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Dec 2010 037

A couple years ago, after a several year streak of holiday grumpiness, I decided to take charge of my own Christmas experience. Once I changed my approach to the holiday I found that it worked so much better for me than my old way of relating to the season.

My former approach could best be described as a frenzied scramble to meet the desires and expectations of others (or at least my perception of them) combined with my own unrealistic notions about what the season should be.  You may even be familiar with the old routine — the frantic shopping for the “perfect gift” while simultaneously complaining about the commercialism and crowds of Christmas; the furtive listening to news

Peace was a blurry, distorted vision...

Peace was a blurry, distorted vision…

reports of people being trampled on Black Friday with a secret little twinge of schadenfreude; the excessive spending of money on gadgets and gifts too quickly forgotten; the overabundance of food, family, and friends at near-toxic levels.

Mixing and mingling with that off-note jingling was the most stressful time of the year in the life of an academic: the semester’s end.  By December, college students are as high strung as the lights at the Rockefeller Center’s annual Christmas display. They come to your office shedding tears about their grades and their grandmothers — or worse, they sit and cry silently without telling you why at all. In class they band together and plead for another extra credit assignment, in spite of the fact you’ve told them repeatedly there will not be extra credit this semester.  If you stick to your word and practice “tough love” you get creamed on student evaluations. You are an ogre and a curmudgeon and administration frowns. If you have a kind heart, extra credit makes double the work for you as you scramble to invent something for students to do at the last minute that is educational and relevant…and then scramble to grade it along with the mountain of grading you have for final projects and exams before the grades are due. After all that you’re still just as likely to get creamed on student evaluations.

It wasn’t exactly what I would call the most wonderful time of the year and definitely not the happiest season of all.  Obviously, things needed to change.

So, I started working on me and my own inner Scrooge to align my deeper values with my behavior. This required a little soul-searching to work out exactly what my deeper values were. The process revealed a few changes I needed to make.

First off, the “perfect gift” ideal had to go. I had to break the shopping bag shackle to find more fulfilling experiences to share.   This act alone opened up considerable space. Once I reduced the time spent in stores, and online shopping, I had more time and energy to think about and deal more productively with the end of the semester angst of my students.  Freeing up that time also allowed me to pursue a much more relaxing pastime – knitting.  The manual arts have a meditative, calming effect that work wonders on my disposition.  I knitted in much-needed solitude and I knitted surrounded by knitwits and nutters (aka SoKaN), who provided a social support group, not to mention entertainment.  Of course the manual arts also result in tangible and useable things – a happy byproduct.Dec 2010 089

I also came to the conclusion that I needed to give in ways that honored who I am at heart.Dec 2010 072 On the gift-giving front, I admit, I have become a bit more selfish. For example, *I* wanted to take a holiday carriage ride in downtown Memphis, so I forced the parents to go with me for their “present.”  But maybe Ayn Rand is right and there is virtue in selfishness. In the selfish spontaneity of this carriage ride adventure, a meaningful and memorable moment unfolded.  We unintentionally wound up at the place my dad proposed to my mom and I heard this story for the first time. Of course, we are talking about Nanook the Barbarian and the Angry Russian here, so their story was couched more in terms of Archie Bunker comedy than romantic rhetoric.  In fact the two did not agree upon what happened at all, which is no surprise really if you know them. Theirs was not quite a love story, but it was a story of a unique love, and a Christmas gift I’ll always treasure.

The most devastating blow to my inner Scrooge came last year when I refused to listen to media reports about 12-11-2-12 011Christmas mayhem in the community and decided to start expanding my own sense of community. One of my holiday highlights last year was wrapping presents at a local bookstore for contributions to Literacy Mid-South, a local nonprofit organization that helps increase the literacy rates of adult learners.  There are 125,000 adults in Memphis who read below the third grade level.  Literacy Mid-South and their volunteer tutors are helping reduce that number.  I have served with them in the past, but time and logistics were a barrier to continued service, so I jumped at this chance to wrap presents for donations. I drug the Indentured Servant/Resident Teologist and Nanook along for the ride and it was a beautifully wonderful morning of do-gooding awesomeness spent surrounded by books! We were all up in other people’s present buying business, wrapping gifts for stranger’s grandkids, and drinking coffee. It was GREAT! Nanook told me to pick out a book for her present to me, so I scored a copy of Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, which mom wrapped so pretty that I couldn’t bear to open it on Christmas. It stayed wrapped for a whole year before the story called to unwrap it.

