Friday, September 26, 2014

The Game Winning Goal!

In our house, age ten is the happiest year of life.  Elliot decided to play soccer in addition to joining a Lego Robotics league and continuing with Tae Kwon Do.  At home we continue to work on academics, music and art.  We both maintain our etsy shops in spare moments, and make time for friendship, family and play.

  It is a FULL life.

After struggling with the lonely transition from school to home education in first grade, I feel as though our lifestyle has come into full bloom.

The excitement in Elliot's heart for all of his new activities is contagious.  Every week after a soccer game, he just can't wait for the next one.

As a beginner, Coach Teri placed Elliot as a defender.  During last night's game, while I was at one end taking pictures, I heard Richard direct Elliot to move back into his position.

 It's so hard to stay put when you want to fly around the field...

When you fly too fast, you realize later that you left a hole in your absence.

After two losses and a missed practice due to rain, Elliot wanted to stay late after this week's practice to work on his skills. He and another teammate worked on making shots into the goal for an hour, and the coaches stayed to help.  I could write a separate post about how much we love our coaches...two sisters who teach by making every new skill into a game.  They give big hugs and lead with positive encouragement.  One of the sisters is named Kari, affectionately known as "Care Bear."  All the children have started calling her "Coach Care Bear." Often during practices, we can hear the loud and booming voice of the opposing team's coach on the next field.  This ex military guy leads the aptly named Bombers.  They all wear black jerseys.  He makes them run laps and do push-ups and he yells at them ALL THE TIME. The contrast between coaching styles is something we've been observing... feeling so blessed to be exactly where we are.  I'm not sure I could handle it if Elliot played on the Bombers team.  Even though they win games, the experience feels much different.  Our coaches allow this team to be exactly what they are:  children learning a new sport for the first time.

On the way to our third game, I said a little prayer for the team.

They prayed too...

As all soccer parents know, the excitement on the sidelines is intense.  So I've started to move closer to the end with my camera.  For some reason, I'm self conscious about hearing myself yell from the sidelines.  My heart pumps with excitement for them.  It's hard to keep it all in.

Sometimes, when things are going well, Elliot and his teammates hug one another on the field. Bonded by their shared excitement,  beaming with red faces, gratitude floods in.

 To be ten years old, fighting for the ball, yelling encouragement to your buddies...this is the highlight of Elliot's entire week.

In a complete surprise to everyone, instead of getting clobbered, last night the Hornets made their way to a tie.

Then, out of the blue, one minute before the game's end, Elliot was once again out of position.

So far from where he should have been.

There he stood at the front line, close to the opposing team's goal. He stole the ball and turned to face the goalie.

As the opposing team drew close behind, he kicked hard and the ball soared an inch past the goalie's hands, sailing in an arc and landing safely inside the net.

Parents on the sidelines roared with cheering as I watched my son running and jumping with his hands in the air.

Elliot says he doesn't remember hearing parents and team members cheering.  He was stunned in a moment of shock.

Then the whistle marked the game's end.

But I think this is just the beginning.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Kimmie Dolls, A Work of Heart

Creating for children wakes me up.  It lifts my spirits.  It sends sparks of light through the imaginative part of my brain.  It requires concentration and total mindfulness, which opens a flow of peace.

After making my first felt doll for a friend, I was hooked.  Doll making is tedious, but fun!  It takes four hours to complete one from start to finish, just right for a day's work.  My friend Erica saw the first one I created for the Etsy shop and ordered two for her nieces.

Erica is an outstanding elementary school educator.  She teaches music to hundreds of students each year.  I cannot express how grateful I am to help Erica with costumes.  Every year since the beginning of Knees and Paws, I have been abundantly blessed by her requests.  These opportunities allow me to take on a large project that expands my skills and stretches my creative muscles. During the process, I think of the kids who play a variety of roles from prickly pear cacti to marching elephants.  I remember how much it meant to me that I had a music teacher.  I remember how exciting it was to perform on stage.  

 Erica trusts that I can design, construct and deliver each costume piece in good quality and on time for the important events.

Our friendship has grown through these moments of connection. I respect and love her for what she gives to her students and also for her kindness to me.

When everything was coming together the way I imagined, a new thought popped...why not include some watercolor cards?

