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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year Begins (Again)!


(image of rising sun in the east, early December 2009)
How did we get here this fast? I mean, it was just a few months ago I was making resolutions about no more resolutions, and here it is, time to sit down with my journal and dream my way into what I want to have happen in 2010.

Here it is end of December, and the lake is (almost) freezing over with some cold mist rising from the snow and ice, creating zigzagging patterns over the surface, and some open water....it will take a few more days of minus 10 Celsius to get totally solid.  The setting sun is throwing yellow light over the whole sifting misty lake, quite magical (not as magical as seeing the landscape on Pandora, in Avatar, but hey...see http://www.avatarmovie.com/).

Here is my list of things I am already ready to receive (not 'what I want', or 'goals' nor resolutions, but what I am already thankful for because it is being provided).

I am grateful for the lakeview and the wide open sky in front of me.
I am grateful for the space to write in and create.
I am grateful for the continued health and independence of my teenaged children.
I am grateful for the continued happiness and fulfillment of my husband.
I am grateful for new opportunities for music and singing.
I am grateful for lots of growth and learning.
I am grateful for my new book Tao of Turning 50 being published and widely distributed.
I am grateful for being financially independent.
I am grateful for providing for my family.
I am grateful for many many retreats and women's circles.
I am grateful for thousands of more readers of my blogs.
I am grateful for helping thousands of women uncover the unknown.
I am grateful for my continued health and stamina, so I can create more wisdom sharing venues.
I am grateful for uncovering networks of women with similar ideals and values.
I am grateful for partnering with like-minded women.
I am grateful for the ability to focus on my new projects and publishing.
I am grateful for being able to travel and work with writing mentors like Nathalie Goldberg.
I am grateful for being with thoughtful friends who care about my needs and my work.
I am grateful for sharing love with so many people.
I am grateful for my large extended family on both sides and their health.
I am grateful for being loved.
I am grateful for being cared for.
I am grateful for new horizons opening up.
I am grateful for taking risks and stepping forward.
I am grateful for sharing these steps with all who are interested.
I am grateful for another year of creativity, in song, in laughter.
I am grateful.

Thanks to this creative universe we live and thrive in, thanks be.

(and special thanks to my mother, my sisters and brothers, for a wonderful 3 days with them in Ottawa this past weekend)

musemother/jenn

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Ragged Edge of Modern Life

Here we are on the eve of Christmas, wrapping presents, running to the Pharmaprix for last minute stocking gifts because we just realized Janie has 2 more than Johnnie, and forgot about the cat and the dog's stockings....

awakening from a short sleep because of partying with neighbours the night before, more tired than yesterday...

sex is just a dream you had the other night, it didn't actually happen....

too pooped to coop, and forever catching up with more caffeine, and weary to the bone.

What do the latest health studies call this?  Adrenal fatigue syndrome (or another name for burnout according to an article in Vogue's December issue, the reason I bought the magazine, called The Ragged Edge). http://www.vogue.com/

We are all plugged in more than ever, and our nerves are over stimulated and 'hypertweeted'. Not only mid-life women are being treated for stress-related illnesses, but women in mid-life are particularly vulnerable. "When we're under ling-term stress, our adrenal glands continually churn out high levels of the hormone cortisol. Eventually the adrenals can't sustain that level of activation, cortisol levels plummet, and our body can no longer respond effectively to stress." Dr. Amy Saltzman, M.D. in Menlo Park California, Vogue December issue 2009.

I've blogged about adrenal fatigue on ms menopause blog (http://www.msmenopause.blogspot.com/) and there are wonderful articles at http://www.womentowomen.com/ on this subject.

It's a bit like having the fight or flight option on your adrenal glands always on 'on'.  We wear ourselves down by the constant beep of the phone, computer, email, blackberry, calling us to action.  Everything feels like an emergency when you are always rushing, or addicted to the adrenaline fix, as Cheryl Richardson calls it in her book The Art of Extreme Self-Care.  It's difficult to unhook ourselves from being always reachable, always available, yet it causes a severe attention deficit as we try to multi-task our way through our days, dealing with clients emails, stirring the stew pot on the stove, helping Janie with her homework and catching the 6:00 news on TV at the same time.

What if you use this holiday as a real unplugged vacation?  Go somewhere where there is no internet.  Unplug the computer and the phone, and just sit in front of the fire unwrapping presents and sipping hot chocolate, or even better, get outside and get some physical activity, skiing, snowshoeing, swimiming (if you live in Hawaii or Australia).

Get lots of Vitamin B, fish oil land asian ginsent. Eat well, rest, and devote at least a little bit of time every day to doing nothing - be that by watching your breath, sitting in zen meditation or looking out the window at the amazing changes in the sky moment by moment.

Happy Holidays, Happy Restfulness,
May the new year bring you permission to feel more serenity, tranquility and love,

musemother/jenn

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bindi miracle party


Not the best photo of me, but we were seriously focused on applying a red dot to each other's foreheads, at our women's retreat supper, which evolved into a bindi miracle party.

Wikipidea had this to say about bindi dots:

The area between the eyebrows (where the bindi is placed) is said to be the sixth chakra, ajna, the seat of "concealed wisdom". According to followers of Hinduism, this chakra is the exit point for kundalini energy. The bindi is said to retain energy and strengthen concentration.[4] It is also said to protect against demons or bad luck.
In modern times, bindis are worn by women of many religious dispositions in South Asia and Southeast Asia, including Muslim and Christian women, and is not restricted to Hindus.

So why a red dot? it no longer signifies a married woman, but it might have a source in the red blood at menstruation. The colour red is sacred because it is the colour of blood and symbolizes life in many cultures. The moon mother's blood is called wise blood, especially when it is withheld by menopausal women, making them Wise Women.

The third eye is a place of insight, where the ultimate vision of the Absolute can be seen with the inner eye. (The Woman's Dictionary of symbols and sacred objects) So wisdom above and below is connected with the red dot or bindi, a powerful symbol of womanhood.

The night of our bindi miracle party, we were telling our first menstruation stories, how it was for us. Sometimes it lead to lots of laughter, some of the stories were more sombre and tearful.

It was not something any of our mothers would have taught us to celebrate. So we decided to celebrate it ourselves, informally, in this little ritual.

While we did, we talked about our daughters, and how they may want or not want to be gifted with a symbol of insight, or jewellery more likely, along with a basket of pads, tampons or paraphanelia of 'woman's stuff'. Listen to our voices get hushed when we talk about 'women's stuff'. Why is the taboo so strong, still?

Just found this info on another site about bindi symbolism:
http://archives.chennaionline.com/style/Beautytrends/beautytips/bindi.asp

Some scholars see the red colour as a symbolism for blood. We are told that in ancient times, in Aryan society, a groom used to apply his blood on-his bride's forehead as a recognition of wedlock. The existing practice among Indian women of applying a round shaped red Tilaka called Bindiya or Kumkum could be a survival of this idea.

Do you think it more likely it's men's blood or women's blood originally?

enjoy the day,
jenn/musemother

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Giving the Gift of Music

"This life is yours. It is a gift that you have been given. Understand the beauty that is dancing in front of your very eyes. You are the stage where the peace dances. This is your time. Grab the request for peace in your heart; find the contentment in your life."
Prem Rawat

The other gift we have been given is the gift of music - I love to sing, I love music in all forms, and I especially love barbershop or accapella singing in 4-part harmony.

This past Saturday was our Christmas Concert, the West Island Chorus of Sweet Adelines, and my quartet got to play a little part.

Here is a link to our 2 songs : Mary Did you Know and We Need a Little Christmas. I'm singing tenor, on the left.

Take a look!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrE4wT3SvUA


Christine Roy sings lead (long blonde hair), Marian Morkill sings Baritone (far right) and Jean Kelly sings Bass (short blonde hair).

We share a passion for singing and performing - thanks ladies for all you do to make singing with you so much fun!

jenn

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Listening for My Own Wisdom

"I listened for the faint sound of my own true voice, buried far below all of my identities and roles and accompplishments, below my shoulds and my have-tos, my fears and my hopes.

..."Finally, slowly, I began to hear the voice of my deep womansoul crying out for a life of my own, pleading for a chance to discover my own unique song; to dance to my own choreography; to define my own purpose, direction, and vision, separate from what the world expected of me; separate from trying to be good and stay out of trouble.

I heard her saying, You are enough; just you, just who you are; you are good enough. You can stop proving it now. It's safe to come out; trust me, I will lead you. Trust this process. Trust that you are not alone." I Am A Woman finding Her Voice,

I just re-read this on an earlier blog posting, and can't believe this is still my theme! But I am putting it up here again today, to remind myself, and any of you who need to hear it, that now is the time to Listen In carefully for your own wisdom.

I am always too busy for this. Every day, I get up and meditate, ok, that's a good start, but my journal sits on the desk not used, my yoga strap waits on the chair for me to lie down and do some leg stretches, the list of things to do and things to shop for is right here beside me, and I managed to pay some bills and get toilet paper holders installed - but look at the time! 11:12 a.m. and I didn't manage to write anything in my journal, or sit and calmly listen for my own inner wisdom today.

