reverence and joy


  • An Earth Day Tradition

    A couple years ago I started a new personal tradition for Earth Day. As a Pagan who walks an earth-based spiritual path, I’m aware of the pollution that modern living is causing. I’m also sure that, collectively, we can reduce it. Each person taking individual action is important. So I decided to implement something new in my life each Earth Day, increasing my efforts to be more environmentally friendly, or “green.”

    The first year I gave up straws. I used to buy plastic drinking straws to use with smoothies and with our “house drink,” which is mandarin-orange seltzer water mixed with some all-fruit cranberry juice. Although we did clean and re-use the straws, they only lasted a few uses before having to be tossed out. I decided this was a luxury that I didn’t need, and dropped the use of straws.

    Last year I made a vow to be better about using my reusable grocery bags, and to try not to bring home plastic bags anymore. It’s been working quite well, and I’ve also gotten Quester to carry bags in his vehicle –  often he even remembers to use them. We still have the occasional plastic bag coming into the house, but we reuse them in various ways, primarily as liners for small trash containers in the bathrooms and bedrooms.

    For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what to do for this year’s Earth Day vow.

    I mean, we’re pretty green already. We recycle a lot, we compost, we buy nearly all of our clothing, books, and housewares at thrift stores. We’re vegetarian, and tend to make our own meals rather than eat processed food. We make our own candles. Thanks to a friend’s urging, we’re in the process of switching over to the new energy-efficient LED light bulbs.

    There are some things that are tough to change. It would be hard to really reduce our driving significantly – we live in a rural area where everything is spread out and there’s no public transportation. Heating is an issue, too. We have plans for a passive-solar addition on our home, including some kind of wood-based heat, but we don’t yet have the extra funds to implement it.

    appletreepic

    It took a while, but I’ve figured out this year’s green intention. I’m going to increase the percentage of our food that comes from local sources. BlackLion is starting a big permaculture garden project this year, so some of the food will come from our own land. In addition, I plan to mindfully increase the amount of food we obtain from local sources.

    The only reason I haven’t done more of this already is the cost. Local produce, especially when it’s organic, is rather expensive. Our food budget hasn’t always been such that I could afford to buy at the farmer’s market. But there are ways to do it more affordably, and I plan to explore them: buying in bulk, bartering with other gardeners, and utilizing the local part of our food co-op are a few ideas.

    It’s your turn. Do you have any input on how to buy local on a budget? How do you incorporate green practices into your daily life? What are some lifestyle
    changes we can make to be more kind to the environment? Happy Earth Day!

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  • Further Musings on Friendship

    It’s been almost a year since I was last musing about friendships and how mine are changing. This week I’ve been noticing what I really enjoy in my friendships, and what isn’t so healthy for me. I’ve talked with others who, like me, have challenges with the traditional format of female friendships, so I thought it might help to share these thoughts.

    First of all, know that you are perfectly able and deserving of choosing the types of friendships you prefer. Loving yourself means spending time with people who bring you joy. Of course you’ll help each other through challenging times, I don’t mean to imply you won’t. I mean that you will be uplifting one another through the ups and downs of life. Friendship doesn’t need to include snarkiness or head games.

    Also, your friendships can take whatever form you mutually agree on. You can see each other as often as works for both of you, no matter what that looks like. Friends shouldn’t demand or expect that you defer to their schedule. It’s about compromise and cooperation.

    NikkiandJenn

    Cherish your friends. I still really miss my friend Jenn, who passed away back in the fall. I’m glad I cherished each moment we had together, especially during her last couple of years…but I often wish we had more time. Be present with your friends and really open up and enjoy their company. They are blessings.

    It is also vital to be your own friend. I love spending time in solitude, and enjoying my own company is a blessing. It makes friendships with others like a delightful bonus, rather than a longed-for necessity.

    What else have I discovered? I’ve recently reconnected with two wonderful women friends, who are now also fellow authors. I love to talk about writing and creativity, and share ideas and philosophies! It’s so much fun. With both women, one who I was in circle with several years ago, and one who was a work colleague back in the day, I felt enlivened and inspired after spending time with them. We’re making plans to get together more often, and I look forward to seeing how that unfolds. 

    I also love creativity and playing games. Another of my friends and I have been collaborating on classes and workshops for the kids in our homeschool community, and sharing crafts and games. She and her kids are coming over tonight for a rousing game of Killer Bunnies, as a matter of fact. I really enjoy interacting through the lens of ideas and playfulness.

