Monday, May 30, 2011

Do you stop and smell the roses... and then eat them?!

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Both taste divine,
So why not try some too!

There is nothing more sensual, exotic and heavenly, for me, than the scent of roses... they are my favourite flowers... I have rose scented perfume, deodorant, face cream...putting them on makes me feel most goddess-like, despite the baby snot on my shoulder and hair that could do with a good brush! Did you know that essential oil of rose is supposed to be good for anger issues? Maybe that's why I douse myself so liberally in it!
I have filled our garden with roses, light and dark pink and yellow and white... I still am on the look out for a red velvet one which my dad has in his garden and a Peace rose that my mother has always loved. (The photographs here were taken when we lived in Cambridge, my college had the most beautiful rose garden which I photographed on my last day.)

But I'm not creative...and other blocks to getting creative with our kids

Dear mama,

Sometimes we want to be creative, we want to be that mama who paints pictures every day, makes incredible scale models of the Titanic using only match sticks with their two year old, bake billowing cakes...but... you can't bake, you don't have time, it's too messy, your kids aren't xxxx....

What is holding you back... or perhaps what is making you feel like you should be creative?

I am researching a book on creative mamas and I want to hear from real mamas about real experiences of being creative with kids. Please do respond to the questions below either in the comments box or by emailing me pearcelucy@yahoo.co.uk

Do you consider yourself creative? What does a creative person look like to you?


Did you enjoy being creative as a kid?


What were your parents attitudes to creaitvity?


did you feel pressure to be creative as a mama? Where does this come from do you think?


What stops you getting creative with your own kids?


What do the negative voices in your head say when you are considering doing something creative with your kids? Or get started...?


How do you deal with these? 

Thank you for your honesty and time...

Please let me know how you would like your comments to be attributed: I would like to use first and last name, age, number of children and location, if this is acceptable to you:
(e.g. Lucy Pearce, 30, mother of 3 based in East Cork, Ireland)
Or more biographical information if you are happy...

I have big hopes to inspire mothers in their mothering and their creativity, and am really excited about you being part of this.

Thank you, thank you dear mama, for taking a moment and sharing so generously,

Creative mamas questionnaire

I am writing a book on the subject of creative mothers and would love to include lots of mothers' voices in it.

If you consider you are a creative person (not necessarily a professional artist) at the same time as being a hands-on mother, I would be so honoured if you would share a little of your experience... and if you struggle with creating with children and consider yourself NOT creative, please tell me about it here


What vision did you have of yourself as a mother BEFORE you had children? 


How did you think your life would look/ your role would be? What influence did YOUR mother have on this?

How did this measure up to the reality of mothering?


How far developed were you in your creativity before you had children? 



How did having children affect your path?

How did you balance your creative and mothering sides:  practically, emotionally, energy-wise?

What drove you to do this?

Did you have any mentors, models for how to do this? Any words of wisdom given to you?

Where were your greatest challenges?


What are you most proud of now, looking back?

Just a couple of sentences for each would be wonderful, unless you feel called to really get stuck in and write me whole paragraphs!

Deadline? My experience is that if you don't do it now, the chances are you'll forget about it! I would really like to have all this compiled by the end of June at the latest.


Please let me know how you would like your comments to be attributed: I would like to use first and last name, age, number of children, your art form and location, if this is acceptable to you:
(e.g. Lucy Pearce, 30, mother of 3, a writer based in East Cork, Ireland)
Or more biographical information if you are happy...
I would really appreciate an image of yourself too, preferably with some of your work!

I have big hopes to inspire mothers in their mothering and their creativity, and am really excited about you being part of this.

Thank you, thank you for taking a moment and sharing so generously.

Please email responses to pearcelucy@yahoo.co.uk

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A pot-tea place!

Since the closure of the Gallery cafe here in Shanagarry back in 2009, I have been bemoaning the lack of a local cafe which: a) was welcoming in atmosphere b) was affordable c) and child friendly d) served delicious home baked sweet treats e) provided paper entertainment for mamas and babas and f) had (bear with me here!) nice chairs!

What I want from a cafe is a home away from home. A place to go to chat with friends, to linger, and to treat myself and not have to clear up afterwards. I bake well at home, very well, so the cake has got to be better than what I can make, or at least different, to tempt me to pay.

So delight of delights in the new cafe at Stephen Pearce Pottery, which opened this week, which I hope will become a real community hub.

Colleen's Tea Room at Stephen Pearce Pottery really is a home away from home – if your home has a super-de-dooper coffee machine and you're a talented American baker. With crayons for the kids, magazines to read, garden flowers on the table, quality ingredients in the baking, comfy chairs, big welcoming wooden tables, and everything served in Stephen Pearce pottery – except the tea pots – Stephen doesn't “do” teapots! It has a short menu of sweet treats, proper tea and coffee, following my Grandmother Lucy's motto: simplify, simplify, simplify! No airs and graces, fancy table cloths, or squirty cream noisettes here, just the quality people have come to expect from Stephen Pearce and fair prices.

Giant American cookies (the plain simplicity of their names and appearances doesn't do justice to the quality of the flavour): choc chip and ginger snaps; granola bars packed with oats, pumpkin seeds, choc chips and moist with peanut butter; and marmalade cupcakes.

Outside a little terrace is under construction for sipping tea in the summer sun under the mature trees. If you're looking for me at any stage over the summer, you'll find me there!

If you're in the locality do stop by and support it. I want it to survive a long time, for purely selfish reasons. I want a local cafe to go to, and the Queen of Puddings might even do a little baking for it some time!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy days

Today didn't start out promisingly. Boy with temperature home from school, girl with the ever-lasting screaming whinges, baby with lentils all over the floor, house a tip...
But then I created some divine coconut kisses... recipe on Queen of Puddings...how I love creative cooking... and chocolate making (when I'm not under pressure! I used to have a little handmade chocolate business) Oh mama these are good!


And we did some more of our favourite pasttime...

