Monday, December 30, 2013

my one word

It's that time again ... time to say goodbye to the old, thanking my one word of 2013 for all the amazing gifts it offered me throughout the preceding 12 months and then inaugurating my new word, new intention for 2014.

Looking back upon the previous year, I would have to agree it was a year of opening to possibilities.  I finally left my job of 12+ years that had been confining and squeezing my spirit; I embarked upon a dream of a lifetime to visit New Zealand, meeting at last a sister of my heart (how often had we danced with the notion of meeting in the flesh?!); I stretched myself to teach new courses; I shed another layer of constricting skin and released a position that had become a burden; I traveled, visited with friends, and continued to challenge myself creatively.

Possibilities was my mantra for the year and it allowed me to see change as a threshold into new adventures.  Rather than dwelling on what I was releasing (the experience more often than not being one of grasping tightly to a thorny branch ... yes, I had hold of something but look at the bloody results?) I kept my gaze open to what might be, daring to dream big and full and wide and vast.

This is the gift of choosing a word for the year.  Rather than a resolution, a to-do list (oh, but I am soooo good at those!) it acts as a reminder of who or how I want to be.  My word is my intention for myself, for my life.  What I want to cultivate within myself, what I want to open to, what I want to embody or embrace.  

Some years my word has been inspiring and others it has been less so.  My understanding after working with this practice for 4 years is in choosing a word that excites and somewhat frightens me.  To choose an intention that holds some aspect of daring, that pushes me over the edge of my comfort zone.  Fearless (2010) was a damned good year.  Shine (2011) less so. (Perhaps too abstract for me?) Possibilities (2013) was full of juice and interpretation. Full of ... yes ... possibilities.

There are many worksheets and complicated formulas for helping you to choose your word. As one who naturally falls upon the obsessive/controlling spectrum, it is best for me to avoid such techniques.  Rather, I try to open my awareness to allowing my word to find me.  I find a little serendipity, a healthy dollop of trust and a dash of trust in happy accidents works best.

So my word found me while I was listening to David Whyte's audio program What to Remember When Waking. (Reading or listening to poets or philosophers makes one more accident prone when it comes to moments of grace and inspiration.It was a word that leaped out at me ...

Yes, Desire. 


As I told a friend, desire is a concept alien to my puritanical inclination.  It fits my criteria for daring, and it feels audacious and ... well ... a tad dangerous? It is a word, as my friend pointed out, that could take me all kinds of places, could unlock many interesting doors.

What hooked me was David Whyte's explanation of the origin of the word, "from the stars"  and "to await what the stars will bring."  He writes:

"Desire demands only a constant attention to the unknown gravitational field which surrounds us and from which we can recharge ourselves in every moment.

How would your days be different if you lived a life of desire?"

The act of desiring being one of connecting with the deepest yearnings within the heart and the soul, a connection with Divine, with something larger than myself.  To open to desire is to invoke both my spiritual and animal self and in doing so experience a new fullness of being.  

In all honesty, asking myself "what do I desire?" feels like a challenge to the gods.  My reaction being "how dare I?" To speak of desire never mind actively seeking it, feels selfish, greedy, and indulgent.  But then there is the poet's challenge to live a life of desire.  It suggests a reaching for the ultimate pot of gold.  Yet I hold back - why?  

If I am being honest, it is out of fear.  That I will be disappointed, that I will discover I am not worthy, undeserving, that fulfillment and connection is not my fate. I am haunted by Prufrock's dilemma "do I dare?"   (And in short, I was afraid.)

So Desire it is.  I accept my own dare.  To open myself up to my deepest yearnings, dreams, aspirations ... to open to desire and then hold a space to receive that which is beyond my small mind's ability to conceive.  To open to what the heart can imagine and what the stars offer me ... to stand in the night and allow my dreams and yearnings to expand with the dark sky, the pinpoints of light suggesting the millions of possibilities that are mine to taste, touch, smell, see and know.  To tether myself to the stars and see where they take me. 

 To be that bold, to love that immensely ... Desire sounding like life dipped in dark chocolate ... recognizing I've done it once before ...

And it was soooo right, so good.  Opening to Mystery and seeing what she offers ...

I think that is a pretty exciting proposition for the coming year, don't you?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

this is how we do it ...

