Friday, September 30, 2011

A new way of living - The big reveal part 2

The time has come for a change. A new way of living.

And so we are down-shifting in income to share care of our children and share earning, and so that I can give more time to my writing/ creativity and build my other soul work beyond mothering.

My heart is singing. I can smell freedom.

My husband can smell freedom too - from a hugely challenging job which he has not enjoyed, juggling a vast amount of different roles with lots of evening and weekend work. Down to three days a week of office hours and more limited responsibility but in a field he feels confident and interested.

But we are both still local - which we treasure - no commuting - wasting time and oil - we will be working from home and at my family business in the village.

To many it would seem madness. Dropping our already not huge income by over a third. Ditching a stable job which looks good on a CV at a time of economic uncertainty. Are we being irresponsible?

We don't think so. We are honouring our sanity, our family, my creativity, honouring taking a chance above stability, safeness, above prestige, and certainly above money.

This is not  what we were told to aspire to at school. We both graduated top of our classes in school and University - we should be earning big money, we should have professions.

When I was doing my teacher training and became pregnant a number of the teachers asked when I was going to return to work after the baby. I said I wasn't. They said "what about your career?" I said the most important thing to me was to be happy. Everything else would fall into place. These people with safe jobs and safe lives looked at me as though I had four heads.

In reality we are not taking any huge risks. We have a house with a mortgage we can afford, just one car, humble needs. We have shared work and childcare before when we had one child. We have survived on much less money.

It is exciting to be going further down the radical homemaking path. Hopefully with this lifting of the yoke of a full time job for my husband and full time mothering for me, we will both get a little more breathing space. A little more chance to see, feel, touch who we are, what we are, what we need and what we can be.

So this year we will be poorer in money, but richer in time. It is a transitional step. A time of chances, growth, hope. I am looking forward to taking another major step on my life path. (*thumbing nose to careers adviser!)

So wish us luck! We'll keep you posted as to how it goes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The big reveal.... Part 1!

Heart pounding.
Great excitement.
Drum roll please - it is with great, enormous, whoopididoodah excitement and thrilledness that I announce -

No.... hold your horses, I'm not pregnant....

Did you hear me, NOT!

No, I'm this instead...

Alongside some of my biggest heroines. My most favourite authors:
Lynn Andrews, the woman who introduced the idea of the Creative Rainbow Mama -the framing idea  behind my book. SARK, and Julia Cameron, and Jennifer Louden, Naomi Aldort will all be there too. The women whose books are all on my desk as I write my own book!
And I am speaking alongside them. On a worldwide platform!

My talk is taken from my book - yes MY book
And it is to promote MY book... and my work.
It is putting it out there. Putting ME out there. Putting MY WORK out there. 
BIG out there.

How exciting.

So all you lovely readers will get to HEAR what I sound like. Except my friends and family who get rather bored with the sound of my voice me thinks! And as a double bonus you get a sneaky preview of some of the book content.

So sign up for 5 weeks of incredible presentations to inspire and educate you to a brighter more wonderful life.And it's all free!! Starting NEXT WEEK!

See you there! 

PS - Did I tell you that I was excited...?

PPS And that's not even all my news!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The path to me

When I was twenty I knew what I wanted to do.
I knew what I wanted to be.
But I didn't know how to get there.
Or quite exactly what "it" was.

I knew what I didn't want.
I didn't want a nine to five office job. Nor did I particularly want a boss.
I didn't want to run the family business.
And I knew that the career's guidance officer hadn't got a flipping clue.
Wise woman wasn't in her book of careers. Nor was freelance alternative writer specialising in creativity and natural birth. Nor were book medicine woman, women's circle facilitator...