Marbling!

Have you discovered marbling? It is fun, simple, you can't tell the difference between a 3-year-old and an adult masterpiece. It's very Zen, you can't plan it, it's all about feel, timing and luck...

We tried making our our marbling inks last week, thanks to an online craft tutorial, with cooking oil and food colouring... the results were mediocre. I found some marbling inks on Amazon, and umm-ed and ahh-ed, they are an extravagance, so I didn't...


But then yesterday I took myself to the art supply store in Midleton to stock up on yummy arty crafty mama goodies...

And there they were... so I got them...

And I'm so glad I did. We must have spent an hour marbling whilst the baby slept. For a past time using inks and water, surprisingly we had NO mess! Double hurray. (For technical advice see comments section below.)

And our dear special angel cleaning lady was here today, working her magic with cheery kindness...

So we gifted her back with a thank you card made on one of our beautiful pieces of marbling (another two have gone out to Granny and a godmother!), and of course a coconut kiss (as well as her pay - of course!)

Happy days!

Monday, May 23, 2011

How does your garden grow?

The weather has been against us gardeners this year. A month of chilly days and bitter winds has burnt the leaves and stalled growth of anything that was planted out. Six packs of seeds direct sown into the ground have produced not a sign of life. The slugs have been loving the damp and have chomped through all our sunflowers. Lettuce went from zero to past it with only one tasting.

We have been pruning back interloping shrubs and trees which have started to dominate, and which we have quietly hated for a year. The result being lots of bare patches.  So these past two days have been spent filling the gaps- thanks to the generosity of my father-in-law who stopped by yesterday with a boot full of sweet peas, cornflowers, stocks, sunflowers, courgettes and one random runner bean, we were on our way.

Then today we made a visit to the garden centre, my witchy fingers hungry for more herbs. I found a few: aloe vera, a lemon verbena and pulsitilla. And marigolds... but only French ones, our calendula officialanis that we seeded straight into the ground are looking very sad (does anyone know can you eat French marigolds?). Heartsease pansies, silver bedding plants and some yellow daisy types - our garden is looking distinctly less halopetia-ified, and the colours are singing. The purple side of my herb garden (thyme, lavender, rosemary and chives) are now counterbalanced by a sunshine yellow side of daisy types, courgettes, marigolds and golden marjoram and lemon balm.
And a fuschia to greet visitors to replace last year's one which bit the frost.. shortly before they fall over the sword and mop and pile of videos for the charity shop which fill the doorway.

The wild strawberries are fruiting more and more - and wonderfully the kids find them too sour, so they're all mine! The roses are coming out, as are the pinks and nasturtiums. And the fox gloves, how I love fox gloves, that I patiently planted last year are out- white fingerlings with purple ink splots.


The wind is wailing again, and my newly planted sweet peas are not happy. Come on summer, come on sun!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's not easy being a blow-in

I have always struggled with my English versus Irishness. I own both passports. I have lived long term in both. But I am an outsider here, in the land of my birth.

I feel at home in the mystic landscapes of this island. Where I am most drawn to is this county in which I live, which has a long anglo-Irish history going back many hundreds of years. County Cork is known locally as The People's Republic of Cork - and really this is how it feels. Our own land. (We have a reputation, according to Wikipedia, for going on about how great it is... but it is!) The people of Cork are known as the Rebels, and that's what we are. The county has attracted a vast number of "blow-ins" over the years: a band of peaceful misfits, creatives, free-thinking land-lovers, hippies and cheese makers mainly from England and Scotland, and a good few Americans and Germans to boot.

A view of the Beara mountains from Bere Island where we were  just on holiday.

We love this place. We pay our taxes. We call it home. We help start schools, organise events, enrich our communities. But every time I, and every other person with an English accent opens our mouths we mark our card. We are blow-ins, we don't really belong. We are not from here. Sure, every culture, down to the smallest village has a version of "you're-not-from-here-itis". However, us English in Ireland have an extra black mark: we are, by dint of our heritage responsible for the crimes of our forebears: the house raids, battles, political domination, potato famine... I represent the unwanted oppressor, the colonist...

So it was not obvious that the visit by a little old lady with a bad taste in hats and handbags would make any difference to me... or all the other blow-ins who call this precious country home. And yet, it seems agreed by English and Irish alike, that the visit of the English Sovereign to this island last week sowed some seeds of peace, helping us to re-evaluate communally the damage of the past.  This seems to have begun to heal rifts and long-standing hurt. I am not saying that all the history will disappear overnight. But that it is being discussed, that wrongs are being acknowledged is a first step. As humans we have a poor track record of living peaceably together, of getting on with new arrivals into our countries, of forgiving and forgetting. I always was very proud of South Africa for instigating the Peace and Reconciliation tribunals - it was an act of extreme spiritual and political maturity. Would that all nations could follow suit.

May we work on sowing seeds of peace and reconciliation in our communities and families and extending a warm welcome to those who "aren't from round here"... long live the blow-in and all the gifts of diversity that they bring.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Know thy neighbour?

The community you want starts at your front door”
Neighbour Day, Australia

We have just past our first anniversary of living in the Pink House. And along with boxes still to unpack we have many neighbours yet to meet.


You see, unlike my mama, I am not a knock-on-people's-doors-and-learn-their-life-story kinda girl. I get all wriggly in my tummy and think I might puke if I have to say more than hello.

So I annoy myself hugely by having a deep rooted "community" urge. If I have a moment on my hands I find myself organising sandsculpting events, or women's circles, or writing groups, or arts festivals. I really don't know why, but I have this strong, "let's get together and stop ignoring each other and make this a fun and doodle dandy place to live full of happy faces and fun stuff to do..."


I have always wanted to live in a “community”. You know the type, lots of long haired hippies, a communal garden, shared creative/ yoga space and bringing up the kids together.

A combination of lack of land, planning permission and cash in our group mean that instead we are living on a housing estate in a small Catholic village. We have the ties of the local school to bind us, but not the local sport or religious practice.


