A year ago

Standard

indiacottageporch

A year ago August, me, Iliana, Emerson and my mother-in-law, took a trip to India for 3 weeks.  It was a monumental trip as I hadn’t been to India since before being pregnant with Iliana, so always solo before, and this time I had my family with me.  I look at the above photo and I wonder about that time, and how much has changed since then.  It is so good, I feel, after doing a trip like that in which the point was to go deeper within, in the setting of an ashram, meditation practice and being with one’s teacher, to take stock a year later and look at what has happened.  Since then, my little boy is no longer so round in the face as he was at 5 (almost 6) months in the above photo.  My little girl has become taller, wiser, and sassier.  I have let my bangs grow out, wear glasses most of the time, and still look pretty drawn in the face due to nursing.  Yet, those are mostly outer observations.  I’d like to say that I have grown wiser, as I said of my daughter, but is that true?  I hope so.

We now live in Boulder, Colorado, something that took a little over a year to put in place.  We’re navigating the waters of a new school, unschooling, waldorf homeschooling, a charter waldorf school, and a more buddhist inspired early childhood school, trying to figure out what’s right, what fits, and what’s affordable (and what we can get into as school is about to start).  We’re settling into a new home, a new neighborhood, and truly a new town, even though I lived in Boulder many years ago, it feels very new in a way.  I spent years living on the outskirts in Longmont, CO, and being back in town, I find myself running into people I haven’t seen in 10-12 years, since I last worked and lived in Boulder.  And here I am now with two children in tow, a completely different experience of Boulder.

The time I spent in Illinois, since being in India, toughened me, in a good way.  I had to rely on myself and my practice much more than I’ve ever had to.  I felt really like a fish out of water, the people, the climate, the culture, challenged me so much.  I was quite isolated, which is still hard for me to talk about, as it brings up such sadness.  It was hard to have a newborn in a new house, new town, and in one of the coldest winters on record in Illinois.  All I could do was practice, practice, practice, by going within and trusting that I’d get through it.  At times, I did not think I would, and only now, being on the other side of it, can I say I did.

It’s not that being here in Boulder is easy, peasy, but things are different.  The abundance of people, people that I know and have known for long periods of time, running into people in restaurants, at school introductions, at meditation retreat centers, makes it so nice and so comforting to feel known.  My confidence level has risen just in the fact that I feel connected again.

I still struggle with my emotions, keeping steady instead of being at the whim of anger, desperation, fear, but I have developed a working way of moving through them.  I’m aware of the build up and if I can catch it, I can remind myself that it’s temporary, that it too will pass, and if I breathe, I can regain my composure, my balance, and my patience.  It’s so hard in the moment, but there’s such power in remaining calm.  I can feel it in the strength of my will afterwards.  It’s like building a muscle.  When I let loose with whatever emotion at the moment, it’s like a watershed and it all wants to come pouring out.  Which most of the time leaves me exhausted, kind of lost and ashamed.

As the summer is winding down, and cool evenings and mornings are becoming more and more common, I find myself being drawn outside more and more.  It feels so important to be connected to the soil, the plants, the air, the water, and the beings who inhabit such places when all of these come together.  The nature deities if you will.  I don’t know if I can say that to all you people out there, or if it will just sound weird.  The truth is though, you can feel the power of nature, of what it evokes, when everything is in harmony.  I think I’ll say I’m striving for harmony, for a kind of balance in my life, in which every aspect of my being is heard, nourished and replenished.  I hope I can give that to my children.  I hope I can help to create that in the world.

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya

Standard

stupa

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.  Me and the children spent a day and a night up in the mountains at this special place.  From the pamphlet:  It is said that anyone who approaches a stupa with a pure heart and the intention to benefit others will receive its blessings.

sidearea

bronzealtar

bridge

And then, we drove home.  On our way back to Boulder, I read this bumper sticker:  What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

We walked around the neighborhood and though I worried I would somehow lose that special feeling, that feeling of going within, of being in a place where everyone was practicing being aware and present, I found myself still enchanted.  This is what we saw as we made our way back home after a long walk.

home

I’m so happy to be back in Colorado, to be home.  My teacher says, home is where your heart is, so really anywhere is home.  For me, I find my heart near to bursting here.  The smell of the mountains and the desert like vegetation, the piercing sun, the cool mountain air, bunnies, marmots, horses, and the energy of nature, it’s purity.  I want to swallow it into my lungs and keep breathing its deep, fullness.  The light, this wonderful light.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Standard

 

 

KCACOPoster.gif

photo from Barter Books website

So, I’m sure I’m just way behind the times and you’ve all heard about the story behind this poster.  At least you’ve seen this or forms of this poster all around if you shop or go on line much.  It speaks to my last couple years that I’m only now coming to this, years of moving a few times, having a baby, setting up homes, and very little sleep and very little time doing anything involving media.

