Thursday, December 10, 2015

Messy, Happy Home

I like getting older for so many reasons. I think probably one of my favorites is slowly but surely accepting myself just as I am. I accept that sometimes I am so on top of things that it is intimidating. Sometimes I am a flighty, sparkly butterfly. I accept that in many yoga poses my belly hangs down a bit and I don't even try to suck it in unless the pose calls for it. I also accept that my house will never be described as exceptionally well maintained or immaculately kept. If it is ever sold it will be more like as is and how the hell did this much glitter get so well ground into hardwood floors.

I grew up with the idea that an extremely clean home was the only option. My parents worked hard to maintain all they had. The house was always clean. The lawn was never too long. Any home repairs were taken care of immediately. You know what? That is great....for them. For me, not so much.

Our home is not foul. You will not be sickened by the smell of rotting food in the sink. It isn't going to be condemned any time soon. It is good enough and I am really pleased with that.

This home houses creative artists, people enthusiastically and passionately committed to learning and exploring one idea or another. There are piles of books here and there, at times toppling over. There are musically instruments littering the rooms. Art supplies, and yes that herpes of the craft world glitter, are never in short supply. Projects and intricate creations of blocks, Legos, and papier mache hold space on surfaces for days. And we like it like that.

There may be a bit of flour on the floor from working with lasers. I have a pack of rescue animals spreading hair, slobber, and simple love where ever they go. One old wreck of a dog was given a safe place to die about a year ago. He liked it so much he decided to rally and live on. He smells but we adore him.

Yes, my front porch began to crumble a little while back. Eventually, we will fix it...probably. But there have been books to read, ideas to pursue, gardens to design and plant, dances to be danced until we fall into fits of laughter. Bottom line, we have had things we deemed more important to do. Again, we like it that way.

In a way, I am grateful for my occasional bouts with anxiety. Why? Oh, because my anxiety is the one thing that spurs me on to deep clean. Anxiety is the only reason windows are wash or baseboards are scrubbed. So I am happy to know that everything has its place in my life including those not so fun circling dances with the specter of anxiety.

We love our home. It is ours. It is filled with things we treasure. Doubt anyone else would but honestly, we don't care. It is filled with laughter, intelligence, discussion, and a lot of love and joy.

If I invite you into my home, I don't care if I impress you. Nope, in fact I invite very few people into my home because it is so incredibly intimate and personal to me. If I invite you into my home then know I have invited you into a part of my soul. I don't open up easily to anyone. This is my way of sharing.

Now if you need to keep a perfect home, then great for you. You have to find your way and what works for you. Although, I will admit I am always thrilled when someone invites me to experience their not ready for company home. That invitation tells me they are sharing the truly authentic part of themselves with me. That experience simply fills me with happiness because I am not really interested in shallow. I want to know you, the real you. I want to talk of real things,important things. What ever they may be. When it is time. And when it is time, I will show the real me in all my messy, authentic, whimsical, sometimes a bit scary glory.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Being the Rock

“And Max, the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.” 
― Maurice SendakWhere the Wild Things Are

My son came into this world with big emotions and a huge personality. He was the textbook high needs child. From the very beginning I realized that I had given birth to a wild child very much like myself. 

As he grows his larger than life traits show no sign of decrease and I hope they never do. He is wild. He is outrageous. He is loving and cares so very deeply. He is laughter and silly personified. Sometimes...he is rage. 

Just like his mother he takes all scary, negative emotions to an angry place. Why feel fear, sad, or insecurity when you can just rage like a charging bull??? An epic meltdown will be much more effective than talking and reasoning things out, right???? 

Let me tell you something right now, I am so glad I had THIS child AND all the challenges that comes with his own personal style of dealing with life. I have learned so much more about myself, mothering, and life through this experience. 

I remember raging out of control. I remember being screamed at to get myself under control, calm down, stop overreacting, and a multitude of  other word groupings meaning the same thing. I could never make anyone understand I was so out of control that I had no control within my grasp to get. If the adult in charge lost it, well then my world completely spun out of control in a horrific, emotion filled nightmare. When it finally stopped I was physically ill and emotionally destroyed. It was pretty much horrible. 

