Loving 2011: Day Eleven

I’m participating in Lori-Lyn’s Loving 2011, a personal retrospective of the year.

What Holiday Traditions Are You Creating This Year?

I *love* the holidays, and since we’re really not religious, it’s the traditions that make it magic in our family.  Here’s the low-down on the old traditions we love to look forward to and the sparkly NEW traditions we created this year!

The Classics: Movies, Food and Tree

Movies and Cartoons!  We are a media loving family, and we have SEVERAL movies that we try to watch each holiday season.

*Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas – This was my grandfather’s favorite, so it’s kind of bittersweet for me now.  But I love watching it and singing along.

*March of the Wooden Soldiers  (1934)– The Laurel and Hardy version, people!  This one is soooo hilarious and campy and wonderful.  I’m fairly certain that my husband thinks my mother and I are insane about this, but trust me – you should watch it.

*Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol – Razzleberry Dressing.  That’s all I’m saying.

*Mickey’s Christmas Carol – my FAVORITE of all time.  It’s only a half hour, so really easy for kids to enjoy, too.  The best intro/outro music, so pretty!  It was on ABC Family once already this year, so check your listings.

*Holiday Inn – this is my husband’s addition to the mix.  While I’m not totally sold, it is pretty awesome because it has Bing Crosby singing White Christmas.

Food!  Also HUGE food fans around here.  There are always lots of snackies around during the holidays at our house.  Some of our favorites include classic Chex mix, Spritz cookies (shot out of the cookie gun!), spiced walnuts, and these crazily delicious enhanced oyster crackers that my grandmama makes (I think the ingredients are butter, oyster crackers and ranch dressing mix…OMG).

Then of course, there’s Christmas dinner, where we always have to have CRAPPLE (cran-apple cobbler-y type thing that is SO GOOD), my grandmama’s cornbread stuffing (she calls it dressing; potato, potahto), mashed potatoes, and then some kind of main course – this is the only thing that is variable.  And there’s usually a couple of pies, including Buttermilk pie (although ours uses lemon extract) and chocolate pie.  I can’t WAIT!

In the past my mom’s usually had a lot of these things made in advance.  This year, I asked her to hold off until we arrive to make the cookies – because I know a certain someone who would LOVE to play with the cookie gun!  And Silas and August would probably like it, too. 😉

Tree!  I *love* decorating a Christmas tree.  When I was growing up, my dad would do all the boring stuff, like the lights and the garland, and then skedaddled as my mom and I took over with our very loud sing-a-long to Very Dramatic Christmas Carols.  We fancied ourselves opera-like-divas while we unwrapped our ornaments from the tissue paper, with some cheerful ribbing thrown in (i.e., “Oooh, look which one I found!” sang in the nah-nah-nah-nah-naaah voice.)  I can’t wait to do it again this year with some little helpers.  And I really hope they sing along…LOUDLY.

The New: Downtown Seattle Holiday Extravaganza!

This was a new one this year, but I hope to continue it in years to come.  A good friend started doing this last year with her daughter, and she was kind enough to invite us and some other friends along this year. Note: We went on a Tuesday morning, and there was virtually no wait for anything.  I’m sure the weekends are a madhouse of misery.  My advice: take the morning off, make some memories.

We started by visiting the Nordstrom’s Santa, where some of us got very nice photos taken (seriously, if the kids ever want to get photos taken with Santa this is THE place to do it.  Very low-key, they keep the waiting people at bay so it’s not crazy-feeling, and the staff were SO nice).  And they give out candy canes!

Next, we headed off to the Sheraton for the Gingerbread Village! Here’s what they say about it: “Each year local architecture firms collaborate with the Sheraton Seattle culinary team to custom design, bake, and build awe-inspiring gingerbread displays.”  And they were AWESOME!  Definitely worth seeing.

Next up was the Fairmount Hotel, where we oohed and ahhed over all the Christmas trees in the lobby, grabbed a snack, and then headed up to the Teddy Bear Suite!  A whole suite that looks like Christmas just exploded all over it – in a totally awesome way.  Teddy Bears everywhere, a giant four-poster bed, holiday books to browse…it was wonderful, and the kids had a blast.

After grabbing some lunch, we headed off to the carousel, which was much-loved by all.

What traditions are you creating this year?

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Loving 2011: Day Nine

I’m participating in Lori-Lyn’s Loving 2011, a personal retrospective of the year.

What Inspired You This Year?

Oooh, so much inspired me this year!  Where to begin?!  Many things were inspiring to me, but  I’ll focus on two here:  one, a particular person who puts me in context.  And second, a general setting that allows me to expand my own boundaries.