It was as though I could see myself up ahead. Shining and happy. Fulfilled. Living my life. The way I wanted to live it.
But I didn't know how to get there.
I didn't know how to get there when I hated how I looked. Was embarrassed by my dream. When there was no official job title or employer or training path.
I asked everyone - how do you get there, which is the best way.
And no one could tell me.
Because it was my path.
The path to me.
I had a dream in my heart.
A vision in my head.
Just like when I want to write something.
Or draw a picture.
The big works. The meaningful works. The defining works of my life.
It is like they are there. Waiting for me. Fully formed. Hanging in an invisible realm.
I can see them glinting in the light, lurking in the shadows. I can smell the colours. Sense the words.
But the step by step. The workmanship. The birthing. That's up to me.
Up to experience. Trust. Faith. Skill. Time. Patience.
So it was with the bigger picture of my life.
My work.
And in this past week. These past few months the vision is clearing. The steps are being taken.
Steps building on previous steps, which built on previous steps - momentum is gathering.
The right steps.
The right path.
Vision, serendipity, commitment, hard work and patience are paying off.
It feels like the cogs of the Universe are shifting with me.
In the words of my beloved Nina Simone:
It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me.
And I'm feeling good!

Sorry for the vagueness. I am slightly superstitious about these things. All will be revealed. In time...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Joy Pockets

It's Friday, so it's time for Joy Pockets. 
Joining with Mon at Holistic Mama to celebrate my gratitudes for the week.

Blackberries in the hedgerows - can't pick them fast enough to pop into my baby birdies mouths!!

The love, support and wisdom of local elders 

Radical homemaking - we're taking another step along the path

The cosmic shifts happening right now


Asking for what you want...again and again and again...until you get it. The Universe rewards persistence!

Developing adult bonds of friendship with my siblings

The magic of a warm, freshly laid egg.

Do share your Joy Pockets with me below, and visit Holistic Mama to see what other bloggers are grateful for this week.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The palm of god

Regular readers of this blog will know these two  things about me:
a) I do not subscribe to a particular religion
b) I write quite a lot about god

So it is with those provisos in place that I want to write about ... the palm of god.

I do not believe in an anthropomorphic god. My god has neither arms nor legs nor head. And yet.... Like the moment in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when Zaphod Beeblebrox is put into the Total Perspective Vortex, the palm of god image takes me out of the driving seat, out of importance, very small and unimportant, and into perspective in a very freeing way.

The idea for this comes from the vast gold and bronze Buddhas I saw in my travels in Thailand and Japan - thirty, or forty feet high they dwarf our humanity our small fears and worries which seem so big and all-consuming to us, and instead present a calm, all-seeing benevolence.

Close your eyes. Imagine, if you will, that you are curled in a foetal position, calm and relaxed. Whatever is worrying you starts to drift out of your head, and as you open your eyes, what was darkness and worry, now you see pure, shimmering gold all around you. Rather than a hard, cold world, rather than problems and people cramming in at you from all sides, instead you are lying alone, at peace, in the soft golden warmth of an enormous hand that cradles your body like a precious baby. You are safe, supported, warm and loved. The worries are not yours, they drift off into the vastness of infinity. You are just a tiny drop, a beloved being, cradled and safe in the hand of god. All is well.

Monday, September 19, 2011

We are one

Lying with my girl as she falls asleep. Her brother curled up behind me. The room is dark. She has been kicking and screaming and butting heads with her Dada- literally and metaphorically. In the darkness I cannot see where I stop and she begins. I hear breathing, the rise and fall of inspiration - hers, mine his, I cannot tell. I feel the warm rise and fall of chests, the thud of hearts. I feel limbs, but which is hers, his and which mine?

Does it matter?

For a few moments we are as one. A multi-limbed organism. We are alive. Each of our bodies, so distinctive by daylight, is indistinguishable right now. The things that you would use to class us are dimmed to non existence in this light. We are one and the same. Truly, there is no difference.

