Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The body canvas

When I feel overwhelmed or frightened or otherwise vulnerable I tend to go underground. Probably not the best defense mechanism. The past couple of weeks I have been laying low. I've been trying to decide how to write about what I'm going through. Or how much to write. Walking that tightrope between the need for expression and connection and the very real need for protection. As usual, I'll probably err on the side of expression. It's what I do.

Thanks to those who have checked in. I love you Jenn. You're the best. And Melissa, gorgeous you. xx

Today I wanted to share some incredible art with you that I can't get out of my mind. A few weeks back Kirsty from 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle shared a link on Facebook to a site with some exquisite examples of body painting. Look at this.

















As you may have gathered, I am a wee bit obsessed with painting my body. Why? I have no idea why. I'm not driving this train. I'm just along for the ride.

I like the idea of people painting their bodies in ways that express who they are, on a soul level. Their outsides reflecting their insides. We walk around every day and people look at us and we look at them and we never really see each other. How stunning would it be to look at a person and know something deeply meaningful about them?

If I could paint my body (or have it painted) any way at all, it would be in landscapes. Desert landscapes in brilliant reds or soaring mountains or endless miles of windswept plains. I would have someone paint Kata Tjuta across my torso and lie down on the red earth in the middle of my soul home.

Most of the bodies in the paintings above are classically beautiful canvasses. Slender, young, nicely proportioned. I like real bodies. Bodies with smile lines and squishy bits. Bodies in which real people live who like to keep it real.

If you could paint your inside on your outside, what would it look like?



Friday, May 27, 2011

Shelter me

Most of you have probably heard about the storms that ravaged the Midwest this past week. Tornadoes have touched down in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and beyond. To date, the death toll from storms this season is close to 500.

The tornado sirens have gone off here a number of times in the past week. They went off two days ago and continued to sound for about an hour.  At the time, my kids were in their first day of summer camp. They were out with a few other kids at a Burger King playland when the sirens first sounded. Burger King would not let the kids shelter there and turned them away (seriously? - FU Burger King), so their childcare provider drove them across the street to a Commerce Bank.

The employees at the bank were much more accommodating. They allowed the kids to take shelter in their vault. They spent the next hour and fifteen minutes sitting under a desk inside the vault. The bank employees brought them lollipops and coloring paper and even brought a storm radio into the room.

When the alarms finally stopped I tried, without luck, to get a line out to call the childcare provider. All Sprint lines were down for the next two hours due to the storm. She was able to get a message through to me, however, and asked me to email the other parents, which I did, to let them know the kids were okay.

While several small tornadoes touched down in the area, there was no damage that I'm aware of here. One of the local weathermen did take this picture on Tuesday of the skies above downtown Kansas City.



Today the kids and I baked some chocolate chip cookies and took them down to the Commerce branch where the kids had sheltered. We thanked the branch manager and the rest of the staff for their kindness and hospitality during the storm. They remembered the kids and were happy to see them.




They unlocked the vault so the kids could show me what it looked like on the inside.



They even volunteered to show me how they had huddled under the desk.




Joplin, Missouri was the hardest hit of all the towns. 132 people lost their lives as a result of the tornado that devastated the town on Sunday; however this is expected to rise as 156 are still  unaccounted for. Since the hospital was destroyed in the tornado, the health system is especially strained.











If you're here in Kansas City there are a number of efforts underway to help our neighbors in Joplin. Otherwise, you can text the word JOPLIN to 80888 on your cell phone to donate $10 via the Salvation Army.

Today I'm grateful for the generosity and compassion of our neighbors here in the Midwest, especially those at Commerce Bank who opened their doors to offer shelter to a group of frightened kids during a particularly bad storm.




Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dressing up

When I was in Sydney in March and received a fashion makeover compliments of Nikki with Styling You (you know Nikki, she of Best Australian Blog - woot woot!), she suggested that to achieve my desired personal brand of "gypsy sex-goddess with a touch of professional panache," I look for outfits that were soft and flowing, i.e dresses.