Old Friend, Best Friend

My creative soul got a reboot from visiting my oldest BFF, Jaime Lee Currier, in Berkeley, CA.  Our lil’ family was blessed to stay with her and her awesome boyfriend, Eric, this summer after our Redwoods Tour Extravaganza.  Seeing Jaime is always like coming home in some way.  It’s so easy to remember who I was before becoming a wife, before becoming a mother when we are together.  Jaime is SO FULL of creative, YES! energy that it is totally impossible not to be infected and inspired by it.  We played music, we cooked food, we drank beer and we drank wine, we played with the kids, we talked and talked and watched The Muppet Movie…and it was all glorious.  It had been WAY too long, and I’m not going to let that happen again.  Jaime makes everything you want to do seem possible.  She is a life-long learner who loves books, just like me, and I feel like we are always feeding each the latest great thing we’ve learned about.  Jaime had recently gotten into herbalism, which reminded me that I used to be really into learning about herbs back in college.  Her passion rekindled my own, which is a huge reason why I took the plunge into a HerbMentor.com membership (which is awesome, as I’ve said before!).

Nature

I’m not sure about you, but for me going for walks with my kids is a VERY different experience than going for walks WITHOUT my kids.

With my kids I’m mostly concerned with everyone staying together, as I’ve got one super speedy 5 year old and one let’s-stop-and-look-at-every-rock toddler.  I’m constantly yelling for one to stop and prompting the other to, “Come on, let’s go get big brother!”  It doesn’t totally suck, but there’s not a lot of time left for reflection in all of this coordinating.

So when I get to get outside by myself (or with ONE kid strapped stationary in a stroller), it’s a very very differently awesome experience.   I got to have a few of these moments of total nature awe this year.  A few walks in a nearby park where the baby fell asleep in the stroller and I was able to sit on a bench, look out over the Puget Sound, and watch hummingbirds and western tanagers dart in and out of the Pacific Madrones.  Another handful of times I was able to take a peaceful beach walk along the Sound, enjoying the crisp salt breeze, all my fellow people along the path, and occasionally an enormous Great Blue Heron among the rocks.  Once I was able to go for a short hike totally alone through a nearby park where I went hunting for signs from Nature, messages in the red huckleberries, the falling giant yellow maple leaves, the babbling of the brook.

A thread of continuity flows through these outdoor, solitary experiences and the togetherness of being with Jaime: Expansiveness.  Hope.  Mindfulness.  Openness.  Aliveness.  A bubbling over of my soul, too much beauty to contain in my consciousness.

Life, overflowing.  This is inspiration.

Loving 2011: Day Eight

I’m participating in Lori-Lyn’s Loving 2011, a personal retrospective of the year.

Where Were Your Blocks This Year and How Did You Release Them?

Oh, blocks.  I have so so many.    But we’re talking about one that we mastered a bit, so here goes.

My perfectionism runs wide and deep.  I generally hold the opinion that if I can’t do something 100% *right* then it’s best not to try at all.  (I’m not nearly so hard on others.  This insanity is reserved mainly for yours truly).

This is a BIG FUCKING PROBLEM when it comes to *creating* things – because guess what?  There is no RIGHT way to create stuff!  Holy crap.  Then I better just not create anything, right?  If I can’t do it right, I can’t do it at all.

Yeah.  This attitude?  Problematic for happiness.

So when I started the first assignment of the Creative Goddess E-Course, I did something new (for me).  I stopped thinking about the product AT ALL.  I stopped trying to visualize something in my head and trying to recreate that in three dimensions.  I just stopped.

I decided to play instead.  I just played.  I had no idea what I would do in the next minute, the next moment.  I painted, tried new stuff, messed stuff up, squished stuff together, got glue all over my hands and mainly just went totally bonkerdoodles all over the paper.

And do you know what happened?  I had a fucking BLAST.  I giggled and squealed and did little victory dances and just thoroughly enjoyed myself.  It was such a gift, such a relief to be able to make something out of nothing and have no real attachment to the product.  I think that first day, I finally grokked the idea you always read about in all the art-for-kids-books: process over product.   I really got into the process.  I loved the shit out of the process.

My artwork that I made that day would never win any awards.  You might look at it and say, “Yeah, my 2-year-old could do that.”  And they probably could.  But I didn’t and still don’t care.  I love it.  That painting is for me.  That painting represents that I can do this, this creating something-from-nothing thing, and it doesn’t have to be 100% right because there IS no 100% right.

I’m not saying there’s no good art and no bad art – but I’m saying for me, for my art – it has to be about the process.  It has to be almost a meditation.  It’s artful to stay so completely connected to the present moment that I DO NOT ALLOW any forethought into the end result.

