Monday, April 16, 2012

Week 1 - Soul Collage



You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
that is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye.
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only 
the colors of these nine crayons.
This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table,
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.

It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.
 
(You Begin - Margaret Atwood) 

Grad school is in full swing and I'm already behind on homework, journaling, blogging, laundry, grocery shopping and life.  But I am so invigorated, inspired and alive!  What I want to blog about today is SoulCollage.  At the end of the first week of class I attended my first seminar and I picked the SoulCollage seminar.  Our seminar was led by Mariabruna Sirabella of www.sirarte.com.  She's wonderful.  One of the things that amazes me most about grad school so far is the illumination and clarity I see in the professors and more advanced students.  I'm excited and hopeful to maybe take on some of that peaceful energy.
 
SoulCollage is a divination tool in a sense--think Tarot but more psychological.  A deck of cards is created by each individual, for themselves.  The deck is based on four suits and contains three source cards: The Source, Soul Essence, and The Witness.  These cards are the transpersonal cards. (I'm still working on holding and really knowing the definition of transpersonal so just in case you need it too: Transpersonal is defined as: Of, denoting, or dealing with states or areas of consciousness beyond the limits of personal identity).    The suits are Council, Committee, Community and Companions.  Each card within the suit represents an aspect of your soul that is in your life.  Council cards are the archetypal influences in your life.  Committee cards would be your actual personality traits.  Community cards represent beings in your life: friends (or groups of friends), pets, a specific plant/animal that you've had a specific connection to.  Finally, there are seven Companion cards.  They correlate with each of the seven chakras and are represented by the animals that we envision after doing a guided visualization through each chakra.



The process of creating cards while learning about SoulCollage was fun but there was also a lot of charge along with it.  I was having a particularly difficult weekend coming to terms with some things that I cannot control and so several of my cards gushed out more difficult feelings.  Mariabruna noted at some point that it's always the present stuff that is wanting to be dealt  with that surges up when people make cards.


My first card ended up being a committee card which I called "the recovering wounded."  Throughout the weekend I ended up making a few more cards: "the exuberant child" (committee) "the suffering of the world" (archetype), "the suffering self" (committee) "the panicked-anxious self" (committee).  I have a list of cards I still want to get to but right now I'm just working through making cards without intention and seeing what comes up for me.

The way we began making our deck was to pick a picture that resonated with us and gestalt it.  To gestalt something something is to put yourself in the place of the picture (or at least that's what I've understood so far.  Eventually I'll be learning more about that).  The girl sitting on the dark card was my first image and she was sitting on a bed.  When I put myself in her place thoughts that came to mind were "I am one who is tired but waking to a brighter day.  I have been in the dark but I am hopeful" and so on.  The card gets created around that.

Once the deck is created you can do readings by asking it questions and pulling cards, gestalting the images and speaking from the perspective of your soul that the card represents.

SoulCollage is trademarked and an official sort of thing so I really recommend that you take a look at either of the two websites I linked if you're interested.  I barely grazed the surface of what SoulCollage really is and how it can be used.

For me, this was the perfect way to break into the school vibe.  Not only is my cohort amazing so far (eight women total, myself included) but so was the experience of SoulCollage--the ability to be truly, completely artistic in a way that wasn't commercial or product based and to be able to see the clinical applications of how SoulCollage could be used to heal people or heal the self even.





Saturday, March 31, 2012

Monday night is the Intro to Holistic Studies class.  I guess it will be an orientation to Holistic and EXA (Expressive Arts).  I'm excited to meet my cohort, to learn a little bit about how this is all going to feel, to get a sense of the vibe and so on. I'm also excited that once this all starts I can create a better focus for this blog.  Right now I feel like I'm laundry listing everything that I can think to say with no real structure, which is fine, except that it will get old for me quickly.

My living expenses loan fell through.  That was more than a bit disconcerting but I think that I'll be ok by the time the money I have runs out.  I'm still working at the company I've been at for three years helping them with a software transition.  That's giving me a bit of a cushion but completely encroaching on personal time that I wanted to really get into the frame of mind that I'm hoping to start this program out with.  This week I worked a thirty hour week, next week I'll be doing twenty (with availability to do more).  In the meantime I also got trial shifts at a coffee shop that I frequent and so I start that tomorrow.  I got a teaching/tutoring job that will start after April 10th--teaching a seven year old Spanish.  And, I'm keeping my eyes out for other nanny/tutoring jobs.  Piece-mealing my income together is overwhelming so I was incredibly relieved when I followed up with Easter Seals and had a good conversation with the recruiter.  I'll know if I get an interview with them in week and a half or so.  Something to be hopeful about.

Four of my textbooks came in.  I've been refraining from reading them too much because I don't want to ruin the surprise and/or burn myself out.  Or something.  Who knows why, really, but I've flipped through them and the first page I opened to in the first book I opened was a very fitting little poem on centering:

Centering

Even in the midst of chaos
There is a small, still center
Of absolute quiet,
Like the eye of a hurricane.

If I can find that center,
I can place myself within that stillness
And watch the world whirl by
In all of its beauty and agony

And when, with clarity and serenity,
I can witness this spectacle
Some voice inside of me says:
"Yes, I see."

At last I can be fully present
To what is before me.
At last I can fully honor the unfolding
Of this desperate dance called "life."

-Terrie Chester

 There is so much going on with this transition right now, trying to quit my job, trying to find a new job that aligns with my passions and values, trying to make money work, trying to keep my apartment clean while I'm running around (currently inundated with laundry and cleaning to do), trying to eat healthfully and exercise.  It's absolutely a whirlwind.  But, I am so loving it and so excited and so invigorated.

I drew this picture today at the art center while sitting next to a new girl who was drawing while the other kids did clay.  I'm not sure where it surged up from but I love it.  It embodies passion and hope for me somehow.  Creativity, girlishness, grace and composure.  All the things that I feel like I'm regaining as this RSI fades out and I follow my trajectory towards school.  The picture seems "ready"  and I feel "ready" too.


Monday, March 12, 2012

I've been completely preoccupied with 2012 and haven't had time to dedicate to updating this.  I want to get back into it a bit just because it's a good place for me to take stock of everything that's going on.  Life is an incredible force right now.  I'm experiencing this huge expansion in my reality and my body is having some trouble coping and adapting.  Lots changing.  Lots and lots. 

On that note, I'm going take this blog into the direction of tracking my path through graduate school.  I'm incredibly excited to embark upon this journey but I also know that it's going to really test me as a person and demand growth.  I'm not even sure I've touched on graduate school here.  So, let's see:  I got into graduate school.  I got accepted for Spring 2012 admission to John F. Kennedy University's MA in Counseling Psychology (Holistic) Program with a specialization in Expressive Arts.  I'm going to do the Buddhist Psychology emphasis. 

It's a three year program.  During the three years I'll be seeing a therapist.  The program requires a year of personal therapy but I also get hours counted toward my licensure and I find immense value in therapy so I intend to pursue it all the way though.  On top of the regular classes I have the ability to sign up for (and audit) seminars.  I need to take two for sure and then the rest are optional audits.  After the first year I can start doing field work and in my third year I'll do a practicum.  I will most likely try to work in one of JFKU's clinics for my practicum, but who knows.  I'm sure there are tons of opportunities that will come up.  After school is out I have internships to do do finish prepping for getting my license.  It's going to be a long exciting process and it will be hard.  I'm so ready.

