Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Heartspace Practice

The owner of the studio where I Nia is named Jes (Jessica Morningstar Wolf, actually) and she is...very hard to describe.  Young.  Lovely.  Lithe.  Strong.  Shamanistic.  Intense.  Joyful.  Penetrating.  Intimidating.  Inviting.  Love.

Taking a class from her is an invitation to get opened up.  You don't have to, if you don't want, but you'd be missing out if you didn't.  It's pretty enthralling.

I went to her Nia last Wednesday, and the theme of the class was to focus on the heart.  No biggie, right?  Airy-fairy, new-age stuff, yeah?

Okay, except that about halfway in I experienced a major shift that has stuck with me all week and that I'll try to explain here.

Even though class had only been happening for thirty minutes, it felt like we had been dancing for hours.  Jes must have seen me glance at the clock, or maybe others were looking at the time too, because she laughed and commented on the bending of time to the class.  She said this:  "The only tool we have to slow down time is moving from the heartspace."

Again:  The only tool we have to slow down time is moving from the heartspace.

Engaging.  Being in the present.  Moving from the self.  From love.

I think hearing this is transformative for me because I have struggled so much with feeling like my life is just blowing past.  With everything I do, our family does, the pace of this dromocratic society...it often feels as if I am not at the center of my life.  And this makes me feel angry and frustrated, and also anxious and antsy.  Behaviors I don't really like (HUGE hot fudge sundaes; spending sprees at the thrift store) ensue.

But "moving from the heartspace."  That's something else entirely.  If you know me in person, you know I'm a sloucher.  Like, a lifetime sloucher.  It's something I don't like about myself, and I've tried to change it, but haven't been able to.  It hurts to pull my shoulders back after so many years of slouching; my stomach muscles start to cramp; I feel awkward.  I give up after, oh, about 3 minutes of trying to sit up straight.  A lifetime of my father poking me between the shoulder blades, colleagues telling me that "I'm a pretty girl, why don't you stand up straight?," friends and family lovingly trying to move my recalcitrant shoulder blades into place.  It's all too much.

Moving from the heartspace, though--which is profoundly different from force and manipulation--accomplishes the same thing, just without pain.  For the past week, I've been practicing saying to myself "open your heartspace, Jen."  And the shoulders go back, the stomach muscles contract, and I instantly feel more centered, more present in my body.  It feels nothing short of miraculous.

Metaphorically, too, I think I was sheltering myself by slouching.  Protecting myself from openness and vulnerability.  But spiritually I'm moving past that some, yes?  So it's time my body came along, I think.

I'm not doing this 24 hours a day yet.  The moments before I've had my coffee and when I'm in social settings are particularly challenging for me, because my old patterns of protection and comfort are so ingrained now.  Also, dealing with the children takes me out of myself a bit.  But I feel movement in the areas of posture, openness, and vulnerability in ways I've never experienced before.  And my time feels dramatically more my own.

We know that our minds and bodies are connected.  That just gets clearer and clearer to me as I get older.  But we don't always know how they're connected.  I think I needed a spiritual and emotional reason to open up, and my body would follow.  Or, I needed my heart to step up, and my emotions would follow. 

Either way, it's a new practice for me. 

Van Bibber Buddhism

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle.  But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.  Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize:  a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a cild--our own two eyes.  All is a miracle.

--Thich Nhat Hanh, quoted in Raising Happiness*

From last night's walk with Milo, in Van Bibber Open Space park, which looks like the land of milk and honey right now:

I'm so often struck by the fact of the beauty of living in Colorado, which surely is one of the most extraordinary places on earth, and which is so totally home to me now.  And no, Jesus did not descend from those clouds on thos eparticular sunbeams, though he might as well have, because this was a seriously spiritual moment for me and Milo (and the Droid).  Gratitude for that, the fact that Van Bibber is two blocks from our house, and many more miracles...

*This is probably one of my favorite books on parenting, and I'm only half way through.  I love, love, love it.  I picked it up at our local library, and I bet you can, too.  In fact, even if you don't have little kids, I recommend it.  It's good for parenting all sorts of things, including ourselves.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


a family hike where nobody whined

nobody had to be carried

we walked for more than an hour

(and yes, Nolie did choose this particular outfit to hike in, with mama's satin flower in her hair the whole way)

And nobody melted down on the way home, even after skinning a knee running down the path.


--El Dorado Canyon

Nother Upcycle

Checked out a new book from the library called Last Minute Fabric Gifts (sooo great).  Anyway, one of the first projects in the book is making little silk flowers.  I don't have a ton of silk lying around, but I do have a ton of satin.  So I decided to whip one up.

