebration. Appreciation. Wonderment. And the most surprising: myself.

My toddler self to be exact. Discovering and delighted by things I did not know I was capable of doing. There are the inner miracles - the sense of my mother within me, knowing and acknowledging what I've longed to share with her. As memory of her physical presence fades, an intimate togetherness seeps in. There are external manifestations that make me shake my head is this me? Baking, sewing, more homey moments amid an already homey life. 

And then the horses. Their solid, earthy presence helping me find my roots. There is nothing quite like a few hours steeped in the smells of manure, leather, and horse to bring me back to the girl I wanted to be, back to life ... back to me. 

I recognize how much my mother informed who I am, but I am allowing myself to see how I contributed to her. Understanding how Cowgirl has made me a better person, I grasp a similar dynamic between myself and my mother. It is no small piece of comfort.

So I assume my place at the head of my own table. I'm tending to her loose ends, the projects left incomplete: a needlepoint stocking, crewel sampler 

And now this crazy quilt. Crazy indeed!  When I was 11 my mother cut out yards and yards of squares for a quilt.  She painstakingly basted and then hand-stitched many squares into triangles, a design I don't believe she truly knew how she would cobble it all together. So she didn't. But she held on to the box of fabric and carted it from home to home until it came to rest in my home.  Now I sort through that box, mixing those pieces with scraps harvested from Cowgirl's first dresses and fabric I've collected over the years. 

I'm not a sewer, but I am taking comfort in this process of piecing the two quilts together, making whole what had been abandoned and outgrown. I'm in no rush. I'm taking the time I need. I'm allowing myself opportunity to enjoy the process, to watch it build into something I have yet to envision.  Something that will comfort and keep my girl warm while she dreams her new world while covered by our collective past.

"Small things such as this have saved me: how much I love my mother—even after all these years. How powerfully I carry her within me. My grief is tremendous but my love is bigger. So is yours. You are not grieving your son’s death because his death was ugly and unfair. You’re grieving it because you loved him truly. The beauty in that is greater than the bitterness of his death." 

HeartFull Living an online conversation on living a life devoted to loving begins February 16. This is not a course, it is a gathering where all are invite to share, question and discuss what it means to lean into love.  Is your heart asking to be heard?  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

and this too ... thank you ... (HeartFull living)

Once the door is open, the lessons in HeartFull living just roll right in ...

Yesterday was a snow day and I sheepishly confide: I may be a weather witch.

No, truly ... I've noticed this, ahem, talent of mine. Not so much changing the weather as it is connecting with the possibilities of storm or sunshine and coaxing them in.  I wanted snow (we need the moisture) and I silently urged it on.  Now we have 10 inches on the ground and more snow in the forecast. All wonderful for a days of shoveling, sledding, building snow tunnels, and communing around hot tea and soup.   

Not so fun when one of us goes down ...

What can I say?  And this too ... thank you?

Well, that was going to be my newly acquired mantra.  That my resolve is being tested right out of the gate seems cruel but I suppose necessary.  Like trying on a new pair of boots and determining whether the pinch is due to an off fit or stiff leather. 

Last week I donned my well-suited cowgirl boots and headed off to the barn for my second session volunteering as a sidewalker for the equestrian therapeutic riding program.  I am scheduled to assist in three session although my first week the third rider had cancelled.  So the first two riders I had gotten to know last week.  

I say know, but the gift of these sessions is that all matters for me - and I assume for the riders - is this day. The rider's history is unknown to me. I am not told the cause of their injury or their illness; I am informed only of what they need this day. Even that changes as we make our way around the ring, the therapist responding to what is manifesting for the client. While  I am directed to give more or less support, to adjust my hand or body position, the therapist also checks in with what I may notice about the rider.  Witnessing shifts and changes and adapting moment by moment. 

Feeling more relaxed (in terms of what to expect) from my first week, I was happily unprepared for the third rider.  We are asked to protect the privacy of the clients, so while I will call her Gaby, that is not her real name.  Gaby arrived for her riding session in her wheelchair wearing sparkly tights, gold hoop earrings and a sunbeam smile.  Unlike the previous clients who are not vocal, Gaby was cooing with excitement. She spoke in Spanish to her family and softly repeated the therapist's English directions. Up, down, and go sounded like a Pablo Neruda love poem coming from her lips.  When she would get confused, she would let slip a shy laugh.  If she could have, she would have galloped the horse right out of the ring and into the open fields beyond the barn such was her enthusiasm and joy.

After the session, she returned to her wheelchair. Her therapist then pointed to each volunteer and said our names in turn while Gaby repeated "Lisa ... thank you." The horse was led over and dipping his head down to her lap she felt the warm air from his nostrils tickling her hands, making her erupt into her sparkling laugh.  Then stroking his face and gazing into his eyes she repeated over and over "Smokey ... thank you ... thank you ... thank you ..." 

That moment has stayed with me all weekend.  I keep revisiting the image of a girl with such tenderness in her eyes gently stroking the horse while repeating thank you. 

thank you thank you thank you ...

It sounds like a mantra, a love offering made with utter and complete gratitude and awe. It strikes me as the best way to live life with an open and receptive heart.  It is what I want to express through HeartFull living.  Gratitude, joy, surrender, welcoming, honoring, trusting.

It is easy to say thank you to the things I knowingly want to welcome into my life. Sunshine, an extra day of family time, acts of friendship and being witnessed, understood.  It is much harder to welcome that which approaches in a more threatening manner: illness, hardship, struggle, death.  But there is always choice, isn't there? 

To proceed forward or forge my own path; to dwell in the darkness or to behold the light; to focus upon what is missing or to acknowledge what is; to bash against what I cannot do or embrace what is possible.  

On this bitterly cold, winter day I can lift my face to the unexpected beams of sunlight,   don sparkle tights, and serve tea in bed to my sick girl.

For all this and all that I have yet to realize: thank you thank you thank you ... 

Care to join in on the conversation around HeartFull Living?  A truly glittery tights group is forming with special guest contributors ... 50% of the proceeds benefiting the horses in the therapeutic riding program I mentioned above ...   all the details can be found HERE.