autumn days

Monday, February 17, 2014

Finding My Way Home to Grandma Evelyn

My father shared many negative stories of his childhood, as his young days were much more painful than my own.  I heard of how his mother jammed the nail file under his nails to clean out the dirt, how my father never had a birthday cake before he married my mother, how he got coal for Christmas, and about the endless violence.  These were the stories I grew to know. 

When trying to see my father's mother in a more positive way, for the sake of sharing stories with my own children, I uncovered my own memories that began to tell the story of who she was.  I recall getting a birthday card from her every single year.  Her writing was so graceful and neat.  I do not recall much of her few visits.  She sent my mother a round hot pad that said "round to it."  My mother enjoyed finally getting "around to it."  Grandma occasionally sent us savings bonds.  When my grandmother died, she had made sure every grandchild received some inheritance.

As I grew into motherhood, long after Grandma's departure, I realized it is vital to embrace positive stories of our ancestors.  Our children want to hear about the wonderful people from whom they descend.  There are struggles in every life, though as children it feels wonderful to know the positive details of our ancestors' lives.  Knowing very little of my grandmother, I reached out to my cousins on my father's side (some of whom I've met twice, most not at all) and asked for help in finding positive stories of my grandmother.  My cousin Kristen answered the call and continues to bless me with wonderful information.  Each time Kristen shares another piece of my grandmother, I feel I am witnessing another miracle and predictably burst into joyous tears.  My children have grown accustomed to this.  Here's what my cousin has so generously shared.

Grandma Evelyn made the best coffee cake and loaf of bread in town.  Her friends loved to gather in her kitchen to drink coffee and eat her famous coffee cake.  Her bread won awards.  Grandma Evelyn ate a bowl of cherry ice cream every night before bed, something her grandchildren enjoyed.  She loved Charlie Brown and her flower garden.  Her heart was brimming with love for her children and friends.  I have a copy of my grandmother's handwritten bread and coffee cake recipes  And her wedding photo.  My grandmother married my grandfather twice. 

She went without a clothes dryer for years to save money, money later shared with her grandchildren.  My mother takes great comfort in repeating one of my grandmother's original quotes: "Age is a matter of mind over matter; if you don't mind, it doesn't matter."  I learned Grandma's birthdate, that she was born 100 years ago in 1914, and she was 36 when she had her first child.  She raised five children who loved her.  (The only time my father cried as an adult was when his mother passed.)  I now have ancestry papers with family genealogy with countries of origin and dates back to 1625 (my first genealogy of any kind on my father's side!).  My eyes were wide with amazement as I explained to six-year-old Hannah that this is more than 150 years before our country was a country!

Grandma Evelyn patiently and lovingly sat my cousin Kristen on a stool and taught her to cook as a young child.  Kristen sees a lot of our grandmother in me.  I have yet to learn what that means, though I am excited to hear more.

These are the stories I choose to share with my children.  My heart heals in knowing these stories and holding them within my heart.  My children and I descend from this comforting, creative, generous, strong, loving woman.  We appreciate her in our line of ancestors.  We give great thanks for these human lives we live because she chose long ago to become a mother to my father.  When I think of Grandmother Evelyn, which is often, I see the deep pink light of love coming from the heavens.  In finding my grandmother, I have found more of myself.  I have come more deeply into my own heart and into the hearts of my children.

finding love on a snowy day

Holy bagumba!  What an incredible day.  My sweet Hannah and I played outside for six hours in the snow.  Somehow we built a sled ramp and one and a half igloos and had the time of our lives.  We played with other families, were served warm cookies by a thoughtful neighbor, and listened to the joyous shouts of children on nearby streets.  My son Liam and his papa played with us until their hunger called them inside.  I wore my partner's waterproof gloves and pants and stayed warm and cozy out in the snow. 

He asked why each time he looked out the window someone else was laying at the bottom of the ramp.  Well, let me explain.  Personally, it felt so awe-some to slide down the little slope, lay back, and to watch the sparkling light and dancing snow, to bask in the beauty of the moment.  Apparently I wasn't the only one to enjoy these quiet moments at the curb.  Hannah and her neighbor friends were found at the bottom of the slope as well.  Finding their own divine bliss. 