Nanook's got present wrapping skillz

Nanook’s got present wrapping skillz

This year, I am all about Christmas…but that, dear readers, is a different post.

So how about you? Any stories of Christmas past – or Scrooge slapping you have to share?

Last month, in an unexpected twist of fate, I was offered the job of meeting 500 preschoolers in 45 days.  To the uninitiated and in the abstract, meeting 500 preschoolers may seem an unmenacing task. At least that’s how it seemed to me when I was offered this job.  Still, I would never have imagined myself working in this context. I accepted the position anyway thinking it would be a breeze.   Ha! In the days that followed I came to liken the task to being trampled by a herd of wildebeest. As it turns out 500 preschoolers is a lot.

The fact is preschoolers are creepy people. They come to school clean and groomed, shirts tucked, shoes tied, hair wound in neat braids. Kinda cute even. Within 10 minutes they start to unravel showing hints of their true nature.  Eventually they erupt into full-blown disarray with noodle-encrusted hair, milk-mustached upper lips, and booty fingers.  In this state, their teachers would bring them to me and attempt to reclaim order  by lining them up to sit in neat rows, and then telling them to behave and to wait quietly for their turns.  That structure worked for only a few moments. The short legs dangling over the edge of too-large chairs would start kicking idly at the empty air causing the laces of their sneakered feet to lose all restraint and start dancing wildly. A few moments later, the preschoolers would simultaneously begin practicing their unique talents. There were the prize fighters who liked to throw punches at each other, the stuntmen jumping out of chairs and running into things, and the gymnasts who did Cirque de Soliel routines using the chairs as props in strange balancing acts.

Preschoolers ooze fluids. I’ve been cried on, sneezed on, and spit on. The spitting was not malicious, but rather with great enthusiasm. On one occasion a great potty frenzy swept the room, which ended badly and predictably with an “accident.”  In the natural course of things, my third week on the job I caught the Preschool Crud, rendering me bed-ridden for 2 ½ days with a fever and sore throat.

The 45 days are over and phase one of the job is complete. This week I’ve jumped back into the fray for round two.

As a result of this whole weird experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that preschool teachers should be lauded with firemen and police officers as heroes in our nation’s workforce.  I’m not kidding. Having seen these women in action, I can honestly say they are nothing short of amazing given the occupational hazards and with their grace under fire.

[Your partner] will make you see more about yourself than any navel gazing in solitude could ever reveal.  And if the process isn’t completely horrifying and frustrating, then you’re just not doing it right.

Jane Lynch

We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems—the ones that make you truly who you are—that we’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person—someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”

–Galway Kinnell

~*~

He sold a guitar to buy her engagement ring.  He was going to give it to her on Christmas day, but he wound up proposing two weeks before because he couldn’t wait.

She was horrified by the thought of a public wedding because it would involve too many eyes looking at her all at once.  Besides, who had money to waste on some stupid party? She wanted to elope. Eloping was perfectly fine by him.  Their mothers were appalled by the very idea and pushed for a church wedding.  Suddenly it was ok for the young couple to continue “living in sin,” as the mothers called it, for many months longer if it meant they could plan the wedding.  The mothers joined forces and just started planning the damn thing without the couple’s consent.

“Ok, whatever” the would-be bride said with an eye roll.

The day before the wedding, he got a new hairdo, trading in his 1980s rocker hair for a mullet.

WTF, M8??

The ceremony that took eight months for the mothers to plan lasted 14 minutes.

And time passed….the couple ate a lot of Totino’s pizza, they got a cat, they bought a house, they got a dog, he changed jobs, she went back to school, they argued,  they made up, relatives died, relatives were born, he played guitar, they tried new foods, she graduated a few times, they took care of kids, he took classes, they lost touch with old friends, he studied Kung Fu, they went on vacations, they made new friends, they sold and bought cars, they took a lot of walks in the park, they reconnected with old friends,  she took a job out of state, the cat died, the dog died, they watched movies, she got a new cat, they got a new dog, they sold a house, they bought a farm…

…and 18 years later, she still looks at him and thinks, “This is the problem I want to have.”

Ours is a little farm in the making.  Bit by bit we’re unpacking, cleaning, rennovating, and planting.

The butternut squash is looking good

I’m so grateful for all the help we’ve had.  Work has never been so fun.  Friday morning the doorbell rang unexpectedly at 8 a.m. – and the day began with women doing messy yardwork to the beat of thunder in a warm summer rain. It was the best Friday morning I can remember in almost forever.

Saturday friends and family came to warm and bless our new home with their presence.  It was a wonderful day full of fun, smiles, and surprises. And now we have even more to plant! There were so many unexpected gifts.

