Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Letter to my Cynic

        The last few months have been really tough for me.  I’ve struggled with my own faith, faith in humanity, faith in the direction our world is being sent to by the apathy of our choices, or lack of…and struggled with my own seeming insignificance, the weight of what seems like never being able to do enough to help the plight of our Mother Earth, and the hopelessness of that struggle.  And it all seems so much more dire with a tiny bundle of light and love who truly represents limitless possibility.  I’ve also been struggling to find a balance of intention, energy, faith and tangible action.  It seems like they cannot be mutually exclusive: without faith, your tangible actions will never seem enough, there will ALWAYS be something more you could have done.  You have to have faith that your path is meaningful and thoughtful, and that your choices are what you can do with the information you have at the time.  And without tangible action, one cannot rely solely on intention.  Intention is the seed, but action helps water it into a mighty oak that will have the meaning and impact you long for.  

            I have a terrible inner cynic…she says to me…

            “Go ahead and have whatever you deem as “faith” that things can get better.  If that helps you sleep at night, do what you need to do.  But don’t turn your head for a second, or you will see the truth of what humans are doing to this planet, and you will know there is nothing to be done.”

            “People have known about these things for so long, you will never get the general public to see the benefits of simplicity and to abandon this consumeristic, disposable culture we live in; or the corporations to look at anything other than a bottom dollar, it is nothing you can have an impact on with your small existence as a mother at home.”

            I really could go on and on.  It sends me into a spiral of depression of doubting my very existence on this planet.  That seems pretty abstract, but that is what keeps me up at night these days.

            And then…

            Recently, while talking to a dear friend of mine, I thought…as I say these things, I am also saying them to Finn, and about him.  That HE can’t make a difference.  That there is nothing for him to do but wallow in pity and shame for what our species has done.  And the part of me that longs to be hopeful and optimistic takes great, great offence to that.  Like mama bearish.  Like I will kick the shit out of you for saying anything like that to my son.  There in lies the conundrum…how to get that hope back, that honest hope for the future, that will inspire our children to be the problem solvers we need, without riddling them with guilt over what we have done up to this point. 

            We need to address our cynics.  There is simply no room for cynicism, it will do nothing to bring about the change we need.  She has been useful to me, because she has called me to own up to my choices in this world, and to our choices as a global community.  Okay, done.  Let’s move forward.   So I decided to write my cynic a letter…

Dear Lady of Cynicism;

            My name is Sarah the Lionheart.  I come from the part of Sarah who longs to be hopeful, who longs to radiate optimism and hope for the future generations of children, who stand to make a large difference in the world.  It is only with the confidence and love from us that they will grow to their fullest potential, otherwise they stand to continue this cycle of hopelessness, from which inaction springs.  Nothing will get any better from inaction, and since that comes from the hopelessness of cynicism, I have come to let you know that you have worn out your welcome here, residing in Sarah.  For when you say those things, you are also saying them about her son, and that is a deal breaker.  This will not happen, and you will no longer have room in her spirit.  The only thing you do is paralyze her and keep her from realizing her fullest potential as well, and she cannot move forward with you here.  Thank you for getting her to take a good realistic look at where we currently are, and to inspire her to take action NOW.  To proactively find ways to nurture her faith in the Universe.  To keep up with the small changes in behavior that will turn the current nature of society into one of love for our Earth, and stewardship for each other.  You have done your job.  It is time to transform your energy into something creative, something positive, or vacate the premises immediately. 


                                               Sarah the Lionheart
          My hope is that this is the first step in coming out of the darkness.  And that if it shows up again, to revisit this and find the light before it hits me so hard.  This journey is messy, dark, frightening, and impossibly beautiful all at the same time.

Friday, June 14, 2013

First Recommended Read: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

     So it’s been awhile since I last read a novel.  Even now that sounds so very indulgent…I think the last time I had chunks of free time to read, I was in the final trimester of pregnancy, and was reading Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth, and Chopra’s Guide to Holistic Childbirth.  After Finnegan came into my world, little blurbs of time were spent scouring various child development books, checking milestones and looking ahead to what we could expect in the upcoming months.  Now that things have begun leveling out (sometimes) with regard to household management (um, I mean Domestic Goddess rituals), Mommy-ing, and Mommy time, I ran into this gem of a novel at the library, and fell in love.  The only difficult part was having to put it down when I heard the distinct rumblings of Finn waking up from nap time. 