Keeping warm (dangerous wind chills today and Moose had a peesicle it was that bad!) and counting down to the big day.

Earlier in the season I read Soulemama's From the Editor in the current issue of Taproot magazine (renewal of my subscription is at the top of my wishlist Santa!) and her words have been a cloak of protection I've gathered about me to shelter me from the collective impulse to spend/hurry/more is better.

And I try, each year hopefully more successfully than the last, to keep my focus on the hearth and home, family and love, celebration and comfort that this season beckons us to embrace. Simple and special, I've said more times than I can count (and to myself more than anyone else), about the holiday season with little ones. 
(Amanda Blake Soule, Taproot, Issue 8: Reclaim)

This has been my mantra: Simple and special.  I cannot judge how well I have succeeded, but I can say my experience of the season has been joyful, playful, celebratory with just enough frantic fun to make things spicy good. (I have two nights to finish knitting a hat, never mind the 4 other gifts-in-progress that will go out sometime.  Better done and late than never done at all!)

Here is how we've been enjoying the first few days of Winter break ...

Making snowflakes (we like tempting the weather gods - Let it snow!)

A little gluestick on the glass and voilá!  Window art!


When you leave art clutter on the kitchen island, all kinds of shy creatures appear and join in ...

Mornings are quiet time for some needlework ...



The best gift I've given myself was to offer a Solstice ceremony.  I admit, in the week leading up to it, I wondered why I had every agreed to leading a celebration with days woefully lacking in time to get things done, never mind time devoted to stillness, to quiet celebration.

But it was a fitting expression of Simple and Special as an intimate group joined with me to enact ancient ceremonies, chant, dream, and envision the year ahead that we all want to contribute to. It was a very necessary deep breath out which allows me to now breath in fully, deeply, and passionately what is to come.  The year ahead feels to me like it will be a very BIG one ... although after some time spent in reflection and releasing, I would say this past year was equally big and transformational, if not transitional.  Soon we will be saying goodbye to the year of the Snake and I know I've shed quite a bit in 2013.  Feeling shiny, supple, and ready to plunge deeper into the mystery, into the adventure.

Much Light and Love to you this season ... and always. xo

Friday, December 20, 2013

Crafting under pressure ...

I have never been one to procrastinate (I can't handle the stress), but something about the holiday crunch brings out the crafty mama in me. It could be the caffeine overload (my little "reward" for being a good holiday elf is a hazelnut lattĂ©) or it could be the barrage of holiday music pulsating through my brain or it could be chocolate-induce mania, but I've crossed a threshold and am blazing a trail through patchwork, wool draped, paint splattered Neverland of holiday gift making. 

To give an accurate idea of the extent of my mania ... I came home the other day and found myself with a couple of hours on my hands.  I ask you: what else do you do when you find yourself with a window of unclaimed time?  Sew an apron, right?

Reading the Little House Books to Cowgirl, I was seized by this idea that an apron would be just the thing for holiday 2013 (if it was good enough for prairie 1885, it is still in style now, mais non?) The above photo crops out the pile of holiday crap cards waiting for me to address them (right hand corner) and the photo album with pictures stacked off to the side (under the plastic bag) and the clutter of journals and paint supplies left waiting for that perfect day ... But all of that was easily pushed to the side so I could use the corner of the table to cut fabric. (And yes, I am a dare-devil who cuts fabric on top of a table cloth without cutting board or ruler which might explain the lack of straight edges in my sewing projects.) 

it's lined!  i know - i am that kind of crazy!

The next morning I awoke with presents to take to the post office, but not before adding an embroidered bookmark to one package. (Full disclosure: I have sitting on my sewing tray an piece of embroider that has been in process since last Spring.)

As the knitting needles rest empty, I had to cast on a hat project for Cowgirl's stocking ...

And today I bought more wool for another holiday gift which I am conceding will be a New Year's gift.  (Along with another sewing project I have in mind. I mean, hey - the fabric is out from the basement and ready to be used!)

Even Cowgirl has gotten in on the crafty holiday spirit.


Happy elves are we.  Happy holidays to you all!  I'll see you when the weather thaws and the wool is gone.  xo

I totally blame these two women for my madness.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

kick starting my mojo

Because I am so cheap (mindful of my money?) ... I hauled booty working on a Shutterfly photo book in order to use a coupon that was expiring soon.

