Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tupelo, Honey!

Just when things get so dull that I start thinking about making huge changes, I end up being too busy to implement change.

The idea for the name change is still resting comfortably on a spiral notebook, along with the growing list of accounts to alter.  All of a sudden it doesn't seem so important.  What's in a name, anyway?  Whenever someone might ask "where did you get that?"  they'll answer "oh, I found it on Etsy."  It seems that individual Etsy shop names are so numerous and creative that they get lumped together under the big name.  So that situation is on hold for the moment, because two bigger situations have arrived in my workshop.

Those situations are actual work.

Paid work.

Last week I was delighted to receive a request from the founder of the Tupelo Ballet Company for custom headpieces!

Cinderella is going to the ball, and silver and white unicorns are leading the carriage! Here are a few pictures of the headpieces in progress:

Right on the heels of this order, I've received a note from my good friend Erica who teaches music at an elementary school in Michigan.  For three years she has placed a large order for her spring musicals.  This year, the students are performing Winnie the Pooh.  The list of characters in the cast is long, and with an addition of twenty dancers, I'm going to be sewing every single day for the next month.  Life is good.

It's so good in so many ways.

Over the weekend, Elliot seemed to grow up.  I mean, it's happening in increments every day, but I'm really starting to notice the way his face is filling out.  I'm noticing how his hair is getting thicker and darker.  His eyebrows are fuller.     His body is bigger.  His mind is making leaps and his skills are increasing.  

This weekend, while cleaning out the garage with Richard, he found a pair of Emily's old roller blades.  Even though they are a size too large, he's been out skating in the driveway every day.  His large motor coordination is becoming much better, and he's even able to skate while holding the back of his dad's moving bike. 

Along with all this growth, Elliot has become more helpful around the house without prompting.  He wouldn't want me to post a picture of him with a mop, but I did take one of him cleaning the floor in our dining room/classroom this weekend.  Apparently it was a good decision on my part to not clean so much.  He actually noticed dust on the floor and wanted to get rid of it.      

Next month, Elliot will be speaking to three high school economics classes about Elliot's Ninjas: Helping the Homeless One Ninja at a Time.  He will be answering questions they've prepared through the medium of Skype.  My cousin Mary is a teacher in Michigan and when she found out about Elliot's project, she shared his story with other teachers.  We have been in contact with the economics teacher and are awaiting the student's questions.  If you have any bits of encouragement or advice for Elliot, I will make sure that he reads your comments today.  Thank you so much to everyone who has been supporting his efforts!!!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Valentine's Day Sale!

Announcing a store wide Valentine's Day Sale!  Please visit the shop this month and convo with the code FEB 14 to receive 25% off all items and playsets!  Custom Orders included! https://www.etsy.com/listing/119895211/be-mine-teddy-bear-play-set

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Revision.  Re Vision.  Revise. The act of changing text.

I have a horrible, no good, lazy habit of avoiding the practice of revision.  Who has time for it?  Does it even matter?

Another little something has occurred, which I'm choosing not to cry over.  I haven't shed a single tear over it. Instead I'm working on shifting my focus back to things that really matter in life.  But under the surface, I'm bothered, annoyed and prompted to start revising.

My Etsy shop name is a troubling, irritating problem.  I've prayed for help with this change.  I believe I'm actually being helped right now, and that this uncertain state of affairs is part of the process.  I've brainstormed and meditated, coming up with something that might work.  Right now it's a handwritten collection of letters on a pad of paper, along with a list of accounts that will have to be changed, and government forms to file.  I read that list and thought about what it takes to  gather awareness, interest and support.  I think about how this time, my blog will change too.  It will be revised to fit the "writer/thinker" me rather than the "crafter/shopkeep" me.

The process of revising makes me wonder about the importance of the activities I've chosen to invest time, hope and funds.  What do I really value?  What do I long to do?  How do I really feel about this?  What if I just let the whole thing go into a past experience, took an extended leave of absence, and lived more outside, and lived comfortably in my house by cleaning, decorating and remodeling.  I could build a better garden, help construct the greenhouse.  I could walk in the woods more, spend time in the kayak.  I could keep reading poetry and commit to handwritten journals.  I could be more involved in gathering good things to learn and share with  Elliot.  I could sew things for me, or for my family, whenever I felt like it.  I could learn to be content not to have a profession, which has been the most elusive thing in my adult life.  Jane Goodall once said "a labrador plays throughout his life and dies a child."  

This week our weather has been spectacular.  I mean, the kind of weather that I dream about when I'm sweating and suffering in August.  The sky here...it's incredible.  I should have taken my camera out yesterday.  SO blue, clear, and cold.  I've been out walking and running, totally invigorated by the way 30 degrees feels on my face.  Awake! Alive!  Six miles of sidewalk on a sunny cold day sends my heart soaring into the realm of  a relaxed mind and a fresh perspective.  Today I might cancel academic activities and declare a "sunshine" day.

