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Telling About It: Tree Pose Yoga Goddess Pendant

In tree pose, she finds her balance 11223536_1643434975868718_5733380625052658785_n
despite asymmetry.
Flexible, yielding,
strong, and steady.
One-legged and whole…

I created our Tree Pose pendant to remind me that “balance” does not need to be perfectly symmetrical or even. Balance is about finding your center (even if one “leg” of your life is taking more time/attention than others…)

I encounter many other women who express teetering on the edge of finding that elusive and possibly-not-actually necessary “balance” in their work tasks and mothering tasks. I have a friend who describes balance not as making things “equal,” but as being like tree pose in yoga—you want one leg to be firm underneath you so you can stay standing up, but your two sides do not have to actually be “equal” in order to be balanced. Sometimes my balance is weighted towards work-at-home tasks, sometimes toward parenting, sometimes toward teaching, but I know it will continue shifting and I’ll still be standing. Find your center. That is the mental reminder that instantly pulls my own literal tree pose into balance for me during my daily morning yoga practice. Find your center.

I’m in one of those off-balance positions right now while I finish up the summer school session, work with my Womanrunes class, and prepare for our Red Tent Program beginning in August. I got out my tree pose goddess and put her on as a reminder to me, both to find my center, but also that this sensation is not new or terrible, it is just is here again. I re-read this past post:

…As I’ve alluded to in the past, usually online teaching blends seamlessly into my day, often taking roughly the same amount of time and energy that checking in with Facebook would take. During the two weeks each session that papers are due (fifth and seventh weeks out of an 8 week session), the work suddenly feels unmanageable and incompatible with motherhood and I feel taut, tense, and drawn. The kids are need-factories and I’m distracted and impatient and consumed with the NEED to get these freaking things GRADED and OUT OF MY HEAD!

via The tensions and triumphs of work at home mothering | Talk Birth.

And, Tanner fell asleep clutching my pendant:

<exhale>

Tuesday Tidbits: Self-Care

I spent the past weekend out-of-town at a faculty conference. The whole family went and they brought Tanner to me to nurse on Friday, which was a whole day event (7:45-7:30). He fell asleep in the Ergo after walking around campus and so I took him back into the conference room with me and he snoozed there for about two hours while we talked about assessment measures and course content. It is hard for me to feel grounded and rooted while traveling, particularly in a city. It feels hard on my nerves and even my own sense of self.

After the conference, we spent an extra night at the hotel and then met up with my parents, my sister, and my brother, SIL, and nephew for some Cousin Power and family fun. Each of us only had a roughly two-hour trip to meet in Columbia, instead of traveling all the way to someone’s house. We rented a basement apartment from Airbnb and had a delightful time. It was so much better to visit that way than in a hotel! Very nice! Before our visit we also went to Red Lobster for lunch, Target for dolls, Barnes and Noble, Toys R Us (coincidentally arriving right before they started a free Jurassic World Lego build kit), Shelter Gardens (like a mini botanical garden place), and Hy-Vee (for lunch after the conference ended Saturday morning).

I’ve been working really hard for the last month preparing my Womanrunes Immersion course and I feel a little unbalanced and skewed off-center. I keep telling myself that it is okay to keep working hard, because I’m “almost done,” and sometimes pushing is exactly what is needed. But, I’ve realized as I participate in my own course, that since there is always something else immediately around the corner, that “break” I keep holding out for never comes. I have to create it for myself. The course is going so well and has been really inspiring and magical so far, while also needing a lot of energy from me. I’ve committed to working through the course myself, not just guiding others through it, and I’ve already had to take a deep look at several issues…feeling on the verge of some kind of breakthrough now. From yesterday’s lesson this reminder:

When we lack proper time for the simple pleasures of life, for the enjoyment of eating, drinking, playing, creating, visiting friends, and watching children at play, then we have missed the purpose of life. Not on bread alone do we live, but on all these human and heart-hungry luxuries.
–Ed Hayes (Simple Pleasures)

And, then from another article:

“The more fully we experience life’s beauty, the less regret we have that we didn’t live and love in the ways we most longed to.”

Barefeet, watermelons, and sunburns – it’s summer!

Part of what I’m noticing is that I spend so much time keeping up with tasks online, whether teaching, or maintaining social media, or working on etsy listings, that I feel like I do not have enough time for physical, grounded, embodied, real-life practices that nurture me. I also recognize that part of this is having a baby and that by necessity, some things get pared away. However, I worry I’m letting things of real value get pared away though, while striving to “keep up” with all the rest.

This article makes the point that no matter how much the wellness industry burgeons, it cannot overcome overwork:

No amount of multivitamins, yoga, meditation, sweaty exercise, superfoods or extreme time management, as brilliant as all these things can be, is going to save us from the effects of too much work. This is not something we can adapt to. Not something we need to adjust the rest of our lives around. It is not possible and it’s unethical to pretend otherwise…

via No, it’s not you: why ‘wellness’ isn’t the answer to overwork.

What I’m working on, primarily, is self-created and self-directed, which feels very rewarding in a different way than working for someone else, it is still definitely possible to self-direct into overwork:

“These 24/7 work cultures lock gender inequality in place, because the work-family balance problem is recognized as primarily a woman’s problem,” said Robin Ely, a professor at Harvard Business School who was a co-author of a recent study on the topic. “The very well-intentioned answer is to give women benefits, but it actually derails women’s careers. The culture of overwork affects everybody…”

…Underlying this disparity are deep-seated cultural expectations about how men and women should act. Men are expected to be devoted to their work, and women to their family, as Mary Blair-Loy, a sociologist at University of California, San Diego, has described in her research.

“It’s not really about business; it’s about fundamental identity and masculinity,” Ms. Blair-Loy said. “Men are required by the culture to be these superheroes, to fulfill this devotion and single-minded commitment to work.”

