Friday, September 25, 2015


Today my girl turned eleven.

Eleven?!  How did this happen?!

I got up early this morning so I could steam dumplings for her breakfast. Yeah, I know. This is how I roll. The Husband groans at my celebrating antics.  He is the eldest of four, his mother having all her babies before she was thirty. Birthdays are not a big deal for him whereas I, on the other hand, was like an only child my brother being 9 years older than me. The Husband says my mother spoiled me and I used to get defensive about it, but now I say if showering someone with love and attention is to spoil, then spoil away!

So while Cowgirl is at school, I've been hiding her birthday presents around the house. She requested a scavenger hunt for her gifts and as I am still working on completing one, I am grateful for the extra few hours. Later in the day, I went to write up the clues when I drew a complete blank on where I hid her big gift! I mean for a good five minutes I could not remember where I stashed the-one-gift-she-really-really-really wanted!

It was both hilarious and horrible. A menopausal mommy moment of utter terror and angst.

So I walked around the house, retracing my mental dialogue (yes, I could remember the spots I chose not to use ... inside the grandfather clock ... in a desk drawer ...) until finally I stumbled upon it!

I got to take a break to go buy her a sub sandwich for lunch and then bring it to her at school. I love sitting with her classmates in the lunchroom and seeing her in her element. She sits with the boys and one new friend peppered me with questions. "Are you both from China?" I explained I was born in New Jersey and isn't that equally exotic? He then deemed it "cool" that Cowgirl got to live in China first.  

It is hard to remember those years waiting for Cowgirl, wondering about the child living in China who would one day be my daughter. Eleven years ago I stood outside under a full harvest moon and offered up my prayer for a healthy child. At that time, I had no idea we would be adopting. 

Eleven years ago, just two days before that same full moon, Cowgirl was born. In China the eight full moon of the lunar year - our Harvest Moon -  is known as the MId-Autumn Moon Festival or 中秋節 Zhong Qiu Jie. It is the second most important holiday and traditionally a time for family reunions and celebrations. It is said that under the full moon, we are reunited with all of our loved ones as the moon shines down upon us all.

In our family we talk about the Moon Goddess, 嫦娥  Chang-e, who brought us together as a family.  I tell Cowgirl that she was the one reaching out to me under that full moon all those years ago. As we celebrate her 11th birthday, this year we will celebrate the Moon festival just a few days later. We have moon cakes - 月饼 yue bing - which we've already tucked into. Cowgirl and I like the red bean or lotus paste ones; the traditional cakes have a hard boiled egg inside which we don't like; the Husband shuns them all!  

We combine these traditions from her birth country with new traditions of our own. This morning she chose to wear her Chinese Camp tee shirt. It could have easily been her beloved Kansas Jayhawk tee. She doesn't like cake, so I bake her a birthday pie. This year she wants a strawberry refrigerator pie.  She has also requested steak for her birthday dinner. Last year, it was sushi. That is how she rolls ...

So yes, I will spoil her on this, Her Day which actually is not all that different from other days. With the exception of me getting up early for the dumplings. 

I wouldn't have it any other way. For she has given me so much more than I could have ever imagined 11 years ago under that full moon. She is my reminder to leave open ended the manner in which I want my prayers answered. Why put limits upon what the Universe can conjure up? 

Eleven ... I still cannot reconcile how this little girl ...

turned into this no-longer-so-little girl?

 Thankfully, she is keeping me young-ish ... at least in body, if not mind!

Friday, September 18, 2015

horse play (and finally, friday!)

I can only laugh at myself and wonder at the crazy choices I sometimes make. To borrow a favorite german expression: I have a bird (in my head) [meaning, there is enough room in my head for a bird to fly around]

In a little over a week, I head for Bali. I know ... no whining here ... but lots of preparations to tend to and the packing! oh my god, the packing! (I have a little problem with making wardrobe decisions ... and book and journal and iPod decisions ....)

Then there is Cowgirl's birthday which is one week from today and not to put pressure on myself, but somehow I've decided I will make her a quilt ... even though I cannot sew or cut straight and I have never really made a quilt before and I have been making it up as I go along. I discovered long ago that it is better to have a dream imperfectly realized but manifested than to have it perfect but ever a dream.