    I’m also a good listener, and I’m happy to provide a shoulder when a friend needs to chat about challenges or troubles. I fully admit, I’m less likely to open up about my own problems, but I’m learning. That’s an area where I have some growth to do. I’m much more likely to write in my journal than to share my troubles with a friend, and I don’t like talking on the phone. But that’s okay, and my current circle of friends seem to understand.

    What are the things I don’t like? I’m sensitive to feeling like an outsider, and that comes from my time as a shy introvert in public school. I don’t like it when I’m with a group of friends and some of them are whispering or trading inside jokes that they don’t offer to share. It feels hurtful, even if they don’t intend it that way. I think it’s rude.

    I don’t resonate with gossip about other people. I am open to a friend talking to me about a problem they’re having with someone else, I just don’t like that condescending air that comes with unnecessary gossip. You know, when it feels like someone is taking pleasure from someone else’s misfortune? I don’t like that at all.

    I’m very thankful for the women, and men, who are in my life at this time. The two women I’ve reconnected with recently, the wonderful circle of Pagan women at the UU church, my friends from our EarthSchool co-op, a handful of longtime friends who are still in my life, my mom and aunt and daughter and other family members, friends I first met online or at conferences, and others. You know who you are. You are my friends, and I thank you for all the joy you share!

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  • Mindfulness & Creating a Fulfilling Life

    “Mindful awareness creates a kind of work space, a place in the mind where we can see and deal with our automatic habits. It’s like a private, cozy room where we can read and reflect on the most personal passages in our diary.” – Tara Bennett-Goleman

    One of the things I’m doing this spring is re-focusing on my practice of mindfulness. As a longtime journal keeper, I absolutely love this quote. Creating a space like this in your mind is so very key to living a fulfilling life. It reminds me of another favorite quote of mine:

    “The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

    What does this mean? Basically, if you’re not allowing yourself the time and space to reflect on your life, you’re on autopilot. When that happens, you’re still making choices, but not in a conscious way. It might feel easier in the short run, but in the big picture, you’re not focused on fulfilling your life’s purpose.

    If you’re not sure what that purpose might be, you’ll be aimless and lost. It’s time for a quest, to seek out your passions and find the things that light you up. If you already know your purpose – or purposes – then you’ll have that sense of dissatisfaction and disappointment that comes from denying yourself deep joy. Mindful awareness will help you find what you seek.

    Using mindfulness as a tool to work toward deeper fulfillment requires three basic things (don’t worry, you can learn them as you go).

    1. The courage to be true to yourself, no matter what. Being your authentic self takes a certain amount of bravery. It’s not something we’ve been taught to do. The first step is having the guts to go for your dreams.rockpic

    2. The perseverance necessary to commit to your practice. I’ve learned over the years that practice is the most magickal word in our language. Anything that you care about, want to achieve, or truly desire will require practice. It isn’t always fun. What does it look like? Returning again and again to your breath as you practice mindfulness meditation. Practicing your art, craft, or skill over and over again, day by day, sometimes seeing progress, but other times being stuck on some sort of plateau. Tending your relationships with friends, family, and beloveds, through all the drama and crises as well as the joyful times. Practicing gratitude even on days when you feel like there’s nothing good under your personal raincloud.

    This leads to the third need:

    3. Patience. Getting stressed out over your lack of progress, or being angry when you fail, just isn’t helpful. Yet we all do it. Being patient with yourself makes doing the hard work much more enjoyable.

    Being mindful is a universal tool that you can apply no matter where you are on your life’s path. It will help you to develop more of these three things, which feeds back into your mindful awareness, creating an increasing upward spiral of momentum. Giving yourself space for mindful awareness will help you make the best choices for you, and enable you to regroup more quickly when you stray from your own path. It will be a helping hand when you fall down, and can get you through the toughest times.

    Summon your courage and get started today. Stop what you’re doing and breathe into the moment. Let your thoughts drift by without attachment, and listen for that inner whisper of intuition, which may sound like words or silence, look like swirling colors, or feel like a glimmer of light on the horizon. Your experience will be unique to you. Get to know your most meaningful personal symbols and the ways your deepest inner wisdom shows up.

    Keep practicing. You’ll be amazed at the positive changes you’ll create!

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  • Change, Minus All the Judging

    I had a really sedentary winter, and now I’m making some changes with the spring. Changes like moving more, doing my yoga every morning, and eating less sugar and fat. It didn’t all happen this winter, either. Over the last few years I’ve put on weight, probably partly as a result of getting older (that slowing metabolism thing), and also in response to the stress of changing my whole lifestyle, starting a business, and struggling to pay the bills while I do so.

