Where I Put My Energy

If I were to divide my day into percentages of where I put my energy, I might sound like a maid or a cook on the weekends, and I’d be a receptionist/admin during the week.  That’s what is real for me right now.  I have a family of six to tend to and a full-time job come weekdays.

It’s the other moments, though, that I have a choice over how to spend my energy.  Some things have to be done, but I also have an inner child to indulge, a gift to cultivate, a calling to follow.  Some things can’t be ignored.

So on snow days like this, I give thanks that I have the opportunity to catch up on laundry and housework, making sure the children are bathing.  During last week’s snow days, I got caught up on some (not all) of my volunteer tasks.

I’ve also been doing some of the other things, the things I do for me.  Like reading.  Blogging.  Cleaning up and clearing out some things that have been cluttered.  Spending time with husband.  Did I mention reading?  Reading is a stimulus to me to write.  I even chose not to finish a book because it wasn’t doing anything for me.  I even got rid of half of my fabric stash because I don’t have time to create several pieced quilts.  My time is precious.  Every moment counts.  Do the things I surround myself with contribute to a positive energy?  Do I spend my time and energy wisely?

If I looked at my “free” time, did I spend it writing or cultivating my writing craft?  If not, then can I honestly call myself a writer?  This is no small pondering; this is serious.

Leave it to almost two feet of snow to cave me in with my thoughts and the freedom to choose how I will spend the day and night.  Who will I choose to be in any given moment?

Where do you put your energy, and what does it say about you?

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A Little More Fuss

I know the woman in the grocery store pushing the cart with the child in the top seat.  I have soft terry pants like that, and though I can’t tell from this distance, I wonder if her old sweatshirt is getting holes at the cuffs and seams like mine, aging from all the washes.  I’ve been this woman.

In another aisle I pass the woman carrying a couple of items in her arms.  She breezes by with a fragrance sophisticated and richly feminine.  She looks like she just came from an executive meeting, winning everyone with her charm.  Could she be as brilliant as she is beautiful?  I can only hope to be this woman.

What being an out-of-the-home working mom has taught me is that I can put forth a little more effort and feel tremendously different.  If I feel different, then how differently will others perceive me?

I style my growing hair.  (I do happen to have rollers from a post-partum drug-store visit for a massive amount of beauty supplies after our third child.)  I wear mascara along with my other makeup.  Occasionally I wear contacts.  I now have a whole wardrobe that can hang-dry only, including many pairs of knee-highs.  I bought a pair of boots (but do not plan to buy “skinny” jeans or “jeggings”).

Doing these small things, putting forth a little more fuss at the beginning of the day, reminds me that I am worth a little extra effort.  I am valuable, and I don’t mind if others appreciate me, too.  None of us really want to be invisible, do we?

Some days warrant the yoga/pajama garb, to be sure, but every day deserves a simple little beauty routine.  Simple can mean lipgloss and earrings or curled hair and a dress.

Beauty is simple by nature, isn’t it?

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Crazy Woman

Aren’t we supposed to eat whatever we want, sleep as long as we like, dress however we want to?  Maybe I need to refresh my memory as to what the feminist movement was all about.

Last night I found myself vacuuming at 9:30pm.  I couldn’t help it.  Thankfully the kids were in bed, and I just hoped that they might still have enough of their babyhood left that somehow the vacuum would be a soothing lullaby at best, at least a deep background noise.  It didn’t phase them.

But what kind of woman was I to be running around the house, completely on empty, making sure the dishes got done (or at least finished by husband), pants ironed for the morrow, and floors swept and vacuumed?  Then, when it seemed like I couldn’t possibly do more, a commitment raised its hand, and I had to answer.  It’s writing after all.  I can do it.

So, I’ve decided I may be a crazy woman.  Yes, I have a weird obsession with wanting to have a clean house (at least on some standards).  Lord knows my house wouldn’t pass a sanitation or white glove test.  Fly Lady was onto something when she suggests making sure you keep a clean sink.  Not to worry, though; I don’t care what other people’s houses look like.

I’m on Day 2 of this 5:30 am writing adventure.  Along with this post, I’ve also written a brief article, thanks to aforementioned commitment.  Again, Lord knows I’m tired.  Somehow I’m given the energy to do what I find needs to be done.  I even managed an hour body sculpting workout yesterday . . . and making a casserole for dinner.

