Thursday, March 31, 2011

Earliest Memories: Day 22 of 40 Days

The earliest memory I have from this lifetime is from when I was an infant. I was at my mother's parent's house in Wellsboro, laying bundled up in a wooden cradle. Pushing it side to side, gently with his foot, was my Uncle Gerry. The memory is dim, but full of the warmth and security of the family surrounding me. There are soft impressions of wooden walls, the smell of food cooking, and voices around me.

Another early memory I have is one that I spent most of my life believing was my first memory. After talking to my mom about it's details, I think I have determined that this memory must have been a dream. And so, this is the very first dream that I remember from when I was very young. In it, I am lying in bed between my parents, snuggled up in blankets. They are sleeping and I am just waking up. It is night-time. Across the room is a window towards the top of the wall. Through the window I can see the full moon glowing. It is winter. I am happy. This early memory also is filled with the feelings of warmth and security, and also a fascination with the moon, peacefullness, and closeness to family. It is nice to know that my early waking life and my dreamtime were happy and peaceful places to be.

The first nightmare I can remember having is also one of my first memories. I believe I was a toddler when I had this dream. In it, I am walking through a flat and warm pine forest. I come across a candy store, go in, buy some candy, and return to the forest as I eagerly bite into the chocolate bar. As I head home, I see a bear approaching me, blocking my way forward on the path I came in on. Scared, I turn around and walk in the opposite direction. The bear is following me. The path ends at a cliff. I start to climb down the vertical cliff wall, only to discover a bee hive hanging next to me on the rock wall, buzzing with life. The bear above, bees beside, and a long way down beneath me. Luckily, at this point I wake up safe and sound in my bed.

Another vague memory I have from my toddler years happened before either of my brothers were born. For me, this memory marks the end of my only-child status. (Of course, I have equally wonderful memories from the time after the brothers arrived as well.) In this memory, I am walking down the sidewalk in between my parents. We are holding hands and they are swinging me way up in the air in between them as we walk forward. Over and over. It is so much fun. There is this feeling of complete togetherness, pure joy, and a deep love that binds us together. I feel that this is from before I intellectually understood my own separateness and independence as an individual. And so this memory reminds me of the beautiful unity and foundation that I grew from. It may be simple, but it is one of my favorite early memories.

I am lucky really, that the only fear that stands out from my early childhood is from a fleeting dream. I am lucky to have been born into a loving and safe family, where respect, gentleness, fun, and joy were cornerstones of our interactions. I am lucky that I was given this good and healthy foundation. I can only wish that everyone could be so lucky. But, again, I can be thankful that my parents made the choice to choose love, over and over again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Good Day: Day 21 of 40 Days

Today is a better day. I didn't listen to or read the news. I finished the last book in the Twilight series, my latest method of escapism. The sun was shining, warming the local atmosphere into the lovely high 60's. I went on a long bike-ride with my sunglasses on and without a jacket. The snow is melting, and the river is thus swollen and roaring in it's rush. We were able to dry our laundry outside in the sun and open the windows to let the fresh spring air in.

There is something about breathing in the warm dry air for the first time in spring, after weeks and months of the cold dampness. It feels soooo good. It feels nostalgic, reminiscent of that first spring breath from every year in the past. You can almost taste the springs of the past in the air. And with that nostalgia comes the promise that summer is coming. Longer and warmer days, skin kissed by the sun from being outside as much as possible, fresh local tomatoes, stone fruit, and berries.

The fresh air winding through the pathways in the house moves the stagnancy out, gets me up and moving, and helps me feel good. It helps me feel happy, for no tangible reason other than the scent and taste and feel of the air around me. It helps me feel a renewed sense of positivity, a refocused view of life on what is promising and possible.

These are some of the possibilities that I hope and pray for, that I will myself to believe will become reality:

* That all beings will have a sense of health in their bodies, peace in their minds, healing in their hearts, and love for their own lives, every single day. May all beings be happy.

* That humanity will quickly become more compassionate, helpful, giving, accepting, and proactive...from the grassroots level of being neighborly to the global level of putting down our guns. May we all challenge ourselves to share that which is abundant in our lives with others. And may we challenge ourselves to think and act outside of our own boxes.

* That we people finally start to reverse the devastating impact human life has had on the earth, to ensure that all life may continue on this amazing planet. May we examine our lifestyle choices and find more and more ways to decrease our ecological footprint.

* That the health, education, and happiness of all people of every nation become it's priorities, rather than the greed of power, money, and natural resources. May we all find ways to stand up for the basic rights of all humans.

* That all may come from a place of love rather than fear. May we choose love in every situation and no longer have reasons to fear.

And on a more personal note:

* That every one of my friends and family may find happiness and health in every day. That they may find a way to realize their greatest dreams.

* That Lucas and I will find employment soon, work that is meaningful and fulfilling.

* That all of the mold in our house will disappear as the weather becomes warmer and drier.

* That Lucas' tendonitis and my psoriasis will heal.

* That tomorrow will be a good day too.

(If today you were hoping for a check-in on my List of the Week from last week, I apologize. I didn't do any of it. Zilch. The storm and travel of last week totally threw me off. Ah, well. Part of the practice of the List is forgiving the self when things don't get done. Sometimes it just isn't in the cards.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Hope: Day 20 of 40 Days

On the brink of being half-way through this 40 day period of blogging, today I revisited the original intentions I had in this Open House writing project: Opening up more with the people in my life; Pushing myself to move beyond my shy and reserved nature; Creating a challenging opportunity for myself in order to stimulate creativity.

So, in light of keeping these intentions alive in the second half of the project, I am choosing to write today about a topic that is a little sensitive, a topic that holds a lot of weight for me. I was thinking about this while I was working away in the studio today, stimulated by my unfortunate circumstance of listening to the news on NPR.

There is plenty of heavy and intense events going on in the world right now. If I get oversaturated by the news, my thoughts tend to get fearful of the future, and of how uncertain that future is. I worry that there will be continued escalations of conflicts, wars over the earth's resources, budget cuts (i.e. decreased access to health care, good education, social services, free speech, and worker's rights), natural disasters, climate change, over population, etc, etc. AH, sometimes I think that I really shouldn't listen to the news, and rather stay happily blind in my little northwest bubble. Living in fear is not something I want for myself, nor anyone. It doesn't help improve the state of the world.

BUT, when I do get carried away with these thoughts, I am often lead to reconsider having children. Yes, my protective mothering instincts are already strong, before conception. The mama bear in me wonders if I should wait a couple more years to think about having a child, to wait to see if I can be more sure that his or her life will be more clear and easy. I know that this is something we can never know. We can never know what the future of our own lives nor those of our children will hold. There will always be risks, always uncertainties. We can not infinitly and completely protect our children from harm. Yet, I wonder if this is a world I want to bring a child into at all.

(BTW, in no way am I suggesting that I judge others for having children. No. On the contrary, as you will see below, I totally understand the need and desire to procreate. While I don't feel that this earth needs more over-population concerns, I do feel that humanity needs more good-hearted, well-intentioned people to lead the way out of the current mess. The children are the future. They are hope.)

If you have known me for a long time, you will understand how hard and strange it is for me to be questioning bringing a child into the world. I have been obsessed with the idea of being a mother for my entire life, playing "House" since I was old enough to carry around a doll. I have been babysitting since I was 12. I have had children in my life in some capacity ever since: As a childcare provider/nanny, art instructor, day camp counselor, overnight camp counselor, youth group leader, midwife, post-partum doula, orphanage volunteer, auntie, friend.

