Friday, August 30, 2013

summer's last fling

The summer heat is not about to let go and I am following its cue and holding tight to these last precious days ...

Favorite moments from the past few days ... gratitude for what is my habit: to reach for my camera, allowing the lens to pull me more deeply into the beauty of the moment as it unfolds before me ...


What memories will you carefully pack away?  What will sustain you on a blustery, gray, winter's day?  Mingled in my memory will be the sweetness of watermelon, the dusty scent of lavender, the song of the evening crickets and the luxuriousness of long days with my girl. 

Take time to remember ... for all too soon, we forget.

Happy holiday weekend to my American friends. xo

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fumbling my way through ...

It is unbearably hot and strong, furnace-like winds have melted away any ambitions beyond reaching for a popsicle and making our way to the swimming pool after Cowgirl gets home from school.

My drying rack is handling heavy duty laundry as the Husband just returned from a 5 week adventure away from home to make an independent film.  Didn't you hear me bitchin' about all the yard work, double-shift parenting and dog walking duties?  I think I was too exhausted to complain. It's good to have him home ... although I may need a second drying rack ... laundry hanging being a wonderful opportunity to shift through some more brain lint ...

I just heard what sounded like banjo music coming from our bachelor neighbor's backyard.  For a brief moment I thought "He must be learning to play!"  I don't know why such an idea sent a frisson of excitement through me ... perhaps it is my own ukulele ambitions and the notion of neighborly support or a local folk band forming.

I play a mean "You Are My Sunshine" and "Puff the Magic Dragon" ...

Yes, well.

What struck me today was the fact that my work - MY WORK - as such appears to have settled into writing.  Which I find fascinating and amusing in an ironic sort of way because any writing assignment for college or grad school had me parked close by the toilet; the anxiety impacting my digestive system along with my nervous system (I had a little bout of Trichotillomania - the irresistible urge to pull one's hair out - while writing my master's thesis; a river stone in the palm of my hand became my self-soothing device.)  Although I found writing term papers draining, I was always exhilarated by the end result of gathering up the muddle that is my mind and formulating some sort of coherent perspective.  I was often surprised to realize "I know all that?"  

I think that is what the poet David Whyte means when he talks about the creative process as coming to the edge of our understanding about oneself and the world, and taking the courageous step into uncharted territory.   He talks about the call to commit to  the necessary, central conversation which involves voluntarily stepping into the space of our unknown, dropping the armor of identity and risking the discovery that who we are is not what we know - not a static being - but one that is constantly evolving, growing, shedding, dissolving and re-forming as we engage in the conversation of living.
This is what brings me back to writing - and at other times in my cycle, painting or photography or art journaling.  As taxing as this process is - wandering through my thoughts and words and fragments of ideas - each time I willingly take this journey, I find myself inhabiting new ground.  The process of shifting through ideas, feelings and beliefs and seeing where the internal meanderings leads me is exciting beyond description.  It is akin to a rollercoaster ride that lifts me up, drops me down and when I am least ready for it, spins me upside down.  Maybe that is my way - needing to be shaken up to allow what has been buried or hidden to rise to the surface.  

For as much as I seem to like using lots of words, writer is not how I identify myself. (Just as someone who eats a lot of cookies isn't a baker.)  Creative Explorer or Adventurer may be more accurate; perhaps I need to watch Bear Grylls for some vital tips and inspiration?

(I am riding waves of excitement as I shift through material for my upcoming offering The Gift of Practice.  I hate self promotion, but  each day I sit down to wrestle with the material and my experiences, I finish feeling more enthusiastic and committed to the practice of showing up for my life and my creative self. I have been busying recording interviews with some of my favorite people and am steeping myself in the richness of those conversations.  While my bank account may not be flush, I am feeling very full and rich with such inspiration fueling me onwards. If you feel curious or called to commit to yourself in a vital way, I hope you will consider joining the virtual gathering.  Further information and details can be found here.) 

Friday, August 23, 2013

water goes around the rock ...

That is one of my core mantras, along with "baby steps" (is it just me, or have you noticed as you've aged Bill Murray becomes increasingly relevant and indeed heroic?)

This is not where I planned to wander today ... but I am baby stepping my way through things over here and I am claiming points for showing up.  Yes, I operate upon an imaginary point system (thank you Karen!) where certain tasks - say, making the bed or tidying up the counter clutter (clutter, I've discovered is naturally self propagating) earn me ten points.  Putting laundry away (I may be one of those rarest of rare beings that has heaps of clean, air-dried, laundry sitting about - I do so love my drying rack ...) folded is 15 points and pulling out a new, clean t-shirt for the day (rather than the one I tossed off the night before) is also point-worthy.  I don't record my points mind you ... it's just the game I play in my head.

ahem ... yes ... the voices inside my head ... so staying with the brain lint theme here, I have come to confess that I am a bit fatigued - okay, completely done in! - by the sound of my own voice droning on and on and on inside my head.  I am hoping others of you partaking in your own homesteading adventures can reassure me that you know of what I speak.  Otherwise, well ... I don't know what otherwise I have available to me?

