MacGyverin' It

Well - not really MacGyver... there were no explosions or chases.

Seth and I had gone to bed last night around 11:30 or so. Evan was on the phone. With a girl. That he met at the unschooling conference we went to last year. Let me repeat that: my son, 15-year-old Evan, was on the phone. With a girl. This is a new development. But not unexpected. Last year, we went to a park, and Evan was swinging. An entire school of kids came in - their school is right next to the park, so they use it for recess. Within 15 minutes, he had 6 giggling middle school girls around him, asking questions about homeschooling. And giggling. He's a cutie. And smart. And engaging. And funny. He's had some friends that are girls, but this *feels* different.

Anyway. MacGyver. OK. Around 1:00, Evan asked if I knew where Peanut Butter was. I had let her out earlier, and I just then realized she hadn't asked to be let in. Evan said he heard a kitty yowling. I was in bed, so sleepily told him if he shook the cat food bag, she'd come running. He came back a few minutes later - our kitty was on the neighbor's roof! I went out, and sure enough, there she was. She had obviously climbed a tree and jumped to the roof, but the distance and narrowness of the branch made a return jump intimidating. (I'm guessing, here. But it seemed that way.) I walked around the house, to see if there was another way she could get down. Nope. We don't have a ladder. I was sure the neighbors had a ladder, but I wasn't about to wake them up at 1 in the morning. I know that cats who get up will eventually find their way down, but I couldn't leave her there. She was so pitiful! We tried to encourage her to come down the tree; she'd stand at the edge of the roof, reaching one paw towards the branch, meowing. I tried to think of other ways to get to her - the roof isn't that high where she was. I thought about taking one of our bookshelves out there (an empty bookshelf, waiting for books that are still in boxes from our move!), but realized that wouldn't be stable enough.

Suddenly, I remembered! We had a small ladder that had been on the boys' bunkbed. I knew it wouldn't reach the roof, but maybe it would put me high enough that she could jump to my back or something. We took it out there, put it against the side of the house... and it didn't work. The roof has quite a large overhang. It didn't put me high enough, and I was mostly hidden from Peanut Butter, under the overhang. Thank goodness the house is vacant! It was owned by a woman's mother, and her mother passed away just a few months ago. She comes over just about every day to maintain it, but isn't ready to do anything else. So our bumping and climbing wasn't bothering anyone. So, now. Hmmm...

I looked at the tree. Called to PB some more, who kept reaching that little paw out, then going back. All this took about 45 minutes or so. Then I saw it! If I could get that ladder in the tree, it could reach across a branch, and reach the roof! It could rest there, making a bridge from roof to branch. I pushed the ladder up in the gap... push... reach... push... almost. And I wasn't tall enough! I had my arms as stretched as they could go, and was holding the ladder by the bottom of the side pieces... and it wouldn't quite reach. So, Seth went to get Evan - who was still on the phone! My child is nearly 4 inches taller than me, I figured he could reach. We switched places - well, I didn't talk on the phone, but he grabbed the bottom of the ladder... and it didn't reach. I got our recycling bin, which is made of sturdy, thick plastic, Evan stood on that - success! The ladder's top was resting on the roof, and the bottom was resting on the branch. It was a good 8 or 9 feet up in the tree. It took just a minute for Peanut Butter to step out on the ladder, run down to the tree, then climb down. Yay! I felt so proud.

I went out this morning, and saw no damage to the tree, or the plants under the tree. Peanut Butter is curled up on my lap and Evan is fast asleep after his marathon telephone session.

I have no photographs of our adventure - I was participating too much to even think about that!


Drumming at the Edge of Chaos (part 2)

My drum, signed by Mamady Keita. I actually sold this one. Which now I'm second-guessing.