Here's where I'm starting:  I've gotten my loans mostly squared away.  I just need to finish the checklist and then I'm set.  There's some anxiety centering around that. Having loans, I mean.  BUT, having loans has allowed me to give notice at work.  We're not making an announcement to clients yet because my last day and phase out isn't planned yet.  My bosses want me to stay a bit longer--we'll see how that plays out.  Work has been such an outrageously difficult place for me to be over the last year and a half or so.  Incredibly stressful, not very supportive and as a result I've been struggling with an repetitive strain injury since about January.  I filed a workers' comp claim about a month ago--it's been a horrible experience trying to manage this pain.  I've never experienced my body fighting so hard against something and to think it's a rather mild injury (major flare up though).  I can't imagine how I'd feel if I had a disease or something.  This has been a learning experience for me. 

A little bit more on the RSI just because it's so present for me right now.  Basically, it's due to overuse of the thoracic, shoulders, neck (etc.) and so the doctors diagnosed sprains/strains of all of that.  Regular anti-inflammatories weren't working (Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Aspirin, Relafen) so they put me on a ten day Prednisone taper.  Prednisone is intense.  I've done it once before but this time my body really ran with it.  Seriously, I'm a pretty small person and the stuff just made me feel like a little monster sometimes.  That and I think I ate EVERYTHING in my apartment over the last week.  So, now I'm off the med but I feel like I gained about seven pounds, my body is sore and I've got some other Prednisone induced problems going in.  All in all though the Prednisone did wonders on the pain.  So did the Soma I've been taking.  I've stopped taking the Soma as of yesterday too.  I want to see how things go and I'm taking Aleve again in normal doses, since the inflammation seems to be under control.  Also in physical therapy (which I feel makes things worse half the time).

So there's that.  Then there's work which I touched on.  And, then there's school coming up.  Also loving my home (still fairly new apartment as of November...).  Everything is pretty amazing right now.  I've also been spending a lot of time with one guy and that's kind of up in the air but it's been really good for me.  He's a sweet heart.  I've also gotten back into therapy already.  Specifically I went back for anxiety.  More specifically it was work/RSI induced anxiety that finally got me back in the door.  I like my therapist.  I don't feel like I click as well as I had with my last one but it's a process and it take a little bit of time.  I see some really good potential to make some really good progress with her and I really like how she gets down to explaining the mechanics and science behind the stress and somatic responses I'm feeling.  It helps me lock in and identify things...which in turn helps me to remember to cope.  That's probably what my next few entries will be about: stress and my learning process of dealing with it.

I'm enrolled in classes and two seminars.  The classes are Foundations in Expressive Arts, Group Process A and Intro to Therapeutic Communication.  The seminars I've signed up for are Soul Collage and Foundations of Buddhist Psychology.  I think I'll sign up for the dance based seminar and the Queer studies seminar as well.  It's crazy to think I'm starting in two weeks.  I have so much to get sorted out before then: new fully functional computer, get a desk, get my books, fix a couple things on my car, take some time and space for me, get work sorted out, maybe find a little part time job, get this RSI more under control, etc.  And then for me personally I just want to continue to do the art I've been kind of neglecting, pick up a couple instruments more often, lose some weight and just be more fit in general... AND, I want to have more get-togethers at my apartment.  I want to love my home so much that just being here triggers a conditioned happy/calm response. 

That's about it.  I'll check in more often as school ramps up.  I'm excited to see how this all goes.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012: New Year...

It has been a year since I started this blog.  Looking back on my first two entries in 2011 I've found myself surprised that I basically got everything I hoped for during the year.  It's hard to see it in the moment and I suppose that's the power of reflection.  

Last year I said, "If I concentrate on the things that I find satisfying and if I persevere at making those things the focal point of my time then it will lead me in the right direction. It will help me to become the change I wish to see in my life and it will keep my soul positive and hopeful through the process," and hoped for "financial stability, emotional security, renewed hope and passions towards creativity and for the continued essence of love in everything we do."  I am blessed that so much of what I had hoped for persisted throughout my year even when I wasn't feeling strong or competent.  I managed to get all the way through the financial class I took and it has provided me with some solid financial stability.  Emotional security?  As much as that's possible I feel like I've come a ways with being able to communicate and feel less daunted by new people and confronting uncomfortable situations.. I've learned a little something about resourcing myself in difficult moments.  Lots of creativity over the last year.  And no lack of love: inner or outward; given or received.  

For this year I guess it's more of a similar vein.  I'm wishing for everyone and for myself when I lay it out... I want us to be physically healthier. I want us to be emotionally warmer. I want us to be spiritually full. I want us to continue on a happy and/or calm contented trajectories.  I want us to be brave, honest and open.  I want us to be adventurous.  I want us to accept and bolster our inner children.   
I have some concrete desires for this year too and the list seems to lengthen every time I think about it.  I want to have beautiful experiences with the people in my life.  I want to create more and share those creations.  I'll have to write the list later...

To all of you, may you have a beautiful, wonderful, expansive, loving and acceptance filled year.

Namaste.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How To: Christmas Tree!


My favorite time of the year is the holiday season--particularly December because I get to spend a lot of creative energy making my space look cozy and Christmas-y.  This tutorial is for a Christmas tree and I'm sure you could use it for any sort of tree decorating idea.  I'm not religious so there won't be any really religious overtones here.  I'm also not that into reindeer, elves and Santa items so you'll see that also as you go through here.  I will give you options for how to incorporate religious or Santa things into your tree.  Good luck and I hope this is helpful!  This is my first "how to" post so if you read through and like it (or think there is something I could do better) please let me know!

First things first: You need a tree!
If you've gone through the process of buying a tree before feel free to skip this part and go to next step: trimming and lighting.  This may be my favorite part of the whole process.