I have surrounded myself with children, pregnancy, and birth for most of my life as a way to feel closer to my own child-bearing years, and as a means of living vicariously through that of others. Now, with every passing month, as I get closer to menopause and further from my own menarche, I have to acknowledge and accept that I may not even be able to get pregnant if I wanted to. I would be overjoyed to adopt. But, I have always had this biological urge to have a baby of my own. Being pregnant, giving birth, nursing, and nurturing are all part of the scope of womanhood that I want to experience. I want to experience the fullness of my own womanhood.

Now that I finally have a partner to share all of life's joys and fears with...only now do I start to wrestle between wanting to start a new life, and questioning the rightness of the timing of this, from a global perspective. I am sure that if I took a week's break from listening to the news that you would be able to guess who would win this wrestling match. At least in this current round.

In my life, choices of the heart often win over those of the mind. But in this case, I feel stuck in the middle. I do not know what will come, for myself nor for the rest of the world. I accept and surrender and trust and hope.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Full Circles: Day 19 of 40 Days

Today I am seeing the ironies in my life, seeing how bits of my past are coming full circle in interesting and fun ways. I sense the universe joking with me, as well as giving me reasons to not regret choices I made in the past.

I spent part of the day in Mt. Shasta. The four feet of snow the area received last week was piled up in the middle of the roads and along their edges, towering above the tallest cars and vans.

Though it was sunny and wonderfully warm today, the deep snow was unavoidable. Mt. Shasta, visible for the first time in a week, towered above the city in it's glowing whiteness, soft and expansive.

The irony of this for me? I never thought I would live somewhere with this much winter. In fact, when I left Portland last February, I got rid of all of my winter belongings (snowpants, winter jacket, thick gloves, etc) because I was determined to never live where it snowed ever again. And here I am, immersed in it, literally. Even though there are moments when I can appreciate the snow and it's beauty, like when I look at the mountain or when I am snowshoeing, I am starting to wonder: What have we gotten ourselves into by moving here. Why did we not spend the winter in the tropics????

But, I am soooo happy to report that the weather forecast for this week is calling for temperatures in the high 60's and low 70's!!!!! Yipee! That means that I can expose my pale white skin to the sun! That means that the snow will be gone soon, and with it the evidence that our neighborhood bear was in our yard:

While I was in Mt. Shasta today, I spent 2 hours at the house of the town midwife. In exchange for her providing me with a free space to teach my infant massage class series, I am teaching her to start an IV. She is taking the steps neccessary to achieve the same nationally recognized midwifery certification(CPM) that I did several years ago. She is doing her training through self-study and apprenticeship. I am a part of her self-study, then, teaching her a skill that she needs to know. Joining us today for this mini-class was an RN who was never taught this skill in her training!

It was interesting to have the tables turned on me, to be the one teaching a midwifery skill when I have choosen to walk away from midwifery. But, to be honest, it feels really positive to be able to share this knowledge, to know that my midwifery training can still benefit others, that my midwifery knowledge can still be used. In helping another woman become a skilled midwife, I am happy to have midwifery in my history.

While I revisit an aspect of my midwifery degree, I have also been revisiting my art degree. That feels amazing. It does feel like I am coming full circle with both of these educations. I am finally making my art again, finally and fully re-incorporating art-making into my life. And I am finally able to find a way to use my midwifery education in a way that feels comfortable to me. These are good things. The full-circles I am creating...they carry a sense of wholeness and completion. Yet, they offer me a new point to start from, a new way to bring them to life.

Have you noticed any circles that have come around full in your life lately?

I leave you with this picture from the wedding reception we went to in Portland on Friday. These are my dear friends Erico and Kim, or at least their muppet versions sitting in for them as their real selves are off square-dancing and socializing...

Each Possibility: Day 18 of 40 Days

As with every visit to Portland, this one was a whirlwind of a weekend in the Big City. But, I am just grateful that we were able to get up there at all. The energy I spent sulking all day Thursday seems wasted, though I did not know I would end up in Portland after all. What a surprise to find myself dancing, laughing, eating, and playing with friends. Yes, certainly alive in the mystery. Taking one day at a time and doing what is possible with each day.

In Portland, spring is in full swing. The weekend included one day that happened to be full of sunshine, something that has been rare all winter there. The colors were glowing in a saturated brilliance. There were so many different shades of greens in the ferns, mosses, lichens, grasses, and leaf buds. So many flowers blooming their rainbows and flower blossoms sprinkling from treetops onto the sidewalks and streets. It was beautiful, warm, and balmy. A nice change from the monotone cold winter we have had in Mt. Shasta. (By the way, Mt. Shasta City reportedly got 4 feet of snow during that crazy storm that held up our travel plans. A blizzard indeed!)

My visits to Portland have been filled with lovely moments with my dear friends. I get frustrated though, as there really isn’t enough time to spend with each and every friend on each and every visit. There certainly isn’t enough time to have the one on one interactions that I so cherish. Instead, I need to rotate whose house I stay at and who I spend my time with to even it out over several visits. This visit was no different. I hope that next time, I can stay for longer and have less errands taking me away from my friend time.

We did manage to squeeze in many awesome moments in our quick visit, even in addition to the wedding celebration dance party. Brunch at Megan and Todd’s with 15 of us sharing a delicious meal and warming conversation together. A meeting with my dressmaker, Lindsay, in which creative progress was made and tears were shed (my indication that we had the right dress design figured out!). A break from the stress of errands with Ursala at Belmont Station Biercafe, where I sampled the Bend Cherry Baltic Porter (tasty and sweet), and The Dissident by Deschutes (sweet and sour, made with wild yeast!). Yum! Back to Megan and Todd's for fresh baked cookies and the first phase of wedding ceremony planning. Todd is honoring us by being our Celebrant during our ceremony! Before we left town this afternoon, we grabbed Thai food to-go from Pad Thai Kitchen on Belmont. Our palates were delighted by the pumpkin curry and the green curry.

Swiftly, we are back in Dunsmuir, tired and achey from the long drive home. I will post a few pictures tomorrow and say something more meaningful than I am capable of in this late night state of exhaustion. All I can say now, is that each day really is filled with unlimited possibilities, unique and wonderful. We just need to walk through our days with eyes wide open in order to really see outside our limited view.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Big City: Day 17 of 40 Days

It was an oversight on my part that prevented me from writing my blog last night. I was all set to do it right before bed, and then realized that I didn't know the password to the internet network at my friend's house. And that since she was sleeping, I wasn't going to be posting on my blog. I forgot to get that imortlant info before bedtime. To top it all off, I didn't do my meditation yesterday either. Double Party Foul!

So today, to make up for lost time, it looks like I will be blogging twice and meditating twice. Well, we will see about that. Time today is a bit limited.

To make a long story short, yesterday we ended up coming to Portland after all! The weather and the roads cleared up enough to make travel safe late in the morning. We unfortunately missed the 1pm wedding, but were able to make the 7pm reception.

Other than a couple of snowy spots on the road up, it was mostly a beautiful and sunny day. LOTS of rainbows, lots of squinting in the sun. The reception was a fun reunion of lots of friends, fully equipped with a bluegrass band and a squaredancing caller. Yep, we did lots of dancing. It was awesome.

It was interesting that when I decided to surrender all of my plans, the universe made it clear that alternative plans were available. Rather than having to let go fully of my plans, I only needed to let go of part of them. Though I had to miss the ceremony and the exchange of vows, I still got to celebrate with my dear friends and show them my support by being there.

