reverence and joy


  • 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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  • Rebirth Is Messy

    Here in northern New England, March is still winter. Yes, the Spring Equinox is coming up next week, and the sunlight has that deep yellow quality to it now. But the ground is still covered with snow, and we’re getting more as I write. March tends to be a low point for me. Maybe it’s the weather, or the fact that my beloved grandmother died on the Ides of March, back when I was still a teenager.

    I’ve been observing my personal cycles recently, particularly the solar (yearly) ones, and sure enough, as my journal entries reflect, March is often a struggle. But the thing is, it usually leads to rebirth of one sort or another. And rebirth, like birth, is a messy process. So is the advent of spring, with its mud and rain and all the trash along the roadsides, revealed as the snow melts.

    But early spring is also about change, letting go, sloughing off what is no longer needed. New ideas and projects are like the fresh shoots slowly pushing up through the composted soil. They may be as yet unseen, but they’re present underneath the surface. The spiritual seeds we planted at Imbolc are busy doing their thing. At this point in the year, growing our crop of goals and dreams requires patience, time, and more patience.

    It also involves a willingness to let the whole process, this container for growth, evolve and change as needed. I won’t let it being March become an excuse not to take inspired action toward my goals. What I will do: be tender with myself, practice extra self-care, and follow my inspirations. I will listen to my intuition and follow its whispered suggestions. The heart always knows what we need.

    Spring, in my experience, is a gradual awakening into a part of the cycle that is fresh and new each year, yet also eternal. This ancient cycle is sacred, and when I honor my place in it, I thrive. Blessings in your transition to Spring!

     

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  • On Faerie Tales

    I love faeries, and stories about them. What images are conjured up when you think of faeries? In modern culture, we often shortcut straight to Disney movies and the tiny winged females that decorate little girls’ bedroom walls. I’m no cynic, and I happily watch Disney films with a willing suspension of disbelief and no need to bring along a little girl to justify my enjoyment. But I think the category “faeries” encompasses a wide array of nonphysical beings, most of whom probably don’t look anything like the anthropomorphic forms of Tinkerbell and friends, or even the creatures of the folklore that’s been handed down to us over the centuries.

    In part, the category includes nature spirits of all sorts. Each of Earth’s beings, from a stream to a tree to a big boulder, have some form of consciousness. Sometimes we humans can communicate with them, and the way we interpret their essence could be seen as a fae form. There are tales from most of the Earth’s human cultures that indicate communications with these other life forms that share our planet.

    On another level, the universe is a much more complex place than we have thought. This is borne out by the most cutting-edge science, as well as the ancient wisdom of the mystics. Perhaps there is some bleed-through between planes of existence, and we’re occasionally able to glimpse the realities of other beings, whom we might conveniently label as faeries. The fae in that case can encompass anything that we currently have no rational way to explain.

    Or maybe it’s all in our imaginations, as we create stories of beings just-a-bit-different-from-us and then thrust them into situations that challenge their ethics, courage, and potential. These magical tales help us to identify our own strengths and call upon the power buried deep within. They enable us to tap into the depths of our creative psyches, and use what we learn there.

    It doesn’t truly matter where these tales come from, what proof we have, or which theories hold some objective truth. Faerie tales help us to make sense of this life, which can often seem confusing and chaotic.

    fionaI was recently asked to read a review copy of a book called Fiona and the Black Faerie Prince, written by Ken Coffman and Kristen Poeraatmadja. It was billed as an “instructive fantasy,” and I didn’t know what to expect. But from the opening paragraphs, the tale captivated me and drew me into a world that, on the surface, is much like my own.

    The main character, Fiona, is someone many of us can identify with: a dreamer, a free-spirited hippie artist type, living on the fringes of mainstream life. She is an empath, and she “partially lives in the hidden world of the supernatural. She sees things differently than others, but chalks it up to functional eccentricity, quirk or foible and sometimes to gentle madness when something clearly impossible happens before her eyes.”

    Fiona is joined, gradually, by a lover from between the worlds, a magical orphan girl, a talking cat, pixies, fae royalty, and a band of nomadic Renn-fair players. As her story unfolds into the fantastic, the reader is somehow still drawn in, the tale believable because of the very real human emotions that continue to unfold. The cast of characters both human and fae is engaging and complex. The challenges being faced aren’t just cliched “good vs. evil,” but more nuanced ethical dilemmas. Often the characters are faced with the conundrum of how to treat others fairly while still achieving their heart’s desires. This is a modern faerie tale, sprinkled with song lyrics and magical teas, that had me eagerly turning pages until the very end.

    The novel I co-wrote with BlackLion this fall is called The Door Is the Key: A Modern Faerie Tale.  While it’s different from Fiona in many ways, I think this genre is one that we’ll see more of in the coming months and years. As we struggle to reconcile our relationship with the Earth and the frightening changes brought about by climate change and other human-created disasters, we need our connection to the fae. We need to see how we can live ethically and joyfully in a world that often feels topsy-turvy. We long to follow the yearnings of our innermost being, yet how can we do so while fulfilling the obligations of modern life? We need these new faerie tales to help us unravel the complexities of an expanding universe and find our place in it.

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  • Starcat’s Favorites: I’m Ready!

    Happy March! Not to rush Mother Nature or anything, but I’m more than ready for the Spring Equinox, which happens this month. Or more accurately, for the warmer weather that it will presumably usher in.  It’s been a cold week, and we still have a couple feet of snow on the ground. Don’t get me wrong, I know we’ve had snow as late as April, here in northern New England. But spring snow doesn’t last. So I’m ready.

    marchfavsHere are some links to keep you amused this weekend. Oh, and a gratuitous picture of a recent lunch here at the homestead. Blessings!

    I’m going to share my own link first, because I can. Well, and because it was a labor of love, and I’m pleased with how it came out. Warning: it might just make you cry. Loss, love, and music on Kind Over Matter.

    Here’s a thought-provoking piece on mindfulness that BlackLion came across.

    A resounding “YES!” to this speech by Neil Gaiman on the value of reading and the imagination.

    Evidently a new species of cat has been discovered. Then there are these shimmying cats. Go, cats, go!

    Here’s a good one on the value of meaningful, child-led learning. What is homeschooling actually like? This list may or may not be it, but it’ll give you a laugh, anyway.

    Blessings!

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    Want to live a more joyful, fulfilling life? One of the best things you can do is to learn to love yourself. Most of us have been taught to treat ourselves with disdain and criticism. Yet within you is a wellspring of love that, when you discover how to tap into it, will increase your compassion, creativity, and joy. This book will lead you on a gentle journey to greater self-love and confidence.


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