    I’m ready to let my inner work of the past couple of years shine through. Yet one thing I’ve noticed is that, even now that I’ve upped my self-love quotient, I’ve fallen back into a pattern of self-judgement as I begin the process of change.

    It goes something like this. Creating change is a slow process, and there are still times when I don’t make good choices, or I act out of habit. While I know this, I still hear an old voice surfacing to chide me:

    “I shouldn’t have eaten that ice cream.” “I slept in too late, now I won’t have time for yoga.” “I look terrible. I’ll never lose all this weight.”

    Yikes. What’s with that?

    How can I make changes without some dissatisfaction with the way things are? How can I make choices that are useful in the long term but maybe less pleasurable in the short term, without bullying myself into it? OK, well, I have those tools. As I understand it, the key is awareness. Dwell in the moment as much as possible. Choose love and compassion.

    Gratitude helps, too.  There’s always a bright side. Even “mistakes” have positives. I enjoyed laughing over dessert with my family. I got some extra sleep and enjoyed interesting dreams. My body is healthy and strong, and I feel well most of the time. See?

    Also, I’ve done it before. In 2005, I lost a bunch of weight that I’d accumulated after a stressful period of time – hmm, in the big picture, maybe getting rid of comfort food as a coping mechanism would be a good idea, too. Anyway, it wasn’t that hard to get fit again. I can do this.

    Here’s my checklist:

    • Focus on adding healthy habits rather than just letting go of old ones. Encourage my daily yoga routine, eat fresh greens from the garden, take more hikes.
    • Have compassion when I fail. Learn from my mistakes.
    • Express my gratitude daily.
    • Use my healthy coping mechanisms when things go wrong: art, meditation, getting outside, reading, music.
    • Practice being mindful.

    You know, change, without all the icky self-judgement.

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  • Starcat’s Favorites: Action!

    The sun is shining in our little corner of New England, the snow is melting, and life is good. We even have some daffodil shoots coming up! No buds yet, but I know they’ll be showing up soon.

    It’s amazing how much of my energy returns with the warmer temperatures. This week I started a new routine that will hopefully keep me focused on some key projects. So far, it’s going well. What new projects and actions are you taking on this season?

    Have a terrific weekend, and may it be filled with both fun and productivity – hopefully at the same time!

    Despite the human tendency to worry, everything really will be OK.

    I’m looking forward to trying this recipe – and yes, I mean both the food and the attitude.

    Getting into some de-cluttering, like me? This website is really helpful.

    As a bookworm, I loved being validated by this article on the benefits of reading. OK, maybe I didn’t need justification to spend more time reading… (The pictures are awesome, too).

    This is quite interesting – what happens when you do a year-long sugar fast. Part of me wants to try it – the part that’s not a total chocoholic.

    Here’s a wonderful article on unschooling from a newspaper in our state. I love seeing positive, non-sensational press about unconventional lifestyles.

    My friend Zoe, who’s an amazing bright, sparkly, creative unschooler, is part of an Odyssey of the Mind team (all homeschooled) that is fundraising to go to the world championships. Please check out her fundraiser and donate and/or share it to help spread the word. Thanks so much!

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  • The Awesome Power of Decluttering

    You might think that de-cluttering your living space  is just a convenience, something you can do when you notice space is getting cramped or you have a lot of extra stuff. Really, it has a bigger positive effect than that. You see, clutter in your home doesn’t just take up physical space. It affects your energy system as well. Your stuff takes up space in your psyche, and can keep your energy vibrations slow and sluggish when your things are  scattered and chaotic. This can affect your physical health, your momentum when you take on new projects, and your daily happiness.

    Don’t take my word for it. Do some reading – a basic Google search for “feng shui clutter” will open your eyes.

    Chances are if you’re a creative person, and if you have kids, and double that if you homeschool or unschool, you have clutter. Thinking about clearing it can be overwhelming, but luckily it’s a project that’s best done step by step.

    I started de-cluttering our home last year, and I’m still in process. We had a yard sale last summer, which helped us get rid of lots of old stuff that we no longer needed, as well as raising money for our trip to the Rethinking Everything conference. I’m taking on our family’s clutter in deliberate steps, area by area, and doing it mindfully, without rushing. It’s a part of my spiritual practice, in the big picture.

    bookshelfinprogress

    This year I wanted to start with my “office,” which is a corner of my bedroom. In order to do that, my plan included the need for another bookshelf. Luckily, Quester builds custom bookshelves, and yesterday he finished the new one. Yay!!! Here’s a picture of it, partially filled with books.