Dresses. I own very few of them. I like them. I just never think to buy them. Or wear them.

So when Westfield offered to let me pick out one of their dresses as part of a review of their online catalogue, I jumped at the opportunity.  And of course I turned to my favorite fashion guru for help. Nikki suggested I look at a few of Leona Edmiston's creations. I was tempted by this cute little red number:






...but ended up picking out something similar in darker colors. I wanted a fall dress that I could wear with my new black boots.  It's a dress that can work equally well for a night out on the town with friends (or, um, beside a tree)
 



...as it does at the office (in front of adorable pictures of children).




Or, for that matter, at the office under a sexy picture of Uluru.




Can it possibly BE more versatile? I think not.

I do quite a bit of my clothes shopping online so I appreciate a well-designed site and I really found the Westfield site easy to navigate. Once you choose a category (like women's dresses), you can choose to shop by size, color, designer, store or price. Once you've chosen your options a number of thumbnails are displayed on the screen side by side so you can further narrow your options. When you click on a thumbnail to enlarge it, you can zoom in on any part of the outfit you choose.

It was a enjoyable shopping experience and the dress itself is comfortable, fits well and is of good quality.

I give Westfield two thumbs and two toes up.

Thanks Westfield for the opportunity to review your online site.


Okay. The more I look at it, the more I want the red dress. And check out the kaftan number:


Want




Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hopping on the expat bandwagon

You may recall a while back when I was harassing you (gently) to vote for me each in the Circle of Moms Inspiring Families Contest? Yes?

Well, in case you haven't heard they are now holding a similar contest for Expat Moms and some of my favorite bloggy moms have made the list.

The gorgeous and uber-funny Jadeluxe is up near the top. You'll find Vegemitevix, London City Mum, Note from Lapland, Mommy Has a Headache and Very Bored in Catalunya. Did I miss anyone?  If I did, let me know. Click here to vote.

You can vote for as many of these lovely ladies as you'd like AND you can vote every day. Doesn't get much better than that.

Actually, I lie. It could totally get better. Next year, you could see this on the expat mom list.






And look, I wasn't kidding about the guy that mows my lawn every week.

Gold.



 Yes, our petunias have legs...
 



My Saturdays

I used to dread the weekends. You know, back then. But now I love them and I especially love Saturdays. With the warm spring days I can open up the house and let the sunshine and the breezes in.  I pull all the sheets off the bed for washing, make a fresh salad or lemonade popsicles for the kids. All the neighbors are outside and the kids run in and out of the house, back and forth with their friends.

It's funny, even though I've lived here for eight years, I never knew my neighbors before now.  My husband would yell at the neighbor kids if they walked through our yard and had estranged at least two sets of neighbors this way. It was...uncomfortable. But after he left they started coming over to check on me. "Are you okay?" they'd ask. In the winter they would show up and shovel my driveway. Now that the weather is warmer I come home to find my lawn mowed. I know all of them now. They have my back.

Saturdays have become my day to tidy, to cook, to work in the yard. Today one of the neighbors came over and tilled my vegetable bed for me (my back is still sore from the accident). I pulled weeds and the kids rescued a toad that had fallen into the basement window well. The lawn was damp from recent spring storms and the yard was teeming with wildlife.


Look at this adorable bra strap. Wait. No. Bunnies! Look at the baby bunnies.

 
Here's a closer shot. Hold still little bunnies. We're trying to take your picture!


 Newly hatched robins


 Toad. Grateful for being rescued (though he hides it well)




I'm feeling a sense of peace return to the home. After the endless, frozen months of winter, I feel my heart beginning to come back to life with the rest of the world. I sit with my kids and play a game of Trash or make up silly stories or just listen to their minds at work and I don't feel like I have to be anywhere else. I wipe the counters clean and stack up my pottery bowls. I marvel at the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, reappearing on store shelves. I feel like a flower that has been tightly closed for a long time that is just starting to open.

I am making a peace -- a precarious sort of peace -- with my life here. It's where I am now and I'm settling into it.