Over the years through a lot of self introspection and therapy, I have gained a great deal of control over myself. I am emotionally and mentally disciplined. I can now put a stop to the out of control roller coaster primed and ready to go screaming out if I would allow it. Little did I know that this precious boy would turn out to be my Master Class in the subject. 

I have learned that when he rages I MUST find a deeper calm. I must steady myself, ground physically to the earth, and connect to my inner source of harmony. I must dig deep and be ready to be the rock he needs to me. His rages are worse with me than anyone else because I am, ultimately, his safest space. I breathe deeply as I feel my own rage rise for I must not allow the beast to coil around me and lash out into our home. Two of us losing control can decimate our home to emotional rubble. Trust me, I know. 

It isn't just about getting through the rages but to teach him to cope and eventually eliminate them. Physically I stay with him. I will not allow him to him me or be disrespectful to me on a personal level. I don't count incoherent screaming to be disrespectful. It  is someone who has no idea how to deal with their feelings. I calmly speak to him when I think he can hear me. Trust me, the rage can cloud your ability to hear anyone. When it draws to an end I comfort him and quietly to talk to him about what happened and how we could possibly keep it from happening next time. He is often scared and so upset with himself and his behavior. He wraps those little arms around my neck and sobs into my neck, "I am so sorry, mommy."

 I have enough time in with this process I can see these episodes are happening further and further apart and rectifying themselves far more quickly than ever before. I have even seen my beautiful boy be able to redirect his own reaction BEFORE it becomes rage. The first time that happened made me weep with joy. The progress is evident on this long and arduous road.

I don't want my child to go through all the pain and self loathing I did. I don't want him to think he is bad, defective, or a monster. These are all things I once thought of myself. Raging through life is not acceptable and it must be dealt with and controlled. I am thrilled to be able to provide him a safe place to be able to do the foundational work. It is my privilege to mentor him through this process.

Working with these issues has shown me I am far stronger than I ever thought. Before you misunderstand I would like to point out I fail, oh yes I fail spectacularly at times. So this has also taught me how to forgive myself and have compassion for myself. It has helped the deep self love I have within to grow and flourish. All the work, all the frustration, it is all incredibly worth it. Sometimes it feels like the most important work of my life. 

For you see he is my Max, my wild child, and I love him best of all. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Holding Space

He moves so much more slowly now. Over seventy years of burning bright, full of energy, laughter, and orneriness, gone after this last series of mini strokes. His frail frame slowly shuffles along. His loud voice that once carried across a store now quieted to a whisper I have to lean in to hear. I slow my steps trying not be obvious. His body is failing and there are days I can see his mind is following but the flicker of his old pride remains. I would not strip that dignity from him if I had to crawl behind him.

We are here to see his brother, his baby brother. The spoiled one. The one my grandmother strained soup for well into his twenties.  He lies here with the possibility of renal failure looming over the family. These prognoses no longer shock. Oh they still hurt and rip at your heart, but no, not shock. They are hitting this extended family like shrapnel from the bomb of aging. They come weekly now.
Not long ago I sat for hours by his bedside in a similar institution.  Slowly the seconds turned to minutes which gave way to hours. I learned to live with my heart constantly half way to my throat and a stomach waiting for the moment it was destined to drop. Strange enough, I found a peace within this abnormal way to spend my days. I found stillness.

As we enter the lobby, the old flirt rises up as he finds the prettiest girl to ask directions to the ICU. His voice once rich with charm and persuasion now trickles out. She is kind and gentile and makes him smile. I am so grateful for that gift.
Our pilgrimage leads us to a darkened room with an old man lying in a bed surround by wires and machines. He is so small. I remember him when he was so strong. He could easily throw me over his head. I remember when they were both tall and strong standing in their mother's yard telling tall tales, gossip, and memories of youth. Little did they know that time was their youth extended.

His little brother sleeps, pain evident on his face. He eases into the chair pulled close to the bed. His wrinkled, veined, and bruised hand closes over his little brother's ever so slightly less wrinkled, veined, and bruised hand.  Soon the younger man wakes and realizes more family have come to sit vigil at his bed. There are jokes and teasing but they are just so quiet now.