And today, the big city adventure continues.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Surrendering Attachments: Day 16 of 40 Days

Today, Lucas and I are supposed to travel north to Portland for the wedding of some good friends. The wedding is early enough tomorrow that we need to leave today to be able to be there.....


The snow is relentless: Winter weather warnings. Chains required on Interstate 5. Snow pack and ice on the roads. Horrible visibility. High winds north of here. 10-20 inches of expected snowfall today. The worst storm to hit the area in the past couple of months happens to arrive on the day that we need to travel north. It is gnarly out there.

I look at the images online from the Interstate webcams and am discouraged. I look across the valley from my kitchen window to the Interstate and see the semi's either pulled to the side of the highway or creeping at a slow 5-10 mph. It is not looking good. The summits we would need to travel over north of here are some 2000 feet higher than our current elevation. It is typically worse weather in those areas.

So, I am feeling frustrated and disappointed. I so want to be there for my friend's celebration and ceremony!! They are important people to me. I was so looking forward to spending more time with my other good friends of Portland. I was excited to retrieve even more of my belongings that remain in storage: books, pottery tools, even my cloth napkins.

Today, I am feeling so completely done with winter. I really didn't sign up for this. My expectations of what the weather would be like at this time of year here were based on historical data, averages that are not an accurate basis for establishing reliable predictions. A year ago today, it was 69 degrees and sunny with a low of 42 at night. Today, there is a forecasted high of 31 and 100% chance of precipitation all day.

These are lessons to me to not have expectations and attachments. To learn to let go and be open to what is. Right now, that feels hard to do. As the snowfall gets heavier and heavier, I see that I may need to accept this reality, curl up in a blanket on the couch and knit all day.

Life doesn't always turn out the way we want or expect it to. When this happens we ARE living in the mystery. We surrender our attachments, accept the present moment, and keep moving forward from this adjusted perspective.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Motivational Forces: Day 15 of 40 Days

Last Wednesday, a week ago today, I wrote a post that shared with you my List of the Week. I gave myself a week to complete 5 tasks. And today I will follow up with you, letting you know how I was or wasn't able to follow through with my self-assigned tasks. I will also write a new list, for the coming week. I invite you to do the same!

Last Week's List:
1. Call my Grandmother. I did this on Saturday and luckily was able to catch Grandma and John before they left for evening church. We had just enough time to catch up and mutually share the latest in our lives. And it was lovely, as always, to speak with them. They are finally in good health once again, recovered from several bouts of winter illness. I bet as spring continues to unfold, and the sun brings them outdoors more and more, they will feel even better.

2. Finalize wedding guest list. Yep. I think this is done. There may be a few more additions as the days roll on, but for now I think we have it ironed out. Our list is a lot longer than I was anticipating. I always thought I would have a small wedding. But alas, both of us have soooo many awesome people in our lives who are important to us that it looks like we are going to have a big good-time bash. We feel grateful knowing that we will be surrounded by so much love and support on our special day.

3. Plant garden starts in-doors. Nope. This surely didn't happen. I admit, it is hard to motivate to do this when it has been dumping snow every single day for days on end. Lately, when I look outside it is hard to imagine that it is really spring. I talked with a fellow gardener today at my studio about when to plant starts here. She reassured me that it is way to early to do that. She said that the local rule of thumb is to plant your outdoor garden after the snow on the north face of Black Butte has melted. Hmmmm. Based on how it looks now, completely covered in snow, I would think this is a couple of months down the road. Honestly, I find this a little frustrating. In Portland and Texas both, March was when I would start my outdoor garden. When we moved here, we did not know we were signing up for THIS much winter! Other than my snowshoeing adventures, I am so over winter.

4. Go on 4 walks/hikes and do yoga 3 times. I actually went on 5 walks/hikes, yet only did yoga twice. Despite the raging amount of snow, it sure was nice to be outside a lot this week. Walk #1: the railroad hike to Mossbrae falls. Walk #2: 2 mile neighborhood walk to Sketch-ville. Walk #3: 2 mile neighborhood walk to Sketch-ville with Ursala. Walk #4: Snowshoeing on Mt. Shasta with Ursala. Walk #5: Speedwalking in the snow today to get to the bus-stop in time, as well as an additional walk in Mt. Shasta City later in the day. Surprisingly, it is a tiny bit cheaper to ride the county bus to Mt. Shasta than it is to pay for the gas. Plus, it is nicer on the environment.

5. Start new knitting project. I did start the project, but half way through it I determined that it was a lot larger than I wanted it to be. So, I unravelled the yarn and am starting anew.

This Week's List:
1. Finish knitting project.
2. Advertise free infant-massage class more: more fliers and as facebook event.
3. Finish painting bathroom.
4. Apply for 2 online freelance writing jobs.
5. Go on 4 walks/hikes and do yoga 3 times.

And how did your List of the Week go from last week...Chris? Anyone else? Has it felt more motivating to have others like myself hold you accountable for the things you need to get done? I think it is important that we acknowledge what we weren't able to get done, acknowledge the true reason behind not doing it, be easy on ourselves for not doing it, and move on. If it is something that you truely want to do, add it to next week's list.

Thanks for being a motivational force for me! If I hadn't shared my hopes to do these things with you, I probably wouldn't have done most of them. Thank you, once again, for reading and for being in my life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Right Now: Day 14 of 40 Days

Usually when I sit down to write my daily post, I have had some inspiration during the day of what to write about, or have at least put time into thinking about it. Today, I sit down without a plan. Today, I will just see what comes out, what needs to be written. Today, all I can do is start with where my thoughts and emotions are right now.

A couple of days ago, I posted a link on my facebook page directing friends to a memo written by Tashirat, the orphanage in Mexico I volunteered with last spring. The memo was asking for people to help the orphange and the children out by sponsoring a child. The orphanage runs on funds that are donated and on individual child sponsorships. They are currently in the process of trying to adopt a couple of special needs children who are considered otherwise un-adoptable by The System. In order to do this, they needed to first find sponsors. I feel so strongly about the services Tashirat provides to these children and to society that I felt compelled to share this link.

Tonight, as I checked my email, I discovered that an old friend of mine had responded to my post. "Done :)" is how she responded to my request that friends consider sponsoring one of these children for Tashirat. I hope it is safe to assume that this means she IS in fact sponsoring a child, or hoping to. Either way, I am feeling tremendous gratitude right now. Tashirat exists because of the generosity, compassion, and good-will of people like this. And because of this, they are able to help change the lives of children who otherwise would get lost in the system. Now these 2 children will assuredly receive the love, nutrition, education, and family that we all deserve. Thank you Carole. This means so much to me.

It is inspiring and deeply touching to see others do what they can with what they have to help this world change in positive ways. Though it may manifest in various forms, I know we are all capable of helping create positive change. We just need to start with where we are right now.

With all that is going on in the world, it feels like it is the initiative and actions of individuals that will help others, the environment, and all of life realize positive futures and potentials. I am lacking in confidence that our government will do this for us. No. We need each other for this. We need help to survive, as others need our help to survive.

Sharing whatever extra resources we may have, in whatever form they may be, to help where help is needed...

Knowing that what good deeds we pass on will return to us, though the source and the form may be different...

Looking out for the wellness of the whole rather than just of the individual...

Doing what we can with what we have, and starting from where we are, right now...