In the search of items to populate our home…that sounds so funny, but in a sense true.  Actually, we’ve needed real things like furniture, beds, kitchen items, all because we’ve decided to move differently than most I guess.  Instead of hiring movers to just pack it all up, and lacking the time to do that ourselves (since moving from one state to another when they’re as far apart as Illinois to Colorado is extremely time consuming and financially draining), we decided to sell most things from the old house and mostly just start fresh in our new digs.  Now this sounds pretty great on paper, or in our way, over the phone, or maybe it doesn’t sound that great to any of you.  It sounded doable to us a month or so back as we tried to figure it all out and make this move work. And it is working out, just slowly, and not as easily as I’d hope, since taking two children to stores gets pretty tedious and challenging at times.

Last week, I saw a framed copy of this print in a kind of high end Boulder consignment shop.  I thought then that I wasn’t sure I wanted to read these words day in and day out in my own home, but having seen it here and there, at least over the past few days, has proven to be helpful.  This was it’s original intended use, to be a helpful, motivational slogan, when it was first created for the British during World War II (though it was never publicly displayed then).

I thought of this slogan today as I’ve felt my energy kind of draining, the rain coming down, and attempts to furnish this place at a bit of a standstill or worse, having bought a kitchen table that really isn’t working!  All will be well, but it is helpful to remember to “Keep Calm and Carry ON”, especially when I’m frustrated and lacking patience.  So, I might just find a spot for this framed slogan and I might not, but either way, I’ll remember it, and use it when I find myself struggling with all that life has to offer.  It really is true, that if you can keep calm, it’s much easier to carry on.

 

First week in Boulder

Standard

20140722-074305.jpg
20140721-233657.jpg
20140721-233737.jpg
Hi there! It’s been a busy week. There’s been a lot to see and do. Mostly, we’ve been outside, outside, outside. We took our first hike up the Mesa trail. Put our feet in the cold, cold water of the Boulder creek. Visited the farmer’s market.
Everyone has been pretty much exhausted at the end of the day. Isn’t that the nature of summer? The heat in the afternoons leaves me feeling lethargic and unable to do anything but just hang out. We’ve eaten a lot of watermelon, some pluots, blueberries and strawberries. It’s hard to figure out what to cook in the evenings, when all you want to do is cool off and rehydrate. Iliana has even started eating some lettuce!
I’ve been noticing where all the apple trees are and trying to avoid eating any from the store until apple season arrives. I think it would be good to give ourselves a break from so much apple. Peaches will be arriving by the bush load soon. They had sold out at the market.
What do you cook when it gets this hot, in the heat of the peak of summer?
What activities are you involved in?
Any tips for getting the most out of this special time?

20140722-001235.jpg

Tiny

Standard

20140715-061000.jpg
Over the past few weeks I’ve become fully engaged in the idea of tiny. Tiny house, simple life, fewer things, letting go of stuff. This feeling has been many years in the process, but in the last few it has quickened. Moving helps to put things into perspective: what’s necessary and what’s not. Considering that in the last 3 years we’ve moved across the country, lived in an apartment for a year with the bare necessities, then moved into house, and now we’re moving back to the west into a rental in Boulder; I’ve pretty much decided that nothing is really that sentimental to me and it’s fun to kind of recreate my life over and over again. Meaning I find it fun to not have to stick with the same stuff over and over again. I get to just let stuff go, if it’s not working donate it, or sell it, or give it away. If it’s too cumbersome to move than leave it and get something new (or used) in the new place. It’s a good thing I really like thrift stores, as then it’s easy to replace things without having decisions be too weighty because I’m worried about the amount of money I’d be spending. I also love the hunt and the finding of interesting, unusual, and great stuff at easy prices. I also like that my choices are limited then and I don’t have to be overwhelmed as I am sometimes in a store that carries 5 different brands of the same thing. I also just like the idea of not causing too much wear and tear on the earth, it’s resources and it’s people. How much simpler to just get something that someone else has decided to pass on, simpler on the planet, on my pocketbook and on my heart.
With that said, here’s what I found this week at a little thrift shop in Denver. All for $7.53, and two of those bowls are originally from Anthropologie, one of my favorite shops. What a find those beautiful colored bowls are and Iliana couldn’t be more thrilled with them.
We got the keys to our rental yesterday and for those of you wondering how all of this has happened so fast, well…remember when I wrote that I was hoping to get to Colorado before the middle of August when said rental was going to be available? Well, said rental became available earlier than scheduled and so, there you have it and here we are, moving into a new home in Boulder. A new chapter has begun.