Picking your tree:  HEIGHT: Measure where you are putting your tree (or at least do a really good job at eyeballing it.  If you're in doubt lean towards a smaller tree.  You can ALWAYS find wooden boxes to stack your tree on or hang lights and garland from your ceiling to fill in space.  I like my tree to go up about to a foot to two feet from the ceiling (at it's highest point).  Remember that your tree stand is going to take up some space.  I think most ceilings are about eight feet tall.  The tree in this tutorial is a five footer. FATNESS: Decide based on your space and style if you want a fatty or a skinny tree.  I like the fatties, I think they look more cozy and less commercial--although I do know over the last couple of years the popular trend is to go skinny.  REAL OR FAKE?! I like real because they smell better, they feel better, and in my opinion they look better.  A fake tree offers a lot of advantages though: they are cheaper in the long run, they don't have bald spots, they don't shed and they are exactly the same year after year.  If you're getting an artificial tree same thing goes: height and fatness--you also have to think about lit or pre-lit.  Although unless you're going with colored lights I'd say get a pre lit tree.  Why bother with extra pieces if you're trying to go easy.  If you like stringing lights (it's my least favorite part) then by all means, don't get a pre-lit. TYPE OF TREE: OK, so this probably should go before "fatness" but at least you'll be in the right section of the tree lot (most people separate the trees by height).  I can only talk solidly about two types of tree: Douglas Fir or Spruce.
  • Douglas Fir: Darker, richer green color.  Softer pine needles.  The branches are flimsier overall (this is really important to think about depending on the ornaments you have or intend to buy).
  • Spruce: Lighter green, funkier shaped branches (the pine needles have a pretty awesome prong shaping).  The needles are stiffer and pokier and I dislike being stabbed and scratched by my tree so I'm liking my Douglas Fir this year. But, it has a really good shape and structure to it.  Better for heavier ornaments
If you've never bought a tree before you'll want to be able to tell the people what kind of tree stand you have.  I have one with a spike that goes into the bottom of the tree so I have to remember to tell the tree lot attendants that I need a hole drilled in the bottom of my tree (some places don't do this).  Some people have tree stands that have little clamps that screw tighter around the base of the tree--no drilled hole necessary.  Make sure your tree attendants cut off the very bottom of the trunk, this will help the tree absorb water when you fill up the bowl and it that will keep it greener for longer (and less of a fire hazard).  Have them net your tree if you're putting it on your car and bring a tarp or blanket to put between the tree and the car or you will scratch your paint.  They'll tie it down for you, etc.  They basically do everything to get you off the lot and to your house with a happy little tree.

Once you have your tree at home get it in the stand as quickly as possible, put it where it's going and give it water.   It will start to seal up where the fresh cut was right away so you want it in water (just like fresh cut flowers). 


PART TWO: Trimming and lighting. 
So, now you have your little tree hanging out in your living room.  Turn it until you have the best face forward (most trees have bald spots, holes, burned/dried out areas).  If you put your tree up against a wall this saves on lighting and decoration expenses because no one will see the back and so you don't have to deck it all out.  If you're putting your tree in the middle of a room or against a window you'll need to take this into account when buying decorations.  I light and trim my tree at the same time because the lighting helps me see the shape and my vision for the tree.

 Lighting: You will need two strings of light for a five foot tree if you're only lighting about 3/4ths of it.  You may need one more string if you are doing the back also.  If you want rainbow lights those are pretty awesome too.  Same rules--I just like white. Take your string of lights and start at the bottom.  Make sure your cord can plug in (I do this with the lights plugged in so I can see where I am placing everything it also ensures that I don't pull the cord out of  reach of the socket. Work your way across the visible part of the tree and a little further beyond, bring the light string up and make your way back around until you reach the top of the tree or the end of the strand.  Plug in a new strand and stick the unlighted cording as far back into the tree as possible.  Bring the lights back where you left off (last lit bulb) and keep going--we don't want big unnecessary gaps in lighting.  Once you're out of lights take a step back and use a phone camera (or any camera without great clarity) and take a picture from as far back as possible.  The picture will give you a good indication of where holes in lighting are (and holes in the tree).  Fix what you can by pulling the lights over to that space.  But, remember, pulling lights out of one spot will create holes in other spots.  Also remember, some bald spots are OK because you have decorations you'll want to add in and it's nice to have some "canvas" for that.  
Trimming: Once you've lit your tree and taken the picture it should be pretty evident where you're lopsided and or uneven (with regards to trimming).  You may have already hacked off a couple of really obvious spots.  I took some off the bottom before lighting but basically grab a pair of good sheers/scissors/knife (be careful) and trim the bottom so you have eight to ten inches of space under the tree--even all around.  This will make your tree more symmetrical and it will allow you  to show off your tree skirt or those great gifts underneath.  If your tree is lopsided, don't fret.  find an old book (dictionary, little journals) or a block and rest it under the leg that needs to be hoisted up.  Do this carefully if you have already put water in the tree's bowl. And, SAVE what you cut off your tree, you can use it as decoration somewhere else (mine is on the mantel but you can also use it in anywhere else (on the back of the toilet or on the bathroom counter, in your kitchen, tacked along your balcony railing, etc.  I might make a post on how to do this so it doesn't look shoddy too.... we'll see.  If I don't and you're curious, just ask).

 THIRD: Decorations:
At this point there is so much you could do with your tree.  I'm not big on stereotypical commercial Christmas or religious icons so I went warm and wintery.  Here is what is on my tree:
  • 8-12 pine cones
  • 4 small flower sprigs (cream/off-white)
  • 3-4 white/cream magnolia sprigs with cream berries
  • 2 cream and glitter magnolia sprigs with red berries
  • 5-6 red berry sprigs
  • 1 long thing of bronze tulle cut up in pieces (anywhere from six inches squared to 1.5' squared--squared is approximate.  Some of the pieces are large triangles or rectangles.... Doesn't matter how you cut them as long as they are pretty sizable but not gigantic)
 So, depending on your own personal style you may have Christmas ball decorations, or items your children have made, or any other sort of decoration.  I like themed so if you're doing it that way think in terms of two to three (magnolias, berries, pine cones).  Those three are your focal points, if you have too much going on you'll lose the simplicity.  If you're working on Christmas balls pick three sizes (small, medium, large--but not GIANT unless you can really make it work.  That probably means resting one under the tree and or buying a huge tree).  If you're using a mix of decorations or things your children made then don't worry about minimizing the "clutter" of different types of ornaments.

For any tree style: separate out your items into sizes AND types or colors (whatever stands out the most).  Mine are separated by type.

I don't use garland but if you do this needs to go on after lights but before decorations.  It is REALLY hard to put garland or lights on after decorations so don't forget (I've done it).  Put them on the same way you put the lights on.  If it's thin and shiny garland put it close to the lights.  If it's fat, heavy, non reflective garland space it between and/or below the lights so you don't block them out.  

OK, now start with your largest ornaments.  I have about six big sprigs and I place them on first--I start by doing my topper and then place one towards the bottom of the tree, then the middle, then the other side, etc until they are all placed (think like you're jumping to opposite empty spaces).  Next, take your medium size  (I do my small flowers next).  Do the same thing but try to keep 6 inches or so from any large item and a two feet or so from any medium size.  Same idea: opposite empty spaces.  Try to stay off the same "line" of branches with any item otherwise it'll look like you just placed things in rows.  You want it to look spontaneous (even though it is completely not).  Next, reach for your smallest items (in my case these are the red berry sprigs because the BERRIES are small--not necessarily the sprigs.  If you look at your tree from a distance you'll get a good idea of where you need to fill things in.  Do this a lot: back up and take a look.  Move pieces if you feel like you're missing a big space.  Some of the little ornaments can go closer together  and some farther apart. Since the main big pieces of your tree are done this will just fill in and it isn't as hard to be "spontaneous."  I try to keep about three to four inches between any small item though.