When will I make time? If I don't schedule time for writing in my journal it doesn't happen. Or rarely, on a whim, once every two weeks. I am blogging more often, and also at http://www.owningpink.com/, which is a great place to find unconditional love and support, and read about finding your mojo. I've started editing a poetry collection, and I sent out copies of my Tao of Turning Fifty to friends for comments and feedback. So yes, small steps towards acknowledgeing my Womansoul.

Had lunch with a close friend from way back on Tuesday, and she is going through menopause. The thing that she misses the most is finding her own rhythm - needing time alone so she can find out what her rhythm would be like, if she didn't have to cook meals for someone else, oversee homework, be interruped in her creative process by house management details and daily stuff. She's a dancer, movement director, choreographer living the precarious life of grant to grant funding for projects, with no fixed income.

I thought her point about rhythm and being constantly interrupted was so apropos - finally at menopause you think the kids are big enough to handle breakfast alone, drive themselves to appointments (note: I had to interrupt meditation this morning at 8:15 to drive daughter to college for exam because my son was exceptionally not going today), and you think, I love my family, love my spouse, but I just need to find TIME for ME. It sounds so selfish. We are trained not to put ourselves first. But I think it becomes a necessity, and if you are a creative person even more so, to put yourself on the TO DO list.

Ok inner voice, I'm going to schedule you in, right now. And then I'll get to the errands, appointments, bills, and things.

sigh,
jenn/musemother

Monday, November 30, 2009

Woman Cycles

A woman cycles constantly. If you are in touch with your cycle, you meet its ups and downs instead of struggling to control, contain, remove, deny, fight it.

What does it take to get to know your cycle? a willingness to know, a moment or two in your day to chart where you are, a curiousity about your body, your emotions.

It also helps to get aware of the moon in the sky - is it half moon, in decline, on the wane, or nearing fullness? is it a new moon, or the dark of the moon? and how does that make you feel?

If you are on the pill, chances are you have a cycle but it's covered over with the artificial hormones you are taking. Some women notice their moods and patterns change when they go off the pill. The following is an excerpt from the book, The Pill, are you sure it's for you? by Jane Bennett and Alexandra Pope. (see sidebar for link to Wild Genie website)

"Are cycles inherently important? ...appreciating the inherent logic and power of cycles for sustaining life - your body's and the planet's - might help you to get clearer on whether the Pill is really a good thing for you." (think tides, seasons, circling planets, flow....)

"A cycle is a system of generation and regeneration - of birth, growth, peaking, falling away and ending to be followed again by birth. It's a process of expansion and contraction, of activity and rest. ...your body is in constant rhythmic change, much of which is happening beneath your awareness. ...It's your changing nature that's keeping you alive, lively, responsive and creative."

Some women on the Pill suffer through bad moods, hysterical crying bouts, anxiety and depression. One woman quoted in the book, came off the Pill after taking it for 2 years. "'The pill is a pattern but it's not your pattern.' Her extreme moods cleared up and learning about her body through fertility awareness made her realise how much more in tune with her life she can be. At certain times of the month she knows she can expect certain things - when she's fertile and infertile and when her period is due - and knowing this puts other aspects of her life in context as well. For instance, knowing that she's fertile helps her understand why she feels so sexy and horny, joyuous when she sees a newborn baby and generally in a good mood. knowing that her period is due helps her accept her feelings of ill ease with her body and a general edginess and anxiety. Connecting to the rhythm of her body has been really empowering."

As cyclical beings, we have times of high energy and productiveness, and we also have down times of rest and retreat. Sometimes to find our creative energy we need quiet reflective times. Stress and busyness are stimulating, but too much of a good thing wears us down. In each day even, we have cycles of on and off, high energy and low energy. If we don't listen to the subtle signals from the body, for when we are needing a break or needing nourishment, we get cranky, anxious, we rush too fast and make mistakes and get into accidents. Try going with the flow of your cycles, and cooperate with your body's ebb and flow, as Alexander Pope puts it in this marvelous book.

You are made of flesh and blood, circling in your body, pumping in and out of your heart. Get into the rhythm of life. Be in synch with your self. Get vital energy from good food, from exercise, from rest. And listen to your woman's cycles for a deeper sense of groundedness.

You are worth knowing about! Learn more about this finely tuned instrument.
I highly recommend this book, for any woman on the Pill or considering going on it. There are upsides and downsides, and definitely you will learn more about the woman's body and cycles in this book, as well as alternative methods of contraception.

nameste,
musemother

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Body Never Lies

Who is the girl hiding behind the rock? and why are my shoulders hurting so much?

The girl was left in charge of seven younger siblings. She was maybe ten or elevent at most, her mother had left the house before supper (where was the father?), probably to cross the street for a drink with Doroth and Al, the couple who were also kind enough to let the girl play dress up and give her real grown-up tea, and who she helped out by stacking logs for their fireplace in winter.

She was a good girl. She got lots of praise for helping others. It made her feel important and loved. But that night, her sister was fighting her, pulling her hair, scratching her cheek, her brothers were wrestling, the house was in chaos, seemingly out of control.

No one would listen to her. It was dark outside. She was trying to instill order but it felt hopeless, no use. So she decided to run away. She took a bag of cookies and some slices of bread in a paper bag, and left a short note for her mother, sticking it in her sheared lamb's wool coat pocket, where it hung in the vestibule. She ran outside, up the hill behind the house through the trees, and found a big rock, solid and house-like to sit behind, waiting for the car headlights to come up the long winding driveway below.

After a while (was it only 15 minutes?) she began to feel cold. She didn't like being outside in the woods in the dark. She had stopped crying and sniffling, and decided to go back down inside. She sheepishly removed the note from her mother's coat pocket. She hadn't eaten the cookies or bread so left them in the kitchen. Her mother does not remember leaving her alone with a one-year-old, a two year old, a three or four year old, a five year old and a six and seven year old. Oh and one eight year old. How could she have done that, even for an hour? "I must have just stepped out for ten minutes to go to the store," she said, trying to recall.

But the girl, now a woman, remembers feeling time slipping by slowly like an eternity. It was too much to handle. It was too long. It was a feeling of abnadonment and of betrayal of trust. It was too much responsiblity for one small girl trying to be good. Who had no choice and could not speak up or say no, I am too young. Don't leave me alone with them. She had tried to leave but the world was too big, too scary, she had no where else to go to, no other adult or friend of the family, or aunts and uncles to ask for help. They had no one to help them. Isolated and alone, with the overwhelmed mother and absent, hardworking father.

I found this in my journal, written a few weeks ago, and I think I know who the little girl is, and why my shoulders have been so sore.

The body never lies.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mothering the Muse

-musings on finding creative space for mothers (first published in Q-Write, Quebec Writers' Federation newsletter).

"All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy." Orsen Wells

All mothers are selfless, hardworking and compassionate would be my corollary statement. Although far from selfless, I admit the mother side has taken precedence over the writer these past few months. I wish I could leave the dishes unwashed, let moldy t-shirts lie on the floor, leave the teens to fend for supper by themselves when a deadline is approaching. In fact, the central conflict in my life right now is how to leave the mother side behind and nurture the writer. How to mother the muse?

Shehazerade told her stories at nightfall to avoid having her head chopped off. Mothers know a lot about sleepless nights and endless stories, and little tyrants demanding, “just one more” or off with your head. Maybe night feedings are conducive to listening to the Muse. I wrote some of best poems at 4 a.m. Once the young fledglings get more mobile, the invocation of the muse can be done while trimming the hedges or preferably behind a locked bathroom door.

Inherent in mothering and writing is this conflict of schedules, this conflict of roles that resist merging with each other. In my mind, I can be either a good mother, or a good poet. The poet in me hates schedules, discipline and regular habits. She is moody and rebellious and gets grumpty when she is disturbed. She equates creativity with messiness. Sometimes the Muse is hard to grab onto, so I spend days writing myself reminders to write in my notebook, and sometimes I actually do.

Maybe the trouble I have is with my image of writers and mothers: mothers are supposed to love their offspring unconditionally, drop their own projects to sew elastics on ballet shoes or drive someone to the video store. Mothers don’t say ‘go away’, when their daughters come bugging them for help with French homework. They don’t put up signs on their office that say DO NOT DISTURB. In my mind, a ‘real’ writer is a cranky old man with a pipe and beard who works in his study and never lets any children or noise in. Children tiptoe around him and never dare hug him. A wife is at the door, ready to shoo them away and answer the phone, deal with plumbers and repair men. Ah, the wife, well, that would be me.

It feels like the ‘real’ writers are cooped up like hermits behind closed doors or in mountain retreats communing with the ‘muse’. And the ‘real mothers’ are baking brownies, washing floors and carpooling hockey teams. But I am a hybrid: a writing mother, and I manage to do both, with some compromise.