So, baby steps and water goes around the rock ... you see, today is one of those days where my flow - if you could call it such - ran smack into a unexpected and inopportune boulder.  Nothing too massive that I cannot shift around it and indeed, there is no other option (a tantrum not option so much as a delaying tactic.) So as I take the curve around the obstacles in my day, I find myself thinking about the rocks that water goes around.  And I am thinking those rocks are really the opportunities where I am force to shift perspective, change direction, and open myself up to the reality that life is not about me reaffirming who I think I am, so much as me rediscovering moment by moment who I am and who I am becoming.

Okay ... did that just hurt your brain too?  Blame this this talk by the poet David Whyte which has the white mouse in my brain spinning wildly upon his little wheel: Being at the Frontier of Your Identity.  I've listened to this talk 3 or 4 times now and only a fraction of its immensity has penetrated the dense outer crust of my mind.  

A form of enlightenment may be to understand that you'll never feel quite at home in the world. And you're not meant to.  (from What to Remember When Waking)

My mind is reeling.

And then there is this nugget: of the difficulties of parenting is that you are constantly attempting to relate to someone who is not there anymore ...  they are growing so quickly  ... and you also have this internal heartbreak that they are growing away from you and they are no longer the person who needed you in every facet of their life ... and so there are tremendous dynamics that are attempting to stop the child from growing. 

I am sucking the marrow from that bone ...

So today I am attempting to staying present for the me that I meet as life forces me to flow unexpected ways.  There is the me I've crafted piece by piece through the stories and events in my life; and there is the me I meet when I let go of the labels I've plastered upon myself - impatient, emotional, sensitive, odd ball - and open to the reality that I am always unfolding, learning, growing, being and becoming.  What surprises me is how much trust I feel about that process ... and about that person.

I wonder who we will be tomorrow?  

okay, so the paintings make an appearance because 1) in reviewing old old blog posts, I was struck by all the color in my life and I feel a strong pull right now to paint and bring color back in; and 2) the characters that appear in my work represent the many voices that are attempting to penetrate this thick skull,  so perhaps I ought to give them their space to speak?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Life with windows open ...

We have had an incredible run of mild weather. For weeks we have been able to turn the air conditioning off at night and sleep with the windows open, waking in the morning deliciously chilled and refreshed.  I have fallen asleep to the sound of the neighborhood owl calling late into the night and have smelled the recent arrival of a skunk.  Birdsong is my snooze alarm (I am notorious for hitting the snooze 3 or 4 or 5 times before actually waking up!) along with the distant whirl of a lawn mower tending to the golf course grass.

(Did you not know we live off of a golf course? It would be more picturesque to say a wild wood abutted our property or even a farm or fields but alas, for wide open space I had to settle for the rattle and hum of golf carts.  Cowgirl is amassing a booty of stray balls that she plans to sell for our fortune and which,perhaps, will fund our retreat to wilder spaces.)

Life with open windows - that is how I think about my world these past few months.  Three months and a handful of days since I checked out of the daily grind that was my "normal" job.  But it was not normal to work in a space where the windows did not open.  There were times when I would press my hands against the glass, recalling William Styron's memoir on his depression, where he gives the vivid description of feeling like he was trapped in a room with the windows and doors sealed shut, and it is becoming increasingly hotter and hotter, and he would do anything to escape the sensation of being smothered. 

Now that I have windows that open (and close - symbolizing healthy boundary maintenance) I understand how my previous situation slowly eroded my confidence and sense of power and self worth. Having some distance and fresh air in my life, I am able to understand I am on a journey to reclaim what had drained away from me and more importantly, to appreciate that this process will take time and effort.

These past few months have been the best of times mixed with some low moments.  Not the worst of times, but challenging times.  While I anticipated clunky moments adapting to being at home, I was blissfully unprepared for the lapses in my confidence and the assault to my sense of trust and faith in things working out as long as I do my part.  I still believe that; but part of my real work is realigning myself -  my attitude and spirits - with what I choose to belief about life and meaning and purpose.

I would say this is how I practice magick on a daily basis.  Not casting spells with dried toad tongues or uttering incantations in Latin or Celtic; but regularly sitting still, giving space and time to acknowledge the voices of fear and doubt that swirl madly in my head and then to gently send them on their way as I usher back in what I believe to be true and possible within myself and my life. The magic is me showing up, every day to face my gremlins and to manifest my justice league of inner superheroes and heroines.  