Pine cones and tulle (loose tinsel).  You may not have pine cones depending on what you're doing.  You can treat them as a medium size ornament if you want but I like to keep them until last and stick them in any residual bald spots I might have.  These guys are a PAIN if you're putting tulle in also--just be patient, they stick to the tulle and you'll have to pry them apart if you don't like how they look and need to reshape.  I also use the pine cones to wedge up branches that I want a little bit higher up.  They're natural and so they don't stand out much at all.  Kind of like little surprises that people may or may not notice--but when people notice them I always get compliments so I stick with them.  I buy unscented but they sell scented ones (watch out for the oil, it sticks to everything and stings if you get it in your eyes).  Tulle and loose tinsel are last and fun.  For tulle... take a corner of one of your chopped up pieces and stick your arm into the tree where you want the tulle (bald spots or under/around your large ornaments or sprigs), let go, pull your arm out being careful not to pull the tulle out too. (If you have a LOT of smaller ornaments then you may want to cut long narrow strips of tulle and stick them in so that there are just points of sparkle coming out of your tree.  I use big sprigs and sizable flowers so I want so volume to the tulle.)  With loose tinsel you want to take a small pinch and either toss it at your tree or set it on the edge of the branches.  You may need to do some readjusting if you're tossing (the stuff is very light and so it doesn't always come down perfectly).  I'm not a huge fan of the loose tinsel because I find it complicated but if you've got a good eye for it you can make it look amazing.

Last touches: if you have a tree skirt you can put it on at the beginning or at the end.  I wait until the end because I don't want to step all over the skirt while I'm fussing with the tree.  I use a dark green sheet.  Use your tree trimmings to either decorate your mantel (see picture) or to fill in  more gaps on the tree.  From there, you're done!

Unfortunately my camera battery is dead so I couldn't take a great picture of the tree with lighting but this is it more or less.  I have a teeny little Santa's Village underneath my tree now (which I inherited from my grandmother).  You can stack presents, or even old books would look nice.  It just depends on your style and the look you're going for.


Namaste and Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gratitudes

Most years, in November,  I manage to send little cards to people I am grateful for.  This year for whatever reason I've been lagging behind and never got around to even buying the paper.  So, in honor of that tradition I'm going to do one big old "gratitude" to everyone here publicly.

I have a lot to be grateful for. This last year has really continued to try my commitment to moving my life forward.  I feel like every few weeks I hit a crossroads where I was given the choice: do you go back and get depressed and stay in that zone where you're safe but totally and completely unhappy and not really living OR do you suck it up, get in touch with all of your negative, scared, hopeful emotions, reach out and ask for help and/or support and trudge forward with a resolve to be better, happier and more OK and accepting and appreciative of who you really are?  It's not an easy choice.  Again and again though I've been reminded by the people who care about me that I am supported and I am loved even with all of my capacities to mess things up, my propensity fumbling what I mean to say into an inarticulate mess (or not saying it at all), or for shying away from making solid committed choices.  You all are so hugely part of who I am because you all accept who I am even before I've been able to accept it.  You all are the stepping stones and the companions who are walking with me from point A to point Z (every step of the way included).


A short list of specifics...

1. There is this girl who was my therapist for quite some time over the course of the last year.  With her, we focused on ideas of communication in relationships and at work, self valuation and self advocation, my issues with family, feelings around my support systems, money, and fears.  She may have single-handedly shifted so much of my perspective over the past year.  It was through my weekly talks with her that I feel I was really able to access the part of me that could take a step forward in so many different directions.  I know that she will continue to make hugely positive impacts on the people she works with in the future.  I hope that she realizes her capacity for remarkable good.

2.  The boy with whom I shared so much of myself over the last year.  Things change and life drags us in different directions.  For better or worse, I'm grateful for the growth, the trust and the hope that we created in the face of huge distance and adversity.  I believe that you will have everything that you want in life some day.  I'm grateful for what you've given me.

3.  For soul families who love unconditionally and offer unwavering positive support.  For those who never tell me "I told you so," and only ever offer a cheerful path to move forward.

4. To my girls who bless my life in different capacities, always.  A: for undying optimism, donuts, wishes and dreams and the expansive healing of viewing life through the veil of art, creation and love;  K: for the real nitty gritty of life with an ounce of humor, perspective and a big glass of wine (and for amazing hair to get me through the worst of moments with just a shred of dignity); E: for stability, composure and perpetual selflessness, for your ability to make small things into incredibly huge and loving gestures, for your capacity to remind me what passion is over and over again through your very amazing commitment to all things green; J: for conversations and support about everything, for friendship through distance, for excitement towards all of life's little adventures; J: for creative expansion and a the embodiment of beauty and the inner child...

5. To my guys who offer consistent, solid proof that there are really good guys out there in this world... J, for constant friendship in the face of distance, an ever present soundboard, for a wonderfully unabashed sense of humor and outward optimism and for humility through it all; G: for always, always, always being honest and there; another G: for proof that friendships continue on regardless of distance and time apart and for food...particularly noodles; L, for being a brother who unconditionally supports me, even at my craziest...

6. The poets on facebook.  Hard to put this one into words but I am grateful for the inspiration, the art, the community...


Today, and every day, I am blessed to have all of you in my life. 

Namaste.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I feel hopeful and excited.  Honestly, it isn't consistent but I am surprised at the instances that I feel this way.  Everything is still moving on a path towards something better than what I've been living and so I'm relieved that I'm not a complete disaster right now.  The boy and I broke up last week and so I've been in and out of every emotion imaginable.  Pretty healthful and productive ending to the relationship though and we both acknowledge that we still care for each other--that it just isn't working for me the way it is right now and that I'm not willing to continue in this dynamic that is leaving me so unfulfilled... at least not for the time being.  Maybe when he comes back from abroad something will work out.  In the meantime though I've decided to take my life forward--on all fronts.  And of course.. that's scary as hell.

I'm grateful though (SO incredibly grateful) for my friends right now.  I have a tendency to forget how supportive and loving they are and not be able to acknowledge it when I'm hurting.  They've been so good to me right now in a quiet patient sort of way.  I think they all thought I should back up from this relationship for a while and I know that many of them have been concerned for me (maybe a bit too much so actually... I do know when enough is enough even if I wait until the very last moment to walk away).  Over the last week they have all stepped up to just be there quietly for me while I futz through these new feelings I'm having.  I feel their presence and it has helped immensely.  It's an amazing sort of "alone" that we feel when we let something go that we wanted to make work so badly.  But the feelings of loss have been tempered by the presence of care that I'm receiving from people who are here for me when I reach out and who are there for me when I don't also.

Last weekend I flew a plane.  This was my little sister's birthday present to me.  It took us a while to schedule it but after everything it happened on the absolute best possible weekend.

What an amazing feeling!  My instructor (R) went over the controls and some of the instruments.  Then he had me taxi up to the runway--this is difficult to do.  I felt like I was trying to play MarioKart.  You know how you can never seem to go straight?  Well, so we did that, then he helped steer while I took off from the runway.  Amazing.  Absolutely amazing.  I have always loved flying--it is quite simply one of my favorite things to do.  And taking off?  More so.  We practiced turns up in the air.  Banking right and banking left.  Then he helped me land.  R kept apologizing for the clouds.  I'm not sure if flying is different on a clear day but I love clouds.  It was hard to articulate to him how perfect flying was in the clouds.  We'd fly through clear patches and dodge the puffs of white and gray.  It was bliss.