Even working full-time I’m managing to talk to my friends (a little bit), let my children, husband and home know I love them, and take care of myself.  It’s exhausting and tremendously rewarding.  It sounds crazy, juggling so much, and I just know it wouldn’t be possible if I weren’t also running with grace and blessing.

If we truly think about all we do, we might find that we’re not crazy.  We are fueled by passion.  If our intentions are good, we are tapped into a greater energy than we ever thought possible.  Of course days come when we will or want to sleep until 10am, if we are so lucky, but we can accept it as a gift of renewal and carry on, continuing to move forward with love.

I may seem like a crazy woman at times, to others and to myself.  More importantly, I am a blessed woman.  If you’re reading this, I’m certain you are blessed, too.

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The Ice Melts

The kids are home for their second day, but at least today is a little more unplugged.  I let them watch movies yesterday thinking the power would go off, but it didn’t until almost midnight!
As the kids settle into various activities, I keep drifting to the windows, looking across the rooftops and at the now-splintered trees.  The evergreens seem to have more resilience, able to take the Dr. Seussian contortions, but the deciduous trees . . . ah, the poor trees.  There’s still the crack and snap and rush of falling ice to be heard as the melting water adds the proverbial straw, adding too much weight to the exhausted wood.  At least, that’s what I imagine.

There are times when I, too, let the elements accumulate upon me, surround me and weigh me down.  I sag and droop, losing enthusiasm and very nearly my hope.  When the sun does start to peek through the clouds, I feel the cold shroud falling away.  Sometimes I cannot help but absorb some of that which burdens me.  Sometimes it’s hard to let it all evaporate, allowing myself to eventually regain my stature.  Sometimes I want to just absorb it all and snap and break and fall away.

But I don’t.  I guess I’m more like the evergreens I see on the horizon.  I can take it, and I do.  I may be taken for granted at times, even by my very self, but it’s up to me to decide how I weather all storms.

The sun is always there.  We just have to have faith and remember to keep the windows open to our heart and soul.

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With much delight and warmth of heart, I have resumed what my dear friend and I call “artist’s way.”  Actually, it started out using Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, but in the five+ years since, it’s been many things — mainly our soul time.  A phone call a week, some quiet time, conversation, feedback — what every woman needs.

This time is sacred and confidential, but with an open heart I believe I can share lessons I’ve learned with sincere thanks given to my friend for her insight.  This week’s lesson: psychosomatic illness.

psychosomatic (per Merriam-Webster):

: of, relating to, concerned with, or involving both mind and body <the psychosomatic nature of man
— Herbert Ratner>

: of, relating to, involving, or concerned with bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance <psychosomatic symptoms> <psychosomatic medicine>

Friday I was stricken with a migraine, one like I hadn’t had for about five years.  Encouraged to look at causes for the killer headache, I realized there are many factors that could be at play.  Among the culprits:

  • hormones
  • post-holiday stress relief
  • change in weather
  • dehydration
  • break in a hectic schedule
In my weakened state, of course, I didn’t seek out the causes.  When we are down, we lack the energy to look beyond where we are in the moment.  When we are down, we are very much aware of our present state and what we must have to survive, even if it’s simply a place to sleep in the dark and quiet.  Pizza delivery can be a blessing.

There can be medical reasons behind a migraine.  If I go to a medical doctor, I’m certain I could come away with a prescription and repeat visits until a diagnoses is made.  But I can also listen to my body, keep a journal of the onsets, be aware of my surroundings and circumstances and see if there’s not a pattern.  I can take into account where my mind and emotions are and see how they might be playing out through my body.  After all, isn’t that what holistic care is about?

Undoubtedly I needed some rest.  Two a.m. is not a sustainable bed-time.  There are aspects of my life I need to be more aware of.  There are aspects of my life I need not take for granted.  I hope that in your life, you don’t have to be stricken before awareness is yours.  Our bodies are wise.  We need to listen and take care of them.

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Handkerchief Quilt, Personally Interpreted

I have a collection of handkerchiefs from my maternal great-grandmothers, grandmother, and great aunt.  One of the gifts made for Christmas was a quilt from these handkerchiefs for my mother.  I originally had lofty ideas of how beautiful this would be, but in reality, the hankies came in all colors and sizes.  Not to mention, I was making the last stitches on the binding as my mother entered my home on Christmas Eve.  Alas, a quilt was made, the love stitched throughout.  In my haste and lack of battery-charging, few photos were taken at the end of the process.