Click here for part 1

So... I left off my drumming story at the point where I attended a drumming class. Let me back up just a *bit*. A few years before this, I came to know that I was meant to be a healer of some sort. I can't tell you how I came to know that; I honestly don't know. It's just... over time, it became obvious that was one of the reasons I was here. I remember trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, exactly how that would play out in my life. Would I become a counselor? Therapist? Massage therapist? Psychologist? Nothing immediately jumped out at me, made me feel passionate. I'm an unschooling mom, which means I'm deeply connected with my boys. I realized then that my priority should be them, and following where they led. I know this goes against a LOT of parenting advice - "Don't lose yourself! You have to live your life, too!" - but, they're only going to be my kids once, they're only going to be under my roof a short while. I have my whole life to live as time and space opens. Not that I put myself and my needs on the back burner - but I didn't just shove my kids aside to pursue my 'calling'. I have a whole post written in my head about losing yourself in parenting, because 1) you never really lose yourself and 2) who you emerge as on the other side is much, much more than when you went in. I think some women are afraid they won't emerge! So they push their kids away, which is supported by our society, rather than dive in. So, that's not this post. That's a different one.

The point is, I knew that I would know what to pursue when it was time to pursue it. I didn't have to go digging. I trusted that the same wisdom that let me know this was my path, would let me know what I needed to do, when. So this was in my heart and mind when I attended a drumming class in Winston-Salem, taught by Mamady Keita. Not consciously, the knowledge was just part of me. The class was... incredible. Mamady's spirit is SO huge, you're raised up as soon as you walk in the room. He is a beautiful, beautiful soul, and a wonderful teacher. I was taking two classes with him that day. Between classes, I walked up to this Thai restaurant close by. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. A man who had completely broken my heart used to live in Winston-Salem, and I had kinda not thought about him in a while. I had pushed my hurt away, and being there, where we had spent some time together was painful. I'm also not SUCH a group person. I tend to stick to myself, unless invited in, or unless I'm really moved to invite myself. So I went to lunch alone - but, as luck would have it, a few other students were there, and invited me to eat with them.

Over lunch, I mentioned that I felt like drumming - specifically West African drumming - should be offered to all kids, everywhere. It's such a powerful thing. It's all about community, and communication, and belonging. I believe those rhythms, some of which have been played since there have been people, hold power. I especially thought drumming should be offered to African-American kids. When enslaved people were brought here, their drums were taken away; no one was allowed to drum, on threat of death, or having their hands cut off. Drumming was such a huge part of life for them in Africa, it was something they experienced from before they were born, hearing and feeling these rhythms -- and we ripped it away from them. I felt like there could be so much healing, and reclaiming of themSELVES, if they could know these rhythms.

One of my dining companions told of how he had taken drumming, and drumming circles, into nursing homes. He told a story of one man, who was completely lost to Alzheimer's, playing along one day, and the nurses and doctors called each other into the room - this was the most present they had seen him since he had been there, the most he had ever participated. *Nursing homes!* It just blew me away. I had thought of bringing drumming to young people... but wow! It's powerful on either end of the spectrum!

So, we had our conversations, and were walking back to class. I was thinking of everything we had been talking about, and suddenly, it hit me: drumming is healing. Drumming is healing! And it's already something I know how to do, and I love to do it. Part of my path as healer would be.... (drumroll)... drumming!! It was a moment when time literally stopped. I stopped walking, and just stood there, feeling every cell of my body come alive. Drumming is healing! I told a woman what I was experiencing, how I knew I was meant to be a healer, and how I just realized that drumming is healing, and we both got teary-eyed. It was a defining moment, I tell ya.

