Who Are You Now?

Two nights ago I had a dream about a bald eagle hatching. Most animal dreams are significant and I try to pay attention when they happen. This one, in particular, jumped out at me as containing a relevant message, particularly because eagles are such a powerful animal and have represented major spiritual concepts to many cultures throughout history. Powerful medicine.

I’m lucky enough to know a man who does shamanic work here in Madison (and around the world, as well.) When I told him I was planning to do a little research to find out what this dream’s meaning was, he said he believed it was that a deep dream of mine was “hatching” or about to be realized. Sweet!

Then I got to thinking…What are my dreams these days? I am so intimately absorbed in the day to day life with my kids and husband, do I even have dreams that go beyond getting a full night’s sleep, going to Target by myself, and getting in a good workout a couple times a week? That feels so lame, somehow, but is really indicative of this time of my life. Family life, man, I’m deep in it.

But to honor the parts of me that might be holding steady to some of my other dreams I may have lost sight of, I sometimes revisit questions to bring those dreams back into my awareness. To find my location and spiritual coordinates on my life map.  I encourage you to answer some of them for yourself. It’s often surprising what you don’t know about yourself. Here are a few….

What makes you laugh?
What scares you?
Where do you most want to travel to alone?
Where do you most want to travel to with your family?
What is your favorite color?
What are three things you would like to spend more time doing?
What are three things you would like to stop doing?
What are three life goals you have already achieved?
What are three life goals you look forward to achieving?
What is a goal you have that you don’t think you can achieve? What if you could?
What do you love about your home?
What do you not like about your home?
What do you love about your town?
What do you not like about your town?
What makes you feel happy?
What makes you feel lonely?
What is your favorite song?
What is some new activity you’d like to try?
Where do you see yourself in five years? Does it make you smile?
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
Who is a good friend to you?
Whose friendship are you letting go of?
What do you feel guilty about?
How can you celebrate who you are today?

Children’s Book Review: Old Turtle by Douglas Wood

 

Today’s Favorite: Old Turtle by Douglas Wood

 

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Old TurtleSpiritual without being religious. Poignant without being sappy. Ecologically aware without being preachy. Wood expresses truths (in my world) without being cliche. I’m so grateful to have found a story that I can read to my little ones that touches on the bigger questions and interconnectedness of all things. When I read it, I skip over the part about people doing harm to each other because I”m not ready to introduce my 4 year old ot the concept yet. The story works beautifully without it. Warning for those seeking out non-religious spiritual books- it does contain the concept of God. Not a judgy, power-hungry God, though. God that is in you, me and everything. The paintings are really beautiful too.

Children’s Book Review: Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)

(Note: This is a repost from 2015) A few weeks ago, my 5 year old was having trouble falling asleep. I was resting next to him on his bed, waiting for the wiggling to stop, for his eyes to close. It didn’t and his eyes stayed open for 10, 15, 20 minutes. I had him place his hand over his belly to feel his breath and mentioned that when I was a kid, I used to have thoughts flying through my mind at night.  He turned to me and said, “That happens to me all the time.” (After weeping silently in my mind that a 5 year old has racing thoughts that keep him up, I gathered my composure.)  We talked about how paying attention to your body and breath can help shift you into a lower gear, settle those thoughts, and allow sleep to come.

On a mission the next day, not wanting him to have to go through the same anxieties I did as a kid with an overactive worried mind that never seemed to settle down, I went in search of a book that could help me help him start early with mindfulness and self-calming techniques. I hoped for simple exercises, short meditations, fun imagery, effective strategies, and a cd that could guide us through. And….

 

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 Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)
– 
by Eline Snell

 

Every single one of my hopes was answered in this book.  It’s beautifully simple with tips and info for parents about mindfulness and soothing cd tracks that guide you through short (4 min+) mindfulness exercises. These tracks are stand-alone- they’re perfect. Simple enough for my 5 year old to listen to by himself, interesting enough that it keeps his attention.