“Women have an out,” she said, “because they have an external definition of morality or leading the good life, which is being devoted to their children.”

via The 24/7 Work Culture’s Toll on Families and Gender

While I initially committed this year to focusing intensely on baby-mama’ing and letting our business grow with its existing products and services, I’ve found myself feeling creatively consumed by new and exciting and yes, fun, projects, that have actually created a lot of new work for myself! (My motto for the year is to follow the inspiration and the inspiration can be so all-encompassing!) While parenting often feels like it directly conflicts with all the creation that is bursting to emerge, I also know that my children unlocked this in me. I would not be the way I am today and offering what I’m offering today, without having been cracked open by my babies!

“Art is mirroring and life became more complicated and richer in my opinion after Scout was born,” explained Harvey. “But the world was also much more terrifying to me.”

Riots and wars in the news— hundreds or thousands of miles away— feel more acute. In the fleeting moments of daily life— a baby’s first tooth or day of school— parents often become hyper-aware of the Sanskrit term kalpa, or the cosmic passage of time. Sarah Sze, mother of two daughters and celebrated sculptor whose work Triple Point was featured at the 2013 Venice Biennale, echoed the sentiment in an interview with The Guardian. Now that she had children, she explained, time was “more significant” and had “more weight.” And ultimately, Harvey believes, this intensity that motherhood brings isn’t a hindrance — it’s “an extraordinary gift for art.”

via Why can’t great artists be mothers? – Women in the World in Association with The New York Times – WITW.

Returning to the feeling of spending too much time online though, I enjoyed both of these articles, with their different messages. The first, on why it is okay to be on an iphone and at the park at the same time:

But you know what else? If you go around insinuating that women are somehow “bad mothers” for devoting some of their precious attention to their phones instead of their precious children, then frankly, I don’t have time for your big bag o’ guilt candy.

via On Parents and Phones at the Playground – Every Other Moment.

And, the second about the dangers of so much distraction:

Social media has created a cornucopia of opportunity for us to curate our experiences and serve them up in an endless buffet of images, phrases, ideas, pithy quotes, filters, and rants…

Without down time to unwind, restore and fill our senses, our bodies and brains sense something alarming and signal the amygdala, the brain’s 911 center, to contact other areas in the brain like the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The chemistry of stress tells the heart to pump faster, push more blood and oxygen into muscles so we can get ready to run if we have to, and raises blood pressure and inflammation. After all, that’s what the body does when we have a wound of any kind. Stress is the wound we can’t see.

Another reason we’re distracted is that we practice monkey mind. Our thoughts are racing and mocking for position. We can’t “think straight”…

via Redirect your focus before it’s too late.

When I was on the Board at Citizens for Midwifery, I was discouraged by the amount of time we spent on the Outrage Du Jour—what I called “putting out fires” work—rather than on the truer, deeper work and mission. It seems like every day on Facebook there is something new to get worked up over and to write outraged blog posts over and then that “crisis” passes and “everyone” is talking about something else. I try to avoid participating–whether it is birth-related, personal, or celebrity-related–because it just doesn’t have lasting value. So, I appreciated this post on Outrage and Letting Go:

“…Perhaps what we need is a reduced dose of Outrage and a higher dosage of Letting Go. You see, letting go of Outrage is not the same as embracing Apathy—Outrage and Apathy are obverse sides of the same coin. By refusing to be offended by life’s minutia, we refuse to step into Outrage’s blast radius, and thus we refuse to cast judgment arbitrarily. Ultimately, avoiding the Outrage is how we can approach controversial and interesting topics with honest, worthwhile discussions…”

Fake Outrage: Dealing with Criticism – The Minimalists.

Yesterday, a new book arrived for me to review and I’m really looking forward to it! (It does join a large stack on my desk.)

1978706_10155723230680442_8659481311478884417_nThis morning, I read a memorial article about Sheila Kitzinger too:

In writing her own fantasy obituary for a newspaper many years earlier, she imagined dying at the height of her powers: “She died as she would have wished, flat on her back on a table with her legs in the air, in front of a large audience, demonstrating with vigour the dangers of making women lie down, hold their breath till their eyes bulge and strain as if forcing through a coconut to push a baby out. She claimed that treating the second stage of labour as a race to the finishing post … could result in cardiac arrhythmia and even a stroke. She made her point.”

Rather than the melodramatic early death she conjured up here, Sheila died quietly at home surrounded by her family, at the age of 86…

via How to plan for a good death | Life and style | The Guardian.

Yesterday in response to my own Womanrunes prompts, I literally went outside to smell the roses.

11227964_10207110812918713_5387391899479469362_nIt was just what I needed and I need to move these experiences up in priority in my day, instead of being the last things I attend to. I’m also participating in this free offering:

Enchant Your Everyday: 108 Day Pilgrimage to Your Beautiful Life – Vanessa Sage.

This is a beautiful world. Don’t miss it!

Wisdom from Moon Time for Red Tents

IMG_3728“At her first bleeding a woman meets her power.
During her bleeding years she practices it.
At menopause she becomes it.”

(Traditional Native American saying)

One of my favorite books to have available on the resource table of our local Red Tent Circle is Moon Time, by Lucy moontime2Pearce. I reviewed it in this post, but didn’t have room for all the juicy quotes I wanted to share! One of the ideas I include in my own Red Tent Resource Kit book is to use womanspirit wisdom quotes to stimulate a discussion in the circle. Here are some quotes from Moon Time that would make great launching points for a sharing circle at the Red Tent:

“It is my guess that no one ever initiated you into the path of womanhood. Instead, just like me, you were left to find out by yourself. Little by little you pieced a working understanding of your body and soul together. But still you have gaps.”

Questions for circle: Were you initiated into the “path of womanhood”? What gaps do you feel?