Due to the delicate nature of the handkerchiefs (most of which are much older than me), I backed them with Wonder-Under and the comparable alternative for which I don’t have a name but was all I could find when I made a mad dash back to the fabric store for more, only to find they were out of the W-U.

I laid out the kerchiefs in the order they fit best within the dimensions of the quilt — 45″x60″.  It’s a crib size quilt, but perfect for a lap quilt, too.  The smartest thing I did was take this photo.  I could refer to it later when the kids helped with arranging the kerchiefs they way they thought they should be arranged.  No, not very helpful.


I then ironed the hankies onto the front piece, a nice soft flannel.  This is why Wonder-Under is so wonderful. It’s just an adhesive interfacing to hold your applique in place until it’s sewn; it also helps prevent fraying.


Once everything’s ironed into place, I took time to sew around all the kerchief edges and once around the middle to make sure it is held in place.  For sake of time, I didn’t want to have to do a lot of quilting, so this at least gave it more of a quilted appearance.

Time to layer.  The flannel I chose for the front was also used for the back, except with the wrong side out.  The wrong side is a solid beige, unlike the front that has a faint petite floral pattern (which unfortunately mostly faded in the wash).  The middle layer is natural cotton batting, crib size.  I pinned all three layers and trimmed the edges to make attaching the binding easier later.

I used the machine to quilt.  Obviously, I was in a time crunch and honestly have not taken the time to hand-quilt anything as of yet. Using a wavy stitch on the machine I just ran through the quilt between all the handkerchiefs, starting from the middle and working my way out.  In my haste, I made mistakes and had a couple of gathers, but for this casual quilt, I think it will be fine — much like the purchased mocha-colored binding.  You can make your own binding, to be sure, but for sake of time and considering it was on sale for 30% off, it couldn’t be beat.

And neither could the expression on my mother’s face, knowing she would love the quilt even more than me.

The other halves of the handkerchiefs are saved, not to worry.  I promised my daughter I could make one for her someday, too.  As a finishing touch to the above quilt, I added a couple of embellishments.  One is a strip of ribbon that says “family ties,” which I knotted on either side and hand-sewed it into place toward the top.  At the bottom I made a “homemade” tag and sewed it into the binding.  Sometimes these little touches add even more personality.  Personality is something women in my family definitely have.

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What We Really Have

FACT:  We all have finite amounts of time, money and energy.

FACT: No matter how much money we have or don’t have, there will be others who have more (assuming you’re not like Bill Gates, JK Rowling or the like!) and others who have less.

FACT:  Energy is neither created nor destroyed.

FACT:  Time is a constant.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  No more, no less.

On this day when I’m wishing I could sleep less and do more, wondering why I don’t just buy neatly packaged pre-made gifts, wishing I had the money to do so if I wanted to, it somehow helps to remind me of what my reality honestly consists of.  There are facts I often do not take into consideration, mostly because they are taken for granted.

It is worthwhile to remind myself every now and again that how I view my place in the world may just have an affect on how my place is in the moments to come.  Am I complaining about my gift-making?  Is that why suddenly I find that I don’t actually have all I need at the moment?  Do I think there’s not enough time to clean the house?  Has that increased the explosiveness factor on the mess that erupted in the last 24 hours?

How about if I start this day visualizing everything getting done that needs to be done, with realistic expectations.  My list is made.  My mind is clear.

I know how much money is in the bank, and I consider myself richly blessed.

I will exhale the negative energy and inhale the positive, rejuvenating energy, keeping a steady pace.

I have 24 hours this day to eat, sleep, be and do. 

No more.  No less.

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Dare I Say “Weaned”?

lucile-baby-child-1520111-l.jpgIt’s been almost a week since I’ve last breastfed our youngest, who will on Saturday be two years old.  For some that seems like an eternity to breastfeed, yet some might ask why I quit now.

For my first child, breastfeeding was a lonely gig.  I really didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t know where to go for support.  It lasted for all of six months, most of which were spent pumping.  On our second round with breastfeeding, I knew I would do well, and it went like a charm.  It wasn’t until our third child that I actually went to La Leche League meetings, but from then on I was hooked — not to mention that Bradley instructors are ingrained with League philosophy!

