Friday, May 6, 2011

Early Morning Mother Blues

It's one of those mornings - way too early to really be up and about. One moment I was in a deep sound sleep and the next moment, wide awake with stories itching to be told. The thing is: the stories were all jumbled and messed up within one another. 

Random jumbled parental messages:

Mother's Day is coming and this will be the first one that my mother's physical presence won't be here.  
It is bittersweet. My father died on Fathers Day when I was 10 and so I always hated celebrating an event that brought such ripping pain into my very young life.To this day, I hold a special place for my anxiety as the day approaches and I try to find it in my heart to honor the father of my children, but the truth is that each year takes me back to being 10 and sad and feeling abandoned.                            
I had my mother for 89 years and  we did our best to honor her and make her feel special. It would be nice to say that I lived in a perfect functional family but that would be untrue, so, rarely were all of the siblings together from the time that I was 13 and her honoring was fractured at best. She was blessed with a great deal of narcissism which meant that if somehow the day wasn't special enough, she had guilt to bundle up and send with you at the door. In her later years, she was more open to being loved and so to be fair, her last two Mothers Days were gentler in many ways.
There is more to my story though. In 1980, days before Mothers Day, I gave birth to a stillborn - Christina. She was delivered as I was heading toward full blown toxemia and she never breathed a breath of fresh air. I didn't really mourn her but I carried her with me always in a little pouch in my heart and occasionally the lid opens and I once more share the shock of losing something so precious. How do you share Mothers Day when your body failed you? That was a question that I had no energy to answer. Being a stoic has its good and bad days.
A couple of years later, another Mothers Day rolled around and very excitedly I was waiting to feel the warmth and glow of the Hallmark moment since I was now a mom to a beautiful son. What I didn't realize was that since he was just an infant, he couldn't go to the store and get a card - silly me. My husband's comment was "I am not your child - I have a Mother and that is who I honor on this day" or something like that. It is great that I can laugh at it today because in that moment, he sort of looked like 'dead man walking' and at this moment he is lying in the next room snoring blissfully away, oblivious to the fact that his existence is still a miracle. Our marriage is going on into it's 32nd year. We have found ways to handle our inabilities to honor these Hallmark Days without hurting one another.
And so, that's what all this means to me. Everyday should be a day of honoring our parents and our children. We shouldn't need to have one day of the year carved out that might bring joy to some but so often brings sadness and hurt. I think of all my friends who have lost children and parents and can't help but feel that there is just a bit more sadness on the day when they can't touch, see or hear the one who isn't there while everyone else is celebrating. I think of the children who can't afford even the crayons and paper needed to self create a card for their mom or dad and there won't be a special meal when most days there is hardly food at all.
Bitter, bitter sweet!

Other Mother Blues:

Lately, the federal and state governments have been all over our bodies - women's bodies, that is. In their attempts to protect the unborn, they are putting in place all sorts of egregious measures intended to humiliate and alienate women when they are faced with one of the single most important decisions of their life. I am old enough to remember the days of illegal abortions. Women still got them - they just took their life in their hands to do it. Some of the women committed suicide - some were maimed for life. Those were the days that we as a moral and just nation cannot return to. Whatever we feel about pro-life or pro-choice, the bottom line is that no one, no government should be able to force another human to do something they do not feel that they can do. We never talk about the responsibility of the men as we close the doors on the women. We never talk about the financial support the woman will need to carry a child to birth. We never talk about the financial support that the woman will need to raise a child. We never talk about what kind of courage it would take to give birth to a child who wasn't conceived in a loving, caring relationship. And we don't like to talk about the effects on a society about children being born to crack addicts. No, we just like to tell women to grin and bear it and handle it yourself. When will we start talking about responsible male behaviour that prevents the unwanted pregnancy in the first place. Women do not get pregnant alone. I know this is a rant and I will probably post it unedited because it just feels like it needs to be said. We need, as women and mothers and daughters, to stand up for each other and pray like hell that an abortion isn't a choice anyone needs to make but if it is, we need to tell everyone else to mind their own damn business. This is what really woke me up this morning.

Closing off to find some rest - one agitated momma.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Things to not be seen.

It’s Horrible, Stupid, and I Hate It: Coping With Criticism
This morning I am sharing a blog that feels so dear to my heart. For all of us who have ever silenced ourselves because of what someone else has said or might say, this is a great read. See what you think. Here is hoping that the link works.

Things to not be seen.
I took beautiful pictures of a Sandhill crane  (he let me get so close that I was in awe) and proceeded to try to share it on Facebook. Well, that action totally crashed my new i phone and I lost not only the pictures but all of my contents in my address book. In a panic, we left the art fair and headed to the Apple store - one of the busiest places in America on Sunday afternoon. I kept staring at the phone in utter disbelief that all of my contacts and pictures could not be accessed. My worst fears were realized when the Apple employee advised me that he would replace my phone since something seemed to have fried it, but he could not help with the personal information. BUT, he said "no problem because you can go home and sync your phone with itunes on your computer and you will have your data back". Synced - Never! Oh, I meant to do it - one of these days - but one of these days just never got here and it was really not important until right, this minute.   Feeling lost and somewhat overwhelmed, I got home,  got online and promptly scheduled an early morning appointment with the local Apple store. Luckily, I had saved my old phone and once it was recharged I took it, my laptop and my sheer determination  early Monday morning to the store, planting myself in front of one of the nicest young men you could meet. It doesn't matter to me how he fixed it - all of my contacts through December were intact on the old phone and now entered on my new one as well as old pictures and music. Even better, a lovely young lady working at the store stepped in and synced my phone to my laptop and reminded me how it gets done so that I would never experience this feeling of loss again. It pays off sometimes to look older and clueless.

