Monthly Archives: April 2014

One Hundred Sixteen: Good Old Fashioned Toil

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“Light is the task where many share the toil.”  – Homer

Saturday, April 26th

One of my favorite parts of living in a cohousing community is the work party. My neighbors and I spring into action, drafting a dozen or so jobs that we can sign up for and accomplish in a day. There is no possible way that I would enjoy this sort of work (or even get it done) if I was a homeowner of a private dwelling. Working together is rewarding and fun, and I always learn something new through being mentored by someone else.

I had presented my committee’s plan to do some lawn restoration work a few weeks ago at the general meeting. What we do on the Landscape Committee shapes the physical space we share, so it is more effective to communicate our plans so that we have more buy-in for the work-intensive things we do. “Fixing” a lawn seemed easy, but I found that I really knew very little about how grass grows and what it needs to withstand constant use. We picked the brain of our neighbor who works for a local parks system, but I still moved with trepidation on the day of the work party.

Our team of six gained momentum slowly. We rented an aerator, and once that got revved up, anyone who wasn’t running the machine figured out how to be of best help. Moving sandbags. Sifting soil. Leveling the playfield. It was an intense physical task. I jumped behind the aerator and was left with bruises on my inner arms and lower thighs from leveraging my body weight against the machine to move it. Then I got a juke of adrenaline from operating this power tool and aerated every square foot of lawn I could! With the cooperative effort we got the job done right on time.

Let it be said that the day before the work party I was on the phone (during a playdate that we were hosting) trying to arrange for someone to order a pallet of sand and have it delivered. The complicated part of working together is stitching together a multitude of very busy schedules. My community has learned over the years to set the work party dates far in advance, but life happens and people’s availability changes. We had the option of dropping the project altogether this time, but I forged ahead with the help of another  neighbor and we made it happen.

What could you get done if you joined forces with others?

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Altered photos from Flickr Creative Commons; “Spring Grass” by Kitty Terwolbeck, “Grass” by Tanaka Juuyoh; and “Grass 01” by Saad Khurshid

 

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One Hundred Fifteen: Check Yourself

“If you conquer yourself, then you conquer the world.”  – Paulo Coelho

Friday, April 25th

Someone told me recently to watch for the things I react the most strongly to in others, as it is likely that those are the very things that I need to address in myself. This little self-help tidbit frustrates me to no end. Isn’t it possible to see traits in others that we just don’t like or agree with?

I’m talking about people all the time. In my head, with my husband, or with friends. That’s what we do as social creatures, right? We evaluate others’ behavior, ideas, and actions and measure them against our own. Then we aggregate in groups based on that knowledge, more or less. It’s a weird thing to pay closer attention to my Monkey Mind; I hear some revealing things in that ongoing self talk. She’s overreacting. He doesn’t know how to talk to adults. In that 45 minute conversation, he didn’t let me get a word in edgewise.

I am working towards acknowledging and deflecting the emotions that I do not want to take into my being. I remember the negative things I’ve said or heard throughout the day but less often remember the positive things. The negative has a staying power like tree sap. The more you try to rub it off, the more it spreads. I’m learning that silence is often the best response when I am faced with negativity. It gives me the quiet moment to let it go and reminds the other person that I may not want to engage in this line of thinking.

I’ve noticed recently that a couple of people have left a moment of silence after I’ve gone on a rant. Oh, my negativity is rubbing off on others too. Yep, we’re transferring energy back and forth with one another constantly. It compelled me to start a thread on social media about replacing the multitude of negative headlines with our own good news of what we’re doing to make this world better. And people joined in and ran with it. It has been an act of positivity that keeps sending ripples out as the days pass.

Do you check yourself? 

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One Hundred Fourteen: Trying to Try

“Trying is always enough.”  -Patricia Briggs

Thursday, April 24th

I have taught my daughter how to wrap a towel around her head so her hair doesn’t drip when she gets out of the tub. I have shown her how to avoid the yucky brown thing on the end of the banana. But the toughest lesson I’ve had to teach her is how to try, and how to keep on trying when you don’t feel like it.

