Wednesday, February 26, 2014

everyday marvels

I do love surprises and this humble onion reminds me that often the most thrilling things are the quiet ones happening right under my nose ...

a perfect little pig's tail on my onion!

Even thought I think I am paying close attention, change is happening every day and right under my nose.  But when I can soften my gaze, suspend time and look with all my senses and my heart, I able to perceive the miracles right before me.

When once there was a stool, now there is a girl child managing through her own muscle and determination to claim her place. Right now it is in the kitchen but soon  - oh far too soon! -  within the world. 

And as we move into conversations addressing multi-generational healing in the current session of SouLodge,  I see the ways we are changing the experience - narrative -  of family in our world. 

What so easily could be mistaken for everyday is really the material of my life's blessings and periodically I remember to count them:

Enjoying time together -  learning or creating or exploring or seeking to discover the perfect pizza dough recipe.



The gestures, the details that constitute the person  ... or the animal

Mealtimes together ... in conversation ... sharing, laughing, teasing and yes,annoying each other but always knowing we are a tight unit.

Discovering that love brings us together in more ways than our minds could ever begin to imagine (but how our hearts so readily expand to hold)

What everyday miracles and marvels are you noticing right now?  The best gift you can give your self is to pause, lift up your gaze (being by a window and looking out helps), soften your eyes, relax and sink into the moment.  Look, feel, remember, breathe, receive the gifts that dance all around you.  And then share them with another.  Let's fill our world with these miracles.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

giving thanks (and honoring the birds, honoring the Mother)

Today it is sunny, a balmy midwest breeze tumbling the decaying remnants of autumn's fling across salt dusted roads and sidewalks.  As I Moose and I take our morning constitutional, I am almost lulled into believing Spring is around the corner.  The robins being particularly chatty this morning and the earth under my hands feels spongy, awake and alive.

This is my practice.  To every day take time to place my hands upon the ground, feeling the energy of Mother Earth pulsating under receptive palms, giving thanks for the gift of my life, my place in this magnificent web of existence.  As I breath in deeply, I realize healing flows in two directions: the surge of energy I receive in turn asks for my loving touch, prayers for health and balance and strength to flow back to our planet as she is in desperate need of our nurturance and care.

I savor this day because I know tomorrow things will boomarang back to Winter.  Snow, slush, biting winds and dark skies.  I welcome it as we need the moisture and I am not quite ready to leave the slow pace and inward focus that Winter fosters within me.  As I walk through my neighborhood, I enjoy the opportunity to see the bounty of birds nests from last year.  Winter's bareness affords me the chance to witness treasures hidden the rest of the year.  

I want to take time to celebrate the many hidden joys in my life right now.  The crowds of finches, juncos, sparrows, and cardinals who congregate daily at my feeders and then gather in the bushes outside my dining room window, seeking shelter from the wind and snow.  The hours of my day are announced by the repeated return of downy woodpecker to the suet feeder. (I hear his chirp chirp and run to the window to receive his greeting.) 

And more recently, I have been blessed by a pair of hawks who may be house hunting, a tree in the neighboring field offering a commanding view of the area and its many rabbit dwellings.  Hawk has been a faithful guide and guardian to me for over a decade now.  I found my first hawk feather at the end of a pivotal yoga training program and hawk continues to shower me with a multitude of gifts and insights along with feathers.  (note: it is illegal in the United States to possess raptor feathers including hawk without proper permits from state and federal agencies and in no way am I advocating or suggesting holding onto these treasures. It is enough to be gifted their presence on my path.)

Hawk seems to have claimed Cowgirl as well and we share in the delight of spying a hawk soaring overhead or perched in a tree or light pole.  Cowgirl has a special affinity with the feathered ones; turkey, hummingbird, owl, eagle, penguin are her companions in soft plush forms and also in Nature.  I recently shared with her that she has many powerful guides and guardians and when she is scared or having a rough time she can call upon them and they will be by her side in support, giving her energy and guidance.  This has resulted in her dragon (Blaze Thunderbolt) helping out on a few spelling tests!  But it also has brought about a subtle but discernible shift in her self confidence and manner in which she carries herself.  