Because I take a few way too many photographs, it is no small feat to shift through my backup drive, opening folder upon folder to re-discover pictures I don't remember taking, but instantly decide that one and that one ... and that one! are all photo book worthy.

Because it is such a laborious task and my memory isn't quite up to snuff, I put off creating a yearly family album.  Which means the photo book I busted said hump over chronicles 2011 (but I finished it in time to receive half off discount and a coupon - score!) and if memory serves me, we are in um ... 2013? So only two years to go if I keep on rolling ... but as I am discount motivated, I need another coupon ...

Here's the pearl in this oyster: first is the pleasant surprise of reviewing a large body of work and discovering I have taken some mighty fine photos. (Helps to have a trained, willing, and photogenic subject.  And Cowgirl is a good model in a pinch.)

vintage Moose, 2011

But another benefit is remembering just how crafty I can be and how colorful my world was back in 2011.  Which motivates me to flex my artsy muscles a bit more in the coming season. 

it just isn't the holidays if I'm not knitting with a deadline!

Then there are people like Mel who get my creative mojo revving through their wildly imaginative projects (if you are needing that perfect gift, look no further!), never mind the daily bread crumb droppings.  Only a dear friend such a Mel could lure me into another ning-hosted arty site but heaven help me, it has been the magic ingredient missing from my creativity brew and yes, my mojo is now humming along.

And it has been effortless (and it's free!) ... the bit of play I've needed to keep me sane and smiling in this season of endless Christmas music. 

Off to do my daily doodle whilst sipping cider and exorcizing Wham!'s Last Christmas from my brain.

Happy days my friends.  Happy days!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

i want that ... one more time ...

With full awareness of a high cheesiness factor, I put this out there ... 

Inspiration comes from the most unlikely of places and unexpected times. Hunkered down with my knitting and some evening entertaining, The Husband puts on his new favorite television show, The Blacklist.  It is the first of a two-part episode and the main character, Raymond "Red" Reddington is trapped in a security chamber with an armed assassin outside the protective glass waiting to kill him.  Inside with him is a wounded FBI agent who says "We're not going to live through this."  Which launches Red, played by James Spader, into a moving monologue.  His response is "I think we will."  "How?" the agent asks and Red explains "Have you every sail across the ocean ... stood at the helm of your destiny?  I want that, one more time."  (If you want to watch this clip, the scene occurs around the 30:50 time mark.)

He goes on to list all the joys in his life - a meal in Paris with one more bottle of wine and then another; to sit in the garden and read one more good book; to walk on the wall, ride the river, stare at the frescoes; "to sleep like I slept when I was a boy ... give me that, just one more time ... that's why I won't let that punk out there get the best of me, let alone the last of me."

Which has me thinking ... what keeps me from crumbling, from giving in, giving up?  What keeps me rising from a warm bed into the cold morning, stepping into the unknown day after day and opening myself up to Life, to Trust and to Possibilities?  What keeps me moving into vulnerability, tempting fate, exposing myself to heartache, loss and uncertainty?  What brings color into my day?  What would be on my "just one more time" list?

All of this falls upon a ripe and tender heart as today I learned of the unexpected passing of a work colleague due to the complications of cancer.  She was only 43. She only recently found out she was ill and now she is gone.  Her art is currently hanging in a local exhibition and was due to come down when she passed. 

Give me that ... one more time ... Events seem to be reminding me again and again of the the finite nature of life.  There would be so much I would want to taste, touch, hear, see and experience one more time, so moments I would want to savor just a little longer if I could.  

Where would I even begin?  I can start with this past weekend and the pause from madness that a snow day afforded us. Waking without an alarm, blurry eyes registering the change in light around the curtains that happens only when the world is covered in freshly fallen snow.

A day of extremes ... the bitter cold with flashes of brilliant sunlight kissing skin ... the burden of heavy snow gear and the impression of renewal in a world washed white and clean ...

The delight of tracks and signs of all the life that surrounds me and yet remains too often hidden and secreted away in leaves and bushes, dark corners and open sky ...


A day with no agenda, just following our impulses.  A day folding in upon itself as we nestle deeper and deeper into the vastness of inner worlds ... 

Together in quiet but deep in another kind of conversation ... busy doing and being rather thinking, talking, filling ...

Play happening ... magic manifesting ...