The magic is acknowledging the gifts of abundance that come my way every day: 

conversations with neighbors when deeper secrets and joys are revealed; the box of cucumbers by the mailbox with a sign "for free"; the cool morning breeze kissing my skin as I water the tomato plant, heavy with fruit; the nighttime story book adventure about a girl and her dragon; my girl and her dragon egg incubating in the fairy mail box (it is due to hatch tonight on the full moon!); and this, my wondrous drying rack that I set out every day on my patio, in defiance of neighborhood covenants outlawing laundry lines.  

My small gesture of rebellion is also my five minute warm-up as I ease my way into slowing down and showing up. As one of my teachers explains: what I put on my altar is my life - that is my practice.  Inquiring deeply into the nature of things and through practice - through showing up - testing the accuracy of that view and adjusting it as my understanding and awareness evolve.  This moment, this being me, is all I have.  It is my north star and every day I make the conscious choice to follow it.

Join with me in an inquiry into the structures, support and challenges of practice.  Enjoy the support of community to experiment and experience The Gift of Practice.  I am offering a free counsel session when you sign up by August 24 as part of an early bird registration thank-you.

Friday, August 16, 2013

ukulele dreams

Every once and awhile, the Universe throws me a juicy bone!  I opened the morning paper to discover my ukulele hero Jake Shimabukuro would be performing locally that weekend and at a small, intimate venue. I called for Cowgirl, sat her in front of the laptop and had her watch the video of Jake playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps on ukulele. I believe when her mouth wasn't hanging open, she was saying "wow!"  That confirmed I was buying us tickets and three nights later, we were at the show.

I'm not sure I can explain why it was such a powerful experience for me.  He is an amazing performer and the passion and pleasure and joy with which he plays is evident the moment he bounces onto the stage.  The sounds he coaxes from those four strings is not to be believed.  But what resonated with me was the immense gratitude he voiced when he shared with us his wonder at being able to share what he loves with so many.  And that what kick started his career was the above mentioned YouTube video going viral.  

It was a reminder - a much needed reminder for me - to hang on to my dreams, follow  passion and to not allow set backs and challenges to cause me to loosen my grip.  In fact, when an obstacle presents itself, that is when I need to grab on tighter and reaffirm my commitment to myself and my work. 

Sadly, I didn't think to bring our sky blue ukulele, so we had nothing for Jake to sign.  But the line was long and we watched him enthusiastically greet each person even though he played closed to 2 hours without a break!  Next time ... and by then, we will have a few more chords under our belts.

It was also a beautiful lesson for Cowgirl to find something you love to do and follow that as far as it will carry you.  Not for the accolades or the fans or critic's approval; but for the possibilities of living full out joy-filled living, and watching how that energy ripples out and impacts others to live life with similar passion and celebration.

Thank you Universe ... and Jake.  The generosity of his spirit cracked opened my tired heart.  His gift is he does make you believe ...

Cowgirl and I both needed the buzz of that only a ukulele can bring: one part bubbling inspiration, one part soul stirring expression, topped with a cherry-bright experience of the optimist's gift - the magical yearnings of a child's heart made manifest and filling the air one note after joyful note.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

video ♥

I've been crazy busy recording interviews for my upcoming offering The Gift of Practice.  I am having so much fun!  The opportunity to delve into juicy conversation around creative practice, spiritual work, integration of daily life with soul-full purpose has been an immense gift for me and I am excited to be sharing these conversations as a weekly component to the course.  Some of my favorite and most inspirational people have generously agreed to speak with me over a variety of practices including painting, art journaling, drawing, writing, poetry and photography. 

It is hard this working for oneself, but at the end of the day I fall into bed exhausted in a good way - exhausted because I've emptied myself out, but exhilarated because I am also being filled repeatedly day in and day out. As one of my guest interviewees put it: I've found and am following my yellow brick road.

I would love to have you on this journey with me.  As an added incentive to join, I am offering 45 minute one-on-one Skype or phone counsel sessions with me so that we can tailor the offering to align with your interests and needs.  If you know anything about me, it's that I am a master plate spinner and at any given moment have a number of practices I rely upon to support me in being fully engaged with my self and my life.  I would love to work with you to craft a practice uniquely suited to support you in finding your center, your spark of joy and source of connection to deeper purpose and meaning.  To qualify for the counsel sessions, you must register before midnight on August 24.  For more information and to register, go here.  I'm eager and itching to begin!

Friday, August 9, 2013

✸ August Break ✸

All in a week ...

driving through Nebraska

driving in eastern Colorado

a face to face meeting with a very regal turkey vulture 

and more unexpected encounters


girl time

 enjoying the riches of summer 

resting and refreshing ourselves whenever we can

What does summer look like for you?


