Saturday, December 27, 2014

happiness is ...

The return of a healthy urge ...

Rekindling my love affair with my cameras.  Flipping through stacks of books (Mary and Linda McCartney), looking about, camera in hand, itching to go exploring.  I blame it on the sunshine. I'll bundle up and brave the cold ...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

in the spirit (Christmas Eve album)

Busy moments in a quiet day ...

Savoring the magical moments of this season ... wishing you the joy of messy hands, full hearts.  xo

Sunday, December 21, 2014

new rituals (festive fun)

This week leading up to Christmas has felt particularly dreamy and still.

I'm not sure whether it is my current state of head and heart or earth's own somnolence with the Winter Solstice now upon us.  Even though I have had to venture out (!) for last minute errands and some very essential (and soul nurturing) teatime with friends, I still feel suspended out of time and in that liminal space of not-quite-knowing/not yet there-wherever-there-may-be. 

And the oddest thing of all - I am relaxing into all of that. I am okay with being in my current state of old-dog-shuffling-about-the-house-looking-for-a-place-to-rest. 

I have had two very rich and grounding sessions with a seriously amazing wise woman who is an astrologer slash storyteller slash myth-mapper with a huge dose of heart-healthy humor and goosebumps inducing truth telling. (Carol Ferris, based in Portland OR. We used Skype for our sessions. Email her at:
She has helped me connect the dots and perceive the greater image of myself and the journey of my life thus far.  She explains how this is the season of dark and cold and "all of the seeds are in the ground, everything is there" and now "the seeds are dreaming in the dark." 

That is it, isn't it? Now is not the time for efforting, pushing, building, and certainly not for understanding. Now is the time for rest ...time to allow the mystery to be ...  for the seeds of what I cannot yet name or know (for to do so would be to limit their potential) ... time for those seeds to be dreaming in the dark

In my current dreamy-state, I have been able to perceive the outline of forms, rhythms, rituals that slowly but steadily taken root. In this season of traditions, I recognize what naturally has to fall away now that my mother is no longer here to participate, but I see what has arises to fill that space.

Behold: our yearly ornament experimentation!

Each year Cowgirl brings home an ornament (or two ... or three ...) crafted at school. 

 Decorating our family tree, I realized I have a bevy of homemade ornaments collected over the years.  There are the ones  I've made ...

And the ones made and gifted to me by friends.

 This ornament practice has been quietly rooting itself within our holiday preparations. In these final days before Christmas, I am imagining holiday music, the smell of baking cookies (each year we bake and plate Santa his Christmas treat ... along with a finger of Scotch which we know he appreciates), and a busy production line of ornaments to be completed.

Gentle, warm, creative time in which we nurture ourselves while allowing our seeds their time in the dark to dream and be.

Happy Solstice.  Wishing you the full enjoyment of the magic, the memories, the joy of this season of the dark turning towards the light. 

Final day to enter my giveaway! Details to be found HERE.

Monday, December 15, 2014

happiness is ...

Finding my way back ...

Appreciative for the detour, but glad to making my way out of the woods' darkness  ...

I am grateful for the lessons and inspiration of Katherine Dunn, especially her offering Capturing the Essence. One lesson there was to explore a memory of loss, and painting the passing of my mother has been an important stage in my grief.  I painted the above piece with her wearing her Cowgirl garb.  My sense - my hope? - is that she is reconnecting with the parts of herself lost over the years.  As she is reunited with her loved ones, I envision her being reunited with her full self.  I can't help but think of the lyrics Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars ... (HERE is an amazing cover by an 8 year-old Norwegian singer)

I finally made my way back to this piece ... 


My study of Van Gogh's portrait of the Postmaster Roulin

Looking forward to continuing with Studying Under the Masters ... it took me 2 months to work through week one's content and there are six weeks total.  So I have months of painting play to look forward to as Winter's cold embrace settles in for a stay. 

Happiness is:  a paint brush and ideas/emotions I am ready to explore

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

mother Christmas (holiday giveaway)

Love is in the details.

