She Is

Posted Thursday, February 20th, 2014 @ 8:21 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Aenigmas (My Poems), Motherhood, Spirit

Glimpses of My Daughter at Age Six

She is a sunflower-yellow
hourglass with a
center of nipple pink intensity
bouncing, twirling, burbling, squawking
like a Steller’s Jay.
She is Inside with Peter, Paul, and Mary,
multiplying three times infinity
in her rocking chair.
She is an apple, crisp and fresh,
the guitar singing melodies
sometimes jarring and jangling ears.
She’s a meandering stream of galaxies,
an ancient Redwood soul, not
fearing abandonment –
a kaleidoscope of wonder.

Be Mighty, Be Daring

Posted Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 @ 9:30 am by Kathryn
Categories: Arts, Community, Domestic Arts, Education, Journal, Motherhood, Nature, Recreation, Regional, Spirit

I enjoy creating in so many ways. My friend L (mom of one of Claire’s friends) and I are developing an informal girl group. After spending many years driving to see friends (which we’ll continue doing) we want to create friendships and develop deeper connections in the neighborhood.

After careful consideration, we decided to forgo Girl Scouts for a number of reasons:

  • They require parents having contact with girls to take training (online and in-person) and get fingerprinted. Our intention is to create an informal group of people we know and trust and make it easier for mothers to be involved.
  • Secondly, GS is divided by age, and we believe there are benefits to girls interacting across multiple age and grade levels. We hope the girls will be involved as they grow up and develop good friendships.
  • Lastly, we want to avoid the pressure of selling things to raise funds. We prefer to focus on developing activities and sharing the cost rather than have our activities defined by how much money the girls earn.

We plan to meet monthly. We have ideas of home-based activities to do; we also want to incorporate outings. For outings, each parent pays for her children and herself (if there are fees). To cover supplies for at-home activities, we suggest a nominal annual amount per child. We are researching the supplies and calculating costs.

While we want to have fun, we’re reaching beyond play dates. Our goal is to help our daughters become vibrant, confident, and engaged with the world. We want to nurture the development of their minds, souls, and bodies (and mother earth), and foster qualities such as integrity, curiosity, resiliency, and creativity. We are using several resources for ideas (adjusting for age with some activities):

A Mighty Girl
The Daring Book for Girls & The Double-Daring Book for Girls
What Do You Stand For? A Kids Guide to Building Character

So the girls and moms have a unifying element and develop a sense of belonging, we’re looking for inexpensive yellow t-shirts (a color that is sunny and gender-neutral). The quote we’re using is from Shakespeare: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” That will be on the front, and on the back will be our group name: Mighty Daring Girls.

Our first meeting is March 2, and we have 8-9 girls interested!

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Exploring Outdoors – One of our Planned Activities

Remembering Stella

Posted Monday, February 10th, 2014 @ 12:48 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Motherhood, Spirit

Two weeks ago today I was spending the last precious hours with Stella before she died. Today I cleaned up the cat box and litter genie, which I’d been putting off — and not just because it’s an odious task. Bit by bit I’m packing up and storing cat toys, bowls, and so on. Evidence of her existence is disappearing. It may be strange, but I haven’t vacuumed yet; there are little dust balls of fur on floor corners. These tasks reinforce the permanence and irreversibility of the situation.

But rather than dwell on sadness, I want to take time to remember traits we loved about Stella.

In 1999 I decided to adopt two cats, so they’d keep each other company. I wanted an all-black cat. I went to the home of a couple who fostered 30 cats in their home. In one room were 10 cats, and as I sat on the floor the only black cat came right up to me and meowed. I reached out to touch her and she shoved her head into my hand, rubbing and purring. Then she climbed onto me. That was it. I also selected another cat, a beautiful gray and white cat since they were familiar to each other. This other cat, Zoe, was a special needs cat; she’d been psychologically traumatized as a teeny kitten and was skittish. But she was gorgeous, and I knew no one else would want her. So they came home with me. Five months later I also adopted an 8-week old cat whom I named Sophie. (A friend rescued a pregnant cat and Sophie was the prettiest of the bunch.) Here they are in Austin in a pile of cuddle.

three kitties

When I brought Sophie home, Stella adopted her. I assume Stella had given birth (she wasn’t spayed when I got her), because she carried Sophie around in her mouth. Sophie kneaded Stella’s belly and would suckle her for many minutes, and Stella — to my surprise — allowed it. She’d groom Sophie too. Sophie was petite — never weighed more than seven pounds — so this went on for a couple of years. At some point Stella got tired of her belly being occupied and started batting Sophie away.