When she first started kindergarten she would reluctantly start a task like putting on tights and then let her hands flop to the side when she felt like she couldn’t do it. It was so frustrating for me to keep her inspired and focused on practicing the skill at hand. She didn’t quite understand yet that her job as a kid was to wake up and try one or a million new things in her day because there are so many new things for her to learn. I imagine that she’s sitting there overwhelmed at all the things she could possibly learn even within the confines of our schedule and the limits of her parent’s patience.

When she developed a strong fear of the bustle within her PE class I tried a number of things to help her. We started the “Chit Chat” tradition in the morning where she and I would have a girl’s talk in bed before fully waking up. We talked about courage, partnership, asking for help, and trying. It was breaking my heart. I’ve been there. I’ve felt defeated and I’ve wanted to shrivel up and hide. My husband and I stuck with it, and eventually things started to get easier for her. Now she’s made great strides in identifying what is holding her back whether it is handling the transitions between classes, adapting to a new staff member, or  dealing with the stress from another area of her life.

Going into a big crowded room is a big trigger for her. Last night, she asked her Dad to take her to a Math Game night at her school.  It was bound to be a loud and busy event, but she still wanted to try it. I heard her waffle about it but I didn’t talk it up and let her process her fears without interference. It worked. She attended the event and once she became invested in one game, she wanted to try a number of them! She told me this morning that she felt nervous but she still wanted to go and she made it happen. Hooray! I’m glad that we’re figuring out ways to support one another through life.

How do you motivate yourself to try?

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One Hundred Thirteen: The Importance of Childcare

“Spending time with children is more important than spending money on children.”  – Anthony Douglas Williams

Wednesday, April 23rd

I received a confirmation on Tuesday that I was one of three parents chosen to chaperone my daughter’s field trip on Wednesday. Sweet! Except it wasn’t a +1, so I’d need to find child care for my son.

While I live in a wonderfully integrative and often supportive cohousing community, I don’t like to pull the babysitting requests out too often. The last time I took advantage of that was when my husband broke his elbow and was whisked off to urgent care. I put the request out anyway to two homeschooling friends/neighbors with trepidation; they’re teachers during the day – not childcare providers – but I thought I’d ask anyway.

I also put the call out to my sister and mother-in-law, and got an immediate YES from my sister-in-law. She is my kids’ godmother and lives a 20 minute drive away. We had gone a long stretch without seeing her much since her work schedule was tight, so I lost perspective of how valued she is to our family. One, simply because she’s my husband’s sister, but two, because she has a tender heart. She was delighted to play with my son for three plus hours…and that takes an unfathomable patience. It was a subtle reminder that I can put the to do list aside and be there for my child. No matter how many times I hear that little nugget of parenting wisdom, I still need constant reminders to be jolted out of my little daily routine. 

I forget how blessed I am to have family members who will jump to take care of my children. I know plenty of families who have no extended family members or a support network to help with things like childcare. It’s tough enough to find quality caregivers whom you trust, let alone finding the time to get away or the money to employ them. I don’t know how single parents do it. Honestly. I have connected with a single mother in my daughter’s class; I have the utmost respect for her. She’s taking prerequisite classes to get into a nursing program, and yet she is consistently there for her daughter too. She is a kind and gentle parent. It is hard to show up every day and be the nurturing parent that you want to be even when you have all the love and support in the world…and that necessary breathing room.

Are you a support person in someone else’s life? Do you depend on someone else’s help? Have you thanked your helper lately?

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One Hundred Twelve: A Day to Celebrate Home

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” – Marshall McLuhan 

Tuesday, April 22nd

Earth Day is no ordinary holiday. It isn’t commercialized in the same way as it’s counterparts, nor does it tend to infuse our life with the same enchanting magic or moments of reflection that more “traditional” (tongue firmly in cheek) holidays provide. It is simple and meek, and in many ways follows the natural laws of change on our planet – slow and steadfast actions which bring about change slowly over a longer period of time, often change that living creatures can adapt to more easily. It really is no wonder that this holiday is there, but not really there. Humans seem very much driven by the gratification of their desires….myself included.