I still have the backing and batting to tackle. May require copious cups of coffee or chocolate before I am done.

Meanwhile, I somehow ended up with a trunk full of saddles requiring repairs. Problem is, the nearest tack shop that will tackle these antiques is a 40 minute drive over to Iowa. So in a rainstorm, I headed off this morning (and thereby gave up precious quilt-making or Bail-packing time!

But saddles are a priority now. Beau has a buddy ... his name is Buck. 

Buck is a beautiful Dun - you can see a bit of the dorsal stripe 

We spent a glorious afternoon wandering around the pastures, fending off grasshoppers, acclimating behinds to worn saddles ...

And getting to know the many barnyard denizens ...

It was a family day and that is what it is really all about, isn't it? Time together making memories.

There is much to tend to, but I try to keep priorities straight.  Slowing down, being present for each other, honoring connection and honoring what we both love.

So maybe packing won't be so difficult? Pencils, pens, watercolors, sketch journal, bathing suit and sandals. Check check and check! 

On my must-do list before flying off to Bali is completing my Earth Alchemy card and written post to be sent off to Mindy Tsonas. I am honored and excited to contributing to her upcoming session Inner Alchemy: Earth Coven. Take a look at the amazing roster of presenters ... including my Bali-guide and inspiration in all things sewing (and crazy-making) Em Falconbridge. 

I am excited for this session as I all about finding myself some grounding guidance. And this deck will be very special for me as I am committing to sketching and painting all of my cards. 

Isn't there something about a frog in the hand being worth more than two in a pond?


Friday, September 11, 2015

tiny magic ... and tears ...

For the second year in a row, I've put out a hummingbird feeder in our garden. While the bird books say that the ruby-throated is a seasonal visitor, I was skeptical. I mean, the winds alone would blast the little fellows clear across the state! Never mind the vast stretches of fields and prairie that would seem inhospitable for these tiny creatures.

So I am continually amazed when I look out my back door and spy a hummingbird flitting about the feeder. There had been one female coming to feed although sightings were sparse. A couple of times I've almost put the feeder away, certain no other birds would be visiting. But then I mix up a new batch of sugar water and hang it out, just in case

Yesterday I was pretty certain it was well-past the hummingbird season.  The tomatoes are surrendering the last of their fruit and the mint plants are looking rather leggy; summer is making her exit. I was hunting about the thicket of dying vines, reaching for a lone tomato buried deep within when something buzzed by me. I looked up and discovered I was in the middle of two hummingbirds engaged in territorial battle over my feeder!  

I believe they must be fueling up for their journey south as my feeder has been hopping with hummingbird action for the past 24-hours. This morning there is a chill in the air, a preview of Autumn, and the normally shy birds have stayed on the feeder even when I have wandered outside for a closer look. 

This display of hummingbird magic has done much to revive my own flagging spirits. I am not a hot weather person, so I find the lingering heat draining. I am very much aware of a kind of closure coming to this, my year of mourning for my mother.  The number of days when I can think back to a year ago and remember her with me, those days are dwindling to a hand full. A year ago she wasn't sleeping and could not find any relief to her exhaustion.  

A year ago, I had no idea goodbye would be coming so soon.

Today, I am aware of the impending departure of the hummingbirds. I have been captivated by their antics this morning. One female sits off to the side, on the garden fence, waiting to ambush any intruders. At least three have stormed the feeder and she attacks. This final feeding frenzy feels like a last gift of the season. 

This past year I feel I have felt quiet and even more intensely and inwardly focused than is my norm.  Much is happening beyond the space of words and action. I believe I have been re-rooting myself. Or acclimating my roots to new soil, to a world where my mother's physical being is absent. It has been lonely work, but I never really feel alone. Days like today, the hummingbird wings give lift to my spirits. Yesterday, I worked with the horses and felt their earthiness anchor my soul to this patch of prairie that is my home. 

This morning I learned another sweet being slipped over the fence to that other realm. I actually uttered out loud "oh no!" and sobbed when I read that Stevie, a resident of Apifera Farm, had died. 

I had read about Stevie on Katherine's blog, sketched him numerous times in the online class Capturing The Essence, and I finally got to meet him - twice! - on the farm. 