Cherry picking

Standard

20140706-230336.jpg

20140706-230346.jpg

20140706-230354.jpg
Cherry picking while watching a friend’s dog.
Now, what to do with a bunch of cherries? I think I’ll freeze a bunch until I figure it out. Drying some in a dehydrator would be nice. Making some into preserves is another thought. Ice cream could be good. These are sour cherries by the way, but still tasty. We’ve just been eating them.
Any ideas?

A word to Michael

Standard

toes

blazer

michael

This is our neighbor next door practicing his Michael Jackson moves.  We’ve seen him develop this personality over the last few months.  First, the songs on an iphone.  He’d be walking around with it in his hand, mostly playing “Smooth Criminal” and practicing moves.  Iliana wasn’t sure what to make of it, and neither was I.  We hadn’t yet crossed over the bridge of Michael Jackson songs and watching or even listening to his music.  Frankly, it wasn’t something I had even thought about since my own youth.  Soon it became apparent that Michael Jackson was here to stay, as our Michael fan continued to share with all of us his developing abilities.

First, it was the moves and a leather coat, with jeans, in summer.  Then, it was the addition of a black, sparkly hat, and the add on of a move with his hand on his hat.  Later, we saw him come out with a wig, a black, curly wig.  Lastly, he got a glove.  A silver, sparkly glove, which he pointed out to me, the other day, while taking some dried peas as a snack from me, that he wasn’t wearing it on the correct hand, the proper hand for the glove being the left.  This little guy is 5.

I was in the car Saturday, driving home from the grocery store, and as I turned on the radio I heard Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror.  I was so moved.  That particular song’s lyrics talk about making the change in oneself.  Michael’s inspired singing touched my heart.  I thought about our neighbor, and how he’s so many generations after me, and yet, he too is moved by Michael’s music.

I often hear them all singing, “Billy Jean’s not my lover, she’s just a girl, thinks that I am the one”, repeated again and again.  One of them a 4 year old across the street, who’s speech isn’t fully developed and who doesn’t understand the meaning of what he’s singing.   He just sings his heart out.  All thanks to our “little Michael” next door.

So, I just have to say “word” to Michael.  He was one brilliant dude.

Harbingers of summer

Standard

swing

climber

clematisSummer has officially begun and a few things have led me to believe they know it…the clematis have bloomed, mulberries have turned a dark purple, humidity has hit, and the mosquitos have decided to have a party (at my expense)!  We had a severe storm watch this weekend, which had us hanging out in the basement as tornados were to the north of us and possibly headed our way.  Thankfully, they passed us by, but not before intense rains and winds came down hard.  Wow, that was kind of surreal.  As long as we were in the basement, I decided to throw in another load of laundry, so that wasn’t sooo bad.

Today was a hot one.  We cooled off with non-alcoholic cocktails of lavender kombucha and coconut milk (Emerson is a coconut fan like myself, so the combo is right up his alley.  Iliana likes just the kombucha.)  We finished planting the last of the flowers we’d bought for pots.  Eric had the World Cup on and Iliana and Emerson were learning to cheer.

At the library this last week I picked up two new books (new to the library that is):  Against all Grain by Danielle Walker and Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan, as well as a neat book for Iliana, Music, Music for Everyone by Vera B. Williams.  The two books contain some new cooking inspiration, which I’ve been needing.   I’ve also rediscovered Chitra Agrawal’s blog ABCD’s of Cooking and I’ll try her recipe for spinach sambar.  I tried my hand at pongal (a favorite Indian breakfast of mine) but will be needing to try again, this time following Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn’s recipe.  It’s funny, because after experimenting with making pongal, I realized how silly it must seem to people who’ve grown up with it when I say it’s one of my favorites.  Also, the fact that I haven’t made it before and would say how I want to learn how to make it, that too must have seemed kind of funny.  It really isn’t hard, it’s kind of reminiscent of cream of wheat, something I grew up on, except that it’s rice and lentils mixed together, and then there’s spices to add.  I don’t know why it’s seemed so difficult to me until now.  I think the fact that I didn’t understand the various different lentils and their uses, as well as the foreignness of some of the spices, these things combined kept me from just diving in and giving it a go.  I’m just so in need of some alternative breakfasts, foods that fill us up, but are healthy and nourishing, that I’m extending myself beyond the usual.  I’m relieved to be doing so, because I’ve found Indian food to be one of my favorites and one of the healthiest and hopefully soon, one of the easiest to make, though that may take awhile!