While I was whipping one up, this kind of shirt was laying on the work table:

I've had it out on the work table a bunch of times in the past year or so.  It came with its sister (which you'll meet in a minute) in a grammy box a while back, but I haven't known what to do with it.  It's a lovely vintage German thingy, and it fits, but it's like a half-shirt, falling just below the boobs.  I think it goes under a dirndl

like so.  But I don't often wear dirndls, not even lovely heart-shaped ones like this number.  So I pull these shirts out every once in a while, admire them, and then put them back.

Anyhoo, like I was saying, I was making this satin flower thing, and I laid it down on the work table on the dirndl-shirt-thingy, and whammy-presto-whizbang:

I thought it looked pretty good.  But still didn't solve the problem of the dickey-on-steroids half-shirt girls-gone-wild problem.  What to put on the bottom?

Well...how about this number?  A former maternity dress thrifted a while back?  Hmmm?  How about it?

Yep.  That'd do it.  A little slicety-slice of the rotary cutter, and off came the cute-but-boring-me cross-over top.  Then, a little sewy-mcsew-sew, and voila, out came this:

I took in the belly a little, so it wouldn't be too maternity-looking, and did a double seam to join the two halves for strength.  It's a wee short, so I may add a little sumpin on the bottom.  But I think Lily (this scoliotic, bumpy dress form, purchased on Craig's List after the pitiful post, whose body looks remarkably like mine, is named Lily) looks pretty ravishing.  There's a bit of sexy librarian going on here, don't you think?

Well.  Maybe not as sexy as this librarian.

But I try.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chanin Final

Hey!  Here's the Chanin dress:

All told, I think I cut up about 10 t-shirts to make it--three small white ones on the top, and six or seven black ones to make the bottom and black lining on top.  I got most of them for a buck a piece at a yard sale a few weeks back (they used to say "Sirius Radio" on them.)

There are some things I'll do differently next time I make this dress (I'm worried about that white jersey looking grungy after a while).  And I made some mistakes (one of the front seams doesn't line up on the front and bottom--rookie mistake--and one of the shoulders is a little off).  But I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, and I'll probably wear it out.  I will say it's not my faaaavorite style on me--maybe a bit high-waisted and tummy-poochy?  But for an upcycle project, quick and dirty, it's alright by me.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Evidence

of how incredibly photogenic I am.  In case you had forgotten.  And no, there is not a fierce jungle animal coming toward me.  That is just my normal hoola face.

And, from my 35th surprise birthday party in April, right after I almost piddled on the floor (in fact, in the background, it looks like there are already turds on the carpet.  But those are not mine, I promise you.)

Good thing that looking good for the camera is not important to me, and never has been.  I'm far too mature for that.  Exuberance and exaggeration, on the other hand, seem to be my forte.

Many thanks to A., who supplied these via the wonders of Facebook.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Open Heart

Ah, these kids.  They've just been getting me where it counts, lately.

I changed the sheets on Nolie's bed the other day, and put new pillowcases on.  A couple of months back, Auntie S. had embroidered Nolie a new pillowcase, to help her sleep (remember that?  When we couldn't get Nolie to sleep for longer than five minutes at a time?  I get shivers just thinking about it).

Anyway, the embroidered pillowcase made it back into the rotation a few nights ago and onto Nolie's new big-girl bed (in her own room, mind you).  When she saw it, she positively gushed.  "THIS?  THIS?  This is the pillowcase AUNTIE S. made me!  Oh, mama!  It's SO special!"  And she proceeded to pet the embroidery until I physically made her shut her eyes and go to sleep.  She peeped her eyes open just once and said, "Mama?  Thank you SO much for letting me use my special pillowcase.  I love you SO much."

I mean, geesh.  Thank you, Auntie S.

And then there's Addie, who very matter-of-factly came into our room this morning while getting dressed, and asked, "Mom?  Have you heard about heartstrings?"  "Uh, no, Addie."  "Well, when you really love someone, there are invisible strings connecting their heart to yours."  "We must have tons of strings then, you and me."  "No," she laughed.  "But our string is the biggest of all!"  And out she went.

There you have it.  Heartbreaking sweetness around every corner.
Eric bought a really fancy new camera, and once he stops throwing up, I'll have him take some new pics of me and the girls (you know, because the blog needs an update) and of the Chanin dress, which is pretty much finished.

In the meanwhile, I want to talk trees. How I love them, almost to the point of ridiculousness. Tree hugging and all that. Life-giving force and all that.

