Small Hands in the Big World

Friday, July 29, 2011

This Moment ~ Remains of the May(pole)

A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment that I want to pause, savor, and remember. Hosted by SouleMama
(If you're inspired to do the same, please leave a comment below with your link.)

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Red Tent

I recently introduced my Women's Group here but failed to mention that one dear member (the friend who initially invited me into the group, actually) also dabbles in writing. We came to know one another nearly 20 years ago, when we were travel writing fresh out of college. Since then our lives have taken different paths but our friendship has remained constant. Stephanie Bell has done animal protection work for more than a decade and her compassion is boundless, her wisdom unfailing, and her perspective one I always appreciate. Welcome, Stephanie, and thank you for sharing this experience; also a special thank you to Simone and Saja who gave permission for their story to be told. You are truly inspiring.

"Ritual is the way we carry the presence of the sacred." ~ Christina Baldwin

Coming of age can be an arduous passage. Transitions by their very nature are rarely uncomplicated and, let’s face it, life can be challenging. Many cultures have prepared their children for the important transition from the innocence of childhood to the rigors and complexities of adulthood with meaningful ceremonies, ranging from fasts and wilderness vision quests to bat/bar mitzvahs or lavish quinceaneras. One dear friend of mine married into a family whose tradition is to take a family hike with the honored adolescent. At the final stretch of the trail, the teen is sent alone to the mountain-top to read personalized letters from each member of the family amidst Nature’s humbling splendor.

Honoring the transformations in our lives that simultaneously mark ends and beginnings is a beautiful and symbolic ritual that has been unfortunately lost to many of us in western culture. So, it was a privilege to participate in a coming-of-age ceremony for Saja, the radiant 13-year old daughter of my treasured friend, Simone.  
That it took place in the peaceful shade of the California Redwoods--trees who have stood in hushed majesty for hundreds of years--only added to the beauty.
Simone laid the groundwork three years prior for Saja's “Red Tent” ceremony (a centuries old multi-cultural tradition to honor female fertility and its monthly symbolism) when Saja's body first began to reveal signs of transitioning to womanhood. Simone wrote heartfelt letters to the inner circle of women in her life, asking them to draft a letter to Saja about their own coming of age and to select a small treasure (jewel, stone, shell, etc.) with special meaning to place in a wooden chest for her. Simone hoped, but graciously did not expect, that we would all be able to be personally present for a ceremony during which these items would be presented to Saja. But when the time came three years later, we all "moved heaven and earth" to be there in person to honor Saja on Friday, July 15, 2011. We gladly set aside hectic schedules and responsibilities, enduring travel mayhem, rental car mishaps, and even a stolen wallet (trauma!). But the frenzied pace and effort it took to actually get ourselves there was bonding in itself and set just the right tone for the Red Tent, which was remarkably still and calm, by contrast. It transported us to another place and time.

We were blessed with a Full Moon:  the perfect phase of the moon’s synchronous rotation to celebrate Saja’s milestone. The towering fairy ring of Redwoods that sprung from, and now encircle, the ancient remnants of an old growth nurse-log in Simone’s forested backyard was beautifully bejeweled by Simone's creative husband with shimmery red fabric and candles, carpets, and blankets. Regal Simone, Saja’s lovely and youthful grandmothers, her beloved aunt, and I decorated our faces with bindis and our hair with roses and reverently ushered Saja into the fairy ring and decorated her similarly. (Saja's 15-month-old niece made brief appearances, too, and when she wasn't in our circle, we could hear her in the distant background under the watchful care of the men folk making her unmistakable and inquisitive "Hmmmm??" observations about everything in her line of vision.)

Soon after we assembled, a talented Pakistani henna artist whose soft presence exuded overwhelming warmth—joined us to share her artistry. Though we’d not met her before, she felt like family. Her henna painting techniques had been passed down in her family for generations and she adorned our hands, arms, and calves with intricately crafted patterns with a skilled and patient hand.

