Family Circle ~ July 2014

Family Circle ~ July 13, 2013

The Summer just seems to be flying by. Between flooded basements and out-of-town visitors, we haven’t been able to all sit down together for a little “circle time” for awhile. So, today, we purposely scheduled it in, and spent a half hour or so “unplugged” and connecting.

Today we talked about self-care, and how important it is to care well for ourselves, so we have something of value to give others.

Zofia was the source of many disruptions during today’s meeting, ranging from dissatisfaction over the order in which the candles were lit, to the color pen she wanted to use in our family journal. Nonetheless, we managed to have a few deep and meaningful moments with the kids, and enjoyed the time to connect.

Today’s fortune card to ponder was the Snake. ~ Keywords – deception, something is not what it seems, silence… Hmm…

~~~
Recipes For Self-Love

Take full responsibility for your life.
Stop blaming others.
See yourself as the cause of what happens to you.

Do things you like to do.
Don’t stay in a job you don’t like.
Participate in life at the highest level you can.

Stop terrorising yourself with your thoughts.
Be gentle and kind and patient with yourself.

Give yourself the simple pleasures of life abundantly.
Wear clothes you feel good in, get a massage etc.

Watch what you say. Avoid self put-downs.
Stop being critical of yourself and others.

Take care of your body.
Give it exercise and good food.

Be willing to create a life-style that generates and nourishes self-esteem.
Associate with others with high esteem.

Acknowledge yourself frequently.
Keep a diary of your successes and accomplishments.

Avoid comparing yourself with others.
Remember that it’s who we are, not what we do, that’s important.

Give yourself permission to do nothing periodically.
Schedule time by yourself.

Frequently take deep breaths.
Discover the benefit and pleasure of breathing fully.

Eat first class frequently.
Don’t look at the right side of the menu.

Stop trying to change others.
Focus your attention on being the way you want others to be.

Look into a mirror regularly and say “I love you, I really love you”.

Stop feeling guilty and saying “I’m sorry”.
See mistakes as valuable lessons and avoid judging yourself.

Consciously generate positive thoughts and feelings of self-love in place of old thoughts of inadequacy.

Be willing to laugh at yourself and at life.
Stop taking yourself so seriously.

Accept compliments from others without embarrassment.
Don’t invalidate their positive thoughts and feelings about you.

Be kind to your mind.
Don’t hate yourself for having negative thoughts.
Gently change your thoughts.

Keep your awareness and your thoughts focused in present time instead of living in the past or future.

Acknowledge others frequently.
Tell them what you like and appreciate in them.

Invest money in yourself.
Go to seminars, workshops and courses that develop your talents.

Make a list of 10 things you love doing and do them frequently.

Treat yourself as you would treat someone you really loved.
Praise yourself.

~ Author Unknown ~

Family Circle ~ May Day 2014 (Almost)

2014-04-29 14.35.03

We have a crazy schedule this week, so we had to schedule our May Day or Beltane family circle a couple days prior to May 1st. Nonetheless, we talked about the significance of the day, the shifts in seasons, and the things we’re looking forward to this Summer.

The beginning of summer heralds an important time, for the winter is a difficult journey and weariness and disheartenment set in, personally one is tired down to the soul. In times past the food stocks were low; variety was a distant memory. The drab non-color of winter’s end perfectly represents the dullness and fatigue that permeates on so many levels to this day. We need Beltane, as the earth needs the sun, for our very Spirit cries out for the renewal of summer jubilation.

Beltane marks the passage into the growing season, the immediate rousing of the earth from her gently awakening slumber, a time when the pleasures of the earth and self are fully awakened. It signals a time when the bounty of the earth will once again be had. May is a time when flowers bloom, trees are green and life has again returned from the barren landscape of winter, to the hope of bountiful harvests, not too far away, and the lighthearted bliss that only summer can bring.

We watched a couple new Spirit Science videos on YouTube about black holes and singularities. That was some food for thought and interesting conversation, too!

