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Monday, September 30, 2013

Wide Open Spaces

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My stepson had a baseball game. Instead of their usual field just behind the high school, this game was on a different field.

To get to this field I walked past the high school, past their usual field, around a large section of dense trees. Past soccer fields and field hockey fields and football practice fields and... well... lots of open grass.

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And in that quiet open space where there was only me and the fuff-fuff sound of my sneakers brushing through the grass, I realized something.

We never get to walk in open fields. In wide open spaces.

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Spaces where you can't see other people or buildings. Spaces where you can't hear the whiz of cars going by.

Spaces where you can walk quietly. Where you can spread out, take up space, and give your imagination room to romp.

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We're crowded so much of the time by things in our own home and those outside our home.

Sure, in this moment I was behind a school. If I turned around I would have seen it staring back at me. Likely watching my wonder with a stoic "I'm a school building. Learning happens here."

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But facing away from that school, leaving it further and further behind me, all I could think was learning happens here, too.

Because it's in these open spaces that we have room to explore. Room to clear our thoughts. Room to let our minds, hearts, and spirits wander.

We need wide open spaces.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Inspiration for the Weekend #2

Shadow of Hubby and Toddler

As another week draws to a close, I'm thinking about my favorite things of this week.

One is this photograph of my husband and son, hand-in-hand. Love. There is no other way to describe what I see and feel in this image.

Then there are the things I've read this week- many of which caught my attention in one way or another. There are so many wonderful writers in the blogosphere.

You never know what sentence might unravel something inside you. Here are some of the posts that touched my soul this week:

Portrait of the author as a 40 year old woman
by Susannah Conway
Today, right now, is the youngest we will ever be. Let’s make the most of it.

Yes. There's a saying that you shouldn't worry how long something will take to learn or accomplish because the time will pass anyway.

Susannah is right. We will never be younger than we are right now, so why not start today?

This is Just Me
by Connie Hozvicka at Dirty Footprints Studio
That we can be women with emotions--that we can feel anger, jealousy, rage, and lust--and not have to suppress them--but express them with the divine feminine energy that radiates inside us like an ancient fire.

Oh, Connie. Hers is an honesty and a bravery that reaches right into my soul. She says the things that need to be said.

Shouldn't This Be Easier?
by Victoria Brouhard
Consider the possibility that the obstacles you’re facing in order to start or grow your business are simply showing you areas that need development, rather than signs that you’re incapable or heading in the wrong direction.

Jamie's wishcasting prompt this week was about signs. Signs are great, but sometimes if we are looking too hard, we see what we want to see. It might not be a sign at all. That's where we need to be careful.

Victoria's suggestion that maybe what we see sometimes isn't a sign of going in the wrong direction, rather a highlight of a learning opportunity.

Just One Paragraph
by Christina Rosalie
But the truth is, nothing begins with grandness. Instead, it begins with small act of showing up. With something small. With a single step. And so I say, “Just write one paragraph a day.”

This can be applied in so many ways. Not just writing, but what if it's "just clean one shelf a day," or "just walk outside for 5 minutes a day," or "just scribble one fast picture a day," or like I did during August, "just take one photograph a day."

Whatever it is you want to do, what small completely tangible step could you take each day?

And, tell me, what are your favorite things this week?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Make Some Magic

Solitary bubble

Every so often my toddler and I catch a show called Tree Fu Tom. Tom likes to help his friends (mostly bug-like creatures) out of jams by making magic.

When such a time arises, Tom asks his viewers to help him make some magic, then leads them through a series of physical movements (jumping, reaching, stepping, kneeling, clapping) presumably called tree fu.

At tree fu time, my toddler calls out to me, "Come on, Mommy. We gotta make magic."

There it is. Wisdom from the mouth of a child.

We do, don't we? This world is hurting in many ways. There is too much pain and not enough compassion. Sadness and suffering that we don't know or choose not to see.

But kindness, compassion, and action... these are magic. Noticing someone, really noticing them, is magic.

So when my son says, "Come on, Mommy. We gotta make magic," my answer is "You are so right, baby. We do."

We have to make magic.

Go on. I dare you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Signs

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I adore the Wishcasting Wednesday prompts posed by Jamie Ridler. She has a way of getting me to think in a way that cuts right to the heart of things. This week she asks, "What sign do you wish for?"

I am making changes. I'm deciding on the next phase of my life and work and, really, my life work.

The universe has given me little signs and nudges over the past few months that seem to say, "Yes. Keep going. You are on the right track."