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Eyes: Day 13 of 40

We really are having somewhat of an open house here in Dunsmuir,in that the physical doors of our home are and always will be open, welcoming in our friends and family for visits. We love you, and want to share this amazing area with you. We will be your local tour guides, share our favorite spots with you, explore new ones, and we will even cook for you.

In the 7 weeks that we have been living here (we can hardly believe it has already been 7 weeks!!) we have now had 3 lovely visitors. Soon after we arrived, my friend Nahba who lives in Southern Oregon stopped in for dinner one evening. Last week, Lucas' friend, Clint, from Arcata spent a few days with us. And this week, my friend Ursala from Portland is visiting for a few days as well. Visitors warm the home, shift the routine, and provide a level of socialization that is rare in this mountain-living life.

I am so happy my friend is here, providing me with girl-time and someone to share this place with. In showing her around, I am seeing this place with refreshed and new eyes. The excitement of living here, the excitement that I had forgotten about amidst the rain, fog, and snow, is being re-ignited.

A 20 minute drive from my house takes us a couple of miles up Mt. Shasta to where the road is closed. McBride Campground is here. We park the car, unload Ursala's dog Scrumpy, and snowshoe through the deep snow into the alpine trees. Of course, it is amazing. Beautiful. Refreshing air. The sun peeks out through the clouds, revealing the blue, dusting the snow with sparkles and shadows. We climb higher and higher into the snow-coated trees.

It feels good to be moving my body, to be on the mountain, to be enjoying it with a friend. I know I will be sore in the morning, but it will be a good kind of sore. The kind of sore that reminds you of the beauty you experienced to create it.

This is why we are living be able to take a quick drive in order to take a 2 hour snowshoeing adventure. To have so many beautiful places so accessible. While I have been sitting in my home these last days wishing for spring to arrive, for the rain and snow to end, this mountain has been waiting for me to enjoy and experience. My new eyes, seeing through the eyes of my friend who is experiencing this for the first time, remind me of what is here for me to experience every day. This is a special and endlessly wonderful place!

Come visit us, warm our home, and help us rub the sleep from our eyes so we can see new layers of what makes this area what it is. Open your doors to others, and let them guide you, in their newness to your area, to forgotten about gems and special places. Even if they are in your own backyard.

Open up that special bottle of wine or beer you have been saving for a special day, and make an extra-special day out of what would have been an ordinarily wonderful one. Take a moment with loved ones to savor and enjoy these treats, to celebrate your time together.

Tonight, we opened up Full Sail's Black Gold Imperial Stout, a bourbon barrel aged limited edition 1pt 6oz ale. After a delicious meal cooked by our guest (traditional sicilian pasta sauce with spaghetti--yum!), this was a delicious desert that we shared and slowly savored. Thick and maple syrupy, with distinct notes of bourbon, vanilla, and tropical flowers, this beer is a perfect finale to a most wonderful day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Living Gratitude: Day 12 of 40 Days

You have probably noticed that I write a lot about having gratitude for the small things in life. I feel like I would like to explain to you why I focus on this so much.

I suppose that part of my reasons are related to why I started this blog in the first place, over a year ago. I was writing about the process of being alive in the moment, embracing the unknowns that come with living fully. Part of the mysteries of living are that we really have no idea what the future holds. We have absolutely no idea when it will be our turn, or the turns of our loved ones, to leave this world. We have no idea what tomorrow holds, good or bad. It is inevitable that with life comes pain and suffering, as well as joy and beauty. We are bound to go through periods that are hard. We just don't know when and how.

Because of this, and because of all of the suffering around the world, I feel like it is important to not take anything for granted, ever. I feel that it is important to intentionally count our blessings, not only when our lives are bright and filled with goodness, but also when the challenges are starting to roll in. It helps, finding things to be grateful for. It helps to ease the stress of challenges as we remember that there are still wonderful things surrounding us. And it reminds us that even the hard times will pass.

I have a little book that I made that I call my Gratitude Book. I go through periods where every day, at the end of the day, I sit down with my book, think back through my day, and write down at least 5 things I can be grateful for in my day. I do this on the wonderful days when it is easy to write this list. And I do this on the hard days when it takes some time and effort to find the little morsels of goodness in the day. But they ARE there, if we look close enough. They always are. Small things or big things, they are all important to acknowledge.

Today, I am grateful for:

* the long lasting relationships I have with family and friends...they enrich and inspire me!

* a life-partner who is loving, supportive and who encourages my growth!

* a fabulously comfortable bed that brings me restful deep sleep through the night!

* chocolate and coffee!

* a dear friend from Portland who is currently on her way to visit me for a couple of days! here comes some much needed girl-time!

Again, I ask you, what are you grateful for?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Helping Hands: Day 11 of 40 Days

In the fall during our roadtrip through these parts, I took a weekend long training in Infant Massage in Ashland, OR. The training was through Infant Massage, USA, and was taught by the wonderful Joann Lewis at her Family Massage Education Center. I had an amazing time learning with this small group of wonderful women.

The training prepared us to teach parents and caregivers how to massage their infants. With a little understanding and insight into the benefits of infant massage, it is easy to see how powerful and valuable of a tool it is for parents to learn. The benefits are wide-ranging, and can be narrowed down to 4 general categories: Interaction, stimulation, relief, and relaxation. These are benefits not only for the babies, but for the parents themselves, and as a result of both of these, for society as a whole. It is another example of the ripple effect I talked about here.

During the class, I quickly found myself feeling passionate about sharing this skill, more than I had previously thought I would. And it is because of the benefits, benefits that studies have and continue to prove, regarding the value of nurturing touch. It is amazing what it can lead to!

Enhanced bonding, development of verbal and non-verbal communication, enhanced development of all of the body's systems and senses, enhanced learning and language development, positive sensory integration, positive emotional development and healthy secure attachments, heightened mind and body awareness, relief of gas/colic/constipation/excess mucus, improved immune system, relief of muscular tension and tonal issues, improved sleep/flexibility/regulation, reduction of stress and stress hormones, decrease in hyper-activity, improved self-confidence for parents, early involvement for dads, decreased post-partum depression, involvement of the whole family, reduction of abuse and violence in the home, increased respect/love/empathy/positive touch, and general well-being! These are good things to ripple outward, yes?

I also have first hand experience in seeing the value of daily infant massage. When I was in Portland, one of the little girls I watched had some special needs. Charlotte was receiving Physical and Occupational Therapy to help with some of her tonal and developmental set-backs. Part of my role was to do the therapy homework with her every day, including a full-body massage. As the days and weeks unfolded, I watched as this little girl unfolded and relaxed and found herself in her body enough to begin to do all of the things the doctors originally said she wouldn't be able to do. And she continues to excel and move forward at faster and faster rates, happily determined to fully experience her world. She is my inspiration. I so wish that all children who have developmental delays were able to receive this daily massage and additional therapy, for they too may be able to reach their individual, full potential if given the chance.

Before taking this class, I ultimately wanted to learn and become certified to be the one to massage the infants. But, now, I no longer do. I find it to be important for the parents and caregivers to be the ones to do this. They are the experts of their own babies. I am here to give them the tool of massage to use with their own expertise. The use of this tool is empowering for parents and enhances their parenting and their relationships with their children. It gives them a tool that they can use as preventative health care and the first line of defense when their babies start to get sick. THEY can take the first steps towards wellness rather than immediately paying and relying on others to do so.