Recognizing and celebrating my connection with Nature and understanding myself as a piece of that whole has brought about my own sense of empowerment and ability.  It is this gift I want to honor daily, returning the favor - gifting back the energy and love so freely given to me - making each day Mother's Day and an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

hello Valentine!

We've been busy getting ready ...

So much I want to say, this being such a contradictory holiday ... the commercialization, the treacle factor in the Hallmark cards, the worn-out cliches and heart-shaped chocolate boxes and toxic roses ... 

but underneath it all I am still that kindergartener excited for her first school sponsored Valentine's celebration with construction paper hearts and puppies with butterflies cards.  (who would have believed the shlock of my childhood would be preferable to the cheapo Sponge Bob  and Minecraft cards popular today?)

Rather than dwell upon the forelorn and crash aspects of this day, I choose to infuse this holiday with deeper meaning.  I choose to celebrate the joy of love, the pleasures of sharing my heart with another, and the honor of receiving expressions of love crafted by small hands and eager hearts.  

I choose to embrace the honest and simple, the expressions of love given with a heart thumping with excitement and anticipation.  I will gleefully (and shamelessly) receive the unimaginative and but appreciated (and soon-to-be-devoured) box of chocolates, understanding that each indulgent bite is a wish from my beloved that I remember myself as sweet and rich, my life as bountiful and as varied as an assortment of confections.  (dare I go there?  I dare! in honor of the day - "life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get." So true Forrest, so true.  Except I take small nibbles and if I don't like what I pick, I select another chocolate!)

It is a matter of choosing, enjoying, and yes ... sharing in that sweetness.

And if I could have sent out Valentines to all, I would want mine to convey something along the lines of this: 

Pocket Poem by Ted Kooser
(from Valentines)

If this comes creased and creased again and soiled
as if I'd opened it a thousand times
to see if what I'd written here was right,
it's all because I looked too long for you
to put it in your pocket. Midnight says
the little gifts of loneliness come wrapped
by nervous fingers. What I wanted this
to say was that I want to be so close
that when you find it, it is warm from me.

May your Valentine's Day be filled with the love of sunshine, birdsong,  or snowflake blessings and the delight of discovering heartshaped leaves tumbling across your path. 

HeartFull Living begins on Monday but there are special Valentine's treats awaiting all who gather in that space.  There is still time to sign-up ... all the gooey details are here

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


"Turn and face the strange
Don't tell them to grow up and out of it ..."
- David Bowie

Changes indeed.  Of course change is always afoot, but there are moments when it appears the perfect storm of change has stirred up a massive wave of change crashing down upon me.

In less than two months my mother will mark her 89th birthday.  Her changes have been of the gradual but steady erosion of body but thankfully not mind.  She is still sharp as a tack and sharped tongued as always (ah, the source of this Scorpio's verbal stings) and has a healthy sense of humor padding the anxiety and fear that accompany her as she traverses the landmines of aging.  She has a team of doctors supporting her (her  "pit crew" as I think of them) which is as comforting as it is confusing with contradictory advice and objectives.  I remind my mother that she is in charge but a life time habit of ceding to "the experts" is hard to counter.  

Equally unyielding the sense of one's body as a foreign exchange student difficult to understand but something we must struggle to communicated with.  As we move through my mother's changes the pervading attitude is one of continual let down, as if the body's decline is a betrayal of an unspoken pact. You care for me and I will serve you.

I am moving through the long forest of changes which is perimenopause.  I think of it as a forest because once in it, the experiences and understanding of the journey is filtered through the disorientation of being on one's own.  Sensations are magnified when alone and uncertain; sense of time stretched and condensed; and I cannot predict what I will stumble upon next.  