If I don’t mother the muse, i.e. make time to do some creative loafing so I can write, my inner Hemingway comes alive. Then watch out! Cranky Ogre sets in. Mothering the muse could mean listening to her call (or the itch in my veins that leaves me sleepless) in the middle of the night, or mining the tiny cracks in the day’s schedule where inspiration wafts up, in between breakfast dishes and homework and chauffeur service to after school activities. It may also mean leaving the house to write in a café, waking up 15 minutes earlier to write morning pages, or spending a day at a friend’s cottage to have Quiet Space where the octopus of household tasks does not live. You’ll have to check “mother guilt” at the door, however; it’s only one more creative block.

Self-discipline and the courage to value my work above all other tasks are part of the challenge. Like any writer, the trick for me is the doing of it, not the thinking about it. Maybe I can’t lock myself away in a cabin in absolute stillness and silence. But in the past 10 years I have somehow managed to publish a book, a chapbook, and teach courses in journal writing, as well as raising two kids. My first book, “Little Mother”, explored in prose and poetry my first pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing, as well as the earlier drama of living with an alcoholic mother.

Ideally, with a little help to manage household duties –cleaning ladies are angels – and a little help from the muse, a manuscript will soon be in the mail to publishing houses. On the way, mothering has become my theme, a puzzle I am trying to figure out in my writing. Mothering the muse, musing on mothering, it has all become one. My latest creative project is a play about Eve’s mother. So muse, I am making an appointment with you for 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning – whoops, I forgot, school is out tomorrow. Next week?


Mothering the muse ideas: take yourself on an artist’s date (from The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron). Get outside and walk in the woods, let nature inspire you to make room for sun and snow shadows. Play! Read whatever style of writing you want to be writing, i.e. read poetry! Get together with another writer for coffee and writing in a café. Write morning pages, before the kids wake up, set your alarm 15 minutes early. Don’t be hard on yourself. Even if you only write one sentence a day, that’s 365 sentences at the end of a year. Just imagine if you wrote 3 sentences? I met a writer at the Maritime Writer’s Workshop who worked full-time for the government in Ottawa, and had 3 kids (and a wife) who managed to write for one hour every morning before breakfast! Without waking up his wife! His lecture was called Perseverance.

Snuggle with your kids in the morning, and try to turn off the flow of creativity before they come home; give yourself time to land, back on earth, and greet them happily. It takes flexibility to live in both worlds.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mother Daughter Stuff

Ok usually it's me being impatient with my 17 yr old girl, but this week my husband hit his limit.

"I told her she could have the money from all those beer bottles in the garage if she took them back....it's been 3 weeks!"

"I'm going to sell that 2nd-hand mini we bought her - she never drives it!" (battery went dead as it sat in the driveway for 2 months)

He took her driving one day a few weeks ago, and apparently grew impatient (understatement) when she tried to shift into 5th gear (it's a standard) and ground the gears instead....on the highway.

So a few meltdowns later, and many stalls at busy intersections, with cars are beeping their horns and yelling at the poor girl, (a good samaritan helped push the car off the road and got it started for her), she was petrified of driving the 'new' car.

Yesterday, I insisted we take the mini to the physiotherapist appointment she had. She was doing great at all the stop signs, starting it with hardly a catch, until we got to a busier street with traffic lights. Stopped at a red light, we went through 2 more red lights until she could get it going again, and then we whipped into a parking lot while she had melt down # 35.

I took over the wheel, and started noticing what I was doing with the clutch, how fast the engine was revving when I put my foot on the gas, the exact sequence of events, so I could explain it to her. She was still too shaken to drive. But she listened and watched.

On the way back, I was late for my osteo appointment (yes, we're all in need of therapy), so I drove straight to my appointment instead of dropping her off at home. She would drive the last few blocks into the town, and I pulled over so she could do this. I told her to give it more gas and see if that helped, but mostly I talked to her about the mind over matter, the fear of stalling, the mental block she had created.

Lo and behold, she drove me into town with no stalling. Took off, and came back to get me an hour later, in the same car! (she could have gone home and switched to an automatic). She also loaded up the car with beer bottles (258!) and we took them back to the store.

It was her night to cook supper, burgers on the menu, so after she had done that too, I gave her a big hug and told her I would tell Dad all about her good day.

"I'm so proud of her", he said later, amazed that beer bottles and car driving fears had been taken care of in one day.

I am so proud of Caitie too! She faced her fears, and even drove the car to her dance class later that night. It's not about the fear, it's about getting it right enough times that you build a little confidence, and have a least one success to convince yourself 'I can do it!'

If Caitie only knew what a life lesson that is for me, in mid-life....

musemother
ps I am also writing a blog at owning pink, there's a link on this blog
if you're curious

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sabbath and Resting

The idea of Sabbath is a very old one, and recently a book on the subject revealed how important a rest day is for our mental sanity and health.

Wayne Muller, in Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, shows how our relentless pursuit of progress and success is a form of violence we do to ourselves. In the passage I opened up this morning, he explains that our putting paradise or heaven off into the after life means that we only get to rest once we get to heaven. Heaven is where the green pastures are, the place we can lie down and be taken care of, but that we have to work work work until we get there.

"This then is the theology of progress. Only when we get to the end can we lie down in green pastures, be led beside still waters, and allow our soul to be restored. this is the psalm we sing when people have died. This is the psalm we save for death, because in the world of progress, you do not rest in green pastures, you do not lie beside still waters, there is no time. Never in this life, only in the next. ...

But we must ask this question: What if we are not going anywhere? what if we are simply living and growing within an ever-deepening cycle of rhythms, perhaps getting wiser, perhaps learning to be kind, and hopefully passing whatever we have learned to our children? what if our life, rough-hewn from the stuff of creation, orbits around a God who never ceases to create new beginnings? what if our life is simply a time when we are blessed with both sadness and joy, health and disease, courage and fear --and all the while we work, pray and love, knowing that the promised land we seek is already present in the very gift of life itself, the inestimable privilege of a human birth? what if this single human life is itself the jewel in the lotus, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price? what if all the way to heaven is heaven?

"Sabbath challenges the theology of progress by reminding us that we are already and always on sacred ground....the time to lie and love and give thanks and rest and delight is now, this moment, this day. Feel what heaven is like; have a taste of eternity. Rest in the arms of the divine...The time to sleep, to rest, is now. We are already home."

I am taking his mesage to heart this morning; lying here in the sun with Mollie, soaking up the warmth of an unusally warm November day. Recuperating after an osteopathic treatment on my shoulders yesterday, and following her advice to rest more today, drink more water, let the body readjust.

It is difficult to just lie here and do nothing. But I can feel the energy flowing inside my body, feel the stillness nourish me. "Heaven's in our hearts" sings Tracy Chapman on the CD playing right now, as if in synchronicity with the moment and what I am writing.

It is too easy to always be 'too busy' to give ourselves the gift of rest.

Sabbath used to be a law, a day imposed on us to rest, reflect, do nothing 'useful' or productive, experience the gift of receiving. In its origins, it was a day when it was illegal to work.

You can reinstate it in your life, make it a habit, even if there is no church to attend. Spirit can touch you in nature, spirit can call you to prayer right in your bedroom. Heaven could be right here on earth. If you allow, permit, surrender to the possibility :)

nameste,
musemother

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The battle within

For anyone interested in the creative arts, whether writing, drawing, music, dance, theatre, there is always the dilemna between doing what's easy and makes money, and doing what one loves, even if it doesn't come without a struggle,or demands too much of our time.

For me, I decided to not write poetry for a while, and stopped even opening my journal for a long time. People ask me what I do, and I tell them I lead retreats. But recently, I realized my heart is entwined around a love affair with poems, not really a love affair, but a passionate embrace that won't let go. And it surprised me becuase I thought I had let go of it, of feeding that passion, that it had died.

I read this on a blog post from Meredith Winn, that my friend and photographer Suzy sent me a link for, and it absolutely brought tears to my eyes to see this struggle defined. She begins with talking about Elizabeth Gilbert (of EAT PRAY LOVE fame http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/) and hearing her talk about writer's block, and how doing something else for a while can be the answer, not forcing oneself to write, but gardening for example, until the Muse graces your path again. For Meredith, the other thing is photography.

" i thought i had to juggle. to hold both parts of what i am (what i’ve become most surprisingly) and figure out how to make them get along without competition. figure out how to give them both time when they dance awkwardly together (and strangely do not compliment each other as one should think they would). they fight over time. they fight over energy and emotion and brain space and blood sugar and sunlight.

"photography is easy. easy in the sense of instant gratification. easy in the sense of aesthetically pleasing. easy in the sense that it actually pays me money. it is lighthearted and beautiful and easy to be around. photography is everyone’s best friend. i have fallen quite surprisingly into this role of photographer because it comes easily.

"all the while my mind, this other side of me, the wicked darkness whispers ‘traitor’ and ‘fake’! because i know that at my most inner core, i am a writer.