My dear friend Mary said to me the other day "My life is so much richer for knowing you Lucy cos you're always getting us caught up in your next mad project!"

So my latest mad project, which I urge you, dear reader to join me in, now we are friends, is "The Big Lunch". Brain child of one of my favourite impossible doers - the visionary behind the Eden Project in Cornwall (a complex of vast geodesic greenhouse bubbles which house a rainforest and others eco systems in a disused quarry in the south of England).


The Big Lunch is all about bringing communities together through eating together... On Sunday June 5th thousands of communities, hundreds of thousands of neighbours will be eating together in parks, on their streets, in gardens festooned with bunting, playing street cricket, making music... I feel that the best way to build family resilience, is to be deeply rooted in our geographic communities, which we will be relying on more and more in future years.


Community is at the heart of resilience. If your car breaks down or the power's out, or you need some milk, or to use a phone, your nearest neighbours are those you need to be able to call on. So many of us do not even know the name of the people who live two doors down. We drive miles to see friends. Of course there is little chance that everyone on our street are going to be our best friends. But there might be more like minded people, allies, companions, human beings, behind those closed doors than we realise. As oil prices rise and wages fall, we will be living closer to home. Soon gone will be the days of empty commuter estates.


Because of our hyper-mobile society, we now find ourselves living in newly built housing estates like ours, or apartment blocks, villages and towns surrounded by strangers. It feels instinctively unnatural, and leads to defensiveness. Which we experienced soon arrived our arrival here, when a neighbour popped by to yell at us about suing and insurance because his son had injured himself playing on a digger bucket which was being used by our contractors but left for a couple of hours on common land. What a wonderful introduction to the neighbourhood.



And so it was with trepidation that I put together an invitation to each of the 19 other houses on our estate. We delivered them by hand, my kiddies delighted to play postman, and we managed to avoid small talk with any of our neighbours we are so longing to meet!!!! and then we retreated to our little Pink House to wonder what the response would be, and what the gossip would be! So we shall wait and see... thankfully one neighbour, whose kids are friendly with ours, dropped by to say it was a lovely idea and that they were wanting to organise something similar but had never gotten round to it. Phew, so we won't be sitting by ourselves on our picnic rug come Big Lunch day... I wonder who else will join us...I'll let you know!


The Big Lunch is a UK based event, however there are Australian, American, Canadian and Irish versions of "Know Your Neighbour" type events. 
http://www.thebiglunch.com in the UK (June 5th)which is the brain child of the indomitable Tim Smitt, creator of the extraordinary and visionary Eden Project in Cornwall
http://www.neighbourday.org/ in Australia and New Zealand (late March)
Know your neighbor weekend in Ireland (late July)
http://www.european-neighbours-day.com/ on the last Tuesday of May, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. In 2010, over 10 million people in about 1200 towns hosted gatherings all over Europe and even further.Neighbours' Day has become a major event in more than 30  countries 
National Good Neighbor Day in the US- September 28th


(And if I can do a little advert too - JUNO magazine is out  June 1st and is has a number of really inspiring features on community...)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fresh and good

Every time I feel too tired to cook I yearn for the wonderful takeaways we had on our travels in Australia - gorgeous fresh fruit salads with yogurt, fresh vegetarian Indian, Korean, Greek, smoothies, wonderful wholesome salads, sushi galore, stir fried noodles, all freshly made and bursting with nutritious goodness.

Our local take away options are, with the exception of Saturday pizzas on a saturday, X amount of greasy, MSG laden chinese or chippers. Nothing fresh and vibrant. I often despair. I don't want to cook, but I also don't want to serve my family something that unhealthy. It doesn't make me feel good on any level. And it's not even cheap!

However ethnic cuisines are few and far between in rural East Cork. Irish salads are of the limp wristed lettuce and green tomato type. And potato salad with bullet hard potato lumps, vinegary white mayo and too much onion, ditto the coleslaw. And that's it.

So hurray for the Village Greengrocers in Castlemartyr,(which is under new management) just ten minutes from the Pink House, where there is a selection of thirty or more freshly made salads favourites from the Avoca and Ottolenghi cafes: broccoli with feta and cherry tomatoes; mangetout with toasted almonds; puy lentils and peppers; proper potato salad; three different types of couscous; two varieties of carrot salad; three pasta salads all made in-house from their own produce. They also have a large amount of fresh baked cakes and breads, fresh roasted meat, real ham, as well as plenty of fresh fruit: local strawberries, blueberries, cherries, golden kiwis, apricots that you would not find in a supermarket. We stocked up and headed off for a picnic. I know where I'm going back to next time the healthy take away need occurs!

I have previously just popped in there to get fruit and veg, and maybe a loaf of bread. But their deli selection of jams, chutneys, cheeses, olives, and so forth is extensive. I had previously found them a little too pricey - now that the Celtic tiger has run away the prices are now extremely good value, for real food, fresh, nutritious and it hits the local shopping button too. Friendly staff always willing to carry to your car, and you can eat outside by the river or upstairs if you're not in a rush. They're Bridgestone award winners for 2011. Deservedly so. Hurray!

Want to read more Dreaming Aloud foodie posts, have you seen...
Gill's Secret Garden Supper Club (At Ballymaloe Cookery School)
A Life Affirming Luncheon (Saturday Pizzas)
A Cherry Blossom Picnic

And do visit my baking blog The Queen of Puddings for Rhubarb and Cardamom Upside Down Cake; Popple Cake; the best Gluten Free Chocolate Cake around; Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing; online baking stockists  and much, much more

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Are you a morning goddess?

How do you start your morning?

I know that how I start mine sets the tone for my day. A few moments mindful breathing and I am a far nicer mama. Hassle and whinge and jump on me and I'm set to banshee mode for the rest of the morning.