The hours slow spin away. They talk of love. They talk of life. They talk of everything that truly matters and it isn't what most people would think.

I sit silently, perhaps even somewhat translucent, in the corner, knitting. I don't know if they can even see me anymore because they are so deeply involved with themselves and their relationship. This is how it should be.

My part is to sit. I sit and listen. I hold space for these men as they near the end. I bear witness to their lives, what it was, what it is, and what it has meant to them.  I am the conscious witness taking in all that knowledge and experience, and it means so very much.  This is my job more often than I though possible of late.

We need to be those witnesses. We need to hold this space. Shying away from death and sickness leaves us shallow, not finished.  We need to experience these moments of heart rending, tragic beauty to acquire the depth needed to live a full life. Otherwise we are just skipping along the surface never really diving into the depth of emotion and feeling that is there. Many years ago I held my brother's hand as he passed from this life. You may think it strange but I can attest that moment, that experience remains one of the most beautiful in my memory.

Even with this knowledge and realization, it is still so hard. I have excused myself to the bathroom when my breath catches and I know the fullness of my emotion and impending grief threatens to swamp me. Oh it is hard. But I gather myself and walk back to my chair, my part.

For he is my father and I will hold this space for him.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fresh Starts

It has been so very long since I have written for public consumption.  The past however long has been filled with chaos and confusion in our lives. There have been some amazing times. But the simple fact has emerged that somewhere along the line, we had dove head first off the path we set for our family. Just boom!!

We had set out to live an unusual life. We did not want to live a mainstream life. We did not want to be guided by materialism, consumerism, what other people thought, and the normal definition of success. Nope, not us. But as you can guess,  that is exactly what we did. Not surprisingly, we managed to hide this fact from ourselves just super well.  Woo hoo for self deception, right?

Well, the time came when the kids and I were on the verge of a nervous collapse from constant stress and more terrifyingly, my husband was have chest pains and vomiting from the stress of his job that he HAD to have to support our lifestyle. You know, the lifestyle that we never wanted in the first place but managed to have anyway.  We were dying as a family and honestly, my husband was possibly just dying or at least getting ready to have a major heart attack in his 40's.

So we quit. We chucked it all in. He quit his job and started his own business. We piled up the trappings of that life we did not want and set fire to it. Figuratively, although the kids have learned to make fire with flint and for some reason fairy wings.

It has been terrifying...and beautiful... and heart wrenching...and tears in my eyes amazing.
I would like to share this part of our journey with you. I have no idea where it is going. There is very little plan.  In fact, living in the here and now has been a keystone of our new life.

Nope, I have no idea where it is going but I cannot wait to see where the adventure take us.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Importance of Beau

Five days ago while out on a long run I encountered a dying dog. This beautiful and loving chocolate lab had been reduced to wandering, scared and alone. He was staggering and his back legs were no longer function properly. He ribs stuck out and he stumbled around. He was dying. He would die alone, scared, and suffering. I slowly walked this broken dog back to my home and brought him into our family.

The difference is amazing. He is eating and drinking well. He sleeps a lot. Beau, or the more formal Beauregard, is an old man and doesn't have a lot of get up and go. But he is alert and no longer seems to be disoriented. He loves us all so much and his gratitude fills my heart until I think it might rupture.

It isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Because his kidneys were shutting down, he pees everywhere and a lot. I do many, many loads of towels and have mopped more in the past five days than the entire six months preceding. We pulled his water on Christmas Eve  to help with the nightly needs to go out constantly. First thing Christmas morning he gorged himself and vomited half a gallon of water all over the Christmas presents. But these are some of the challenge of rescuing a dog this sick and we were fully aware.

But what I really wanted to talk about is why. I think the why is incredibly important. The reason I took Beau home to nurse him back to health is because in my heart I had no other choice. My husband and I are deeply committed to animal welfare. All of our furry babies are rescues in one form or another. The suffering of an animals is like a knife to the gut for us both. Caring for animals is one of our deep and abiding passions.

Following our passion is one of the most important things we can do in our life.