Drawing our dreams, giving voice to our inner worlds, guides and friends ...

I want all that ... all in one day, in our p.j.s ... and then squeezing in the time to run outdoors in the darkening night and catch snowflakes on our tongues as night settles and the cold sinks into toes and fingers but we have the option to  linger ...


All that ... and so many days more. I want to receive and celebrate these gifts, just one more time.  And then just for fuck's sake, one more lovely time around please. Oh, I'm not asking ... I'm declaring it will be so.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

i've got your back

On Thanksgiving day Cowgirl received a bead kit from her uncle (he needed some beads for his fly fishing lures and passed on the remainders to us.)  There is a back story to bead kits in my family: years ago I sent one of my nieces what I thought was the deluxe-delight kit of multicolored beads.  Possibilities abounded in that box, but what I hadn't factored in was the probability of an equally massive bead mess.  My curmudgeonly brother called me up just days after that holiday with a "Thanks for the bead set ... may a pox fall upon you and your house."  Or something to that effect.

I actually was unaware Cowgirl had received the kit and had been too distracted to consider the reason she was staying confined to her room.  Any long weekend when she isn't begging to spend "just a little time" on the computer should have me seeking out the thermometer.

It wasn't until late Sunday afternoon that I learned she had the kit and had been absorbed by sorting all the beads by color and size. (The Husband calls it the Montessori Effect.)  Pleased by my child's commitment to such focused attention and detail, I was merrily engaged with a project of my own.

And then the wailing began.

It shouldn't be too surprising to reveal that shortly after sorting all the beads, Cowgirl bumped the tray and yes ... all the beads pooled together in a multicolor pile in the tray and on her floor (which is covered by a shaggy carpet that swallows any and everything short of dirty laundry that falls upon it.) 

I confess, I heard the cries and I sat frozen at the kitchen island.  I suppose I hoped The Husband was tending to this disaster (hope springs eternal) but if I am honest, I just wasn't sure I was up for the task of talking her off that ledge.  

She of course, came down to find me.  She flumped herself into the chair ( I know of no other way to describe the gesture of flouncing, bumping, dumping oneself into a pile of anger and irritation rolled in a crusty covering of frustration and despair), crossing her arms and dropping her chin she issued a sort of growling whining cry.  "I worked ALL DAY and now I've wasted my time!"  (Oh, little sister ... how well I know this lament!)

My usual tactic would be to rush in to comfort, but I've learned (slowly and painfully) to let her unspool her feelings.  I issued the appropriate "I can imagine!" and "Of course you would feel that way!"  until her fury was spent.  Then I suggested she bring the kit downstairs ("But it is too late now!") and together we could sort the beads.

What started out as a disaster turned into girls' time.  Soon we were laughing over those sneaky beads that bounce away, coming up with new strategies for separating small beads and more stable methods for holding sorted piles.  When she slipped out of her chair and came over to hug and thank me, I knew I had earned a parenting merit badge.

Just a few weeks ago there was an incident at school with a classmate and Cowgirl and I discussed how she wanted to handle it.  I listened to her ideas and I gave her my opinion on what I thought needed to happen.  In all of this I wanted her to understand that she is supported and that she has the right and the means to take action and find a solution.  I was bullied as a child, so I am super sensitive to this issue.  I never said anything to my parents and I was unaware until years later that my mother knew what had happened and had talked with my school principal.  My experience was one of feeling alone, frightened and powerless to do anything - except hide.  (I went out of my way to walk a circuitous route to and from school, avoiding as best I could my tormentors.)  I did not want this to be Cowgirl's experience.

I have been learning for myself that there is so much support out there, it's just a matter of asking for it and then believing I am capable of joining my resources with that assistance to find solutions. Sometimes it requires me being clear with myself and others as to my needs.  I know it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to truthfully acknowledge when I am overwhelmed and in need of guidance.  It is also an act of great trust to share my vulnerabilities with another and even more so, to be so honest with myself. 

I keep hearing the Rolling Stones song "Well we all need someone we can lean on ..."

I've been subbing at Cowgirl's school in the preschool class and I want to wrap up this verbal wandering with a story about the Zipper club.  In an effort to encourage the kids to put on and zip up their coats, the teacher implemented a Zipper Club.  I was there the first day of the club and the kids were buzzing with excitement.  Of course, there were the few who still needed help and the other aides were so loving and gentle in explaining to the kids that some of us just need a little more practice.  