“You yearn for a greater knowledge of your woman’s body, a comprehensive understanding of who you are, why you are that way. Perhaps you have searched long and hard, seeking advice from your mother, sister, aunts and friends, tired of suffering and struggling alone. You may have visited doctors, healers or therapists, but still you feel at sea and your woman’s body is a mystery to you. Or maybe you have never given your cycles a second thought … until now.”

Questions for circle: What do you feel like you need to know about your body? What mysteries are you uncovering?

“Through knowledge we gain power over our lives. With options we have possibility. With acceptance we find a new freedom.

Menstruation matters.”

Question for circle: How does menstruation matter?

Additional information about why menstruation matters on a physical, emotional, and relational level:

We start bleeding earlier today than ever before, with girls’ first periods occurring at 12.8 years old now, compared with 14.5 years at the beginning of the last century. Coupled with lower breastfeeding rates, better nutrition and fewer pregnancies, women now menstruate more in their adult lives than at any time in our history.

From the age of 12 to 51, unless you are pregnant or on the pill, every single day of your life as a woman is situated somewhere on the menstrual cycle. Whether ovulating or bleeding, struggling with PMS or conception, our bodies, our energy levels, our sense of self, even our abilities are constantly shifting each and every day. And yet nobody talks about it…

via Moon Time: Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle

As I noted in my review, one of the things this book was helpful for to me personally, was in acknowledging myself as a cyclical being and that these influences are physical and real: IMG_5194-0

Each month our bodies go through a series of changes, many of which we may be unconscious of. These include: shifts in levels of hormones, vitamins and minerals, vaginal temperature and secretions, the structure of the womb lining and cervix, body weight, water retention, heart rate, breast size and texture, attention span, pain
threshold . . .

The changes are biological. Measurable. They are most definitely not ‘all in your head’ as many would have us believe. This is why it is so crucial to honour these changes by adapting our lives to them as much as possible.

We cannot just will these changes not to happen as they are an integral part of our fertility.

From there, another relevant quote:

“There is little understanding and allowance for the realities of being a cycling woman—let alone celebration.”

Questions for circle: What allowances do you make for yourself as a cycling woman? Are you able to celebrate the experience?

In my own life, I’ve had to reframe my understanding of the impact of the monthly moontime experience by looking IMG_4269at it through the lens of healthy postpartum care following birth—it is crucial that we care for our bodies with love, attention, respect, and time. Our local Red Tent Circle definitely doesn’t focus exclusively on menstruation or on currently menstruating women (all phases of a woman’s lifecycle and her many diverse experiences and feelings are “held” in that circle)–in fact menstruation sometimes barely comes up as a topic—however, one of the core purposes of our circling is in celebration. We gather together each month to celebrate being women in this time and in this place, together. I started out my work with women focused on birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum. While those are formative and central and important life experiences, it became very important to me to broaden my scope to include the totality of women’s lives, not just pregnant women. I want to honor and celebrate our whole lives, not just pregnancy and birth. Having a mother blessing ceremony during pregnancy is beautiful and important and special, but I feel like that care, attention, value, and ceremony can be brought into the rest of our non-pregnant lives The_Red_Tent_Resourc_Cover_for_Kindlethrough gathering together in a Red Tent Circle. This is one reason why I’m so excited to offer an online Red Tent Initiation Program this summer. This program is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles.

Back to Moon Time quotes!

“There is no shame in tears. There is a need for anger. Blood will flow. Speak your truth. Follow your intuition. Nurture your body. But above all … Let yourself rest.”

Questions for circle: Do you allow yourself anger and tears? Do you feel shame? How do you speak your truth? How do you give yourself time to rest?

To be clear, I wouldn’t use all these quotes at one Red Tent Circle! I would use them individually at different gatherings. This one blog post has enough potential circle discussion prompts to last for more than six months of Circles! 🙂 This month I also bought a bundle of copies of Moon Time to have available for women at our local Red Tent.

More good discussion quotes here: Talk Books: Cycle to the Moon | Talk Birth.

And, there are others in my Red Tent Resource Kit.

Please consider joining us this summer for the Red Tent Initiation Program!

IMG_3702

Talk Books: Moon Time

moontime2My first reading of the book Moon Time in 2012 had a profound impact on my personal understanding of the natural ebb and flow of my energy in connection to my body’s cyclical nature. The author, Lucy Pearce, explains it so well…

Each month our bodies go through a series of changes, many of
which we may be unconscious of. These include: shifts in levels of
hormones, vitamins and minerals, vaginal temperature and secretions,
the structure of the womb lining and cervix, body weight, water
retention, heart rate, breast size and texture, attention span, pain
threshold . . .

The changes are biological. Measurable. They are most definitely
not ‘all in your head’ as many would have us believe. This is why it is
so crucial to honour these changes by adapting our lives to them as
much as possible.

We cannot just will these changes not to happen as they are an
integral part of our fertility.

Moon Time is written in a friendly, conversational tone and is a quick read with a lot of insight into the texture and tone of our relationships with menstruation.

The book contains information about charting cycles and about our relationship to our bodies and our fertility. I especially enjoyed the excellent section on minimizing PMS through self-care measures and how to plan time to nurture and nourish yourself during your monthly moon time. I also appreciate the section on motherhood and menstruation:

“What strikes me reading through a lot of the material on menstruation is that is seems oddly detached from the fruits of the menstrual cycle: children.”

Moon Time also includes planning information for Red Tents and Moon Lodges and for menarche rituals  as well as for personal ceremonies and self-care rituals at home. It ends with an absolutely phenomenal list of resources—suggested reading and websites.