And Saturdays. They have become my favorite day.




P.S. Did anyone else notice that on this Saturday, the day of Rapture, my feed count was at 666? Guess who was not sucked up into heaven? x

P.S.S. This blog post was rudely interrupted by not one, but three tornado sirens. You know it's springtime in Kansas when...





Friday, May 20, 2011

The house tucked up

Today's post comes from a very special friend of the heart who has walked a difficult road with grace, humility and unflinching honesty.

Today she is writing about her home, where the sun sets low over the inland bay, her children trail sand into the kitchen and kangaroos nap on the front lawn. I'm not at all envious.

Please welcome Lori from Random Ramblings of a SAHM.


* * * * *


I love my house, my cottage, at the moment, at night. When my house breathes a sigh of relief, it's children in bed, and it curls up into itself.

It's winter in Australia, and cold even where I am, in Paradise. The dark falls quickly, right on toddler dinner time.

We spend our afternoons on our wide green lawn, playing with water and sand and digging in our garden. Just on dinnertime, just on dusk, I herd my two tiny, tired children inside and begin the process of putting our house to bed.

Closing blinds, turning on lights. Beeping on the air conditioner to warm the chill off the air.

Then I bathe my children, clean their teeth and brush their hair, and cuddle with them on the lounge as we watch goodnight TV, breathing in the scent of flanelette pajamas warmed by perfect unblemished skin, the sweet smell of baby shampoo.

When my children are sleepy, I plod chubby limbs into their respective beds, and i go about erasing their damage for the day.

I wash dishes and clothes, wipe fingerprints from surfaces. Fold washing, wipe down benches and bathrooms.

And then I light incense, dragons blood or sandalwood or white sage, and I watch TV, I eat the food my children do not know is in the cupboards, and I write.

I enjoy the warmth, the soft yellow light from the only lamp I have on, so the house is dark but for the desk where my computer sits, and blue-ish, flickering glow from the TV, which provides a bubbling background as my fingers tap keys, weave words into stories and posts.

I like my house, at night, tucked up.

It feels like we're all at peace.

post signature

Thursday, May 19, 2011

White

Today I wore white. I wore white to honor the memory of my friend Nikki's mother-in-law Faye. I also wore white for my friend Sawhole's mum.  Both women lost their lives to ovarian cancer.

I lost my own mom to cancer when she was only 52. My father had an agressive form of testicular cancer in his 40's and I've been diagnosed twice, once with a rare form of soft tissue cancer and two years later with thyroid cancer. I was successfully treated both times.

My children wore white today, too. They were a bit cranky this morning and didn't want to smile for the camera. I don't blame them. I'm a bit cranky at 7:30 in the morning as well.

Please see your doctor on a regular basis. If you are having any unusual symptoms, such as fever, heartburn or pain that is not subsiding, don't hesitate to get them checked out.

Also, don't wait until tomorrow to hug your children, say I'm sorry, buy flowers, follow your calling, dance in the rain, hold open the door for the person behind you or smile at a stranger.

It may not always feel like it, but life truly is a gift.





P.S. I was interviewed by Circle of Moms, a global network of over 8 million parents, for the Inspiring Families award. Thanks again to everyone who voted for Wanderlust. You can read the interview here. xx

Compassion

What do you do to feel better when you are down in the dumps? Do you know how to pull yourself back up?

I've given this a lot of thought lately as these last few weeks (okay, year, but last few weeks especially) have been difficult. There is a lot going on in my personal world that weighs heavy on me. Sunday was an especially difficult day. I was in a really bad place, exhausted and anxious and worried and frustrated with all the same things that have been going on forever and a pile of new things heaped on top of that.

I thought about what I could do to try to turn my mood around. I knew I couldn't control the external events in my life. But I could try to change my mood.  It occurred to me that the times I feel best are those times when I'm doing something for someone else. In that moment of giving to someone, there is only joy.