"writing is not easy. it has never paid me, nor have i asked it to. it is painful and exhausting and requires so much of my time that i have been suppressing it, kicking it away with disregard. i love it and yet it itches me, mocks me, drives me forward, and is all my soul wants to do simply for the process of doing it. yet here i am, i’ve been denying it water in hopes that it just shuts the hell up and withers away. (this thing i love! this thing that is deeply a part of me. how could i be so cruel?!) i don’t want it to wither entirely. but just for now, please, because life is too full, too emotional, too much, too much. there are words i want to say, but i deny myself them. because photography is easy. and writing is not, it is something that makes me human. and most often feeling human (for me) is a momentarily painful experience." by Meredith Winn at http://meredithwinn.wordpress.com/

There is much wisdom here for me to digest. Writing is painful for me, in that, there is always a certain amount of rewriting, once the project is done, or you think it's done, then you have to go back and kill your darlings, the most precious things you've said that are just redundant, or don't fit anywhere and bog the thing down. I am working on a final draft of The Tao of Turning Fifty, and dreading cutting anymore. Dreading finding the right voice, the common tone, the unique individual 'way' of saying things that will define the book - cause it is fragmented right now, a bunch of blog posts and meandering thoughts culled together.

But I do believe there are millions of women who will thank me for it, if they can get to read it!

Onwards and upwards, my soul. Courage to retreat, and listen inwards for inspiration. The blocks are moved only inches at a time, one breath at a time, one word, one sentence, one paragraph.....courage to continue.

jenn/musemother







.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ahh

The lake is rippling westward this morning. Six ducks fly low to the water in formation. The trees blew off their leaves on Saturday int he wind and rain. A few spots of yellow and rust on the island across from me.

I am so grateful for the chance to retreat yesterday, on the first day of November, my birth month and the day we turn back the clocks - a signal that winter is approaching.

I am grateful for the women who participated, who came and sat, and wrote and listened to poems that heal the woman's soul, who shared their wholeness and wept a little at a new discovery.

I am grateful for the peace and tranquillity that emanates from the human heart, that is so contagious and wonderful.

I am grateful for the chance to be a witness.

I am grateful for the soothing music and for the spirit of peace that music brings.

This morning I am a little stiff, but grateful to have spent the afternoon in the company of women who seek a deeper listening.

Next time, I'm looking for a room with tables and chairs to work on, to do our creative artwork, colouring, collage, mandalas and writing - we're getting too old to sit on the floor :)

May the sacred space of retreat remain with you, today,

nameste,
honour the light within you,
jenn/musemother

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Woman’s Way: In search of a feminine way

#78 Tao Te Ching

Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.

Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
because he has given up helping,
he is people’s greatest help.

True words seem paradoxical.

translator Steven Mitchell

What is a woman’s way? The way is not a clear cut path. It is not a philosophy, nor a religion. It is neither a prescription nor a cure. It is not a set of values or beliefs.

It is a practice of looking deeply, listening intently, reflecting on the inner journey as well as the external challenges of menopause. It helps to hold an attitude of being open to what may come, to exploring the changes one is living through with acceptance. A way is like a path in the woods one has never been on before. One follows the slight indentation of earth and leaves between the trees, looking for signposts that indicate the way.

(from the introduction to A woman's Way, the Tao of Turning Fifty)

I have finally been working on my book this week - got it spiral bound and printed so I can see what it will look like and make any final editing changes. It's been over a year since I began writing the peri-menopausal manual, and it sat for some months on my computer while I did other projects.

What got me back into it was a candle sitting on my desk that says Just Do It.

I finally decided that I can't wait for someone, either clairvoyant, psychologist, life coach or friend to point to me and say: you must publish a book on peri-menopause. The need to write this book comes from inside of me. The need for the wisdom gathered in this book is great. I believe that all women approaching their mid-life will want to consider this resource as a bedside book, as a reminder to them that others are going through the same journey of self-discovery.

As Judith Duerk says, It is difficult to find the Feminine way in this world of pressure, productivity, blackberry addiction and busyness. No one heeds the warning signs until too late - an accident, a health crisis, losing a loved one - then we decide that it's time to slow down and really look at things, really listen in deeply, try to right the balance.

It has been difficult for me to find my own feminine way, to trust it, to treasure the time alone needed for research, writing and reflecting. I have a hermit side that loves to sit and read and take notes, but also another side that feels anxious to get going, get out there and be busy, get things done. The two can work together, if I put the 'get busy' personality onto the book project, then the stalled editing process can pick up again.

I guess it's about finishing something, re-reading the work and saying, I can live with that, or that has to go. Being patient enough to rewrite what I don't like. Hanging in there for the disagreeable parts of the work like proofreading and cross-checking references. Finding a balance between house management duties and writing time, because some days the to-do list is more attractive.

I am holding a retreat this weekend, and holding a space open within for new learning there too. I need this retreat as much as the participants do - that's the weird thing, but it's true. We are all so much 'on' all the time. Lately some friends of mine are sick with colds or flu (aren't we all arming ourselves for this flu epidemic? battering the hatches....), so we cancelled our women's circle meeting. I told one of my friends, this down time is good, it's healing to have time off to reflect, take care of ourselves, hang out in pyjamas all day, even if you're coughing and sneezing.

And I feel it too - the need to turn off the phone, unplug the emaqils, still the racing mind, pick up the pieces of the fragmented self, some AH time with myself.

I wish you that,
Jennifer/musemother
ps see my Facebook page for information on America's Giving Challenge. YOu don't have to be on Facebook to contribute to tprf - my favourite humanitarian aid group who are currently at #7 and aiming for #1
click here : http://apps.facebook.com/causes/birthdays/199489?m=e0bc6388

Monday, October 19, 2009

What Women Want Now Time article

The Time poll on the status of women in America was published this week (US participants only probably, but as we are so similar I presume Canadian stats are not much different).

Maria Shriver produced the Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything, and according to an article by her in Time magazine, it's a "landmark study that examines how families live and wok today." It sounds like women have made great strides, but are still carrying more of the load, especially in the home.

It's a good thing that 70% of women say they are less financially dependent on their spouses than their mothers were. But the level of stress may have increased as well: 40% experience stress frequently, and 39% sometimes. And what to make of the fact that 65% of adults surveyed think that not having a stay-at-home parent is a negative for society (whether male or female is not specified).

57% of men think it's better if the father works outside the home and the mother takes care of the children. Surprisingly 51% of women agree. But who is actually taking care of the children in either case? 69% of women are primarily responsible for taking care of their children versus 13% of men. Some lucky ones say "both of us" (26% of women, 40% of men).

It's all about negotiating the load - there's a book reviewed in the Globe & Mail today which examines the Superior women who take on that load or burden of working plus housecare plus childcare. The theory is that we have trained our men to do less, by being superior at multi-tasking.

An interesting thought - because it lays the onus for change on women, of course, the superior ones. Who must now retrain their spouses to not only take out the garbage but change diapers, take junior to piano lessons, doctor appointments and the rest of the parenting duties.

What do women want? I think it's a faily simple answer. We want an equal partnership. We don't want to be boss (not really....), we don't want to be under his thumb, and we don't want to raise a family all on our own (not really....). We want help bringing home the bacon, frying it up and putting it on the table for the little piglets, I mean kids.

We want to play more, put up our feet and relax more, have meaningful conversations with our loved ones, be appreciated for all we do, and we thrive on a fair challenge.

That's all. Not much to ask.

40 years later.....from Time's first special issue on the status of women, there has been a lot of progress. College campuses are filled with women, Half the Ivy League presidents are women and two of the three network anchors (soon will be). Women win Nobel Prizes, publish books under their own names, and have babies when they want to, not because they have no choice.
Now what women want is a break! time off to take care of themselves....

Let's hear it for women. You rock, baby! You are not getting older, you ARE getting better.....
musemother

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Stress and Breathing

I don't know why we forget, but we do. When I'm stressed and anxious or running like a chicken without a head, I forget that to stop and breathe will push the stress away and bring me back to the ground - to center.

In singing lessons, I'm being taught to breathe all the way out before taking in a new breath, and this is also great for stress. The other day I was preparing the house for our women's circle meeting, baking banana muffins, sweeping the floor, setting up the teacups, and noticed time was ticking by and I hadn't had lunch yet. So of course I picked up the pace and got even more frantic.

Then I remembered I was going to lead a 15 minute centering exercise/mini-retreat to begin the circle, and that I should shift gears now! It was not automatic, but I did remember to breathe all the way out, before breathing in. Somehow, when we take little quick sips of air while we're buzzing around, it doesn't get empty enough to fill up again. So breathe out, push all the air out, then let the belly expand as you open your mouth. Voila!

If you sit and practice this for a even 2 minutes, you will feel the benefit,, as the swirling, dizzying busyness of life settles around you, and you step off the merry go round. You need to slow it right down. Maybe a few things on the 'to do' list won't get done, but you will be fresh and centered instead of fried and frazzled.

It's always up to you - or me. I can always choose the speed I'm running at. However, sometimes I need a little help. Lately, I have been getting help to relax from a wonderful reiki-reflexologist-therapist named Diana Claudi, who calls her business Connect With Calm. She does chakra balancing, therapeutic touch, chelation, alll kinds of therapies that make me feel absolutely calm, centered, and grounded again. Joy creeps back into my body, and I smile at my teenager's requests peacefully.