I have a niggling feeling that each and everyone of us are embedded with specific passions. They are not the same but they each have a purpose of making our world a better place. If we choose to repressed and ignore these passions then we are both denying the world of the good we are capable of doing and we are denying ourselves the opportunity to live in the realm of our higher self. If each of us were to follow our given passions, I believe the world would be a very different place.

We have become so caught up in our fast pace, driven world. Our version of success is often detrimental to our own welfare and relationships. I am concerned many can no longer tune into the small,quiet voice of truth within ourselves. This voice can lead us on the path of truth and wisdom. Following this path will ultimate lead to our higher self and purpose. Living a life of doing good and spreading seeds of truth and love as we move throughout the world.  The path leading to true and non-ego laden happiness.

I believe small incidents in our life are ultimately connected. They are often lessons and teaching moments. In the life of parents they have a dual purpose, they can educated you as a person while serving as examples for our children. Watching us and how act create the most influential moments for our children. Our actions will stick with our children far longer and have a deeper effect than our words ever will. If we follow our passion then our children have a greater chance of ultimately following their own.

It is also important to understand that although you make a difference, there is a good chance you will not solve a problem alone. It is imperative to see your contribution and its relevance. or the chances of burnout is high. Do you know the story of the man the starfish? As the tide went out, there were thousands of star fish stranded to die on the beach. A man was slowly moving along throwing them back into the ocean one by one. Another man discovered him and exclaimed, "It is useless!!! You will never save them all." The first man continued his progression undeterred. As he threw the next one back into the salty deep he quietly said, "I can save this one." You must remember each one you save and help matters.

In the end,  Beau may die very soon. No amount of money spent nor care given can guarantee he will fully recover. We have been honest with the children in case this happens. I want them prepared. But no matter what, he life is worth it. At the very least, he will die surround by love, warmth, and comfort and that matters oh so very much.

If I had not brought him home to care for then I would respect myself less. I would know I did not live up to my ethics and convictions. I would not be honoring my path and passions. I would not be the person I know I can be. I would be denying my higher self.

No, I cannot rescue them all but I can rescue the ones fate brings my way. I can rescue the ones my quiet, inner voice tells me, "This one. This one is for your care. You must take this one into your heart. Celebrate his life and mourn his eventual passing. Show him love."

Besides, how could your turn this face down.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Importance of Fresh Air and Nature

Throughout the years I have tweaked and played with different variations in our lives to find our sweet spot. We all have such widely varying personalities and needs. It can be hard to find the balance leading to harmony in our family. I love harmony. I love peace. Therefore I have pursued this modern day Elysian Field with great vigor.

There are many important factors. We all need good nutrition. I am a huge believer in diet for health and wellness. If I feel off balance the first thing I examine is the foods I have been eating. Spending the time to nurture and grow our family relationships is something not to be ignored. I cannot stress the importance of this. It all goes back to the saying, "Grass is greenest where you water it.". Long story short, there are a multitude of things, small and large, contributing to our family health and wellness.

There is one thing pulling all of these individual aspects together resulting in the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, fresh air and nature. Even more important, physical activity in fresh air.

When we fail to have adequate fresh air the results descend upon us almost immediately. Everyone is cranky and impatient. Learning slows drastically. We are more tired and bored. The restless feeling permeates the house. We all start looking glassy-eyed and distracted. It just ain't good.

Years ago, children were able to get plenty of outdoor exercise with neighborhood friends. It just isn't the case anymore. We can argue about safety versus free range, being over-scheduled versus free play, the influence of technology, or really a myriad of events culminating in the change of childhood as we know it. We can argue it or we can do something about it. Our family has decided to just do something about it.

Summer, spring, and fall is relatively easy. All of the following occurs but minus the factor I am inherently resistant to going out in the cold. I admit it. Winter is not my forte. But for the sanity and health of my I have committed myself to pull on my big girl panties and DEAL WITH IT.

One of the elements that greatly eases this process is we are an active family. My husband and I love to go out and try new things. We love to be active. We are intrepid explorers. The children have just grown up with this being their normal. I truly think it helps a lot.

Trying out new hobbies together gives us a focus. 

