Monday, September 22, 2014

Summer 2014

Summer lasted quite a long time for us this year.  Both in weeks due to our teachers being on strike and in weather (we were swimming outdoors on the third Saturday in September!)

But with the Autumnal Equinox school and therefore our fall schedule proper has begun.  And I think it's time I dusted this blog off a bit and updated all the goings on of the summer.  There were lots of them.  Travel, camping, swimming, gardening, sewing (for me), Lego (for the boys) and growing both in bodies and in minds.  It was full in other words.  And a good summer in many ways.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Delving Deeper

It is quite a miraculous thing that we humans change.  That just as we think it's all figured out everything breaks into a million pieces.  And we stand somewhat stunned and left to contemplate whether our ideas were illusions or simply a part of becoming more ourselves.
My journey as a spiritual being has followed many such paths of self exploration.  From the ground breaking discovery of my core as a pagan - through feminism and Goddess based art, to my years sharing circles and building ritual space and then having to reject that destination as I lost my way.
Though I have identified strongly with beliefs that I can only categorize as pagan I also feel at times inadequate using the word.  Reading blogs, listening to podcasts, and seeing the work of others makes me see my own failings, and creates a reluctance inside as to how to proclaim my values.
I think I could approach this hesitation in a myriad of ways: take classes, read more books, spend more time in community for in the flesh experiences.  I could seek outside myself and I do.
But in the end what good would that accomplish me if I ended up as I was before, at a dead end that felt painful to retreat from and left me aimless for a time?
Actually I think I am still aimless to a degree but slowly the answers I seek are coming to me.  They are deep inside, they were always there.  I don't think I have them all by any means.  But they are from my core.  They resonate at a level that I can hear.  I can wrap my arms around them and feel their truth.
On June's full moon I found a spell/dream board that I had created for myself around 12 years ago.  Reading it inspired a rather stream of consciousness recording of my core beliefs.  They are the basis for all that spirit means to me.  These words trace a line for me to follow along my spiral.  They do not require a buzzword label but still, to me they are undoubtedly pagan.

-to self: my body, my dreams, my spirit & soul, yoga
-to earth: hiking, gardening, traveling, defending, honoring
-to all living creatures: respect, service, place in the cycle
-to those I love: nurturing, trust, giving, receiving
-to the universe: order, chaos, ancestors, guides

-to produce: art, craft, garden
-to channel: messages, ideas
-to nurture: learn, read, gather
-to share: art, ritual, celebration

seasons, moons, aging/growing, elements, nature, food

This list will evolve I'm sure.  Be fleshed out, with some things being given more time and energy depending on the time and place.  It is a starting point that feels authentic and raw which feels just where I need to be right now.
(My series on Commitment is an addendum to this piece.  It speaks to the practical side of these values and how I am processing this information as I work to bring it through.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

at the start (commitment 2)

Lessons unfold like flowers for us to find in life.  Often I'm sure we miss them, crumpling them beneath our feet, looking the other way instead, interpreting the message incorrectly or just denying it completely.  As this year began unfolding a lesson I had only touched the surface of  became blindingly clear: I have a discipline problem.  I'm sure to some degree many of us have this issue.  And certainly I have accomplished many things that prove my capacity to commit to something and see it finished.  But consistency is a problem, and despite my efforts to keep my focus  I began to confront myself with the excuses I've made and probably still make to keep me from achieving important goals.
It really hit home while I was reading Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell.  It's a great book which I recommend to anyone as it has lots of examples of real people and the circumstances surrounding their achievement of "success" or not.  I use quotations around success because I tend to balk at North American's cultural view of it.  I don't necessarily want what most people equate with success but it is a word I have used.  In fact I believe that in my high school yearbook I wrote that my goals in life were to be successful and happy.  Man, could I have been more vague? But really what does a 17 year-old know about life goals...anyway.  The basic formula that Gladwell put forth in his book is that one does not achieve a mastery of any skill without devoting a minimum of 10,000 hours to it. 
Back through my life I drifted thinking of the many times I did not practice the self-discipline one needs to master something.  Excuses, diversions, I had many.  I see them as the result of a rather sheltered life of security and ease.  Certainly no one's fault and I'm not complaining about having a good life but that I lacked a drive to push me beyond that comfort.  My dreams were important but I was not compelled to work more, do more, to risk my status quo. 
Confronting this in the mirror has been good for me.  It has allowed my carefully constructed view of my limitations to blow wide open.  Resentments I harboured towards the achievements of others were put into perspective: I should have worked harder.  Boxes I put myself into broke around me: I'm bad at math.  Actually I just didn't study or try to understand, I'd give up a math problem in a matter of minutes.  While those that saw them as a challenge persevered until they got the answer.
I am not holding myself over the coals here and berating my past choices.  Instead I'm breaking the chains of my own making that have held me back. 
I'll stop there for now and write more next time about what I'm doing about these goals, how I'm changing my patterns, and where the journey is unfolding as I uncover more of these chains.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Commitment (a multipart series)

