Trust the process, part 6 (Procrastination)

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I have to admit this post is an act of pure procrastination. I have two book annotations to write for my next packet of graduate work. I am still in my jammies at 10:21AM and the house is quiet except for the fish tank trickling, the bunny crashing around the play room and Pandora.com playing a piece by Henry Purcell. I am enjoying my newly re-arranged den made cozier in preparation for the steadily approaching cold weather. I have written in my journal while eating creamy, homemade oatmeal. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? Well, it is. And – rare for me – I am living in this moment without much thought for anything else. Which is why I felt the need to put the moment into words.

For some reason though, I am hesitant to begin writing an essay on one of the most influential books I have read in a few years. Here are a few of the others (note: many, many books have influenced me, these are just the truly life-changing ones):

Katherine, Anya Seton (When I first became fascinated with medieval history and costume on which I wrote my undergrad history-honors thesis and was first introduced to Women’s History as a formal subject and a personal interest.)

The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron (How I began journaling and realized I AM an Artist and Writer and have a right to call myself so.)

The God We Never Knew, Marcus Borg (When I first discovered that my own ideas on God and religion were not crazy and that there was more to it (and me) than my church had told me.)

A Voice of Her Own, Marlene Schiwy (Put together my first journaling workshop based on this book – it beautifully reinforced the power of personal writing for women.)

Leaving the Fold, Marlene Winell (Helped the healing process of working through the damaging affects of dogmatic, fundamental religion on my Self and self-worth.)

And now, I can add Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd.

I read this book like one enjoys a fabulous meal with a friend: the sensuous pleasure of different tastes and aromas mingling with intelligent, friendly conversation and that delicious feeling of becoming more satisfyingly full with every luscious, nutritious bite.

Ms. Monk writes her thoughts, feelings and experiences and they resonated on a deep level with me. She introduced me to new, enlightening thoughts and ideas. I felt like Dorothy in the Land of Oz when she opens her eyes to see before her a foreign land full of color and fascinating inhabitants. And much like Oz, in this new land there were also some slightly frightening and intimidating elements – because they are as yet unknown.

Sacred Feminine.

Never given that any thought. But yes, now I do. It is as some part of me as a woman was missing. Raised in a God the Father, Jesus the Son religion where woman is the source of evil while living in a patriarchal world which has not acknowledged a feminine divinity for over 3,000 years, and which continues to rape Mother Earth and degrade the natural beauty of her and us, her daughters, I mourn the imprisonment of the Sacred Feminine – mine and that of all women. (Did you know the origin of word mother is “matter” – of the earth?)

Kind of a big subject – and so I procrastinate. What is my resistance? (Resistance is a powerful message, pay attention to it!) What am I scared of? Unformed thoughts? Still raw emotions?

How do you write about a journey to a just-discovered destination while still just marveling at the brochures?

Prompt: I procrastinate on_____ because…

_______

 

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Katrina, 5 years on, first hand

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Last one down and right through the roof

(I’m going to digress from my regular theme today as August 29th is an important anniversary in my family’s and this country’s history.)

Five years ago I was in my home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, approximately 2 hours north of the Gulf coast. As I sat tightly cradling my child against me trying to stem my terror, 200 mile-wide Hurricane Katrina was barreling north up Route 59 at approximately 100 mph…

