Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Differences

We all have our own ways of dealing with the blizzard.

Adults


Children

(Almost) Teenagers

Cats

Scout


Austin

Sunday, December 26, 2010

This is Not Politically Correct for a New Yorker to Say

And please don't tell anyone.

But I so love the snow.

I love it. IloveitIloveitIloveit. I swear, I didn't get my Christmas spirit until the snow started coming down today.

The official sources say it's a blizzard outside. I'm not sure what makes a snowfall a blizzard, exactly, but it might have something to do with the fact that it's snowing SIDEWAYS.

Here's my Ana (12.75), who does not actually share my love of the snow.



Here's Jane (10), who definitely DOES.



Life is pretty terrific.



Still photos to follow when I get outside with my good camera. I wish I could show you the riot at the bird feeders --that's a Joy Rush right there.

I'm keeping a hopeful heart for those of you traveling in this weather. Please be careful-- stay warm and wear wool socks.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Yoga Inspirations: A Breathe-Through

I'm so excited.

For one thing, I slept through the night last night, after weeks of insomnia. It's just amazing how bright and beautiful the world is on a full night's sleep.

For another thing, I've had some kind of breakthrough.

You know how I've been struggling lately? Well, maybe you didn't know that. But I have--on just about every front: creatively, physically, in my relationships, as a parent, as a citizen of this world. I felt like I was coming down with a mid-life crisis. Whatever it is I was supposed to be learning, I wasn't getting it.

Then a few things happened. I found yoga. I found Brené Brown. I started to realize that I can't just play possum and expect things to change or get better.

A week or so ago, I went to yoga and I had the absolute worst class. I could NOT find my center, I kept toppling over and I had to do a pitch adjustment during the "ohm." (Seriously, I sounded like I was yodeling.) I was getting more and more frustrated and tighter and tighter which just meant I was struggling more and getting more frustrated. My yoga instructor reassured me by telling me that usually when that happens, it means I'm about to have a break-through. I made him repeat it just to be sure he hadn't said "breakDOWN." He kept saying, "Focus on your breath. Follow your breath."

Which, well, okay, made me kind of want to hit him. (I'm all mature like that.)

The next class I went to was entirely different. Best yoga class yet. I did some balance things I haven't been able to do before and even did some of these kicks that I didn't think I was capable of. My yoga instructor was right. He told me I would have a break-though and I did! It's like he gave me a present --a present to give myself.

Hm.

So, that started me thinking. In my life, I have tended to move between two extremes--Bulldozer and Door Mat. What if there was another way entirely??  What if there was a way to NOT try to force things to happen (which, by the way, has never worked for me --not once) but to still be proactive?  What if I just stayed open but completely present, and just... breathed?

Y'all, seriously, I had a breakthrough. (And, maybe DOWN, we'll see. Maybe you have to break completely down to build yourself back up in a different way.) I am surrendering control, but still trying to remain positive and proactive.  I am trying to stay authentic--trying to not be the pathological people pleaser everyone has come to know--and honest about who I am. Owning my own desires and staying as open and giving as I can, while still respecting my own boundaries. I'm giving voice to the things that shame me and driving shame into the open and out of the house.

It's hard, though. It takes a lot of discipline to not just run around in a panic, reacting to things and making myself small to keep everyone around me comfortable.  I have to really consciously make myself take a breath and assess what I am feeling in my core --not what I think other people want me to feel, but what I am actually feeling.

After years of doing the same thing the same way over and over and over again and getting the same results, I've discovered that it really is possible to try something completely new. It's like I've been in protective, reactionary mode for so long on so many fronts--and I just now realized there's a different way. 

So, the thing is...it's having the most enormous impact on my life.  It's totally counter-intuitive for me. I mean, I'm standing here, naked and flawed and vulnerable --and, paradoxically, stronger and more at peace than I've ever been.

Have y'all known all along about this?  Is THIS what normal, whole-hearted people do? Because... well... wow.  This is good stuff.

Monday, December 20, 2010

How to Meet Friends and...Well, Okay, Just That

Last night, my husband and I took our two daughters to see what we thought was going to be the Story of Christmas--you know, the birth of Jesus and the nativity-- at a local Mega Church.  It turned out to be the entire life story of Jesus, complete with a really bloody and realistic crucifixion.  It was well done --very dramatic-- if not what what we were expecting. (And also? Jesus kind of had a New Yawk accent so when he said. "Fatha, forgive dem for dey know not what dey do," it kind of sounded like maybe he was talking to the GODFATHER, if you know what I mean.)


We were TRYING to give our kids some connection to the reason for the Christmas holiday but really, it was sort of depressing. I mean, the story IS violent and bloody and we shouldn't ever forget Christ's suffering. I was just hoping more for the "Great Tidings of Joy, babe in the manger" focus and what we got was a slightly Vegas version of the murder of Christ.  The show barely touched on the resurrection and then it was over.