And then it occurs to me that I could be lying here with Gaddafi, the Dalai Lama, Sarah Palin, Johnny Depp even (ohhh this post might start going in a very different direction any moment, me Johnny, a dark room!!...). I could be lying with people whom I fear or respect, whom I love or hate, and we would be equals - we really, truly are all the same, equal in our biology, in our humanity, our personalities which dominate and separate us in the daylight world are invisible, immeasurable really. And yet it is on them which we focus: he believes this, she thinks that, he said... we are completely divided by the only thing which can divide us - our superficialities, rather than united by all we share.

For a moment I viscerally experienced the oneness. One breath, one body, one heartbeat, one life, one love.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Everyday Zen in Practice

Blessings on the blossom,
Blessings on the root,
Blessings on the leaf and stem,
Blessings on  the fruit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Creating a Nature Table

Nature corners or season's tables originate from the Steiner tradition and are a mainstay of every Steiner kindergarten. I have been creating them for about three years for my children. I am certainly no expert - there are a host of great resources out there to educate and inspire. This basic overview was requested by Rachael from The Variegated Life, leading on from my post earlier this week on Everyday Zen about creating pockets of  beauty, sacredness and calm in our busy homes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Everyday Zen

We are a household whose tidy skills are not our forte, nor our priority (as this blog has documented here and here).

We were messy before we had kids. But now it is not just adult mess, it is a typhoon of little clothes, pencils, works of art, yogurt pot tops (yogurt side down - of course), dead ladybirds, books, lots and lots of books, lego, lots of that too, usually detected underfoot with a sharp yelp. We are really craving a way to find a little calm, a little order in the chaos. And yet we know that we will not have a tidy-personality transplant any time soon.

This is our everyday zen project.

Everyday zen is inspired by our time in Japan and throughout Asia where every home, often every room had a small sacred space or altar.

It was reading Rachael's Variegated Life blog and Goddess Leonie's creating your goddess space e-course (see the link at the side of this blog). They made me think - we need a clear space in every room. A focal point which makes my spirit soar, which gives me calm and peace when I look at it, rather than despair and depression at the deluge of paper and packages and dirty dishes which cover every space in every room. Or so it seems.

I have had a nature table for a couple of years now for the kids. It combines flowers or nature finds of the season with little Steiner figures, felt fairies or wooden animals.

The zen space takes this one stage further. Its intention is simplicity. Beauty. Calm. Emptiness. Balance. A soul restoring place in the midst of the necessary clutter of daily life. The zen space was inspired by my husband's new shelves which we display some of my father's pots on.

Like an altar it is tended daily - NOTHING is allowed to be dumped in the zen space. It must be kept clear. We actively maintain this small calm space. We refresh it with fresh flowers, or a single stone.

It encourages me to embrace zen moments in my daily life. To snatch small moments of calm throughout the day, to meditate for two minutes here or there, rather than not bother because I don't have the time or energy. This inner and outer calm are connected I realised. This not being bothered, despairing at the level of chaos is connected. And in honouring the calm and the stillness, I also learn to honour the life which causes the chaos, to honour the mess, the living which is so precious and yet I so often apologise for. Both are necessary. The chaos and the order. Both are just as real. And it is for us to embrace them both, to cultivate and balance them.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Harvest Moon

This weekend is harvest moon: the full moon closest to the autumn equinox.

The time of reaping and celebration of the year's harvest. Where communities would traditionally come together. Sharing the work, sharing the rewards. Feasting together. Companions, literally people breaking bread together. The bread which they had tilled the soil for, scattered the seed, joined together to cut the wheat in fine weather, to thresh and make bales.

This is the time for bringing the harvest home - physically, spiritually , stocking our larders to see us through the cold, dark months ahead. Though most of us are cut off from the literal harvesting of our food, unless we have a vegetable garden of our own. Our food is disconnected from the farmers. Food is always there, on the shelves. We forget the joy of the harvest. The physical exertion traded for stored calories. The reliance on every member of the community to make it happen. Food is just food, a commodity, easy come, easy go. We don't need each other any more to survive. We don't need to celebrate nature's bounty: it is always there. And so whilst we are rich on easy calories and  in money in comparison to those rural farming communities of bygone days, we are poor too if we do not gather together, to feast, to celebrate and give thanks.