    If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that one of my favorite things in the world is books. They aren’t clutter, to me, but rather part of my home library. The most recent library nook is in our upstairs hallway. The new bookcase will house primarily fiction, while I’m transitioning our living room shelves to primarily non-fiction and reference books (cookbooks, gardening tomes, homeschool necessities, dictionary, thesaurus, homeopathic medicine, etc.).

    As the kids get older, de-cluttering becomes easier for us. Toys no longer litter every surface, and they’re better about keeping their own things in order.  I’m excited to make some progress on my office space this weekend – maybe I’ll take some “before and after” pictures to share.

    Try some de-cluttering as part of your spring cleaning, and notice how much lighter you feel. You deserve a clear, beautiful space in which to live and work. Consider it part of your self-care. Happy de-cluttering!

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  • A Sigh of Relief

    It’s April 8th, and I’m finally adjusted the fact that March is over and winter is really done. Granted, there’s still quite a bit of snow out in the yard, but the piles are getting smaller every day. Daytime temperatures are consistently in the upper 40s to mid 50s, the sun has been out, and on grey days like today, we get rain rather than snow.

    Hear that gusty, windy sound? That’s my huge sigh of relief.

    sunriselighthouse

    Last Friday BlackLion, ElvenTiger and I went out before dawn, accompanying BlackLion’s Mom on a photo shoot. She’s a fantastic photographer. It was cold out, but gorgeous nonetheless. As a confirmed night owl, I almost never see the sunrise, and I’d forgotten how lovely the world is when it’s just waking up. This picture is one that I took with my phone; not a professional shot, but I like it anyway. It reminds me of spring, and how the new season is dawning.

    Over the weekend I was wondering, “If it’s really April, then where’s my energy?” I was still feeling the residue of the March blahs, wanting nothing more than to curl up in my PJs and read. And yes, part of it was probably recovering from our pre-dawn escapades at the end of a busy week. But still, the inspiration wasn’t flowing.

    BlackLion said, “you probably just need some sunshine.” Last year I took vitamin D supplements through the winter, at the strong urging of a friend. This year, I just realized, I completely forgot. Yesterday I took the opportunity to absorb some brief bursts of sunshine, and it did seem to help.

    Today I woke up and was ready to get going on some organizing, projects, and the ever-present housework. I feel like today is actually the first day of Spring. Or was it yesterday? It doesn’t really matter. I’m feeling it now, and ready to rock the world with my writing and art and drumming and…. Let’s go! Bring it on!

    How about you? Are you feeling the rising energies of Spring yet, or are you still in hibernation mode?

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  • My Kids Are Getting Old

    Last week I attended a meeting of our homeschool co-op, to plan our future space and activities. I almost didn’t go, as I’m not sure whether we’re going back in the fall or not.

    ElvenTiger turned 15 this winter, and she’s on the edge of outgrowing the classes and activities that are offered. The group does offer classes for teens, but they aren’t generally topics she’s interested in, and this year a whole group of the teens from co-op decided to attend a charter school, so there are a lot less of them than before. Dryst chose not to go back to the co-op this year for that reason, actually. For my kids, the co-op was more about having social time and learning fun new things they might not have encountered otherwise, not getting high school credits or participating in traditional academic courses.

    The thing is, though, it’s an awesome community. I’ll miss it when we’re no longer attending. After the meeting I hung out to chat with some of the friends I’ve made through being part of the co-op for three years now. The co-op is diverse in terms of educational methods, and the people I resonate with most are my fellow unschoolers, who focus mainly on child-led learning and tend to be creative thinkers. There’s a high priority placed on each kid being able to learn in ways that work best for them, and incorporating that learning into everyday life.

    Part of our conversation was about dyslexia in kids, both officially diagnosed and more informally observed. The discussion ranged from how our kids learn, to ways each child learns to read in various ways at different times, to internal motivation for learning particular skills, to developing a practice ethic, and beyond. As we spoke, I felt as a parent of older kids, one of whom was a “late reader,” (I put that in quotes because it’s society that judges the timeline) I was able to give worthwhile advice to the parents of younger children. We know each others’ kids, and can see the similarities as well as the differences. My experience with my daughter and her ways of learning can help show the way for others in our situation.

    And then I realized something cool. ElvenTiger is a role model in her community.

    Because she’s such a kinesthetic learner, public school would have been stressful for her, and her self-esteem might have been damaged through labeling and expectations. Instead, she’s a thriving young woman, living a full and interesting life and learning all the time. She is intelligent, kind, and creative, and makes friends of all ages wherever she goes.