My friend Holly mentioned how people in snow drive horribly.  That is true.  Snow is slippery and dangerous.  Here in Portland we have so little snow each year that when it does fall, we immediately find our way home and begin the song and dance of a joyous holiday.  This is quite true for those who may remain at home for a couple days.  My work-loving partner took the entire day off today for our 6" of snow, which is cause in itself to celebrate.  Yes, our entire metro area shuts down and most of us find ourselves with relaxing free time when the white begins to fall.  It may seem silly to those who see snow often throughout winter, though we relish in this short winter reprieve.  Winter has finally arrived in early February and we celebrate with great joyous dancing and singing.  The biggest blessing of all has been spending this miraculous day with my little family.

ready for snow play

snow play

We have been blessed with a few days of snow last week, enough to keep us crafting for days.  In our blizzardly bliss, we crafted one and a half igloos, a sled ramp, and a tunnel, along with sledding up and down the streets with neighbors. 

Our city shut down for a few days, and most people were forced to stay home to work on their unfinished projects.  I organized a few more closets, cleared out unloved goods for a friend's yard sale, planned out homeschool units, and generally put things back in order.  We sang songs from Hannah and Liam's first theater movie, Frozen.  It was a treasure to eat through the foods in our freezer and cupboards, to cut coffee filter snowflakes, read all our snow-themed books, and to stay home together for a few days. 

As the rains wash away the last of our igloo, we are just now getting back into the swing of things around here.  Slow and steady.  It feels good to be out and about and see our friends again, though we wouldn't mind having a little more snow to accompany our family's endless song of "Do you want to build a snowman?"  Yes, we surely do.

Sharing the Valentine Love

My children and I love to take crafty projects everywhere we go, to craft them with friends, and then to release them into the world.  A few weeks ago I stumbled upon Ed Emberly's drawing books at the library.  I remembered all the fun I had with his books as a child and went home that day with a few of his books.  We have the time of our lives crafting with Ed Emberly's thumb printing books. 

This year, with the help of friends and a stash of stickers, we created almost 200 Valentines!  These were delivered to two different retirement homes, a Meals on Wheels program, to two streets of neighbors, and loved ones near and far. 

Each year on each holiday my children and I together deliver our cards and appreciate the gift of seeing recipients' faces light up with smiles and laughter.  In giving, we are also receiving.  My children are giving of their time and love, and also receiving assistance from friends and appreciation from friends, family, and strangers.  Giving and receiving are both such delicious gifts.  Our hearts are overflowing with love. 

Even before Valentine's Day had arrived, Hannah began planning out Saint Patrick's Day crafts, so we are already off on our next creative adventure.  Creating heartfelt gifts for others surely fuels our fire, raising the joy quotient to infinity and beyond!  Woohoo!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Preschool Writing

My daughter Hannah and I have been homeschooling since she was about 18 months old.  We spent a lot of time reading and playing together and she taught herself to read and write at an early age.  Now here we are with her three and a half year old brother.  Liam loves to hear stories, solve puzzles, draw, craft awesome projects, creatively read books, memorize songs, play with his invisible friends, and create spectacular games.  I truly treasure this incredibly loving, creative boy. 

Only when my friend and I discussed the academic abilities of our first children compared to our second did I remember my son will benefit from some reading and writing assistance.  After this conversation, we went home and began sounding out letters.  Last spring Liam and I worked on some great preschool projects, though I felt I spend more time cleaning than assisting with learning.  As he has grown, he has come to understand the value of putting things away... sometimes, making it easier to share focused individual activities.

After learning this parenting lesson, my children's work time is more calm and focused for us all.  Now when six year old Hannah sits down to her work, three year old Liam has his own tasks: tracing words of his choice, identifying and tracing his name, reading me a story of his choice, and assembling our alphabet puzzle before going on to other projects.  He has his own desk and school storage area just like his big sister.  He loves these big boy spaces and tasks.  Each day Liam excitedly reads more stories and sings more songs, dancing his way through it all.  What a beautiful journey of reading and writing to share with my cherished son.