I wish for those signs to continue. The little encouragements. The magic of synchronicity.

I also wish for signs of my next steps. I've come to realize we don't always know our full path right away. Sometimes it's more like finding our way through a dark forest with only a flashlight. We can see the step directly in front of us and when we move into it, we see the next step.

That's what I wish for. A sign to help me recognize the next step. Then another. And another.

I'll keep shining my flashlight. I'll keep moving forward a little at a time. I'm just asking for a sign that says, "this way."

wishcasting

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gift of Friendship

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The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.

~Hubert H. Humphrey

I've been struggling with my son beginning nursery school. He has (albeit expectedly) shown mixed emotions about it and it has me feeling worried and sick.

After another such day last week, I cried to my friend on the phone.

From two states away, she loved me, she cried with me, she supported me, and she reassured me.

"You are a great mother," she said. Sometimes we really need to hear that.

The next day I came home to find flowers. Peeking out from every shade of purple I could imagine was this note:
I am proud of you. Don't give up. You are an awesome mom and doing all the right things.

This is why we need friends. To let us know we aren't alone (even if our closest friends are the farthest away). To cheer us on. To hold us up.

To remind us that this is just life.

Monday, September 23, 2013

What it Means to Live Wonderstruck

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I've been thinking a lot about my next chapter. Not the next chapter of my book (though I've thought about that, too), rather the next chapter of me.

Part of that is this blog. In fact, this blog is fairly central to my next chapter. I've spent most of my adult life deciding how I want to live- simply, functionally, inspired. From that grew Live Wonderstruck.

It's that message where this blog began. A lesson to myself and others: live wonderstruck.

What does that mean? It means to actively participate in your life. Many of us have been blessed with enough. We have what we need, and then some. Not everyone has the most basic gift of enough.

Yet we get caught up in full schedules, morning hustles, meetings, homework battles, mountains of laundry, slapping dinner together, and everything else on a to do list so long it will never be fully done. Then we fall into bed much too late dreading the alarm clock's blaring indication that it's time to start all over again.

It's exhausting.

I fall into the just-get-through-the-damn-day autopilot way of things often. Then I have to remind myself that life is for living, for noticing, for participating. It isn't about getting by (except some days when that's all we can muster).

Life is about paying attention. To a smile, a fallen leaf, the taste of our breakfast cereal.

To a feeling, a dream, and a person who may be hurting.

It's sinking into a hug, a warm bath, or an old chair.

It's noticing our love's eyes again and again and again.

Living wonderstruck is about opening our eyes, our ears, and our hearts. And when we fall back to autopilot and just getting by, it's about noticing that, too, and opening up again.

What does it mean to you to live wonderstruck?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Inspiration for the Weekend

As the work/school week draws to a close and we enter into the weekend, I want to share a few posts that I've seen around the web recently- the ones that have made me think. The ones that have made me say, "hmmm... ." (Anyone else singing "Things that make you go hmmm...?" Just me?)

Too Late? By Whose Clock?
by Jennifer Louden at Savor & Serve

In which Jen says...
When I groan, “It’s too late,” what I really mean is I am unwilling to proclaim, “I want this.”

When I moan, “I’m too old, it’s too hard, I don’t know how, someone else has already done it better” but what I’m actually saying is “I’m not willing to ache.”

This has me questioning. Is it really too late? Or is that just an excuse?

It Gets Better
by Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery

In which Glennon delights over her children being back in school and reprints a letter to her son that gets me every time I read it.
Baby, if you see a child being left out, or hurt, or teased, a part of your heart will hurt a little. Your daddy and I want you to trust that heart- ache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heart-ache. That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Chase! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help!

Go read this post in full. Or at least scroll partway down until you see "Dear Chase." Then read that. Then read it again. Then read it to your children.

Lawn/food Rant
by Prudence Macleod at Valkyrie Rising

In which Prudence mulls over the noise of her neighbor's lawn mower...
People in North America spend thousands each year to groom lawns that they cannot eat and will not allow livestock to graze on. No, instead we pay fortunes to large agri-business to ship food to us that has been so genetically altered that our bodies can barely digest it.

This one sits with me because I want to grow my own food. It didn't pan out as well as I hoped this year, but I will keep trying.

The 3 Lies of Lifestyle Design (& Why Tim Ferriss Is Making You Hate Your Life)
by Alexander Heyne at Milk The Pigeon

In which Alexander realizes that truly local people in smaller towns have it all figured out...
They have close, meaningful relationships with people they can see regularly.

They have work that fills their time... .