It is fitting that this weekend is a weekend of community celebrations here - a tapas evening at a new local cafe, eating with friends; our multi-generational community will share a life affirming luncheon at Saturday Pizzas; drinking together to celebrate a friend's birthday and then a motherblessing, a group of women gathering to celebrate and nurture a pregnant friend about to give birth, with love, massage, mindful connection... and of course food!

My children and I gathered wheat and barley which had sprouted on the roadside. We pounded it into flour and used it to make a harvest loaf together, watching the miracle of yeast and grain and water become our daily bread. We feasted on our harvest loaf and gave thanks for the turning of the seasons.

Do take the time over the next couple of weeks to celebrate with your companions. Take time to break bread, to raise a toast to each other and the farmers who provided your food, to the sun and the earth. To bring harvest home to you and yours.

This post is being contributed to the Big Lunch which celebrates communities eating together every June in the UK. Do take some time to check out their great blog.

To find out about Dreaming Aloud's Big Lunch experience do check out this post . And this one about  why I decided to get involved with The Big Lunch.

Do take time to read my posts on Radical Homemaking

For more on the spiritual and astrological aspects of this harvest moon time see Hey Allie 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Joy Pockets

Joining with Bohemian Twilight to celebrate my gratitudes for the week

A wishing day baking with my children - apple pies (which they didn't like, but I did), a harvest loaf (which burnt) and dinosaur rolls (which didn't)!
Wonderful friends
A comforting Dada humming hug
A baba who has gotten the idea of night weaning
A little girl wearing her Strawberry Shortcake knickers OVER her trousers to go shopping!!!
Baby kisses in the night
A new series of Outnumbered- long live the BBC!
Anticipation of a wonderful weekend of events- starting with tapas and sherry tonight - ole!

And you, what are your joy pockets for this week? Pop over to Bohemian Twilight to read the other ladies at the party's pockets.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Home is where the feelings are

It occured to me last night as our daughter, who is calm and quiet outside of our house wailed and screamed and yelled and kicked that she does it at home because she feels safe here.

An email from a friend who is keeping a happy face to cover a breaking heart admits to bawling her eyes out at home for days at a time.

Home is the only place I yell. I wouldn't dare to yell on the street. And I feel guilty that it is my nearest and dearest who see the majority of my negativity and intense emotions.

I find myself almost running for cover at times, trying to hold it together until I get home, until I can let go, collapse the social face and just be as I need to be.

And I got a sense of all of us, all around the world, discharging our depth and breadth of human emotions within our homes - making love, yelling, crying, celebrating small and big triumphs, mourning, freaking out, worrying. All the human stuff that human society has no stomach for and that the world of work and socialising has no time for. All the sides of us that go on unseen, that we have to watch in the movies, or have friends confide in us their own experiences, to know that we are not alone. If you based your knowledge of what it means to be human on what you see with your own eyes away from TV, then sex would not exists. Nor would hysterical crying. Orgasms and anxiety attacks also would not exist. Life is bland stream of bored, polite, fake smiling faces when seen in public. Home is where the richness is, home is where the heart is free to feel.

And it occured to me that we are sold an idea of home, as a place that looks good, or that provides a place to eat and sleep. But far more, home provides us with a safe space to be fully human, to feel, to learn to express these feelings. That the walls of our homes are charged with this human emotion, layer upon layer of our unseeable selves lies invisibly on top of the wallpaper or paint. This repository of ourselves within a space is what makes us so deeply attached to our spaces, which makes them so much more than mere bricks and mortar, or canny investments.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Seasonally impossible

The first time I saw it I thought I was going mad.

The next time my husband thought I was going mad.

But then I saw it again and got proof... elderflowers and elderberries on the same plant... in September!! Have you ever seen this before?