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

belonging ...

Just as I predicted, I set down my thoughts on tribe only to glimpse a more profound expression of what it means to belong.


I believe it was The Man (Mr. O'Donohue) who points out that belonging can be broken down into be longing ... 

Distance awakens longing; closeness is belonging. Yet they are always in dynamic interflow with each other. When we fix or locate them definitively, we injure our growth. (Eternal Echoes:Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong)


This past weekend, Cowgirl and I were at Chinese Heritage camp.  It is specifically for children adopted from China (there are other camps for different heritages such as Korean or Latin American) and their families to come together to celebrate and share what it means to be a family blending two cultures, two racial identities. Camp is a place where we discuss how we navigate the turbulent waters of belonging that our children face and which our families strive to fashion and understand. The children learn about their Chinese heritage and they have sessions where they share and examine their experiences and feelings about being adopted and their Chinese American identity.

A place where I belong ... Family was the slogan on this year's camp t-shirts. This was our fourth year attending camp; we have attended with friends we have known since China and our adoption trip.  This year we were joined by two other families from our adoption travel group and whom we haven't seen in seven years, since that initial trip. 

I have always thought of Cowgirl as fairly outgoing, friendly, and talkative.  I watched her this year fall into her daisy group with ease.  Of course, the routine was familiar to her and she was with her good friend (we make a point of our two families visiting at least once a year beside meeting up at camp) and the group of four girls banded together in after camp play at the motel swimming pool.  I forwarded pictures onto the Husband who is away for the month for a work project.  I got to spend time with the mommies and catch up on our girls' experiences, stories and growth, sharing insights and latching on to tools and tips for parenting the strange creature that is a pre-preteen. 

Upon our return, I am aware of how deeply I miss and long for the environment of camp.  I miss my mommy posse and the conversations where I don't have to explain the deeper layer of anxieties, the questions and concerns that we all struggle to integrate into our parenting toolbox. At camp, I am free of the assumptions and misperceptions faced in my everyday world.  No, I am not her Grandmother.  No, we chose adoption and it was our first choice, not a second option.  No, we are the lucky ones.  How much did your biological child cost you?

But that all pales in comparison to the well-meaning but intrusive questions and comments my girl receives on a regular basis. Aware of my deep longing for the community of adoptive families experienced at camp, I realized the obvious joy and ease Cowgirl expressed throughout the weekend was in no small part due to her being in an environment where the other campers and counselors look like her and where all the families resemble her family.  

The Husband commented "In every photo, her smile steals the show."  Her smile.  I look at the pictures and I recognize a buoyancy and brightness in her smile, in her movement and being,  that goes beyond her normal outgoing nature.  What I see is a girl completely at ease in herself and at ease in her world.  I doubt she is even aware of it, but I can see how she is able to let down her guard and just be in a way that she does not enjoy in the predominantly white community where we live. While we try to bridge the gap, there will always be a gap.  


Mind the gap - that is what the recorded announcements say in the London subway stations.  The danger being one of getting a foot caught in the gap, tripping or falling.  I'm not sure how we will mind the gap.  Perhaps the bridge over that gap is the family -  and the tribe - we find and create for ourselves and our child through communities.  Camp, martial arts, other families and groups where we feel seen and loved and safe enough to be our unique selves. There is also the invaluable gift of role models  - the generous, loving, attentive counselors - who provide my child clear image of who she can become. One child at camp told her mother "I can tell there are people here who really care about me." It is in that care that we take shelter and then grow.

The arduous task of being human is to balance longing and belonging so that they work with and against each other to ensure that all the potential gifts that sleep in the clay of the heart may be awakened and realized in this one life. (Eternal Echoes)

Family and friends who see us for who we are and love the crazy, fragile, magnificent and wild beings that we embody ...

Such a gift I never want to take for granted. I am grateful ... and yet I hunger for more ...

Friday, August 2, 2013

butterfly girl (August Break)

A summer tradition now ... The August Break ... pictures snapped amid the breezy days of August ... our last gasp of summer (school starts in two weeks - how can that be?) and there just isn't time to linger ... fun to be had ...

friends visiting and the requisite trip to the zoo 

the butterflies were rioting ... 


everyone of us receiving butterfly kisses and while I've never heard of this said, I'm choosing to believe that every butterfly extends to us a wish ... 


we were granted many, but mine will be for summer to live on in our daily pace and in attitude as we prepare to shift gears all-too-soon ...

I have something I've been incubating for some time now ... you can take a peek over here to find out more ...

yes, many butterfly wishes ... many, many, many!