They have leisure hobbies that are relaxing and invigorating... .

In other words, they’re getting all they want here, so they don’t need to go there.

That last line is the one I love. "They're getting all they want here, so they don't need to go there."

Here is a great place. I'm fond of here. It doesn't require packing or long treks or planning because I'm already here.

Wherever you are this weekend, be all there. Notice, wonder, make eye contact.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Art vs. Function

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Connie Hozvicka recently wrote a post at Dirty Footprint Studios that is still resonating with me weeks later. It's called Why Artists are Important. Click on over and read it. Go ahead. I'll wait.

It was about here that she got me...
And I wondered when we stopped caring.

About details. About aesthetics. About building something that doesn't just last.

But brings beauty to our lives.

When did we stop caring?

I was fortunate enough to grow up near Washington, D.C. We visited periodically, seeing the sights, visiting the museums. The Lincoln Memorial was always my favorite monument and Air & Space my favorite museum, followed closely by the Natural History museum with it's central rotunda.

Walking around D.C. I was mesmerized by the beauty and heft of the buildings and monuments. (Yes, even at that young age I saw something wondrous about all of it.) I could not understand how something so grand could have been built long before modern tools and equipment.

When I first visited Rome as an adult, I had the same thought. I marveled at all of the intricate details adorning their buildings. Structures built long before D.C.

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Certainly all of those statues of saints or depictions of history or ornate designs weren't necessary. They weren't functional. They were added for beauty, for meaning.

Does that mean the buildings themselves weren't functional? Absolutely not. They were built for a purpose, served their purpose, and did so beautifully.

These days art is treated as ancillary. Nice, but necessary. When school budgets are cut, the arts are, too.

There seems to be a perception that creativity is not needed. I disagree. I think creativity is vital. Creative thinking sparks new ways of doing things.

Art, in all its varieties, moves people. It sparks an emotional connection. It makes us want to do more, to be more.

Have you ever been moved by a calculator? I didn't think so.

Yet, logic and function absolutely have their place, too.

Would you give up your calculator? I didn't think so.

Function and beauty. We need both. It's all of those details combined that make life special.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Changing Priorities

wishcastingI adore the Wishcasting Wednesday prompts posed by the inspiring Jamie Ridler. She has a way of getting me to think in a way that cuts right to the heart of things. This week she asks, "What do you wish to change?"

I wish to change my focus. As life took over this summer (and continues to keep throwing unexpected challenges our way), my writing fell by the wayside.

I love writing. I started working on a book in the spring, but haven't added to it since the beginning of summer. My blog has been a bit sparse. I don't think I've journaled in two months.

It's time to get back to it. And yet, time is always the factor isn't it? There never seems to be enough time.

I wish to change my focus, to make writing a priority. (I initially wrote, "to make writing more of a priority," then realized that phrasing already diminished it.)

For me writing is a way to organize my thoughts, to explore a topic, to open a conversation. Writing is a way to express my questions and my truths.

When I write, I feel better about my day. My attitude changes. I feel gratitude and wonder.

I wish to make writing a priority. Because no one else can do it for me.

What do you wish to change?

Monday, September 9, 2013

What Goes Through Your Mind When Your Duck Lays Eggs for the First Time

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We have duck eggs. That's right. Miss Buttons has started laying eggs, one per day. (I presume it's Buttons because my research into telling male ducks from females indicates that males have curly tail feathers- which Squackers has and Buttons doesn't.)

I suppose for seasoned homesteaders, this might be a time of "Yippee- eggs!" But for me (who bought ducks on an ill-fated Friday night in the spring), it's more of a "Holy crap! What do I do with duck eggs?"

Upon stumbling across the first egg last Thursday (not literally stumbling, just to be clear), my thought process went something like this:

Interesting. That rock is whiter than the others. Quite smooth, too. And a little large. And holy crap! It's an egg!

What do I do? Do I leave it there? The duck isn't sitting on it. It's not really in a nest. Oh goodness, they don't have nesting material. Should I give them hay or something? Where do I put hay? We really need a duck house now. I'm pretty sure that's where the hay would go.

But wait, I just hosed down the egg while cleaning the pen. Cold water probably isn't good for fresh eggs.

Should I take the egg? Do people eat duck eggs? Are duck eggs like chicken eggs? Do they taste the same? How do you know if an egg has a baby duck in it? Oh God, what if there's a baby duck? Do we have room for more ducks? We really need that duck house.

Eggs are really gross when you think about it. They're either fertilized baby eggs or unfertilized eggs. Female people make eggs, too. Ewwwwww. Why do we eat eggs at all?