 Eowyn Ivey’s Snow Child is part historical fiction about homesteading life in Alaska during the 1920’s, and part folktale based on a Russian myth of a “Snow Maiden” found in the story.  In it, Mabel and Jack have relocated to the harsh Alaskan landscape, in search of a new start after a tragic loss of an only child during the last trimester of pregnancy.  Despair, exhaustion and melancholy is taking hold of them both, but in a brief moment of happiness they create a small snow child.  The next morning, the child is gone, however, they begin noticing a small girl flitting about the forest, able to survive in the woods by herself.  As the story unfolds, it becomes a tale of desperate longing to believe in hope and renewal.  It also shows the evolution that parents must go through of wanting to care for and protect their children, but ultimately the need to believe in their capabilities.  It also reveals the hardest thing to do, as a parent: to release them to the universe to create their own lives and happiness.  It is a tale of such sorrow, but ultimately of such hope, that will make you cling to your loved ones with ferocity.  Darkly whimsical, while being true to the brutal realities of early homesteading life in Alaska, it will haunt you long after you put it down.  If you happen to also be from Alaska, it will make you proud of the roots that have been put down by those who came before you as well.  I'm so glad that the first indulgent use of my time was reading this book.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Transplanting...Sitka Bound.

    How do you leave a place you have grown to call home?  A place where you know when and where the sorrel and boletas and wild rhubarb are ready to pick, and follow the seasons of the flowers during the summer months that nourish your soul? 

 I feel as if we’ve decided to rip our roots up and try to transplant, although not sure if the weathering process will do more damage, or make our leaves stronger.  In this town we became a family.  We were married.  Bought a home.  Decided to start a family.  Survived the loss of our first pregnancy, and welcomed a beautiful light into the world.  Here I met kindred spirits and became an artist and played music and found a voice for myself.  These are not simple roots offshot, but tap roots dug deep.  How do you transplant without a little of the ends being ripped off?  I feel so intimately connected to the windy tundra of these hills, that the rainforests of Sitka seem dark and scary.  But something about that fear, and the leap of faith required of this next adventure also makes me feel alive.  It makes me acutely aware of everything I’ve ever taken for granted here.  It makes the colors brighter, the wind sweeter, smiles more friendly, and it makes me treasure hugs and conversations from friends more than I thought possible.  If you see me grocery shopping and you ask how I’m doing, only to have me start crying in front of you, please don’t be alarmed.  It’s not a negative.  It’s good to love so deeply that you are heartbroken when it begins to come to a close.  Even if it is to a place.  And I am definitely heartbroken.  I am hopeful, and grateful, excited and heartbroken.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Absolute Favorite Times of the Day...

    Finnegan is not a particular cuddle bug.  He always has me in sight, and he will light up the world from across the room with his sideways grin, but he likes to be off on his own, exploring, watching.  He has a corner of the couch that he naps on, with an old stuffed dog with one eye named Wizard from my childhood, my version of the Velveteen Rabbit, and a quilt made by an old friend of my mother's, Miss Flo, who he never got to meet before she passed away.  Usually I take this moment to read, or sit with a cup of tea, or meditate.  I cuddle up on the other corner with my quilt, giving him his space to move, and just watch his beautiful face, peaceful.  It gives me hope and faith in the universe, that I am exactly where I need to be at that moment, and all is well in the world. 
   He'll nap for exactly an hour and a half, and start to stir.  He'll roll over, peek up, and then put his head back down for a few seconds.  He'll groggily sit up, eyes glazed, and peer around the room for me.  Then his eyes will meet mine, and I'll get that sideways smile.  I'll hold out my arms, and he'll crawl over to me, nestle in, and nap for about fifteen more minutes.  These are the most treasured fifteen minutes of my day, along with the song I sing to him as he's falling asleep in my arms before he goes to bed for the night, a song by the Wailin' Jennys called Arlington:

Where do you go little bird, when it snows, when it snows
When the world turns to sleep, do you know, do you know?
Is it something in the wind, breathes a chill in your heart, and life in your wings?
Does it whisper start again, start again?

Where is the sun in the night?  Is it cold, is it cold?
Does it feel left behind, all alone, all alone?
Does it wander through the night, does it wait for the dawn, wish on a star?
Does it stray very far, very far? 