The following week I was in and it was time for recess when one boy came over to me to ask for my help.  He still hadn't mastered his zipper yet, so I tried to encourage him to give it a go first.  The lining of his jacket zipped into the coat, so there was a confusion over which zipper where ... I got the zippers sorted and then dropped my hands.  "Okay, you try" I told him.  He got the zipper set and I tell you, it was like Edmund Hilary on the cusp of summiting Everest.  The other kids were leaving for recess and this boy started to become anxious, looking over his shoulder and whining.  

I morphed into football coach mode and began barking at him "Where is your brain?  Get you brain in the game!  Zipper!  Look at your zipper!  Pay attention!"  He turned back to me and the zipper, fumbling to pull it up, attention drifting back to the doorway and his departing classmates.  I almost lost him, he was teetering on the edge of meltdown, but I think I shocked him when I barked "Focus on your zipper!" and up the zipper went.

He looked at me stunned and uncertain.  What had happened?  I said to him "Look at what you just did!"  Saucer big eyes blinked, looked down, then back up at me as he hurled himself into my arms.

Yeah we all need someone we can lean on ... someone to remind us to believe ... someone who knows what we need to know ... that yes, we can ... we can do IT, whatever IT might be.  We just need to know when to seek support and guidance and when to listen to the voices cheering us on.  

 In gratitude for all who have so lovingly supported and encouraged me ... just so you know, I've always got your back and am thankful you are watching out for mine. ♥    


Friday, November 29, 2013

thanksgiving treasures ...

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, signaling the official start of the holiday season.  I am scheduled to make a presentation on "Happy, Healthy, Stress-free Holiday" at my local library in just a few days, so I probably ought to figure out what I will share?

This year the family Thanksgiving dinner was held at my home.  I believe it the first time we've ever hosted The Husband's entire family and including my mother it was dinner for 13 people. The cooking was divided up among four cooks, so the only challenge for me was organizing the timing of multiple dishes needing to be heated in our one oven.  The Husband had the more challenging task - smoking and roasting 2 turkeys.  

I don't believe he's ever had a smooth run.  This year he stayed up until midnight to put the one turkey in the smoker.  The next morning he woke early to prep the second turkey and discovered the smoker had stopped working due to the intensely cold temperature overnight.  After attempting a hair dryer to warm up the auger, he had to move into plan B:

The grill was brought out to finish the job.  It was a cold and smokey morning but he stayed calm.  

Meanwhile, I was busy with scavenging enough china, linens, silverware, and glassware for a traditional table setting. Yes, I had to pull up Emily Post to figure out proper placement of knives, forks, bread plates and glasses. 

While it sounds like a lot of effort, the end effect was a sense of festive and special.  A friend has started a practice of pulling out her nice dishes for her evening meal, noting that she is deserving of such attention and care.  My memory from holidays is my mother lavishing attention upon every detail, an act that sent a message of celebration and love.  While we generally always sit down as a family for our evening meal, the appearance of the special china and silver conveyed a sense of cherishment which is my goal in all that I do.  I want each person to know they are deserving of this attention, and that each gathering is an moment to be celebrated.  I am learning to do this for myself. 

It was exhausting but the festive time spent with family generated energy that carried me through the day.  The main lesson (and key to a happy holiday season) is to determine one's intention for season; what is the tone, the message, the feeling I want to experience? And what do I want my loved ones to experience?  In the end, it is about coming together, taking time to be with each other and to be nourished.  Good food lovingly prepared helps ...

my vegetarian plate

But in the end, it is about simplifying, striping away the inessential and honing in on what really matters: moments savored and memories created.  Laughter and connection, traditions passed down and new ones created.

showing our nephew how to carve a turkey ... with a Moose waiting for a lucky spill ...

It is taking time to just relax and be, slowing down enough to be present for the individual moments that contribute to the story of our family.

Even though I hosted dinner and then had to work on Black Friday, I feel relaxed,  recharged and excited for the days ahead.  I believe this is because I am taking time to care for myself which allows me to be better able to care for the ones who matter most.

Belated Thanksgiving wishes.  May we all experience a happy and stress-free holiday season by remembering to slow down and enjoy the small moments that hold so much meaning and provide the juice that feeds our days ... and our souls.