.

~~~~~

.(Originally posted September 3, 2008)

Sitting in the hallway on a mattress. The wind is howling. The roar is constant, like sitting in the middle of a major highway at rush hour – only louder. When it gusts, it shakes the house and you can’t hear the person talking right next to you.

We monitor the speed of the wind by how close to horizontal the small sapling is outside the bedroom window. Trees are toppling, peeling up the lawn into a game board of four-foot craters. The tornadoes springing out of the hurricane are snapping other trees like pretzels in a child’s fingers. The house across the street has two corners sheared off. One of the largest, vine-choked pines sways, leans, and then in a sudden blast from the south, slams into our neighbors living room.

Garbage cans, branches, and other debris is cartwheeling down the street, including part of our roof. One huge gust, a splintering crack, and a tree comes smashing through the roof. I watch it fall and scream at the impact. I am at my breaking point. The racket – for six solid hours – is more than I can take. My little girl puts her hand on my leg and says, “It’s OK, mama.”

Then it all but stops. The eye. Although the relative silence is a relief, my nerves are still firing missiles in anticipation of the other side of the storm.

But it never comes.

Two hours later, intermittent gusts and complete devastation are all that remain of Katrina.

Look closely - corner of our neighbors' house is sheared right off.

Under all that is our back yard - we lost 15 trees in all

Quoting Christina: We write.

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What I think we are up to, we throngs of journal-writing pilgrims, is reclamation. We are searching for ways to reclaim a sense of place, a sense of empowerment, a sense of healthy relationship between our lives and our times. We look for whatever can help us make sense of the moment. We Write. (Christina Baldwin, Life’s Companion)

Dear Ms. Baldwin (may I call you Christina? I feel we are already friends):

Reading this quote today, I choked up. I’ve read it before and jotted it down for future reference but today it hit me, right in the chest. You see, Christina, I have gotten myself all in a tizzy.

I am working very hard to establish myself in this world. A very new world. A world of self-employment, in a unstable economy, in an unusual but emerging field: Transformational Language Arts. Most days I feel I am just shouting at the sky, HEY! People! I think you might want to listen to what I have to say! I can help you. Won’t you let me help you? I realize it will take time for society to see the value in the work I and my expressive writing colleagues are doing. But I network, I email, I provide free services, I blog, I Twitter, I Facebook, and still I see so little response. Many times I wonder why I keep doing it.

Despite this, on most days I still feel positive because I know in my heart that I am doing the right thing. I believe in what I teach and I know I can help people. I also know that those who need me the most will find me.

But the truth is, Christina, I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed by this monster I have birthed. I can’t just walk away from the little corner of the internet I now call my own. But it is pulling me under. My children, writing, time, energy, fun… these things are left floating above me while I drown in a social-media flood of my own making. I need to get back to the surface, catch a breath, gain balance and hold on tight to what I value and love – because ultimately it is these things that will get me back to shore.

But there is one thing I have not lost or neglected in this vortex: my journal. Each night and morning I fall on its pages as one falls into bed, exhausted and in need of rejuvenation. In particularly difficult moments I physically crave the respite I find there. My anxiety is high until I can sit with my journal on my lap and pour out my petty fears.

Because – yes! Christina – I am searching to reclaim. I need to reclaim my peace of mind, my self-confidence, my sense of who I am in this world when everything has become a little bit crazy. I am trying to re-find the “why” when I have gotten lost in the “how” and “when.”  Looking for the path of Purpose and Meaning again when I have veered off into the jungle of Productivity and Profit.

I write. And I reclaim myself. And when I reclaim myself I also know I am meant to write. My authentic self is a writer. And so, Christina, I chose to write to you today to thank you for your meaningful, powerful words, but also for the pure pleasure of stringing words together – an act that both calms and re-energizes me. And when I place the final period I will know I am doing the right thing. To be given the privilege to teach others the incredible power of writing is worth every effort to be able to do so.

Thank you,

joanna

 

Because I have been taking myself too seriously…

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I realized something this morning. I miss writing. While I write something everyday – my journal, an article or just a facebook status (does that count?) – I miss what I do best (humble, I know): Write.

I loved everything about blogging when I began writing at jlucymuses.blogspot.com. My days and activities were all potential blog posts and I would stay up late doing what I enjoy the most and which blesses me with FLOW – seeing my words spin into sentences and paragraphs. I loved that I had followers and people who related to the antics of my children or my frustrations as a mother. And writing about those things helped me laugh at myself and take life a little less seriously.

But my ambition took over my love. I had read that I should focus on one blog and I was so intent on doing this online presence thing “right” that I denied my own needs. Please don’t get me wrong, I am passionate about journaling and helping others to gain self-awareness through writing, but I also need to write. And not just about journaling. I want to record the funny image of my naked son running around with only a sheer ballet skirt for a modicum of decency, shouting, “I am a Ballerina Wolf Dad!” I want scream on screen at the washing machine which, in mid-cycle, clunked to a stop, leaving my still-accident-prone son only 10 dripping wet and sudsy pairs of underwear. And I want to share the simple joy of finally planting the barrel in my front yard with flowers.