Once Stella was spayed, she gained a lot of weight. At one point she weighed 21 pounds, and we dubbed her as Large and In Charge. She had a personality the size of Texas and the friendliness to match. We tried to regulate her food intake and give her diet cat food, but she stayed big until about two years ago. Her size never stopped her from enjoying life.

stella and slippers

When we moved to California, we found a new home for Zoe. Poor Zoe was fragile; a sneeze would send her racing off the couch and out of the room. She spent the majority of her life hiding in the box spring of the bed in the guest room. We knew she would not survive the transition across country. So we took Stella and Sophie with us. We got them harnesses in order to use leashes when they weren’t in the carriers. They loathed them. Here’s a photo of them during a trial run before the move. You can tell how thrilled they aren’t.

cats before the big move

We all survived. Sure, we had to figure out a way to bathe Stella in El Paso after she peed on herself in the carrier. And we had to dig Sophie out from under a seat because we made the mistake of letting them out of their carriers while we stopped for a bite to eat. I wanted them to have some stretching room, which was a mistake. And Stella bitched at us the entire trip. Seriously, all 1,700 miles. The thing about Stella is that she was highly opinionated and expressive. I swore there was some Siamese in her. I wish I’d taken videos of our conversations. And if she was asleep or just sitting quietly with her cat thoughts and you said her name from across the room, she’d burst into purrs. I would meow and make other cat-talk noises, and she’d respond. We had many long conversations, although I haven’t a clue what they were about.

Stella had the special distinction of being at our wedding. We had an intimate wedding at home, and she took her place by the altar. You can’t see her face since she was looking to the side, but that distinctive black furry lump is her. Sophie, however, hid. Stella was always up for action.

wedding altar with furry witness

Stella loved her toys. She would take Beanie Babies (especially Claire’s) and carry them around the house like kittens and cuddle them. Other times they were prey, and she’d deliver them to my feet. One neighbor who did cat sitting bought Stella a mouse toy that she loved for years. She would walk around the house carrying it by the pompom in her mouth, all the while yowling and chirruping in her throat. And sometimes she walked around the house talking urgently, and Hub and I would joke, “What’s wrong, Stella? What’s that? Little Timmy fell down the well?”

stella shares
stella took over

Stella adored being brushed and would even let me love her belly. She had complete trust and confidence in me. In turn, she would clean us. If permitted, Stella would lick your hand, arm, or neck until your next layer of epidermis was exposed. She took care of me just as she did Sophie. But I have a photo of her with Sophie.

next to godliness

She also had a taste for chlorine. If I had used Chlorox, she’d lick me for hours, and sometimes nibble. It had an effect similar to catnip.

Stella was adaptable. She tolerated trips to the vet with only vocal protests. The vet techs would often comment on how patient and accepting she was during exams, blood draws, shots, and so on. Stella also barfed a lot. She’d eat too much too fast. And as she got older, her hyperthyroidism would make her sick. She had a habit of meowing in a particular way — pitch and volume — that we knew would be followed by puking. So we’d be able to scoop her off furniture and carpets if we moved fast enough. That made clean up much easier.

If there was a sunspot, you’d find her in it.

bliss
stella sunning herself
napping in the sun

But she and Sophie also made use of artificial light in the colder months. Getting work done at my home desk was a challenge.

warm kitties

She had a penchant for Wheat Thins. She also loved soft cat treats. If I called the word “treats” in a high pitch in a way that sounded like a question, she’d come lumbering from where she was, talking excitedly. She also loved the outdoors and attempted to sneak out at every chance.

During my pregnancy, Sophie died of heart failure. It was sudden and tragic. She and Stella were quite a pair, and I was devastated. I have always relished this photo I took of them:

what are YOU lookin' at?

Stella was a high-contact cat, at least with me. She’d come up and rub her head against mine and try to lick my hair. When I was pregnant we napped together on the sofa every day. When we brought Claire home and Stella was displaced from her doted-upon status, she accepted it with grace.

becoming friends

She was never aggressive to Claire. In fact, she attempted to groom Claire as she did everyone else. As you can tell from Claire’s expression, it was a weird sensation.

stella gives claire a cat shampoo

She also enjoyed her kitty television.

stella introduces claire to kitty television

Stella, oh Stella, you were quite a cat.

i'm too sexy for my fur

We love you.


Look Inside

Posted Sunday, February 9th, 2014 @ 8:11 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Community, Education, Journal, Motherhood, Quotes, Social Science

One of my daughter’s favorite performers are Peter, Paul, & Mary, and one of her favorite songs by them is called Inside.