In our local LLL group, I’ve made many friends and look forward to meeting more.  I’m not going away so quickly, even if my youngest is weaned.

Can it be true, though?  Back to League philosophy, you’re supposed to wean gradually and with love.  At first introduction of food other than breastmilk, the weaning process is started.  That started long ago, I suppose.  I went away on weekend trips, sans bebe, after she was over a year old, but every time I returned, she quickly assumed position.  (You know what I mean!)

Even now I think she would nurse if I let her, but my nipples are tired.  I feel psychologically ready to move on.  As our youngest and last child, though, I have a bittersweet farewell to the nursing relationship.  I already miss the prolactin.

One thing is certain.  Kids grow.  The time they spend as infants and toddlers is brief, no matter what it feels like when you’re in the thick of snot and slime and dirt and poo.  Fortunately what you remember most fondly are the sweet kisses and coos and laughter, the baby that molds into your arm, chest and abs, and the overwhelming feeling of unconditional love.  You sacrifice your body — breasts and all — for the nourishment and nurturing of this sweet soul.

There will be time to focus on our own body later.  Workouts make great mommy time-outs.  For now I still need to make time to hold the sweet young child as she weans herself from my lap.  Too soon will she be too big for me to hold so close.

(Photo by Raphael Goetter, from everystockphoto.com)

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pregnant_belly.jpgPregnancy is an exhilarating time — all the anticipation, excitement and sacredness of what’s happening within.  Then there’s birth.  Ah, words can only try to capture what happens. We understand what’s going on physiologically, but for every woman, there’s a different psychological and spiritual story unfolding.  Let us not forget postpartum.  After all this excitement and focus on the mother, now the focus is on the baby; the woman that was once treated like royalty in her pregnant state is now a slave to this infant who is solely dependent upon her.  Hopefully she had a wonderful birth experience and developed the mama bear bond with her babe and gives of her time and body with a happy heart, for what wouldn’t she do for this new love in her life?

For the past week in my blogging absence, I’ve been working with our BirthNetwork for the BOLD Red Tent and the play “Birth.”  My time and energy were absorbed in the planning and nurturing of the events, and I had to draw some boundaries for myself (coincidental that that was my last blog topic, eh?).  Then, one by one, the events were born.  I suppose we had triplets!  Two Red Tents and one “Birth” play.  The events were fabulous, and I have earned a new level of respect for the women in my community and the talent and generosity therein.  I was amazed at the beauty of sharing, the diversity of stories, the openness of women’s hearts given the space and even amazed at my own ability to help pull something like this together — not by myself but with the help of others.

Now in our postpartum phase of the BOLD events, I miss the excitement, anticipation and connection with other women.  Those elements are too few in our society.  Yet it was a lovely birth, and I come away knowing that I have much work to do for improvement in maternity care.  In the words of one of my former midwives, I’ll “do it with a happy heart.”

I believe our lives are meant to serve, and I’ll consider it a blessing to serve the wonderful women in our community.  May we all be blessed with beautiful births, whether it be of children or of creative endeavors, and may we all feel the support of one another.


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Parenting that Works Like Magic


Some days are better than others, of course, but most of the time we’re left questioning whether we’re doing the right thing, whether we’re setting ourselves and our kids up for years of therapy, or whether it really makes a difference at all what we do.

Fortunately I found a wonderful resource in our town called Pages of Parenting, and the proprietor there is an incredibly knowledgeable woman.  She encourages the 1-2-3-Magic method of discipline, but even more highly recommends Connection Parenting.  She said parents usually move from 1-2-3 to Love and Logic and then to Connection Parenting.  It’s another evolutionary process.  Imagine that.

There are books and self-helps galore, and I value tremendously having experts sort through the rough for me.  I barely have time to feel like a good parent, let alone BE a good parent.  So far the Magic method is working wonders for us.  In a few months we’ll study up on Love and Logic; or maybe we’ll go straight to Connection Parenting.

Either way, I feel we’re evolving as parents, becoming more loving and kind.  There’s a lot less yelling in our house, that’s for sure — at least on the parent side!  Parenting involves discipline, which to me is about setting boundaries for the kids, teaching them what is acceptable and what isn’t.  When they truly think about it (even if that’s not until years from now), the kids will know we are being loving and truthful with them. 

When it comes to making our world a better place, I think being a truly loving parent and person makes all the difference.

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