Monday I went to the Jack's Mannequin concert here in San Francisco.  There are few artists that I want to see live.  Jack's Mannequin was easily at the top of the list.  Again, this happened at just the right time and I went with my good friend K.  It was magic.  Because I go to so few shows I feel like I really experience them in a sort of childlike way.  The experience was beyond visceral and thanks to my girl we smooshed our way through the crowd all the way to the front; just about four people away from Andrew himself.

So, this is where I am at now... I avoided my appointment with my potential new therapist.  I didn't feel comfortable with her and so I canceled.  It helps that I'm so busy.  I was concerned about canceling last week because I've been feeling so down lately but I think that things are steadily improving into what feels like a great place.  I'm keeping myself social, dreaming about grad school, getting ready to sign a year lease on the cutest apartment on the planet.  Things are good.  There's a background of heartache but in a way, that's what makes the good moments really feel good. 

I'll try to get my entries back to being a little bit more focused here in a while.  Maybe longer entries about specific outings or accomplishments.  For now, I'm just happy to get something down here...

Namaste

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I'm learning how to throw ceramics on a wheel.  We're a few weeks into class and I finally managed to get the "cylinder" in the picture.  It's the first shape I made completely on my own.  There are two other cylinders of mine in the damp room but they both had significant aide from the teacher.  There is even more clay in the recycled clay bucket...

During the first couple weeks of class I could feel my frustration rising as I couldn't make the shape I was aiming for.  Then, somehow last Monday the ideas finally started to gel a little bit.  I'm hoping that when we learn to trim I can clean up the bottom of this pot.

There's a pretty high level of concentration and balance  involved in wheel throwing.  More than that, what I'm struggling with is not letting the clay push me around.  People who throw make it look incredibly easy but there's an amount of firmness that you have to be able to hold on to in order for the clay to not become a wobbled shape.  At the same time you can't push beyond the point of holding still otherwise you wobble the entire piece in the other direction.  Luckily, I've been taught a couple of saves--otherwise, I never would have gotten the shape in the picture.

I feel like my life is spinning in much the same way as the clay on the wheel.  And that I'm handling it in much the same way that I'm handling my pieces.  For the first couple of weeks I'd keep trying and keep pushing the clay until it was useless.  Over doing it.  Then I've backed off and it's been just the same problem but in the other direction.  Finding a balance to keep the walls of the clay straight and being able to pull it up so that it's taller has been difficult.  In much the same way I'm not sure I'm balancing my life right at the moment either.  Things are happening fast and I feel that I'm only just barely keeping up.  But, at the same time, the walls haven't fallen and so I feel rather "full" and happy with how everything is going. Just like class though, I'm waiting and anticipating that one little push or pull in the wrong direction and I'll just wobble right in to something dysfunctional.

I've been at my aunt's place for a couple of weeks now.  I like it there.  Getting used to the ridiculous commute was no fun.  First it took an hour and a half every day to get to work.  I'd try to leave earlier and it would just be worse.  So, I tried leaving later.  I've found a balance in that. Leaving later gets me there in about an hour (sometimes less).

Work is fine.  I'm trying to balance my lack of motivation with my ethics about being at a job.  I'm paid to be here so I better get my work done.  I'm grateful for the job even if I'd rather be doing almost anything else.  That said though, I DO wish I was doing something else. 

Outside of work my life feels jam packed with a million things--but really, I don't know if it's all that much after all.  Maybe I'm never going to be satisfied even if I'm constantly running.  Mondays are ceramics, Tuesday is a class on Buddhist meditation (but we're on break), I have an online anthropology class (which I am just loving), weekends I still should be riding, and I really need to find a way to incorporate exercise, meditation and yoga.

Part of me, I think, is avoiding my relationship.  In order to cope with how much I feel is lacking and how hard the distance is and the impending separation that is coming whenever he leaves for S. Korea, I'm immersing myself in all of these activities that keep me occupied.  It's taken it's toll.  Part of the reason I think the boy and I have worked so well is because I've been so available.  Now, without that constant availability (I'm either at work, at class, or in between...with no Internet at home too) I feel like we talk even less.  But, it keeps me away from dealing with feelings I'm not necessarily feeling prepared to deal with.  It's all a part of the spinning, I guess.  My relationship is the air bubble that will eventually end up coming to the surface.. I'm sure.

Overall though, I'm really content with all of this stuff that I've got going on.  Being more active outside of work is certainly making work less of a drudgery in my day and being absolutely exhausted all the time has really done wonders for me sleeping through the whole night. 

Namaste.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Transition


Life is a good teacher and a good friend.  Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it.  Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about.  The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don't get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It's  very tender, non-aggressive, open-ended state of affairs.

-Pema Chodron

Everything is in the air right now.  It is strange, but very familiar at the same time, to not feel like the ground is really beneath me right now.  At the same time though I feel more grounded this time than I have in previous instances of off-balance.  I'm  not in panic mode and so far I seem to be taking this all in stride.  

In a couple of weeks I will move in with my aunt.  This should be a new experience and it will be a quiet one.  My aunt lives at the beginning of nowhere--the outer edge of suburban bay area and the beginning of what has always seemed to me to be endless flat grass and horse land.  It's nice out there.  The air is different and it's quiet.  She has horses, chickens, peacocks, pigeons and a goat.  Big change from my spider infested, urban Berkeley basement room.  This move will be temporary.  One to three months I'm imagining.  And then?  Then I will find myself my own little apartment in the bay area again.  Or that's the plan at least.  

My commute will be murderous.  My gas budget will sky rocket.  Nevertheless, this will offer me a reprieve from this sudden jolt of "what the hell is going on with my life" that has poured down on me.  After a year of straightening everything out and deciding to take one big risk and then watching the prospect of that leap of faith vanish before me in an instant I'm left with this unresolved, unplanned emptiness.  Needless to say, without going into too much detail, my aunt's place was a jumping board for a plan that fell apart.  Now, I have all these different paths open to me and I have to make some choices--or not.  Likely I'll just mozy into this timidly and tentatively stick my toes into different options until I feel comfortable with something.  Still, not knowing what the next 5 months look like is unsettling.
 
The quote above was a gift to me and a reminder to not panic.  It's OK that I have no idea what is happening or how it will work out.  I find comfort in it and by some form of transference I find comfort in my own predicament.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Reflections

I meant to reflect at the mid-way point of this year but just haven't found the words to put down.  I suppose this still counts as a mid point especially considering how much I struggle with the first five months of the year on a regular basis.  This year Spring was not so difficult, thanks to the magnificent discovery of Zyrtec-D.  Nevertheless, I get seasonally blue and this year was no different.  Summer has been it's own blur but now I'm emerging finally from the fog cocoon that I've allowed myself to stay hidden in.  So many things are changing...

First, let me start by saying that my sweet child from the previous entry is doing alright.  I can feel the loss he is experiencing through the spastic ways his anxiety manifests in him when he is in class but I also continue to see the cathartic process of paint in his life.  His mother, jolted by the death of her father, has re-entered her child's life and is living at a shelter where she is receiving assistance and support.  I'm crossing my fingers, praying, holding on to hope that she will be what she needs to be for the boy--what she should have always been.

Next, I'd like to put a shameless little plug in for myself. A while back I submitted some poetry to my friend's poetry blog and then didn't realize he published my work!  Just the other day I noticed finally and so I'd like to share the link here.  Infloressence is a creative little poetry blog idea which is slowly coming into being.  I'm not sure that he'll keep it up but I do love the concept.   My work is listed here, under Poetry to Consider.