Oh, what a crazy month April has been.  Life has been very full and a bit hectic and my head is overwhelmed with ideas of things to write here and this is the first time I've sat down to do so all month.  But rather than let my hands type out all these thoughts I'd rather focus on one at a time, because well, it seems more fair to you as a reader.  My next few posts will probably skirt around a theme that is coming up frequently this year.
Commitment and self-discipline.  April presented two opportunities to practice my commitment to the earth.

On April 12 our family attended the B.R.O.K.E sponsored rally against Kinder-Morgan's proposed pipeline expansion in our city.  There are dozens of reasons I am against this expansion but the first one is that our earth cannot sustain the practices of extracting fossil fuels.  This pipeline will transport oil across our backyard to buyers in foreign markets, navigating tricky waters with tankers that could spill and destroy wildlife and precious natural areas. We already live with the risk of the current pipeline's potential hazards let alone adding another.  This type of thinking about our environment as an extraction field needs to be stopped.

On Earth Day I visited Kyan's classroom and read "Earth Mother" by Ellen Jackson.  It is a wonderful story of the gentleness, power and wisdom of nature's cycles.  The kids were very engaged by it and we followed up with learning the first verse of The Earth is our Mother chant.  And to end the lesson we talked about what each of them could do to take care of the earth using this sheet.  I was happy that the kids responded as they did.  And despite being busy in other things I was glad to mark the day for the kids and myself.  I plan to do this each year as long as Kyan's (and eventually Elliott's) teachers are on board.  This work is about my spiritual path and in a future post I'll expand on where these values are building from.

Around home our interest in birds continues to be enhanced by our bird feeders.  Elliott built a nest for our little eggs one morning.  Spring brings forth so much life and newness that it spills over in the boys' faces.  The inspiration of it seems endless.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thoughts on Lost In Living

The highlight of International Women's day this March 8th for me was the free online screening of Lost In Living a documentary film that confronts the contradictions inherent in personal ambition and self-sacrifice, female friendship and mental isolation, big projects and dirty dishes.  More specifically this film follows 4 artists over a period of 7 years.  2 are best friends embarking in motherhood for the first time and 2 are women in the later stages of life looking back on how they managed their families and careers.
I have waited a long time to watch this film with much anticipation.  And I was not disappointed.

What the filmmakers were able to capture so well was the profoundness of the change that occurs when you birth a baby and how in the aftermath you flounder and float simultaneously.  Unlike the women in this film I had not established an art career prior to having my boys so I didn't have the pressure of maintaining it during the most intense first years in babyland.  The complexity of moving back and forth from artist to mama is indescribable but is a struggle that all parents trying to feed their ambitions while raising children face.  What is different to me about being an artist and doing this and what the film really gets at is that the emotional and creative toll of making this type of work inevitably leaves casualties.  Whether they are your kids, your career ambitions or your sanity something has to take a back burner.  And when that happens there will be something left behind that may never present itself again.