So the cure for my block of perfectionism?  Total, committed mindfulness of this particular moment.  An attitude of exploration.  And the practice of non-attachment.  Basically, I create like a 2-year-old. 🙂

Now go invite your inner 2-year-old out to play and create something!

Loving 2011: Day Seven

I’m participating in Lori-Lyn’s Loving 2011 project for the month of December.  Please join us!

How Did You Honor Your Body This Year?

~Resting~

The first thing that came to mind – I rested.  A LOT.  I pretty much always heeded that adage repeated to all mothers: “When your baby rests, rest.”

I gave up trying to get things done while he slept, except for on a rare occasion when he fell asleep in the car.  Mostly, it was me and the baby in bed for afternoon naps.  Being a terrible napper myself, I would meditate, read, surf the internet on my phone…and mostly just have blessed downtime.  As a mother and as an introvert, I *really* need this time to regroup mentally.

Occasionally (often) I would feel terrible about abandoning my older child for those hours.  For about half this year he napped at the same time.  This was great for my guilt, but eventually it stopped working for his body and our family.  He would be up REALLY late, my husband would be exhausted waiting for him to get tired and everyone was crabby.  When he gave up naps around his 5th birthday, I wasn’t sure what would happen.  Luckily/unluckily, he is happy to have his own downtime watching cartoons and movies via Netflix streaming on the Wii.  I struggle with guilt over this, but he’s happy, the baby’s sleeping and I get a break.

~Listening~

My body is quick to remind me when I try to do too much.  I’ve suffered at least one round of mastitis this year…maybe two.  Always when we’re too busy, when the baby’s nap schedule is disrupted and I’m not settling down to nurse enough.  I’m also prone to urinary tract infections, so I have to pay very close attention to my hydration.

~Exploring~

I’m kind of a wellness warrior.  I love to try on new ways of being, new systems for eating.  I love to take what works for me and leave the rest of the dogma behind. I have loved finding out about veganism, vegetarianism, traditional foods, raw foods, gluten-free cooking…I think every path has a little to offer us.  I like incorporating wisdom and recipes from them all, and what we tend to end up with is a balanced diet in our house.

We purchased a juicer this year and started making green juice for breakfast a few times a week.  It’s such a light, energizing, delicious way to get the day going!  My favorite is cucumber, kale, celery, apple, and ginger.  But when my body is asking for a high protein breakfast, I happy to listen to it.  I have ideals, but AND I’m flexible.

When I found HerbMentor.com this fall, I started brewing Nourishing Herbal Infusions. (Since HerbMentor is a membership site, I’m sending you to a free resource on Infusions, in case you’d like to learn more.  Susun Weed rocks!) Mostly I infuse nettle, and I’ll add a little peppermint tea right before drinking to cut the “green” flavor a bit.  I always feel like I’m giving my body some extra love when I include an infusion in my day.

Now, if I can only figure out a way to incorporate some exercise into my life…Anyone have any tips? 🙂

 

Loving 2011: Day Six

Share an image that you created this year.

I love the sheer audacity that is my 5-year-old climbing ancient Redwood trees.

I love the light on this one – like the clouds parted and the heavens are shining down on August’s joy alone.  Spray Park in Portland, OR.

I love the little-man-in-a-tiny-body thing here.  In Crescent City, CA.

Loving 2011: Day Five

What gifts did you give and receive this year?

A side note: I am a terrible gift-giver.  My perfectionism and anxiety take over my brain when I think about giving to people (other than my children, who are really good sports – and I know them REALLY well.)  But the thought of SHOPPING for others gives me a panicky feeling.  I would love it if I had the time to make things for others – but my reality doesn’t support that right at this moment.  Maybe next year.  Even my husband, who I know SO well…I just get so caught up in needing it to feel exactly, perfectly “right.”  Original, and proving that I know him almost better than he knows himself.  I want a guarantee that he’ll like it.  That it’s the exact RIGHT thing.

And so, my history of gift giving has degenerated into buying things for my husband that I know he wants because he explicitly tells me he does.  Not so…awesome.  Practical, yes.  Awesome? No.

To be fair, I’m not even that good at buying my SELF gifts.  I need to be talked into it.  I have to play devil’s advocate to someone (usually my husband) until he convinces me that I deserve it,  until he gives me permission that I can’t give to myself.

What is that?

I’m so afraid of being wrong.  Of doing the wrong thing.  Of fucking up publicly.  Of being embarrassed.  Of people realizing that I’m not as smart as they thought.  If I miss the mark with my gift selection, does that mean that I don’t know them as well as they thought?  That I’m selfish, and don’t pay attention to their likes and dislikes?

I know that I’m being harder on myself than anyone else would be.  Because I’m not judgmental of others and their gift-giving – I fully ascribe to the “it’s the thought that counts” school of thought when I receive gifts from others.  I’m not sure why I don’t believe that I’m worthy of the same benefit.  Hmmm.