In honor of this day, I’m going to list eco-minded TED talks. Please feel free to post more in the comments.

Do you feel it is important to celebrate or honor the Earth?

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One Hundred Eleven: Rationally Evaluating Mysticism

“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”  – Charles Bukowski

Monday, April 21st

The weekend left my energy reserves drained, so I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to attending a Barbara Ehrenreich talk of which I had tickets to. But I was happy to have plans with a girlfriend, and so I mustered up enough energy to get out the door. The only thing I really knew about the talk was that it was titled “The Meaning of Life.” Within minutes of the talk starting, I realized it was one atheist’s perspective of several seemingly mystical experiences.

I left the talk without a burning need to read the book, but Ehrenreich said a couple of things that have stuck with me. First, she said that many people are mistaken in believing that atheists don’t have the spark of life because they don’t have a connection to a God. That’s a particularly interesting thought to me. I like the notion that existentialists can be highly attuned and connected souls to Life through the understanding that living itself is the here and now. It’s no less important than if they had a devotion to a deity of choice.

Second, Ehrenreich said that if you have an encounter, “Don’t fall on your knees…get a blood sample if you can.” Great scientific thinkers through the ages balanced faith and reason, but she seemed to modernize it in terms for our times. She said that since we don’t really understand everything about the levels of existence, it’s possible that there is sentience where we’re not looking for it, joking that we may bow down to E Coli someday. Given that the human body carries more DNA from intestinal flora than actual human DNA, it’s possible that our existence is symbiotically being governed by bacteria.

I like having my daily thoughts being shaken up. I want to know how others view this wonderful life of ours, and maybe it will shape my own views too.

When was the last time you challenged your own beliefs by listening to someone with contrary views?

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One Hundred Ten: Call to Spirit

“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”  – Rob Bell

 “The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” – Anaïs Nin

Sunday, April 20th

This weekend was a meeting point between the Jewish faith (in the celebration of Passover), Christianity (Easter), and the Rastafari movement (Grounation). I have loved ones who live and practice in all three, so it was an interesting convergence. It felt awkward that  there was no exchange or acknowledgment of one another’s holidays. Add on top of that an Easter egg hunt with a group of neighbor children exposed to a variety of faiths, ideas, and spiritual notions (but each with the concrete notion that there is indeed a jellybean which exists in the center of that dollar store plastic egg) and the psychic energy around my world gets a little wobbly.

I don’t tend to share my spiritual beliefs out loud. It is a private conversation devoid of dogma and structure, but one guided by intuition. When I talk about such matters with others, I feel like I am choosing “d” (all of the above) in a multiple choice exam or following suit with certain quantum physicists who endorse a multi-platform explanation of how the world works. There’s something to this, for me, when it comes to the deeper meaning of life. It feels right that God could be and is all of the prophets, as that divinity is also you and me and the big wide world around us.

So as I am swirling from the Easter conversations, my company and I walked down to the beach. What should we see but two orcas offshore surfacing and moving southwards. The moment was a perfect expression of spirit. Sunshine, the ocean, and a migratory hunt that had been going on for more years than I’ve graced the Earth. The timelessness of nature and the continuum of life felt very present, conjuring a connection with this unity of life.

Do you have a spiritual path? Is it the path that others walk or are you forging your own path?

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One Hundred Nine: Maximum Capacity

 “A modern man registers a hundred times more sensory impressions than an eighteenth-century artist.”  – Fernand Léger 

“Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.”  – Rabindranath Tagore

Saturday, April 19th

My cup often runneth over. The cup of impatience. The cup of stimuli and response. Basically my nervous system feels a bundle of wires that are crammed into a tall cup when I really need a venti. So I make choices that protect me from bubbling and frothing – small group activities, solace and downtime, and a good amount of time outdoors.