This morning this creative mama read about touching your writing spirit whilst her babas slumbered in her arms (and squirmed every time I turned the page!) I planned my writing whilst I pooped(classy!!) and then I requested and was granted an hour's writing time (after the school rush was done). So off I snuck to my writing shed in the woods by the Pink House, and wrote for an hour, the first proper beginnings of a Very Important Project, fuelled and inspired by this wonderful blog and you delightful readers.
Oh how I'd love to start every day this way.

That and I'm wearing my new hippy rainbow mama patchwork skirt which arrived by post from sunny Thailand yesterday. Hurray. Shiny rainbows all round! I feel, as the saying goes, like a dog with two mickies!

So how we start the day matters. But as mamas often this is outside of our control. All these wonderful self help books tell you to do an hours yoga and half an hour's meditation followed by an unharried breakfast of fruit. But they don't have little kids, when trying not to put your knickers over your tights, (or even to find clean knickers in the laundry mountain!) is an issue. When rather than choosing to rise earlier you are begging for another second of shut eye after a night of constant wakings and wriggly children coughing in your face or wetting the bed next to you. Sometimes it feels totally insurmoutable, that you are defeated before the day has even begun. Especially if you are parenting single handed.

But if you can find a way to have 5 minutes peace, and some sort of mindfulness practice - be it yoga, conscious breathing, a walk in the garden, a jot in your journal... whatever little hit of headspace, body awakening and peace you can to carry into your day with you, then take it, dear mama, you will all be better for it. Even if it means your kids watching TV, or your husband or mother or sister can take the kids, or perhaps settle them with some drawing, or do it whilst they are slumbering. Nourish yourself dear mama, water your soul with silence, honour your body with love.

Two morning mindfulness offerings I wanted to share with you, from my very favourite online ladies

This post from Mama-Om which has had a big impact on me, and I keep it in mind often.

And a whole free e-booklet of advice of how to be a morning goddess, gleaned from yogis, spiritual mentors, creatives and mamas from my favourite online Goddess, Leonie. (If you like this and want more of it in your life see this post or click the goddess circle link on your right to join the goddess circle.)

And over to you, dear reader... How do you make happy mornings  - please share you morning routines with us all in the comments box below. What awakens your soul from slumber? What saves your sanity?  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Archeology of the soul

Digging

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging...
My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog...
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

1966 Seamus Heaney

I dig the earth too. The earth of my ancestors. Literally and figuratively, searching for hidden treasure, for roots, for the tap root of my soul. I too use my pen to dig my soul's garden.

We are made up of layer upon layer. In recent years our culture has begun to recognise the effects of parents and grandparents on our psyches, but what of the layers going further and further back? What were the factors which made your great-great-great-great-grandparents who they were? Their life events, occupations, parenting experiences, health? What historical events shaped their lives? It matters, it really does, because it is a part of us now. We carry unconscious ties that hark back into the darkness of human history. Our pre-verbal selves stretch back into the pre-literate annals of our cultures.

There is a huge growing interest in family history, researching family trees. People feeling called to reclaim history for themselves, to claim it back from the glory and horror of war, the dominance of kings and generals. I think us women especially feel that millenia of our historical heritage has been lost, denigrated, dismissed. Who were we?

Personal history seems an important quest for so many. For those who have intact families there is still a desire to quest, to hunt, to track down leads, for those who have been separated from families through adoption, death, migration or war, the compulsion is visceral. We yearn to understand the parts of ourselvesfor which we have the evidence but not the answers. I am sure that part of the growth in personal development, the interest in consciously shaping ourselves is fueling an equally strong need to know about where we came from.

We start with the outer layers our physical inheritence– I have my grandmother's build, my mother's early greying gene. We look in each new child for signs of belonging, of being part of the clan. And as they develop we see ourselves and our families in them, he likes to paint like his uncle or she is stubborn like her grandma. And then as we continue in life, our curiousty, or small anomalies occur, and we want to know more, and so back we look, into the mists of time, to find out: who was my tribe?

Who we are and where we come from really matters to us. And who we are, when we understand ourselves this way, goes far beyond our own personalities. We are far more than what we have made ourselves in this lifetime. We have so many stories, strands, rhyhms of ourselves, unconscious behaviours, hidden memories which are “ours “ but not made by us, we have inherited them... many believe in past lives, but whether you do or not, what I am talking about is the unconscious learning, the fabric of who we are which we inherit through genetics and behaviour, the very fabric of life, made flesh once more in our individual selves, which is woven through time and circumstance, which we seek to unravel.

I am delving back in various ways... I am starting a project recording my father's memories of his family, whom he doesn't speak that often about to find out that side of my inheritance. My mother has assembled a family tree of her side which I treasure. I have boxes full of my grandmother's letters... the middle ground is rather blank, but then I am delving into the deep past, the history of my heart-land, of wise women nad herbs, and reading about the Celts. Celtic history is what unites my various parts: grandparents from Wales and Scotland, a childhood divided between southern England and southern Ireland. The land of the Celts is my heart-land, my soul scape. It is these mountains, moors and craggy coastlines, this rich arable land which has been farmed and upon which cattle has been raised for millenia. These rounded stone carvings, standing stones, dry stone walls, wild flowers cures and intricate spiral insignia are carved on my soul. They feel deeply familiar.

And this is what it comes down to: a felt sense of belonging, a heart land, an understanding of ourselves. We must feel our way, sense our layers of being, the archeology of the soul which Jung described as being like a house, and we dig down into the subconscious and then the unconscious basement and then below it the earth, full of skeletons of ancestors past upon which our being is built. Bones dust, earth, meaning, life...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

There's no place like home!

There really is no place like home. And whilst it was nice to have a change of scene, and the company of good friends, we're glad to be back.

All weekend whilst we were away the girls whinged and wailed and screamed and clung to me for dear life until I thought I might explode. They are coming down with chicken pox, have nasty coughs and were really out of sorts. This is when being home REALLY matters.

What is it with being at home? Is it the simple fact of familiarity, the comfort of having our things around us, or the knowledge that we don't need to be on show? Home holds the space so that we can just get on with being, nothing extra is required of us.