Towards the beginning of the book Lucy observes, “We live in a culture which demands that we are ‘turned on’ all the time. Always bright and happy. Always available for intercourse–both sexual and otherwise with people. Psychologist Peter Suedfeld observes that  we are all ‘chronically stimulated, socially and physically and we are probably operating at a stimulation level higher than that for which our species evolved.’ It is up to us to value rest and fallow time. We must demand it for ourselves to ensure our health.” She also comments on something I’ve observed in my own life and have previously discussed with my friends, in that the frustration and anger and discontent we may feel pre-menstrually or during menstruation is actually our body’s way of expressing things we have been feeling for a long time, but trying to stifle (rather than hormonal “irrationality): “There is no shame in tears. There is a need for anger. Blood will flow. Speak your truth. Follow your intuition. Nurture your body. But above all … Let yourself rest.”

One of the things that Moon Time helped clarify for me is that my moontime is worthy of careful attention to my physical and emotional well-being, just as careful attention is important during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I’ve been a devoted proponent for years of good care of yourself during these phases of life, but had not applied the same rationale or expectation for myself during moontime. This monthly experience of being female is an experience worth respecting and is a sacred opportunity to treat my body and my emotions with loving care and self-renewal. I changed the way I treat myself after reading this book! Sound like too much to expect from your life, schedule, and family? Moon Time includes a great reminder with regard to creating retreat space, taking time out for self-care, and creating ritual each month: “Do what you can with what you have, where you are.” You don’t have create something extensive or elaborate or wait for the “perfect time,” but you can still do something with what you have and where you are. (This is a good reminder for many things in life, actually.)

I highly recommend Moon Time as an empowering resource for cycling women! It would also be a great resource for girls who are approaching menarche or for mothers seeking ways to honor their daughters’ entrance into the cycles of a woman’s life. I always have a copy on the resource table at our local Red Tent Circle (related note: I’ve got an online Red Tent Initiation Program beginning next month!)

Disclosure: I received a complimentary e-copy of this book.

Sign up for Lucy’s mailing list

Purchase options:

Amazon.com  moontime2
Amazon.co.uk
Signed copies
Book Review:  Moon Time: Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle by Lucy H. Pearce

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Womancraft Publishing; 2 edition (April 22, 2015)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910559062

http://thehappywomb.com/

Reviewed by Molly Remer, Talk Birth

Talk Books: Cycle to the Moon

c2m3D“Moontime opens up our intuition.
By allowing ourselves to honour this time,
we can eliminate premenstrual tendencies…
Moontime is a sacred passage leading
to a greater awareness of self.”

–Veronika Robinson, Cycle to the Moon (p. 142)

In April, on the evening of our local Red Tent Circle, a package arrived for me from the UK. In it was the beautiful book by Veronika Robinson, Cycle to the Moon, that I won in the Red Tent fundraising auction for Moontimes. March 2015 183

Cycle to the Moon is a quick read and an inspiring one. The line illustrations are beautiful and the combination of journal pages/prompts and text is nice.

Cycle to the Moon also suggests a neat idea of creating a “Red Box” for a pre-teen daughter. Either together with your daughter or on your own for a surprise, collect special items in a box to be given to her upon menarche. It can have jewelry, garnet gemstones, books, cloth pads, tea, and so forth. She makes the potent observations that how we welcome young girls into womanhood, sets the stage for how they will view themselves and their life cycles and transitions for a lifetime:

“As we hold the hands of our young sisters when they cross the menstrual threshold, we would be wise to remember that their experience of this cycle will affect them throughout their childbearing years and into menopause. There’s a red thread which weaves through these major themes of our life. Every moment is connected. Whatever we have learned and integrated benefits not only us, but the culture” (p. 41).

Robinson also writes about the idea how you treat yourself during menstruation as a “mirror of your life”:

“The simple truth is that menstruation is a mirror of your life. If you’re not honouring your body through healthy food choices; ample hydration; rest; playtime; calmly managing stressful events; positive thoughts; creativity and sleep; then it will show up in your menstrual cycle…your hormones will come to call; and they will demand that you rest. You might try and quiet them down with headache tablets or something pharmaceutical for cramps, but they will keep talking to you (even if it takes twenty years), until you get the message. If you don’t honour your body during the menstrual years, you are highly likely to suffer when you reach menopause…

She also makes an interesting distinction between what is “normal” and what is “natural”:

“There is such a wide variance in cycle length these days that doctors consider it normal to bleed any time. It might be normal, but it is not natural. Modern statistics relating to menstruating women are taken from huge cities about women whose lifestyles are not in accord with Nature. Artificial street lighting, pollution, stress, foods coated in chemicals, nutritional deficiencies, are just a few contributing factors in the variance of cycle days.

Our body’s cycle is regulated by the Moon’s light. The pituitary and hypothalamus glands are light sensitive, which is why we disrupt our cycle immensely by sleeping near artificial light, such as street lights, computer, mobile/cell phone or clock-radio lights. In fact, keep all electromagnetic devices well out of your sleeping space. If you intend to be conscious of cycling to the Moon, and ensuring optimal health, then don’t sleep under or next to any artificial light. Instead, keep your room dark, and only open your curtain for the week of the full Moon, thus coming into alignment with it. If you live in the country it will not be necessary to keep out starlight…city girls often begin menstruation earlier than country girls because of street lighting” (p. 142).

There are also a number of great resources at the end of Cycle to the Moon, such as:

Red Wisdom

Red Tent

Red Tent Booklet

What we do in our own local Red Tent Circle varies each month, but we start with introductions using our maternal May 2015 047line and a red thread to represent our connection to the women who came before us and who will go after us, we sing, we have a sharing circle where we “pass the rattle” and talk about our lives and have what we say witnessed and held in safe space. We do a guided meditation and journaling and then a project. In April we had a salt bowl ceremony and then did footbaths and in May we made moon necklaces. We close with a poetry reading and a song. There is tea and a “reflection” table with guidance cards, art supplies, and books to look at. At our May Circle, I shared these two quotes:

“The revolution must have dancing; women know this. The music will light our hearts with fire,
The stories will bathe our dreams in honey and fill our bellies with stars…”

–Nina Simons in We’Moon 2012

“A woman’s best medicine is quite simply herself, the powerful resources of her own deep consciousness, giving her deep awareness of her own physiology as it changes from day to day.”

