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The Winter Solstice

14 Dec

Check out this post written by Lori last December.  This year’s winter solstice is next Thursday, December 22!

The Winter Solstice, darkest day of the year, occurred Tuesday.  It was especially significant this year, because at the same time, there was a full moon accompanied by a lunar eclipse.  For centuries, people have held celebrations on the Winter Solstice.  They would bring all of their animals in (for slaughter), as there would be little food available for the animals during the harsh winter months.  They would celebrate and feast.  This has been a time of abundance and celebration for our ancestors.  Celestially, it is viewed as a powerful event.

A friend of mine and I came up with the idea to have a group meditation on this night.  My friend is more experienced in meditation.  I only recently began learning how to do it on my own.  The extent to my “group” meditation experience has been in chanting “Om” with fellow yogis during my weekly yoga practice!  So, I was really looking forward to it.

I read in Yoga Journal that more and more people are hosting Winter Solstice parties.  Some people even incorporate yoga practice into their event.  I went shopping for food and beverages, and planned where the ceremony should occur in my house.  I smudged the room to purify it and make it clear.  I lit candles.

A couple hours before the event, I received a call from my friend, whose daughter was really sick, saying she was unable to come.  I was saddened and started to cry.  I have three children myself, and my heart ached for her, her daughter, and for the thought that the meditation may not occur.  After I hung up the phone, I sat with my thoughts for a moment.

I felt compelled to go on, without my friend.  I was certainly nervous, but at the same time, knew from within, that I would not be alone, and I would receive all the Guidance I needed.

I called my mom, who is frequently my “Go-To Gal.”  She said when I had called her the previous day and said, “You’ll never guess who just called me,” she immediately thought it was about the meditation being cancelled.  Instead, that call was about something entirely different, but it compelled her to do some research.  She found a beautiful guided meditation online, which she shared with me.  I read it and immediately thought it was perfect for our circle.

Seven of us sat in a circle on the floor.  I smudged every one individually.  Then, we proceeded with the guided meditation.  Afterwards, I spoke from the heart (undoubtedly Guided) and we lit candles to diminish the darkness both within ourselves and throughout the Earth/Universe, and let our lights shine.  After the ceremony, we talked.  And talked.  It was amazing.  Deep.  Moving.  Satisfying.  The perfect way to begin a new season.

I learned some things about myself in the process.  I am capable of trusting myself.  I am not alone.  Ever.  When I need help, all I have to do is ask.

I have great family and friends.  I hope to make this a tradition for years to come.

For more information about Yoga Journal, see http://www.yogajournal.com/.

For more information about the guided meditation we used, go to http://www.matrifocus.com/SAM03/meditation.htm.

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Inspirational Yoga

23 Nov

I am frequently inspired in yoga and this weekend was more of the same, only different.  There is an instructor at The Yoga Project that I have grown to love.  I say “grown” because I used to fear her and her Sunday morning class. I only continued to go, because it was literally the only class I could fit into my busy schedule.

To illustrate my point, her nickname among yogis has become “The Velvet Hammer”.  She works you on a physical as well as intellectual level.  She challenges you to go further, work harder, find more, never settle, all with ease, grace, and balance.  The kicker is that she does it all with a big smile on her face and a bubbly, friendly tone of voice.

While I feared her before, I love her now.  While I was sweating away this morning, focusing on the negative voice in my mind, telling me I should cry, I should just give up, I can’t do this; I heard a snicker.  I quickly realized the snicker was actually a giggle and it was coming from the woman practicing beside me.  In that moment, I shifted my perception.

In that moment, hearing the laugh, I felt gratitude; gratitude that I am able to practice yoga, gratitude for the opportunity to challenge myself, gratitude for some time to myself doing something I love, gratitude for the ability to shift my perception.

In every given moment, we have the ability to shift, to move, to change our perception.  We fight against ourselves when we allow those negative thoughts to control what we think about ourselves and our environment. The only thing required for peace and happiness is a shift in perception.

Transitions and shifts in awareness on the mat translate to change in real life.  This morning yoga helped me to realize that it was only my perception this morning that caused me to feel I wanted to cry.  Perception is not reality.  The moment I changed my perception, was the moment I could move forward with the class in joy and gratitude!

Register Now for the Jack Eight Fund Poker Night!

3 Nov

Over two years ago, my cousin’s girlfriend, Jessica, came up with the idea for the Jack Eight Remembrance Fund.  It’s a fundraising organization whose sole mission is to raise money for education, support, and prevention of suicide.  The cornerstone of the Jack Eight Foundation is the annual poker night, held every November on the National Survivors of Suicide Day.  Each year, the proceeds from the annual poker night go to a different charity, chosen each year for their substantial contributions to suicide awareness and prevention.