After my tears had abated, I admit to being grumpy and downright fed up. I mean, Death has been claiming far too many bright lights in my world this past year.  But then I could hear my mother laughing over me weeping for two old goats. Just as the hummingbirds so magically flew into my world, so too have the beings that I have loved best. Without having to do much of anything - just by being here and yes, having a little sweetness or sugar water at the ready helps - love comes in. It flies, it hobbles, it slides up beside me to nuzzle my sleeve or lick my palm. It comes when I am relaxed and open. It comes when I stop searching for it.

And just as quickly, it moves on. But if I have learned anything, it is that loves always returns. Just in new and unexpected forms. 

 I cannot hold onto those whom I love indefinitely. To grasp or grab, to demand or tantrum shatters the magic and sends love scrambling for cover. 

our new love, Beau

But I can be held by love. I can dwell in love which is to say, I choose to keep my heart  open, welcoming all the seasons of loving, knowing that the soil of my soul is enriched through the process of love welcomed and love released. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

what grounds me ...

This was on my mind all weekend ... What grounds me? And How do I ground myself? How can I recover inner stability and calm even when it feels like wave after wave repeatedly knocks me over? 

I was thinking how the knocking over maybe isn't what wears me out; it is the repeated getting back up, getting back on track. Or ... here is a big shift in perspective ... what if I'm not being knocked over so much as I fall down when I see a wave coming at me? Could I instead root myself, be calm, be still and let the wave wash over me?

Hmm ...

The gift of a lifetime of practice is that without thinking much, I gravitate towards those things that bring me back to center. There is effort involved, there is a conscious decision "I need to steady myself" but the action, the gesture arise out of habit. I think of these gestures like roll starting a car ... they get me going in the direction I want to go. This past week it has been through painting. I can make things so complicated, so I know to start small, stay simple. A 6 by 6 inch board ... look around, what catches my eye? What captures my heart?  Oh yeah ... these faces ...


Abbie (angel guide for this Wild Heart)

I sit at my kitchen island and while the water is boiling for pasta, I reach for my journal and draw what is before me (which is the bounty of my garden):

Working in the garden is naturally grounding, as is standing in front of the kitchen sink peeling and chopping tomato after tomato for sauces and freezing and making vats of gazpacho soup with more gifts - red and green peppers, jalapenos and cucumbers - from this summer's garden. We've had quite a bumper crop and while I am relieved to see the end in sight, I know too soon I will miss the flavor and the ease of wandering outside to grab the ingrediants for our dinner.

Then there is my new routine which is flavoring my drinking water with a sprig of mint or lemon balm (from the garden, of course!) and a drop of wild orange essential oil.
The Husband jokes about the positive prana (life force energy) in a glass, but I can feel the shift in my attitude and in my energy. I also add a drop of cedarwood essential oil to my face lotion or apply a drop to my heart center and the warm, woody fragrance brings immediate comfort and grounding to me. The smell reminds me of summers spent at my uncle's house and the cedar chest where my aunt kept all of their treasures. A favorite afternoon activity would be sitting on the bed, examining the quilts, the old dresses and scarves lovingly tucked away in the chest. 

Taking time to step back and examine my place in this vast web of family, friendships, and the circuitous wanderings that have brought me to this point, this moment in my life ... this is how quell the vertigo that is symptomatic of life-out-of-balance. 

Out of alignment for me means overly fixating upon myself as separate, as alone. Realigning requires a shift in perspective as I open myself up to that which holds me - holds all of life - in a field of vast and pure potentiality and infinite possibility.

Our family on our nine year "anniversary"

It's love, baby. Love steadies and holds me. Love is my reset button. Even when the waves rise high above me if I tether myself to Love, I will never be washed away.  I can get frustrated by my constant forgetting of this simple truth OR I can delight in the continual rediscovery of Love's immense power to soothe, to protect, to heal and to grow. 

Truly, the wise proclaim that love is the only path, love is the only God, and love is the only scripture. Impress this verse upon your memory and chant it constantly if you want to realize your dreams of growth. Love is the wish-fulfilling stone. Only love can bring unity and remove the separation between all living things. Only love purifies the body and mind. Love is not far away. Love is as close as your heart. You can find it living there without walking a single step. Love is my only path. I am, in fact, a pilgrim on the path of love.
- Swami Kripalu (from Sayings of Swami Kripalu, edited by Richard Faulds)