Now that I am finally grounded in one place for awhile, I am ready to finish my certification process. In order to get my certification, among other bookish things, I need to teach a FREE 5 week class series to 5 families. I am very excited for this and very happy to have the space and time already lined up for this class. I have made a great connection with the "village midwife" of Mt. Shasta. She has generously offered for me to use her space for this class in exchange for my assistance in helping her learn some of the midwifery skills she needs to get HER midwifery certification. It is a win-win exchange that I am so happy to do. The class will be held on Wednesday evenings from 6-7pm, April 6th - May 4th. Fliers for the class are posted, and hopefully soon, my phone will be ringing with registrants on the other end.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Simple Pleasures: Day 10 of 40 Days

After another gloomy northwest day yesterday, we awoke to large clumps of snow quickly falling from the sky. A layer of wet snow soon covered the ground, and we could no longer see the mountains across the way. I imagined that the road to Mt. Shasta, being at a higher elevation, was not the best to drive on today. It became a house project day.

As the afternoon wore on, snow turned to rain, the rain petered out, and eventually the clouds opened up enough to let some blue sky and sunshine peek through. I seized this unexpected opportunity, setting aside my projects, to take a nice walk outside.

It is exactly one mile from my driveway to what I call "Sketch-ville," an neighborhood street intersection where 2 of the 3 houses on the corners are like the one I described yesterday. Both houses have random deteriorating belongings spilling into their yards and driveways. It looks as though they could be owned by the same family because of the similar decor, though they are across the street from each other. This is my turn around spot, making it a 2 mile, 40 minute round-trip walk along the river.

My eyes squinted in this rare sunlight, taking in every minute detail of the natural world around me, as I sloshed through the quickly melting slush and let my thoughts drift freely. On nice days like this, it feels like an easier time to really think about the heavy things in life. I find that walks are also good times to let the mind deal with these uncomfortable thoughts. Maybe because I am already physically in motion, it is easier to mentally move through things and let them go.

Today on my walk, I let myself really consider the weight of all that is going on in the world. Today, I didn't try to find an escapism defense mechanism. I held in my heart all of the people who have lost loved ones in Japan this week, to all those that are there right now dealing with the known and unknown aftermath...many without food, water, shelter, heat and still facing the potential nuclear meltdowns. My thoughts also drifted to all of those people scattered around the world who wake every day to sounds of guns and missle attacks in their own neighborhoods. They live in such an unknown world, with such an unknown future. The people of Haiti still in a horrible state, all of the unrest and conflict in the Middle East as people fight for democracy and others fight for oil. Etc, etc, etc...the list goes on and on.

It gives me a good perspective, that the worries that fill my head and bring tension to my body, they are all so comparatively small. Real, but small. As I feel sadness for the people around the world, I let the sound and moving rush of the river wash through me taking with it all of this sadness and guilt and worry. I am lucky to have the great gifts I have, and to be surrounded by such beauty. I may not have much money. But my life is enriched by everything that surrounds me RIGHT NOW, signs of life, signs of hope:

*the rushing river swollen with snowmelt and rainfall, it's water bringing with it the potential for living things to grow

*the first spring daffodils in bloom

*the young new leaves on the blackberry vines lining the river - a promise of summertime sweet morsels warmed by the sun

*the tiniest pink and white flower buds just beginning to open on the fruit trees

*a litter of half-grown kittens sunning themselves on someones front porch

*new leaf buds on all the trees and on the witche's broom that will eventually be bursting with yellow flowers

*bulb flowers sprouting up their leaves through the earth

*roadside "weeds" beginning to provide their bright green cover on the ground: cleavers, plantian, miner's lettuce, dandelion (all medicinal and nutritious)

*the droplets of water that cling to the cedar boughs, glistening and sparkling in the sunlight

*the fog that hugs the sides of the mountains in spots, and the view of snow dusted trees at higher elevations in other spots

Again, Spring comes, and with it the promise of new life and rebirth. As we mourn the heartaches of those around the world and hold them in our hearts with compassion, let us celebrate what we have and the pleasures that we can find in all of the simple things that surround us.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Southern Side: Day 9 of 40 Days

The town that Lucas and I live in, Dunsmuir, California, is located about 7 miles south of Mt. Shasta City on the I-5 corridor, about an hour south of Oregon. Dunsmuir is an interesting town, quirky yet surrounded by beauty. The town's population is around 1900, and the elevation is around 2300 feet. While this area has been populated for over 5000 years, white folks have only been able to lay claim to it for a mere 160 years, when they took the land from the natives to lay the railroad and mine gold.

The town itself is long, not wide, running north to south and nestled in a narrow valley between two mountain ridges. I-5, a railroad, and the Sacramento River also run through this narrow area. No matter where you live in this town, you are bound to be able to hear at least two of these three throughways.

Our little abode is located at the southern end of Dunsmuir, just north of the Siskiyou County (which is ours) and Shasta County line. We are about a mile away from the main downtown area of Dunsmuir, a one minute walk to the Sacramento River, a two minute walk to the railroad, and a 10 minute walk to I-5. There are only 2 ways to get to the northern edge of Dunsmuir, I-5 or a long winding road along the river. And from our home, we can certainly hear the train as it thunders through blaring it's whistle, and we can also hear the big trucks on the highway. It seems that a lot of these sounds echo off of the walls of the mountains on either side of the valley, intensifying the sound depending on where you are standing.

It is quiet in our neighborhood. Peaceful. We love walking along the rushing river, viewing the snowy mountaintops across the valley while we eat breakfast at the front window, and ignoring the several close-at-hand trailers as we gaze up into the tall treetops swaying in the drizzle.

Dunsmuir apparently has "the best water in the world" and it is therefore untreated. We still filter the water, as we don't trust the local pipes as much as the water. Our drinking water, however, we collect from the head of the Sacramento River at the city park in Mt. Shasta. This is a popular activity among local residents, some even claim to stay here solely because of this water. It is delicious spring water that has it's source from high up on Mt. Shasta itself. We love it...we can taste the clean alpine snowmelt, the fresh air, and the earthen minerals. Thank you Mt. Shasta!

Dunsmuir's water is also known for it's trout fishing and fly-fishing, attracting avid fishers year round. Unfortunately, the town's economy doesn't reflect this draw of tourists. The economy here is pretty darn bad. Most of the store fronts on the main streets downtown are vacant. The buisnesses that remain are seldom open. Several houses in the town have been on the market for a really long time, and have been steadily decreasing in their asking prices. Our home was originally put on the market for $20,000. Less than a year later, we got it for $6,000! What a deal for us, but not for the previous owners!

Apparently, this town was a pretty sketchy area not that long ago. Over the past handfull of years, it seems that a lot of young artistic folks like ourselves have moved to the town. And so it seems that the culture here is at least safer than before. I feel safe, anyway, though we do see the occassional sketchy home...where the accumulation of stuff overflows from the house into the driveway and into the yard. But for the most part, Dunsmuir has many cute little houses and gardens, yard art and all. We are excited for spring to spring, so that we can see all that grows in these gardens.

This month has been unseasonably rainy. It has been hard, reminiscent of my days in Portland. Rain was, after all, one of the main reasons I left Portland! And the weather has made us almost regret leaving Texas when we did, for they have been having 70 degree sunny days! But, yesterday was an unexpected gloriously sunny and warm day. Lucas and I took a break from pounding the pavement to explore our neighborhood a little bit more. With 15 waterfalls within 15 miles of our home, we had lots of options. We decided to go to one of the closest, Mossbrae Falls, which is just a short 2-3 miles from our home. We drove to the northern part of Dunsmuir, parked our car, and hiked along the railroad tracks that nestled between the tight mountains. In half an hour, this is what we found:

(I'm doing yoga here, the crow pose, not trying to stick my butt in the camera!)