After listening to a few tracks over the course of several days, he suggested we do a mindfulness exercise every day.  (Joy!) Ten minutes later I was buying this book online. You can’t buy happiness but you can buy this book. Being present in our bodies and teaching our kids to do the same is the happiest of happies.

Your Beautiful Body, Ina May style

“Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”

-Ina May Gaskin

Children’s Book Review: Little Owl Lost

Today’s Favorite: Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton

 

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This is a newish book that I believe is the author’s first. We checked it out from the library a few months back. It’s one of those books that you keep renewing and renewing and then eventually just break down and buy.  I like it because I found it hilarious, and loved the illustrations. It’s about a little owl that falls out of her nest and gets some help from a funnily unhelpful squirrel to find her. It’s sweet with cool, modern looking illustrations that are different enough to catch your attention and familiar enough to warm up to the characters immediately. I hope he writes more.

Art, Isadora Style

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“If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it.”

– Isadora Duncan

 Art is critical to human evolution, survival, well-being, tolerance, awareness, and connection. It is not something we do, it is something we are.  We are the music, the dance, the masterpieces. Our lives are compositions. Language is vastly limited in what it can do to express the nuances, subtleties, and galactic power of our emotions, our sensory input, and our depth. This is something I’ve learned as I’ve waded through grief over my dad for the last two years. Some things just can’t be explained with words. To be fully realized, we need to create and express artistically. We need to move our distinct selves in rhythm with the sensations and vibrations we feel, and let meanings fall away, as we spring into a state of observation. Art is immediate. Creating it and being witness to it drops us into the present moment.

I love this quote because Ms. Duncan is saying how dance can express something without defining it. That is something that we are designed to do- bypass our need to analyze and understand- and just embody our experiences. Dance them. Paint them.   Sculpt them. There is a part of us that is always centered in the geyser of creative force. Where we don’t need to understand or analyze. Our mental selves jump out of the equation and we are left with ourselves- and the power we have in expressing things that words never could contain.

Children’s Book Review: Jazz Baby

Today’s Favorite: Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie

 

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This book is the coolest, grooviest rhythmic book that I have found. I absolutely love reading it, in part because it’s a little like performing music (which I have missed dearly since becoming a SAHM.) It can be read like a rap and you can even have your little one do a call and response with the end-phrases if they’re old enough.

“Grandpa toot-toots. Granny sings scat. Bitty-boppin’ baby goes, Rat-Tat-Tat! Mama sings high. Daddy sings low. Snazzy, jazzy baby says, Go, Man, Go!” C’mon. That family is cool. That baby is cool. I want to hang out with that baby he’s so cool. This jazzy family and their hip baby might be too cool for me. Good thing I get to read about them. Because they are so fun to spend time with.

Night Weaning, Victor Hugo style

“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.”
– Victor Hugo

OK, so he is talking about an idea for nations, for the world at large, I’m sure. But I like to take this quote to a more personal level. Recently for our family, that idea whose time has come is night weaning. But it’s true for any brilliant new thing that you are just ready for. The trick, as always, is getting out of your own way to let the idea take its rightful place at the center of your attention.

Children’s Book Review: Blueberries for Sal

 

Today’s Favorite: Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

 

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My favorite line of this book is the sound of the blueberries hitting the bottom of Sal’s pail “Kaplink, kaplank, kuplunk!” It’s really fun to say. And really, this book is fun to read because it’s so simple and sweet. Sal and her mother go out to pick blueberries to can for the winter. A bear and his mother go out to eat blueberries to fill up their bellies for the winter. There’s so many things right about this book. How similar we are in some ways to animals. How awesome it is to follow your mother around. How normal it is to get lost when you’re having a good time. How easy it is to eat a whole pail of blueberries. The illustrations are, to use an overused term- timeless. I especially love the wordless pages where Sal is standing on a chair “helping” her mother can the blueberries they’ve picked. It seems like a snapshot of my own life, really capturing the aching beauty of having little ones to hang out with- walking, working, playing. It’s all here in this classic.