Following my impulses and ideas for this project, I feel excited by the results!  Maybe a new line of dolls based on the Knees and Paws accessories will follow, carrying me through the off season and even into writing and illustrating...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pink Poodle Ears Marie Antionette Style

Novel ideas are the spark for my creative engine.  Last night we watched Look Who's Talking Too.  I was captivated by the standard poodle in that movie and how her long ears were so fluffy.  In a stroke of insight, I thought about manipulating yarn to produce that effect.

I'm naming it the Marie Antionette style Pink Poodle.

I think these ears will work well with my plush costume accessories for a dramatic effect.  I'm thinking "before groomer, after groomer..."

To mix things up, I envisioned adding a poodle skirt.

All items are now available in the shop which you can see here:

Today I'm going to have a few hours to imagine and play around with materials.  I loved making the brushed yarn poodle ears so much that I'm thinking about "bad hair day wigs."

Have a great weekend and enjoy the light that fall brings. xo

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mistakes, Learning and Shame

A little bomb exploded inside me yesterday. My ego disintegrated from a grenade of errors I threw at myself during a learning process.  After a long lazy summer, I returned to my shop to make some new designs for the fall season.  Perhaps it would have been easier if I had attempted to learn a new skill  before the season arrived.  There would have been less pressure to "produce a thing of value" and just play around with patterns and fabric.

I have been working on building a poodle costume with a full and flowing skirt. Once I was moderately satisfied with the skirt, I wondered what else I could make to go with it.  I had a glossy, shimmery yard of white satin.  In a feat of daring, I attempted my first making my own paper bag pattern.

It was a two day disaster.

And for every mistake, I doggedly tried to make corrections that ended up destroying the overall piece.  I worked and adjusted, hoping to save it.  It is now a rough draft that I can no longer edit. I held on to the idea of it so hard, my mind engaged in a bull headed determination to solve all of the problems I was creating. 

Two of my road blocks to technical skill development are the idea of "fast track learning" in combination with a "results NOW!" expectation.

 I have trouble working with traditional patterns because I have not taken the time to learn the basic sewing terminology or study the art of garment making.  It's simple, yet also complex.  There are sizes to consider and lots of measuring.  It's incredibly frustrating to sit at the machine and work with precision when you proceed like Dori from Finding Nemo, her calming voice in my head saying "just keep sewing, keep sewing....keep sewing".  

I am so committed to doing things "my way" that I avoid learning something useful from a skilled teacher.

Leaving the shining white blouse in a crooked wreck of awkwardness,

I went to bed disappointed, feeling that I lost two days of my life.

In the morning  I started thinking about how much abuse I was taking during the learning process.  How ashamed I was for making mistakes.  (Why?  I'd never attended a sewing school!  I  was learning by trial and error funded only by my lucky success with costume accessory pieces!)

What did I expect?

And why did this heap of shame go along with the learning process?

Who could I blame for infusing me with the idea that I must produce a flawless piece of wonder on the VERY FIRST ATTEMPT?

My ego.

Shame on it.   It demands unreasonable and unfair levels of perfection through constant comparison of someone else's final worthy product.

If I am ever able to go forward and keep trying, this nonsense about perfection needs to end.  It's also what holds me back from writing books and stories.  Once I get into creating a piece, I end up rending the garment into shreds or stuffing it away somewhere where no one can find it.

I need a new way to think about mistakes in learning, without the shame.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Toilet Paper Football and Poems about Smelly Dogs

Elliot doesn't like it when people say he's silly.  He takes himself seriously, but his playfulness and exuberance sometimes is interpreted as silly behavior.  His expressiveness and willingness to be unique is something I admire!  

Shall we say, this boy is FUN LOVING?

I should remember to tell him about his great-grandfather, who had fifteen children.  He entertained them all with magic tricks like balancing a ladder or a dining room chair on his chin or forehead.  He would pull coins out of ears, pull countless pranks and practical jokes.  He was also an artist who carved intricate roses into glass ashtrays that he stacked and drilled and transformed into gorgeous lamps.  He loved games.  He loved to win.  He swallowed life whole.   One year he found a goat in the streets of Detroit.  He took the goat to the police station and tied it up with some crazy letter attached to it.  The police thought his prank was so funny that they put a police hat and jacket on the goat, took a picture and sent it to the local paper.