We understand "home" viscerally... even when we're very small. I really got this last year, when we went over to the US, just me and baba, and she, at only 3 months was out of sorts from the moment we left home, until the moment we got back. They were like this today too. The moment we arrived home, they came back to themselves. They were still ill, but they were home.

Only last week dear hubby and I were discussing if, after a year of living at the Pink House it felt like "home". And you know, it does. Not just because it's ours, after years of living with family and in rented accommodation. Not just because we are able to invest ourselves in the garden, because we're close to family, or in the village of my birth. And certainly not because we've made our "stamp" on it. Far from it! The interior of the house was lovely when we looked around the house, with the beautiful antique furniture of a single old lady, and very clean and tidy. Now it is filled with the detritus of life with three small kiddies and two messy parents - overflowing with plastic toys, recycling which has been liberated from the bin, three day old half eaten biscuits awaiting reclamation by the baba, half-finished craft projects, plants in various stages of aliveness, hundreds of kiddies drawings on paper... and walls, a smell that we can't identify, a water tank with a life of its own,  lots of scattered cushions - on the floor, numerous laundry mountains - clean and dirty, and our rather scruffy second hand furniture.

But you know, it's home. And all the scruffiness is what makes it ours. They are our pictures and books, toys and clothes, our table where so many meals have been shared. It wouldn't grace the cover of any magazine: and in my dreams I'd love room for a yoga studio/ teaching room, a writing space, a bedroom for each of the children, a guest bedroom, a larger lawn, an acre of wildflower meadow, a hot tub... . It's nothing fancy, and often I apologise for it. But this is home, small but perfectly formed. This is where we get to be us, fully: it is our second skin, like your favourite sock with the hole - tatty but loved. It smells like us, looks like us, it shares our heart, holds our dreams and cradles our togetherness.

And you, dear reader, what does home feel like for you? Have you found a home? Made a home? Is it still a childhood memory or a fantasy for the future?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

With a song in my heart...

Never do anything without a song in your heart...

That is my new motto...

(I guess it's a little like the rather Disney-esque and puke-worthy "whistle while you work" - but I aint keeping house for seven tiny men, no siree!)

It feels like it's a little entitled. But I think, I feel it could work. You see we're about to start packing to go away for the weekend (our very fierce guard dog is remaining behind, dear burglar!) my dear husband can tell you this is a recipe for a VERY angry wife... it brings up MOST of my issues in one fell swoop...
*need to be in control
*inability to trust others
*knowing that if you do trust someone they'll fuck up
*resenting the rest of my family for not doing as much as me
*worrying about forgeting something
*childhood baggage about always packing and moving on
*anxiety about future unknowns in terms of eating and sleeping

Ohhh I feel all queasy just going through these...
So, the plan for today is to live my new wisdom,
Not the way of the martyr that I have observed in most women folk who I am close to. The way that leads to self-righteous anger, bitchiness, bullying, strops, tears, migraines, long silent spells punctuated by angry exchanges, slammed doors. It is a very strong female legacy which basically says “I WILL do it all, be damned for not supporting me, I will achieve greatness and YOU will pay the price!” And they do, but boy so do we. In illness, negativity and energy depletion.

So today,as I have for numerous other old flash points (parties, dinner parties etc) been applying this
“never do anything without a song in you heart.”

This means – don't start until you “feel it”, feel the love, the inspiration, the focus...
*Don't start with a feeling of anger, obligation, resentment.
*If you feel this STOP, refresh, feel this, deal with this.... off load your expectations and work load. Scale back!
*Ask yourself – why am I pushing this NOW. You WILL resist, at least at first and answer “because I HAVE too, IT HAS to be done, NOW, by ME...” this is the martyr voice, greet her with love and give her a cup of tea, a walk around the garden, a cuddle with someone who loves her... down this path lies the Crazy Woman (the flip side of the Creative Rainbow woman).
*Just for a moment, STOP and listen to your intuition...
*It may not be the right time... are you trying to fit too much in, do it in a rush, do it when you're distracted, too tired...
*It may not be the right thing... are we trying to force something which is not “meant to be”
*Perhaps we need support – is this something you could do WITH your kids, your friend, your partner, or is it something you could ask someone to DO FOR YOU! ( Now there's a real challenge.)
*Or are you in avoidance because you have anxious feelings about the forthcoming event that you are trying to suppress?

Deal with these things first, and then the energy, the sense of love and focus will emerge. Or you can carry on being a martyr! Sounds like fun!

I am sure you are familiar with the work of Japanese water scientist Dr Masaru Emoto, who showed that love and gratitude produce the most beautiful of all crystals in water. This is the effect that good energy has on ourselves, our families, our partners and the things we do. Act in anger, cause pain, act in love, with a song in your heart and cause beauty...

For more on this topic, see my post Cooking with Love

Right, off to start packing...I PROMISE I will stay mindful. We can always borrow socks or buy milk!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Baby steps and belief

Our 14-month-old keeps letting on that she can talk. "Hi Daddy!" she says this week, it just slips out... we are all amazed. And then she goes silent. "What was that?"

Another day we are reading together "Book!" she exclaims, then silence once more.

Before we speak, before we know that we can speak, before others hear what we have to say, we first have to BELIEVE that we can speak. Even though we have never done it before, we cannot do it without... doing it.

That first word is a leap of faith... we have absorbed our mother tongue, we have learnt to shape our mouths, to vibrate our vocal chords with ever more complex gurgles and woops. And then, one day, we decide to try. "Yes!" We have birthed our first word. But before this first word was months of silent unseen work, brain and body in silent, earnest preparation.

A friend's baby is learning to walk. holding her hands, one foot in front of the other. Then lets go. One hand, then the other. He wobbles, and squidges onto his padded bum. But for a moment he was standing on his own two feet. For the first time. He beams in delight.

The same goes for all the major milestones of human development.

