autumn days

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Reconnecting with Self-Caring Balance

When I cycle into focusing so intently upon the care of others and grow silent and invisible within myself, there are ways to bring myself back into my personal light and balance.  This cycle of caring for others versus myself is a constant balancing act for me as a mother of young children.  My first challenge is to recognize what is happening.  Signs for me slipping into this cycle are a disinterest in socializing and healthy eating, lower energy, more fatigue, less patient and gentle with my children, hopelessness about a situation, feeling lonely, overwhelmed by what is usually manageable, etc.  I also grow silent with myself, my partner, my children, and my friends.  When out of balance, my heart and mind are not open for new experiences and sharing my thoughts with others.

Once I recognize this cycle, I choose to climb my way out of it.  This is the most challenging and least comfortable part of the process for me.  These are my steps to find my way back to my personal light, the life within myself that I reflect back out into the world.

  1. I recognize I'm out of balance and not meeting my own needs.
  2. I intentionally choose to take steps to regain balance.
  3. I ask myself questions in my journal (or head) and make a list for each one.
  4. "What makes me happy?"
  5. "How do I show love and care for myself?"  
  6. "What example do I want to set for my children?"
  7. "What does my balanced, healthy self suggest?"
  8. When the last question is just too challenging, I ask myself, "My healthy, balanced friend, what would she suggest?"
  9. "What lesson is presenting itself to be learned in this situation?"
  10. "What could possibly be the silver lining here?"
  11. Take small steps of showing myself love.
    1. Find some small space for solitude.
    2. Take an Epsom salt bath.
    3. Slather myself with essential oils.
    4. Journal all my woes and feeling out onto paper, search for the silver lining, and make a list of steps to make the most of the current lessons.
    5. Cry.  This is an incredible release for me.  A few minutes afterward I feel much lighter.
    6. Spend time with my spiritual helpers and guides, such as angels, Jesus, etc.  This can be as simple as imagining their comforting light near me.
    7. Meditate, even if its in bed and looks like sleeping.
    8. Breath and rest outside.
    9. Tend to the garden.
    10. Take a shower.  Brush my teeth and hair.
    11. Call or otherwise connect with a friend.
    12. Make a date with a friend.
    13. Eat foods that taste good to me, avoiding sugars.  My family will enjoy whatever I crave.
    14. Hum.  I know I am on the upswing when I can hum.  Humming is my gateway to singing, dancing, smiling, and laughing.
    15. Express my appreciations individually to those who support me (love letters!) and on social media.
    16. Spend time with high vibration, positive, inspiring, comforting people.
When I recognize this cycle, ask for support from others, and take steps to return to my balanced self, each time the cycle is less devastating.  This last week I was surprised to journal about feeling incredible loneliness, yet as I sobbed and released my emotions, I more quickly made my way back into balance.  In identifying my own processes and resources, I find I rebound more quickly.  It is so very true, the more I tend to my own needs, the more full I am to care for others.  My family benefits from little steps and moments I claim for the care of my own personal light.  From this place of self-care and self-love, it is simply bliss.

How do you recognized your own self-less cycle?
What steps do you take to get back into balance?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Cherishing Moments of Growing Independence

Children grow so much in the summer, free of the more rigorous routines and out in the sunshine.  I love seeking out the scrumptious details in how my children are growing and expanding.  Even though I am at their side most days and nights, I know I miss some things.  Last night as I lay awake in bed, it was delightful to hear my daughter's books moving around in bed with her and to hear my son laugh in his sleep.  I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, "I'm doing okay if she's covered in books and he's laughing in his sleep."  I truly treasure these moments with my ever-growing young children.  I appreciate the preciousness of it all.


"I want to get started as a professional chef right away!"

"I can water the garden for you, Mama.  I'm a big helper now!"

"Do you want to wear my cape?"

Dandelion Love

We really love dandelions.  We use them to make smoothies, cookies, sauteed greens, and bouquets for neighbors.  Dandelion-infused oil is good for the skin.  The dried root makes a great tea for digestion.  Dandelions grow best for us in the spring, when this photo was taken.  The fresh spring greens are packed with vitamin C.  The benefits of these dandy flowers are vast.  Join us in our Dandy Love Fest!


Talisman Tree

My children and I have joyously prepared talisman for several firewalks.  We have not attended the last two due to our stomach flu and state fire restrictions.  Now my children and I each have two talisman that haven't yet been burned.  They continue to grow in power as they rest in our prayer room, next to me as I type.  I love our talisman tree, as we've come to call it.  It is full of masks, ladybug fabric, colorful quilting strips, and prayer ties filled with tobacco, corn meal, and many prayers.  My intention with the last talisman was to release my resistances and to bring in laughter.  I found myself laughing as I created these prayer ties and still find the answers to my prayers coming in daily.  Liam intended to bring in stars and Hannah chose to manifest friendship.  I give such thanks for the opportunity to set intentions with my children and to release them to the divine when the time is right.  Blessings abound!

Joyously creating prayer ties

Our talisman tree

Ceramic Date

When my daughter was very young, my mother painted her a dinner plate while I painted one for my partner.  My son has been very attached to a Cookies for Santa plate that has begun to excessively chip.  With a little personal time on my hands, I painted a new cookie plate for my sweet boy, along with a plate he helped me design.  As my daughter had a tea date with her Fairy God Mother across the street, my son and I finished up the plates with hand prints, rainbow dots, and a giant rainbow.  It was such a treat to have this little date with my sweet son.  And it is a treasure to know he finally has his own personal plate.

My focused artist

A cookie plate with a family of five, like ours

The back of our love plate

"Plant a kiss, endless bliss, kiss my son every day"

Simple Sewing Pleasures

In our gloriously free days, we've been tackling projects.  Before swapping out my colorful thread for the grey needed for a quilting project, I intended to complete a box of mending.  This box comes out for attention every six months, so thankfully the clothes all still fit these growing children.  I had no idea this little activity would turn into an entire day of sewing adventure!  
Four year old Liam learned to use a real needle and thread to sew his own project.  He independently sewed two long strips together to make the letter T that ran the width of our living room.  Hannah created colorful ocean collages with her scrap collection.  She then ripped out seams on many of her brother's shorts so I could replace elastic waistbands.  I got to patch up various holy pants and shirts.