It seems silly now to have had such anxiety over something like this. And yet, I knew that certain pictures that were really special had now vanished as well as new contacts entered in the last couple of months. It is perhaps a bit melodramatic to compare it to a fire but I could imagine what one must feel like when all has been lost. The contacts were precious to me - lifelines to friends and family which would now have to be recreated.

When I shared this story with a wise friend of mine, I was reminded how some natives in indigenous cultures or less developed  nations do not want their picture taken because they fear that they may lose their soul to the image. She posed the thought that perhaps the crane had allowed me to share the sacred space together but it wanted me to hold the image in my soul and not need to look at a picture to be reminded of it's beauty or how I felt in the moment. I continue to consider how I approach some of the beautiful images of nature and realize that most often when I settle into them, they are etched on my heart and in my mind and I really do not need anything else.

It has been several days since trying to get this posted. I tried to go online and download a picture someone else had taken of a Sandhill Crane to share with you this magnificent bird. The only thing that happened was a near destruction of everything that had been written. I encourage you to find one to see, whether in real life or a picture taken by someone else - they are beautiful.

And, while you are thinking about it - Sync your contacts and save your pictures.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Comfort Food

In the many ways that I define myself, one of my favorite personas is "the foodie". And so it is ironic  that as a child, my mother and I lived each and every day in food fights. I know that she thought I would never grow up because not enough food ever entered my mouth and the bits that did, had no nutritional value.

At home, our meals were always weird - my mother was from the West Indies and had never learned to cook before coming to the States. After marrying my father, she came to live in the South - first starting off living with his sisters in south Georgia. Mother detested Southern Food but loved my father so she did her best to start learning how to cook in the Southern way.  The truth is, she never really mastered the art and so her meals were Southern with a Caribbean flavor. As I got older, I realized that her flavorings were interesting but as a child, they were confusing and unlike anything the neighbors moms were serving.

When I was thirteen, I went to live in a boarding school. Food was for survival - the nuns could have cared less if we liked it or not and they certainly had better things to do than to fight with us over eating or not. Since the game with mom had ended, I resolved myself to start eating and trying things just to get by. When I would go home to my mother's house, I started to realize that her pidgin way of cooking was interesting - today it would be considered New Cuisine - and I started to appreciate the different spices and blending of foods that would not normally be experienced. To this day, I have never tasted spaghetti sauce (that is what she called the marinara sauce) made with bell peppers anywhere but in her kitchen. Her sauce was sort of like a Sloppy Joe sauce but she spiced  it with Italian seasonings and served it over pasta and proudly proclaimed that we were eating Italian on those occasions.

Today, I would rather not eat if the food isn't interesting and really good. There are not many things that I won't try and there are many things that I could eat each and every day (like pasta served with anything). Meals are experiences. I love the smells, the flavors, the companionship and the love that comes with a well prepared meal.

I am so reminded of this when I think about the meals of the last couple of days. I am visiting my daughter in Gainesville. We went to an Ayurveda spa yesterday and had healing, cleansing massages  and so, out of guilt, came home last night and prepared delicious vegetarian food. Today, we changed all that and headed out to Ivey's Grill and had eggs, cheese grits, bacon and biscuits. After visiting quite a few antique stores, we found ourselves in Alachua lunching at a wonderful Southern Inn eating cornbread, macaroni and cheese, oven fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and broccoli casserole. For dinner, we ate at home - taking the lovely left over vegetarian food and mixing it up with left over grilled lamb and steak, fresh spinach and sauteing the combination in olive oil and butter and then topping it off with cheese and cucumber-tomato salad. Adding a glass of Cote d' Rhone rounded off the flavors and we had the best meal of the day right here at home. My mother would be proud. My daughter and I have no fear of throwing the most unlikely combination of foods together and coming up with a gourmet delight.

Being a foodie is a heck of a fun thing. Thanks Mom for all of your influence in our gypsy way of eating.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fire, Full Moon & Power of Women

It is early in the day. My sleep was disturbed by a painful leg cramp - one so powerful that I could not talk it down. All the deep breathing and wishing it away had no power - the only relief came when it had spent it’s time with me and then chose to pass, leaving an imprint of it’s memory by the tinge of pain still lingering. I returned to sleep, only to be awakened by the sound of a fax line, some telemarketer somewhere having no awareness that he just sent an early morning solicitation for his customer wanting us have such a small life that we would respond to his unsolicited request. Again, I fell back to sleep.