Sunday was also International Day of Compassion, a day set aside by Bloggers Unite to honor Dr. Patch Adams, who has dedicated his life giving to those in need. I had read an interview with him and watched a video where he and his team went into the heart of some of the worst, war-torn areas around the globe to treat the children who had been caught in the crossfire and bring a smile to their face. I decided to participate by putting up a post on Sunday, along with a group of other bloggers.

An idea started to form in my head. I called the kids over and told them that it was a special day set aside to do kind things for other people. I asked them if they could help me come up with some ideas of something the three of us could to together, that would make others feel better. We put on our thinking caps.

I suggested we visit a nursing home and bring some handmade gifts to the elderly residents, but the kids said they would feel too shy to approach people they didn't know. Danny suggested we go to Target and buy Legos, but I explained that while that would make him feel better, it wasn't really helping others. Finally, we came up with a plan we could all agree on.

We decided to write messages of love and hope on slips of paper and tie them to helium balloons and let them go. So we each chose some phrases to write down. I wrote down the sorts of things I would have liked for someone to tell me, right then, at that moment. Anna wrote, "You are kind" and Danny wrote, "I love you." We laminated them with tape and punched holes in the end. Then we got into the car to go buy the balloons.

Aaaaand the car wouldn't start.

Did I mention that after the accident the tailgate and one side door of the van wouldn't close properly so the interior lights stayed on all the time? It was still drivable. Sort of. Until the battery died.

The kids whined and moaned and rolled their eyes and I went inside and laid down on the bed and wept.


The next day a man came and towed the dead van away.

Today I bought some helium balloons and after I picked the kids up from school we went to a nearby park. We tied our messages to the balloons and one at a time, we made a wish that each balloon would reach the person who most needed the message it carried and we let it go and watched it fly high into the sky.










We cut the long ribbons off the balloons before letting them go and used only a short length to carry the message, as ribbon can be lethal if ingested by animals. We also used latex balloons, which are biodegradable.




So this is my post in honor of International Day of Compassion. It's a little late. I love so much what Dr. Adams and those like him do every day. They spend their lives giving. It is everything they do and everything they are. They must have so much joy in their hearts from all that giving. I can't imagine a better way to live.







Tuesday, May 17, 2011

One split second

The other night I had a potent reminder that our lives have the potential to change in the blink of an eye.

I had picked the kids up from an evening activity and was driving them home. We were stopped at a stoplight on a highway not far from our house, chatting about their evening, when we felt the entire car jolt forwards. It took me a moment to process what had happened. We had been hit from behind, quite hard, and the impact had smacked our van into the car in front of us.

One of the kids, in a frightened voice, asked, "What happened?" I told them we'd been hit and they both started crying. I asked if they were okay and my six year-old son kept saying, "my head hurts," over and over. I felt my heart drop. My neck and back were extremely sore so I couldn't turn around to look at him. I immediately called 911 and talked calmly to the kids until help arrived.

Within minutes a firetruck pulled up, followed by an ambulance and two police cars. They triaged the scene (the man who hit us was fine, as were the woman and two children in the car in front of us), so they focused their attention on us. My daughter didn't have any pain, so a friend was called to come pick her up. My son and I were taken from the van on backboards, as a safety precaution, since we both had neck pain.

The young man who hit us was extremely apologetic. He was a bit undone at the site of my children crying and the fact that we were hurt. I felt bad for him. A little. Perhaps now he'll think twice before texting and driving.

I was so proud of my son. He was calm and patient and so brave. The emergency personnel (there seemed to be about twenty of them in and around the van!) were just fantastic. They should get a medal for knowing how to work with kids and put them at ease. My son was taken to the ambulance first and he told me later that while they were waiting for me to be brought, the man who was in there with him asked him "some important questions," like what was his favorite color (blue) and his favorite food (Ramen). Then he was shown how some of the equipment worked. Asked later if he was frightened, he told me no, but he thought the ambulance was cool.