As if on cue, woodpeckers, Steller’s Jays, and a skittery flock of band-tailed pigeons fluttered in our midst, reminding us that all life is precious, sacred, and interdependent. While Sabrina painted us with cinnamon- and lemon-scented henna, beams of sunlight cascaded through the branches of the grand trees above, illuminating Saja’s glowing olive skin and serene smile. Sparkling cider, spinach dip and veggies, vegan lemon bars, and divine chocolate mousse cake (also vegan) nourished us for the many hours during which we lounged and shared from the heart about what it means to be a woman and what we remembered about being Saja’s age. We celebrated aloud and on paper the myriad attributes that make the kindly, grounded, self-aware, vegan since birth, graceful, thoughtful of others, witty, strong, strikingly beautiful, and gentle Saja special and truly rare among humans. When asked to share about her passions, Saja unabashedly told us that she loves animals (she is unwaveringly kind) and softball (she may be kind, but I wouldn’t want to be a batter facing her skillful pitching!) and she later laughingly also added boys to the "passions" list (comes with the transitional territory, of course).

These sweet-smelling, slow-moving, and intentional afternoon moments were not only a gift to Saja, who was shown in a tangible, meaningful way how deeply she is loved and that she will never be alone on her life’s long journey—but they were also a gift to each one of us in that circle, as we were transformed by the magic of the Red Tent in which women have communed since the beginning of time.
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Monday, July 25, 2011

A (Mostly) Grownup Party

How I wish I captured more photos to share the beauty of the gathering we hosted this weekend.  Five of my nearest and dearest friends (my “Women’s Group” or WG for short) invited their families to come celebrate our group and all the love and support we’ve given one another over for more than a decade.

There was an incredible vegan, mostly wheat-free feast of hearty healthy salads, burgers and “sausages,” grilled corn on the cob, and desserts to die for. I guess that pretty much explains why only a few photos were taken…  I was too “busy” eating, socializing and having fun!
Peggy, Stephanie, Bonnie, Erika, me, and Pam
Our Women’s Group is comprised of 6 women between the ages 40 and 60 and we came together 14 years ago to create an "intentional community." In the mad rush of today's world, we all found ourselves yearning for a place where we could slow down, relax, connect, and find meaning and support outside of our jobs and immediate families. For nearly 15 years, we have met twice a month over a shared meal in a structured format to celebrate, share, grieve, eat great food, talk, laugh until it hurts, weep until it feels better, and simply be. We’ve seen each other through so many important milestones and transitions:  new jobs, lay-offs, moves, marriages, divorces, births and deaths, children and grandchildren, the adoption and sad passages of beloved pets, and all those little moments in-between that ultimately matter so much. Stephanie, Bonnie, Peggy, Pam and Erika have become my extended family and I am so grateful for their unique perspectives in this sacred circle.

It brought such joy to look across our patio to see Stephanie's mom and Pam's mom chatting and laughing. And what fun to watch my son run around the yard like a wild man with Stephanie's three nephews while my girl quietly enjoyed the company of Erika's darling daughter.

A blurry bye-bye from Erika's adorable daughter and my sweet Sara (look, matching waves)! I can only hope that they grow up to have friendships as deep and fulfilling as I have been blessed to find.
Is she a super little cutie-pie or what?!
Friendships can come and go throughout life, but we are deeply committed to one another and to the concept of community and what this community brings to our lives, and our group has certainly stood the test of time. There's no doubt that we'll grow old together, watching life unfold its mysteries.
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Friday, July 22, 2011

This Moment

Inspired & Hosted by SouleMama. In Amanda's words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kids and Boxes: A Love Story

Taking “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” to a whole new level, my kids are crazy for boxes. Small ones often get wrapped up as mock presents, paper folded in every direction and held together with excessive tape, delivered by my silly little ones, brimming with anticipation for my (over)reaction when I open it up and discover an old toy or sometimes a lovely balled up piece of paper.