What projects do you love sharing with your preschooler?

Friday, February 7, 2014

embracing the color in fashion

Fashion.  Some people take to it naturally.  I was raised with no model for fashion and it definitely doesn't come naturally.  I recall my years in all black clothing, followed by bright colors, and then tame neutrals and earth tones.  In the last few years as I step more fully into myself, I am drawn to wear the brightest clothes in my closet, going out of my way to be the spring color in the winter crowd. 

Every few weeks I attend a Buddhist lecture and find myself being the only one not wearing grey or black.  The first time I attended, I noticed I was unintentionally wearing a fuchsia jacket over a pink shirt, purple pants, and neon green socks.  I guess that's how I roll.  Something in me will not allow me to be the wallflower I was for decades.  In place of my blending-in days, I choose to bring more color into my life.  Color helps me to feel more alive, healthy, energized, creative, and curious.  Others respond to this color as well. 

In the grocery store last week, I struck up a conversation with a woman in red cowgirl boots and gold sequined pants.  How could I not, right?  I told her how gorgeous I found her fashion choices.  She explained that she is now 62, retiring next month, got her children off to college, and purchased the pants as a way to tell herself she is now ready to find more personal happiness.  I told her I was already trying to embrace my colorful inner-crone and wearing what makes me happy.  "Why wait?"  She noted that the fuchsia roses in my cart matched my pants.  Ha!  What a fun little conversation with an open-hearted woman amid the fruits and vegetables.  (She said the previous week she told a woman about a physical ailment.  The woman responded by holding her hand and praying for her right there in the exact spot where we stood in the produce department.  I will return to that spot and expect another miracle!)

I appreciate having a few friends who love to shop, love color, and send their unloved clothes my way.  This system saves my money, time, patience, and helps my friends clean out closets.  I return the favors in various ways: dates, dinner, homemade goods, creative outlets, endless appreciation.  When I have a hankering for something outside my friends' closets, these friends indulge me in a tour of Portland's incredible second-hand stores.  (Leading to the sassy fuchsia pants!)  Most of my children's clothes are also second-hand from cousins and friends.  Each new batch of clothing is like Santa's bag of gifts and inspires an instant fashion show.  Oh, the fun to be had with clothes in every phase of our journey.  How blessed we are to have these self-expressive choices and to find our own unique ways of clothing our beautiful bodies of every shape and size. 

embracing color and playful fashion at the Woodburn Tulip Festival

Thursday, February 6, 2014

nest of light

I need to be honest in my writing.  My pain is as real and valid as my joy.  Like my aunt and grandmother, I choose to set pain free (again and again until it is completely liberated) and to lovingly embrace the joy.  By sitting with the pain, fear, grief, sadness, depression, and sorrow, I fully explore, understand, and appreciate it.  Then it is set free to transmute into loving energy for someone else.  The more I heal and release, the more love I share with others.  What a beautiful byproduct.

My life used to be dominated by lower vibration feelings.  Much of my childhood was dark.  I knew in my heart one day I'd fly from the dark nest of my parents to create my own out of light.  In remembering, I see the denseness of my childhood along with the rays of light.  I welcome these emotions and continue sifting.  The rays of light I choose to carry forward into my new nest.  The unhealthy memories are intentionally released to God, Spirit, the Light.  Some recollections provide incredible insight before they are released.

Through the sifting of stories, I come to understand why I used to feel crazy and why my mother has such pain.  I see these pictures of the past we share and I want to help her heal.  I gently push and prod at her buttons, at her heart, hoping and praying she'll find relief and healing.  At this moment in time this is all I can do for her.  She is on her journey.  I am on mine.  We are exactly where we need to be.  My current nest is very different from the one of my childhood.  My mother's nest has also evolved.  Each time I speak with her, I feel our energies and healing grow. 