At the hospital, we had to wait a couple of hours before they could get us in for x-rays (which turned out to show no serious injuries - yay). If you've never spent several hours being strapped to a backboard while wearing a neck brace, it's not something I can highly recommend. If you didn't have back pain to begin with, you surely will after this ordeal. Closing in on the second hour my poor son was whimpering from the pain (and so was I, inwardly). But I have to say, I'm so proud of how both my kids handled the whole thing. Dan especially, considering all he had to go through. What a little trooper.


I'm a trooper


Aside from residual soreness (very little on the part of the kids, very much on the part of me), we are all okay. The van, not so much. It was towed off to never-never land. 

Since he showed such grace under pressure and such admiration of emergency vehicles, my boy was greeted by this when he came home from school the next day.



True to his gender, he's developed the requisite obsession with Lego's. Anna was awarded a Barbie for her own bravery and helpfulness (she informed every single one of the emergency personnel of her full name and birthday, whether they asked or not).

Oh, and if you want to know what you look like when they untape the neck brace from your head, here you go. You're welcome.


Thanks for the codeine drip Doc, I'll just fly home.


 While the whole incident did not exactly score high on the fun meter, it did drive home a few points.

  • Always wear your seat belts. The kids were congratulated for being in appropriate car seats and having their safety harnesses/belts on (yay us).
  • If you're going to be hit, make sure it's by someone who's fully insured.
  • At the rental car company, bargain for the newest car on the lot. You will be consoled by that new car smell and the kids will be kept busy for several days pressing all the buttons.
  • And most importantly, know that whoever you are, wherever you are, life has the potential to change in one split second. So put all your energy into living and loving today.




Saturday, May 14, 2011

Soul mates


Have you ever met someone and felt an immediate bond with them? There is a sense of familiarity and an instant rapport? You want to grab them and say, “You, you...it's you!” Though you're not really sure who you is.

I've met a number of people like this throughout my life. I've noticed, however, that I tend to meet them more often when I'm living in alignment with my heart. These past two years, since I've woken up from my soul slumber and started embracing the things that are meaningful to me, completely changed my life trajectory really, these kindred spirits have been coming into my life in spades. 

I love it.

First there is Celeste. I work with Celeste. I first met her during a job interview (please remember that I'm the Director of Finance – insert image of me wearing my Staid and Important hat) when I blurted out: “You must have a lot of Virgo in your chart!” To which she replied enthusiastically in the affirmative. Fast friends, we became.

On the outside our lives are very different. On the inside, not so much. We carry similar wounds in similar places in our hearts and are on a journey of healing that has led us to knock up against those wounds around about the same time. There is something to be said for having a companion on such a journey. She is the most well-grounded and confident person I know. More than anyone else, she has helped me navigate the turmoil of this past year, by my side almost every day, lending her clarity and compassion.

Honestly, I don't know how I would have made it through everything without her.

Eden. Eden wrote me out of the blue one day after reading one of my posts and offered me a place to stay while I was in Sydney for the conference. Didn't know me from Adam. She said she felt like we were meant to connect and she really wanted to help me. Actually, she offered me several places to stay, generous soul that she is. I went to her blog and read one of her posts and knew immediately that I loved this woman, that we were kindred souls. 

God, what an amazing person. And so real. Look up real in the dictionary and there is Eden's picture.


Real


There is no pretense with Eden. No filters. No barriers. This is a woman who will walk into a room full of suits at Google headquarters and ask, “Who do I have to blow to get a mention on Blogs of Note?” And then a month later she will be mentioned on Blogs of Notes without even a hand job. She's that good.

And then there is Lori. I met Lori when our lives were so ordinary. And then I fell and she said, “I want to quell your pain, but you are so far away.” But what she didn't know was that I felt her right there. And then she fell, fell hard, and I felt the distance between us like a chasm and I felt a sharp grief that I hadn't even felt for myself. I saw her cry out and heave against the unfairness of her lot and breathe fire into her pain over and over and over until, like an alchemist, she held up a bar of pure gold.

And the whole world watched.