I knew a friend of mine offered what he called healing drum circles. I called him, and asked exactly what that looked like, what he thought. I found article after article, and books, detailing exactly how drumming is healing - and it is measurable. I was *inspired*. Ooh, here's a great time to tell this story: I have not used drugs or alcohol in many years. For most of those years, I was an active member of a 12-step group. I've moved away from meetings (yet another blog post!), but was still attending when all this was happening. I've bartended or waited tables for extra income (or sometimes my only income!) the entire time I was in recovery. I know that's not recommended, lol, but there's something about that work I enjoy, and I'm good at it, and it's relatively easy money. One night, after all this, I was bartending - and I had the *strongest* urge to drink some of the wine! This had never really happened before, in all the years I'd been clean and doing this work. There was a small bit of wine in the bottom of a bottle, and I was thinking, "No one would know. I could pour it into a styrofoam cup, and no one would even know." I was so surprised by that thought! I'd been meditating for a while, so had the ability to observe myself thinking that thought. How strange that I wanted wine! I couldn't get away to call anyone from the meetings, but I was struggling. Suddenly, it hit me: I am a person in recovery. I cannot drink this wine! I threw the bottle away (NO, country clubs do NOT recycle!) and grabbed a napkin, and wrote: "I am ready for whatever growth is coming my way. I am not going to drink. I am willing to grow in whatever way is needed." Through my recovery, I'd come to know that sometimes, people relapse because they're about to grow and change in big ways, and they're afraid of this growth. Drinking, or using other drugs, is like an old comfortable blanket that they can hide under. After my temporary insanity of wanting to drink, I saw that clearly. I didn't know WHAT growth was coming, but I knew that it was.

The very next day - the next *morning*, I got this call. It was a woman who was holding a celebration at her home, to commemorate the installation of a totem pole that she and her friends had carved. She wanted some drumming at the celebration, and had googled "drummers in Charlotte" or something like that. One of the links she got was the group in Winston-Salem, and the person she talked to there gave her my number. I was not the contact person for our drumming group here. The person that gave her my number didn't really even know me, or know that I was thinking of offering drum circles. She just remembered that I had attended the Mamady class months before, and had searched their records for my number. Quite a synchronicity, eh? Especially when you consider the woman that called had just started a nonprofit, promoting alternative forms of healing. And before we talked, she hadn't really thought about the healing power of drumming.

I love how things come together like that, when you're in the flow, and there's no doubt.

I'm writing all this like I felt oh, so confident and sure the entire time. I had so many moments of doubt, and feeling like I didn't know enough to share, and there's NO WAY I can stand in front of a group of people and lead drumming. But I trusted the path, and kept moving forward in spite of my fear. Sometimes assuredly, sometimes with stops and starts and stalls, and many calls to friends. But moving forward.

I'm so glad to be writing this, because something happened last year that caused me to set down my drums. I didn't drum at all for a time, not even for myself. I stopped offering drum circles. I would serve when I was asked, but I didn't put myself out there. I've just now started offering drum circles again. I stopped playing West African rhythms altogether, and haven't started back with that. I don't know that I ever will.

I'll tell you all about that in my next installment. Hopefully sooner than a month from now.

In the meantime, check out DrumStrong - a 24-hour drum circle held here next weekend, to send positive energy and raise funds for cancer research. It would be great if you could come! But if not, you can donate here. That link goes directly to my personal donation page. Any amount appreciated!


Another Obama Mama

This was made by my friend, Lynne Friedheim -

Well said, Lynne!

You can click on the video to be taken to the Obama in 30 seconds site, sponsored by MoveOn.org. If you put in your info, they'll count your viewing of her video, and you can vote on others!


On Our Way to FLT...

The boys are SO excited to be going. I'm... I have mixed feelings, I guess. I think I'll be fine once I'm there, and I'm so happy at the prospect of seeing friends I haven't seen in a while. It's the getting out the door that's the problem. I get so overwhelmed with the planning and the packing and the making sure we've got everything we need. I remember when I used to follow the Dead (a little), I got to the point where I'd say - all I need is me, and the ticket to get in. Everything else is extra! And that took some pressure off. Maybe I need to find those same "essentials" in our trips. Each other, we need that! Gas money.