When my gram was sending down all those boxes of stuff last year, this little book was in one of them:

It's leather bound, and was published in 1920.  I got it out because I wanted to try to identify this magnificent beast, which presides over our backyard:

Sadly, Julia's book was of no help to me.  My best guess is elm, but I can't be sure (when M. is back in town, I bet she'll know).  But I was "leafing" through it anyway (ha!) and loved this little passage at the beginning:

Every one of us loves the sight of green things growing.  It is natural that trees, which are greatest in all the plant kingdom, should inspire in us the highest admiration.  Their terms of life so far outrun the puny human span!  They stand so high, and spread so far their sheltering arms!  We bless them for the gifts they bring to supply our bodily needs, and for their beauty, which feeds our souls!
I love that earnestness, and all those exclamation marks.  And, though her book isn't so helpful to my 2010 eyes, her sentiment remains right on, in my book.  When we first moved to this house, I just couldn't believe how lucky we were to have these great green beasts in our very own backyard.  I still can't.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I'm sorry to give you another pitiful post so close on the heels of that other pitiful post. But it's not my fault. I can't help it.

You see, the most hideous thing happened in our house last night. Which was, Eric and I both puking all night long and then having to look at each other in the morning and decide who was sicker and would take the kids to camp.

Now, this tanden sickness business makes me filled with hatred and dread. I think there is nothing worse in the category of non-emergency parenting dilemmas. Parenting when sick makes me meaner than swamp crotch.

I just made that up--that swamp crotch thing. Apparently I'm trying out some interesting writerly voice right now. Forgive me. I'm not myself.

My point is that there is nothing that makes me hate my life, my children, and my husband more than having to be a grown up when I'm sick. Because what is the USE of getting sick if you can't be a big, fat pitiful baby over it? If you can't loll in bed and watch tv and drink gatorade and eat saltines? What is the USE?

We ended up splitting the rides, both of us probably breaking a few laws getting each child to her respective camp for the day and then hauling ass back home to crawl back into bed. But we did it because that option was soooo much better than keeping them home and trying to entertain and parent them when we're rowlfing it up, you know?

I should be grateful the kids weren't sick too. I should be grateful that, for once in our marriage, Eric is actually sicker than I am.

That didn't sound right. It's just that you know me and the puking. Nine times out of ten I get dehydrated and end up in the stupid hospital.

I should be grateful I didn't blow out at the Y. I should be grateful we can afford camp and that I could lay on the couch and watch The Big Chill on TNT. And I should be grateful that I feel better now and that it wasn't something more serious.

But really, I don't feel grateful at all. I'm just not there yet. I don't have that particular bit of wisdom in my grasp. I feel like I deserve a freaking spa weekend in the mountains. I feel sad that we couldn't get it together enough to call someone for help. I'm feeling tired and overwhelmed and resentful.

And that's just what parenthood looks like today.


Friday, June 18, 2010

I Heart Chanin

There were two things that got me started sewing a year and a half ago (now that's crazy. Feels like forever!). First was my grandmother sending me all those boxes of things--knitting needles and fabric and notions. Second was The Alabama Stitch Book, from Alabama Chanin.

Man, if you have the slightest interest in learning how to sew, or make gifts, or get started on your own clothing, Chanin is a great place to go. I started out making clothes out of old t-shirts with just a needle and a thread, sitting in the rocking chair of our former guest bedroom.

And look at me now! I'm making clothes out of old t-shirts with just a needle and thread. Except now I'm doing it in a big fancy room that I never want to leave.

This thing is going to take a while to finish, what with all the hand-sewing and everything. I'll post when it's done!


I'm reviewing a book for the journal Technology and Culture. It's a good anthology, actually, and I will say so in my review. But there's one chapter that is just blowing my mind. And maybe in not such a good way. Here's an excerpt:

In a mapping of concepts from non-linear dynamics onto the theory of eigenorganizations, von Foerster visualizes the genesis of an autopoietic system as the contraction/condensation of a field of oeprational density around a specific point of 'strange attraction'.

That's a pretty typical sentence. Also, half of the chapter quotes directly from the German and doesn't translate.

I mean, come on.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I Love You Daddy

Father's Day is coming up (duh, Addie would say) and Nolie's class has been busy making gifts to celebrate. Each kid was asked to complete the sentence, "I Love You Daddy, because...." Here's how Nolie completed hers:

I'm sure, if I were to receive a similar present, it would say something like, "I love you, Mommy, because you make me eat vegetables and go to bed at a reasonable hour and not rot my brain with too much t.v."

Something fun like that, I bet.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Crisp S

I took Addie to the Children's Hospital yesterday morning for a speech therapy evaluation. She's had trouble with her r's sounding like w's and with a pretty pronounced lisp, and the doctor thought it was probably time to get some help.