It feels better than a massage - I may make it a weekly treat.

I found a great website and social network at Pink, http://www.owningpink.ning.com/ which has some great articles about finding your mojo, accepting your light and dark, and many more of interest to women.



have a great stress free day\

jenn


Monday, October 05, 2009

I am a woman listening for my own voice

Last Thursday at my women's circle, I began our circle chat with a centering exercise, a visualisation of the Shekinah or feminine spirit, enfolding us in her maternal wings. Then I read from a book I am loving these days, I Am A Woman Finding Her Own Voice, by Janet Quinn. (see her website at http://www.haelanworks.com).

With her inspiration, I am learning to live from the inside out. With the fall season, I am once again turning inwards to discover what best to do with my time, how best to serve, which project to focus on. There are highs and lows, days I feel inspired to write, days I throw in the dish towel, days I get busy cleaning house and baking muffins instead of paying attention to my own voice.

Something I read today in her book really rang true, because something woke me in the middle of the night to tell me the same thing: my own deep womansoul is crying out for a life of my own.

"Slowly, I stopped worrying and I began to look at my life. I listened for the faint sound of my own true voice, buried far below all of my identities and roles and accompplishments, below my shoulds and my have-tos, my fears and y hopes. I sat. I watched the sunrise and learned to identify birds. I waited. I watched the grass go from summer green to fall brown. I wrote in my journal every day, and every day I listened for her, for my authentic self.

"Finally, slowly, I began to hear the voice of my deep womansoul crying out for a life of my own, pleading for a chance to discover my own unique song; to dance to my own choreography; to define my own purpose, direction, and vision, separate from what the world expected of me; separste from trying to be good and stay out of trouble. I heard her saying, You are enough; just you, just who you are; you are good enough. You can stop proving it now. It's safe to come out; trust me, I will lead you. Trust this process. Trust that you are not alone."

It is that process of trusting the inner voice, the silent nudgings, the serendipity of chance readings and encounters, above all facing the fear of not being 'good' if I follow my own path. I am in process. I am not finished yet. But I can still travel with my good companion, my feelings, my body wisdom, and breathe into my body. Stay with the feelings, let them come up and show themselves, speak their truth to me. Because I want to write from a true place, teach from a true place, and my feeling is that it begins with self-acceptance.

This morning it began with a mini-retreat, some yoga, some cradling of the creaky hips on the floor, some stretches and music and candle-light, some reading of Mary Oliver's poetry - you do not have to be good, she says, you just have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
How I love to hear this line, which allows me to be good and love myself at the same time.

this yearning is for being at home with myself
this restless seeking of 'what to do' is really just resistance to being home with myself
I am at home with myself today,
and it feels good

nameste
musemother
ps planning a retreat for women called Poetry for your woman's soul, in November

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Women's Body Image Below the Belt


According to a recent study done by Dr. Debby Herbenick, a sex health educator at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, we women don't like how we look "down there".

Our anxiety about female genitalia and how it looks (and smells) stem from lots of outer sources, as well as our own insecurities. One of the causes according to Dr. Herbenick is the easy accesss to hard-core pornography, where women's vulvas are air-brushed, hairless and all look the same.

Our body image concerns have pushed some women to get cosmetic surgery, get the full Brazilian waxing, and buy grooming products. Others are too afraid to face their gynecologist for an exam, worried about how they look or smell. Some women are reportedly too afraid to even look 'down there' and do a self-examination!

Fear of the vagina has reached all time new proportions, but it's not the men who are afraid. According to the study, men were generally more positive than women. Women are a "lot more critical of all of their body parts" says Dr. Herbeneick in a Globe and Mail article from Sept 30.
http://www.globeandmail.com/

Negative attitudes are also bad for your sex life - women who were positive about their genitalia found it easier to climax - which makes sense.

We could all begin by naming our genitals: vulva and vagina are not dirty words. The mysterious 'down there', as in 'don't touch yourself down there', needs to be mothballed.

TheVagina Monologues helped the word come out of the closet, but there is more work to be done, mostly by parents educating their children, but also by all women. If you haven't done so already, get a mirror and check things out! you may be pleasantly surprised.

Check out this website for yoni cushions, a visual aid to better self-image:
http://www.moontimes.co.uk/yoni-cushions/
image of rose-yoni found at http://goddessthemes.blogspot.com/


nameste,
musemother

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You have not danced so badly


Hafiz

"You have not danced so badly, my dear, trying to hold hands with the Beautiful One. You have waltzed with great style, my sweet, crushed angel, to have ever neared God's Heart at all.

Our Partner is notoriously difficult to follow, and even his best musicians are not always easy to hear.

So what if the music has stopped for a while. So what if the price of admission to the Divine is out of our reach tonight. So what, my dear, if you do not have the ante to gamble for Real Love.

The mind and the body are famous for holding the heart ransom, but Hafiz knows the Beloved's eternal habits.

Have patience, for he will not be able to resist your longing for long.
You have not danced so badly, my dear, trying to kiss the Beautiful One. You have actually waltzed with tremendous style, Oh my sweet, Oh my sweet, crushed angel."

I Heard God Laughing, by Daniel Ladinsky.

Monday, September 21, 2009

International Day of Peace 2009

Celebrate World Peace. Click below for a message of peace from the children of the world:

http://worldpeace.org/

Inner peace is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Click below for the website of Words of Peace Global, featuring video clips and information on the message that peace is possible:

www.wopg.org

What can you do for world peace today (and every day?)....give yourself a minute to absorb the message or prayer for peace in the heart.

Make room in your busy day for a moment of peaceful reflection, and act accordingly.

Breathe for peace. Do a yoga stretch for peace. Calm yourself for peace.

Plant a rock for peace? http://www.plantingrocksforpeace.org/

There are many ways to experience peace - make a small step for peace today :)

ps It is also Leonard Cohen's Birthday, so Happy 75th Leonard. Your songs and poems bring peace and light to this darkened world.

put a little love in your heart,
musemother

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On Sport and femininity, motherhood

Muscular, athletic, strong, lean, bulky, fast, powerful, testosterone.....



Is there a feminine ideal in sports? An article in today's Globe and Mail, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/feminine-trials/article1290326/ on women in sports suggests that stereotypes still abound.



When is a woman more like a man? When she is a champion athelete, do we need to test her hormone levels to determine if she is female or male? Androgny is still suspect. These days we call hermaphrodites, those born with sexual elements of both genders intersexuals (at least according to Wikipedia). Neither one nor the other.



"Women and men make the same hormones, just in different quantities" says the article, but bulky muscles and strength are usually built by the 'male' hormones such as testosterone. The South African runner Caster Semenya was recently tested to figure out if she is more male than women - and it's not just a matter of XX or XY chromosomes. Some women actually have higher levels of androgens, and therefore build muscle more easily.



Some athletes complain they are forced to wear short sexy skirts and butt-exposing shorts to play up to the cameras and gain media attention for their sport (think Beach Volleyball, track stars, tennis players). They don't want to be made to look "feminine".



Why can't a woman be more like a man? Henry Higgins opined. Well, because men don't want to date 'mannish' women, or because women themselves feel 'fat' if they are muscular and don't want to fit into backless ball gowns and show off their ripped muscles. Even Serena Williams say's she thinks her muscular arms are too thick!



Many athletes, however, report that their muscles make them feel more strong, more capable and powerful. And that's where the feminine-masculine divide is.



It's about power, it's about who's on top, it's still about operating in a masculine-centered world without threatening the power structure by being too "male". Too loud. Too strong. Too much woman for one man.



What if male tennis stars had to start dressing like beefy weight lifters to make them look more masculine, or shave their long locks into brush cuts to appeal to women viewers?



The flip side of being proud of our female power athletes, is that they have to be superwomen too. In the same G&M Life section are two articles, one about a woman who fought back from breast cancer and pancreatic cancer and is now "zooming back onto the court" to play tennis, the other about women who win championships in sports shortly after having children. Paula Radcliff won the NY marathon in 2007 only 9 months after giving birth. (She began jogging after 12 days, although she paid for it with a small fracture at the base of her spine....); Kim Clijsters won the US Open on Sunday, two years after giving up competitive tennis and giving birth.



It makes me proud for them that they can do this; however, it feels like an impossibly hard act to follow. Reality must be somewhere in the middle for most of us, who don't feel like rushing out to perform marathons after giving birth. Giving birth is a marathon.



I think sometimes we have it all wrong. Our feminine power is not in building bulky muscles (but, hey if that's your thing...), nor in imitating male versions of strength (shotput anyone?), but in accepting that there are different kinds of strength.



Harbouring a baby for nine months, going through hours of labour to give birth, pushing past all your emotional, physical and psychological limits to push that nine-pound baby out of your body, sacrificing your sleep, sanity and love-life to care of a vulnerable little one....these are not the only things that women can do. But they are a Lot! They make us strong and powerful, not to mention muscular (lifting a 30 lb toddler all day will do that). Putting up with whining, cling-ons and teething babies would drive most athletes (male or female) around the bend.