As far as reflection goes for this year so far I do know that my life has been and continues to change exponentially.  This is thanks to my work with my therapist, the growth of my relationship with the boy (significant other, not the child from the last entry), my interactions with friends and other influential people (the child, the people at the Art Center, my friends and family).  Overall, I feel less afraid than I have been in years.  I had a core realization a few months back where it became very clear to me that most of my struggles centered around  my inability to overcome a fear of failing and moreover a fear of just not doing things adequately or "quite right."  Since the realization I feel that I've been self-advocating, communicating more clearly, living more adventurously and I've felt a different sort of focus than I'd been feeling for the last few years.  There isn't such an acute dread in the way I am focusing my attention at survival.  Now there is more of an excitement and a sense of "watch me do this!"  And still, I have no idea where I'm headed or how I'll get there.

Part of this new found confidence seems to surge up from seeing other people live confidently.  I've heard about friends (and friends of friends) who have advocated for themselves professionally and are achieving and obtaining what they want.  It's lessened my fear of asking for what I know I deserve.  I've watched friends healthfully communicate through relationship issues instead of running in fear of conflict--and the resolutions come more calmly and more genuinely than when one is just placating the other for the sake of getting along.  I've watched people try new things and thrive as a result and even more than watching this happen in other people I have tried these "new" ways of being and am finding that they work for me, that I won't spontaneously implode out of anxiety and/or fear (even if I feel like I might) and that as a result I am feeling happier, more exuberant, and more close to the me that I know that I am for longer periods of time than just small sparks and glimpses.

I guess that sounds wordy and maybe a little bit self-aggrandizing.  For the purposes of a mid-year review though it seems accurate and even understated.  I feel like the happy child in me has been holding her breath for a couple of decades and that she is finally breathing out and saying, "Hey, I'm still here and I want to try this...and this...and this...and this!"And for once, the focused, responsible, adult who has been so focused on trying to (unsuccessfully) pay down debt and get ahead professionally is saying, "Oh, well OK, let's do it."  As a result I am taking huge strides in the directions that I've been trying to force for so long.

Recently, I started horseback riding.  This is something I started doing as a child but through a combination of the size of the animal and my incredibly propensity for allergies to everything I became a bit traumatized about the whole thing and refused to get that close to a horse for years.  This has defined most of the Saturdays in my life for the last couple of months.  I'm finding that while I don't particularly feel like I enjoy being on the actual horses I am developing a bond to them (particularly the horse I ride most--Hershey).  Riding is becoming less of a catalyst for stress and more of a time where I am getting to know myself and my ability to put a certain level of trust in a being that I cannot directly communicate with.

I've been writing again, slowly and differently. For me it is extremely rare that I can write in any emotion other than devastated and depressed.  So, these new quiet moments of opening where I have floods of words are new welcome territory.

I'm seriously debating graduate school at this point. I am mainly torn between Marital and Family Therapy (with an Art Therapy component) and Social Work.  Unfortunately, Art Therapy is offered in San Francisco and Los Angeles; two great cities that I currently don't feel a pull towards.  I would live in Los Angeles were it not for my current relationship.  I am aware that if I were to pick school in Los Angeles I would essentially be choosing the end of a very beautiful part of my life right now.  I don't feel capable of making that decision.  I don't want to make that sacrifice.

Social work on the other hand is much more broad and available but as time has passed I am feeling less of a pull towards it.  Marital and Family Therapy without the Art Therapy component could work also.  Either way I'd like to work with children who are healing from neglect and abuse.  Social Work would allow me to work with policy and broader areas than just one child at a time.  Art Therapy and/or MFT would allow me to work with the individual.

But, for now, I'll start smaller.  Tomorrow morning I'm attending a hula hoop class and I'm absolutely amped about it.  I have no idea what to expect, except that I cannot and have not ever been able to hula hoop successfully. 

Then afterwards it's back to the great big task of sorting through all of my belongings.  I'm moving in a month and need to get down to the bare minimum of what I own.  This is it's own adventure and maybe I'll delve into that in some later post.  It, of course, is bringing up it's own feelings of anxiety but overall I am excited to see where these new paths take me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tonight, I will tell you about a child...

Corner of a Big Painting by the Child
There is a little boy in this world and in my mind no one could compare, but at the same time I'm afraid that there are many like him--too many.

He's the one I've come to know.  He's the one I sit with on Saturday mornings as he explores creation through paint, through color, through clay.  This little boy has taught me more about resilience and hope than any other person I've encountered.  He has taught me more about strength and the impact of trauma than any life lesson I've ever experienced first hand.  He is young and he is vibrant.  He is troublesome and too much untamed energy.  He is creative, inspired and inspiring.

In briefest terms possible, according to Childhelp (a very user-friendly and accessible web-site), national child abuse statistics show that three million reports of child abuse are made each year.  This is in the United States alone.  They go on to state that many of these claims involve multiple children, almost doubling the figure to 5.8 million children in 2007 who were included in these reports.  Fifty-nine percent of reported child abuse is classified as neglect, almost eleven percent as physical abuse, seven and a half percent as sexual abuse.  Among the general statistics on the page are staggeringly grim percentage rates of the prevalence of child abuse in social issues such as teen pregnancy, drug use and violent crime.

This child that I know has suffered abuse at the hands of the people who were to have cared about him most--his mother and her boyfriend.  Now, really, I don't know the details and specifics of it other than that most of the abuse came from the boyfriend and that the mother did not step in.  Whether she partook in the actual physical abuse or not, I don't know.  This happened until the age of three.  He now lives with his grandparents who take extremely good care of him.  He is loved but in the wake of the catastrophic abuse that this child has suffered he is visibly impacted.

He's in therapy and at a Montessori School.  These have been hugely helpful for him.  I have seen a difference in him within the last year.   In class this child has trouble sitting still, he must be holding items and fidgeting.  He must be making noise.  He must be rocking back and forth or turning something over, or banging the table.  When asked direct questions he used to not answer, it's taken a year and now occasionally he'll answer.  Otherwise, he recedes inside of himself.  I've seen him speak up more when a general question is asked of the class.  As of this year I've watched him chime in more during story time.  

This child loves bugs.  He loves spiders.  He takes considerable care in deciding what to draw or sculpt before beginning and then puts it out on paper (and clay) with a care and detail that surpasses a lot of the other children.  His drawings stand out amongst the other children's creations.  Unfortunately, this is because of their tenor--dark, frightening, violent.  Over the last year also the anger in these pictures is simmering down.  When I first met him he drew two people/creatures next to each other with angered faces, razors and knives coming from where their arms used to be, machine guns from the other arms, fire.  Reds and blacks.  A year later his drawings are more tempered: scary bugs and plants with jaws that can chomp and crush, spewing poison at flies and other more innocent plants.  

Even so, just a few weeks ago each child was to create a book, whatever book they desired.  This boy created dark clouds, slowly parting (comic book style) and through the clouds a creepy little creature with glowing yellow eyes.  He came and he left.  And there was nothing more to it.  For me, it conjured a sense of ominous fear inducing creature coming...and going.