         In these moments, I find the answer to the elusive meaning of existence.  Perhaps it comes easily to others, and yes, I've heard it over and over again: love.  But to actually feel it, all bundled up with the opposing feelings of such intense hope, fear, longing, and contentment in those moments is nothing shy of remarkable.  I love you, little boy.


Monday, May 13, 2013

The Evolution of a Journey....

    I never knew if I would be a good stay at home mother.  I never really knew if I would be a good mother, period.  Many people, family and friends had a lot more faith in my hypothetical abilities than I ever did.  When Reid and I decided to take the huge leap of faith into parenthood, we chatted about what I would do, work or stay.  I had just completed a Master's degree in Education, was certified to teach Theatre, Biology, and Elementary school, and was at the very beginning of a promising career.  The general consensus was to give it a shot, stay flexible, and see how it went.

    The first evolution of this journey to stay home with wee Finnegan was seeing if I could keep him alive for any length of time.  This tiny bundle, who couldn't even hold his head up, couldn't focus his eyes to things more than a few feet away, and totally dependent.  It really gave me something to focus on, everything was a blur, especially with initial nursing woes.  I counted days in three hour increments to the next nursing session.  I couldn't think too much about anything because I was so focused on solving the breastfeeding dilemma, changing, rocking, adjusting to this new, mostly wonderful, but extremely difficult existence.

    The second big evolution came when Finn started moving independently.  This brought such new fear and insight into my views of myself as a mother.  Some days it seemed as though we would just get by, narrowly dodging one near death experience after another.  But, what was more of a challenge, and the biggest one so far, was how to keep this little being engaged and entertained aaalllll day, while keeping my sanity.  The days that didn't go so well, I plunged into wondering if this had been a good idea.  I heard all the voices of people I knew saying, "You're going to be such a fabulous mom, you're so creative!" and I felt as though I was failing.  Some days I was just too exhausted to think of things for him to do.  He would get, it seemed, bored, or frustrated, and start being an inquisitive boy....which would take the form of digging into houseplants or the toilet or attitude would shift for the worse, and it went downhill from there.  Reid would come home, I'd be totally burnt out, and he would let me go play piano or hike for an hour to recharge.  It was this part of the journey where I really questioned whether staying at home was right for me...perhaps being around the same individual too much was not that great a thing.  Perhaps going back to work, getting a nanny or sitter, would be better: I'd be happier, knowing that I was doing a good job at a job with very defined objectives, I could come home and be totally energized because I had missed Finn all day, and be ready to play for a few hours before bed time.  Quality may trump quantity, right?  Still, this felt, to me, as the easier way out, and I plunged into self doubt and insecurities as an engaging, creative, energetic parent.  If I'm honest, at its worst, I thought it might be better if Reid find someone else who could be a better mother for Finn.


    As I hit this bottom, and spent more than a few days really questioning what the hell I had gotten myself into, and where I was to go from here, something just recently started evolving from it.  I started finding those creative ways to engage and entertain both Finn and I, slowly, almost out of emotional necessity for survival...and I believe, it was only by sticking through this seemingly bottomless pit of self doubt, that I was able to come out of it.  I started being able to notice subtle nuances of when he seemed able to entertain himself, how it sounded when he was starting to need a little extra stimulation, and almost intuitively, start to become that mother I wanted to be.  I still have such a long way to go, but I feel this heavy cloud lifting.  By sticking to this commitment I made to stay at home with him, and pushing through what has been the hardest part so far, because it was dealing with MY issues, not his behavior challenges, I am starting to see the light.  And I would never had seen the glimmer if I wasn't in the darkness, so I have to be thankful for that.  This has been my journey of staying at home; messy, glorious, dark, frustrating, and very beautiful.  By engaging in it, and committing to it, I feel in my bones that it is the right choice for my family, and me.

    In the end, being a mother has been, without a doubt, the hardest thing, I have ever done. It has made me question our existence, ponder the state of the world and humanity, at times quite morosely, and question if I was really ever meant to fill such a large role. In the same moment, it has offered me glimpses of such profound hope and love that I could do nothing but cry. It has filled me with gratitude for the souls that we are lent for the short time we are here. I still am not close to having some of the answers I seek, but I will not, can not, stop seeking those answers. Being a mother has awakened that quest in me, and I am thankful for that.



Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Prayer - April 14th, 2013

Thankful for tiny fingers and eyelashes.  For sideways smiles and giggles.  For the way Finn looks around for me when he's playing, just keeping me in sight, it makes me want to cry.  Thankful for patience and love from family and friends.  For people giving each other the benefit of the doubt, and for kindness and smiles in unusual places.  Kindness seems to be one of the most powerful things in the universe.  Give it freely, and you can completely change someone's day.  Withhold it, and you can make someone feel so alone.  I am thankful for kind people.  I pray that I can be a force of kindness in people's lives.  I pray for strength to keep my optimism alive.  To see the good in people.  To see the good in me.  To see the good in the world. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Days...

It feels like some days the energy is buzzing with love in my home...Finn is smiling and giggling, I am almost (and sometimes literally) dancing around doing the housework, and then I look around, the sun is shining through the windows, an upbeat bluegrass station is playing on Pandora, the house is clean, everyone is happy, and there is time and weather to take it outside for a hike or play with chickens.  These days are amazing. Adventure is to be found everywhere, and the Restless Spirit is, for the moment, completely content.

Then there are days where I feel as though I'm barely staying caught up, and days where I'm simply NOT at all.  Where frustration is pretty prevalent, blood pressure is a little higher, and the Restless Spirit is having a tough time in the midst of Domestic Monotony...there is a lot of resetting, deep breaths, and mantra repeating.

I'm trying to meditate and ponder on what makes these days different.  What is it that contributes to the down days, and what can I do to at least ride out the lulls, if not completely jump out of it and into a more cheerful disposition.  For Reid's and Finn's sake, at the very least.  I haven't come up with an explanation on what contributes to the lulls, I'm sure it's any number of things: lack of sleep, the latest bug going around, Mercury Retrograde, gloomy weather, hearing someone being mean or judgmental to anyone, etc...sometimes we are all just out of sync.  Nothing else really, just off timing.  Like three watches ticking away at different intervals on different wavelengths, with three people trying to catch up to the other one.  Nothing to be done but accept it, laugh about it, and move on.  I wish there was a day time reality TV show that showed "A Day in the Life" of mothers these days.  How they manage it all, and get through the "out of sync" days.  I would totally get in to a show like that.  Real Housewives isn't cutting it for me.  Most days we do one episode of Andy Griffith, my hero, and listen to Pandora the rest of the time we're inside.  There is something so blissfully simple, so innocent and good, about The Andy Griffith Show, that just has me in love with everyone...nostalgia is a powerful thing, but I digress...

So, a few of the things that really help me kind of snap out of it, and I'd love to hear any others you may have, are:
  • Dancing, dancing, dancing.  This is the cure all for me.  I put on Micheal Franti or Tom Petty on Pandora, and let go.
  • Finn usually nurses to nap, and is pretty easy about letting me move him to his corner of the couch to finish sleeping after he's done.  If I'm having a rough day, though, I will just let him sleep in my arms for as long as I can, just studying his little face.  This is another cure all for the Messy House Blues.  It gets me back to the present moment, and what's really important.
  • A few pages of Calvin and Hobbes.  Again, nostalgia is working in my favor here.  As a kid, I used to find a little of myself in both Calvin and Hobbes.  Now, I totally see myself as his mom.  But this comic really calls my attention to the vastly different world of children, and allows me to be more empathetic with Finn if he's the one having a bad day.  And I know what he's doing all day.  I can't imagine putting this into perspective when he goes to school... 

  •  Meditation, or prayer.  I love the saying that praying is how we talk to God, and meditation is how we listen to him in the silence.  A combination of these two work wonderfully for me.
  • Getting outside.  Even if it's putting on full rain gear and standing in a storm in the driveway for five minutes.  There is something deeply cathartic about nature.
Just a few things that work for me.  I was chatting with a girlfriend today, thinking that I'd been at this parenting endeavor for over a year now, some days I feel like I should have a better handle on it.  She assured me this isn't the case.  So for any of you feeling the same way, you are not alone.  And I keep repeating the  It's all about love.  If you genuinely want the best for your child, and are doing the best you can, that's all that can be expected of you.  The rest is just details.  And enjoying those dancing-love-buzz days when they alight upon you magically.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Every Day Choices for a Better Future

As a parent, and fellow Earth-dweller, I’ve been really struggling with how to go about my days feeling as though I’m contributing to a better place for my children with my day to day choices.  I passionately want to instill a love for nature in Finnegan, without proselytizing to or embarrassing him, or pushing it so hard that he doesn’t want to partake in these decisions or be thoughtful about his choices.  I know, he’s only one, and I have a bit of time before we start having in depth discussions about our choices and their impact on the environment, but I feel like it’s never a bad time to start thinking about these things…and I wanted to share the choices I’ve committed to that have helped me to start feeling more sustainable in my parenting, and regular life, choices.   