We enjoyed spending this productive day together.  My children helped me move one small step closer to my quilting project.  I intend to finish up the box of mending before it again fills with the wear and tear of these lives we love.  What simple pleasures!  

Ocean collages

Little hands crafting with an even-smaller needle

Seam Ripper Extraordinaire

The baby quilt we will soon sew

The Blue Zones

My friend Audrey invited me on a hike a couple weeks ago.  As we walked and talked for hours about everything under the sun, she recommended The Blue Zones, a book of "lessons for living longer from the people who've lived the longest."  I had been quite perplexed by my recent disinterest in reading, until this book.  Apparently positive, comforting, non-fiction books are what is on tap for me in my current gestating phase (seven weeks until our third babe arrives).  This book was just what my inner-doctor ordered.  Through this book, I was able to travel the world to areas where people live in awesome numbers to be healthy and happy past 100 years of age.  The narrative of the unfolding human stories and research kept me coming back for more.  After reading this book, I am able to explain some important ways in which to help yourself stay healthy longer.

My Summary of Lessons:
  • Vegetables, local and fresh
  • Consume less in general, more nuts and beans and whole grains, fewer meats  
  • Exercise, mild and daily
  • Rest, sitting back to appreciate the gifts of life all around us 
  • Live with or near family  
  • Weekly or daily social time with friends
  • Be likable and sociable
  • Take comfort in faith
  • Wake up with a purpose, such as tending to the garden, grandchildren, the community, or a herd of sheep
The Blue Zones' Nine Lessons:
  • Move Naturally: Be active without having to think about it
  • Hara Hachi Bu: Painlessly cut calories by 20 percent
  • Plant Slant: Avoid meat and processed foods
  • Grapes of Life: Drink red wine (in moderation)
  • Purpose Now: Take time to see the big picture
  • Down Shift: Take time to relieve stress
  • Belong: Participate in a spiritual community
  • Loved Ones First: Make family a priority
  • Right Tribe: Be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone values
At the end of each chapter is a highlighted summary of research findings.  The last chapter sums everything up neatly, even providing a link to take our own longevity quiz, complete with suggestions for increasing the quality and quantity of our lives.  The Blue Zones met my needs for a comforting novel and informative research paper.  And it provided me with a gateway back into my love of reading.  What a gift.

Sharing the book with a friend

Nighttime Love Letters

At 4:00 this morning, I was called to awaken and embrace this new day.  As I'd been looking forward to this moment, robustly pregnant with my third child, I joyfully answered the call.  Out of bed alone in the dark, I journaled for the first time in weeks.  I made lists of what I've been focusing upon, what I've been calling forth into my life, and what I intend to release.  In these lists, I identified areas of my life that drain my energy, such as expecting my own parental perfection and the termination of a couple relationships.

Sitting with a pile of homemade greeting cards, I wrote love letters to those previous friends, releasing guilt and disharmony while sharing loving appreciation.  I wrote love letters to a few dear friends, one needing support at a difficult phase of her life.

After opening and releasing and appreciating through these cards, I was finally ready to open to my partner.  I wrote him a note to share how much I appreciate his endless, boundless support, how he encourages me to be better than I think I can be, how he uses humor, playfulness, and tasks to show how he loves and likes me.  Partnership is a challenging task made more complex by parenthood.  What a privilege to choose to view my partner in all his human details as well-intentioned and brimming with benevolence.

I appreciate taking the time to care for myself in the morning quietness.  I appreciate making space for this openness that allows me to share my gratitude with my partner.  I appreciate that in the span it took to type this out, our day has blossomed: my sleepy son found me, took a little nap by my side, was cuddled by his daddy, joined by my daughter, and now my two children are choosing their own cards for love letters at my side.  What gifts.


Intentionally Shifting Perspective

Nesting to make way for a third child, surrounded by people whose faith and choices are different from my own, focusing on the needs of my children and partner, I've noticed my growing silence.  Self-care had taken a backseat since my body began providing for this welcomed third child.  I had left behind exercise, personally enriching classes, and my social and solitary time.  I had reasons and excuses for each release of self-care.  When it came down to it, I was turning into a shell of myself.  This wasn't benefiting anyone.

A few days ago I explored my personal loneliness through journaling.  I detailed the areas of my life that don't fulfill me.  Exploring these areas felt devastatingly sad.  Now that I can see areas of deficit, I get to choose to do something about them.  I have opened up gently to my partner about my concerns and thoughts on our projects and processes.  I have reached out to loving, safe women.  I have found silver lining where before I could see only heartache.

Specifically, I was able to express to my partner my desire to live in a small, sustainable home crafted of green materials near a forest.  We are moving toward living in a larger home on a small bit of land.  Through gentle conversations, I intentionally shifted my perspective to see that this larger home does fit the current needs of my family and the desires of my partner and provides green space for me to grow more of our food.  It brings me great joy to imagine someday living in a sustainable pod in the backyard under the trees while my adult children live within the big house.  I choose to love this plan.

Since we've had children, I put up a wall in myself relating to my partner whenever he is around.  I internally succumb to his plans and preferences and give up my power.  Areas of my life where I feel pressure to please are: making homeschooling look like school and clean the house and begin dinner preparations before his arrival from work each day.  After further dialogue and reflection, I now intend to shift my sight from blaming him for uncomfortable pressures and toward ways I choose to personally to care for my home and family.  I see the dishes, laundry, dinners, and checks and balances within home education as a way to show my love for my family, to model joyous responsibility, and to take steps to create a joyous home environment.  Now instead of wanting my partner to think the house was clean all day, I openly admit the house was a disaster and we have just cleaned it.  I voice that I prefer to make our family dinners so my children consume meals from scratch that include enough vegetables.  Once again opening communication in my marriage is a big part of this new perspective.  Releasing myself from blaming others for my stress and accepting it as my own allows me to shift my view, my choices, and my story.