I have put a part of myself on hold and thrown everything into this venture called Wisdom Within, Ink but the truth is I am not using my own “ink” enough. I am not feeling whole. And even if no one reads these ramblings at least I will be capturing and celebrating the precious moments of my own life in my own words for myself – which in the end is really all that matters.

If you care to join me, I will start writing again at jlucymuses.blogspot.com very soon. If not, I’ll still be here too.

_______

Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Put the lime in the coconut

It finally turned warm (again) this weekend. Two weeks ago I got a sunburn, one week ago I was scraping snow off the car and today I am sitting by an open window trying to get some air while the sky threatens a thunder storm. That kind of dramatic weather change not only messes with my wardrobe (I had put away all the winter coats) but with my sense of time. What month is it? What season? Who am I? What am I doing here?

OK, so that’s a bit of a drastic reaction to seeing snow on tulips, wearing a coat over a sunburn and then sweating on the deck next to a snow shovel, but I’m telling you, something wasn’t clicking in my head.

While driving across town this weekend with the windows down I turned the radio to a station I don’t normally listen to – 70’s and 80’s rock (not the 80’s POP that I still inflict on my family on Saturday morning cleaning binges) – and I was rocking out! The warm air on my face and the loud music took me back to my younger days. Driving fast and singing at the top of lungs used to be my favorite mood-adjuster. And despite the fact that I was cruising along at 40 mph instead of the 70 mph I was partial to at 22 years old and that the volume of the radio was unable to completely drown out the thump-thump-thump of some rusting component of my jalopy, I was happy. Warm, free and happy.

Then I glanced in the rear-view mirror and was shocked to see myself looking right back at me! Not me at 37 but me at 7. Bee-bopping along with her ancient mom was my Mini-Me. In my heat-and-music-induced time warp I had almost forgotten she was there. What? I have a kid? When did that happen? She looked up, saw me looking at her in the mirror, flashed an angelic smile and went back to seat-dancing to Heart’s Barracuda.

It was a lesson to me: I can still be myself, I can still have fun even though I am now a Mother. The world will not disintegrate if I let lose once in a while. In fact, my children might benefit from some parental silliness. While I do not wear mommy jeans or set my hair (it would never take anyway), I am a big ol’ stick in the mud most of the time. I have taken my role of decorum-deputy and politeness-police very seriously and my poor children rarely see me let down my guard. But last week for some unprovoked reason I started singing at the table, “Put the lime in the coconut…” with a really bad Caribbean accent. My children stopped eating, forks mid-air, and mouths open. They looked at me like I was a pod-person. My daughter said, “It’s like you’re not my real mom right now!” Then they began to laugh and have been begging me to sing the “silly song” ever since.

So, my journal and I are going on a little journey to reclaim balance – balance between Mommy and Me. To reclaim my youth. To reclaim my former, fun self. I need to remember to put the (sassy) lime back in the coconut because (no fun, over-anxious) coconut alone is not what the Doctor ordered.

Prompt: What activity takes you back to your younger/former self? Do you need a little more of it in your life? How do you put the lime back in your coconut?

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A reminder just in time for summer vacation

Note: This is a recycled post, the second in a series while I take a journal-blogging break. I hope you enjoy the off-topic jaunt.

Silly Mommy, trips are for kids!

May 10, 2009

Funny how memory works. We swear we will never take both kids to the grocery store right after school, then we do again… and again. Flying with the children is an absolute No-No until they have full responsibility over their own bodily functions and can run the length of Detroit’s Terminal C on their own two legs. But then we book that flight. Road trips and hotels were off the list too, but…

We packed the car and headed for a lovely weekend in Maine. But after we had stopped for the 6th bathroom/poopy diaper break in two hours and the Laughing Game ensued (which would be more aptly called the “Let’s See How Many Times We Can Say The Word Poop and Scream With Laughter Game”), I began to realize our mistake. This was no vacation, this was the trip to hell.

What I learned this weekend:

a) You don’t need to buy a jungle gym or trampoline when you can just book a hotel room.
b) The number of times a child can ask if she can go swimming increases in direct relation to the lateness of the hour.
c) If there is an alarm clock in your hotel room, it is best to unplug it before bed because it has undoubtedly been messed with by little hands and set to blast you awake at 12:00AM. In the ensuing hitting of said clock you will inadvertently turn the radio on, set to the loudest, heaviest metal available to the listening public.
d) Once you have just drifted off to sleep again, your child will awake just enough to discover “Pappi-dog” has wandered off and alert you at the top of his lungs of this emergency.
e) The air-conditioner will whir loudly back to life the moment you have entered dream-land again.
f) The fact that hotel bed bouncing did not end until after 10PM, 5:30AM is a perfectly acceptable time of day to wake your mother by placing your mouth directly by her ear and announcing you’re bored and need to go swimming NOW!
g) No matter how many outfits you pack, they will all get wet, sandy and/or ketchup-stained and you will have to buy something extra.
h) On the journey home you will be so exhausted you won’t realize you drove north instead of south until you are arriving in downtown Portland.
i) There is not enough Dunkin’ Donuts iced-coffee in the world to make the drive home (which is now an hour longer) go by fast enough.
j) Home and your own bed are the best places on earth.
k) Happy, sand-encrusted, swimmed-out kids make it all worthwhile… maybe.


