Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A stitch in time

Sometimes it IS all about the little things.  I just finished sewing Ruby's ballet slippers, I'll save you the details, or not.  They are new and the straps that hold her little feet in aren't attached when you buy them, so either you sew them in or I guess their feet fall out?  I don't really get why they come that way, but as I finished stitching the last strap, I felt such a sense of satisfaction.  I also sewed (is that a word?  looks funny) a couple of ice pack covers on Sunday and that too felt quite satisfying.  Maybe because my husband has been asking me to do make them for a couple of months and when I finally did, it took all of about 5 minutes to make 3 of them.  We probably spent more time talking about when I was going to finally get around to doing this than it actually took for me to do it.  Our kids like to have ice packs on their pillows at night, not sure why they do this in the middle of winter, but they do, and now we don't have to wrap them up in cloth napkins that they slide out of in the middle of the night. 
What's my point?  Well, my point is...something about sewing makes me pause, makes me focus on just what I am doing.  I am not a great sewer (is that a word?  looks like where our waste water goes).  I have to stay completely immersed in what I am doing or else things go awry.  I mostly only sew straight lines, I only do 2 stitches, straight and zig-zag and anything that requires a pattern is probably outside my repertoire, really.  So, it isn't that I create some great work of art or fashion when I sew, I think it is just the simplicity of creating something from nothing, okay not nothing, but from nothing particularly useful, to something that has a function. 
I don't have any greater context to put this in, I am probably not going to start sewing more or anything, its just that sometimes what brings us joy is simply taking time to pause, notice, to be completely focused on one thing and not distracted in our heads or hearts, to just be with what or whomever we are with, not someplace else, not stuck in the past or worrying about the present.  Taking life as it comes,one stitch at a time, feels really good.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Teaching Peace

Friday night, as we sat together as a family eating dinner, talking about our days, Ruby and Willis launched in to a discussion about Martin Luther King, Jr, or as Willis calls him Dr. Markin Luther.  He says it like he has a mouth full of marbles.  Both of them had lessons at school about who Dr. King was, about his experiences and why we celebrate his life.  Ruby was part of an assembly at school.  She memorized a little blurb about him, something like "L is for laws, being equal for all.  He stood for civil rights..." I forget the rest.  She spent the week memorizing it, trying to get the word civil ingrained her memory.  It went from cill, to cibil, to civil.  I think she finally did get it.  As she talked about the assembly, she said, "Did you know that there was this lady, Rosa Parks, who got arrested for sitting down on the bus?  They wouldn't let her sit in the front and that is NOT fair.  She knew it wasn't right, so she just sat down in front anyways."  She told more of the story, said she knew another word for being killed, assassinated.  Not a word I necessarily want my 1st grader using, but in the context she spoke of, I felt proud that she understood what it meant.  She described how people were treated different "just because they have different colored skin, isn't that wrong?"  She told us how all the people said, fine, we won't use your buses then.  We don't need them, we can walk or ride bikes...peaceful protest.
Willis on the other hand, true to form, told his story of Dr. Markin Luther.  He said that police shot people with bee-bees, that police shot sombody's eye out.  Lovely, no?  It fascinates me what he took away from the story, which I am sure was age appropriate, at that age they just grab on to certain pieces, and Willis' was of course the part involving shooting.  He also said that a lady with black hair got in trouble for being on the bus and then said to my mom that she kind of has black hair, but not really black.   I'd love to sit in that little mind of his for a moment and know how his little wheels are spinning.
Teaching children about peace and equality is not always an easy conversation to have, parts of it are difficult to explain.  When Ruby asks me "Why would people do that?" wondering about people who are mean or violent towards another, why wouldn't people let them sit where they wanted on the bus...I don't always have the answers or know how to articulate them in a way she can understand.  I'm thankful for her little peaceful heart that knows what is fair and what isn't, that she knows it isn't always easy to stand up for what's right, that it takes being brave and it might be scary, but it's the right thing to do. 
My kids will grow up in a country that I think is more fair and just than the one Dr. King lived in, and one of the reasons why it's more fair is, of course, because of people like him who were brave and wise and stood for peace.  We still have a long way to go.  I know that the best way to teach peace is by example and I hope in little and big ways, my children, too, will march on to be catalysts for peace.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy New Year

I've been in a quieter, reflective space, winter hibernation mode, you might call it.  I've spent more time reading, journaling, writing (pen and paper style).  I have been looking at what it is that I want to cultivate in this new year, where I want to focus my energy and attention.  I'm not big on new years resolutions, I truly see each day as an opportunity to resolve to do better the next day.  At the end of each day, or at least most days, I take a moment or two to reflect and consider whether or not I lived the day well, at the right pace, my own pace.  Did I find time to play?  Did I laugh with my kids?  Did my husband feel especially loved?  Did I extend kindness and compassion to those I came in to contact with?  Did I speak truthfully and honestly?  Did I practice non-harm, in my thoughts, speech and actions? Did I leave the world a little better place than I found it today?  Was I a good friend? Some days the questions are easy to answer and other days not.  Some days pass by so quickly, I have a hard time remembering particulars about them.  Other days have moments, simple moments of truth, that will stand out in my memory for days, weeks, maybe even a lifetime.
In my yoga study, I came across this quote the other day... "how we behave toward others and our environment reveals our state of mind..." It spoke to me. I find my interactions with others, such a reflection of the calm or fury I feel inside. It seems obvious enough, but how often do we sit back and observe our interactions with others and think "wow, I am really embodying the essence of my true nature right now, I am teaching peace by example"?  If you are like me, rarely. Every now and then, I find myself, surprised by grace, truly immersed in the beauty of a moment.  For whatever reason we often do otherwise. We act out of fear, jealousy, frustration, desire, attachment, grasping, trying to hold on to the way things are, when they inevitably always change...the list is endless. It is only when we sit quietly, keenly alert, at the center of ourselves, that we can operate from this place of beauty. I have witnessed people in my life recently (including myself) interact with others from a place that is less than pure, the opposite of graceful. As I watch (myself sometimes), I wonder, what is it that keeps us from being the very best version of ourselves, all the time. What is it that makes us speak sharply to a stranger, ignore another's needs, think our omissions of truth are not exactly lies? It fascinates me, and not from a judgemental place, I am just as human as the next being. I do believe that at our essence, we are all good, but our tendency is to stray from that and I am not sure why? I guess this is probably one of the age old questions and for whatever reason I seem to be contemplating it right now.  My hope for this new year is not that I will be any less human or any more perfect, but that I will find more moments of beauty, grace, compassion, simplicity and pure love.  I hope that you will, too.
Happy New Year