In identifying my social isolation as my schedule revolves around my children and we spend very little time with biological family, I've made an effort to reconnect and spend face-to-face time with friends.  My children and I have hosted two informal gatherings to welcome our third child.  My sister-in-law and I plan to get together for a tea date.  I have set up dates with a few parenting friends.  Time with like-minded friends allows me to openly discuss my feelings, processes, present adventures, and what matters to us both: our faith in humanity, our intentional parenting, and our direct healing of Mother Earth.  I open myself to connecting with others and trust that my prayers will continue to be answered in abundance.

I am able to journal.  When hormones and thirst wake me at 4:00 in the morning, I meditate for an hour in bed (looks just like sleeping), and then get up to write in my prayer room.  This is a way for me to check in with myself and to allow space to focus on what is calling my attention.  In this way, I am able to identify and release my own resistances and step more fully into this life I love living with my amazing family.

As for exercise, my yoga ball is a wonderful companion.  My children love to play loud music that gets me to dance.  Most of my day is spent on my feet, I love gardening, and intend to very soon embark on family walks.  Today may just be that day to begin!

I move from a space of density into lightness.  As I am once again able to sing, to find my personal song, I begin to create and express, to smile and laugh.  For these answered prayers, I give such great thanks and share these awakened blessings with others.  This life and these lessons are such gifts.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cinderella Mother-Daughter Book Club

The story of Cinderella is our next Mother-Daughter Book Club choice.  Each daughter chose an alternate version of the classic tale.  We found infinite variations and sources for this story online and at the library.

Some variations include:
Bigfoot Cinderrrrrrella
Cinderella Bigfoot (Happy Ever Laughter)
Seriously, Cinderella is SO Annoying!: Told by the Wicket Step-Mother
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece

Hannah chose to read and discuss The Fairy Godmother's Assistant, the first story in a Girls to the Rescue book by Bruce Lansky (the only copy we found).  She prepared a Venellagram for each daughter, a Venn diagram to discuss Cinderella.  She prepared a question to ask the group: How did Cinderella overcome her challenges?

Guests gathered for tasty treats and to discuss the chosen stories.  There was some wonderful discussion about the character traits of Cinderella, how sometimes she saved herself, the strengths of Cinderella, how the fairy godmother motivated Cinderella to get herself prepared for the ball without magic, and our favorite parts of the stories.  Alternative Cinderella tales could be used for many book club occasions, though we will move on to other favorite tales.

Dinorella Venellagram

Two Cinderellas all dressed for the ball

Vennellagram for The Fairy Godmother's Assistant

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ladybug Girl Blessingway

My children want to celebrate their soon-to-arrive little Ladybug Girl with a baby shower.  (We love the story of Ladybug Girl!)  As we have everything we need for our new addition, we have chosen to share fun times and cupcakes at the park this summer.  To celebrate my personal journey into mothering three children, my friends planned a blessingway.

A blessingway is an old Navajo ritual to celebrate a woman’s rite of passage into motherhood. It is a beautiful and unique way to honor the mother, spend time with her, share stories, debrief fears, and to instill confidence and strength.  Typically each guest shares a blessing and a bead for a birthing bracelet.

Five women chose to join us for last night's blessingway.  What a gift to have these strong, caring women take time out of their full lives to offer their love and support for my family and me.  Each woman offered a blessing, a bead, and a small gift to place in each woman's blessing bag.  When I begin labor with our little Ladybug Girl, these women will open their bags to reread the blessings and partake in the delights within.  They will light the candle, eat the chocolate, drink the homegrown apple mint tea, apply soothing lip balm, giggle at the little charms and trinkets, and send their prayers my way to help with the transition.  What a beautiful way to birth this baby into our world together.  It is such a gift to feel the love of these women as they support me in raising my three precious children.  I give the greatest of thanks for such a blessing.

Blessed rocks placed into a handmade bag at our blessingway

Blessingway birthing necklace 

Eagerly awaiting the arrival of our little Ladybug Girl

The Wizard of Oz Mother-Daughter Book Club

My daughter Hannah and I have intended to begin a mother-daughter book club for the last three years.  I read an awesome book on the topic and wanted to being when she was five, nearly three years ago.  The idea of connecting with our daughters through literature has so many benefits: long term connection with our daughters, time to focus on one another, listening attentively to each others' thoughts and feelings and serious subject matters through books, seeing our daughters as the world sees them, our daughters seeing their mothers in a role outside motherhood, other mothers mentoring our daughters, and ongoing connections with the same mothers and daughters.

Hannah wanted to focus on Little House in the Big Woods, though her project ideas were so elaborate that I pushed off plans for too long.  When she and her little brother became captivated by reading The Wizard of Oz and I began seriously nesting in preparation for our third child, we worked out a plan for a simple gathering centered around the book.  After years of anticipation, it was finally time to begin our Mother-Daughter Book Club.

Four daughter, four mothers, and one fairy god mother gathered under our cherry tree recently to talk about The Wizard of Oz.  Each girl brought a book-centered question, a tasty treat, and an activity.  After connecting with one another through unstructured play time, we shared a meal, each answered the girls' questions about favorite characters and moments and lessons, and finally dove right into the colorful activities.  Simple and sweet.

Our gathering was such fun we have decided to choose and discuss another book.  Together we brainstormed a list of books with female protagonists and can't wait to get started on planning our next Mother-Daughter Book Club!


Joyful preparations

My four-year-old son's ruby slipper

Ruby slipper portraits using corn, pen, pipe cleaners, glitter glue, etc.

Polka dots

Patterning

Simple elegance

Corn, quinoa, and tissue paper

Magic with pipe cleaners and tissue paper

My son created this ruby slipper after the party.

Somewhere over the rainbow, we fall more in love with reading together.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Today I Appreciate...

Today I appreciate two hours alone.
I appreciate calling my mother for an un
interrupted telephone conversation.
I appreciate harvesting calendula seeds in the shade.
I appreciate moving my way through a long list of tasks.
I appreciate planning social time, sometimes with children, sometimes without.
I appreciate cold watermelon on a hot day.
I appreciate finishing books and returning them to the library.
I appreciate making plans to plant black-eyed susan flowers and rhubarb.
I appreciate ripe figs and blueberries from our own garden.
I appreciate showing up early instead of late to be there to support friends.
I appreciate knowing all these energies swirling are not mine.
I appreciate letting these energies flow and go where they are needed.
I appreciate the gifts of this unique day.