This year, the Jack Eight Remembrance Fund is partnering with The Alliance of Hope (www.allianceofhope.org), a wonderful organization that supports the survivors of suicide loss through online forums where survivors can connect with other survivors, obtain information, and find real-world resources to support them in their journey.

For many people who still feel backed up against the strong wall of negativity and stigma surrounding suicide, an online support group can be a very important tool for opening up, sharing experiences, and obtaining help without leaving home.

Ronnie Walker founded The Alliance of Hope to fill a void in support services for those grappling with the devastating aftermath of suicide.  The online services provided transcend time and distance, reaching survivors all over the world.  We are proud to be supporting her organization.

OFFICIAL DETAILS FOR THE 2ND ANNUAL POKER AND BINGO TOURNAMENT

WHAT:  No-Limit Texas Hold’em and Bingo Tournament

WHEN:  Saturday, November 19th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

WHERE:  The Diamond Club at The Ballpark in Arlington

WHY:  Each year, the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving is National Survivors of Suicide Day.  As survivors, we have lived through a difficult, challenging loss.  On this day, we recognize our loss, take pride in our accomplishments, and raise money to help those who are struggling with the loss of a loved one to suicide.

SILENT AUCTION:  There will be a silent auction during the event.  Please bring cash or checks to cover any bids you may place.

POKER: LIMITED SEATS AVAILABLE.  Register now to save your seat.  Pass-the-deal poker, 1st and 2nd places receive prizes.

COST:  With pre-registration, the fee is $55.  If you pay at the door, the fee is $75.  Included in the fee is dinner, and entrance into either the poker tournament or the bingo tournament.

DINNER:  Registration includes a Texas Rangers themed dinner, dessert, gaming, and a chance to experience The Diamond Club.

ADDED FUN:  There will be a personal gold representative present to evaluate any gold you wish to sell, and write you a check on the spot!  So dig through those jewelry boxes, and make some money!

REGISTRATION:  Pre-register now to reserve your spot, and save $20!  Register here, or send an e-mail to jessica@jackeightfund.com to register.  Please include the names of your attendees, and whether you prefer to play in the poker tournament or the bingo tournament.  You will receive an invoice for your payment through Paypal.  Alternatively, you can write a check to The Jack Eight Remembrance Fund, and mail to 1229 Alliance Blvd, Rhome, TX  76078.

**If you choose to pay at the door, we will accept cash or checks.  NO CREDIT CARDS OR DEBIT CARDS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

***There are a number of ways you can help.  Get your friends, your spouse, or your neighbors and COME to the event!  It’s at a great venue, with great food and great entertainment!  Make it a girls or a guys night out!  If you don’t play poker, play bingo!  If you can’t come, sponsor someone else to come!  Maybe you know someone who’d like to come, but can’t pay the entry fee!  What a gift!  You can also help by sending this note to people you know via e-mail or FaceBook, or adding it to your own blog!  Tell people about it!  Go to the Jack Eight website and make a direct donation!  http://www.jackeightfund.com/  Thank you in advance for your support!  Both of these organizations mean a lot to me!  It’s not easy to lose someone you love to suicide.  It’s devastating.

Cops & Robbers

27 Oct

Now that it’s fall, my children and I are able to spend more time outdoors again.  This summer was so hot that we wound up spending most of our time indoors.  Oddly enough, even the pool was too hot this year.

I love being outdoors.  When I was a kid, you could always find me outside somewhere, playing with neighborhood kids, swimming at the neighborhood pool, riding my bike, climbing a tree, having an acorn fight, judging a talent show, or making a hideout in the bushes.  My siblings and I did not go in until it was time for dinner.

Back in those days, we used our imagination to entertain ourselves.  Over the past few years, I have been trying to instill the same love for outdoors and innovation!

This weekend, a neighbor boy came over and I taught the kids how to play cops and robbers.  You split the kids into two teams.  Half are cops half are robbers.  You designate a “jail” and conversely, a robber “hideout”.  From there, the robbers pretend to steal (we pocketed leaves from the yard).

If the robbers are spotted stealing, the cops try and catch them.  If the cops catch the robbers, the robbers are escorted to jail.  The robbers can stay in jail for a minimum time limit (we made it two minutes, so the kids would not get bored).

If the robbers get away with the theft, they can bring the monies back to their hideout and stash it.  The robber hideout is “base”.  Robbers can also bust their partners or teammates out of the jail.  If no police are guarding the jail, one robber can save another robber.