Dragon Carrying a Paper Clip by the Child
It's in the clay and the larger acrylic paintings that this boy's happier feelings seem to come out.  Little spider bugs, a jelly fish tile, a caterpillar, a dragon.  He could sit for hours creating his creatures from the clay and splattering paint on large canvas.

All of this has solidified in me the opinion that art is a universal healer of all hurts.  Of course, the Montessori School, the therapy, the love from his grandparents, the nurture he is receiving is all playing a role as well but to watch this child transform and express himself through art is so concretely visceral.  He is changing from the inner-most workings of his being.  And he is changing me.

Because of this child I am now certain that I want to pursue graduate education in Social Work.  I want to put in time working for CPS, working with foster children, neglected children, physically abused children to better the situation for little boys and girls like this one.  I'm certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if more people don't turn to organizations that help these children that more and more will fall through the cracks and become nothing more than statistics heard on the news or in blog posts like this one.  These children are so much more important than the number to which they become grouped.  My young friend is so much more than an eleven percent.

So, the point of this blog is to introduce you to this child as a representative of a much larger set of humans--not as a named child who lives in a specific city with a specific address.  He is one of so many others and for me he is irreplaceable.  The point of this blog is that I am angry and I am sad.   I cannot and will not come to terms with people who can do this to a child.  The child is innocent.  The child is an empty vessel and what we do to the children of our world alters the course of their reality in ways that an abuser is too cowardly to realize, too sick to acknowledge and/or care about.   The point of this entry is to voice my concern and that I am filled to the brim with hope for this child and others.  But also to voice that I am disheartened to know that there are so many children lost in "the system" or trapped in their abusive situations. 

The point of this blog is to share something important to me, beyond the poetry, the letters to Afghanistan, the excursions to take photos.  This entry is to share something that defines my core, something that I feel strongly should matter to you as a human.

I'm not one to push opinions so entries like this will be few and far between but you can assist in making a change.  Take a moment: volunteer, donate, call in for a child who needs help, or just pay attention to the children in your own life.   Nurture those who need your care and strength.  Protect those who cannot protect themselves.

 *****

This morning I learned that the sweet boy's grandfather has cancer.  The prognosis at this point is unclear--but it sounds serious and grim.  The process of searching for options has started for this family and I am left to wonder about the impact that all of this will have on this child who is only seven or eight years old; who has already gone through so much (and the impact that this will have on his grandmother). 

My mind fills with concern about the well-being of this little boy.  Will he continue to get the attention that he needs to keep him on a trajectory to functioning in society?  Will he take the illness of his grandfather on as his own personal burden?  Will he blame himself as so many children blame themselves for the sadness that enters their lives?

My soul goes out to the grandmother who now must divide her loving attention between a child who is very much a "special needs" child and an ailing husband.  It's a burden I can't even begin to imagine.  Many people, as well as myself, have offered to assist her in this time of need but even so it's an unfathomable hardship for me. 


Blue and Yellow Spider-Bug by the Child

"For millions of years flowers have been producing thorns. For millions of years sheep have been eating them all the same. And it's not serious, trying to understand why flowers go to such trouble produce thorns that are good for nothing? It's not important, the war between the sheep and the flowers?... Suppose I happen to know a unique flower, one that exists nowhere in the world except on my planet, one that a little sheep can wipe out in a single bite one morning, just like that, even without realizing what he's doing - that isn't important? If someone loves a flower of which just one example exists among all the millions and millions of stars, that's enough to make him happy when he looks at the stars. He tells himself, 'My flower's up there somewhere...' But if the sheep eats the flower, then for him it's as if, suddenly, all the stars went out. And that isn't important?'" 
-Le Petit Prince

Thank you for reading.  Thank you for any action you might take to support the end of child abuse.

Namaste.

  *****
 UPDATE: Since I posted this entry the little boy's grandfather has passed away.  Please send your good thoughts and intentions out there to them and to the people you interact with daily.  While things like cancer aren't necessarily avoidable, child abuse is.  This world could be a better place if we all dedicate some attention to the areas that need it.


"Let the beauty we love be what we do."

Every day we wake up empty and frightened
Don't go to the study and pull out a book,
Take down a musical instrument instead
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are a hundred ways
To kneel and kiss the ground.

(Rumi, translation Coleman Barks) 

Rumi's pieces have filled my soul since I was introduced to him back in college.   The piece above has been my favorite for the last five or six years.  Particularly the words Let the beauty we love be what we do. That a person should follow their bliss and be what they are most impassioned to do.  It has been a mantra and a goal of mine since I first read the words.  I'm not there yet but it's a journey.  

And so tonight I was reminded again of a Rumi poem that a friend of mine shared with me a few months ago.  I had read it once in my Rumi book and then  not thought upon it after until my friend shared it and I began to think of the actual meaning of the words.  Then, a few weeks ago the leader of my mediation group shared it with us in conjunction with a discussion on "feelings."  I'm working with the same themes in my therapy.  How emotions are like clouds.  They come and go and change as often as the weather--passing clouds.  And then, on Monday, it struck me to send this poem to my soldier, tucked away in a card, in the hopes to share a little peace if he's needing it.

The poem is called The Guest House and deals with emotions coming and going and that one should welcome them into their being, experience them and let them stay and leave as they please and need because often they are clearing out the old and bringing in the new.

Emotions.  They seem to be the focal point of my struggle this week.
And so I'll share these words with you and hope they bring some comfort and ease into your week. 



The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks)


Namaste.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

For Memorial Day...

I enjoyed a very restful and massively productive weekend both creatively and with regards to daily responsibilities.  Today, Tuesday, is the first day of the work week since we had the Memorial Day Holiday.  It's the last day of May and it's pouring down rain.  Whether it's global warming, an El Nino year (is it?) or just freak weird weather I'm missing stereotypical warm California weather.  I am grateful for the rain though--it has such a calming effect on everything and conjures thoughts of hibernation.  It has definitely made it a bit easier to settle back into the grind too since there is no magnetic pull to go outside.

Among other projects, this weekend I adopted a soldier again.  It's probably my most notable accomplishment and the one I am most excited about.  I had adopted two previously but "life" got in the way and I hadn't adopted new one's when they came home.  The program I belong to is Soldier's Angels, a non-profit organization that works to send care packages and correspondence to soldiers (deployed and injured) as well as provide care and support for veteran's who have returned home.  They have a variety of different teams that people can participate in.  I highly recommend it if you are looking for a way to support our troops. 

I don't know much about my current soldier as there wasn't really any information provided except for his name and address.  (I'll refer to him as J or 'my soldier' going forward for anonymity.)  If I looked up his military address correctly then I'm relatively sure he is stationed in Afghanistan.  I can't fathom being in the military right now, much less in the Middle East. 

Today, I finished prepping my first letter to him.  I wrote him two and a half pages introducing myself, asking him what he'd like me to send to him and telling him about my window at home.  I know that sounds weird.  For me though, my window is this beautifully peaceful part of my life--the way the sun drips in in the late afternoon, the way light seeps through the bamboo shoots and how the apricot tree arches over the window, how the window swings open like fairy tale windows (the house I live in is from the 30's).  It's such a quiet and safe comfort in my life and  I tried to convey it as such.  I thought it sounded like a good introduction.  Where better to start than the place that I sleep and wake--since he'll likely read my first letter wherever he sleeps and wakes. 