The Burning of Bridget Cleary, Part 2

I began to read The Burning of Bridget Cleary as a way to connect with ancient fairy stories.  (Part 1 is here.)  Fairies were important to my grandmother and the women who came before her.  This is unlike any other book I've read and far from my usual choice, though I followed my curiosity into this book to learn more of how fairies fit into our world through old tales.

After completing this book, detailing the circumstances surrounding a young woman's death in 1895, I have a new perspective on that time of cultural transition.  I appreciate having insight into Ireland's political changes to contrast what I know of my own country's challenges at that time (Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories and the mass settlements of white homesteaders in Indian land around 1889).  It was indeed a time heavy in shifting powers and domination.

Bridget Cleary was a young woman caught between old oral, fairy-centered tradition and the incoming Catholic structure.  She was trained in a valued profession, made her own money, had saved more money than most of her neighbors made in a year, and was childless in her marriage.  She was self-supporting, independent, and friends with a wide variety of people in her community.  She did not conform to the cultural expectations of her time and of those around her.

"She had accumulated power, both economic and sexual, it seems, far in excess of what was due to a woman of her age and class, and when the balance tipped, all the anger flowered toward her" (page 155).

At this particular time in history, people were said to have "gone with the fairies" when they were ill or different.  One way to bring people back from mental or physical illness was to threaten to or to actually burn them with hot shovels.  Aside from Bridget, all victims who died from this practice were children.

When Bridget fell ill with bronchitis, her husband exhausted himself in caring for her by not sleeping for over a week.  He was under high pressure from those around him to get her to conform to the standard role of women, to bring her back from the fairies and into health again.  When she refused to break under his violence, he killed her, unhindered by the numerous family members in attendance.

They "were exerting their communal power against a woman whose behavior they found unacceptable.  Modern though they might have been in some aspects of their lives, Jacke Dunne and the Kennedys, men and women, were here reasserting the authority of an older way of life.  As they did so, there were also driving a wedge between husband and wife by demanding that Michael Cleary ally himself with the ideology of stigma and control, which fairy legend represented, against his wife" (page 154).

This is a sad and violent tale, though the author's detailed research and well-rounded perspectives provide a way to see this era in a new way.  It is curious to see the same story line and struggle for control with differing details in our own lives and times, such as how people repress and oppress certain groups.  The lessons shared through this story share threads with many throughout history.  I find it very fascinating.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Living in the Moment

We have been living in the moments (soundtrack here).  Yes, that's what we've been up to.  We've been quilting, organizing, painting with spin art, reading and writing stories, assembling puzzles, and playing for hours in the yard and garden.  It's nice to stop for a moment to breath after the endings of scheduled academic activities.  To rest in this transition time into summer, as all time is transitioning from one something into another, brings peace and grace.  The world swirls around us and we are here in the center of it as we stop to smell the flowers, to refill our bags with library books, to sit in the tiny wading pool, and to rest in our togetherness.  Sometimes we are the swirling, though we still hold this center of calm within us.  For example, today we have many activities and tasks to accomplish, yet here I am typing away in solitude while my children brush their teeth and pick wild flowers for our friend in the hospital.  There is peace within each moment, purposeful or otherwise.  What a nice moment this is.



Monday, May 25, 2015

Silver Lining in Death

My partner's beloved aunt died last week.  One of his uncles is now fighting to keep his body alive.  While many in our circle are pregnant, we also look forward to the arrival of our third baby in a few months.  Life and death surround us in this grand human theater.  I love my people so deeply.  I stopped watching television news and violent movies a decade ago because I empathically felt each sad and frightening story was about my own family.  (I regulate my sensory needs by understanding violent non-fiction stories through books.)  I love my friends as if they are my brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, grandparents, and parents.  I am moving into understanding our connection as one big human family, into knowing I am capable of feeling and doing most things experienced by fellow humans.

When my loved ones pass, as my partner's aunt did last week, I know the loss and sadness and suffering surrounding death.  I hang on for the swirl of emotions felt around me, as if in a storm.  I know not all loved ones are easy to love, as each life journey provides unique lessons and struggles.

I also do my best to focus on the silver lining.  I feel myself and others surrounded and supported by waves of love, grace, and appreciation for sharing such love with the departed one.  I see the gathering of family and friends.  I see younger people playing together, older people catching up on the years apart.  I see hugs, connecting, and relationships.  Most of all, I see the love.  The sad beauty of love shared with another.

I comfort myself by finding my own silver lining.  I find solace in spending time with loved ones, sharing in the stories and swirl of emotions, and revisiting meaningful songs and sources that soothe my soul.  (A few of my favorites are below.)  I release some tears, hold hands, breathe, and look find the jems of appreciations in this amazing journey we share with one another.

All You Need is Love by the Beatles

Existential Bummer, Shots of Awe by Jason Silva

Fall in Love or Die Trying, Shots of Awe by Jason Silva
"Life should be lived to the point of tears, so fall in love or die trying."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Faith in Dying

The elders in my family are very actively aging and dying.  I appreciate such beauty and sadness within this process.  I see great beauty in the love we feel for each other and great sadness in how we mourn the loss of beloved ones.

While my 88-year-old grandmother was staying with us for two weeks, she talked of her faith in going to Heaven to be with her departed beloved ones when she dies.  In contrast, my 91-year-old neighbor is terrified of death, having no idea of what awaits her after this life.  I ask her if she can imagine a reunion with her beloved husband, though she shakes her head and holds tightly to her fight to live forever.

My partner's uncle is now fighting for his survival.  I am comforted in knowing he has likely had conversations with his spiritual wife about an afterlife.  Another of my partner's beloved aunts passed a few days ago.  Both she and her husband have a comforting faith in an afterlife.  Her husband calmly shared "She's already on to her next life."

One need not attend a weekly service or practice to fully immerse yourself in an afterlife faith, though it seems to make a spiritual belief more comforting and concrete when surrounded by active spiritual practice and like-minded believers.  Dying is not easy.  Some say it is the biggest thing we will ever do with our lives, or at least the grand finale for which all of our lives prepare us.  We have invested so much energy and faith into living.  Death is indeed difficult on those left behind without their loved one.