We are so excited to have this in our neighborhood!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Check In: Day 8 of 40 Days

We are a week into this crazy task I have put myself up to. And after today, a fifth of the way through. I admit, it has been hard at times to make it happen, but I have, and I have enjoyed it too. It has felt good to reflect and share my thoughts with you. Thank you for reading!

And so I thought I would check in to see how things are going on your end? Are ya'll keeping up with me? Are there any topics you would like to see me write about? Anything you would like to know about the inner workings of Betsy Bee?


There is another task I have in mind for myself that I will share with you too.

Periodically, a friend from Portland and I have gone through periods where we will each create a list of 5 or so things that we would like to accomplish in the next week. Usually these are things that we have been putting off for whatever reason and need a little extra push to make happen. Often items on the list are small steps towards a big goal or dream. We share "The List," as we call it, with each other via email. A week later we check in with each other to see if we have each followed through on our self-assigned tasks, and write a new list.

I got the idea to do this by adapting an activity that I did with my Life Coach a few years ago. (Savannah is awesome and is able to do the coaching sessions over the phone, for anyone interested in having assistance in moving through anything blocking your movement forward in life!) I have found both of these situations extremely helpful in getting more done. For whatever reason, having someone besides myself to hold me accountable for the things I say I am going to do becomes a huge motivational factor. I highly recommend doing something similar.

When I write my list, I try to keep in mind not only what I have been putting off doing, but also the main things I am trying to manifest in life at the moment. I try to have each item on the list be a step towards a different kind of goal or dream. I try to have each item address a different category such as health, creativity, career, relationships, etc.

Here is my List of the week:

* 1 * Plant indoor veggie starts

* 2 * Start new knitting project

* 3 * Go on 4 walks/hikes AND do yoga 3 times

* 4 * Call my grandmother

* 5 * Finalize wedding guest list

All of the above have been on my personal "to do list" for weeks, seriously. No one else sees that list, and so the things don't get done as quickly as they will now that I have shared them publicly.

How about you? Will you share a list of some things you need to accomplish in the next week? We can hold each other accountable. Start small, but think big. Make it a mix of fun and less than fun. And make the list really do-able. Most of all, don't sweat it if all items don't get done. In a week, we can check in again about it all!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Page Turner: Day 7 of 40 Days

So, you want to read a Secret of the Day, do you? This one is slightly embarrassing, but since I know some of my readers have also partaken in this same activity, I will share it with all of you.

I am in the middle of reading the Twilight series. And I am enjoying it. I admit that I prefer to read the melodramatic and insecure rants of a teenager, who is in love with vampires and werewolfs, rather than every bit of current news regarding the reality that surrounds us.

When I read the news too often, as I have been lately, I start to get down. There are so many terrible and painful things happening in the world right now....I know I don't need to remind any of you about what they are. It is heartbreaking to watch and read of the struggles of so many around the world, to the dramatic extent that it has spread.

I count my blessings for all that I have, and wish there was something I could do from my small corner of the world to help. With my meditation as one example, I do what I can in small ways. And I do stay abreast of current affairs to a degree, as I feel that is important to do. But I try to not overstimulate my empathatic being with images and stories. I need balance. I need an escape from reality to stay sane and optimistic.

And this is where Twilight fits in. It is the perfect escape, though not uplifting or literarily impressive. The main character annoys me with her petty dramas, insecurities, and tolerance of rude behavior and obsessive coddling from men (ok...creatures...). The simple writing and too frequent typos distract me. But I have a hard time putting down the book. It gets my adrenaline pumping and my heartrate racing. It is a page turner. I often stay up until the wee hours of the night "just to finish this chapter" and then the next. It takes me away from those things in life I know are not healthy to dwell on.

I suppose that these are some of the markers of a well written story, it's ability to help you escape by bringing you into the mind and life of a fictional character. It may not be a poetic or deep writing style, it may not teach me new things or make me question important issues like some great works. But, it is engrossing. It is an interesting and compelling story. And I sooo hope the library has the next book in the series tomorrow!

But, again, I need to emphasize that I think balance is important in the information we take in, as it is in everything in life. There are some really really big things going on in the world right now. It is important that we pay attention and educate ourselves about what the truths are in the media and what are just opinions. Paying attention inevitably leads to an important reminder of how fragile our comfortable lives are.

Every day is a blessing.

Love well those around us, celebrate the goodness in our lives, live fully in the present moment, let go of the little worries and fears, enjoy life, and read compelling fiction.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Healthy Comfort: Day 6 of 40 Days

As I contiune the search for work, I think of how lucky I have been to have this past year to recharge and to focus on other things that are important to me. (This, of course, wouldn't have been possible without the large number of family and friends who opened the doors of their warm homes to Lucas and I...thank you! Eternal gratitude!!)

Having had more than enough time to cook, we have been eating really really healthy. Lucas and I have been cooking almost all of our foods from scratch: Whole-food meals, bread, yogurt, cereals, hummus, some of our cheeses, even mustard. We pre-soak, germinate, and/or sprout nearly all of the grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds that we eat. We ferment veggies and keifer. We even dehydrate our sprouted grains and then grind them in our electric mill into flour for our bread and cookies. While this all takes time, the rewards are great. We are receiving optimal nutrition from our foods. It feels sooo good to eat this way, good to be so involved in the creation of what we eat! I encourage cooking from scratch as much as possible! A good resource, highly reccommended if you are wanting a more whole-foods diet, is the book Nourishing Traditions.

I anticipate that my time in the kitchen will be greatly compromised as I start to work. I am determined to not let this prevent me from eating as healthy as I have been, to not let this get in the way of good wholesome meals and creative cooking.

Though I truely love working, to be able to directly help others, there is a part of me that wishes I was a full- or part-time housewife in the 50's, an era when it was still possible for most women to stay at home...I love playing Susie Homemaker! Ha! I mourn that those days are over ;)

With that said, shall I share with you a comfort food recipe? This recipe is lower than average on the sugar content and has lots of delicious additions! It may not be "healthy" but I believe it is healthier than your average cookie. And anyway, it is becoming a household favorite!


1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp. fresh ginger juice, made in a juicer- Lucas' addition(optional, but worth it)
3/4 cup flour (we use freshly milled, sprouted and dehydrated whole wheat berries)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips

* Cream together the butter, sugar, and egg until smooth.

* Add vanilla, ginger juice, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and oats. Mix until evenly combined.

* Stir in raisins, hazelnuts, and chocolate chips.

* Roll into 24 or more small balls. Put 12 balls, evenly spaced, on cookie tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees, or until edges are browning and center is cooked.

* Enjoy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Deep Trust: Day 5 of 40 Days

Part of my decision to leave Portland in February of 2010 involved leaving behind a predictably content life (and regular employment!) to chase after the great unknowns that lay beyond. I needed to reinspire myself regarding life. And so, I welcomed myself into the Mystery, as I chartered unknown territory of the heart, the earth, and life itself, unsure of what the outcomes of it all would be. A year later, I still see the mystery before me as I delve into a new life in a new place.

It was hard to leave the life I had in Portland in a couple of ways. The families I was working for were fabulous. I felt quite attached to their children, as I had walked beside them through many of their developmental changes. Also, many of my closest friends are clustered in that city. They have become my second family, friends who have been there for each other through so much and celebrated together, through so many years.