Gifts to MySelf

As mentioned, well, several times now…I purchased myself a membership to Goddess Leonie’s Goddess Circle, which was a huge departure from my normal need-to-see-it-touch-it-know-100%-it’s-a-good-choice way of being.  I agonized for days before making the purchase.  And yes, my husband had to talk me into it.  It was a great gift, and it still inspires me to be gentler, to be hopeful, to try new things.  To dream BIG.

I also gifted myself a monthly membership to HerbMentor.com, which I also LOVE.  I love having the access to all that reputable KNOWLEDGE in one place.  Lore, history, an encyclopedia of herbs, videos and tutorials on tons of DIY herbal remedies/care products…it’s the awesome.  Don’t get me wrong – I love books.  But having this extremely affordable membership gets me access to what feels like about 20 books in one place, in addition to a forum of very knowledgeable people who I can call on when I have questions.  I love love love it, and highly recommend it!

I gave myself the opportunity to take a banjo class.  I picked up some good tips on playing, but the class itself really didn’t meet my needs (I didn’t gel with the instructor’s style, and the time of day was really murder on me).  Here’s something interesting –  I didn’t beat myself up about it being a “failed” class or wrong choice or anything, which is a departure from the past.  I’ll even admit to skipping the last class of four because I was so uninspired by the instructor – and I didn’t feel bad about doing so.  In the past I might have forced myself to show up because “I paid all this money! Blah blah blah.”  But I let my lessons on sunk cost lead me to a better choice for myself.   I don’t regret taking it, and I don’t regret dropping it.

And of course there are the intangibles – the moments I carved out to write, the times that I let the dishes sit unwashed in the sink so that I could meditate or draw or play guitar or dance with my children.  These tiny moments of conscious breathing, of deliberately embracing my life, might be the most important gifts that I gave to myself.

Gifts to Others

To my children – I feel like I have explicitly given them the gift of art this year.  I seriously stocked our art cabinet with tons of supplies – copious amounts, so that I wouldn’t feel bad about them “wasting” them if they so desired (and let’s be honest, that’s what 1 ½ year-olds do!).  Paper, paint, watercolors, glitter glue, brushes, pipettes, toothpicks, playdough…and the opportunities to use them.

I’ve accepted that art is messy and that I spend most of my time while they’re creating in triage mode (mostly, I scramble to find a place to let their very wet art dry!).

But I love it.  I love seeing them create.  I love how it’s different every time.  I love how some days they are so focused on their work and others they participate for 2 minutes and have had their fill.  I love watching them make decisions, try new things.  I love seeing them feel pride.  I love being excited for them.

They inspire me to be freer in creating, to move on quickly if something isn’t working.  So this gift, it was for them, but it was also for me.

Loving 2011: Day Two

Day Two of Loving 2011.  Not so revealing to me as yesterday, but here it is anyway. 🙂

What goals did you realize this year?

It’s maybe revealing about where I was at the beginning of this year when I say that I didn’t have any real goals.

I had kind of lame goals, like meal plan more often, spend less money on groceries, try to work exercise into my day…but like, real GOALS?  Not so much.

In January of 2011, I had a baby that was about to turn one, and a 4 ½ year old.  I had had a rough year of transitioning from one baby to two.  Breastfeeding issues, slow baby weight gain that led to so much stress that I broke out in shingles on my lower back (one of the most painful experiences of my life), broken sleep from constant nursing…so I guess my goal this year was to continue to survive and to cultivate as much space to myself as possible.

I accomplished this space in a few ways, sometimes overtly and sometimes on the sly (like, I had to trick myself into doing it 😉 ).  I wrote previously about joining Goddess Leonie’s Goddess Circle and participating in the Creative Goddess E-course, which was/is wonderful.  I also purchased a Groupon to a very local yoga studio (just a few blocks away!) and managed to make it to a few blissful classes.  And though the time of day didn’t ultimately work out for me or the family in the end, I still very much enjoyed the yoga, and even more, I’m so glad to know that it’s there in the future.

I also settled into allowing others to give me a break; namely, I visited my parents, who live three hours away, and allowed my mother to entertain my children so that I could have a few minutes, sometimes hours, to myself, to write, to explore, to visit with girlfriends and chat over delicious food.  I would always feel like these moments were stolen, like I was getting away with something and was about to be busted…but lately I’ve sort of sunk into the feeling that she is offering me a service out of love, and I wholeheartedly accept.  My boys LOVE her, they have such a good time together, and I am SO thankful.

I’m excited for 2012, to cultivate some goals that feel well tended-to, that feel like something beyond survival.