Once everything is placed, planted, and photographed I will assault you with pictures.  For now, here are a few scenes from the weekend’s festivities…

The ever present Bean

Lisa, Lisa, Dave and Dave warmed the farm with a few feathered friends…

M R ducks!

Folks at the farmwarming party took it upon themselves to name the duckies:  P. King is the fella in the water, P. Queen is the one standing across from him, head cocked at a jaunty angle.  Kiki and Hiram are the brown feathered couple in the background.

Eventually, the place will be filled with Goaty Goodness — Beady Boop got me started with goat fence.  Another friend is determined to give me a pig she can train in the name of science (as soon as we convince The Devil it’s a good idea…)

The Angry Russian spent the day installing tile in the cottage.  Four friends fought over who would get to hire him next.

“You could totally start a business called Rent a Daddy” one said.

“…or Pimp My Dad” said another.

I told them all they’d better back up off my dad — he has to finish my cottage first!

Mike found the Devil in the livingroom with his conservative grandmother, parents and aunt. “Here’s a little something for tonight….” he said with a sly smile and wink as he presented the Devil with a gift in a Victoria Secrets bag.   It was a DVD of The Money Pit.  So appropriate!

Thanks to everyone for making my home and weekend so happy!

Friday Morning’s Skyscrapers

Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, and Realize.

– Master Sivananda

~~@~~

This week I am amazed by other people’s capacity for patience where I have none.

 I am grateful to be learning from your example.

And to the one who tries my patience near daily:

Thank you for being here doing what you do to help me work on it.

If you’ve recently joined the adventures here at My Little Spacebook, I would first like to extend a warm welcome.  Thank you for being here and sharing in this moment with me!  Secondly, I’d like to introduce you to the Society of Knitters and Nutters (aka SoKaN). We’re a band of eccentric folks who get together and make stuff… jewelry, knits, garden art, birdhouses, quilts, fun, and memories.  We’ve made so much stuff that we have to get together to sell it at times, so we can get together and make more stuff.  We like making stuff and we like each other THAT much. 😀

We’ve reach a critical mass again, so this coming Saturday and Sunday the ladies of SoKaN will be selling stuff at The BIG One.

Here’s what’s been going on lately.

Skattur has been breathing new life into the artifacts that people leave behind.  She takes cups, vases,and saucers that folks cast off and turns them into birdfeeders that pretty-up gardens.  She also turns orphaned plates into art for the garden or the wall…

This one is mine, mine, mine! Skattur said so.

She’s really good at it…

…so the birds can eat in style

You’ll find more of her amazing work (as well as her story) on her Etsy page Recycled by Skattur and of course this weekend at “The Big One.”

The Beady Babes have been busily beading bodacious baubles.  Beady Boop has been doing this new thing that takes her a really long time to do and to explain. So long and complicated was her explanation of the process that I really couldn’t work out any of the details in my head, but here’s the final results of her alchemy …

Pretty,

she made that pendant some how or other…

pretty!

She’s also been at work blinging up some ceiling fan pulls with her Kazuri Beads, which are handmade by families of the Kikuyu tribe in Kenya. The sale of these beads help promote fair trade in Africa. It’s her way of crafting with cause. You can read more about Kazuri Beads on their website here.  Good stuff.

Our other Beady Babe, Elitist Jerk (who Skattur really thinks should change her name), has created dancing beady peep earrings.  They’re really adorable.

She’s also created a line of bottle cap necklaces for kids….

They come in other styles besides peace…for example skull and crossbone if pirate is more your thing.

She’s also made beaded rings…but sadly the Archivist didn’t get a good picture. I guess you’ll just have to come to The BIG One this weekend to see them.

Ok, so what is The Big One?  It’s the largest and most popular swap meet in the Mid-South, of course.

It’s held at:

 Expo Center at Agricenter International

 7777 Walnut Grove Road 

Memphis, TN

If you’re in the area, stop by the SoKaN booth and say, “hi!”

Also, there was a great post today that made Freshly Pressed on crocheting….check it out:

http://thepickledhedgehog.com/2012/07/17/crocheting-to-change-the-planet/

These are my bloggin’ panties and I’m not afraid to use them.

Secrets can take many forms — they can be shocking, or silly, or soulful….[They] can remind us of the countless human dramas, of frailty and heroism playing out silently in the lives of people all around us.

–Frank Warren

~~@~~

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming to offer a preview of coming attractions.    “Ashram Lessons” shall resume after this brief message about Life in the Luny Bin…

~~*~~

The Devil and I have had a very busy three weeks.  We’ve sold a house, “bought the farm,” moved in, and have started making it home.