"Momma, we have a puh-rise for you."
"Just what I've always wanted! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

Medium-sized boxes are perfect for endless games of “Delivery Guy” complete with many doorbell rings. There is a point at which I think I absolutely cannot take another DING DONG but when I open the door and see their faces looking just as excited as the first time and hear their goofy “special delivery” voices, I give in and we do it again.

Big boxes are in a whole other league. Much to my husband’s chagrin (hi Honey, hee hee), I have taken to casing out the neighborhood for Sears delivery trucks and pestering neighbors for their appliance boxes. Refrigerators are the best for obvious reasons, they are huge! The last fridge box we scored stuck around here nearly 6 months (again, much to my husband’s chagrin … sorry, Dear) but it wasn’t just collecting dust. It was decorated again and again, danced on, hammered on and cut up, arranged lengthwise for tunnels, upright for walls, and sideways for sliding… and that is not all… oh no, that is not all we can do with this box (sorry, too much “Cat in the Hat” ). Anyhow, this big brilliant box transformed into a super-sized puppet theater for Sara’s birthday and a “blast the bad guy” beanbag toss game at William’s superhero birthday. Twenty-some preschoolers at that party got the better of this box finally so it was unceremoniously laid to rest in our recycle bin. Poor box, looking back on it, I bet it could have had at least another 3 happy months with us. Sigh…

Fear not, washers and dryers don’t live forever and last week I intercepted some boxes while visiting a neighbor when her new ones were delivered (I haven’t been stalking her or anything, really). The kids were delighted (husband, not so much but he is an extremely good sport). Standing in these more squatty boxes then tipping them over was the favorite sport at first but today the kids drew windows and doors on so I could cut out their requested architectural details. Earlier, their game of Delivery-Guy had morphed into “Bad Guy Who Wants Your Money” (oops, guess I’m not always kind about the solicitors who come to the door) and they got a huge kick out of Momma calling the cops and pretending to arrest them. Therefore, said boxes were transformed into jails, later into houses, and who knows what tomorrow will bring.

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Good Dog

“Happy” is his name.  We call him “Happy Dog.”  My mom named him after her faithful childhood companion and the name suits this lovely canine boy beautifully too.  Mom also says she named him “to remind people to be happy”...  It’s working.  

You can’t help but smile as he prances along seemingly aware of his cuteness, alert and curious, ready for the next ball to be thrown.

My Mom adopted him about a year ago and he quickly became a beloved family member. He has taught my animal-shy children (don’t know where they got that) to turn their fear into affection and delight toward dogs… (or I should say, at least toward dear Happy Dog).  Happy brings happiness.
Happy dug himself a little hole in the sand to stay cool at the beach
Sara admired his fine digging skills
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Friday, July 15, 2011

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment that I want to pause, savor, and remember. Hosted by SouleMama

Your moments inspire me too (and I'll admit that it keeps me smiling all weekend to know that someone other than my beloved friends and relatives might drop by my blog from time to time). Please post a link to your moment with comments below! 
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Thanks, Mom… I get it now

I’ve always known my Mom loves me, never had a doubt about it. How much my Mom loves me, however, I don’t think I could truly grasp until having children of my own.  Nor did I fully appreciate all her efforts, enthusiasm, and exhaustion over the years until having kids myself (and I’m sure this appreciation will deepen even further once our kids are teens).

Tomorrow is my dear Mother’s birthday and it’s hard to know where to start when expressing my love, gratitude, and admiration of her. As a grandmother, she is generous, playful, involved, positive, affectionate and supportive. As a mother, she was (and still is) downright incredible.
Yes, that is a dove on her head... on vacation in California, my brother decided to put birdseed on her head.  Naturally, Mom thought this was hilarious and loved that the moment was captured on film.