Eden, Lori and I. We know a secret. We know that when your worst fears come true and you lose everything, there is a moment after the long breathless fall, when you hit the ground with a thud, that you look around and realize you are still here. You get up, dust yourself off and here's the kicker. You realize you are not only still alive, but you have lost your fear of falling. And so you go out and do all the things you were afraid to do before.

You give the finger to the Westies and move to Paradise and draw hearts in the sand.


You walk into the cancer ward of a hospital, take their craptastic paintings off the wall and replace them with vibrant, beautiful works of art that make people smile. None of the staff question what you are doing because your light shines so damn bright you must have some kind of authority.

There are so many.

What of all the beautiful women who lifted me up off the floor where I was crouched in fear, who sought to bring me home to stay for a spell, so I could breathe a sigh of relief? And one especially who reached up and shifted the moon and the sun to make sure it would happen?

Where do they come from, these friends who appear when we need them? Who we've known for a week and also a hundred years?

And you. What about you? Who have you found?


Monday, May 9, 2011

Fragility



I have retreated this past week. From blogging, the internet in general, much of the world. If I look back over the last year I can see a pattern. I take steps forward, I heal, I claim back my power, and then comes the backlash. Usually the threat is implicit. This time there is a directness that chills like ice. Each time, I am reminded of my vulnerability. Which is the point, I suppose.


I’ve continued to make changes around the house. I got rid of all the dishes that we shared, which I never really liked. Boxed them up. I’ve started buying individual pieces that I like. I’ve always had something of a pottery fetish. I collect odd pieces from places I travel to or art fairs I happen across. I especially love bowls. Nothing I have matches, but that is how I like it.
























(And yes, Wanderlust will never be a photo blog. I'm okay with that. But you get the idea.)

Every piece of pottery has a story behind it. Like the large bowl with a leaf pattern and a slightly irregular edge.  My late father bought it for me from an artist’s cooperative on Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington, on a glorious September day, back when I only dreamed of living there. This is the bowl my husband held up and tilted precariously back and forth on the day he assaulted me.  “Do you want me to throw this against the wall? No? Then apologize!” 


There is the mug I bought from an artisan in Lawrence, back when I was a student at KU. It's the most perfect mug in the world. The sensuous shape, the deep cobalt hue, the weight of it in my hand. I'm in love with that mug.

There is the gravy boat I bought from the biker couple at the Renaissance Festival. Brown on brown on deeper brown.  It came with a miniature whisk with a hand-carved wooden handle.

The day after he was gone I packed up every piece of pottery I had in the house. I wrapped each one securely and tucked them in boxes and rented a storage locker and moved them, along with all the things I treasured, into the unit.

Even though he never returned to the house, I kept them packed up. I thought I would just save them until I moved into my own place.

My safe place.

But the weeks stretched into months and now the seasons are recycling, and still I am here. The other day I unpacked them. I bought a few new bowls and a mug. I filled the empty spaces in the cabinet where our old dishes used to be. It feels good to open the door and see them again.

I think sometimes you have to make a certain peace with where you're at, even if it means pausing  occasionally to press back against the darkness so you have room to breathe.

Today I went to Whole Foods to pick up something for lunch. They had huge Gerber Daises on display in the most beautiful colors. And handmade soaps. I love soaps. On impulse, I picked up an orange bunch of daisies. When I got to the checkout a woman looked at them and admired their vibrancy. Her tone was wistful. I put a hand on her arm and leaned in a bit. “I'm buying them for myself. You know, you can do the same thing.”

She laughed heartily. "Was I that transparent?"

Personally, I think transparency is a beautiful thing. As are fresh flowers in a borrowed vase on the corner of a desk. The sun reflecting off the Sound on a clear autumn day. Bowls that don't match. Healing and stretching the kinks out of one's soul.

I want more Gerber Daises. I want to put them on the nightstand in my bedroom next to a bowl that holds stones from the beach. This time, I want yellow.




Monday, May 2, 2011

I just don't get it

I may be in the minority, at least here in the U.S., but I simply cannot understand the desire to celebrate violence or murder.


Photo from Herald Sun


I've said it before and I'll say it again.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction." - MLK


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