All daughters want their mothers to be happy.  I want that for my mother.  And for my daughter.  For my beautiful young daughter I have created this nest of light, filled with as many high vibrations as I can create. My intentions are a clear path leading to closeness, beauty, feelings, acknowledging, apologizing, growing, honoring our True Selves, and loving completely.  This trail is paved with stones of faith, patience, abundance, joy, peace, grace, curiosity, creativity, and infinite love.  There is still dark lint in our little nest of light, though one by one these strands are pulled out, examined, appreciated, and set free.  Your healing is my healing.  My healing is yours.  Together we are healed.  What a beautiful journey we share.

my daughter in a nest with a view

my community of women

Relationships with women have not been tremendously easy for me.  My mother has loved me dearly, yet she complained so fully of her own mother and sister.  My young girlfriends cared for me, though they pushed where I had few healthy boundaries to protect myself.  There were years in my life when I had no friend I trusted.  In elementary school I was with a wonderful friend one year before I moved far away.  In middle school, I made various friends and developed boundaries and personal passions, while also flat lining my emotions due to my dark home life.  In high school, relationships deepened and relaxed.  High school friends are still my friends.  I see a couple dear friends every couple months, another is my phone friend, and many of us keep on touch through the internet.  As an adult, I gather loved ones from all the parts of my life.

As I look around at the women in my life, I see they are patient, loving, steady, compassionate, generous, and thoughtful.  They teach me to love myself more fully, to trust myself, to be myself, to follow my healthy passions, to become more alive within my skin, how to care for others, and to care for myself. 

Sometimes a friend leaves my life intentionally, always when it is healthy to do so.  Silent distance instead of open fights.  Our common wounds or energies no longer match up.  When this occurs, I give great thanks for our healthy disconnection and the space this creates for infinite possibilities and the answers to new prayers.

In many of my relationships, I am the one to initiate contact and gatherings with friends.  Therefore I truly appreciate when friends make the effort to connect with me.  Those who keep coming back for more, especially at those times when I grow quiet, those are special women.  It truly takes the efforts of two to create a healthy relationship.

When I first meet a woman now, my heart is usually clear about wanting to be her friend, or not.  From experience, I have learned to gather clues from her words, gestures, tone, facial cues, how she speaks to me, to children.  I do not need to befriend unfriendly unhealthy people.  My cup already runneth over, though there is always more love to share.  I so fully appreciate my community of extraordinary loved ones who know me, love me, help me feel like the royalty I am (as we all are).  I welcome these women into my heart, my home, my family.  And there they stay, as long as our hearts connect in a healthy loving way.

I appreciate intentionally setting up this community of incredible women.  My relationships are deep, loving, healing, invigorating, and so rewarding.  The women in my life are such blessings.  It continues to rock my world that I am so lucky to have these women as my dearest friends.  I give the greatest of thanks for their lessons and love.  And for the light and joy they share with my children and partner.  What a miraculous gift.

How do you intentionally create your community?
What are healthy ways you've found to end relationships?
How are your friendships the answers to your prayers?

Monday, February 3, 2014

heart taking flight

As a young teenager, I learned to whistle blades of grass as Blue Angels flew overhead.  I paid more attention to the grass than the flying machines.  A few years later I walked into an airport for the first time.  I then flew alone all the way to Europe where I spent the best time of my life caring for two young children and bonding with my cousin and his in-laws.

Relationships and culture were explored and devoured that summer in France, thanks to a loving opportunity and the scientific delight of air travel.  The trip simply blew my mind in so many ways, for which I am eternally changed and grateful.  Seeing the world from a new angle, such as from an airplane, had so wonderfully altered my world that I wanted more.  I dreamed of flight. 

I later found myself taking flying lessons at a community college.  My body wanted to stay on the ground, yet my heart simply wanted to soar.  My flight instructor was 18 and loved stunts, so I was both terrified and thrilled to get off the ground each week.

While my heart was far above the earth, I saw a different angle of life back on the ground.  I was the only woman in my flight classes, the only one without any flight experience, and radio controllers NOT ONCE responded to my radio communications.  (If you'd like to learn more about this topic, my book club enjoyed The All-Girl Filling Station... or connect with Female WWII Pilots research.) 