I find such peace personally in having gone through training as a shamanic practitioner to discuss afterlife possibilities with others.  It naturally works into heartfelt conversation.  My training allows me to see we choose our own adventure after our body expires.  We can call upon God, Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus, or others who have created a path into a specific afterlife.  When we call upon that entity, we are taken directly to the afterlife described by them.  Each path is valid and real to the believer.  There's also the choice to be indecisive and terrified and to roam around trying to stay human.  We then attach to living people, fragmenting and polluting humanity.  (Shamans heal this toxic relationship with "compassionate soul release".)  Another option is to rest in the dark void, to sit and meditate, to see the infinite possibilities for our own souls before choosing one.

I've had the privilege of seeing my possible death journey in my courses.  I saw my soul split into three pieces upon my physical death, as do many ancient cultures.  After saying goodbye to my loved ones, one part of my soul went back into the earth as a steward, one part moved into being a Guardian Angel for my loved ones, and another went to sit in the dark void to ponder possibilities.  My death journey is ever evolving, though my faith comforts me.  I take comfort in talking with others about their thoughts of afterlife.

After exploring my own possible death process, I talked with my mother about it.  As a life-long Christian woman, she was stunned to think she had a choice.  She fairly yelled at me, "We have a choice?!"  So we talked and talked and continue to talk about our personal journeys in preparing for our own transitions.  When so much of our culture revolves around staying young and never dying, it feels wonderful to me to discuss the inevitability of death, our wildest desires of what we choose to do with our last act within these human bodies, and the adventures beyond.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Simple Self-Care in the Garden

I appreciate the leg cramps that awoke me at 4:30 this morning.  I appreciate the cool air, jungle of bird calls, meditation, and sunrise that followed.  Waking in a room packed with my sleeping family, I see clearly my need for solitude.  My beloved grandmother has been with us for one week, halfway through her time with us.  She accompanies us on all our daily tasks and tidbits so she won't miss a moment of our lives.  My days are filled with preparing three nourishing, filling meals a day, to stuff my grandma "like a Thanksgiving turkey", as I tell her.  When she gains enough weight, her doctor will give her permission to exercise and visit friends more than once each week.  Between meals, laundry, and other details, we sit down to play her favorite card game.

Last night I stepped outside, following my grandmother and children.  I saw the wilting strawberry patch I'd transplanted just before her arrival.  My dry, weedy garden sat in wait.  I saw the berry and rose bushes that may have passed in the last warm week.  I saw the pile of sticks I've been meaning to cut.  So I gently stepped into tending my plot of earth.  And that felt so good.  As my grandmother contentedly watched my children swing and me cut tree trimmings, I thought of how simple it can be to tend to myself while others' needs are met.  Nature allows us to feel such abundance as we step out into simplicity.  My relationship with my grandmother is so much simpler than with my mother.  I take note of this thought and move back into my love for my garden.  In some ways, this garden reflects my own self-care.  It has been a while since I've taken the time to tend this garden.  The bees have been loving all my neglected, flowering vegetables.

So now rising out of bed as the sun peaks over the mountain feels really good.  There is sacred solitude in this moment.  There is simplicity in taking a moment (or several of them) to connect with myself, to step back in appreciation of the fullness of this life, and to seize this moment in time for my own solitude.  I see that this fullness in life will shift and I will have more moments of balance and solitude.  I appreciate waking early, breathing, reflecting, and stepping out of this busy routine and into the simplicity of the garden.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Enoughness

I am enough.  Regardless of flaws that may appear obvious to me, I am enough, I do enough, I have enough.  I am so grateful for this time with my partner, children, friends, and extended family.  My life is so blessed.  I hear mainstream cultural messages reflected in the voices of others.  This message demands I understand my obligation to tirelessly strive to be/do/have enough.  We live in a culture of deficit: not enough money, time, or love.

What if I just step out of that smothering thought cloud and into my personal life?  I choose to be/see/live enoughness.  I see enough money to feed, shelter, and educate my family.  I see enough time to do the things that really matter, to rest, to be productive.  I see enough love to care for myself and all those in our lives, in ways large and small.

I could accept the deficits of not being able to fit in or pay for everything I desire.  Or I can choose to see myself surrounded by an abundance of everything I need to be healthy and happy.  As with many practices, this sounds simple and yet is not.  I choose to see the silver lining in the ability to choose what I do and for whom, instead of being everything to everyone.

One simple practice I love is to breath into my heart.  With each breath, I see my heart filled with energy.  As I release my breath, I see and feel the energy move to where it is most needed in my body.  This helps me center throughout the day and to know the abundance in my life.  With this simple breath, I intimately know my enoughness.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Quilt Time

My beloved son finally has his colorful quilt after two years of anticipation.  This two-sided delight is assembled of squares he carefully selected.  With this project taking its sweet time, we have already begun our next baby's quilt.  While waiting for the last few squares from friends before beginning this new quilt, I begin transforming old t-shirts into quilts for my partner and myself.  A room full of quilts feels very satisfying.  My children and I find such joy in bringing these colorful projects to life and filling them with love.

our newest quilt

our next quilt project

Grandmother Time

My beloved grandmother will be arriving soon to stay with my family for two weeks.  In anticipation of her visit, we have organized her room, emptied surfaces and drawers and shelves, and borrowed a walker and wheelchair.  Grandma looks forward to our active schedules and playing with our friends.  We have planned day trips, swim sessions, park days, baking extravaganzas, reiki night, and a treasured massage appointment.  Despite not knowing the details of her aging, we are ready for treasured time together.  My heart overflows with the love I feel when I think of connecting with my mother's mother.  I know the depth of this rare blessing in my life.  This is a gift and opportunity offered to our family.  Time with my grandmother, my children's great-grandmother, is such a gift.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Appreciations & Manifestations Journal

One practice that brings me joy is my daily appreciation journal.  On the left page of my small journal I write my appreciations.  The more I focus on the blessings in my life, the more I find to bring me into the bliss of my little moments.

"Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life." 
-Northrup Christiane

On the right is my list of what I intend to manifest.  My days are lighter and more intentional when I make the time to complete these journal pages.  With clear intentions, my days naturally flow toward my goals.  My friend Latisha has been doing this practice for months and finds she is now fluidly accomplishing very large intentions.  My goals are personal, looking small while feeling large.  They will grow as I do.