The Children's Hospital in Denver is beautiful--very colorful, with lots of cheerful art and play structures and wagons. But to go in there, you pretty much have to put on your emotional flak jacket and not look around too much, because your heart will break into about a thousand pieces, what with all those sick kids.

Yes, I'm a big wiener. Wimp. Civilian. So sue me.

Anyway, it was a weird appointment. Addie has been working on pronouncing her r's, and is getting better at them, and the specialist wasn't too worried about them. She did say she was two years too old to be having that lisp, though, which of course made me feel anxious--that old fear that there is this problem with our kid we haven't noticed and for God's sake where the hell have we been?

I beat back that particular anxiety just in time for the specialist to skooch me next door to a hidden spy room. There were headphones and a one-way mirror and everything, and I basically sat and spied on my kid while she got evaluated.

Awful. AWWWWWWWful.

My observations:

1) Addie is a sassy little thing. She bout ate that specialist (who was a bit on the sweet and gullible side) up for a snack.

2) Addie fidgets like she had ADHD pellets for breakfast.

3) Addie purposely mis-answers some questions to see if the evaluator catches it.

4) Addie is bored quickly and manipulates the specialist into letting her out for a) a bathroom break; b) a water break; and c) a reading break.

5) Addie is going to be just fine. I, on the other hand, need to chill the heck out. I was ridiculously anxious the whole time, watching my kid misbehave. Then I thought about what a scamp I was as a kid, got the giggles, and relaxed. As my friend N reminds me, "You really don't want to push for a perfect girl."

I realize it's creepy that I took these photos. I couldn't help it.

And we're not going back there, by the way, to the speech therapy. We're going to play "s"-flavored games at home and work on that lisp all by ourselves, for the meanwhile. I'll let you know what changes.

A Cheerful Thought on Despair

A new friend recently gifted me Sharon Salzberg's Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience. It's a short book, but it has taken me a while to read. It's got some wisdom in it, and I have to put it down and think about it every fes pages, since it takes me so long to absorb wisdom. I'm a fool for the wisdom, as you know.

Anyway, I got to this passage, on p. 100, last night. I wish I could transcribe the entire chapter for you here, I think it's so wonderful, but that'd be boring for all of us, and Sharon Salzberg would probably be bummed too, in her lovely Buddhist way.

She writes,

Doubt is usually considered to be the force that opposes faith. However, in my experience, doubt is an intrinsic part of genuine faith. I think the state of mind that is truly the opposite of faith is despair. Faith is the ability to offer our heart to the truth of what is happening, to see our experience as the embodiment of life's mystery, the present expression of possibility, the conduit connecting us to a bigger reality. When we feel torn away from connection and purpose, we can end up so caught in our state of mind that the whole world seems to exist in reference to our pain.

We may despair because someone disappoints us grievously, or annihilates us casually with their assumptions of who we are, and the world seems void of love. We may despair because someone else is treated so brutally that our sense of humanity is ripped apart. Or we ourselves may have behaved so badly that we cannot imagine every being redeemed from self-recrimination and regret.


When we despair, our most visceral torment is that we feel separate from everyone and everything around us, alone and on our own.

Holy shit, right? I mean for me, this was huge. It describes what I went through when my mom started to get sick again a while back: as if the rug had been pulled out from under me, that I was alone, that all of the practices and strategies and habits I had built up didn't matter at all. Faith was a sham.

But then the despair ebbed and flowed. I found its holes, was able to take breaks from its oppressiveness. And eventually it lessened, and my practices returned. I don't know if my faith is stronger now, necessarily, but it was a reminder that the pain wasn't as "monolithic" as it felt, and that it wouldn't take me over forever.

Whether I'll be able to remember that next time I encounter despair is another thing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I am so pitiful and insecure.

DB asks, a few posts back, how come I haven't posted any pics of reJuJu clothing. I've been thinking about answering that, and here is what I've come up with:

1. I have a hard time taking pictures. You know how I'm trying to make a new recipe every week? Well, many of them end up sucking donkeys. Same with taking pictures. I know the idea is to keep trying until you get it, but I have many more marks in the failure column than in the success column in these areas, and it is quite demoralizing. So, thinking about taking photos of things I have made is a little daunting.

2. Also, how to stage the clothes is tricky. If I put them on myself, who takes the picture? I've thought maybe I need a dress form or mannequin or something. But is that pretentious? Or just practical? And what to do with the range of sizes I work with?