Here's a quote from Naomi Shihab Nye that speaks to my condition:

"To My Dear Writing Friends, I know revision may sound like an ugly word to you.  I didn't love it when I was in school.  If a teacher told me to revise, I thought that it meant my writing was a broken-down car that needed to go to the repair shop.  I felt insulted.  I didn't realize the teacher was saying "Make it Shine.  It's worth it."  Now I see revision as a beautiful word of hope.  It's a new vision of something.  It means you don't have to be perfect the first time.  What a relief!"

With every change I've ever made, there was a little deconstruction that needed to happen before the transformation occurred.  I've become resistant to this part of growth, but I know it needs to happen for me to be able to go forward.

Do you remember a time when you felt an unmistakable need for change but were resistant to the process?

This piece of writing needs much revision...but there's a sunshine day waiting..........

Saturday, January 19, 2013

It Never Snows in Singapore

     Yesterday we enjoyed the biggest winter event in Greensboro:  the annual snow day.  A mere inch of fallen flakes closes all the schools, all the after school events, some churches and businesses.  After days and days of flooding rain, we were blessed with 3.3 inches of crisp, wet snow that fell in flakes the size of quarters.  Elliot immediately went out into the dark night, not minding that underneath the thin surface were puddles of slush.  After a little while, I went out too, but didn't run around whooping it up as I did last year.  Like an Eskimo that knows all the different qualities of snow, really wet sloppy stuff doesn't excite my heart quite as much.  Maybe I am too old and picky and have forgotten how to awaken the sense of wonder in my inner child.  Maybe I was just depressed or worn out, having recently wrestled with a life changing decision that turned out not to be my decision at all.

     Over the last week, Richard was offered a stellar position at a brand new company that required a long term contract in Singapore.  He was ready and willing to go, especially because I decided that I would not stand in his way by holding my ground here.  All of a sudden, my conscious was flooded with priorities. Before this offer came, I placed too much value on our home.  I realized that stuff is stuff and could be packed away or sold, but living without Richard for much of the year made my heart feel bereft.  Elliot would be sad not to have Dad in his life on a daily basis. Sure, we could suffer through it and probably be empowered by our self reliance for a few years, but things would change.  A boy will grow up quite a bit in two years time.

     On the other side of these thoughts lived the excitement that comes from imagining a grand adventure overseas.  If we left everything behind, we would be free to have a life changing experience in a different culture.  What an opportunity for growth and learning!  It felt like an honor to be included in big plans.

      Then later, news arrived that Richard would be asked to work in month long shifts of travel, so that he would not have to move or bring his family.

That didn't sound very fun to me either.

Then, the following day, the Singapore offer was withdrawn completely, a minor opportunity given as a token. 

So I am just a tiny bit angry and resentful at having to have ridden this emotional roller coaster for no reason. 

After deciding to be brave, I am disappointed that I won't be going on a grand adventure.

But most of all I am completely relived that I get to stay here.  It never snows in Singapore.

And God doesn't leave me comfortless.  I heard a still small voice telling me, "nothing is standing in your way."

I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I do feel like I have passed some sort of cosmic test.

Maybe I was just meant to wake up and appreciate what is in my back yard.

There is now nothing standing in my way of continuing forward with Knees and Paws, or my alternate journey of writing.  And who knows, maybe it will be writing and not airplanes that takes me on a different grand adventure.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When you were small, what did you live?

When I was small, I lived:

In a ray of sunlight.  My dad worked second shift.  He would lay on the olive green couch and hold me on his chest, and teach me to sing "Row, Row Row Your Boat."   I felt his chest rise and fall with each breath.

On my mother's lap in a brown rocking chair.  She sang and read aloud to me.

I lived

On an acre of lush green grass that turned cold and brown, then deep, soft, crisp and white.  In the indigo sky were stars, a bright moon, and the fading clouds of warm exhales.

I lived

In a snowsuit and bread bags over socks stuffed into snowmobile boots with a metal zipper, in wet mittens and handmade crocheted hats.

With brothers who played the best survival games.

I lived

At a little school where everyone cared about me, except a few girls and boys who didn't understand my shy feelings of smallness, or my love of teachers.

Under a Cottonwood tree on a green woolen army blanket with a fat paperback copy of something good, like Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maude.

With a fluffy cat who purred.

And a little green lizard that roamed free and ate enormous crickets whole, leaving him paralyzed by gluttony.

On a tire swing which spun me dizzy.

In a vegetable garden with round, red tomatoes and fat ears of sweet corn.  Green beans, beets, cucumbers, cantaloupe, carrots, onions, radishes, baby red potatoes, strawberries, apples, peaches, rows of good things to keep weeded, to pick, to wash, to eat with salt, to can and freeze.  Food for neighbors, family, for my father who was a hungry child, and my mother who prepared most everything with a clean table cloth and beautiful dishes, with flowers or candles or a cake.

I lived

On weekend nights while grandparents visited, playing cards, laughing, eating bowls of unsalted potato chips and drinking glasses of beer.

Holiday parties with uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors, friends.

Crowded household, laughter, games.

Silent Sundays, when everyone slept, even the dog.  I was awake, lonely, bored.

School days and books and summer vacations in a cabin up north on a river, learning to water ski, roast marshmallows, catch fireflies.