We strengthen our muscles, arrange our neurones, observe, absorb... and then one day... we can! We just can. The line in the sand is clear: before there was silence, now there is language; before we could only crawl and now we can stand. And then we practice and practice and soon this monumental achievement becomes part of us, second nature...

But before we can do it, for the world to see, our ability to do it is there. We can walk before we CAN walk. We are simply waiting for the courage to try, the belief that we can, building our trust in the world and ourselves. Only the baby can decide to speak, no one can do it for her. It is a leap of faith. Fuelled by deep desire to play a more equal part in the workings of the world, to communicate, to be heard, to be known, to join in.

Can you see where I'm going with this, dear adult?

YOU might be wanting to be an artist, or a writer, or a mother, or speak a new language, and can't see how it's going to happen, how to start, how to DO it...

But you have it within you, just there below the surface,this latent potential, unknown and unseen - water it, feed it, and the one day let the bird of your talent fly free. Life, in all its guises is really about getting your hands dirty rather than holding yourself back because you're worried about mucking up... it is a leap of faith. But really it is by doing, not thinking, that we become. We can get so caught up in our minds, in having to be perfect before we will even try. But we have to be prepared to fall... in order to be able to fly. What's the worst that can happen?

Birth that baby, that book, that painting... All you have to do is believe it... and start it! One baby step at a time, birth yourself into the world. It really needs you.

(If you want support - practical and emotional, let me recommend joining the Goddess Circle- Click here to view more details )

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cultivating Abundance

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

********


It begins to be seen that the poor are only they who feel poor, and poverty consists in feeling poor.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Feeling poor happens very easily in our mainstream culture, due to our perpetual desire for more.
Shannon Hayes, Radical Homemakers


In our garden we cultivate many flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables, and even two chickens. But the thing we cultivate mostly is invisible, but most important of all: abundance.

Our garden is the location for regular celebrations with family and friends: cherry blossom picnics, royal wedding picnics, birthday picnics, sunny day picnics... When the cupboard feels bare taking a loaf of bread and cheese and a box of homemade biscuits outside transforms it magically, thanks to grass, sun and a friendly robin, into a feast fit for a king. Shared with family and friends it beats dinner in the finest Michelin-starred restaurant.

A boring afternoon “stuck” at home is transformed into a creative adventure when my sister comes by with a big sheet and we all paint it together.

A long day of gardening is magicked into sweetness as we toast marshmallows over a fire made of the cuttings, the flickering flames warming our spirits.

It is a hub for the other children who live on the estate who seek it out to play with water and stones, their fancy mobile phones and expensive toys abandoned to get on with the real work of childhood.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Women empowering women

Over the past 10 days I have been bringing spiritual, material and aesthetic goodness into my life (see here for what I was wanting and why...) Visualising what I want clearly, stating what I need, finding it after months and in many cases YEARS of looking and wanting and not quite being able to "get" it. (see HERE for how to do it!)


As I gain white hairs, I am realising more and more that REALLY I cannot do and be EVERYTHING. Partly consciously, partly unconsciously I have been drawn to supporting women in business. Most of  MY cash (which I earned from MY creative work, my talents and time) has gone out to nourish and support women following THEIR dreams using their talents and time who can create that which I cannot or do not have time to...
I have bought ...
*handmade clothes from small women's enterprises in Thailand, China and Israel via etsy.com...
*cosmetics from a dear friend who is an Avon rep
*artwork from a number of UK women, see here
*handmade fudge and bread from local shops
*a massage from a local woman
and most excitingly have discovered the MOST incredible set of women's empowerment tools here which I signed up instantly for and cannot tell you HOW wonderful they are Click here to view more details


And in a funny quirk of syncronicity and reciprocity the Universe came back at me, with two women approaching ME, wanting to pay ME money for my skills - baking cakes for a birthday party and starting up my writing classes again! (I shan't repeat the VERY embarrassing conversation I had when approached, (having only read a wonderful post on sacred pricing the night before!) and refused payment... and was told that I WAS GOING TO charge for my services, like it or not - thank you dear teacher in friend form!)


Herein lie some very important lessons learned...
1)Women's businesses make up the majority of small, creative, but very grass roots enterprises
2) Women on the whole find charging money for their services a REAL challenge. We are incultrated into devaluing ourselves and our creativity, giving it away for free, not liking money, being ashamed, embarrassed, unable to put a price on our work, feeling we should do it for love...  But the truth is we all need to tax our cars, buy our food and last time I check the local pub didn't accept love in exchange for a cool pint of cider in the sun - I did try!!
3) Women running their own businesses are usually following a dream, one which it has taken huge personal courage to birth, they are intensely passionate about what they do, knowledgeable about their area, and not great at self publicity
4) Getting something handmade from someone with a face, made with love, adds huge value to anything... and means your "product" not only has a "story" so is not jsut a meaningless, functional "thing" but chances are can also be tailored EXACTLY to YOUR needs.
5) Supporting women in business puts more money DIRECTLY into the hands of women, giving them more financial independence. I am sure you have heard the statistic that...“Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, receive 10 percent of the world’s income and own 1 percent of the means of production.” Supporting women in business is a great example of the feminist motto:the personal is political.
You are empowering women at home and abroad to own their own means of production; to follow their dreams and put some bread on the table... and, chances are, money that will go back out into the women's circle of abundance once more.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Need miracles in your life?: gotta getta goddess guide!