Except the part when the pastor asked for converts but...sort of sounded like a used car salesman.  I don't know, maybe I was just in a poor frame of mind --my foot was giving me a lot of trouble and I was tired.  But the God I know doesn't speak to me through a bazillion decibel sound system, or through a play that was filled with the drama and suffering of Christ's life, but lacking all of the joy, serenity and love I associate with him.


And then, as a crowning touch, Jane (10) had a bad nightmare (all that gore) and we were up half the night.  


I decided to take my two dogs for a walk in the woods this morning to clear my head and because their boundless joy and enthusiasm makes me laugh out loud and is contagious.  I was a teeny bit apprehensive, though, because the last time I'd taken them, I ran into this red-headed guy who had two Australian Shepherds ON the leash and, um, MY dogs were OFF the leash and wild; barking at the guy and his dogs and not coming when I called.  My dogs are bigger than Australian Shepherds and I felt like we were big bullies, picking on the smaller, more well-behaved.  I was shouting for them but they wouldn't listen and I didn't even get to apologize to the guy before I had to chase my dogs down and snap their leashes on. (Much scolding ensued.)


So, we set out and before I'd gone 100 yards, I came across this: 


It's not a great picture (phone) but it's of a tree along the trail that someone decorates each year.  (Last year, I actually came across the fellow as he was decorating it but I was distracted (had lost my dogs --sensing a trend?) and didn't get to ask him why he did it.  I did pet HIS dog (a lovely golden retriever) (ON the leash, thank you) and thank him for his festive gesture.)  My heart soared.


I let the dogs off of their leashes and marched along happily, feeling the bite of the air but enjoying being out.  The woods are so beautiful --it never ceases to renew and inspire me.  And then, as luck would have it, we ran into the red-headed guy (Troy) with his two Aussies and they were off of the leash and my dogs played with HIS dogs (Scout barking schizophrenically the whole time) and I got to apologize for how crazy my dogs are and for not having them on the leash.  He turned out to be this really cool guy.  He said, "It's okay when they're ALL off of the leash because then they just run and play." and  "It's always good to run into someone whose dogs are more wild and uncontrolled then mine."  


I don't know. Somehow I found the joy of Christmas right then, in the whimsy of a random act of beauty and in the casual, kind interaction with a stranger and fellow woods-lover.  Maybe it doesn't have to be any more complicated than that. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Of Small Things and Imperfection and Vulnerability

I was over at One Crafty Mother's blog the other day. I read her blog a lot.  She's a woman in recovery who writes with a heart-breakingly honest and vulnerable voice.  Although our circumstances are vastly different, I really resonate with her struggle for balance and the way she applies the lessons of recovery to the way she lives her life. I think the lessons from recovery are ones that we should ALL be applying, even if we don't struggle with addiction.

Anyway, I was over on her blog and she had posted a link to a YouTube video of a TED talk by a woman named Brené Brown. THIS video, actually.



Yes, I know it's 20 minutes long and that most of you don't have the time.  But really, if you can, try to come back to it when you can sit for twenty minutes.  It's amazing. (Plus, this blog post will make a lot more sense if you watch it.)

The message couldn't have been more timely. I've been restless lately and in a dangerous, dark mood. Discontented with my lot, which is unusual for me. More than once, I've filled my car with gas and contemplated just driving until the car stopped. I've been feeling pretty invisible and unheard.

I did this to myself, of course. I am unfailingly the Good Sport -- building everyone up around me, while not noticing that I am crumbling to pieces myself. You know how being a Sherpa is part of parenting?  I forgot that it's not necessarily the thing to be in every other relationship, you know? I mean, if you make yourself invisible, it seems that maybe it's bad form to be pissed at the world for not seeing you.  I need to remember to ask for what I need: respect and affection and time, and to be prepared to make changes when my needs aren't met. I needed to set some boundaries; to talk back to the incessant critic who lives in my head.


Anyway, it was disconcerting to find myself in this dark place, to say the least. I've very carefully built this gorgeous little life, full of small things and tiny stitches and a dogged focus on the positive. By nature, I lean into gratitude -- am attracted to the joy of the ordinary. When that fails me, it's a pretty big sign that I need to make some changes to regain my sense of peace and equilibrium.

As things often happen in my blessed life, enter Dr. Brown.  I saw that talk by her and then, because I am who I am, I watched all of the other talks by her on YouTube, I "friended" her on Facebook, and I bought her latest book and started to read it. (For a shy person, I show some scary stalker tendencies.)