Here's the thing: it doesn't need to be this way.  Despite all the advances and advantages of modern living, our bodies - and specifically women's bodies - retain the stigma of Mystery. An alluring and fascinating mystery when positioned as an object of desire; but baffling and frustrating and downright noncompliant when it comes to following cultural norms and notions of well-behaved.  It is not well-mannered to sweat, sag, ache, be irritatible, tired, or unpredictable.  That my body is all of these things - and more! - challenges me no end.

Yet when I view my body as a friend betraying my good will, we both suffer.  The aches ache more acutely, the fatigue more crippling, and the overwhelm deadening. What I've come to understand is my body is just doing her thing.  While it may not fit my agenda, it serves neither of us to view these changes as "wrong."  But this is how we approach aging and the body's natural transformation: as signs of failure, that something is broken, something needing repair, and that we must bring our bodies back in line with the unrealistic measures of health and attractiveness bombarding us through the media. 

I'm not saying there isn't important care and adjustments needed to ease the transition.  But what I am aware of for myself is the ease isn't so much for my body, but for my mind.  It has been an attitude shift that has brought me a greater measure of relief, peace and yes, even joy in the changes my body is mentoring me in.  My body's changes are not something to be suffered, endured, fixed, altered, or corrected.  Understanding of what is happening, making space for these new developments, welcoming rather than resisting have brought me into closer dialogue with my body.  She is not betraying me; she has been patiently and lovingly serving me and it is time to acknowledge that service. It is time for me to work in partnership with my body and support her rather than coerce, threaten or punish her.

When I hear others speak harshly and even hatefully about their bodies, I am reminded this is how our culture views the body and in particular, the female body.  I have heard women suffering with endometriosis declare that they want their doctor's to just take their organs out.  I do not blame them for I know the pain and frustration are immense.  But I wonder how things might be if we had been raised to view our bodies as our partners and best friends in life and therefore something to be tended to with great care, appreciation and respect rather than a servant to control and contain?

Changes abound over here.  I am seeing signs of change in my Cowgirl and am aware of my confusion on how to respond.  I have no template, no model to follow.  My memory of my transformation from maiden into woman is that little was said and that silence mentored me in fear and confusion regarding my body.  It wasn't until I was in college and procured a yellowed copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves from the used bookstore that I began to tentatively try to engage in a real conversation with my body. It was my owner's manual for my body. Educating myself about this vital piece of myself was the beginning of a respectful and loving relationship.  It has been a long road and I still am extracting some deeply rooted negative attitudes regarding my aging female body. 

So as I witness the cycle - maiden, mother, queen, and crone - starting up again with my girl, I am committed to supporting celebration and appreciation for the miracle and gift of our bodies as they unfold.  There is continual conversation here about these changes, bringing into light what has been left in shadow and shame for far too long.  I try to remember - for myself, my mother and my girl - that nothing is wrong.  Changes may be scarey (as they are for my mother's body as it winds down) and may be confusing (as for me as I navigate this new experience of my body) and overwhelming (as Cowgirl adjusts to new sensations, new notions of herself) but none of this is wrong nor is any of it signs of us being broken, less than, flawed, dangerous or unwieldy.

What is your relationship with your body?  How do you speak to her? How do you react to her needs, her requests upon you?  How might we create conversations and rituals with our daughters that celebrate and honor their changes, welcoming them into community of support, information, education and empowerment so that they are not at the mercy of cultural representations and expectations (and its limitations) upon the feminine?  I want a community for my girl.  I need one for myself.  

Strange fascination, fascinatin'
Ah, changes are takin'
The pace I'm goin' through
Turn and face the strange
Oh, look out you rock 'n' rollers
(All images were created during Connie Hozvicka's Painting the Feminine ecourse. New offerings will be coming, so check out her site and sign up for her newsletter to be notified so you can add your voice to the conversation.  And speaking of conversations, a magical and powerful group is gathering for my yearly HeartFull Living: Conversations on Love offering that begins on February 14. Still time to sign up and I am keeping the price low as I want as many to join me as possible!)