The cops win if all of the robbers are jailed.  The robbers win if they confiscate “x” number of fake money (we did 20 leaves).  If you can find an enthusiastic group of kids, they might even help you keep the brown leaves off your lawn and they wouldn’t even know it; less raking for the grown ups!

My Lesson in Judgment

19 Oct

Something I struggle with consistently is judgment.  I don’t want to be a judgmental person, but it happens.  I have been working consistently, especially in the past two years, to make a personal commitment not to judge people.  Across the board.  For anything.

I had an experience this week that really brought this lesson full circle.  I can laugh about it now, and even in the moment, I did, but was still feeling humiliated.

My mom called me this week, as my oldest daughter was out of school on break.  My mom’s co-worker has this dummy mummy that they dress up from time to time.  My oldest daughter “follows” the dummy mummy (his name is Renfro) and she sends my daughter pictures for every holiday theme for which Renfro is appropriately dressed.

My mom called and asked if I would like to take my kids to the Dollar Store so they could pick out some Halloween decorations, come to her office, and dress Renfro up.  Sure, it was a homeschool day for my younger daughter, but we had already been to the library and completed most of our work for the day.  It would be fun!

So, I go into the Dollar Store (completely unprepared: we’d had a make up gymnastics class that morning, then went straight to the store, so I hadn’t packed snacks or anything, because I was not expecting to be gone for that long).  The kids are whining about being hungry, so I let them pick out snacks in addition to all of their paraphernalia to make Renfro look more appropriate for Halloween.

Side note: I don’t usually allow my kids to eat a lot of junk food.  In fact, we don’t even keep most junk foods in the house.  My husband gets migraines from MSG, so we never eat things like Cheetos, Doritos, etc.  So, that’s what my kids want.  That morning, I was feeling especially giving and high on life, so I say, “Sure, get whatever you want!”

They load up.  We get to the register to check out.  Our total: $7 and some change.  My kids are hovering around the register grabbing for the snacks and the checkout lady asks if she can give the snacks to the kids.  I respond, “Sure!”  “Will you open this, mommy?” they ask.  “Of course!”  So I open both bags of chips and the kids go to eating them like they haven’t eaten in days.  It was ridiculous.

That wasn’t the only thing that was ridiculous that day.  My credit card gets declined.  “What? That’s impossible!” I say.  The checkout lady asks me if it’s a debit card.  I say no.  She says, “We only take debit cards or cash.”  Well, I don’t have any cash.  I recently swapped my huge wallet I kept leaving places for a smaller one that only holds what I need, a credit card, id, and library card.  I don’t have my debit card.

I’m starting to turn three shades of red and am completely mortified.  I start apologizing profusely and tell the kids, we’ll have to go home and get a snack; we have to give these ones back, because I didn’t bring the right money.

My oldest daughter starts wailing.  She is crying actual tears, saying loudly, “But, I’m starving!”  I’m completely dumbfounded.  The woman in line behind me is staring.  The checkout woman doesn’t say a word.  She doesn’t know what to say.  I know both women are making judgments about me.  “How could she not know she needed cash or a debit card?”  “I can’t believe she just let her kids eat the snacks in the store!”  “Her kids are starving and she buys them Cheetos and Doritos?”  “Nice parenting!”  I started to laugh a little as I wrestle the chips from the oldest daughter and the lady behind me, after what seems like an eternity, says, “I’ll buy their snacks!”

She was an angel that morning, and I truly appreciated the generous offering of a dollar so that my children could have their junky snacks, but the looks on her face as well as the checkout lady had already registered.  I just wanted to scream, “I’m not a bad parent!  I do have money to feed my kids!  They almost never eat junk food!”

I got to thinking about it later and I realized that the shoe is on the other foot.  So many times, I’ve sat back and judged others because of actions I saw in the moment, but never considered what might really be going on.  The truth is that’s the point.  It does not even matter what’s going on.  Judgment is wrong.  It makes people feel bad and is a product of fear, and not love.  I strive to lead my life focused on love, not fear, and as a result, need not judge.  I’m so grateful for opportunities like this that I can learn from, even when they feel humiliating at the time.  I’m grateful for the awareness to see things as they really are.  The life lessons are everywhere!  Are you taking the time to discover them and make change where change is needed?

Trash Island

12 Oct

My husband came home from work a few weeks ago, discussing a news article he had read while at work.  It was about trash.  Initially, I wondered why he wanted to talk about trash over dinner.  Once he finished explaining to me to that there is a literal island of trash roughly TWO times the state of Texas in the Pacific Ocean, I couldn’t believe it.  Then, I freaked out.  I obsessed.  I had to know more.