The depth of the relationship between the two new moms really hit home for me as well.  Having a best friend that I am traveling this motherhood roller-coaster with has made a huge difference for me.  Our styles of mothering are not identical but compliment each other enough that we did not experience a long period of emotional  isolation from each other as Kristina and Caren did and I am grateful for that.

Marjorie and Merrill offered a perspective that gave me hope but also resonated the most deeply with me.  Hope emerged when I saw that they were still working and had grown families that more or less functioned and were successful.  What hit to my core was that Merrill's definition of success still eluded her.  One could not help but wonder if that was due to motherhood, was merely a product of her generation's lingering sexism, or had a wrong place wrong time randomness.  Regardless it left me with the truth that what will be will be and I will have to let my view of success remain fluid as I age.

Nothing was sugar coated, this is a film that tackles these issues head on and lets you watch 4 women make their choices and lie in the beds they've made.  Raw and personal it confronts the reality that mothers face when navigating the myriad of choices we are so privileged to have.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

bye bye sugar

I've had at least a dozen posts float in and then out of my head these last weeks.  Many sounded really good in my head and then faded into a foggy recollection minutes later.  Often they were rants of one sort or another as I struggled through these last days of Elliott being 2,  praying that 3 is better, while trying to examine how I'm contributing to the issues the two of us face together.  How can we argue this much in one day?  What can I change, how can I expand my horizon and make this work for us both?
 Often it comes down to the little things in parenting, doesn't it?

So I began with one issue at a time.  Sleep being the most important.  About two months ago sleeping through the night 5 out of 7 times a week turned into up every night, sometimes several times.  Needless to say a tired mama is not a patient problem solving mama.  So this week I've begun an experiment in diet to see if "treats" were the culprit.  I've noticed a difference already.  So Elliott and refined sugar are taking a break from each other.  And he wasn't even eating lots of sugar at all, but just small amounts were really making him have mood swings.  So sugar is out for now.
And next I've established some set activities that we do together while Ky is at school and even when everyone is home.  Reading is a perfect transition for him from screen time to play.  And activity books help him focus so we are doing them more.  Kyan was a very independent child and Elliott needs more direction and that is a lesson mama took a while to absorb.  Luckily he didn't give up trying to show me.

As always nature, nature, nature helps us too.  A huge snowstorm helped add some outdoor adventure to our week.  I'm hoping our family mojo will stay positive until spring break in three weeks.
As we approach 3 it heralds a welcome transition for me.  I know mamas are supposed to be sad that their baby is no longer...but while E was an adorable babe he was not easy.  I think he has yet to hit his stride and I have yet to hit my stride as his parent but we'll get there together.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

the waiting place

Our largest visitor to our bird feeder is this guy: a Pileated Woodpecker.  Isn't he lovely?  I've named him Woody since that is everyone (of a certain age's) only example of a woodpecker character.  We waited months for the big birds to become daring enough to check out the new feeder.  Luckily we were all home when he came for his meal and Dave was quick on the draw and got photos.

This week was on the low key side.  Both boys were down with fevers & coughs and so I felt like we were in the waiting place.  Waiting for the fevers to break, waiting for coughs to subside, waiting for their immunity systems to tackle the virus....I must admit I got cabin fever and wanted to get out and about.  But I was able to finish my jam from 2013's frozen berries, watch some interesting documentaries, and catch up on housework.  Our forced hiatus from regular scheduling will be over on Monday.

January has brought new projects to us all, new learning and new perspectives.  I feel really blessed in many ways these days.  There is a lot of hope in working towards goals either as individuals or as a family.

In November through to January I had a piece included in a Mail Art Exhibition.  My piece is the middle of the bottom row.  It is called Mary I and the central image is custom designed fabric with a photo of my paternal grandmother.  At some point this year I will receive another artist's work from this show and another artist who participated will get my pieces (I sent in three).  All pieces were 4 x 6", what are known as Artist Trading Cards or ATC's for short.  Overall the show was great with so much variety and work sent in from all over the world.  So again, I wait for my pieces to arrive in the mail at some point in the next months.  I love waiting for mail.  Sometimes the waiting place isn't bad at all.