So, Elliot does't know this, but silliness is a trait he's inherited.

I have a little of this in me too.

This morning, Elliot said I was a "rhymer."  While considering this, I stopped in the middle of the stairway, turned around and worked out a poem as if lightning had just struck.  Poets and writers should always keep a white board handy for these moments...

Here's what fell out:

The Miner

The Weimaraner was a rhymer
an old-timer with a shiner
paws digging like a miner
for bones and treasures finer
long-dead and rotting slimer
life organic sleeping primer
for the young to grow inside her
seeds of earth for branching climber.

After that nonsense, we played football in the house with a fresh clean soft roll of toilet paper.

My son is growing fast, and so it's great to know that his playful nature is still alive and kicking.

Elliot has joined a First Lego League Robotics League!  Making what he loves and translating that into complex learning.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Party in Motion

We danced.

Every year comes with friends to celebrate.

Our hearts are full.

Happy summer, happy life.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Active Peace?

Someone recently asked the question: Where have you experienced the most peace?  Is it now a memory that has become your "happy" place?

My response is a contradiction.  When we think of the word peace we think of the glassy, undisturbed surface of a body of water, or the stillness of the morning at the break of dawn.  We think of times of silence, worship, prayer.  We think of meditation, sleep, rest or even death.

Yet the most expansive peace I ever felt happened like this:

It was my first trip to the outer banks.  I brought Emily with me to celebrate my graduation from college.  We rented a shabby but cozy motel room in Nags Head, conveniently situated on the ocean side.  After unpacking our bags and eating a snack, we drove to 7 Eleven for a bundle of firewood and stopped at the fire station for a permit.  Back on the beach after sunset and before our campfire, I became unexpectedly swept up in euphoria.  The energy of the waves charged the atmosphere with invigorating, hair-raising pulses. Swhoosh. Ripple. Pause. Swoosh, thundering crash. Ripple. Pause. Silence. Repeat.

 After dropping the firewood and camp chairs in a heap, I sprinted down the beach, barefoot.  A full moon rose over the Atlantic as the sky deepened from indigo to black.  Emily and I ran together like liberated captives. No one was on the beach to see our inhibitions fall away.  Were there crabs in the sand? We were northerners unaware.  Like people who don't fear leaf piles because they are unused to copperheads, our bare feet were unafraid.

That heart-pounding full sprint under a pristine white moon brought the complete surrender and release that allowed peace to fill my being. I have spent my life fighting hard instead of waiting for it to arrive on the tide; struggling for needs, for the impulsive something I think I desperately want, for the something that needs to be done.  If the laundry ever gets caught up, it's because I'm literally fighting my way through it.  If I need to write for a grade, I'm battling all of my ignorance, all of my insecurity, everyone in the class, the people who write academic jargon, and my professor too.  If I'm working for money, I'm battling the boss, proving I can excel and master the work.  It is a headstrong me that succeeds.

On that night on the beach, after five hours of driving (and battling my way through was Bike Week! How nerdy I felt driving next to hogs in Grandma's yellow Buick!) instead of being exhausted I was completely energized, so awake and alive I thought I might ascend from the sand and fly.  Which I was able to actually do, the following day, when we went hang-gliding together on Jockey's Ridge.  But even though actual flight was intensely euphoric, it was that sprint on the beach under the moon that brought the most complete and extensively deep peace. During the running, and afterward.

I've not been able to experience that depth (Or height? Which direction is peace? Submersion or ascension?) while meditating or praying, sitting quietly in silence, or sleeping.  Peace happened when I was absolutely the most active my body can be. And it happened after the marathon of paper writing at Guilford College, a place that nearly broke my spirit with nearly impossible standards of achievement.

This somehow makes perfect sense.  The peacemakers of the world are activists.  They might have meditative or spiritual practices that support the work they do in the world, but mostly, they work incredibly long and grueling hours to help people, sometimes in utterly devastating and dangerous conditions.

What this notion of "active" peace means for me is not to be afraid of doing the work that comes with my life.  It means not being lazy about my writing practice, my parenting, or my relationships.  It means staying focused on my food choices and exercises.  It means not falling into the rut of despair when the work just seems overwhelming and endless.

For me, peace happens during intense sprinting, when I can do nothing else except surrender it all.

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