Wait. Do ducks lay more than one egg usually? If there's a baby duck in there, why isn't mama duck sitting on it? Should I bring it inside and put it under a heat lamp? Then what if it's not a baby duck and it's just an egg? What if I end up heating an egg for weeks that will never hatch?

Do you hold it up to a light or something to see what's inside? How do you know what you're looking at? But if I take it to look, can I bring it back to mama duck?

Holy crap, my toddler is supposed to start nursery school today! I don't have time for first duck eggs!

Hell with it. I'll just take it.

So, I took the freshly cleaned egg inside and set it on the kitchen counter. Later my husband threw it out into the forest- for no good reason other than we couldn't take it back to the ducks (my quick internet research showed they would ignore it since humans touched it) and we were a little too freaked out to eat it.

After getting on with the little matter of first day of nursery school ever, I did a tiny bit of research about duck eggs. I found a few forums where people asked questions about what to expect from their ducks. The answers generally said something like this: "My duck started laying eggs around 6 months old and has laid one egg per day ever since, except in the cold winter months." One person added, "except for the day she gave me two eggs."

Sure enough, we're a few days in and getting one egg per day most days. I better come up with a plan.

A few people have told me duck eggs are really good for using in baked goods. I don't do a whole lot of baking, but it sounds like good advice nonetheless.

Someone told me you can keep eggs unrefrigerated for a few days if you don't wash them. Apparently there is some sort of protective coating that you don't want to wash away if you're storing them unrefrigerated. That person also said you can refrigerate them (and wash them). That sounds like a better plan to me.

A couple of people suggested letting them hatch. That could be fun, if we manage to get a duck house and a fence up.

Anyone else have ideas or know any duck egg experts?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Day of Firsts

This morning I went out to take care of the ducks as I do every morning. I opened the pen and stood to the side as they splashed into their kiddie pool. I filled their food container and set about hosing down the rocks at the bottom of the pen.

As one section began to clear I saw a rather white rock, smooth and round amidst the tan color of the other rocks. As water ran off I realized the rock was larger than the other rocks.

That's when I realized it wasn't a rock at all. It was an egg.

Buttons laid an egg.

I panicked a little. I wasn't sure what to do. It was an egg just sitting there in the rocks. Buttons wasn't sitting on it and I had just washed it in cold hose water. That seemed bad.

It dawned on me that people collect eggs from their chickens and ducks, so I carefully picked it up and brought it inside when I was done.

When my husband woke up I told him about the egg. He told me it probably wasn't a good idea to just take the egg in plain view of the ducks because it makes me a predator (and let's face it, they already run from us).

Here was the first egg and I felt like I ruined it, maybe even ruined the whole people-duck relationship. I cried.

My husband noticed and put on a worried face as he asked, "Are you crying about the duck egg?"

Yes, I was. But it wasn't just that.

Today was the first duck egg. But it is also my two-and-a-half year old's first day of nursery school.

His first day of school. Ever.

I was really excited about it until yesterday. For both of us. I was excited for him because he would get to play with other kids, run around on a cool playground, and maybe do some new activities. When we visited the school a month ago, he loved it. He ran right in and began playing.

I was excited for me because I could dedicate some hours each week to my work- without distraction.

Then yesterday afternoon, someone said a few things that made me question whether this was a good idea. I began wondering if I was a bad mom for sending my child to nursery school rather than keeping him at home.

Ultimately, I'm sure he'll be fine. Many kids (including me when I was little) go to some sort of daycare or nursery school. I'm prepared for him to get sick at the beginning because I hear that's a common problem upon introducing kids to school (and therefore more germs). I'm prepared for him to act a little different as he figures out what the heck is going on.

It's two days a week. Two days to be in a different environment, play with others, learn from others (for better or for worse). The other three days during the week he'll be at home with me. I *think* it's a good situation. And, if it's not, we'll change it.

I think it will make me a more attentive mother. Instead of multi-tasking all day every day, I will have work days and home days. I even plan to break up my home days into chore days and adventure days. We'll see how it goes.

I'm hoping he'll love me and his dad that much more when we go pick him up this afternoon. But maybe he'll be mad. Or maybe he'll just be quiet.

Either way, starting today, things will be different. My son will have more exposure to the outside world and its influences. Buttons will probably lay more eggs.

I don't know what any of this means. I'm not sure how to deal with any of it. As with all things, I'll take it one day at a time. One minute at a time, if I have to.

I will get through this day of firsts and all the days that follow.