Her latest book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, is remarkable.  I feel like this book is talking right to me, but in the kindest, most loving way. She talks a lot about shame (her research initially had to do with shame and empathy) and how shame keeps us from being our authentic selves, and she talks a LOT about how the most whole-hearted (literally) people love from a deep sense of worthiness and belonging.  It's something I've long suspected: we can only give as much love to others as we feel for ourselves.  And how, if we want to love from a place of worthiness and self acceptance, by definition, we're going to have to feel vulnerable.


Most of us hate that.


{Time out here while I confess that I've been working on this blog post for days now and am having a really hard time summing up what I'm learning.  I keep reading Dr. Brown's book, hoping for one sentence to sum it all up and, you know what?  It's just not coming--every sentence reads like a new truth to me. I hope you'll read the book and that it has as profound an impact on you as it has had on me.}


Meanwhile, through all of this, I've been going to yoga. And wow, I do love yoga.  It actually occurred to me recently that if I had never developed this foot disability, I might never have discovered this passion for yoga and maybe THAT'S why the whole foot thing happened.  (I mean, aside from giving me a greater understanding and connection with those who suffer from chronic pain and mobility issues, not to mention my own messed up DNA.) 

I went to yoga on Sunday and came home in that blissed-out state that it leaves me in and suddenly, I had an amazing realization: the reason yoga has such a powerful effect on me is that it allows me to live in my head and in my body AT THE SAME TIME.  As in, not one at war with the other.  Usually, if I am writing and in my head, I have to make a conscious effort to remain aware of my physical surroundings or I walk into things.  Like wall clocks and couches.  And walls. And once in a while, my car.

And I started thinking about how I would really like to be doing yoga every single day.  And how I would like to give other people that feeling.  How what I'd really like would be to...um...maybe...if I worked really hard and found a good school...TEACH YOGA.

Man, immediately the Voices started in: "You're 45 and overweight and you haven't been physically active in the past four years with the exception of the past couple of months and HELLO? You have a DISABILITY.  You can't balance on your left foot. I thought we'd been very clear that your best days are behind you."

So, I let the Voices talk for a minute and then I said, "Okay, that's enough. [Oh, like you don't talk back to the Voices in YOUR head.) (I mean, you DO, right?) (Right?] There are loads of people who have overcome much worse things at much older ages.  Besides, what's the worst thing that could happen?  I could get into great shape and discover it's not enough for teaching?  SHUT UP."

Then I went down to dinner and I told my family about how I was thinking that just maybe, possibly, I would like to work toward being a yoga instructor.  My daughter, Jane, who is 10 and one of the most self-aware, non-pleaser types that it has ever been my pleasure to meet, first said that she thought it was a great idea as long as I wasn't teaching in our house because she didn't want anyone touching her stuff.

And then, off-handedly, she said, "You know, Mom?  You're doing the right thing by talking about those voices.  Because when you talk about them, they go away."


Really, I want to grow up to BE that kid!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Great Omen

It's very cold here on Long Island right now, although we haven't had any snow yet.  There's a deep biting wind that goes right through me and I've taken to dressing in at least three layers--in my own house!  I've decided my winter coat, bought fifteen years ago in Austin, isn't up to the task of keeping me warm and I will be hitting the after holiday(s) sales for a new, down-filled one.  It's either that, or sew my husband's sub-zero sleeping bag into something fashionable.  (Everyone who knows me just burst out laughing.  What I MEANT to say was "HOT GLUE" my husband's subzero sleeping bag into something fashionable.  You people are such STICKLERS.)

Anyway, I find I have a deep commitment to staying warm. Normally, I am very rarely cold and am frequently underdressed for the weather up here, but this year, for whatever reason, I am feeling it.

So, I've been wearing a lot of layers and a lot of wool, specifically, wool socks. This is somewhat problematic because, although I have probably knitted a hundred socks, I only have two pairs that are still mine.  I love hand-knitted socks and therefore, I want to give them away to people, especially people who have never experienced them.  (It's my own little plot to take over the world, because, y'all, once you've worn hand-knitted socks, you know that all other socks are pale imitations of True Sock Love.  AND, given that each pair of socks has (on average) about 34,000 stitches in it, you're going to be hard pressed to find someone to knit more than one of them FOR you.  So, now you know: I am converting the world to sock knitters, one person at a time.  Share it with Wiki-leaks if you'd like--I'll admit to my nefarious plan freely.) Anyway, I'm down to my Edward Socks and my Lin Socks and yesterday, I discovered the unthinkable.


I'm pretty sure this is due to washing my socks in the washer and not hand-washing them.  First bigger-than-it-looks truth of the day: You Have to Take Care of the Things You Love by Treating Them With a Little Extra Care-- even if that means hand-washing them. Even when you hate to hand-wash.  It's like exercise, really. You just have to invest the time, even if you don't enjoy it all that much, in order to keep your body strong and supple.  Because if you DON'T and then you discover (I am speaking purely hypothetically here) a raving passion for Yoga, you're going to have to freaking KILL yourself getting back into shape so that you can do your practice without A) toppling over at regular intervals and B) making noises that make everyone else in the room uncomfortable. (Unless you're in a room full of walruses giving birth, in which case you will fit right in.) (Hypothetically.)