It's so crazy how I get into this perfectionist bullshit, like I have to have, not just everything we need, but it has to be the right *kind* of stuff, too, because I wouldn't want anyone judging me on the brand/type of snack we brought. Yes, my mind goes there. Even though no one else cares. But in my mind, there's a judge, and it all has to be just right. Has that voice always been there, and I'm just now noticing it? Because, it seems more noticeable lately. More on the forefront of my thinking. And I get caught up in that, until I remember: this is my life. I need to do what works for us, and not worry what anyone else is thinking. There's nothing wrong with me. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME. Except everything that's wrong with me.

Last year, we went to this same campground, and it's on the sound. I don't know which sound - Albemarle Sound? Close to Morehead City. So we're on the water, even though it's not really a beach. And the boys got in the water, and immediately their feet got cut and scraped from the shells in the water. And I felt like a *total failure* as a mother, because I hadn't brought water shoes for them. A good mother would have been prepared! And I imagined that other folks were judging me, as Seth jumped in the water in his tennis shoes. Now, this is one of the *most* open-minded, live and let live, accepting groups of people on the planet. Not one person there was even noticing the tennis shoes, but they loomed large in my mind. Failure! And, ya know what? Other kids were there without water shoes, jumping in in their shoes, and I didn't see anything wrong with that at all. I have such a double standard. Me: must be perfect, make no mistakes, remember everything all the time, buy the right kind of organic, non-GMO, HFCS-free food to escape self-ridicule. Everyone else: They're all doing OK, even the ones surviving solely on fast food and Froot Loops, they love their kids and are doing great.

When did I start this crazy comparing? Like I asked, has it always been there, affecting what I do, and I'm just now hearing it? Or am I slowly (quickly) losing my mind? When did it become so important what other people think of my choices? I guess time will tell. Until then, I'm going to breathe, and I'm going to get in touch with what WE need and what WE want, and I'm going to make another list, and make sure it's all together.

Then we're going to pack the car, get some sleep, then hit the road to the FLT Gathering, where friends new and old will be waiting, and I'll facilitate a drum circle, and lead a little workshop on The Work, which may bring peace to some folks, and we'll eat and play and bead and talk and BE. Without judgment. Without comparison.

And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

Hm. I thought this was going to be a quick "taking a blog break" post. Who knew?


Tiny Miracles

So, things have been... interesting and rough chez us. I won't go into details, but this picture sums up SO MUCH of what we've been dealing with.

I made the picture tiny so it wouldn't hurt so much. Yes, that's our car, and yes, that right front tire (which is completely flat) is hanging in the air. Those are Evan's legs on the left and the parking supervisor at UNC-Charlotte's shadow. sigh This, and a very sick cat... it was a lot to deal with all at once. No one was hurt but our car, thank goodness. Oh, and I'm sure Morgan Spurlock missed us at his talk.

I was heavy-hearted, people. Heavy. Hearted. Not open. Scared. And frustrated. Why, yes - that *is* the very axle we just had replaced after having parked our car for over a year. Thank you for asking.

But, you know, miracles abound. They really do. The car situation happened Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoon I decided to mow our back yard. Get out some frustrations by showing the grass *exactly* how high it could be! So there! I was walking around the yard, picking up toys, and sticks. Somehow, hundreds of sticks. And one of the times I bent down to pick up a stick, I saw them.

Tons of tiny blue flowers. I can remember seeing these as a kid, and making teeny, tiny bouquets for my mom. I couldn't understand how grownups couldn't see them! They never stopped to look at them. To me, they were miraculous. They still are. Impossibly tiny flowers, absolutely perfect miniatures. No more than 1/4 " across - and that's a big one. Here's a close-up:

Look how gorgeous! And once I started seeing, I couldn't NOT see.

Tiny wild violets:

And, OK, these aren't really tiny daisies, but that's what they look like. And they're only 1/4 of an inch wide!

Buttercups. Did you know, if you hold a buttercup under your chin, and the yellow reflects on your skin, you like butter? Did anyone ever do that to you? Every spring, with the first buttercups, my sisters and I would hold those tiny yellow flowers under each others' chins, to see. Yep! We still like butter!