Tonight I was scanning Facebook and came across a link from A Mighty Girl. A Mighty Girl is an excellent resource of zillions of ideas, toys, book titles, articles and more to help girls to grow up confidently. They shared a link from the Huffington Post of a letter from a father to his daughter about society’s hyper-focus on physical appearance.

In the article, Words From a Father to a Daughter (In the Makeup Aisle), Flanagan wrote:

When you have a daughter, you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house — a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence.

But words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world. Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakeable sense of her own worthiness and beauty.

He concludes by asking, “Where are you the most beautiful? On the inside.” The article is worth reading, bookmarking, printing to share. A Mighty Girl also posted links to resources on their Facebook page; I’m sharing them here:

To help girls understand more about the impact of the media messages they encounter related to beauty and body image, check out “All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype to Celebrate Real Beauty” for ages 10 to 14 and “Body Drama” for ages 15 and up.

For a diverse selection of body image-related books for Mighty Girls of all ages focused on fostering a positive self-image, visit our “Body Image” section.

For books for parents that address body image issues, including the helpful guide “101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body,” visit our “Body Image / Self-Esteem” parenting section.

And, to learn about a few of our favorite books that celebrate the special father-daughter bond, visit our post “A Father’s Love: A Mighty Girl Celebrates Fathers”.

And to reinforce the message (and because it’s a fun song), I’m sharing Inside here.


The link to the video is here.

Milestone

Posted Friday, February 7th, 2014 @ 4:52 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Motherhood, Nature

Here is my Sunshine Girl, enjoying peppermint ice cream at Baskin Robbins as a reward. Her very first loose tooth was not budging and the permanent one was emerging behind it. So we saw the dentist, who pulled it out. Claire was calm and composed through the process and patiently waited for the gauze to stop the bleeding.

We left with her itty bitty tooth in a little tooth necklace, and as we walked to the car she began to whimper. She was crying once we got into the car, and we sat in the back seat and snuggled. She said, “I kept my scared inside, but when we left I couldn’t keep the scared inside anymore, and I had to cry.” I assured her it’s all right to cry and held her until she felt calmer. I replied that losing a first tooth is big deal, because you have to get used to the gap and a little blood and the gum is tender. I suggested we get ice cream, and she agreed.

And of course we had to call her father at work to tell him about her courage and excitement.

One the way home, she said, “I am so proud of myself! I’m so proud of myself I could cry! I’m a big girl now! The tooth fairy is coming tonight!”

Untitled

Can’t Go Back

Posted Friday, February 7th, 2014 @ 12:38 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Motherhood, Regional, Spirit

It was 3 a.m., July 6, 1994, at my parents’ home. I woke up, dressed quickly, and ate a light breakfast. It felt like a secret to be awake at that hour. My parents had also woken up. (I was leaving before dawn because it was summer, 600 miles lay ahead, and my car had no air conditioner.) My mother, still sleepy, enveloped me in her arms. It was a long embrace; I felt her sweet warmth and her grief. My father said to her, “Come on, let her go.” She did, and I turned to hug him. We were not a hugging family, so each embrace always felt new. As we separated, he said, “Go on and live life. Go make a million dollars.”

I climbed into my blue Eagle Summit, which I’d packed to the walls and ceiling with my belongings, and started out. I felt sadness and tremendous excitement. I cried for about 15 miles as I headed west. I was leaving Syracuse — my home of 31 years — for a new life in Austin, Texas. I’d sold all my furniture and most of my collection of 600 books. After sifting through all my belongings and discarding most of them, I’d packed 20 U-haul book boxes with items I deemed essential and shipped them to my brother in Austin for storage. My car was paid for; I had $2000 in the bank. I had no place to live and no job once I arrived. With each mile I felt the delight opening up to whatever presented itself. I was done with Syracuse and gladly moved on. On the third day, I rose again. Then I descended upon Austin.

I never looked back. I have never wanted to go back. It was one of the best decisions of my life. This song by The Weepies captures the heart of that experience. I imagine one day I, too, will envelope my daughter in a long, sleepy, poignant hug as she ventures into the world.


If the embed fails, click here.

Presence and Silence

Posted Thursday, February 6th, 2014 @ 1:22 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Nature, Quotes, Spirit

I’ve been thinking about something for a long time, and I keep noticing that most human speech – if not all human speech – is made with the outgoing breath. This is the strange thing about presence and absence. When we breathe in, our bodies are filled with nutrients and nourishment. Our blood is filled with oxygen, our skin gets flush; our bones get harder – they get compacted. Our muscles get toned and we feel very present when we’re breathing in. The problem is, that when we’re breathing in, we can’t speak. So presence and silence have something to do with each other.