This weekend has tested my capacity to handle deviations from the optimum. On Friday, four adult guests and one child came to stay in our happy home. Each person is lovely and kind in his and her own right, and I am happy to be able to open my doors to them to stay. My home has two bedrooms and one loft and while it is spacious for my family’s needs, it has not provided much privacy over the last couple days. I like to shake my head at myself and say “First world problems, Old Girl” but when children are involved it has a way of creating more of an impact.

The mother and daughter got locked out during the first night since the young girl got excited at 4 am in the morning upon seeing all my kids’ toys. Her mom took her outside for a moment and locked herself out of our house. She didn’t wake us up, and got stuck in her car. That SNAFU pretty much started her weekend off on a sour and sleepless note. She never quite recovered and the ongoing activities set her energy and health back even more. Her family headed home early to try to catch up on rest which was completely understandable, but it still broke my heart. I want all of my friends and visitors to feel that my home is a sanctuary for them while they are here, and I know that it wasn’t.

I’m grateful that each guest has a family of his or her own, so there was compassion when I was struggling with my parenting around a full house. My children seemed to be the least affected by the changes. They woke up at the crack of dawn and made the same noise they always make. They were excited to have more friends at the dinner table. They revel in our home being a refuge for them and our friends. So do I.

How do you stay sane when you have visitors?

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One Hundred Eight: Empty

“Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.”  – Napoleon Hill

Friday, April 18th

Sometimes you build it…and they don’t come.

I just tucked the kids in bed after taking them to see a DJ set and live band at the venue my husband books for. The music was great. There were good vibes all around. There just simply wasn’t an audience there to enjoy it all. Sigh.

I see the energy and preparation that it takes my husband to get the word out about these shows and promote the night. It is a labor of love. If he was just waiting for people to show up to see his own set then I am confident he would be okay with an empty house. But it is unbearable when you’ve asked a live band to pack their gear and drive a good long way to play.

We talk about how maybe it’s just hard to get people out for reggae, only to hear that it is the same for every other genre of music too. Some music catches on, some doesn’t. Some venues pack out, some get a handful of patrons. It’s a simple reminder to put your all into something because you’re passionate about it…then even when you’re playing to an empty house, you’re still doing what you do for your own soul.

** After I wrote this last night, I found out that more people did arrive to watch the show and still the band refused any payment so that the funds could go back into promoting the venue for conscious musicians. Passion!**

Have you ever created something only to have it under-appreciated or ignored?

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One Hundred Seven: Sister

“We may not have it all together but together we have it all.” – Unknown

Thursday, April 17th

I’ve been gifted brothers in this life. Many of them. Knowing each one is a treasure, and now I want to balance that by building meaningful sisterly relationships.

When I reached my 30s, the relationships I had with women took on a new importance for me. I became a mother and that changed how I viewed and interacted with my own mom. The women who had been there all along – best friends, aunties, and my kindred crones – became vital to my growth and development. I’d always thought of myself as one of those women who communicated better with men, but I started to feel more drawn to the feminine – both the feminine energy of others and within myself. During one of my yoga-based birthing classes, the teacher had all the mothers-to-be circle up in the middle of the room. We were to sit in easy pose with our knees touching and let the energy flow between us with no regard to what the men were doing or feeling outside. It was an extremely powerful moment for me for I felt the importance of holding a space for my sisters – no apologies and to support one another in the ways that only other women can.

For the duration of my thirties, I have had much more concrete sisterly relations with my husband’s two sisters. Even though the three of us are very different women, I have found a sincere connection with each of them and feel the unconditional love that goes with being family. I’ve made them both Aunties and in exchange, they have surrounded my children in love. My daughter, in particular, revels to get girl time in laying on the bed and watching her aunties try on clothes and telling jokes. It’s a few minutes out from every family function, but it is all that it takes for her to get a weighty lesson on how important these female relationships are in her life too.

I’ve learned from my sisters that women are different, flawed, beautiful, and dynamic. Each of the women I hold close in my life are like rivers – flowing from one day to the next and occasionally whirling back around to relearn a necessary life lesson. And while I get swept away in their current from time to time, together, our force is stronger.

Do you embrace the balance between feminine and masculine energies in your relationships with others?

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