But this is not the only unseasonal occurrence in the past twelve months.

We had snow on roses and ripe strawberries in our garden in December last year. Daffodils too! The parsley and chives were up and green in January and had gone to seed by May. lettuces sown in late March didn't sprout till mid August.  Surely this is climate change in action. Do you have any strange unseasonal happenings in your neck of the woods?

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Pain in the Brain

This week (September 4th) is Migraine Awareness WeekSo to celebrate Dreaming Aloud decided to get one herself to show solidarity with the 1 in 7 sufferers in the UK!

I suffered with migraine every couple of weeks from my late teens to mid twenties. The birth of my first child seemed to settle them down and I only got one every six months or so, which was a blessed relief. But the emergence of two more kiddies in quick succession who don't like to sleep much at night equal a mega resurgence of migraines. 

What is migraine? 
First things first, it is NOT just a bad headache. That's like calling a bad cold the flu. They are different in severity and the level of disability they cause. Migraine are sometimes preceded by disturbed vision, flashing lights and geometric patterns in the visual field. It can be triggered by any number of things, including bright or flashing lights, lack of food or sleep, strong smells.Migraine is often described as one-sided, intense pulsing, throbbing, bruising feeling pain in the head.

It is usually accompanied by heightened sensitivity to light, smell and sound, as well as nausea and sometimes vomiting. In women, migraine is often tied to changes in hormonal levels preceding their period. Other triggers involve anxiety, stress, or relaxation after stress. More women than men get migraines because they are often tied to the menstrual cycle. The World Health Organization has classified migraine as one of the top 20 most disabling lifetime conditions.

So let's examine the triggers for me this week...
Family history - tick
Lack of sleep - tick
Anger/ stress - tick
Eating trigger foods such as chocolate, alcohol, especially red wine - tick
Preceding menstruation - tick
Low to moderate dehydration - tick
Anxious, shallow breathing - tick
Muscle tension in shoulders/ neck - tick
Flashing lights/ screen - tick, courtesy of The Smurf movie!
So really it was guaranteed!

According to a Yahoo article on the subject: 

"For many years, scientists thought migraines were caused by the dilation and constriction of blood vessels in the head.
But current research indicates that migraine may be caused by inherited abnormalities in genes that control certain brain activities.
Scientists hope to identify specific genes that cause migraine pain, which could pave the way for the development of drugs that could prevent or interrupt migraine.
In the UK, the neurotoxic protein Botox was licensed in 2010 by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency as a preventative treatment for adults with chronic migraine. However, its use in the NHS remains limited, as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has not yet provided formal guidance."
DIY cures include: 
Rest in a darkened, quiet room - so easy with young children!!
A cold compress/ ice pack to the head
Pain killers 
Lavender oil
Gentle face/ neck massage
Lots of extra fluid
Steering clear of trigger foods
Meditation and concentrating on warming the hands and feet and cooling the head
Masturbation - apparently!!

Do you suffer from migraine? What helps you? And what triggers you?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The motherland: a journey of the heart

Yesterday, in a synchronistic overview which the Universe sometimes provides, I saw all sides of the miracle of motherhood writ large in the women in my life...

In the course of my day I was honoured to spend quality time with:

A woman who is about to give birth to her third child
A woman recently pregnant with her first, seeking out knowledge about birth
A woman with a little baby
A woman who had just had a wanted abortion
A woman who is desperately wanting to conceive but is struggling
A woman with a dearly wanted adopted child
A woman whose youngest child is about to leave home
Women with children in the prime of childhood

So many different women,  who from different departure points in their lives, have undertaken this journey of the heart into the unknown motherland. Each of them at different places of the journey of motherhood. The wide-eyed innocence of the first time mother. The hard won wisdom of the mother whose children are making their way in the world. The blooming unseen potential of the burgeoning pregnant mama's belly. The aching heart of the woman who wants with every cell of her being, to be a mother whose body is not cooperating with her dream. And the one who knows that now is just not the right time.