Pupskins (aka Nilla Bean) “helping”

Moving is such a simple word to describe the mayhem involved in dismantling a life.

We have spent countless hours critically examining the value of every possession we have collected over the last 18 years and purging what is no longer needed.   We passed through the phase of organizing, labeling, and boxing, boxing, boxing stuff until we finally just started throwing things  willy-nilly into boxes and bags at the last minute (oh the violence!).   Then came the phase of unboxing followed by another round of purging.  We wondered where all this stuff came from, then decided to purge some more. Some of our stuff was dropped and broken. Some of our stuff was crushed and broken by still other stuff. Some stuff was water damaged in “The Great Flood.” We’re still trying to figure out where some stuff goes, while some stuff just went missing.

I have spent so much time looking for ‘that thing I put in that one box’ that this has become my new theme song:

 

….and the craziest part? We’re still not done moving! I have a whole life in another state left to dismantle!  Wash, rinse, repeat.

There are so many stories on this end to share about it all, but they will come later….Today’s post is on secrets.

In the midst of the chaos the rare opportunity arose to meet a friend I’ve had for years.  This friend has lived in Japan for the duration of our acquaintance, so we’ve never met face-to-face.  His was a short, but intensely fun visit. It’s strange what you learn about yourself when entertaining house guests. Things you normally find invisible about your life are brought into focus through the lens of another’s eye.

“Tofu and flax seed…” he said.

At my confused expression he added, “That’s what’s on the top shelf in your fridge.”

Who knew? I open the fridge everyday and don’t see this.

The Indentured Servant told him a secret of mine, “She burps the President’s name all the time —- ‘BAAAAARRRRAAAACCCK!'”

Disgusting, but true.  Not something I was planning to share, but what can I say? I’m a proud supporter.

The whole experience got me thinking about the everyday secrets we keep in our underwear drawers, in our fridges, in our digestive expulsions. This train of thought led to Frank Warren’s collection of half a million secrets. Frank is a blogger who began his blog after handing out self-addressed postcards and soliciting secrets from people on the street in Washington. He posts them anonymously on his blog postsecret.com.  His Ted Talk is worth watching!

So now that you know a few of my everyday secrets, do you have one to share? Feel free.

Cultivating compassion and joy is not a linear process; it’s organic, like growing flowers.  If you work regularly at decreasing your compulsive desires and narcissism gradually you will see beautiful results.

–Lorne Ladner, The Lost Art of Compassion

~~@~~

 Last June, I spent two weeks deconstructing at an ashram.  On the surface, the ashram experience seemed a nightmare.  Group constipation, perpetual cravings for hamburgers, and sleep deprivation combined with withdrawal from various vices, hard work, heat, and allergic reactions.  (See Poo-poo Tea at the Ashram and Ashram Adventures for a recap of those fun details.)

Beneath that muck, seeds of joy were being planted.  Several lifetimes of lessons were condensed into those two weeks.  It was a lot to processes. I’m still working to understand what I learned and to apply it to daily life.  (For more on that end, see A Heart Flung Open and Knowing by Doing.)

And here is but one of the many lessons I learned from the experience: Beauty will unfold day by day when you work to tend the garden.

 

Yesterday a group of belly dancers represented Memphis in Shimmy Mob, an international flashmob event designed to raise funds for women’s and children’s shelters in local communities.  It was an honor to dance with this group of ladies.

Many thanks to Debra Parmley for organizing the event, to Jasmine  of Dance with Jasmine for leading choreography practices, and to the folks at Singleton Community Center and the Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center for donating practice space!

And of course, a big thank you to the YWCA of Greater Memphis for the work they do in our community.

Thanks also to Liz London of Memphis Raqs who donated the proceeds of her show last night to the shelter.

 

Eventually (like when the semester is over and I’m not running around like a crazy person from state-to-state both literally and figuratively) everything will be on the SoKaN website and I will figure out how to blog over there, which means I’ll stop going on and on about all things SoKaN here (maybe) and I’ll return to my deep, reflective, meditative, and peaceful self.  But until then I must share because it’s all so exciting!

Next Saturday, May 5, SoKaN will be sokanning in all their resplendent nuttery at the 3rd Annual All Things Art Festival in Millington.  Please come!

3rd Annual All Things Art Festival
May 5th 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Millington Farmers’ Market
5152 Easley Avenue
Millington, TN 38053

 

Skattur’s latest totem

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