The added benefit is many outdoor activities help my children find their inner confidence and competence. Actually, it is the same for me as well.

The exploration of unknown paths is a favorite. 

There is always the option of bundling up and walking around our small town together. It isn't exactly nature filled but it will do this trick in a pinch. Besides, it is always a lot of fun. They usually get hot chocolate at our local independent coffee shop towards the end of our wanderings. 

But our favorites adventures are through the woods alone or with friends. Brief moments in time to get out and listen to the sounds of nature and in the quiet, perhaps hear our soul a little bit more clarity. 

I love how my children are in nature. They seem to be just more, more curious, more adventurous, more engaged, more imaginative. Nature brings out a calm energy in all of us. Laughter comes more easily and love seems to flow more naturally. These moments are terribly precious to me and I am not exactly sentimental. I know when I think back to our early days as a family, these are moments I will remember the most. 

It is out in nature many of the unnecessary layers fall away for me. It is there I can best see the simple and raw beauty of life. Life is messy and painful at times but the ultimate reality is we are here to love each other and connect deeply and truly with at least a few other people. We are here to stand witness to each other's lives and stories. This is ultimately the most important reason being outside matters deeply to me. Hopefully, I am passing on this glorious experience to my children as well. 

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
 to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, 
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Embracing the Rhythm of the Season

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
Winter has come early this year. According to the Farmer's Almanac, it will be a  cold, snowy season for us. Winter has always been rough for me. I struggle with Seasonal Affected Disorder and have a history of general depression. I often enter this time like a warrior prepped for battle. I have my extra B and D3 vitamins at the ready,. I bulk buy epsom salt and stock my essential oils for to baths to lift my mood and saturate myself with magnesium. I organize my schedule to include yoga, physical activity especially running, and forays into the cold, sunlight days for fresh, rejuvenating air. These preparations get me through the winter but I feel battered and weary at the end. 
This year my thoughts and focus is a bit different. What if instead of struggling against the very nature of the season, I just gave myself over to it? Oh, the vitamins and fresh air will still be important but what if I just embraced this time of year. 
This idea came to me one morning. I woke early and saw the neighbor kids.waiting in the cold and dark for the bus. You see, this is one of our favorite parts of home school. We wake up in accordance to our natural rhythms. Now those natural rhythms are pretty dang early but there is no frantic rush to our morning. Instead we snuggle on the couch wrapped in blankets as we slowly open ourselves to the day. What if I treated the coming season the same way and with the same calm deliberation? 
I am a driven and focused person. It is impossible, or at least silly, to criticize my children for their almost obsessive mindset on a given subject because they come by it naturally. Watching them has helped me know myself even better. We are driven to discover, to understand, and to succeed. Oh our success doesn't look like the model touted by the word, but it is strict, rigid and disciplined in our own minds. This all comes together to mean it is hard for me to slow down and relax. It also means it is very, very good for me to do so. I can drive myself past normal stops and burn myself out until I am just a shell. That doesn't benefit anyone or anything. 
Perhaps and extended rest is just what I need, what the whole family needs. Winter is a time for rest and reflection. All of nature slows down, sleeps, and hibernates. It is a time to turn inward. What if allowing myself to be slower, more sleepy, is exactly what I need to be rejuvenated? Taking time to read more, reflect more, focus on slow, methodical knitting, practicing slow yoga, and increasing mindful meditation. Just curling up more often to read with the children would be a benefit and a balm to my soul. 
I believe things come together for a reason. I have been interested in pursing slow education even more. I will write about hat particular subject in the near future. But it is instinctively coming together and settling into the foundation of our lives. It just feels right. I find the world is speeding up around us as I deliberately and intentional apply the brakes to our lives more and more. It is a very good thing for our family.
So unlike Frost, I think I shall divest our lives, temporarily, of extraneous commitments and instead literally and figuratively explore that woods so lovely, dark and deep.  
Here is a little something to keep you warm on these cold, snowy evenings. 
My Favorite Hot Chocolate
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teas of cinnamon 
a pinch of cayenne pepper

Whisk all ingredients to together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until chocolate chips are melted and liquid is steaming.