But I was ready to leave, ready for the unpredictable future, for new adventures, for travel, for love. I followed my heart to Texas, totally unsure of what Lucas and I would discover was in the cards for us. I was also preparing to go on a much needed adventure in Mexico for several weeks. Beyond that, I had no plans, and no idea how life would unfold.

And yes, it has unfolded in the most unexpected ways during this past year. There is no way I could have predicted my current circumstances, and for that I am grateful. I am grateful that life continues to pleasantly surprise and delight me. I am grateful that I am willing to take chances and risks in order to allow more surprises into the mix. I certainly am grateful that I followed my heart to Texas, that I trusted that things would work out the way they needed to!

For here I am, joyfully ENGAGED to Lucas. I did NOT see that coming! I am living once again in the northwest near a town I had never been to before last fall, Mt. Shasta. And for the first time all year, I am finally able to look for that steady meaningful employment.

I have always been one to relocate for the place/people and not for the work. Luckily Lucas feels the same way. When we drove through this area last fall, scouting out areas in Southern Oregon and Northern California to possibly move to, we surprisingly fell in love with the Mt. Shasta area. We spent one night camping on Mt. Shasta...and that was it! All other options were thrown to the wolves. We both felt the magic and the power of the mountain and both felt confident that this needed to be our next home. (Incidentally, that is also when Lucas felt inspired to ask me to marry him!)

Thus, here we are. Living in Mt. Shasta's shadow, enjoying the mountain air, the fresh clean spring water, the mountain views, the small town life. And we are discovering that finding work in the area is challenging.

Following your bliss, following your heart, your intuition, following the calling of the Great Beyond/the Mystery/ all takes an enormous amount of trust. Trust that the path you are choosing, or that is choosen for you from a greater power, is the right one. That everything will work out, even the unknown aspects, even if it seems challenging to make all the pieces fall into place. You have to trust that because you were called to this path, one by one, the pieces will fall into place.

Often it is the challenges like these that force us to grow...they help us to become more creative in our approaches, resource a will-power and motivation we had forgotten about or never used, step further out of our comfort zone to expand our opportunities and experiences. If we don't follow our heart and our intuition, we miss out on so many wonderful possibilities and so many new ways to grow!

So, I am resourcing deep trust that the work will come. And I am feeling deep gratitude for all I am learning and exeriencing along the way.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring Hunger: Day 4 of 40 Days

On this rainy Saturday, I spent an unbelievably large chunk of my day painting the bathroom. Now, instead of the bright menthol-green that it once was, the bathroom is a nice warm and buttery yellow. The bathroom feels softer and bigger, and no longer gives me nausea while brushing my teeth. I have a few touch-ups to do tomorrow, but I am happy that that major chore is nearly finished, the last of the important ones. Now with the weather starting to turn more mild, it is time to focus my extra time on preparing the outdoor garden and getting the vegetable starts going indoors.

Tomorrow is daylight savings, and though the official first day of spring is still weeks away, it feels as if spring is arriving with the time change. The buds on trees are growning bigger every day, and the first spring flowers are in bloom. Forsythia and crocus. The daffodils look like they will be next.

Yes, mother nature has decided that spring is beginning in these parts. The most startling and sure sign was discovered yesterday in our back yard. Lucas and I had been meaning to pick up the piles of litter that someone had been bold enough to dispose of up the steep hill behind our house in the forest. They look like they have been there for a long time. We had been amazed and confused by this. Why would someone go to the trouble of hauling trash up this steep hill to dump there? It is hard to understand and hard to see everytime we hike up there.

Yesterday, we discovered the true culprit. For whoever it was had dragged one of our trashbags up the hill behind our house and emptied it onto the forest floor. The huge foot prints that were left behind on the incline of loam and pine needles through the tight low underbrush gave away our litterer.

Yep, you may have guessed it. The bears have awoken from their hibernation. And they are hungry! It is time to keep the trash in the house.


I love the symbolism that can be attached to the changing of the seasons. Isn't it true that in winter we quite naturally are inclined to partake in our own kind of hibernation? We stay indoors more, we burrow in with blankets and sweaters, we eat hearty heavy foods that help us stay warm and get through the long months of cold, we work on those crafting projects we have been putting off for awhile. We are more inwards in general, more reflective.

As spring comes, we start to shed our extra layers, we spend more time outside, we eat lighter foods that are quicker to prepare, we start to think about the new things we want to start in our lives, we put into action what we have been dreaming of all winter, we start to become more outward again.

Ok, this may not be true for everyone, especially in modern culture where we are further removed from nature, and it may not happen in all climates. But, I can see this as a natural rhythm that humans and nature alike are part of. I like to keep it in mind, anyway, as the seasons shift. These thoughts help me to be intentional with how I use my time and energy, in ways that reflect this natural change.

So, for now I think about what new things I can start up (like the starts for my garden, a new knitting project, and time invested into new friendships), and what old things I can give a fresh new liveliness to (like my sporadic and stale exercise routine, the decorations I have out in my house, and the foods I am in the habit of preparing.)

This time of year is all about momentum forward, the potential of growth and development, new beginnings, projects taking off, our energy being best spent outwards. Like the bears, spring inspires us to renew our hunger for life. So, lets wake up, stretch our limbs, and respond to what new delicious projects we are hungry for.

Just mind where you dump your trash, ya hear?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Muddy Hands: Day 3 of 40 Days

Soon after moving to the Mt. Shasta area, I was lucky enough to randomly see a classified ad for a collective art studio in search of a ceramicist to join their crew. This is something I was hoping to find someday down the road, but was definitly not expecting to anytime soon. Lucas encouraged me to call them, and I am so glad that he did.

I met with one of the other ceramic artists, and we hit it off. She wanted to have a meeting with the entire collective to make sure everyone agreed that I was the right fit for the studio. And well, what can I say? They liked me! It has been official for about a week now that I am the newest member of the collective. Since I don't yet have a job, I have been able to get into the studio quite a bit! Yay!

The studio is in Mt. Shasta and is made up of about 8 artists...several who work in clay, a painter, a writer, a sculptor, a photographer...and they are all fun, inspiring, talented, and wonderful. The studio is an open set-up. We all have our individual work areas within one open room. This makes conversation and interaction, and the sharing of works in progress, possible. Oh, and by the way, I am using this as an opportunity to practice being more open, less reserved, with my new friends.

In the past I have been a part of a group studio that was much more closed off, with the spaces separated. And I have had my own studio in my home. In both of these situations, I missed the social aspect of my college studio, I missed the interaction and inspiration that comes from being in direct contact with other artists.

And so in this new space, ahhhh, I am so happy! I am getting to know some great people in the community. I am receiving some great feedback, and ideas of where and how to sell my work. I am meeting friends of the other studio artists and learning about just how small of a town this is - everyone knows each other. And I feel like I am finally making one of my dreams a reality.

Long ago, I decided that I didn't want ceramics to be my full-time way of making a living...for many reasons. I didn't want to get burned out physically and mentally doing one thing all day. I didn't want my creativity to be compromised by having to make a lot of simple things just so they would sell. (I think this happens a lot when artist's livlihood depends on making sales.) I wanted to be able to make artwork that comes from my heart, artwork that I really put my creativity into.

To do this, I knew I would also have to do other work full or part-time. That is part of the reason I went to Midwifery School, to learn another skill. Unfortunately, school was so all-consuming that ceramics got more or less put on the back-burner. Not forgotten, but put to the side. And it stayed there as I walked away from midwifery and fell into caring for some of the loveliest children. I just couldn't seem to find the time and place to bring clay back into my life in Portland.