This is something my mother exemplified.  She was not an overtly demonstrative person: she would not heap words of affection upon you nor would she be constantly hugging or kissing you.   

Much to Cowgirl's chagrin, I am very different in this respect from my mother. I am wildly verbal and physical in my love. If I wore lipstick, Cowgirl would be perpetually smeared from head to toe in holly berry red.  I am both a toe nibbler and cheek pincher, and I can (and do) say I love you in four other languages. 

No, my mother did not shout her affections.  She quietly demonstrated her love and care through attention to detail and consistent presence.  She always said "I love you" at the end of our phone calls and she always greeted me with a quick peck on the lips (our family falls into the lip kissing versus cheek kissing camp). Her love was quiet, but it went deep.

My mother was the best gift giver.  It wasn't just that she gave me the gifts I asked for;  more often than not, she gave me the gifts I didn't know to ask for ... the gifts that I would not have imagined to be mine.  She did this by paying close attention.  She would remember a comment I made about a robe in a shop window and months later, it would appear wrapped and under the tree.  She excelled in slipping items to shop clerks when my back was turned, sneaking  the gift home and tucking it away until the time came for her to surprise and delight me.

When I was very little, I desperately wanted these Country Mouse, City Mouse play house sets I saw in the F.A.O. Schwartz catalog.  That Christmas I received both.  But not the store bought ones (overpriced and bland) -  she made me the two houses herself! She decorated the insides with wallpaper, carpet, doll furniture, and tiny aprons for each mouse. I loved those houses until they fell apart.

Another year, she made me my own Little House on the Prairie Doll ...

complete with a wardrobe of dresses, bonnets,nightgowns and quilt she sewed herself ... 

and little shoes!

In the past few years, it was my turn to surprise my mother with unexpected gifts, especially at Christmas time.  Her stocking seemed to be the fattest as I filled it with fun little treasures and pleasures. Nothing fancy, but what I remembered she loved.

These past few weeks I have been drifting through my days.  Slowly, slowly I am easing myself back in.  I had the pleasure to create a set of prayer flags for a woman expecting her first child.   She shared with me her intention for the coming year Is Trust.  Like my mother, I try my best to tease out the meaningful through attention to details.

As I sat at my mother's sewing machine, it struck me as wildly fitting I was working with the intention  of trust as I return to my daily activities and my work. 

I've created my own life, but it was nurtured and supported by the constant love and attention of my mother. I never questioned her being there for me.  Her love and her belief in my abilities, mentored me in the experience of Trust.  Not just in her love, but trust in myself.  In turn, I hope I can do the same for my daughter.   

To honor my mother's memory this holiday season, I want to hear more stories about our mothers. How did your mother convey her love and care to you?  What magical memories come to mind when you think about the holiday season and how did your mother feed that magic?  Perhaps yours is a memory not about your biological mother, but about someone mothering you in a deep and rich way.  I would love to celebrate those stories as well.

To celebrate the spirit of perfect gifts, I am giving away a deck of Awakening to Your Divine Self Oracle Cards.  

This deck contains 44 beautiful images created by 39 artists from around the globe, including yours truly.  Each card offers a message of loving wisdom and quiet inspiration, messages gleaned from each artist's conversation with her deeper self. For every story shared in the comments section below, I will enter your name into the drawing. If you would rather submit your story via email, you can contact me at: Lishofmann88(at)gmail(dot)com.  I also have decks to sell ($29.95 includes shipping to US and Canada; other artists selling the cards can be found HERE)

I will pick a name and announce a winner next Sunday (December 21). So be sure I have a way to contact you should you win!

My wisdom card in the deck?

Trust, of course!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

i carry on ...

How is it December already?  I have no memory of November ... it slipped past me it seems. And now I look at the calendar and wonder how will I prepare for the holidays that lurk mere weeks away?

In years past, I've always managed to come up with a wildly ambitious gift-making project that has me knitting, sewing, painting and other modes of crafting-busy up until the midnight hour.  I think it has been my way of plodding forward, my crazy way of finding a path in the midst of the holiday frenzy. When I am overwhelmed I either toss up my hands or get busy.