3. But both #1 and #2 can be addressed. The real problem, my friends, is that I am pitiful and insecure. I am worried that I will post something and that you, kind readers, will think, "That's ugly." Or, "that's nothing. A monkey could do that." Or, "oh great, another post about her silly little hobby."

I keep making the things, anyway, whether you like them or not. And not everyone will like what I make--I intellectually understand that. I just really enjoy doing the sewing, you know? And am not sure how I feel about it being so visible. So up for critique. But down that path lies growth, right? And I'm all about growth. So I can also address this worry, I suppose.

4. I can't really sew. Zippers make me shudder. I loathe ripping seams. I rarely follow patterns. Some times I make things from scratch, but they are pretty rough-hewn; a lot of times I just add stuff to things already made. So it's not even a big deal. Will posting here seem like bragging?

5. And, finally, I don't want the kind folks I work with and who pay my salary to think that I'm spending all my time sewing: I definitely don't. It is, in fact, my hobby--something I do nights and weekends in moments when my family is busy doing other things. I'm not making any money to speak of off it--a little pocket money, mostly. So I just needed to put that out there.

I don't know. None of this matters so much, I realize. You're getting another little glimpse into my sad little ego's machinations. But read the header: you were warned.

And yes, I did sneak some photos in. Do you still like me?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Train Time

This is a very good way to spend a Friday night, sandwiched between two unpleasant experiences. The first, a cheesy (nonvegan) risotto casserole that bombed, and the second, my exhausted children fighting over who gets to put a piece of train track where (I love my kids, but they are NOT VERY NICE after their first week of summer camp has drained them of all energy and civility. Both were whisked off to bath pretty soon after these lovely pics were taken).

[Aside, have you noticed a theme here? That there are two things I am TERRIBLE at? Being photography and cooking? I'm sure there are more, but these are the two most obvious at the moment. My next post will examine this in more detail.]

On to the train saga.

Picture 1:

The girls playing nicely together, building a massive train track (thanks to Cate and Kevin for loaning us this cool, massive set. They have 3 boys, obviously).

Uh-oh. Trouble looms. Nolie is doing something on her own, without boss-lady Addie's permission.

Boss-lady Addie works on, not yet having noticed this transgression.

I build the train and drink a glass of wine, knowing this quiet bliss is soon to be rent by a tornado called boss-lady Addie and her bad post-camp exhaustion-inspired 'tude.



This is not going to end well.

Nolie knows it, too.

The boss-lady tries to mug for the cameras (she knows all about good PR. She's like BP, that way). But everyone knows the jig is up.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Spacing Out

Remember how, this last winter, Eric tore down one of the walls in my office/studio space, and put flooring over a staircase leading down to his Man Cave, pretty much doubling the size of my workspace? But remember how it was the middle of the semester, and I didn't have time to paint or think about flooring or anything?

Well, despite a deadline list a mile long (you know, because we teachers have summers OFF) I did take a wee bit of time this week to finish this remodel. These pictures are pretty premature--E still has to get the remainder of the wood floor in. But I couldn't wait. I had to share. Cuz I'm very, very excited.

This is what you see when you walk in and look left. This used to be the entire space, AND it had a queen-sized spare bed in it, plus my desk and all my sewing gear. Wow. And it still seems really full.

I don't have a hoarding problem, do I? DO I?

Continuing around, here is the West wall. I thought about putting the "office" part over here, but the light is so much better for sewing on this side, and my little old eyes are getting sad and tired. So crafty crap goes on this side.

A close-up of my favorite crafty books and things:

Moving on, we've done this project pretty low-budget, but one of the splurges is this folding banquet table from Home Depot, because you can rotary cut on it and spread stuff out. I worked on a project last night and got it: ahhhh...space. At the end is my little oooooold sewing table that I love. On the drawer is the scratch mark from a bear that tried to get into the drawer, way back when, because it had food in it. Don't want to sew on anything else.

And now, for the right side of the room, the office part. Cluttered but cozy, yeah?

And yes, hanging on the left are THREE racks of clothing donations waiting to be cut up, remade, and refashioned into other things (this includes two family wedding dresses. Lord help me. I don't think I have the fortitude).

And, the view (dark here--sorry!) from my desk, looking into sewing land, because one should always have hope of time off, free time, time to play:

I know how lucky I am to have this space, especially when sewing is just my hobby. I've been feeling a little guilty claiming this amazing space as my own instead of turning into some tranquil spa-like guest room or something. But, you know what? It's where I spend most of my time when I'm not asleep or at work. The girls love being in here, playing dress up out of the rag bin, or doing embroidery, or drawing. And I do a lot of dreaming in here.

What do you think? Am I a spoiled beeyooootchly? Or should I just be grateful and love it? Or both?