And then, a voice in my head whispered “It’s your wake up call”. The voice was followed by a visual of small pieces of paper tucked away carefully in the back of books which were then carelessly placed on shelves with no memory of the tucking away, falling out and saying to me “are we really important or can you just throw us away?” My unconscious speaking to me from somewhere in my soul, curious about what I really intend to do with my life.

Leg cramps - ringing fax lines - dreams - all saying the same thing “it’s your wake up call” - get going with your life. And so, the day began at 5:30, before the cat or dog or snoring man began to stir.

I grabbed a cup of coffee and then my five minute writing exercise book and let the words from the early morning flow. For the first time in a very long while, I felt compelled to look into my writing book to discover what the early mornings had been showing me. I then looked into the writing bag and pulled out some quotes that had, at one time or another, meaning for me. Looking outside, I saw the reflections on the lake of the departing moon and felt the pull of my soul to the front room - to the keyboard buried under a pile of crap - to the open Facebook page which has been stealing my time but feeding my brain with resources that I never would have known existed. My room is not pleasing of late - it is a mirror of my mind, wild and chaotic but I am ignoring it by pushing the ‘stuff’ off of my desk and making space for just my note cards and my candle and my coffee cup.

Ritual. Breathing deeply into that word - rituals that ground us and take us back to our own deep self. Carla’s candle, beautifully made at Zena Moon is burning almost out of control. It draws me over from it’s intensity and insistence that I come over and look at it and then I laugh, it is my “I know” candle. Synchronistic noticing: it is a first chakra candle - a grounding candle labeled with affirmations intended to encourage centering. I blow out the wild flame and then trim the wick to a calmer burning. I don’t want to be out of control this morning and burn myself out - I want the peace of the moment to bask in the memories around me and within me and then share them. The label on the candle reads:

I know

I am enough - I matter - I am beautiful - my boundaries - what I know - I am worth the best the world has to offer - I can do anything

I settle into this and consider all the conversations that I have had of late and sit in the belief that all the things on the candle are true and that indeed I know this. What a beautiful affirmation.

More ritual.

Two poems were written out on cards in my writing bag. These were special to me the first time I saw them but today they carry extra weight.

“Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still
and learning to be astonished.”
~Mary Oliver ~ The Messenger

Just imagining that the only thing that really matters is “standing still and learning to be astonished” takes my breath away. It is reflective of what the Shaman said last night - our only work is to heal ourselves and then we help heal the world. When I consider the awesomeness of just taking all the pressure off of myself and living in the knowing of my sacred wisdom, I am overtaken with the tingly feelings of bliss and wonder. “Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?” Is perfect within my reach? Whose perfect? And, would I want it if I could get it if it doesn’t resonate with my soul?

“Perhaps we are alone
the medicine.
A circle of women
holding the dark
crying the eye
of the world.”
~From Lamentation, a poem by Ellen Porter, OSB

Finally, I land where I began this morning. Back to the grounding and back to the fire. “Perhaps we are alone the medicine. A circle of women holding the dark crying eye of the world.” Oh how this grounds me to my core. The power of the Call - the force of the obligation and the happenings around me that make me know this is true and powerful and necessary. Last night, we met at our friend’s home to hold a Fire Circle Ceremony for the Full Moon. Fourteen women - loosely connected - gathered with the purpose of setting some intentions and honoring our Universe. As the moon began to rise somewhere behind the clouds, we gathered in the South Florida sanctuary on blessed land with peace in our hearts and free of expectations. Some came who had never attended such a ceremony and so I imagine, that there was a certain amount of anxiety in the circle as well. Just like our world - our circle carried all types of energy and it was powerful enough to hold it all. We came to just be and to just honor and to offer our requests to the God of our own knowing. In silence we connected ourselves to the land and formed the unity of the circle. Led in ritual, we gave honor and praise to the Four directions and then to The Mother, Earth, and to The Father, Sky, and then, one by one, each woman knelt by the fire, carrying her own message and requests and possibly even lamentations. As I gazed at each woman, I was in a trance, mesmerized by the morphing of women thru the ages showing up in each one and I saw the connection of all women of the world. No longer was I under the belief that each woman stood alone but I was so powerfully aware of the connection to each other. I was transported back to women gathered in tents or around caves, warming themselves and praying for peace, health for their children, abundance for their communities, safety for their male companions who may have been out hunting or gathering, praying to be protected. Mostly, I was aware of the power of ritual; the overtaking of a much larger story when we allow ourselves to join in community and tap into our Universal energy.

I look around my room and see that I have surrounded myself with pictures of women over the world. Some are artists, some are abstracts. Others are dancing and claiming themselves wild and wacky. A Shaman bought in Santa Fe many years ago, stands on a corner shelf with her arms upraised, bringing prayers and blessings into my sacred space. Women who have been helped by FINCA or CARE, staring out at me in gratitude for the strangers across the oceans who are helping them to find their way to financial security and find education. And, I feel humbled and grateful for the reminder of the Fire and the reminder of the grounding rituals and ready to take my Wake UP call and get to work by
“standing still and preparing to be astonished”.