–Veronica Butler and Melanie Brown

I asked the women to share their revolutions and their medicine. As they spoke, I realized that my “revolution” and my “medicine” were in the planning and facilitation of these Circles, as well as in the online Red Tent Initiation Program I will be offering this summer. I’m so glad I decided to go this direction this year.

May 2015 072

 

 

 

Restoring Women to Ceremony: The Red Tent Resource Kit

 “… Every day, we witness the positive, transformative effects of, ‘restoring women to ceremony’…another reason it is vital that we continue our work…”

–D’vorah Grenn (Stepping into Ourselves, p. 56)

We’ve been hard at work over the last three months giving birth to a new project!

Introducing…The Red Tent Resource Kit

redtentkit

I actually ended up sort of accidentally writing a whole new book to go with this kit. It was originally going to be a collection of handouts as a pdf. However, as I put the handouts together, I realized I was actually writing a short book or manual instead. I also reflected on how I am tired of only getting pdf manuals and ebooks when I sign up for different programs, rather than an actual, printed book. One of my mottoes this year is to follow the inspiration, so I went with it, and at the end of last month our new books arrived and they’re beautiful and I’m so excited about them!

Our unique, signature Red Tent Kit includes ALL of the following resources:

  • Womanrunes Book and Card set: ideal for personal guidance and self-development, or for the inspiration and renewal corner at your Red Tent Circle.
  • Red Tent Goddess Sculpture: symbolic of self-care and of both receiving and giving.
  • Carnelian Pendulum (kit exclusive!)
  • Brand new 58 page book: Restoring Women to Ceremony, The Red Tent Resource Kit, written exclusively for this kit. In this collection of essays and ritual resources, you will find a complete Red Tent “recipe,” circle leadership basics, moontime musings, and readings, quotes, and poems to help you facilitate a rich, inviting, welcoming, creative space for the women of your community.
  • Moontime pendant with silver-tone, solid crescent moon charm
  • Red altar cloth
  • Red organza bag to store your resources
  • Coupon for $100 off the companion Red Tent Initiation online training to be held in July-August
  • Extra surprise bonus goodies intuitively chosen for you!

The contents of this Kit are valued at $100 when sold separately!

When I was taking pictures for the Kit, I randomly drew three Womanrunes cards to include in the pictures. The ones I drew were absolutely perfect for sharing the message of what this collection has to offer to others and what we hope to create in restoring women to ceremony:

IMG_4889

 

 

Grinding My Corn Sculpture

IMG_3729It has been almost four years since I wrote my post about “grinding my corn.” In that time, I’ve added another baby, another degree, a book, and a business to my life (as well as lots of other projects!). I’ve also made necessary subtractions and deletions, some painful, some a relief. And, guess what, I still want to grind my corn! My husband works from home with me now and he, too, grinds his corn while parenting and personing. This is what I wrote in my original post:

This is what I’m talking about. There needs to be a third, realistic option (and not just for women. For men too. For families!). I have often expressed the desire to find a balance between mothering and “personing.” I’m seeking a seamless integration of work and family life for both Mark and myself. An integration that makes true co-parenting possible, while still meeting the potent biological need of a baby for her mother and a mother’s biological compulsion to be present with her baby. Why is the work world designed to ignore the existence of families?

via I just want to grind my corn! | Talk Birth.

It felt like it was definitely time for a new grinding my corn sculpture! It took quite some time between my original sculpt and making the new figurines a reality, but she’s here!

IMG_3526I love her and she sits by my computer while I write, on my desk while I teach, and on my bedside table at night. She reminds me of my own capacity—to grow, to adapt, to change, to balance, to hold, to care, to live.

Adding another baby to our family has really pushed us to our coping edge in many ways, sometimes it feels like we’ve tipped past the edge–piled dishes, piled laundry, piled recycling, undone requests, unresponded to messages, other kids wanting books read and projects done. We’re pretty maxed. Our house feels at maximum capacity. Our lives feel at maximum capacity. And, yet, I still reach for the and. Somehow, even when here at the edge, or over it, we do make room…

At one point when my first son was a baby, I was trying to explain my “trapped” or bound feelings to my mother and she said something like, “well what would you rather be doing instead?” And, that was exactly it. I DIDN’T want to be doing something instead, I wanted to be doing something AND. I wanted to grind my corn with my baby. Before he was born I had work that I loved very much and that, to me, felt deeply important to the world. Motherhood required a radically re-defining of my sense of my self, my purpose on earth, and my reason for being. While I had been told I could bring my baby with me while continuing to teach volunteer trainings, I quickly found that it was incompatible for me—I felt like I was doing neither job well while bringing my baby with me and I had to “vote” for my baby and quit my work. While I felt like this was the right choice for my family, it felt like a tremendous personal sacrifice and I felt very restricted and “denied” in having to make it. With my first baby, I had to give up just about everything of my “old life” and it was a difficult and painful transition. When my second baby was born, it was much easier because I was already in “kid mode.” I’d already re-defined my identity to include motherhood and while I still chafed sometimes at the bonds of being bonded, they were now familiar to me…

via I just want to grind my corn! | Talk Birth.

My new sculpture incorporates a small “offering” bowl (as her lap) that to me is symbolic of the fact that though her hands are full, she is still open to possibilities and offerings and can “hold” more, when needed.

IMG_3702Having another baby has really made me pare away a lot in my life, including very basic self-care things like regular showers! I’ve done it before, so I know it isn’t permanent, but it is still hard to feel like I’m trimming away so much that matters to me, while also having so much I want to offer, and constantly having to prioritize and choose. I’ve been looking at it as a sort of “sabbatical.” While I might not be able to do as much face to face projects as I envision and dream of, I can lay the groundwork, I can write, I can prepare and outline and imagine, while also sitting in my bed holding my sleeping baby. Maybe I won’t get outside every day and maybe I have to choose between the shower or yoga, since doing both in one day seems like too much to ask sometimes, but I can use this baby time to incubate new visions and grow while appearing stationary.