So start your endurance training, future mothers, get ready for the only female endurance sport that demands more energy than a triathalon, and lasts twenty years longer; although it should require rigorous training, none is offered or given, beyond pregnancy multi-vitamins.



Be muscular, lean, bulky, round, soft, strong, patient, powerful, and all feminine.


nameste

musemother

ps I invite your comments, this is only my opinion, what's yours?


Friday, September 04, 2009

Yoga, Cancer and Calm

Not only does staying calm help me get through the hectic back-to-school days, but staying calm is good for your health. The link below is to a Globe and Mail article from Thursday Sept 3

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/

Scientists and researchers in Calgary are studying the effects of yoga on cancer survivors. The program is called Yoga Thrive and has proved to be an ideal practice for diminishing the side effects associated with chemotherapy : fatigue, nausea and depression.

Kripalu Yoga Center in Massachusetts has also teamed up with doctors to integrate alternative healing practices into their medical practice. It turns out that yoga and healthy living are good partners.

There are several good articles on the Kripalu website, but here is one called The Future of Medicine: http://www.kripalu.org/article/267 which explains how blindsided doctors get when we focus only on the symptoms and not on the underlying causes.

Yoga and meditation are not only about stress reduction and finding calm. They are tools for growing your awareness, your conscious choices, your way of living in the world.

Choose harmony, choose the path of least resistance, choose health.

nameste,
musemother

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Finding my still center of peace

What I need today is to find my still center of peace.

Yesterday I had such a hectic day, although it was Tuesday it felt like a Monday. Monday I was at a funeral in Toronto with family all day, and sort of in another world, off emails and phone calls, away from the list of chores and household stuff.

While I was driving into town to pick up a table yesterday, my mind still in a bit of a haze, the thought came to me that what I really want is to find that calm center inside of me, to weather the storm of activity.

I need to stay calm in the face of busy, scheduled days.
I need to stay calm for my teens, facing their return to or beginning of, college.
I need to stay calm to thinnk about what projects I want to work on today, out of the many options presenting themselves: poetry reviews, interviews, articles, course planning and research, blog writing and research, book draft to work into a final form, and meetings, rehearsals, singing practice and volunteer work.
I need to stay calm in the face of whining cats who are always hungry.
I need to stay calm in front of family members who irritate.
I need to stay calm for my own sanity and health.

I need to find my calm center as I drive, walk, eat, sing, talk, meet, rest.

There is no other thing (besides eating, breathing and sleeping) that I need to do more of.

So that's my focus for today, and maybe even, if I'm lucky and I remember, for the rest of the week.

Luckily, I had a yoga class this morning that reminded me of my calm center, and brought me there, as well as a meditation practice that roots me.

Happy September,
musemother

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Self Care 101

Self-care is about learning how to go:

from being busy and dizzy to being calm and centered,
from worried and stressed to safe and relaxed,
from too busy to take care of me to allowing myself what I need,

from guilt about being selfish to the deep Ahh of satisfaction,
from being on edge all the time to being calm in the belly
from feeling confused and not knowing who I am to feeling self-assured and at peace

from overworking, workaholic with no time for me to a balanced life of work love play rest
from perpetual do-gooder who can't say no to accepting my limits gracefully
from harsh unforgiving perfectionist to compassionate, gentle, caring for my body and soul,

from broken to whole
from not OK to OK

accepting my light and dark.

Do a mental checklist, a body scan right now, and find your center by slowing down your out breath. Reflect on this message: Being good to myself means......

Be good to yourself today!


nameste,
musemother/jenn

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Light & Dark poem

caffeine itch in my veins tonight
I try to scratch out the wildness
my dark sister, can’t tame her
so I will her away
back to the lump
in my throat where she festers
tosses and turns me over

when I wake at night, my son
hears my thoughts, wakes & worries
my spirit might not take him
with me as I flit through
a slit in the walls, float up, away
he fights sleep, says
I’m a boy
I’m awake
I don’ wanna sleep
don’ wanna sleep

I pick him up, put him where I want him
he moves somewhere else, we change beds
three times, from his new big bed
to baby’s crib
to momma’s bed
ah back to mommy, safety, womb
he would crawl back into, little tyrant
with a suce in his mouth
jealous of Caitie’s spot at my breast

she is my love my all-sight
my moon in the sleepless night
he is wild but I’m setting him straight
fighting his 2 year old will

time to give up this battle
find a small space for my wild self
between them, space to breathe in

then I can be here for them
my beautiful son and moon

from Little Mother, published 1997

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Pill and You

A book just came in the mail from author Alexandra Pope, who wrote The Wild Genie, and whose website is linked here on the sidebar, and co-author Jane Bennett. http://www.inspiredliving.net.au/book_thepill.html

The Pill, Are you sure it's for you? is sure to be a controversial book, but it's very grounded in scientific research.

The main thrust of the book is that although women herald the pill as the great liberator, freeing women from unwanted pregnancies, and granting sexual freedom, it also is the 'greatest medical experiment' ever perpetuated on half of the human race.

We know about some of the side effects, but these are often downplayed. The pill is even prescribed to twelve year old girls with acne to control their skin problems. It seems odd that doctors seek to repress symptoms without looking to find the cause. But then, hormonal contraception is a multi-billion dollar industry with sales of $1.7 billion a year in the US alone (stats from the book The Pill).

There is a very good discussion of the dangers of menstrual suppression, which is touted as 'more natural' than having a monthly period for 35 years by some doctors. For myself, I took the pill at age 17, and went off at age 19, then didn't have a period for two years. It never was an option for me, so I looked into natural methods of identifying the ovulation part of the cycle (easy to do), and my husband and I used condoms until I hit menopause.

Many girls and women have never even considered other options. And they probably aren't told of the dangers of thrombosis or blood clots, mood swings, depression, weight gain, fertility problems and other side effects. (In one study quoted, of 23,0000 oral contraception users, over a third of the women on the Pill stopped taking it because of depression." (29) Synthetic hormones are four times as strong as your natural hormone levels. They affect all your organs and processes. The liver for example, must handle these hormones, break them down so your body can use them, and can get overloaded. "Nausea, crankiness and moodiness as well as feeling depleted, tired and rundown, can in part be traced to this added strain that processing the Pill places on your liver." (41)

I highly recommend you read this book to get fully informed on the side-effects so you can decide if the benefits are worth it. There is a wonderful chapter on how to find the best contraception method for you. And several chapters cover the power of the menstrual cycle and how to tune into your own rhythm, which stems from the work Alexandra Pope has done in her previous workshops and books. The

If you are considering going off the pill, you also may benefit from reading this book. Many stories and examples are given of women who felt disconnected from themselves while on the pill, and now are embracing a greater harmony as they get back in touch with their cycles.

Menstruation is a natural, healthy process in women, and when it's not working, there are underlying health issues that must be addressed, whether genetic, stress-related, or environmental.

Take charge of your reproductive health - ask the right questions, get informed. Make peace with your period. And above all, listen to your body's wisdom about whether the pill is right for you.

More on this book later
jenn/musemother

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sweet Reminder

It's so interesting to read about our explorations into space, and the recent anniversary of our trip to the moon - one giant step and a new view of planet earth.

Today I watched a video that reminded me that there's really no other place to be right now than on earth, and that something divine is unfolding here, right now, in spite of war, poverty, hunger and misery perpetrated by human beings on human beings.

The only place to be, and the only thing to do, is feel peace within.

For a long time I've wondered what the best use of my time is, how to help the world, and in this little video (linked below), I was reminded that peace is the coolest thing, the oldest and the newest thing going around. Always brand new, cause it's always happening now. And so I want to share it with you.

Watch this short video - it's a sweet reminder from a wonderful teacher.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7i71RqYVVsM\

Friday, August 07, 2009

This is it, right here right now

Always we hope someone else has the answer.
Some other place will be better.
Some other time, it will all turn out.
This is it.
No one else has the answer.
No other place will be better.
And it has already turned out.
At the center of your being you have the answer;
you know who you are and you know what you want.
There is no need to run outside for better seeing.
Nor to peer from a window.
Rather abide at the center of your being;
For the more you leave it, the less you learn.
~ Lao-tsu

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Musings from my notebooks on younger self

Post coitum omne animal triste est /“after sex every animal is sad”. (written 2005)

What is it that keeps us awake at night or early morning before dawn, skin damp with sweat, heart doing silly flip flops or pounding on the door to get out? I lie beside you at 6:15 and put my hand on your chest. It falls over your heart and I catch its rhythm, a little irregular, but beating steadily the way it should, but I know you are tired before you even begin the day, the way I know by just looking that it is not a good time to bring up the subject of bills to pay or dogs to walk, or moving out west. So I hover my hand over your heart and pray that today you will take each breath at a time and not run ahead of its rhythm, and that I will stay close to those cantering horses, slow them down to a quick trot, not gallop all day like a wild horse in a field full of gopher holes. Ready to break my neck at breakneck speed; god speed -- that’s the speed we should walk at work at, a gentle breathing pace. I soothe myself with this thought, before I sit up to meditate.