Here is my list for today.

I appreciate:
  • happily watered flowers
  • pouring rain
  • purring kitties
  • completed weekly homeschool
  • family science time
  • eating dinner together
  • board games
  • rain boots

I choose to manifest:
  • laughter
  • song on my lips
  • joy in my heart throughout day
  • use home-preserved goods
  • consume more vegetables
  • spirit-led writing
  • exercise
  • call and write Grandma




Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Morning Appreciations

I appreciate waking before my family to meditate in solitude.
I appreciate hot tea, fed kitties, and the hum of my computer.
I appreciate my son coming to sit on my lap before my first sentence is complete.
I appreciate the impression of his pillows still on his face.
I appreciate his warm hug and his hair in my face.
I appreciate his covering his coughs with his elbow.
I appreciate his planning his own half birthday celebrations.
I appreciate hearing the details of the necklace he created that I now wear.
I appreciate rising out of my chair to search for the green pipe cleaner my son kindly requests.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Determined Aspirations

As I juggle my beautiful growing family, I aspire to become a shamanic practitioner.  You know, with a massage table, healing room, paid with money, the works.  I see myself also sharing my various creations for the financial benefit of my family.  As I hold these goals in my heart and move in small steps toward their actualization, I take comfort in knowing I'm following in the footsteps of other determined humans.  We are never alone on our adventures.

Today, looking through my children's three foot tall pile of educational magazines from a kind neighbor, I opened a Smithsonian magazine (February 2013) right up to an article on "Origins"  This article details the journey of writer Seth Fiegerman, who edits the blog Opening Lines.org.  He has "a collection of case studies on the origins of famous careers."  He details how in his own career struggles it was nice to find in various interviews and biographies that successful people all struggled in getting where they wanted to be.  What these successful people had in common were setbacks and failures.  They were determined in their aspirations to continue moving forward.  We have the ability to learn infinite amounts from our failures.  

As I spend these long days and short years with my beautiful children, I take comfort in knowing I will reach my goals.  My goals may change shape and color.  I look back to see I've risen to meet my previous goals.  Each journey has been far more rewarding than I'd imagined possible.  The lessons along the way simply blow my mind, expanding my heart to love this life even more.  Yes, I am doing just dandy in my role as my children's mother.  I use many abilities to keep up with them in their ever-changing ways.  I will soon see the ways I am using my many others skills in my life.  Perhaps as I aspire to reach these professional goals, I will find I've already arrived at where I'd aimed.  I look forward to watching this story unfold.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Removing False Masks

I am currently taking a class to understand the many masks I wear out in the world.  Our goal is to identify, name, remove, and discard the masks we wear that we think protect us.  They actually prevent us from knowing and showing our authentic selves and living our self-satisfying life.  It is true that when we take care of ourselves, we really are taking care of others.  Self-care is vital.  

I dutifully did my homework for this class, piecing together a list of masks.  The Stupid/Smart mask merged with Overachiever.  People Pleasure and Late Louisa were there too.  My completed flow chart was orderly and simplified with 15 masks.

When I got to the first class and was asked to talk about my masks, my words were stuck and my brain began to short circuit.  It would have been comical had it not been so terrifying.  The first words to come out were, "Oh, look, it's my happy mask!  I'd forgotten all about that one."  And then I uncovered my personal masks of Wounded Martyr, Lone Woman, Fear of Failure, Bean Counter, Runner, Overwhelm/Avoidance, Seen/Unseen, Mean Mommy, Wounded Self-Help Hound, among many others.

So now that I've discovered many masks, these simple steps are used with each one.  
  1. Identify mask.
  2. Remove mask.
  3. Name mask.
  4. Discard mask or set it aside.
  5. Find your song, your joy.
I currently have three beautifully crafted paper mache masks in my prayer room, standing as a reminder to keep these masks off my face.  These three are my Happy Mask, Hopelessly Blue Mask, and Should Mask.

My song is what brings me joy.  My favorites are singing, dancing, crafting, finding bliss in the moment, and time in nature.

I find great joy in moving through these steps with each mask and standing in my own uniquely joyous song.  



Monday, April 20, 2015

The Burning of Bridget Cleary, Part 1

I am preparing to take a shamanic course on fairy doctoring, using fairy connections to heal humans.  In preparation, I've started reading The Burning of Bridget Cleary.  This book is the true story of a man murdering his wife because he believed she was possessed by fairies in 1895 Ireland.  This is very unlike books I usually choose.

After reading a fifth of the book one day last week, I've been thinking and dreaming of it since.  One night I had a dream of fairies attuning my throat chakra (energy center) to prepare for my speaking in a new way.  While this was uncomfortable, I knew I was protected by my angels.  I trust these attunements are moving me toward my most benevolent outcome.

The following night I dreamed of the Catholic church and the rules instituted upon ancient cultures in the book.  Again my throat burned as I visualized being whipped each time I tried to speak against the church's stories.  I imagined this is how the original cultures felt with the incoming of church's vastly different structures and rules.

Without reading further into this intriguing book, I find myself processing the events on a molecular level, as if clearing out and speaking of my family's cosmology.  I trust this journey with the fairies and appreciate this unfolding story as my life mingles with those long past.

(Part 2 is here.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

What is family to me?

What is family to me?  This question has taken me a long time to answer.

In childhood, family was a group of people placed together by marriage and biology.  My parents provided food, shelter, education, boundaries, and safety from the world outside.  My family contained four people, very little time with other biological  kin, and the occasional guest for New Year's Eve.  My father used physical and emotional violence with us to keep his world orderly and controlled.  My mother survived through submissiveness and passive aggressiveness.  My brother fled our little pod because it was too painful and overwhelming to stay connected.

My definition of family has changed throughout the years.  I left my fractured childhood home after high school graduation to find my own way in our world.  I learned to create personal boundaries and to be a good friend.  I made many friends who were finding their own paths.  My parents and I mended our connections and I found safety in my own gentle strength.

Then I met my M, a loyal, supportive, family-centered young man.  He moved from Taiwan to the U.S.A. as a preschooler and was very connected to his Taiwanese culture, family, and practices.  Having spent a summer in France caring for my cousin's children when I was 17, studying three languages, and loving travel, it was such a blessing to connect with such a network of loving, extended family.