Here is a gallery of how I’ve been grinding my corn with my baby this month (click for captions)…

Tanner was my baby-helper at last night’s Red Tent Circle at WomanSpace. It is hard to balance baby-care with circle facilitation (because baby helpers do things like bang the rattle on the floor instead of “passing the rattle”), but I’m still really glad I decided to offer these circles this year. It has been a rich experience so far.

IMG_4269I envision a life of seamless integration, where there need not even be a notion of ‘life/work’ balance, because it is all just life and living. A life in which children are welcome in workplaces and in which work can be accomplished while in childspaces. A life in which I can grind my corn with my children nearby and not feel I need apologize for doing so or explain myself to anyone…

via Corn grinding mama goddess birth art sculpture by BrigidsGrove.

During the Inner Mentor visualization we did last night at our circle, we traveled in time to meet ourselves twenty years from now. The first thing she/I told me is that my baby is now twenty. It felt like a shock to consider that, since right now is so real

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(Side note: this is my 1000th [published] blog post at Talk Birth! It is true that regular blogging eventually produces a significant body of work!)

 

Weekly Tidbits: Birth, Postpartum, the Triumvirate, and Anthropology

IMG_3501My sister-in-law shared a link to a really potent article from The Guardian about birth, midwifery, postpartum, and supportive friends. When she shared, she brought tears to my eyes by thanking me for being part of her own “triumvirate,” described by the post author as…

I needed a maternal figure, a dedicated and present midwife, dear and loving friends. I was blessed with one out of three. It could have been worse.

The only people I know who did just fine in the postpartum period are those who score the triumvirate: well cared for in birth, surrounded by supportive peers, helpful elders to stay with them for a time. The others, wild-eyed at the supermarket, prone to tears, unable to nurse or sleep or breathe, a little too eager to make friends at baby groups – I can spot them at 20 paces. We form a vast and sorry club.

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

I’m lucky enough to have also scored the triumvirate (I find it takes pretty careful planning and active attention to put it into place!). When my midwife came to visit me postpartum and commented that I was looking good and I replied that people kept telling me that, she said that rather than just saying “thank you,” I should point out my looking good was directly related to having excellent postpartum care. And, she was right. I did not look, feel, or sound depleted, exhausted or overwhelmed precisely because I was being taken care of. I had great prenatal from my midwife along with six weeks of postpartum follow-up visits. I had a postpartum doula for immediately post-birth support and several follow-up visits as well as meal calendar coordination. I had my mom, who cooked for us and cared for our other children. I had my sister-in-law who came to stay for several days and helped with cooking and cleaning. I had friends who brought me dinners and took my kids to playgroup. I had my husband, who got to enjoy our new baby with me because he wasn’t trying to do all of the above!

When I think of my triumvirate, a specific moment comes to mind. I am sitting in the bathroom holding my brand new baby, still attached to me by his cord. We are waiting for the placenta to come. My midwife is close by, peeking over, but not being hands-on or aggressive. My mom leans over to take pictures. My doula is standing in our bathtub to make room. My husband is kneeling near me and my other children are gathered around to cut the cord. In the driveway outside, my friend waits with her three children to take my kids to playgroup. This is what birth support looks like. I am surrounded with love and care.

The author of the article quoted above did not have the same experience…

Two weeks later, I gave birth at home, after a 13-hour posterior, or back-to-back, labour, which the long-practising, well-respected midwife did not bother to attend. Frankly, it felt like staring death in the face, by which I mean an altogether normal and intense physiological process that has nothing to do with the ordinariness of daily life. Throughout, my husband and doula repeatedly called and texted the midwife, whom we had found privately. She told us it was “probably” early labour. From inside the grip of what turned out to be very active labour, I managed to flat-out demand that she join us, speaking at the phone while the doula held it to my ear. The midwife sounded annoyed, vaguely put-upon. It was another three hours before she arrived. Minutes later, with a great and unbridled roar, I delivered my son into bathwater.

We wept with joy, held him, kissed him, named him. Eventually, I got out of the bath. My husband lay in bed with our new son on his chest. I showered in a state of trembling, happy shock. The midwife perched on the sink and told me a story about her estranged sister. She handed me a towel, and I remember commiserating, trying to comfort her about her unfortunate relationship with her family, as though we were two cool girls hanging out in the bathroom at a party. One of us just happened to be naked and bleeding, immediately postpartum. I didn’t care; I was too ecstatic. Having just given birth, I felt omnipotent. Epic. Heroic. Unstoppable.

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

I wrote about the value of breastfeeding support here:

But, what happens after the birth? I’ve often thought that my role in breastfeeding support, while less “glamorous” or exciting than birth work, has had more lasting value to the women I serve. Breastfeeding is the day in, day out, nitty-gritty reality of daily mothering, rather than a single event and it matters (so does birth, of course, it matters a lot, but birth is a rite of passage, liminal event and breastfeeding is a process and a relationship that goes on and on for every. single. day. for sometimes years). Anyway, sorry for the brief side note, but I enjoyed reading this article about the celebrity culture surrounding pregnancy and birth with its obsession with who has a “bump” and then how after the birth the main deal is losing that weight and having a fabulous bod again! Woot!

via Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Thoughts | Talk Birth.

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I shared this pic on Instgram this week in honor of the theme of “self-care” in the online Equinox 15 event I’ve been taking part in.