But I digress.

As things turned out, about an hour after I discovered the hole in my Lin Sock, (I've never gotten a hole in one of my hand-knitted socks before.  It was oddly sickening.) I finished a pair of socks that I had started and finished FOR MYSELF.  They fit me perfectly.  They are soft and warm and I will be hand washing them with gratitude (dammit.)
Click to embiggen to see the gorgeous Monet-like colors.

Basic sock (2X2 ribbing and then just stockinette foot.) using Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Watercolor)

AND, as it turns out, the night before, I had been shopping with my daughter Ana (12.75) for new jeans (Since she outgrows hers at a rate of one per day, it seems like.  She is one long tall drink of water.) and had a...well...little accident with my credit card after seeing THESE.



I KNOW, right? Shiny red clogs just MADE for showing off a new pair of (well cared for) hand-knitted socks!

Y'all.

If YOUR higher power does not speak to you through the opportunity to buy fun red shoes at a significant discount just in time to show off your new, perfectly-custom-fitted hand-knitted socks, I do not want to hear about it.

(Seriously --those shoes jumped off of the shelf and onto my feet.  They're that Born brand, where the "o" has that diagonal line through it (Børn), which normally means an addition of at least $40 to the price tag?  I got them for $35 at TJ Maxx.  Red.  Børn. $35.  Clearly, a sign from the heavens.)

Oh, just hush.

At any rate, I am off to my yoga class, dressed in several million layers (it's getting to where I feel like one of those nesting dolls every time I get ready to go somewhere) and my new socks and my new shoes.  And TOMORROW, I will tell you about other life/joy lessons I am learning right now and about this amazing woman named Brené Brown.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

My parents were here visiting for a week and a half and we, as usual, packed an awful lot into their visit.

First, my nephew (who lives in Manhattan) came out for Thanksgiving and there was a truly ferocious Chinese Checkers tournament:

My dad is the reigning champion and apparently unbeatable at the game, but we do like to give him a run for his money every so often. (Note that Jane is deep into her story and writing furiously on her laptop. She wrote well over 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo this year; it just wasn't all on the same story.)

Then, our friends Mike and Sherry, and their daughter Jesse, came over and we had Thanksgiving.
Followed by more Chinese Checkers and some Poker:

And then a lot of pie.

On Saturday after Thanksgiving, Mike, Sherry and Jesse joined us again as we headed out east to cut our respective Christmas trees, one of my favorite traditions of the year.


Even though it was bitter, bitter cold

and we took so long dithering over which tree that we got sniped on our first choice. Which turned out to be fortuitous because the tree we ended up with was SUCH a great tree.



Please let the record show that I tried all day to get some semblance of a holiday photo but this was as close as I got:

(Looks like I"ll be sending out a card with the puppy on the cover again THIS year.)

So, then we took a trip into New York City to see The Lion King, courtesy of my parents, who gave us the show as our Christmas present this year.  It was phenomenal.  I've never seen a show like that--just a totally innovative way to stage the story, using puppetry and really spectacular (but simple) sets.

Why yes, Ana is EIGHT FEET TALL.
Then we did some birding, decorated our tree
Edward Kitty is helping to take care of that pesky bubble-wrap problem--might have to click to embiggen to see.

decorated our Gingerbread House


and celebrated Coop's birthday



And then my parents left (twice, actually, since the first time, their flight was cancelled and we got to have them for a bonus night) and I sent them home with a CD of 197 pictures, not one of them with me in it.

Which isn't that unusual because I am almost always the photographer and I like it like that.  But it's even LESS important than usual today because I have THIS.
THIS, my friends, is one of the most amazing pictures on this planet, and do you know why?  Because a group of my on-line friends got together and sent it to me, for no other reason than that they...well...LOVE me.  I thought at first it had come from Tara For Whom I Knitted Socks because we had discussed this artist (Lauren Marems) and specifically this print because, um, it's a woman with two orange cats and I'M a woman with two orange cats.

So I gushed all over Facebook and I told Tara she really shouldn't have done something so extravagant but how much I really love that print.

And she said, "Oh, but I didn't! I was but one in a large group of people who love and admire you who felt you deserved a little something special to remind you how much you mean to all of us. Enjoy. And every time you do, you have to say, "I am special. And I am loved." And you can't follow it up with anything snarky. Those are the rules. ♥"

Which made me cry.  And blush.  And laugh.  And feel, in general, like the richest, luckiest woman on earth.  To think that a group of women who have never met me in real life would do something so generous and kind is just...well...it makes me...

My heart is so...

Well.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.