Some tiny purple stars:

If you weren't looking, you might not even see them.

Here are some taller, deep purple flowers - I have no idea what they are, but I love the color:

All of these! All in my backyard! The tallest only about 3" tall!

I laughed when I saw these, they kinda look like monsters compared to the others:

Feeeed Me!

Beautiful purple monsters.

Here's a place where I found three of the flowers growing together:

Doesn't that kinda take your breath away?

And these, buttercups and purple stars together:

Hey - is that... is that a shadow? Who is that?

Uh, can I eat these flowers?

My Jackie-boy!

After spending time in the yard, with the tiny flowers, little miracles... I was thinking. From my vantage point on the deck, the yard just looks like: grass. Green grass, with toys and sticks across it. Closer to it, you see some color mixed in with the green. Still closer, and you see that the color is... flowers. Very, very close, and you see the perfection of the flowers, the impossible detail, the heartbreaking (heartopening) beauty.

Maybe life is like that too. From my vantage point, it looks painful and expensive and scary right now. Maybe I can look a little closer. Maybe there's some color, and some tiny miracles.

If I'm not looking, I might not even see them.

Oh, before I forget: Please visualize this cat

Feo, fully healthy and vibrant. He's having a pee-blockage problem, so if you can visualize free, unobstructed flow, we'd appreciate it.

Gassho ~


I Am My Mother's Daughter, After All

Magnet by the lovely and talented Anne Taintor - I love her stuff!

My mother was a total clean freak when my sisters and I were growing up. She was not only a perfectionist herself, she demanded perfection from us, too, and nothing - I mean nothing - was ever good enough to meet her standards. While I carry oh, so many issues from this, I'm writing tonight about... cleanliness obsession. It's an obsession that means once you decide to clean something, you won't - you can't - rest until said thing is *completely and totally* clean. Cleanliness obsession is what caused my mom to take apart the oven door, so she could clean between the glass. Cleanliness obsession is what caused her to scrub a brass-plated lamp until the brass was all gone.

I really, truly thought I had escaped this particular brand of hell. OK, I can get... a little obsessed. Just slightly - like scrubbing under a metal rim of a glass pan lid with a toothbrush and Barkeeper's Friend. Or, maybe, just possibly, once! taking the rim off of that same lid so I could clean out the grunge. Just once, I swear. And I stopped myself as soon as I saw what I was doing.

But today... today I reached a new level of cleanliness obsession. My mom would be so proud. I mowed the lawn for the first time this Spring, and the grass, because it was already so tall (not the grass, but whatever that weedy stuff is, with seeds that pop everywhere) was still damp. I had to stop a couple of times to clear the wet grass off of the mower blade, and from under the mower. When I was done, and putting the mower away, I decided one more swipe would be good before I put the mower in the shed. So I wiped all the wet grass off the blade. I wiped the wet grass off of the underside of the mower. I noticed a mat of dried grass on the underside of the mower, and peeled most of that off. I noticed some grass around the belt on the underside of the mower, and dug my fingers in there to pull that out. I noticed some dried grass still stuck to the underside of the mower, that I couldn't get with my hands... and I almost went inside to get a knife or some other tool to peel it off. I actually stood up, heading to the house, before I regained my sanity. I was picturing steel wool and toothpicks and toothbrushes... my mower was going to be *shiny*, people! Shiny!! The freakin' underside of my *mower*. Thank heavens I stopped myself.

Stop me before I clean again!!



I'm on hold right now with a property management company... and the hold music is "Mandy" by Barry Manilow.

I always forget how much I love Barry Manilow, 'til I hear one of his songs. I had a semi-crush on him when I was a kid, even though I knew he was kinda geeky. Hey, so was I.

Could It Be Magic
Can't Smile Without You
Looks Like We Made It

And, of course, he wrote "You Deserve a Break Today" for McDonalds.

I love hold music.

This is *not* an April Fools post, btw.