I’ve only recently recognized that while I was surrounded by excellent support for birth and postpartum, I’m not really giving myself much credit lately for still having just had a baby. Yes, Tanner is almost 5 months old, but that moment in the bathroom was only five months ago. I still need quite a bit of help and that normal and okay. I need to recognize what I’m capable of, which is a lot, while also still recognizing what I need and what the pace of my life can be and can handle at this point in time. I also recognized that I have difficult admitting or expressing how difficult it feels sometimes to be incorporating a new baby into the family, to be working around “baby time” again, and to be physically bound to a baby again. It is hard to admit, because Tanner is such a treasure of a baby and I enjoy him so much and love having his adorable, babiest of babies self in our lives. However, it also sometimes feels hard to be doing this all again and I often feel “old” and kind of worn out and ragged lately.

This brings me to a lovely article about vulnerability as strength (something my doula reminded me of several times following Tanner’s birth):

…Today I stood swaying my daughter to sleep in my mommas group shedding tears because of the intense sleep deprivation over the last 6 weeks. My tears fell and I was held with empathy, no one solved my problems; women just heard me and held me in my challenge. We heard each other, others cried, we softened, we opened ourselves up to the wisdom that each expressed and afterwards our hearts felt happier and lighter. Something sacred unfolded. I was in a container that was safe to share my soul, to be naked in front of these women, to admit I was not perfect and I didn’t have all the answers. And I felt better. I was not alone.

The more I allow myself to be vulnerable, the more I receive, the more I soften, and the more I open myself up to support. We are not meant to mother alone. The first year of our child’s life is a raw experience. It is amazing; it is illuminating, joyful, and raw.

via Vulnerability as a Strength | Mothering Arts.

This container is so important. Though, I will also acknowledge that for my personality, being told to “take it easy” or to “lower your standards” or “don’t have such high expectations of yourself,” often registers for me as being told: You’re not capable. I don’t believe in you. Give up. So, I personally, when trying to create a container of safety or support for other women I will not usually use those sorts of phrases.

Related to the idea of postpartum tenderness and triumph, I enjoyed this photo series of newborns and mothers: Born yesterday: mothers and their newborn babies – in pictures | Life and style | The Guardian.

Bringing the discussion around to anthropology and birth though, this interesting recent article suggests that it is the mother’s metabolism (and energetic reserves) that creates the human gestation length rather than the size of the pelvis as often commonly theorizes:

We’ve been doing anthropology with this warped view of the male pelvis as the ideal form, while the female pelvis is seen as less than ideal because of childbirth,” she said. “The female births the babies. So if there’s an ideal, it’s female and it’s no more compromised than anything else out there. Selection maintains its adequacy for locomotion and for childbirth.

via Long-held theory on human gestation refuted: Mother’s metabolism, not birth canal size, limits gestation — ScienceDaily.

In a past article about the wise women behind and around us, I included this interesting quote from Tsippy Monat:

“Anthropology describes trance as a condition is which the senses are heightened and everyday things take on a different meaning. Communicative competence with other people may increase or may not exist. Facts of time and place are revealed differently than in normal everyday consciousness. This description reminded me of situations encountered at birth because birth is a condition in which the mind is altered. When I accompany births, I experience the flooding of oxytocin and endorphins. In Hebrew, the root of the word birth can also mean ‘next to God’” (p. 49).

via Thesis Tidbits: The Wise Women Behind, Within, and Around Us | Talk Birth.

And, speaking of historical experiences of birth support, I re-visited this guest post about birth witnesses:

The only way to understand birth is to experience it yourself. The ONLY way? That comment stayed with me, haunted me. I became a doula after my daughter’s birth because I wanted to be able to provide women with support and knowledge that could give them a different experience, a better memory than what I had. I just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a way to understand birth at all except to experience it firsthand. Certainly there wasn’t always this fear and unknown around birth that we each face today. Not always. I began studying that idea. What about other cultures? What about our culture, historically? What about The Farm? There wasn’t always this myth and mystery about birth! I realized there was a time (and in places, there still is) when women banded together for births. Mothers, sisters, cousins, daughters, aunts, friends. They came together and comforted, guided, soothed, coached, and held the space for one another during birth. These women didn’t go in it alone – they were surrounded by women who had birthed before them. Women who knew what looked and felt right, and what didn’t. Women who could empathize with them and empower them. In addition to that, girls and women were raised in a culture of attending births. Daughters watched mothers, sisters and aunts labor their babies into this world. They saw, heard, and supported these women for the long hours of labor, so when they became mothers themselves, the experience was a new, but very familiar one for them. Birth wasn’t a secretive ritual practiced behind the cold, business-like doors of a hospital. It was a time for bonding, learning, sharing and sisterhood. Girls learned how women become mothers, and mothers helped their sisters bring forth life. It was a sacred and special part of the birthing process that has become lost in our institutionalized, over-medicalized, isolating and impersonalized system today.

via Birth Witnesses | Talk Birth.

And, another regarding women’s rites of passage:

“I love and respect birth. The body is a temple, it creates its own rites, its own prayers…all we must do is listen. With the labor and birth of my daughter I went so deep down, so far into the underworld that I had to crawl my way out. I did this only by surrendering. I did this by trusting the goddess in my bones. She moved through me and has left her power in me.” ~Lea B., Fairfax, CA (via Mama Birth)

via Rites of Passage… Celebrating Real Women’s Wisdom | Talk Birth.

In just a few hours, I’m headed into town for our first local Red Tent Circle. I took this photo yesterday in honor of the spring equinox and the themes of manifestation, intention, and creativity. May we walk in harmony with each other and may we be surrounded by circles of support.

Happy Spring!