I feel like as long as it’s not a preachy thing, it’s just the way we live our lives, it won’t be too much; it won’t push him away from it.  No question, no argument, these are just the things we do because they are good for our Mother.  If anyone has other choices they make that really help them create a more sustainable lifestyle, I would love to hear them!  But here are some things that I really try to commit to:

  • Banning the plastic bags at the grocery store...when I started trying to do this, I would forget my canvas bags often, and just say, "Ah well, next time."  But one day, I just thought, "Damn it, Sarah...this is a behavior change.  If you forget them, turn around, go back and GET THEM."  And it only took turning around to go back and get them once or twice, and now I don't forget them.  The newer canvas bags that they sell at Safeway are pretty flimsy, but there are always thick, awesome canvas bags at Second Blessings for sale, or here is a link to a great store that makes awesome quality bags in the U.S...I just made the commitment and stuck to it, and I feel better every time I'm at the store.
  • Banning plastic water bottles.  I still have to get Reid on board with this.  It was the same only took getting thirsty and not having my bottle once or twice and saying "Tough.  You don't use plastic water bottles.  Remember to bring one next time."  And the behavior was changed.  These two things are not even an inconvenience anymore, they are just part of the routine.
  • Cloth diapering...this is more a good choice where I live because we have no shortages of water, but we do have a terrible shortage of landfill space.  And drying on the line, the flats look like a prayer flag for the Earth.
  • More fruits and veggies, less snacks in boxes, and less in the landfill.
  • Buying in bulk and freezing batches.
  • Washing out plastic ziplock bags...I'd like to try to see how long I can use one box!
  • Less toys, more getting outside with Finn.  Finding our own "sensory boxes" out in nature.
 If you have any other ways you are able to incorporate more sustainable practices into your parenting, I'd love to hear them! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Prayer - April 7, 2013

Dearest Earth Mother,
       Spring comes and goes in the air in the Aleutians, but the rhubarb is coming up, as is the mint and the chives, signaling rebirth once again.  I am grateful for days when the weather is calm enough to take Finn to the beach, and thank you for the wonderfully mild winter we had this year.  It was good for my soul to have walks to Summer's Bay, watching the seals and otters, as well as the sea birds and sparrows flitting about on the dried puchki. 
       My heart is heavy some days when I think too much on the apathy people have towards you, and the hopelessness it seems to begin the healing process in taking care of this wondrous place we live in.  I pray that you give humanity time to become aware of what is really important in life, and send you white healing light to surround you and the diverse creatures and plants who are at the mercy of decisions we make, both globally and individually. 
      I thank you for the grass between my toes, for the rosy finches that Finn loves to watch out the window that join us for lunch most days, for puddles to jump in, and the wind that signifies impermanence in everything, and our continual evolution.  May it be in the right direction to sustain us and our brothers and sisters in the world.

Father of the Heavens,
     I pray that you enter the hearts of humanity and plant the seeds of empathy for your magnificent creation, so that we may take better care of our Mother.  Please make us more thoughtful of the choices we make, and the implications they have on our world around us.  Let us slow down and take time to look at the beauty and find hope in the upcoming Spring season.  Give our leaders wisdom to make the right choices for us as a global community, not just what is best in the short term.  Give us the commitment to make small choices in our every day behavior towards more sustainability, more empathy, and please give me the hope that I can make a difference in the world with my actions.  Help me to make decisions in my parenting that will inspire these beliefs in my son, that he may be part of the generation that saves the world.  Help me to be inspired with what I see in the world, instead of downhearted.
    Thank you for the stars and the moon in the heavens that teach me of the vastness of the universe, as well as the order of it in the ebb and flow of the constellation cycles.  Please let me feel hopeful of the direction we are going, and make me a part of the positive change.