I Googled photographs online.  I read news articles like this one in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/science/10patch.html.  I viewed scientific documentaries on YouTube.  It was real.  Not a joke.

Due to the way the currents flow in the Pacific Ocean, the water traps the garbage and forms an island of sorts.  80% of the island is composed of plastic.  Scientists estimate the garbage pile weighs about 3.5 million tons.  Having this information made me sick.  I was sick and outraged at the same time.

Most people are familiar with Newton’s Law of Motion, which states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  We are basically eating our own crap and I don’t mean that metaphorically.  Plastics get broken down just enough to look like plankton.  The plastic bits are eaten by smaller organisms, which in turn are eaten by larger, and on up the food chain it goes, until it’s on your very plate and you are ingesting all of the wonderful chemicals that make plastics so great in the modern world.  In addition to it contaminating our human food, it entangles animals, like sea turtles who are on the endangered species list.  A mass of trash like this further prevents sunlight from getting underneath the ocean, which is causing additional troubles for our oceans plants and creature friends.

Evidently the mass is so big it cannot be cleaned up.  That’s the saddest part.  The best thing we can do as individuals is to make sure we reduce, reuse, and recycle.  I have purchased cloth bags, don’t drink water out of plastic bottles, reduced the number of food items I purchase which contain plastic packaging, I recycle those I can’t live without, I give things away I don’t use instead of throwing it in the trash, and I’ve even been known to pick up plastic crap at the park (my kids will help me) and toss it in the car to add it to our recycle bin at home.  I’ve thought about going so far as not purchase any new toys for my kids.  Kids on the prairie were happy with corn stalk dolls.  Maybe my kids could use their ingenuity more if they actually had to use their mind and think of ways to keep entertained.

Everyone must take part in a bigger effort and the time is now.  If we do not properly care for our planet, it will not sustain our grandchildren’s grandchildren.  They’ll wind up obese, not able to walk, living on spaceships, drinking their food from a cup just like in the movie Wall-E.  I shudder to think that could become a reality.

What are you doing to reduce, reuse, and recycle?  A friend’s mother recycles plastic bags by crocheting then into these really cute re-useable totes/bags: http://www.therepurposedwoman.blogspot.com/

Adventures in Toilet Training – Part Three

5 Oct

Click here for Part One.  Click here for Part Two.

The “hard core” training I mentioned in the last post came right at the right time!  I woke up to a literal shit storm.  I’d put him in a Pull-Up the night before and when I went to get him in the morning, there was poop everywhere.  And I mean everywhere.  If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it.  It was in his hair, under his finger and toe nails, it was all over his sheets, his blanket, and his beloved Bevo.  He’d smeared it all over his crib, on the wall, and you could even see where he had attempted to reach the light switch at one point!

To keep myself from crying, I did the only thing I could: laugh.  I laughed a maniacal laugh then went straight to work giving him a bath and helping my wonderful husband clean up the poo fiasco!  After that experience, I became even more determined that it was time to train.  Seriously.  I am DONE with diapers!

Although it was a bit rough going at times, there was a reason behind my madness!  I started putting my son in the really absorbent Gerber cotton underwear.  I don’t even bother with shorts or “bottoms” at this point, because he is still having breakthrough accidents from time to time.  I do put him in plastic pant/covers (over the underwear) when we go out in public, just to avoid the embarrassment of any leakage spilling out.

I started by giving him lots of water to drink and taking him to potty every five minutes.  We eventually progressed from that to fifteen to now about between thirty and forty-five minutes!  There are times when he goes right away, and there are times when he doesn’t have to go.  When he doesn’t go right away and I can tell he probably doesn’t need to go, I just let him down and we try again in another 10 minutes.  I am literally setting my watch.  It’s mind numbing in the beginning and our life has centered around this training process, but I know it will be worth every minute of it once he’s full trained and I can kiss those diapers goodbye forever….well until I need them myself!

I have noticed a few differences between potty training the girls and now a boy.  He does not mind at all having wet underwear; the girls wanted to be changed immediately.  He also doesn’t want to have to stop playing, so I have to have really interesting and exciting books in the bathroom!  He is also taking longer to catch on.  It’s been about three weeks since I started training him, and while he’s progressing, it’s been slower than I remember the girls going.

At this point, he’s able to communicate some of the time that he needs to go to the potty.  He is fully poop trained (meaning he hasn’t had any accidents in his underwear).  He’s only having one accident a day on average!  I went from having to wash underwear daily to now washing every few days!  Success at last!!!

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