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Small Business Saturday: New Pewter Pendants

10933748_1582887901923426_5706330472317302049_nI feel like I should apologize for only posting these short or business/product-updatey posts lately. I am at another one of those barely-keeping-up-with-life points and blogging keeps slipping off my list, even though I have multiple ideas for multiple different blog posts on multiple different blogs a day. It is really frustrating and I’m upset and stressed/sad feeling it about it lately, to be honest. I also recognize…this again…I always want to shut everything off during the first week of February. I’ve written about it lots of other times before! (See this post: The Ongoing Crisis of Abundance. Blah, blah, nothing new!) I have lots of writing energy lately, but almost no writing opportunities and it feels very stifling and “oppressive” almost. I have fragments of time, snips and snaps, dribs and drabs, but no long stretches of uninterrupted, focused, clear time to write. The posts I do manage are eeked out amidst what feels like constant noise and with a strained feeling of not doing the right thing—or, of not enjoying it. If someone else has to hold the baby for me to write, I feel like I “should” be holding him. If I hold the baby and write at the same time I feel like I “should” be smelling his head and when I have to jiggle him against my shoulder and type with one hand, it feels like I am doing neither thing well–writing or mothering. And yet, I can’t stop the wave of ideas and topics from building in me each morning and wishing to be expressed. It is exhausting and I cannot seem to actually figure out when my many big writing projects are going to be accomplished if I can hardly manage to even get one or two mediocre blog posts published each week. ::::::sob:::::: This is not what I set out to type at all! I’m just really tired of the pervasive sensation of not having enough time. It feels awful. Though, truly, all it takes is about two hours of sustained attention on something and bing! I’m back to feeling optimistic and fulfilled and full of promise instead of wrung out and not “caught up,” the way I feel at this actual moment.

I read this quote in an old post:

“I know that for me, writing has something in common with nursing the baby. I can’t do it if I don’t do it all the time. Put it aside to build up strength, the flow will dwindle and finally disappear. When the baby was at my breast ten times a day, I had a rare secret feeling that we were violating a law of nature, defying a form of entropy…One cannot hoard some things. The more I gave the baby, the more I had to give her, and had I tried to conserve myself, I would have found that I conserved nothing.”

via Writing and Nursing | Talk Birth.

And, it spoke to me again, as both the mother of a nursling and as a writer.

So, back to my quick biz updates. Despite the no writing and no time, we have been making some pretty stuff!

We’ve re-carved, re-molded, and re-cast our womb labyrinth pendant:

10801641_1583381505207399_4451968254649696695_nThe original version was less symmetrical. The new one still isn’t perfect, but I like it better! And, life–and the labyrinth of life and birth–is also not perfect.

With an eye on my Red Tent projects this year, we also added some simple, pretty crescent moon pendants to the shop:

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We also created a Reiki-inspired Cho Ku Rei pendant. I like the new rectangle design. Mark created this one entirely on his own.

il_570xN.716175692_4gotAnd, finally, a customer requested this design for a new baby in my heart miscarriage memorial pendant.

1920198_10155113542290442_2113906179980124900_nWe don’t usually take custom requests in pewter because of the time and energy required to mold and cast a new design–it just doesn’t make sense for a one-time use–but her image spoke to us and we knew it would speak to others also. So, Mark carved her design in linoleum block and then molded and cast it and the first few he has cast are now available in our shop.

Thursday Tidbits: The Return

1800276_792912184104774_7325239257627050486_nTwo months after Tanner’s birth, I still feel like I’m “coming back” from this trip.

January 2015 003
And, speaking of returning, last night I went back to teaching my in-seat class. I am grateful to have a husband who accompanied me to keep the baby close on site for nursing as well as for helpful parents who rearranged their schedules/lives to take care of our other kids while we were gone.

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At class last night.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’d mentally prepared to be “off” until January and now that it is January, I have a feeling of being sped up in an unpleasant way. So, I appreciated reading this essay and the reminder: you just had a baby.

You just had a baby.

So, let’s stop pretending like that didn’t just happen.

And let’s give you some grace and permission.

You don’t have to answer every email, every text or every invitation that comes your way. You don’t have to keep your house clean or make fancy dinners this week or plan your family vacation for the year. You don’t have to take your toddler to the dentist or figure out how to save for college right now…

You Just Had a Baby | Ashlee Gadd.

While I do keep up with a large variety of projects, ideas, communication, and relationships, there is not a single day that passes that I don’t drop a ball, forget something, let something go (intentionally or not), or let someone down. There are emails I don’t answer, calls I don’t take, and text messages I don’t respond to as well as laundry I don’t fold and piles of clutter than don’t get put away, not to mention all the blog posts I don’t write. This simply has to be okay. I’ve joked with friends and with Mark that my “word of the year” should actually be “ruthless,” meaning that I must be ruthlessly assessing of how I spend my time, ruthless about cutting out non-essentials. Every day involves a pile of choices and some of them are hard to choose between, or to not choose. I must be ruthless in my discernment—choosing wisely, choosing carefully, choosing mindfully. My real word of the year is “grow,” while at the same time the message I’ve frequently been picking up in moments of synchronicity and surprising overlap is “let go.” So, maybe I’ve actually got a trifecta of words this year!

I already wrote about the breastfeeding brain in a recent past post, but it appears that there are permanent changes to the maternal brain as well:

The artist Sarah Walker once told me that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live. I always liked Walker’s description because it’s more precise than the shorthand most people use for life with a newborn: Everything changes…

The greatest brain changes occur with a mother’s first child, though it’s not clear whether a mother’s brain ever goes back to what it was like before childbirth, several neurologists told me. And yet brain changes aren’t limited to new moms…

via What Happens to a Woman’s Brain When She Becomes a Mother – The Atlantic.

And, speaking of mothers and their childbearing brains, Childbirth Connection has produced two phenomenal new resources. There is a report by Sarah Buckley on the Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing and a companion booklet for mothers that simplifies the research into a user-friendly booklet on the role of hormones in a healthy birth. Great resources for childbirth educators and doulas.

For more see: Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing | Transforming Maternity Care.

Pregnant birthing mama goddess birth art sculpture (doula, midwife, birth altar, childbirth)