My fears about my mother’s drinking, over 25 years sober, celebrated her golden sobriety, but suspected of sneaking sips just before Dad died; the deep shadow buried in the cave of my worries. Sinking pit in the stomach feeling, fluttering with unease, yet I function in spite of it. Wind howling around the ears, narrow escapes through windows in my dreams, my body under ice drowning, trying to get to what buried treasure?
Old lady, look at my life, I am a lot like you were.
Addicted to the adrenaline of stress, pushing too hard then collapse, fuel gage on low. A bit manic compared to last year’s lethargy.

Want to recoup, withdraw the lines of energy binding me to everyone else. Kids already align themselves with their father, a good sign, release the stranglehold of motherworry I project on them. We all seek freedom, equilibrium. Learn to sit still and listen.

Deep in the body, transcendent, the feeling you get when love making is genuine: threshold, a rite of passage, betwixt and between, a transition phase like death or birth, from out of a dark moist place, the eclipse of the moon or sun, the diving into the darkness and noise of sex, a rollercoaster ride, into the tender light of morning.

Coming out of the castle of chastity into the world of nature, life, undoing the wound of childhood, regaining its purity.

Tuesday morning, I sit with the ball of anxiety in the pit of my solar plexus, see myself running forward, turning back now at half way point to catch up with my self. Look back to retell the story of how I got this far, reframe it as myth, or fairy tale.

Feel the center folding in, collapsing. The little tyrant trying to hold it all together, fear of this falling but can’t carry the ball anymore, it’s as heavy as Atlas’s globe. No way for it, but in, underground, past the scary bull dog Cerebus, down like Innana, stripped of jewels, headdress, necklace earrings clothing –the trappings of beauty, head shorn and bare, exposed throat open to the knife.

My own unnamed fears and anxieties throttle me. To dive from this height -- pull back in fear, trembling. Yet only one way to lose the fear, jump. Exhilaration of that long swan dive, the younger self catches up to the swan self and we re-integrate, heal the split. I left her behind, repudiated her, now I can reclaim her, embrace her wickedness, her rebellious, annoying belligerent exuberance, her painfully loud anger, and growling refusal to buy into complacency,

My shit disturber fighter-of-injustice self, my stand up and be counted fire-breathing dragon, galloping goliath fighting little Sheba/David. Protector of innocents, wielder of the shield of Hope, pitting herself against authority and high school tyrant teachers and principles – the muckraking journalist–thorn in your side student. ....Who am I kidding? I left the leftist leaning hippie behind and morphed into the corporate hand kissing middleclass homeowner with an executive lifestyle – split again – between high class and no class. So what is the real person doing in the middle of these identities? Who is she rooting for?

So I let down the armour, admit to being human, release the burden of harsh self-judgment. When I say no to my kids, I feel the weight of the monster that judges herself for being too strict, some confusion between the philosophy that brought me this far (on parenting) and the one I will discover.

As far as what I want to do with my life, I don’t know yet what I want to be and maybe I don’t have to be a ‘famous’ anything, maybe my gift is just to be myself, be happy with that. I can do so many things, why be only be one thing? And why does it have to be like that forever? That you decide now and become something-- why not lay down that terrible burden of trying to be something.

Lay down in the grass and let the sun shine on your back, lie prone on the ground, receive the sun’s heat and ask the burning questions – (for me) what is the value of a mother?

It’s not a break-down, but a breaking open of the heart, that’s what tears do. The drum of the heart beats a great heat through the body to melt the fear-armour, split the hull of self-deceit and protection.

The mothering we need: to be shown how to do things, how to eat, cook, do laundry, we need to be shown how to love, recover from heartbreak, hold the neck of a new baby, change a diaper. Le mal de mer – not seasickness, but mother sickness, missing mothering, the tender rocking of waves.

musemother, notes towards acceptance

Monday, August 03, 2009

NEW GOLD MOON a poem

blood used to mark her territory
like a wolf pissing circles round its den
sniff too close, bares her teeth
new gold moon stay inside my skin

once called a curse Eve blamed so
misses the colour so she paints red
on her lips

permission it gave her
to strip the world off her
stand like an oak
remote
as a decorative cherry

deciding where to plant
her healing in the world
drinking from the roots of her feet
what she needed
until the next orb

used to bleach it out of her
now staying in her sacrum
snaking
like a rope on fire
re-circuiting
rewire
new gold moon
stay inside my skin

a new and graceful girl
period
paused
inside my skin

(c) 2007 by Patti Sinclair
http://poet-at-large.blogspirit.com/
http://rednettlepress.ca

...author of "Motherhood As A Spiritual Practice",
"out of the witch's mouth", and runs the "red earthwomen
presents" reading series in pei.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Solitude

Reading May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude, I am realizing how peaceful the house is when Caitie is out (she is newly returned from Italy and a cooking class), and Julien is out (away in Europe too, for 3 weeks with his backpacking buddies), and Jacques is at work.....

We spent a lovely week on vacation together, at home, not going anywhere special, at least during the day. Filling our evenings with suppers with friends, a singalong with chorus friends, an evening out at the Just for Laughs gala with his office partners, afternoon wine with friends, and supper at a golf course restaurant with J's parents. It was not 'that' quiet, since for me it was a very social week.

So back to the peace and quiet of the house alone.

And how the mind gets silted up when there is no silence in which to turn over the thoughts, impressions, people we meet, things that occur. There is a need in some of us to capture it in writing, to examine and behold a thing, even if it's a cloud at sunset, from all angles.

Nourishment for the soul, being alone during the day and having the space to do the homely tasks, water the plants, feed the cats, walk the dog, wash sheets, and yet also do the reading and writing and reflecting that are so needed too, like water or food.

Speaking of food, the least favourite activity of mine is preparing food for myself. I have a quick toast with something on it and coffee in the morning, and often reheat a frozen Indian meal for lunch - it's got the protein, carbs and vegetables all there in one plate. Taking time to prepare a meal during the 'work' hours is too intrusive.

So, although I am not living alone or in total solitude, I have the luxury of my days with the computer, with my blog, or diary, with my books to read and thoughts to think. Of course, I don't allow myself recreational books or fiction, during 'office hours' - except for last week, while on a home vacation, I got two historical fiction books read by Sarah Dunant. The Birth of Venus and IN the company of the Courtesan, set in Florence and Venice respectively, in the 16th century, and both full of great story lines and fascinating details about the period.

I have not written every day in my journal, and am only writing once a week on the blog, but since I am doing more reading the thirst for writing is returning, and I have done some revising of stories - which I realize I've kept in draft form on the computer for years without editing or attempting to send out anywhere.

Perhaps there is a short story writer slumbering in me.....given more solitude, it may just awaken.

Solitude is the water, the nourishment, the balm and lotion needed for a writer, to soothe and provide the space to work in.

have a great summer day,
musemother

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mothers and Sons

OK so I've never written a blog about my son yet. but here's a good reason to for one:

A letter to my son who is heading off to Europe with his buddies for 3 weeks.

We know you are a responsible, wonderful almost 19 year old, and don't need advice from your parents, but here goes anyway:

Don't keep all your money on you, even in the money belt. Either lock it in a locker, or keep it at home in your bank account and use your Visa card or interac card to access it through a bank machine. They're everywhere.

Do keep your wits about you, and have a map so you can find your way home, even if your faculties are slightly impaired (you know what I'm talking about!)

It is a myth that 5 guys stoned or drunk are equal to one guy sober and aware. Travel in groups is wise, but being conscious of one's surroundings is even more useful.

Don't pack the beer bong.

Mom and Dad would love to come rescue you, but you pay our flight costs if we do!

Enjoy some museums and cultural stuff too, it's not all about the open drug laws in Amsterdam.

Explore, enjoy, and come back home safe and sound, that's all we ask!

This is a trip you will remember all your life, with memories galore, pictures on facebook, but don't forget to email us when you change cities. We are still attached at the umbilical cord, until you leave home for good (and even then....)

your loving parents,
mom and dad
ps I packed some condoms with your toothpaste - don't leave home without it

Monday, July 13, 2009

Menopause blog and link

Happy Monday! after scary thunderstorms and full lightshows of lightning, after rain that overflwoed the gutters and poured all the earth from my rock garden down to the grass below, we are back to sunny skies, albeit with clouds. My sister and I and our kids had a free show Saturday night right on our deck, watching the lightning crack and zap the sky over the lake.

Back to the blog, it's a good thing I can reread the promises I make to myself here - have to admit my 100 Days of Solitude has barely begun and already I'm losing track of what my goal was - to re-read my stories and journal about them, to get at the truth behind the lies I may tell myself about who I was, the masks I wear to cover whatever feelings are leftover from childhhood, teenage years, shame about my past - the first writing project I did back in Creative Writing 101 was a Taboo Journal, which led to a book ten years later called Little Mother. In it I addressed part of my childhood shame - having an alcoholic mother, and being the eldest of eight children. I was thrust into a role of 'mothering' at a young age, with no power or authority but lots of responsibility. (Had a chance to chat about this with my sister this weekend, so it came back to memory.)