Now, in this new place where I am starting again from scratch, I feel like I can finally get back to it. I can finally start to make things that I am inspired to make, and hopefully I will be able to sell some of it too. Now, the OTHER money-making job is what I need to manifest!!

I am super excited about the things I have been making this week in the studio. And I am excited to give you a sneak peak. Keep in mind, they are far from being finished. They still need to be fired and glazed and re-fired before they are complete. This means that the sizes and colors will be different in the end. But, this gives you an idea of what I am doing. The ideas are rolling in, now that I have my hands muddy again and am re-learning my skills. There is so much more to come!

These are all going to become pendants for necklaces:

While I was living in Texas, I found several small river stones with natural holes in them that I made into necklaces similar to these. On the stones, I had used a sharpie to draw the designs, sealed it with a glue. Unfortunately, those markings wore away in spots from wear and tear. So, it is awesome to create my own stones and decorate them with materials that won't ever wear away.

This is a handbuilt bud-vase:

And this, a handbuilt box, that is still awaiting the black line decorations:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Ripple: Day 2 of 40 Days

This 40 day meditation that I am doing is called Burning Inner Anger. It comes from the Kundalini Yoga tradition, facilitated by the amazing kirtan singer/yogini Snatam Kaur. With a video broadcast on YouTube, she demonstrates and explains this meditation which combines pranayama (breathwork), mudras (sacred hand-positions), and mantra (chanting). So far, over 1200 people from 28 different countries have signed up as participants. The purpose of the meditation is to...that's right...burn inner anger, or release inner anger, on both a personal and global level. There is a power in numbers.


I have done several of these 40 day meditations in the past, the first one assigned to me by a friend who at the time was studying, and is now teaching, Kundalini Yoga. This practice has helped me get through many challenging times in the last several years. And I am grateful to have it as a useful tool in my life. In general, I feel that meditation is beneficial on so many levels...decreased stress and tension and anxiety, being able to be more present in the moment in day to day life, generating an overall sense of well-being and happiness. But, I also feel that it has the ability to help us heal our hurts and grow as humans.

I am the type who prefers to cut to the chase when I am experiencing emotional pain, life's challenges, sadness, and other frustrations. I don't like to stuff or hide my emotions, for I know they will just build up inside and show their ugly heads again someday, again and again until they are properly dealt with. I also don't like to over-indulge my negative emotions or hold onto them as part of my identity. Rather, I prefer to deal with what I am going through by looking it in the face, seeing how it has affected me, accepting it as merely my present reality, forgiving, and then really and fully letting it all go. For me, this is the quickest, though not always the easiest, way to move through hard times and to start to bring lightness back into life.

Meditation has been useful in helping me do this, for it helps me create a safe space to be quiet, to sit with things as they really are, to accept this reality, and to give myself the love and intentional time I need to heal. Making the commitment to do a meditation for 40 consecutive days helps me maintain that focus, helps to ensure that I deal with all of the layers of built up gunk hiding in the dark corners of my being, and brings me to a peaceful place in the end that I didn't think possible at the beginning of the 40 day period.


This current meditation has been great. I didn't feel that I had any major issues I needed to deal with when I started it though. I started it because I wanted to get back into a regular meditation practice for general well-being, and happened to stumble upon this group meditation online.

I sit in the meditation focusing on finding whatever anger from the past lingers inside my being, so that I can look at it, accept it, let it go and be freer of anger. It is surprising to see how many little things I am still holding onto, how much of this anger has a foundation in feelings of fear and feelings of being wronged. And so I am doing A LOT of unexpected forgiving of random people and events, A LOT of releasing. And I am noticing as I do this more and more each day, I am coming out of my meditations feeling lighter and lighter. Like I am not carrying as much of a burden on my shoulders. It adds up, carrying around all this extra residual anger. When we let it go, we are so much freer to move around with lightness in life! It leaves us with more room inside to be filled with grace and ease and light and love for all around us.

I do this meditation not only for myself, but for all of life. For we are living in times when there is A LOT of anger in the world. It is an exciting time, to watch people all over the world fighting for their rights, justice, freedom. Inspiring, really, to see so many standing up for what they believe in. It is hard to imagine that my small act of meditation can help create positive changes directly with some event on the other side of the world.

While it may, I think it is more probable that my small act of meditation can help create positive changes indirectly throughout the world, by working directly in my own immediate life. As I practice releasing my angers and fears, those things that hold me back from fully and openly loving others, I am able to be more present in my interactions, more intentionally kind and loving with others. I am able to share with others that inner sense of well-being that I have cultivated.

I have to believe that this has a ripple effect.

The more that people are bombarded with positive interactions with others, the more likely they will be to create more positive interactions with others. We are here to help each other. There is power in numbers. May our positive ripples spread wide and far!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Open House: Day 1 of 40 Days

Today is the 10th day in a 40 day meditation that I am doing with over 1200 others around the world(more on that in another posting). It has been interesting to observe that nearly every day during this meditation I have had a sudden inspiration burst into my mind of something creative or meaningful to do. Some of these ideas I have already set into action, and others are awaiting the right time.

Tonight during my meditation, it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to make a commitment to writing on my blog every day for a set period of time as a means of giving myself a challenge, an opportunity to rely more on my creativity, and, most importantly, as a way of being more open with others.

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Years ago, while living in Portland, my dear friend and housemate pointed out to me that there were many things I was involved in outside of the house that she never knew about until I had been for a long time. It was true, and maybe still is, that I have a habit of not sharing many personal details with others. Maybe some think I am secretive. It isn't intentional, it isn't that I don't want others to know me. I am a quiet and reserved one. I am shy. Sometimes, I forget that I have things to share.

My housemate and I decided to use this as an opportunity for change. We began the habit of sharing one secret a day with each other. We called it, "The Secret of the Day." Every day we would tell each other something that we never had, something we had never told anyone. It was a wonderful experience, that helped me learn a lot about my friend and helped me learn the value of sharing. Friends care to know about each other's lives.

And so, I am inspired to do a little Secret of the Day sharing here. Well, maybe not SECRETS, but a little more sharing at a newer depth. And with consistency.

I am having an Open House, for 40 days. I hope you will come.

Why 40 days? Well, when this inspiration struck me, I wished I had been able to start this blogging exercise at the same time as my 40 day meditation. I thought that by merging 2 commitments into the same time-frame, I would have been more likely to follow through on both. I could have decided to do 30 days, to blog through the end of my meditation period.

But then, I remembered that today happens to be the first day of Lent, also a 40 day period. Even though I am not religious, why not join thousands around the world, yet again, in a committed period of action. For what I am doing is also its own kind of spiritual practice, one of learning and growing and moving through areas of uncomfortableness. And sometimes it helps to follow through when you know you are not alone, when you know that there are others who are struggling too. Even though I am choosing to do something more rather than give up doing something, I feel like by doing this exercise during Lent will help me to walk in solidarity with those who may have different beliefs than me...with the trust that we hope for similar things to prosper for all of Life: Love, Peace, Health, and Happiness. May the actions we all take help this to be, more and more.

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I am having a 40 day Open House. I hope you will come. You will be welcomed into my living room, to sit on my couch, to drink some tea, to share some things about you and about me.

(Notice the nice new wall color. Isn't it much more homey than the previous yellow, red, and green stripes??)

And I have to show you the newly painted bedroom too. I love the soothing warmth of the color!

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And so now that some thoughts are flowing, what is your Secret of the Day?