When the wet dark autumn arrived that year, my flight lessons were paused.  Indefinitely.  Life again filled with other awesome adventures.  Opportunities were taken to fly as a passenger here and there.  Once my children arrived, my desire to literally lift off into the sky was put aside.  With my children I now learn to embrace flight in new ways.  I take flight with my feet upon Mother Earth, my arms around my precious children, and my heart soaring high.  Together we whistle with grass, watch clouds, talk with birds, and count our abundant blessings.

Lightening the Soul on Ice

One of my most favorite places is on the ice rink.  As a nanny, I first went ice skating with my two young charges.  My childhood dreams of being a professional roller skater were brought back to life on these thin graceful blades.  I held pudgy two-year-old hands and skated circles for blissful moments (and hours).  When my employer gave me her old skates, just my size, I took ice skating lessons in classes filled with children. I greeted every one of those Saturday morning lessons with such blissful joy.  The feeling of the ice under my blades was simply invigorating.

Life soon became even busier with new challenges, such as learning to fly a plane, full time college and lots of time on the job, meeting my life partner, more college, becoming a professional educator, and marriage.  How joyous to suddenly find myself, amidst all the busy joys, enjoying a quiet week of being snowed in.  There was suddenly space for reading The Dark Side of the Light Chasers and to break out my ice skates.  Atop a foot of snow lay inches of thick ice.  And you know what I did with that ice.  I pulled out my beautiful skates and flew up and down the street, through the field, over anything I pleased.  What an incredible reprieve from my working days.  That was one of my favorite vacations ever.

And now as a mother of two young children, you'll find me silently praying on these cold winter mornings that our yard will become covered with thick ice so I may pull out my skates once again.  May I teach them by example to follow their passions and find joy in these simple pleasures.  May my children see my whole body and soul lighten and brighten as I tie on these skates and take flight.  Again.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Sacred Place

My mother has always been very passionate about her "happy place" and is eager to tell you in detail how all her senses are activated just by thinking of that sacred space.  This is a skill I am still working to master.  It gets easier to practice, which is why I am writing this now.  A writing prompt from Writing to Save Your Life helped me think more clearly about my personal place of contentment.  There have been several tranquil spaces in my life, yet this was my favorite.  It is an honor and joy to share this personal insight with you.

My Sacred Place

As a child, my mother, my younger brother, and I spent a week camping each summer at Alsea Falls. Sometimes with friends, usually without.  My dad would join us the last couple of days, but not before then.  Sometimes we were rained out and so miserably wet.  Those times were great memories in the making.  Often my brother revealed to us his Boy Scout camping tricks, like rigging a garbage can out of sticks.

My special place is a camp sight on the left of the loop, just 20 feet or so from the cold clear creek.  My brother and I would spend hours splashing and wading and waiting as we tried to lure crawdads from their cozy hiding spots underneath bounders.  We found the most success with hot dogs, a camp necessity.  We filled our bucket with several crawdads, wondered at why they were called craw-dads, watched them for a while, and released them back into the water.  One of our last trips, when I was around age 16, my brother filled the bucket with several "dads" and boiled them for a meal.  I recall being surprised (never being so close to my food source), and then thinking it must make sense or we wouldn't be doing it.  We were meat eaters after all and "dads" are meat, I told myself.

In this sacred place, we two hiked for hours through the old growth forest, climbed high into tall fir trees, swung and jumped from them, sat reading and playing at the bubbling creek for endless hours.  Simply spending time with my brother, who was my best friend and favorite childhood companion.  The air was clear, the sky was blue, a canopy of green was overhead, so many birds and bees, the water alive and constant, comforting, washing away our sorrow, fear, grief, depression, disappointment, pain.  Comforting us, soothing our cells and our souls as we spent those quiet days splashing in the gurgling Alsea Creek.  My happy sacred place.

What is one of your favorite sacred spaces?
When you write about it, how do your senses come alive?
What do you recall that most surprises you?

bonding with Mother Nature and one another