It's always a little bit hard to know what to write in the first letter.  I included this picture from UC Santa Cruz's quarry that I really adore.  I took it back in sophomore year of college.  Finally, I stuck in a form that Soldier's Angels provides so that my soldier can send me info pertaining to himself and what he'd like me to send in the care packages along with a self addressed envelope.

I'm looking forward to preparing my second letter to him but am not sure what I'll include yet and as for the first care package I really haven't the faintest idea what to include yet.  Maybe, since I've rejoined Swap-Bot I can send him some of the cute stuff I trade on there. (I will write more about Swap-Bot in a future entry.)  Maybe I'll do some long overdue baking and send some to the boy (B) and some to my soldier.  I'm definitely working on supporting my relationship with B more so anything I can do to support him that can also lend to helping fill out care packages for my soldier would be good at least until J writes me back and tells me what he'd like to receive.

There are a lot more projects I'd like to write about but they'll have to wait for other entries.  Stay tuned for Swap-Bot, 100 Things Drawing Challenge, Writing progress, Horseback Riding, Piano moving and practicing, and more.  I'm feeling very alive right now and I hope it keeps up.  I'm also hoping that you are feeling very alive too and that the weekend has been restful, invigorating and inspiring! 

Namaste.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Writing as Identity

My being is defined by my writing and lately there has been a dearth of it.   It is my intention to start several writing projects.  Technically, I already started these projects a little while ago when I posted them on 43Things and bought the plain notebook that I've been carting around for weeks.  I want to really delve into them now though.  I used to write so much and now I feel so incredibly blocked.  I have so much to say and want to at least start compiling notes.  My projects will be as follows:
  • Submit another poem to Take-it-to-the-Street Poetry
  • Submit poetry to Infloressence (a poetry blog project of a friend of mine).
  • Participate in a poetry slam (or two...or more)
  • Get a poem published in a selective publication.
  • Enter some writing contests.
  • Draft/write some of the children's stories I started brainstorming
  • Come up with a few more short story ideas.
  • Start compiling notes for my creative non-fiction poetry memoir.
In doing these new projects I also want to solidify an archive of the work I've already done.  Maybe I can send some of the older work out (probably a good idea for Take-it-to-the-Street and Infloressence.  Hoping that when I start editing and submitting work that I'll feel more creative and then be able to write some new pieces.  Today, while walking to my coffee shop I felt so strongly about a poem.  Each word just poured into my brain but by the time I got to the coffee shop, after stopping to talk to a neighbor and taking time to order my drink, all but the essence of the poem had dissipated.  I tried rehashing the words but only got a rough uneasy sketch of what had been so fluid.  Maybe that will turn into something eventually--that isn't typically how my pieces work though.

Poetry Slam sounds SO daunting to me.  It's something that was suggested to me years ago and I've never thought myself confident enough to participate.  I still don't really know if I can do it but it sounds like a good opportunity to get my words out there.  The local place has contests for cash prizes (which, if I'm good at it, would be really helpful).

Writing contests fall under the same vein.  I've never sent any of my work out so contests and sending to selective publications will undoubtedly take some getting used to.  I'm sure there is just an incredibly amount of rejection happening based on how many amazing poets I interact with on Facebook.  Poetry is such an under recognized art form.  To get published and then really known in the poetic community must be extremely challenging.

Since the last year of college I've had two or three exceptional ideas for short story/children's books.  I wrote them in Spanish and may keep them that way but more than likely I will translate and flesh them out into short children's style novels.  They're heavy in content though--similar to the questionably sad tenor of Le Petit Prince.  I'd also like to do their illustrations.  Once I have them more fleshed out I may share drafts on here--unfortunately though due to some publishing issues and copyright concerns I also may not.  They really are beautiful ideas and if I can pull it off I'd like my name on them rather than some stranger stealing them away before I have the chance!

And then my big project.  The biggest of the big!  I have been dreaming and scheming up this idea for so long: a creative non-fiction poetry memoir.  My poems are typically based on fact--almost rigidly so.  I have this wonderful plan to mesh poetry into prose into thought-flow into more prose into story.  From all of this I plan to create a story arc that portrays a very creative somewhat fictionalized overlay for a non-fiction representation of my life experiences.  While nothing in my life has been particularly spectacular compared to what is already out in the literary world I feel I have something to say, something to teach and a create mode to put it forward that will be captivating (if I can pull it off).

So, there you have it...  big plans coming up.

Namaste.
__________________________________________________________________________________

UPDATE: Out of sheer restlesness I have already tackled the first two submission goals on my list.  I chose one poem for Take-it-to-the-Street Poetry and three other pieces for Infloressence.  I'm pleased with my choices and did some minor editing to a couple of the pieces before sending them over.

Hopefully I'll hear back on Infloressence in the next couple of weeks.

Take-it-to-the-Street is due out for it's next publication on July 1st.  I've asked to be able to submit a sketch to Take-it-to-the Street and we'll see what I'll choose to turn in for that. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Snapshots of the Drop - May 2011

I'm not a huge promoter of Facebook and other pointless  networking websites but I have found a benefit for Facebook in that I've networked with a lot of poets.  Essentially, the poets have become the point of being on FB.  (My rant on FB will come some other day, I'm sure.)

Two poets started this great project which I've been able to participate in.  They've done it twice before with different themes but I finally was able to get my act together and submit something. 

Here is how it worked.  Lynne and Cornelius (two very creative minded poets) invited all of us other poetic and artistic types to submit our poetry, sketches, and prose to them.  Lynne then compiled volumes of the work.  She ended up creating seven volumes!  I was in Volume 5.  It's called Force Fed (tag line "take it to the streets poetry."  They made a deadline for submissions and accepted all.  Deadline came around and then they began printing and mailed each person two copies of their volume--one for their records and one for the drop.

Unfortunately, mine never showed up.  I'm going to blame that on the bad juju of giving them my work address instead of my home address.  The volumes are all up and available on Yudu so I was able to print out a copy (I don't have a printer so this was sort of an adventure too).  I have one copy in my office, printed a small copy for myself and then printed the small copy in the picture which I left at my current coffee shop.  By the time I left it ended up on the magazine rack where I hope it will stay for a while.  I hope many people read it.

The volumes are all available on Yudu.  Here is a link to all of the volumes.  And, if you have Facebook you can check out the event page.  Eventually, I've been told by Cornelius that a video will be made of all of the photos.  They're really gorgeous and everyone's ideas of where to drop the booklets is great.

I sumbitted the following piece:


Seeds

I sink into this space
between my fingers and my face;
beneath the blazoned fuchsia skyscape
and the salted surface tension
of an ebbing ease-less ocean;
under the solid sway
of the grand gray bridge.

Suspension

          A framework.

The holding of all screamings,
loud and low, that are seeping
and slowly sowing themselves
amongst my ordered throughts.

They grasp at little gaps in
my besotted adoration of This:
your deep abounding sun setting
into hushed abiding dusk.

© Natalie Webster