M became my family.  To my delight, he was a package deal, bringing with him his extended family.  It is so comforting to have the healthy love and support of M's family.  To know how much they love my children is priceless.

I miss my brother deeply, though I rest in knowing he is aware of my love for him and where to find me when he is ready to reconnect.  One day in this lifetime I look forward to reconnecting with my beloved brother, to seeing my children enjoy their uncle, my mother hugging her son.  As we all move to the beat of our own drums, I release expectation of specific outcomes and send love to my family near and far.

As I look back on my own evolution of family, I give the greatest of thanks for where I've been.  My own story has helped me feel deeply appreciative for where I now stand with this loving family by my side.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Following my own Path

Studying as a shamanic practitioner for the last two years has taught me so much.  Through these lessons I have learned to bring healing to myself and others, to connect more deeply to Jesus, God, the Divine in us all.  I hold tools to generate energy within my body, to clear energy of others, to manifest blessings.

As my family makes way for a blessed third child, I have pulled back from high level monthly courses.  As my classmates and friends move on in their class studies, I am slimming down to three weekend classes and focusing on my daily life routines.  In my personal life I am striving to create structure for my family's routines.  The more I focus on bringing myself into balance, the more my family benefits.

I've been focusing on bringing about my own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual balance.  Goodness knows, there's a lot more to balance than all that.  Okay, so with regular exercise, vegetable consumption, daily meditations, moments of solitude and mindful breathing, and hanging out with my angels, I am feeling pretty good.  My children also have their daily responsibilities and needs: homeschool, getting outside, healthy meals, home chores, social time, a smidge of quiet time, and lots of free play.

Then I focus on singing and speaking from my heart while asking my children for the 47th time to please put on their clothes and practice the piano.  It has taken a long while to get to this point.  Each day is different, some high and some low.  While I am most often patient and loving, sometimes I shout and then stand in the closet to breath and hum my way back into my heart.

While I know my classmates are moving on in their level of spiritual practice, I know I am doing the same right here with my wee ones.  I am here for my family as I also show up for myself.  That is where I am in this moment and that is enough for me.  What a beautiful balance to know I am caring for others by caring for myself.  What blessed lives we lead.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fairy Love

Each morning as I intentionally appreciate my ancestors, I feel the energy of my father's deceased mother come gently yet firmly into my heart.  I feel Grandma Evelyn's love coming through to connect with me.  There was something more than love she wanted to share.

As I was connecting with my cousins, I asked them if they knew of any unusual qualities in our grandmother.  My cousin Kristen says she was very close with Grandma, cooking with her in the kitchen, inheriting her garden bench.  My cousin sometimes senses Grandma sitting next to her on that same bench while her children play nearby.

For a while I asked Grandma's energy to sit on the bed next to me each morning, as she sits on her beloved bench.  My grandfather would often be next to her and connect with me as well.  I felt close to them both, connecting in a loving way that was not available to me as a child when I frightened by my father's childhood stories.

In a shamanic journey with a fellow practitioner, I was given the gift of connection with my beloved grandmother.  In this visualization, my grandmother shared an early memory of her childhood.  She saw herself spending hours playing in tall grasses near water, captivated with the glistening details of the world.  She told of the mosses, dew, the sunlight reflecting off everything.  And there were fairies everywhere.  This was the magic she wanted to share.  I was greatly comforted to know my grandmother was a joyous flitterer like me, meandering about to those in need and to those she loved.  She was able to focus on the details of life instead of feeling overwhelmed by the view of all life's challenges.

The following day, my daughter began a fairy class at a non-academic Christian homeschool co-op.  She invited fairies to travel to her class in a glass jar, making them comfortable with glittery beads and jewels.  A preschooler looked into my bag of supplies and inquired about the glass jar.  "This is a jar of fairies my daughter brought for her fairy class."  This one sentence led to our slow rejection and ejection from the program.  While this transition was heartbreaking, we were being true to ourselves in following what was right for us and making space for a better-fitting community.

Now in an academic-focused Christian co-op, we are acclimating and making new friends.  New Christian friends seem to be a large part of our social connections right now.  Our Christian friends raise healthy, considerate children and tend to love homeschooling.  When asked directly by our Christian friends, I share my interest in shamanism, Buddhism, meditation, and occasionally find myself mentioning my love of fairies.  Though these words often leave my lips without my permission, I believe there are no accidents.  I see these details of our lives as part of our unfolding story.  While falling in love with our ancestors, our human story, our line of cosmology, we are falling in love with these lives we are so blessed to authentically share with one another.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Creating Peace on Thanksgiving

My husband, children, and I put a lot of time, energy, and love into hosting Thanksgiving each year.
Each year my family elaborates on hosting this day.  The guests bring the same scripts, while my little family shifts the framework.  This celebration changes form, as do we.

It amazes me how emotionally triggered I am by this one meal each year.  I have looked around enviously at friends with extended families.  I desired more for my children than the isolated family of four in which I was raised.  I had chosen to focus upon my own disconnect, disfunction, and disappointment.  It is so true, we bring into our lives that on which we focus.

Two years ago my little family spent days preparing the meal and setting.  We wrote personal appreciations on a little paper turkey for each guest.  Everyone sat at beautifully arranged place settings.  My partner set up a scavenger hunt for the children to find a lost turkey.  This kept families engaged for an hour after the meal before their departure.  My recollections of the evening are laughing children with fake mustaches and adults saying "thank you" and "That must have taken a long time to make these little turkeys."  It was very sweet, though in my greed I'd wanted more.

There was still lingering disappointment in my heart last November.  In knowing I am creator of my own reality, I chose to get to the bottom of these feelings.  There, where it always is, I found again how much I miss my estranged brother.  He chose to leave my life 14 years ago due to the painful childhood we shared.  When I realized once again how much I miss my only sibling, I chose to search for the silver lining.  I love silver lining.  Here is what I found.  My biological family hasn't been around much, so I've created a supportive, healthy community of loved ones I consider my additional family.  It's an awesome feeling to have so many wonderful people love my children, my partner, and me.  Ironically, they are with their own biological families to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Let it go, let it flow.  My dear friend Jasmine has been walking me through her own releasing of friends from their set roles.  When we step back from expectations and forward into joy, we watch the relationship shift, change, end, or grow.  Then there is freedom for others to enter our lives.  Sometimes my additional family seems to use a revolving door and only the most joyous and nourishing of relationships last.  If staying in relationship with someone is so difficult, perhaps we are trying to make them fit into a role they don't choose.