I have just found MAGIC and I NEED to share it with you. Please forgive the gushing, breathless tone of sheer delight... but I have found something I have been looking for for 12 years. I have looked in books, in evening courses, in degrees, in England, Ireland and the US. And now I've found it! A multi-dimensional, practical, creative, emotional, connected, woman-centred bit of wonder... thanks to the powers of the internet! And a very special woman called Leonie who IS the real deal...
If you are needing:

*E-courses to help you get creative.
*To know HOW to get started making money doing something you LOVE...
*And how to CHARGE for it...
*Meditations to soothe your soul...
*Workbooks to help you get clarity...
* Coaching and support which is kind and loving and gentle and deeply empowering...from someone who calls you sweetpea and dear heart...
*Really useful, highly practical advice on business skills in language you can understand...
*Loads of help on technical issues like writing e-books, setting up a great blog, selling your artwork...
*A sacred women's circle of supportive sisters to listen, cheer and advise... the network is currently almost 1000 women around the world from 20-65...
*Lots of brightness, positivity and sparkle in your day with beautiful illustrations and wonderful words...
Then the Goddess Circle is for YOU! Click here to view more details

I PROMISE you, it may sound too good to be true, it's not... everyone who has signed up can't believe their luck in being part of it.

I am quarter of the way through her business goddess course and have already planned my first e-book, and a series of other books... I have been unable to "touch" exactly what I wanted to do for so long... I could feel it but I couldn't SEE it clearly enough...

This woman has got her finger on the pulse of what women want... and need... I'm looking at all you creative rainbow mamas out there! She sells individual ebooks and courses on clearing your clutter, being a business goddess and setting your creativity free, meditations etc...

But...

For $99  you can join the Goddess Circle and then you get access to ALL her stuff, and the online women's circle, including a circle doing the Artist's Way (and lots of other exciting sounding sub-groups) for a whole YEAR! That's only £65, or about €70, cheaper than ONE evening class you could take at your local college! and 10,000 times cheaper than the $100,000 I nearly invested in a PhD in the US, which would give me "permission" to write a book!

There is SO much goodness here, I just wish I could get you all a subscription, really, truly. Please do yourself a favour and check it out. YOU SO DESERVE IT... (yes YOU! Motherfunker, Mary, Francesca, Leigh, Mel, Rachael, Julianne, Lydia  and all my dear readers who I don't know by name ...!)

Think of it as the best birthday present you could give yourself. The best investment you can make in yourself.
And if you like the sound of it and you do sign up, please do it through here, she'll make it worth my while, which makes my blogging that little bit more sustainable for our family!

But that's not why I'm telling you. I'm telling you because I KNOW it will help bring magic to your life too...

Click here to view more details you'll be so glad you did!

Friday, May 6, 2011

God paints in bright colours

Driving into Ballymaloe House gardens, the place where my father and my son have spent parts of their childhood, always feels like coming home. We "drive in the yellow" as my three-year-old calls it. Acre upon acre of gold as far as the eye can see, man-high shocking yellow oil seed rape flowers waving in the wind, line both sides of the drive.

The ripe grape-like bunches of watercolour mauve wisteria greet us, jingling on the austere grey wall of the venerable house. We abandoned the car and meandered down to the lazy river. This is one of the first walks that our one-year-old has done on foot. And so we explored along with her, naming the things we see for her delight, just like Adam, and this our own Eden...

The beech woods with their gravity-defying fresh green leaves, each carefully crimped by fairy hands, waved above our heads as we greeted the chickens: red, white, gold, black, fluffy footed and red cropped roosters. Proud white geese stretching their necks in warning. And the regal peacock, resplendent in his iridescence.


Does a peacock know how beautiful he is? He may rattle his tail in temptation at a female, but does he know? If you and I and all our friends were to sit down one day and try to design the most beautiful bird in the world, we wouldn't even get close. From the dainty tiara, to the black and white striped wings, the iridescent blue which belongs on a beetle, not a bird, and the eyes on his tail. He has never seen himself. He probably thinks he looks like a pea-hen, mottled and brown... it reminds me of us, we see our drabness, not our beauty or magnificence.

We walked the woods. Bluebells, pink bells, white bells in the dappled sun, jingling a tune for fairy ears. Hot pink azaleas and rhodedendrons trumpeting their song. Wild garlic pungent to nose and tongue calls to be picked.

We tracked a tiger and touched his teeth, hand-in-hand to be sure we were brave enough. We wondered at a  waterfall churning bubbles out of thin air. Found a tree that grew handkerchiefs of the finest white silk for kings. And intoxicated ourselves in the scent of damask rose bushes.


For an hour we were as queens.  The fairies were our friends. In the garden we met God. And she paints in bright colours.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Of Earth Mothers and Creative Rainbow Mamas

STOP PRESS!!!! (JAN 2013)

THIS POST WAS A TURNING POINT IN MY LIFE. IT BECAME THE SEED THAT MY THIRD BOOK - THE RAINBOW WAY : CULTIVATING CREATIVITY IN THE MIDST OF MOTHERHOOD (OUT LATE 2013) IS ALL ABOUT. IT IS THE CREATIVE RAINBOW MAMA'S BIBLE. GET YOUR FREE TASTER E-BOOK VERSION WHEN YOU SIGN UP TO MY MAILING LIST!

 I have just picked up again one of the key texts in my life... Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom 
by Dr Christiane Northrup... I am feeling drained, despondent, exhausted... no sleep and endless infections... it is medicine to the woman's soul just the reading of it. (If you haven't discovered this book yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It would be my desert island book.)


I came across a passage which resonated so strongly with me that I want to share  with you...

The author Lynn V Andrews once wrote that there are two kinds of 
mothers: Earth Mothers and Creative Rainbow Mothers.

Earth Mothers nurture their children and feed them – and they thrive on this. Our society rewards this kind of woman as the “good mother.”

Creative Rainbow Mothers, on the other hand, inspire their children without necessarily having meals on the table on time.

I know that, beyond a doubt, I’m a Creative Rainbow Mother.

I once read the cookery book “Laurel’s Kitchen” and fantasised about how wonderful it would be to bake bread daily and relish being what Laurel calls “The Keeper of the Keys” – and to create that ever-important nurturing home space. But this is not who I am – and to try to be something I’m not would ultimately do my children and I a great disservice.

I love to be alone. I love to read. I love quiet and music and writing. My soul is fed by long hours of unbroken creative time.