With courage and surrender these women face the unknowable each day, as the miracle of life unfolds within their bodies and hearts. As they deal with the difficult decisions which call to be taken. They learn to follow their intuition, the quiet voice within, to find responses to questions that have no answer but their own. They strive for health, for wellbeing, for balance, for love in a world that does not acknowledge the value of these things. They give of themselves endlessly, constantly, for the soul reward of being a part of the dance of life whose gift is life itself and love, deeper than we could ever have imagined.

And there, somewhere in the centre of it all, subsumed under other people's bodies, and cries, and multiplying cells, and hormonal cycles sits a woman: a woman who through the sacred journey of motherhood, loses and finds herself, her body, her sanity on a daily basis. And in the midst of it all, gives birth to something so precious: a deeper sense of self.

Blessings to you all dear women, dear mothers in your journey, wherever on the path you may be.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Buried Treasure (2): Life lessons from an elder

Hidden gems from the Dreaming Aloud archives... today a post on honouring and learning from our elders.

Leonora - I shall call her that, as she is not one for being in the spotlight - is a constant wonder and inspiration. She is a woman of quiet creativity with a simple but beautiful home, a humble spirit, a childlike enthusiasm for the world. Though she is now in her mid eighties - she taught my father when he was in kindergarten (he is now in his late 60s!) - she is not old in any way. She digs her own garden, cares for her home, grows the best sweetcorn I have eaten, cooks wonderful dinner parties, she bakes treats for "the old lady down the road" who is younger than her! (and drops them in to us if said lady is out!)

Visiting her immerses me in a different set of values. There is a different rhythm to her life and days which I drink like water and wish I could bottle. For sure it is partly from the fact that she is an old woman and I am young, partly that she lives alone and I have a house full of tumbling children. But she is like the spirit of an age which is almost gone. Her generation and their gifts are in very short supply, never to come again. This makes me feel sad. Our generation seem more flimsy, superficial, wasteful.

Every time I see her I note how well she looks, and pray she will be here and healthy for ever, and yet know that she cannot, will not be. And that makes me feel sad. She is link to the past in general, and to my own family's past in particular. She has been a wonderful sounding board for me over the years: honest, abrupt, gushing with praise and jubilation over my own small achievements. She is a cipher for my own grandmother and namesake who I feel the loss of never having met.

She would have been a wonderful mother, but never had the opportunity. Secretly, selfishly, I am glad that I do not need to share her with real blood grandchildren. That she can pour her complete concentation and praise onto my dear children who adore her: she encourages them to clamber over the sofa, slide down the banisters and root through her cellar with a torch. They beg to visit her!

And so I visit, not that she needs my company and she robustly refuses any offers of help, to sup from the cup of her humble wisdom, her life-knowing.

Some of the lessons she has unconsciously taught me are...

Ask questions, lots of questions
Count your blessings rather than complain about what you don't have
There is a difference between speaking honestly and being judgemental
Make do and mend
Get something beautiful and hardy...look after it and keep it, regardless of fashion
Give away what you don't need
Dig your own garden
Grow only what you love
Dream big
Appreciate others
Buy good food and cook it simply but well
Elizabeth David is a supreme cookery writer
Cherish your children and every new stage of their development
Don't feel sorry for yourself
Don't talk too much about yourself (still not much good at that!)
Keep special cards and pictures on display
Keep reading and learning new things
Enjoy your friends to the full
Be humble, remember your role in the world, the universe
Embrace the moment and love it for what it is
Accept what is, do not regret what has passed
Don't worry too much about the cobwebs
You're never to old, or young, to enjoy gingerbread cookies

She has taught me so much about living. And perhaps, one day, she will teach me first hand about dying and surrender too.

Cherish your elders. Love them and learn from them, about living and dying. And help them where and when you can, not out of pity, but love, honour, respect and gratitude.


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