I lived

Living memories.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Saint Francis and the Sow

Do you remember your loveliness?

Routine is a shelter I'm living under while the flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder go on in this storm cell of pending possibility.   This year in our little home school, we are deeply into poetry appreciation.  No matter what time we make it to the dining room table, we begin with a reading from random collected works for children.  Today on our table we enjoyed Caroline Kennedy's A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poems for Children.  The collection is divided into themes, which was a new mini lesson for Elliot; he now understands that a theme is something that concisely explains the primary overarching meaning or what something is "about."  When I asked him to give me some examples of theme, he even included his own project, saying that the theme of Elliot's Ninjas is "helping."

We were enjoying the "animals" theme, deciding that some were silly, some were sad, and some were simple yet bright with colorful imagery.  Some poems were full of rhythm,  some full of nonsense.  The poems brought out the need for an explanation of history, like the loss of the buffalo or how people used to say "thee and thou" more than a hundred years ago.

Then, unexpectedly, I discovered a gem:

Saint Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is neccessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl 
of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting
and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths
sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

                                    Galway Kinnell


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Unexpected Development

There is something on the horizon, foggy pictures of future expectations dancing in my mind.  I'm learning to stay open and feel the changes arrive.  Today every step feels different, like we're walking in a new direction.  We were on a path and suddenly have been granted a vision that is spreading out over oceans and continents and cultures.

As a family we are standing on the cliff of a decision so huge that it makes me question whether or not it is good to be completely and utterly attached to the way I've been living.

Today, this scripture appeared to give me comfort:

"I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.  When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you.  When you look for me, you will find me." ---Jeremiah 29: 11-12

When I am able to reveal more of these plans, I look forward to sharing the details.  For now I must stay quiet as a mouse and keep moving forward with our daily routine.  I've discovered that sewing is helping me to stay centered and at peace.  Sewing and rock music.  And going outside to play.

One of the greatest gifts in life is the gift of my family.  We've shared an incredible amount of challenges and change together.  At the end of the day, I fall asleep happy and feeling good not because I have a beautiful home at the edge of a city, or a reliable vehicle, or a membership to the YMCA, or every other thing that makes up this American Dream.

I have the love of my life beside me.

To be in our relationship is to experience an abundant renewable source of love, meaning, purpose, joy and yes, sometimes frustration.  Those frustrations have proven to be immunizations against apathy, boredom and complacency.  I am challenged intellectually, spiritually, and even physically, as Richard takes me to mountain paths and guides through rocky riverbeds and past black bears.

He takes me to the top of giant sand dunes and encourages me to fly down them in a hang glider.

He believes in me and in us in our decision to take Elliot's education in our hands.  Now I'm wondering at this very moment:

 Are we going to be willing to completely let go and let God take us in His hands?

Or have we always been there, in those loving hands, only thinking that the to do list....which should really be titled the "to live" list.... was written in our handwriting alone.

While we stand here with our faith like hang gliders, waiting for a nice gentle thermal to lift us up, we appreciate your prayers or good intentions, and thank you for sending them our way.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Tree is Still Up

In our house, the Christmas tree is still up and will stay up for a while longer.  The tree is still up and lit every morning and every evening, because Elliot is still singing Christmas carols from the back seat while we drive around town.  He's still in the mood for the holiday, even through we are "back to school."  Last night, we watched Rudolf's Shiny New Year and The Year Without a Santa Claus.  We ate Christmas cookies that I reserved in the freezer and drank tea.

I'm not in a hurry for things to be packed away.  While it's Christmas, there's a feeling of loving kindness and generosity that is added into daily life. There's an extra amount of gratitude for family, friends, and community.

On Christmas morning, I received a very generous gift card for Barnes and Noble from my mom, and have been enjoying the spoils of my shopping spree.  I've just finished The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.  This book is really wonderful. I loved it even though I am not really a student of Yoga or eastern spiritual practices.  I've decided not to write a proper review with details because upon immediate completion, I might praise it too highly and make it sound like a solution for pain, misery and the struggle of life.

  However, I do appreciate that it contains a very simple practice method for letting problems and emotions burn through the heart quickly in order get to a place that feels happy.  After reading several chapters, I realized that I regularly cling to problems.  I let them cycle through my thoughts like a washing machine with no automatic shut off mechanism.  One problem will fade to the background only when another shiny new problem presents itself.  Over time I end up developing a cluster of problems to attend to, that I think I need to solve or apply a creative fix.

  I also recognized that I regularly concentrate and focus on problems until I am depleted.  Was it the academic training of critical essay writing that taught me to keep searching for solutions or ways to beef up my arguments?  Was it the practice of long hours of focused concentration on a project or paper that transferred to my relationships and life?

After reading Singer's book, I have decided to notice when I am using the old "college try" method to fix up my problems.  That doesn't mean that I will be less thoughtful or want to think deeply about something, it just means that I will stop attacking my problems in an intense struggle to figure everything out and get satisfactory answers.  I am going to practice letting things arise as they naturally will, and observe the speed at which they burn through my heart and mind so that I can feel more occasions of peace.

It's not a New Year's resolution, but a new life resolution.

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