Young children require a much different type of energy – a type of energy I don’t have in abundance.

I too am a Creative Rainbow mother, and trying to be otherwise drains me. I give myself a hard time for trying to do creative stuff when I am exhausted... but actually it is that which makes my life good and right, it is like breathing for me... it is the mothering bit that often I wish I could drop, that doesn't get the best of me, unless I have had my creative "hit". I feel guilty, bad, sad, but it is as it is...

A bit more on Creative Rainbow Mothers... Throughout two millenniums, the Mayan civilization has instructed women in La Ultima Madre. In ancient times this ceremony was performed by the great priestesses for the benefit of all pregnant women to give insight to themselves and their children's souls. After their initiation, they understood why they behaved in a certain manner. Mayans are instructed that there are two types of mothers: Rainbow Mother and Nurturing Mother. Rainbow Mother is the energy of the poet, dancer, and artist. She does not nurture her children, but rather, she inspires them. Nurturing Mother gets married and raises her corn and her children. She loves routine and is very complacent. The Mayans believe that the soul of the mother is inherited by her child. Children are taught to analyze their mother's propensity which will ultimately become their inheritance. The philosophy claims that without her creative outlet, the Rainbow Mother will feel frustrated and unfulfilled, often turning to alcohol. This can lead her to travel to the other "end of her arrow" where Crazy Woman, the goddess of death, or suicide, resides.
Linda McKay, NYU
And an entire article by Lynn Andrews herself on them... here at Meta Arts magazine

I have just discovered a wonderful new (to me) blog whilst googling this subject: Goddess Guidebook - Click here to view more details do check out her post on the subject- it is a really beautiful site - visually and energetically. Lots of good stuff there from another creative rainbow mama!

So dear reader, does this strike a chord with you? Which are you? I have a feeling there must be another type or two as well...


For more from me on mama-ing, why not read...


The Non-domestic Goddess Shines her Sink
Mothers Meeting - Women's Sacred Circles
A Love Letter for Mamas
A positive vocabulary of mothering
A mothering badge of honour for a day well done

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The price of parenting

A number 271,499...

Any guesses?

Number of miles to the sun? The number of sperm in an ejaculation? Number of times you ask your child to put their shoes on? Miles travelled taking your child to practices and matches over the course of their life time? Children born this year?

Monday, May 2, 2011

What's love got to do with it?

"Do you love me?" I ask my kids.

Talk about asking a stupid question!

Because the obvious answer is yes, right? Well it should be! Those dear children who we care for day and night, we tell them we love them, we stroke them and hold them and curb our tempers and make birthday cakes with love and care just for them... right?

Not my kids...

Perhaps I was letting myself in for it. But you see, I couldn't help myself! I wanted to hear it from their own little mouths. I wanted to hear how treasured and adored and all round lovely this exhausted mama was. Just to make it all worthwhile. I had just witnessed a friend's child break off from playing to come and tell her mum how much she loved her. I tell my kids how much I love them so frequently that my son says "I know that, you tell us all the time", his tone of voice says, Duh, tell me something I don't know!


So I ask, sure of the response.

"No!" comes the answer from the 3-year-old. "But I love the baby"... this is the baby who she tried to push down the stairs only minutes earlier, who, on a daily basis is slapped, throttled, pushed, pinched and bitten. Oh!

"Are you sure?" I wheedle. Never particularly endearing, begging to be loved by your children... "No," she asserts "because you're stupid!"

Ah, great, wasn't expecting that! Ego definitely deflated now!

"What about you?" I ask my 5-year-old, "Do you love mummy?"

"No!" he says

He was my safe bet, my affectionate little boy. "Are you sure?"

He thinks long and hard, looking at my face. One thumb goes up, the other down.

"Sometimes yes, sometimes no."

OK we're getting somewhere. "When don't you love me?"

"When you don't let me watch TV or when I want to play LEGO and you say we have to go out..."

"And when do you?" He lists the opposite.

"So you loving me is about what I do?" He nods. How unconditional, I think sarcastically...But then I think of my own feelings. I feel love for my children when they are doing what I want, I don't feel it at all when they are screaming, rude, demanding, mean. I feel love for my husband when he brings me breakfast in bed or says I look nice, I don't feel it when he hasn't done the washing up and it's his turn, or when he is home late... oh, woops, so much for my mature, developed unconditional love.

I ask my daughter again. This time she says... "No. But I'll love you when I'm bigger, when I'm big like you."

Oh how true, little wise one, it is only now, having put to bed most of my disgruntledness about my less-than-perfect parents who didn't do this and did do the other that I didn't like, that I am really beginning to love them...

I see that we use love as a currency, as a bribe, a manipulator, a currency, an ego booster... "Do you love me?" we want to know... make me feel special, feel alright. "I'll love you, if you love me" we trade with our kids and partners. We say it in the flush of passion, in the darkness of the night. But what, really does it mean?

I need you, I want you, I feel lost without you, I'm happy, I'm excited, I'm grateful, I'm scared I might lose you... all these things and more. We use I love you to bind others to us... but the old saying is true " If you love someone, let them go, if they come back to you they are yours, if they don't they never were."

We speak of love, but really it is the lack of love that we feel far more, the sense of isolation, frustration, conflict with those we love... "you always hurt the one you love, the one you'd never hurt at all." We are the meanest of all to those we are closest too... parents, kids, partners, brothers and sisters.

"What is love?" I asked my five-year-old this, so we could set our parameters to the conversation. He shrugged. "I don't know." And nor do I.... Love is so many intangibles. We try to define and limit it. We try to name it. To say "love is here!" But just when we think we have grasped it, it is gone...like a butterfly we cannot pin it down without killing it. We know its beauty for a moment, and it is gone. The more we try to grasp it, it eludes us. The more we are open to it, it surrounds us.

What wise children I have. They don't brush their mama's ego when she wants it, nor offer trite platitudes to placate her neediness. They speak their truth, which I discover is my truth too. How I love them.

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