Family has been a theme for me for a long while.  I've been training as a shamanic practitioner for two years.  Within this practice, I have connected more deeply with my family lineage and living relatives.  I daily express great gratitude for this life I have been gifted by my ancestors all the way back to the beginning of humanity.

My shamanic friend who knew nothing of my childhood gifted me with a shamanic meditation.  Within the visualization, she guided me to see myself as a delicate, innocent flower, smashed under the black boot of my father in the name of tradition and control.  As this flower, I was smashed and held down for a long time.  Soon the violence ended and there was quiet, calm, and light.  I rose again, like the Phoenix, growing into a strong resilient blossom.  All around me were other blossoms, in trees, in grasses, in vases.  Each one of these flowers is a family member.  "See the flowers and know how much you are loved.  You are surrounded by family and they are there anytime you think of them."

This visualization last spring provided me with such comfort I was able to take a big step forward.  Shortly after this session, I attended my mother's mother's family reunion in Utah, where I met 40 new relatives and all my grandmother's siblings.  In late summer my daughter and I traveled to Missouri to meet my father's siblings, their children, and grandchildren.  Within the last year my biological family has gone from itty bitty to pretty big.  These relatives live at a distance, though our hearts are now changed and connected forever.

As with every year, last year at Thanksgiving season, I began anew to re-evaluate my definition of family.  I looked in the dictionary for a definition of family.  Down at the ninth definition I found what I'd been searching for.  "Family: those who share the same path, interests, goals."  I like it.  I choose to know that I am a part of one big human family.  My cats, friends, loved ones, and biological relatives are all family.

As per usual I invited my loved ones from all areas of my life to join us for the big day.  I put out an open invitation to all my classmates to join us if they chose.  It feels good to include them.  It feels good they have other gatherings to join.  It feels great to release any expectation of others participating on behalf of my side of the family.  One of my partner's cousins chooses to spend Thanksgiving with friends, as she has for the last 25 years.  Now I finally understand her choice.  When we choose what feels good for ourselves, taking others into consideration, we are causing a ripple effect of self-care and appreciation.  We are the only ones who truly know what brings us joy on Thanksgiving.  And it is our responsibility to create our own happiness.

It brings me great joy to spend this special day with my loved ones who choose to share it.  My partner's three relatives and their own little families joined us last year.  We spent one week preparing our home and one day preparing our meal.  We decorated a large chalk board, white board, and a large painted poster to detail our appreciations for family, friends, food, and the abundance in our lives.  The table was immaculately set with laminated animal calendar pages (from decluttering teaching supplies), small canning jars with candles, personalized art, and name cards for each guest.  In all the preparations, we expressed our deep appreciations for our loved ones, near and far, and for the many blessings in our lives.  The actual gathering and meal were the frosting on the already-delicious cake.

When the big moment arrived, my in-laws arrived with their children and dishes to share.  We socialized as we completed meal details.  As we sat to begin our meal, we each spoke of what we were most thankful for, lighting a candle as we spoke.  My four-year-old son approached the adults' table with his electric candle  to say, "I am thankful for friends and food."  The other children followed.  The tables glowed with candlelight.  When the meal was complete, my new cousin-in-law's wife helped me with dishes!  Adult cousins stayed to play an hour of games.  It was beautiful.  It was bliss.  It was complete.

Since that Thanksgiving meal, my thoughts on family are these.  Family is the group of beings we call loved ones: biological kin, dear friends, those we choose to love.  We are a part of one human family.  Strangers are friends yet to meet.  I see this in action every time we take public transportation or play in public spaces.  There are so many kind people all over the world who are someone's loved ones.  Most people in my life are loved ones.  And when it comes to Thanksgiving, I invite my beloved ones, expect nothing in return, and am thrilled by the gifts that unfold.  We now know how to send out appreciations and set the stage for the bonding of loved ones.  We now know a deeper meaning for the word family.

Love bugs

Giving thanks with paint

One place setting with meal blessing

Collectively counting our blessings

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Library Book Love

I descend from a long line of book lovers.  We fondly call ourselves bookworms when it feels right.  We even love books about books.  My father's mother "always had a book in her hand."  My father would come home from his stressful work days to plop down on the couch and read through another paperback.  In my sheltered childhood, I visited the library each week and read thousands of books.  My grandmother kept journals, my father writes books and stories, and I love to write letters, journals, and blog.

While reading The Library by Sarah Stewart today, my daughter Hannah asked, "Mama, am I a bookworm?"  She apparently follows our family line of literature lovers.  The Library is one of our favorite children's books.  This book details the true story of how Mary Elizabeth Brown came to turn her home into a library.  I told my daughter, not for the first or last time, how my childhood home looked like a library and how our home would resemble a library if we didn't have a local library.  We love our books.  And we appreciate our library for housing all the books we bookworms love.


Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival

Hannah, Liam, and I treasure our annual tradition of attending the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival.  This year I became aware of my motivations for attending this festival.  My children are motivated by the cow train, trampoline, pony rides, and playground.  I am captivated by the beautiful tulips, photo opportunities, and how much joy my children take in this annual tradition.

We have attended this festival for five years now, since I was pregnant with my son.  I'm thrilled to proclaim this as my first year to watch my children meander the fields on the bumpy cow train without me.  Seeing this day as a learning opportunity, we talked about managing our budget; my children chose two activities and a small snack while I chose to go home with colorful tulips.  Hannah and Liam spent an hour pumping water for their own duck racing, understanding the details of water pressure, volume, and flow.  We talked about the cold wind in our ears, the variations in tulips colors and shapes, and how each variety blooms at different times.  We watched gardeners cut off old blooms.  

We took it all in.  Now that we're at home, we will enjoy our photographs from our beloved Tulip Festival.  We highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't yet fallen in love with the spring colors.