But this year, I have nothing.  Well, what amounts to nothing for me.  A skein of yarn awaiting the needles, a promised strand of prayer flags to sew ... I am eyeballing an embroidery piece ... but nothing of the scale from years past.

I know there are good reasons for the current state of affairs.  Certainly the state of my heart has left me little time or energy to cook up some creative fun.  In all honesty, getting up and dressed (in grown up clothes, not my shuffle about clothes) is cause for celebration.  I am grateful for the years of practice - running, yoga, teaching - because if nothing else, the muscle of discipline is strongly developed. Even when I don't know what to do, I know to do something.  Anything. A gesture, an action, a move that acts as my commitment to forward, to hope, to what is possible when I stand in The Now.

Problem is, the past is like a vortex sucking me down down down.

Ironically, I share some of my best moves in a lovely holiday offering by Karen Caterson of Square-Peg People called  Support Stories.  The series is a lovely offering of encouragement for finding stable footing during the whirlwind of the holiday season.  I agreed to Karen's invitation before my mother passed away. Knowing I was going to submit something to this series was a form of support or awareness for me as events unfolded.  I am grateful that I stuck it out and made this video offering

Today I found a way to bring the past into the present.  The means of that alchemical feat?  Fruitcake.

I had given up hope of finding any sort of secret message left by my mother for my eyes only.  I found lots (and lots) of wadded up kleenex, cough drops and tooth picks in the pockets of her jackets, in purses and nightstand.  I found notepads filled with lyrics to old songs and lists of books or movies she wanted to read or watch. But nothing hidden away for me to discover.  My mother didn't think that way.  Unlike me, she never liked mystery novels or movies ... she preferred nonfiction, historical stories, crossword puzzles and trivia.  

But my mother did leave me her recipe box and in it, the recipe she used to make a holiday fruitcake (more accurately, applesauce meets fruitcake meets spice cake) which was a holiday tradition.

In fact, it was our tradition ... yes, our special secret exchange of love via dried fruit, spices, nuts and sugar. 

why I will always prefer the handwritten & the paper version to anything digital: marginalia

Every year, for as long as I can remember, my mother made a version of this cake.  She varied the ingredients from year to year, so it was never the same cake twice.  When I went away to college, she would mail me a loaf double-wrapped in tinfoil.  She continued to send me a cake every year and part of the tradition was my phone call home and our evaluation of that year's cake: extra gooey, too cakey, good spice, not enough fruit

As I look at the recipe card, I realize the yearly ritual of baking those cakes was done for me ... and for her. Year after year, we were the ones who ate those cakes.  Year after year, I was the one waiting for her cake, and year after year she baked it. 

Except for last year.  I hadn't realized until today the break in our tradition. The previous year, she brought all the ingredients over to my house and I helped her mix and bake the annual loaves (her recipe makes 2 8-inch loaves). The batter gets pretty stiff, the mixing a task for strong forearms and wrists.  For whatever reason, she skipped last year and I suppose I could consider that lapse prophetic. More likely, she asked and I told her it was okay to miss a year.  

As I make my way back onto familiar ground, I reach not only for the things that steadied me in the past - painting, writing, family activities - but I embrace new roles. Today, I took on the task of cake baker.   

This year's cake I deem too cake-like, not enough fruit. I like mine dense and moist.  Belatedly I realize I never paid much attention to my mother's explanations for each year's batch; all I had to do was receive it. It never occurred to me that I would bake it. 

As I sifted and stirred, chopped and mixed, I was aware not only of picking up where she left off, but of carrying forward our story into a new one. Not only is the recipe mine to reinvent and pass on, its' secrets await my discovery.

And once again, my mother deftly slips past me ... leaving me to answer my own questions, seek my own counsel, make my way.  Still, her example will inspire and guide me.  

I just wish I had listened more closely to the details of her experimentation.  (I am thinking, in the end, she doubled the amount of dried fruit ... which means, I must bake some more.)