Naturally, when I hit 13, I began acting out - I think my mom must have been pre-menopausal when I was 16 or so, (I got my period at age 15) but in any case, whether there were hormones in the mix or not, there was definitely lots of attitude and bad behaviour on my part. Some of the stories deal with the wild stuff that happened before I left home at 18. Definitely time for me to work on these stories. It takes courage.....

Anyway, today's G&M Life Section has a great article about the clash of menopause and puberty, for moms and teens:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/family-and-relationships/menopausal-mom-pubescent-teen-hormone-hell/article1215931/

I've blogged about it over at ms menopause's blog: http://www.msmenopause.blogspot.com/

Check out the weekly blogs there including The Art Of Napping, creating your own Menopause Party, Menopause poems and jokes, different approaches to healthcare such as Ayurvedic approach to menopause, Self-Care, and much more.

namaste, peace to you,
jennifer/musemother

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

On Women and Men

The lake is oddly still this morning, a grey and silver palette of moving light, no waves but large ripples coursing towards shore, one after the other, repetitive patterns, while white black-tipped gulls wing over head. One boat leaves a wake of silver behind it, ruffling the softness. Clouds hang low, and the tree tops emanate humidity. The new dock is luminous too with its aluminum legs and bright new cedar planks , hosting its two teak Adironack chairs, a perfect cottage picture.

Large white bellied fish leap in an arc out of the lake and return, wiggling off the parasites on their backs, I am told. We are patiently waiting for the rain to stop, and for the hot sunshine to dry us out. But it will be another grey, humid, possibly rainy day.

But enough of the landscape. I am eager to engage with a question brought up by an article I read yesterday.

What is woman’s work? Anne Southam, a well-known contemporary minimalist composer has been described in the G&M as “proud to call her work women’s music, or at least to point out that there’s something in what she does that is deeply grounded in women’s experience.

“’In the very workings of the music there’s a reflection of the work that women traditionally do, like weaving and mending and washing dishes...the kind of work you have to do over and over again.’” from an interview with Robert Everett-Green. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/ann-southam-a-one-woman-tone-poem/article1208502/

She describes how she creates a tonal centre, by taking a 12 tone row of notes and spinning it out one note at a time...

Although I have not heard her music, I like her description of the attraction of repetitive tones like bagpipes and drones, that can induce a trance-like state in the listener. It reminds me of what Blood Bread and Roses author Judy Grahn, www.judygrahn.org says about women’s menstrual cycles and women’s work: spinning wool, weaving, knitting, crocheting demand a total concentration from part of the mind, while the other part is left free to dream or create something from the imagination. Early women’s rituals around the menstrual cycle seem to dig into this needful repetition of sound or activity, whether through chanting, drumming, knitting or watching the breath in meditation. They are linked through repetition with the cycles of life that repeat in a woman’s body, flowing monthly, repeating like the phases of the moon, in recognizable patterns for those who pay attention.

Women’s work long ago was of planting, weeding, bending, gathering, washing, lifting, nursing, sweeping, pounding cloth on rock to clean it. Since ancient times women have aligned themselves with natural patterns of nature when they want to find themselves, restore their own rhythms, become attuned to life’s pulse.

Of course, it is a human thing, and men can attune to these rhythms too, but their world is more ‘outer’, less inner minded, by their physical design. Women's bodies through menstruating are naturally aligned with the rhythms of tide and moon.

Of course, all this is open for debate. Some will argue there is no difference between men and women, between male and female brain, psyche, intelligence, spirit, and so of course, there is no such thing as women’s work. Have we left some power or magic behind in our rush to embrace the masculine work-style? Have we left our creative imagination behind in our disdain of repetitive homely tasks? Is there such a thing as women’s writing, women’s music?

I leave it to you, to puzzle on this,
Musemother

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Michael Jackson farewell

Farewell Micheal, may the angels keep you safe.
You came from heaven, to heaven you return.
You came from earth, to earth you return.
You are of the elements, to the elements you return.
May your soul journey onwards into the light.

musemother

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Embrace Writer's Block

and overcome it....

this is what I plan to do, and here is the quote that inspired me:

Embrace your writer's block. It's nature's way of saving trees and your reputation. Listen to it and try to understand its source. Often, writer's block happens to you because somewhere in your work you've lied to yourself and your subconscious won't let you go any further until you've gone back, erased the lie, stated the truth and started over.

taken from 36 Assumptions About Writing Plays, by Jose Rivera on the internet somewhere

My plan appears simple on the surface. I am going to write in my journal every morning for a minimum of 10 minutes for 100 Days. call it, 100 Days of Solitude (instead of 100 years).

On my computer I have a file called Fiction and Stories, with material in draft form for a whole book length manuscript. I thank my sister Sue for nudging me towards writing the story of my life - but I have already started years ago in classes taken on-line and various Autobiographical writing workshops. The problem is I hate editing them. I get mad at myself for the lousy writing, I lose interest in my own bleeping adventures, no matter how exotic they seemed at the time.

The material is there, and yes, I may have lied to myself many times about the 'me' in some of those stories; to find out where the 'lie' is, I'm going to re-read all of them and write in my journal till I get at the nugget of truth. (It helps that my kids are not here so no-one is even figuratively reading over my shoulder. The censor always kicks in when I get to about age 16....)

This great project idea just occurred to me five minutes ago, as I was considering spending $347 US dollars on a publishing reset course, supposed to give me tools to approach an agent or publisher with a Hook of a Book. (along with 6 CD's and a huge workbook). The thing is, I know a little about publishing, and I know a little about how to find an agent, and how to have a web presence (this blog). What I really need is to sit down and Just Do It (as my scented candle reminds me from my desk top), just bust my shoulders by typing the thing. (oh yeah and buy a wireless keyboard so I don't hurt myself)

So, as part of the adventure, I will blog a little about how the stories are coming along and maybe 'publish' a few extracts, as they come up.

Stay tuned for the life and times of,
musemother

(yes, she was a little mother once, but was she ever little?)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mothering, writing, solitude

notes from my journal about busyness, writing and mothering:

'I am missing the solitude of my journal, reading a book of short stories (Bang Crunch) woke that up in me, the need for self-expression or a quiet self-reflective mode - I am not obligated to write for anyone or anything but to recover lost parts of me - the urge to flaunt convention, to leap up in the face of tyrannical duty-bound daily life and its obstinancies of order. Truly, I tell myself lately, you must let go of the house-tasks, let go of cooking (alternately I berate myself for being lazy and not experimenting with new recipes). There is a battle within between the housemother who organizes and the artist who rebells, as if I can't decide which one I am.

But that black or white either-or thinking, is false, fatalistic, not creative - I am both and neither. I am all sides of myself, mother, writer, creative spirit, and I do not need to neglect either one - just satisfy the call right now for less 'outer activity' and more writing.

It is a sincere desire to create, not to escape household duties. but the frame or grid I put myself in leaves no time for 'being lazy' or loafing creatively. Thyroid issues are all about time, according to my dictionnaire des malaises et maladies, and so I imagine that my body mind soul are struggling with the same issues - what I tell myself becomes a reality. so I tell myself that time is elastic and stretches into whatever container I need to buoy me through the day. Being rigid about time allows it to pick me up and grind me in the teeth of agendas, appointments (did I really need a manicure today?) and then spit me out in pieces.

Pieces I have struggled to keep together may fall apart. I am a hostess with a unique style, not hyper orgnaized in advance (nor was my caterer for the prom cocktail, l hour late!). Being better organized reduces stress, so yes, we will improve.

I am juggling - or I am letting go of juggling all these balls - caitie julien jacques molly oreo zoe - am impatient when their needs pile on me - when is it time for me? Another typroid message. Ok I get it. I must create boundaries, limits, practise saying no, and getting down to the work at hand. Just do it! says my zena mooon candle on the desk - better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly. (Robert Schuller)

Poet May Sarton in her Journal of a Solitude quotes a letter from a woman, who is complaining of something similar: "Can one be within the framework of a marriage do you think? I envy your solitude with all my heart and your courage to live as you must."

Then Sarton continues, "It is not irresponsible women who ask that question, but often women with children, caring women, who feel deeply frustrated and lost, who feel they are missing their 'real lives' all the time. Has this always been true and only now are we able to admit it? and what is the solution? It is partly no doubt, as women's lib has insisted, that it is time the warm nurturing powers, usually taken for granted in women, now be called out of men in equal measure. Roles should no longer be assigned on the basis of sex or of any preconceived idea of marriage, but should grow organically from the specific needs of two human beings and their capacities and gifts....no partner in a love relationship (whether homo or heterosexual) shoud feel that he has to give up an essential part of himself to make it viable.

But the fact is that men still do rather consistently undervalue or devalue women's powers . ... and women, no doubt, equally devalue their own powers. But there is something wrong when solitude such as mine can be envied by a happily married woman with children. "

Happily married and still craving solitude, I have just had my first day totally alone, with only the dog and 2 cats, in a long time. Caitie has flown away to Italy, J & J are fishing till tomorrow, and the silent lake flows under a pewter sky.....

jenn

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