    As a role model, there’s still a place for her in the co-op. She’s already begun to teach the younger kids. This winter she assisted with paper arts class and Camp Half-Blood (exploring Greek mythology through the lens of the Percy Jackson books). For spring, she’ll be teaching one of her passions, flow arts, which includes poi spinning and hula hooping tricks.

    The question is, will teaching and mentoring be something that calls to her this fall, enough to participate in co-op each week? It’s her decision – after all, we practice child-led education.

    Personally, I do hope she’ll want to continue, though. I’m enjoying being part of this creative, often chaotic, fun, and supportive community. I know it won’t last too much longer, though, as both of my kids continue to get older and find their own independent interests. Hmm, I wonder if this co-op will still be around years from now, when they have kids. I’d love to be there with my grandchildren someday!

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  • Starcat’s Favorites: Hints of Spring

    We celebrated the Spring Equinox this week, and I’m noticing hints of spring all around. No, in our case, not even the crocuses have been able to poke their first shoots up above the snow. But the sun is getting stronger, the sap is running, and it’s still light out as I write this at 6:30pm. Despite the continued cold temperatures and snowstorms here, I’m hopeful. How’s spring proceeding in your neck of the woods?

    Here are some fun links to enjoy over the weekend.

    What do a 15-year-old boy and a fourth-dimension alien named Zyx have in common? Find out here.

    I made this cranberry cake for a family potluck brunch. I used an orange icing instead of the white chocolate, but otherwise stayed fairly true to the recipe. It was a big hit!

    As a HSP (highly sensitive person) myself, I identify with this article. “It’s important to remember that HSPs tend to not like structure, unless it is of their own creation.” Ha ha, yes, so true! This post on the habits of creative people seems to follow naturally after the last one – there is supposedly a link between being sensitive and creative, which makes complete sense from here. As an aside, it’s made my life so much easier to accept my own quirky ways of being, rather than trying to force them into a mainstream model. I’m so thankful for the people writing about this stuff, and for the self-acceptance I’ve found in my 40s. Phew.

    This post has some interesting points. I particularly like numbers 13 and 15.

    “The return of the Goddess will not feed or satisfy the ego.” Oh, indeed, indeed. And here’s how to have more compassion for others.

    There are a lot of articles going around about the dangers of screen time for kids. Let’s not make it the scapegoat for the unfair way we treat children. I like this response.

    Happy Spring!

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  • The Whole Point of Creative Projects

    It was Sunday evening. I hadn’t been feeling well, so I was sitting in the comfy chair in the living room with Percy cat on my lap, doing some journal writing and some reading. My list of projects and tasks sat nearby, and I was feeling some vague guilt for not making more progress. Sure, it was still the weekend, but I knew Monday would be busy, and that there was a lot to do this week.

    Anyway, I picked up a book that I’ve been working my way through slowly. It’s a fantastic book, actually, The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters by Sarah Susanka. It has in-depth exercises, and I want to make room to actually do them, thus the slow and deliberate read. It’s taking a while to get going. But what I read there was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

    Perhaps you do, too.

    “Whenever we engage in a project, we perceive that project as being something out there in the world, something outside ourselves. But when our to-do list is running us instead of serving as a management aid, it’s a flag that we’ve lost sight of the inspiration and vision behind what we’re doing. Although it seems that the point lies in the successful completion of the project, in fact the only reason for doing it is to be fully engaged in the experience, so that we can learn more about who we truly are.

    “If we are trying to accomplish a project by frenetically racing around in a vain attempt to get everything done, the results will embody that frantic energy. But if we return to our original vision and hold that clearly in heart and mind as we engage each moment fully, the completed project will be an embodiment of this much more authentic expression of ourselves. This is the only way for something to be truly effective.

    “In other words, the point isn’t the project itself. The point is to learn as much as we possibly can about ourselves, who we are now, and who we are becoming through the process of accomplishing the task at hand. As we engage in our project – our act of creation – there’s an incredible kind of nutrition available in the experiencing of every moment as the results come into being. That’s the only reason for doing anything.”

    Wow. In my case, this means that procrastinating or rushing through the revisions of our novel, in order to get started on a new writing project, doesn’t make sense. It not only doesn’t serve the project itself, but it also moves away from my own growth and learning, and the deeper questions I was engaging by choosing the project to begin with. Having read this quote, I’m now viewing the revision and editing process from a whole new space, one of excitement and creativity.

    Can you think of projects in your life where this advice applies? How does it affect your view of those creations? What is the bigger picture of your life, and the things  you’re committed to right now?

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