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P.S. Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization, and almost everything in between.

Fry-daddies and other down-right scary things

This post is off topic but a necessary rant for me (thanks for listening).

I’m not one to promote TV shows or popular culture issues or to insert highly Google-able words just to get readership. If I was in this for high stats I would change my focus – “journaling” isn’t exactly a hot SEO. But I have to do this.

I stayed awake long pass my bedtime of 10PM last night watching the first episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (ABC site). I didn’t intend to be sucked in to another reality saga, but pizza for breakfast and a fry-daddy in the family kitchen had me hooked. Morbidly fascinated, to be precise. By the end of the show I was feeling thoroughly disgusted and afraid for this country’s future. I was also feeling smugly self-righteous.

One “lunch lady” was heard to say that the children would obviously choose pizza over Jamie’s roasted chicken (which looked delicious, by the way). Wouldn’t you? I mean, if you had never been given a real piece of chicken, all gloopy and yummy with sauce with a side of green, green broccoli would you really choose that over the greasy, carbalicious, instant high, eat-with-your-fingers pizza?

If parents decide that their children “won’t eat this” or “wouldn’t like that,” well, they won’t will they? My babies were given broccoli, spinach, peas, kale, etc. as soon as they could digest solid food. I liquidized it and added it to oatmeal or rice cereal. When they were older it was scrambled egg and a veggie. They would even eat cold tofu as a snack, and my son has been known to choose grapes over a cupcake at school. My oldest had hardly tasted sugar until her first birthday cake. She didn’t like it much… oh, how I wish it had remained that way! But what hope did I have when, upon joining at Mommy and Me group when she was just 18-months old, every birthday, holiday (seven in all), and oh, why not? Monday too, became a candy-cookie-chip fest. Start ’em young!

My children are not picky eaters. We don’t allow them to say they don’t like something until they have at least tried it. And yes, like most children they love pasta and breads, but they will also eat the “little trees” (broccoli) and “leaves” (spinach, raw with dressing). Don’t get me wrong, my daughter would devour all the cookies on the plate if left to her own devices and she would probably choose a hot dog over chicken if given the choice. But if only chicken was on the menu she would happily eat it.

The stomachs and double-chins bulging out of the TV last night made me slap my own forehead in exasperation. The shopping list for one (very rotund) family included nothing but processed food: corn dogs, hot dogs, donuts, and a freezer FULL of mini pizzas for “snacks.” OH MY GOOD GROSS! “Don’t you get it?!” I screamed at the TV. And then there were the food administrators who counted French fries as a vegetable and saw nothing wrong with the list of chemicals and additives on the box of pre-cooked mashed “potato pearls.” No wonder chubby, unhealthy children are growing into fat, dying adults.

Breakfast pizza, chicken nuggets, bright pink milk, canned fruit, pizza counting as the required two grains…

And this was all in compliance with the USDA standards!

Even in the tiny school in England I attended as a child had a fully-operational kitchen where all the food was cooked from scratch. We had “meat, potato and two veg” and then a pudding (dessert), usually smothered in custard, sometimes even chocolate custard (yum!), but in general it was a balanced meal made from fresh ingredients. In France, the children are taught from babyhood how to enjoy good food and how to sit politely and eat it intentionally (as opposed to throwing it down your throat while racing around the living room). In a back issue of Mothering magazine I recently read an article (which doesn’t appear to be available online) about how Japanese children are served not only a balanced meal but a eco-friendly and artfully-served one, a far cry from the American brown and ziploc bagged, throw-away processed meat lunches most American moms chuck together each morning. The amount of waste highlighted on Food Revolution was a crime. Recyclable bottle after recyclable bottle was dumped along with untouched salad and apples.

I should clarify here that this show highlighted one school in one city in one state. That city happened to be categorized as the most unhealthy one in the country – so we are talking extremes here. I happen to live in one of healthiest states in the country (according to various statistical studies, including this one from Forbes) but I still see chubby children sitting in carts of crap at the check-out line and high fructose corn syrup flowing freely from the cans of fruit served in daycare.

How could any loving mother watch as her children swell, get sick, and get picked on, and still feed them that junk? How can a school to whom we parents have entrusted our children’s care feed them such slop? I understand that we all have the option to send a packed lunch, but that is besides the point. School is about education – how to read, how to write, how to share, how our bodies work – shouldn’t that education include how to eat well? Obviously parents have to be the primary purveyors of this information but – let’s not kid ourselves here – some parents leave the full task of education and socialization, and more times than we like to admit, their sustenance, up to the schools.

Where is the responsibility? To our children? To the environment? To our economy? To our healthcare system?

As Whitney once told us, the children are the future. But what does that future look like  if all the sugar/fat/salt junkies are pulling up to McDonald’s drive-thru window for another quick hit whenever their energy and motivation seeps out their oily pores? It’s not the children’s fault. It isn’t entirely the parent’s fault. We are now looking at a generational, societal problem which is result of so, so many interconnected factors. It will truly take a revolution. And, despite it’s sappy, rating-grabbing reality TV venue, I support Jamie’s fight against the obese, profit-hungry monster that is the American food industry.

jamieoliver.com/campaigns/jamies-food-revolution


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