Li-Young Lee

I also think that Presence is magnified in natural settings, particularly primeval forests such as the Redwoods and Sequoias.

DSC00030

The Japanese term Shinrin-yoku may literally mean “forest bathing,” but it doesn’t involve soaking in a tub among the trees. Rather it refers to spending time in the woods for its therapeutic (or bathing) effect. Most of us have felt tension slip away in the midst of trees and nature’s beauty. But science now confirms its healing influence on the body. When you spend a few hours on a woodland hike or camping by a lake you breathe in phytoncides, active substances released by plants to protect them against insects and from rotting, which appear to lower blood pressure and stress and boost your immune system.

Mother Nature Network

Before Putting the Nail In

Posted Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 @ 8:40 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Nature, Quotes

It’s pretty much impossible to feel anger at someone for driving too slowly in front of you in traffic when you’ve just come from sanding your own coffin. Coveting material objects, holding on to old grudges, failing to pause and see the grace in strangers — all equally foolish. While the coffin is indeed a reminder of what awaits us all, its true message is to live every moment to its greatest potential.

–Jeffrey M. Piehler, Ashes to Ashes, But First, a Nice Pine Box

Enclosing Nothingness

Posted Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 @ 12:34 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Quotes, Spirit

I’ve always felt that inside each of us there is profound anonymity. Sometimes I think that when you go deep inside, you meet everyone else on a sort of common ground – or you meet nobody. But whatever you meet, it is not yours though you enclose it. We are the container, and this nothingness is what we enclose. This is where Heidegger is very interesting to me. He describes the division between the world as nothing, as what he calls the “open,” and any act of conceptualizing which restores the world in a particular way.

Many of his texts are longings to experience that anonymity, the condition where we don’t have an “I” yet. It is as if we were in a room from which, paradoxically, we were absent. Everything is seen from the perspective of that absence. I suppose, in some ways, this is a mystical vision that brings to me a sense of the universe as an anonymous presence. The force of that sometimes frightens me, sometimes delights me.

–Charles Simic

This quote just touches slightly what I am exploring these days. This nothingness, or space, isn’t empty — it just seems that way to us in this dimension. The anonymity isn’t obliteration, though to the ego it feels that way. It’s so much more expansive than we can imagine, and connected too. This is a piece of what I know, what it true for me.

[Thanks Whiskey River for mining so many marvelous gems]

Building With Stories and Tools

Posted Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 @ 12:34 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Education, Journal, Motherhood, Recreation, Science, Technology

Introducing the Cat Walker, designed and created by Claire. It was engineered to exercise a cat while transporting other beings. (In this case, it’s Benjamin Cranklin the Cat hauling two Katinka the Dolphin Ballerinas.) She made this using her GoldieBlox toys.

DSC06022

The field of engineering consists roughly of 13 % women and 87% men. A couple of years ago, Debbie Sterling, an engineer, asked herself the question of why more girls aren’t interested in engineering, and how to get them excited about the skills related to it. I recall her Kickstarter video mentioning that girls love stories. They aren’t drawn just to build something for the sake of building. Girls like characters and plot. So Sterling set out to create a construction toy that would appeal to girls by giving them stories that incorporate spatial skills, teach engineering principles, and boost confidence in problem-solving.

I contributed to the Kickstarter campaign and ordered the first set, GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine. The focus is on the skill concept of a belt drive. It contains a storybook, 5 animal figurines, 1 pegboard, 5 wheels, 10 axles, 5 blocks, 5 washers, 1 crank, 1 ribbon. Claire loves playing with it. The biggest attraction is the five animals; they excite her imagination, and she incorporates the GoldieBlox pieces in all sorts of ways with her other toys. Other times she plays just with the pieces (as shown above) and creates things on her own.

Sterling’s company has subsequently produced two more toys. One is called GoldieBlox and the Parade Float; its skill concept is wheel and axel. The other — just released — is GoldieBlox and the Dunk tank, with a focus on hinge and lever mechanics.

We’ve also been pleased with Lego Friends. Claire considered Legos a “boy toy” and avoided them. As soon as the Friends line was introduced she became eager to play with them. Again, the appeal is in the story and characters. (And it thrills her father, who loves Lego and really wanted to share it with her.)

I really appreciate Debbie Sterling’s vision and am delighted there are engineering toys with special appeal to girls. And of course, boys are welcome to play with them (and they do)! The company website states that they will be introducing male characters in the future, and that “everyone is encouraged to discover engineering with Goldie and her friends.” These toys are available at Target, Toys R Us, and Amazon.


If the embed doesn’t work, here is the link: The Launch Video.