If you have any ideas for breakfasts, or favorites of yours that you’d like to share, or any cooking inspirations for that matter, please do so in the comments.

 

Father’s Day

Standard

father'sday1

father'sday2

father'sday3

Hello!  That was Father’s day around here as the day drew to a close.  I kept telling Iliana to give me a nice expression as in a few years she might ask me, why did I make that face?  As you can see, that didn’t really matter to her.  The only way I got Emerson to sit there for a few moments was to give him one of the controls for the TV.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a few days now, and what fathers mean, and what I would say about it.  Since I only post once a week, I get the luxury to contemplate for a bit what I’ll write about.  I’m finding all sorts of ideas and some insights come to me.  This week, as I thought about Father’s day, my father, Eric’s father, and the principle of fatherhood in general, I was struck by a few things.

This business of fatherhood and parenting in general, is a hard business.  It’s not easy to parent.  It’s not straightforward, it’s curvy, and it always zig zags and throws you a curve ball when you least expect it.  You have to be on your feet and think on your feet most of the time.  You have to be patient and kind and understanding.  You have to be kind of Buddha-like, a kind of zen papa, able to go with the hits that work throws at you and then transition into home life and still maintain your cool.  And on the weekends, you have to put in overtime, as your wife gets away from the house, you have to put in long hours, not having built up your stamina for it throughout the week, and you have to hope that you can keep up with those children that have changed and grown, leaps and bounds, throughout just that one week, since the last weekend.  Because these children, they grow fast, they learn how to do things you couldn’t have guessed from your time with them the weekend before.  They can do monkey bars and go down slides, and climb up playgrounds and walk to the edge, not knowing that they might fall.  And you have to be strong, willing to let them venture out and try things, help them stay confident, yet guide them so they don’t get too hurt.  And if they do get hurt, you have to be brave for them, and fix them up, blot their tears (or blood!) and be gentle on yourself for not having prevented that particular fall, or injury, or insult.  You have to get over things quick, so that you can be present with them, and love them, and let them know you are there for them.  This business of parenting, boy, it’s not an easy one.

SO NOW, with all that said, at the risk of laying accolades on the man that I married and hoped would be a father one day, and who I am now in the thick of it with…I will say that he’s doing a darn good job at something he claims to not know much about, and in truth had almost no experience with before his own children.  He’s become a kind of Zen Papa, or at least that’s what we’re calling him.  And in the calling him of that, it brings forth all those zen qualities that are so necessary to be a truly good papa (and it helps me attempt the equivalent Zen Mama, or at least I try).  Thank goodness for Buddha, for writings by Thich Nhat Hanh, and for a husband who is willing to read them and grow from them, to take them in and make them his own.

Happy Father’s Day for a day (and job) well done!

Finding our rhythm

Standard

warrenpark

dorothy

happygirl

We are finding our summer rhythm around here.  What a transition it is, going from driving to and from school three days a week, to days filled with open ended blocks of time.  We’ve done laundry, gone to the library, traveled to the city, eaten Indian food on Devon street (or “little India”), and attended the school’s year end picnic.  Phew!  It was quite a week and I’m tired already.  Now that our neighbors are out of school too, they’ll be even more play and more opportunities for shifting into the lazy days of summer (not that we’ve had any lazy days yet!)

I’ve been making it a point to be gentle with myself as we move into this new phase.  I’ve had very little time alone, and yet, we all start to figure out how to move around and be with each other in a way that works.  It takes time and understanding and forgiveness for not having it right just yet.  I picked up a copy of Home Education Magazine, a resource that I’m enjoying as it shares different families journeys with unschooling.  Summer is definitely a time for a different kind of education and what I’m reading is giving me inspiration for other ways of approaching our time together.

I’ve been enjoying Call the Midwife every so often when I get a chance to watch an episode.  It’s bringing me back to my roots of doula work and studies of midwife assistance.  I so appreciate these women and the care and nurturing they brought to many, many women during that time.  It’s inspiring to watch a birth happen and see how they handle different situations, even the nitty gritty of a breech birth!  That one gave me chills (I’m just beginning, so way back in season 1).

With graduations happening near and far, parties in the neighborhood, I sense a celebratory mood.  Congratulations to all of you who’ve finished your schooling, or whatever chapter of schooling you’ve completed.  Best wishes in your coming endeavors!

Welcome Summer!