My parents raised me and my brother in remote Glacier Bay, Alaska, until we were 7 and 10 respectively. When I say remote Alaska, I’m talking inside-the-boundaries-of-an-isolated-National-Park-remote and so many of the parenting “tricks” I use now to get a little break here and there simply weren’t available to her. She couldn’t swap play dates with friends (no other kids in the area), she couldn’t let us watch PBS Kids or pop in a DVD to keep us busy while she made dinner (no television), she couldn’t ask a family member or neighbor to watch us for a bit (family was on the east coast and we had no neighbors), it wasn’t easy to send us out to play on our own (black bears roamed through our back yard pretty regularly, not to mention the weather which was rainy or snowing about 10 months of the year) and she couldn’t even take us to the local library or a store for a change of scenery (no library and absolutely no stores—she actually had to order our groceries by boat—can you imagine?!) As I list these things, I realize I’m making the lack of so many things sound like a problem but it was quite the opposite. Living there and growing up there was absolutely ideal, it just took an extremely creative Mother to make it that way.

Smoked salmon, pine needles, cedar bark, sticky alder, and homemade bread are the smells of my childhood. Black bears, endless forest, snow-capped mountaintops, eagles, massive glaciers, enormous blue ice bergs carrying baby seals, and pods of Orca whales are the images I recall. Walking in beach grass taller than me, picking beach strawberries, salmon berries and wild blueberries, hearing the unmistakable sound of humpback whales’ exhalations, and witnessing the incredible sight and sound of a calving glacier are among my memories. Lucky:  that’s what I consider myself, very lucky and immensely grateful.
My “luck” continues to this day. I know I will never have to worry if my Mother is bored or lonely or somehow not thriving. She is enthusiastic and full of life like no other. She is an avid painter and potter successful in local galleries on the Olympic Peninsula (visit  to see what she is currently working on—yes, my 76 year old mother is also a tech-savvy blogger!) and her work is remarkable. I could go on and on… and another day, I probably will.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you so much. Thank you for everything.
Mom and me on a recent trip to the beach. No birdseed in the hair but plenty of sand.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Smoothie?

“Let’s use these peas to make a smoothie, Mama!”  Ten snap peas, twelve strawberries, and one piece of sorrel later, his smoothie was too thick so he decided to add orange juice… then it wasn’t green enough (bless him!) so he wanted another piece of sorrel and a mound of kale and “oh yeah, one of those turnips too!”  How could I say no?

They didn’t drink it all but thanks to William’s salesmanship and delight with his creation, he and Sara gulped down a few healthy swigs before realizing it was not as tasty as predicted. Still, it was a lovely start to our Saturday…
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Friday, July 8, 2011

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Hosted by SouleMama.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Greens Galore

Guilt overwhelmeth me when we don’t use everything from our CSA bounty each week. OK, I don’t feel very bad about not using all the radishes this week (we are all radished-out around here) but to let beautiful fronds of kale and chard go bad is simply unacceptable. Enter, Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers: Fresh Ideas for the Weeknight Table and their recipe for Wilted Spinach Salad with Pecans and Asiago (with several substitutions). Mmmmm, green goodness.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Pecans and Asiago
10 oz Spinach (approx 10 cups loosely packed—I used a mix of Chard & Kale
1 TBSP Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves
¼ C Raisins or Currants (I used Raisins)
1 C Toasted Pecans (I used Pine Nuts—Walnuts would also be good)
½ C Finely Grated Asiago or Parmesan Cheese (a generous sprinkle of nutritional yeast makes this vegan)
Salt & Pepper (Red Pepper Flakes also taste great if you like spice)
Lemon Wedges

Rinse and drain the greens. Heat the oil in a skillet or saucepan and cook the garlic for a few seconds, until sizzling. Add as many greens as the pan will hold and cook, stirring often. As it wilts, keep adding more greens until they are all in the pan. Cook until just wilted but still bright green.
Place greens in a serving bowl or on individual plates and top with raisins, pecans, and grated cheese or nutritional yeast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges

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Oh the Places We Will Go

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”

~Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
A warm sunny morning play date scheduled at a woodsy park detours into a wonderful windswept beach excursion…  sandy beach trip leads to delicious ice cream cones, ice cream near toy store reminds us to pick up gifts for four upcoming birthdays. Toy store next to consignment shop results in fabulous new (used) coffee table for our family room.

On a different chilly, rainy morning we meet friends at a farm park but quickly decide it is too stormy so we swing over to a nearby art fair, so-called fair is a flop but lunch out with friends is delightful… sun breaks through the clouds and we end up spending a sunny afternoon with friends at another park.

Ah, summertime. Letting our days unfold, going with the flow, playing it by ear, and generally enjoying our lack of rigid scheduling. Our moods guide us, the weather encourages one direction or another and we end up wherever we end up...

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Teachable Travel

All travel promotes learning one way or another but we make a real effort to choose destinations that offer experiences aligned with our values.  We just returned from our second annual 4th of July Family Getaway Weekend at the North Cascades Institute and it was absolutely wonderful. It’s hard to believe that such a remarkable all-inclusive destination exists at the edge of rugged mountain wilderness, on the shores of glistening green Lake Diablo with dramatic snowcapped mountains all around. Lucky for us, it does exist and not only is it kid-friendly, for several weekends a year they offer programs designed specifically for families!
The fun started on Friday morning at 10am. Yes, it was a little tricky to get packed up and ready to hit the road so early (it takes about two and a half hours to drive there from our house—we wanted to be out the door by 7am but it ended up being closer to 8…oh well) but well worth the effort to have the whole day to spend on vacation in a forested wonderland. Plus, it makes the trip an even better value with lunch included on that first day.  We played a few “ice-breaker” games to get to know the other families and were thrilled to see that there were a lot of kids around the same age as ours. After a hearty, healthy, veg-friendly lunch sign-up sheets were posted for families to choose their desired activities. We picked something called “Ecosystem Exploration” and also signed up for the Ranger-led Junior Ranger Exploration to earn yet another badge (apparently they let kids earn as many as they want from each park and let me tell you, William wears those badges with pride and wants as many as he can get)! Additional activities (various group hikes, free play in the art room, games, and story time to name a few) were offered that didn’t require signing up but plenty of time is also left open for family time, walks, relaxation, or whatever you choose.
Accommodations are Spartan with only two sets of bunk beds, a couple chairs and a small desk in each room but they are clean and well maintained. Pillows and a fitted sheet are provided but other than that, you bring your own bedding. The plain rooms aren’t a problem for us since we didn’t spend much time in the room but the thin walls with no sound-proofing were wearisome.  The family staying in the room next to ours arrived after 10pm and had two kids to get settled down…noisy…and I’m sure we were too noisy for them the following morning. Oh well, I guess it goes with the territory if you sign up for a family weekend…  and all the activities had our kids so worn out that they weren’t easily woken during the night.  Bathrooms are down the hall but that worked out well so I could shower and get dressed without waking the kids up in the morning.
It didn’t even take 24 hours for William to start insisting on hanging out with his new friends, totally in his element. Sara tends to be more reserved but she loved the beach and participated in a lot of the cooperative games (balls and hula hoops are left out in a common area for kids to play with).
The first night we took a walk down to Diablo Dam then on the second night the next we enjoyed a campfire complete with fun songs, Native stories, a silly skit, and smores (Sara’s turn to totally be in her element).  It was especially hard for William to say goodbye to his new BFFs but after the Ranger Exploration, Badge presentation, and a lovely slideshow of moments from the weekend, we took one last walk to the dining hall then headed out. We will be back!

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Friday, July 1, 2011

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment to pause, savor and remember.  Hosted by SouleMama.
Photo by Daddy
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