Next we drew cards from the fortune cards deck, and had fun pondering the significance of the cards we chose. We then read a poem (below), and wrote in our gratitude journal.

Before closing the circle, we had a little gift-giving fun. Flo’s been wanting a portable electric piano, and Zofia has outgrown her bike. So, we decided to present them with print-outs of their new toys, currently being shipped across the country. Joe was appeased with a new Nerf gun he’s been eyeing on-line. I didn’t know it made noise! Darn! But, it was fun seeing their excitement. Although, Zofia didn’t quite understand the delayed gratification aspect, and kept asking why her bike couldn’t be here tomorrow instead of in five days!

“The Summer Day”
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Family Circle ~ Spring Equinox 2014

Family Circle ~ Spring Equinox 2014

Due to scheduling conflicts, our Spring Equinox celebration was a bit belated. But, we managed to all sit down tonight for a simple candle ceremony, where we place a candle in some dirt and reflect upon and share new beginnings we’d like to start in our lives.

“I light this candle in honor of Ostara, the Spring Equinox! I honor the changing of the seasons, and the reawakening of the earth. With Spring comes lighter days, sprouting seeds and new beginnings. With the Spring comes my vow to work towards these new beginnings in my own life. So mote it be!”

The kids had some snacks of fresh oranges, honey spoons with hemp seed and some veggie chips. We drew cards from the Fairy Tale Fortune Cards deck and talked about the meaning of the cards we drew. We also wrote down our cards and Spring-inspired thoughts in our family journal.

We thought about Springtime garden preparations, and talked about keyhole gardening, which is a concept that has intrigued us lately. But, the weather here in Maryland is still chilly today, so we still have a few more weeks to incubate our Spring desires. But, there is no doubt, the season is shifting… as it always does…

Family Circle ~ Mid-Winter 2014

It was late by the time everyone sat down, but we wanted to just take a few minutes to reflect on a few of the spiritual traditions that lend meaning to the day [to us].

We are at the midway point between Winter and Spring.

Candlemas or Imbolc is a day of hope and light. It is a time to honor the Lord as the Light of the World (Christian), or the Sun as Light of the World (Pagan) and to remind us that we too have that light within us.

Brighid, is known as the Goddess of healers, poets, smiths, childbirth and inspiration, fire and hearth.

Saint Brighid of Kildare (c451 to 523ce) is venerated as the patroness of farm work and cattle, and protector of the household from fire and calamity. She is often called, “Foster Mother of Christ” and “Mary of the Gael”.

We revisited the visions we wrote in our family journal in January, and talked about our progress, and how during the time to plant seeds of intention.

We ended with a closing prayer:

This day, as I kindle the flame upon my hearth,
I pray that the flame of Brighid may burn in my soul,
and the souls of all I meet today.
I pray that no envy and malice, no hatred or fear, may smother the flame.
I pray that indifference and apathy, contempt and pride, may not pour like cold water on the flame.
Instead, may the spark of Brighid light the love in my soul that it may burn brightly through the day.
And may I warm those that are lonely, whose hearts are cold and lifeless, so that all may know the comfort of Brighid’s love.

And, of course, it’s Groundhog Day, too. It looks like we’re in for six more weeks of Winter!

Family Circle ~ January 2014

Family Circle ~ January 21, 2014

The New Year has started off with a quick stride, leaving little time for our peripheral intentions to make the final cut on the to-do list. However, today, we were gifted a quiet day at home due to the snowy Winter weather.

While six to eight inches of snow sat awaiting redistribution in our driveway, we convened in our living room to connect and remind ourselves of the importance of holding space for one another to share this family experience. I didn’t want to let the month get away without recognizing January as a threshold for, not only a new year, but, the opportunity for new intentions; new visions; new energy.

We started with a few deep breaths… bringing our minds to the present moment. Then, as is customary at the onset of a new year, we discussed goals, or rather, our visions for the subsequent months ahead. With this visionary spirit, we opened the circle.

“May our minds work together to find mutual understanding. May I see you true and be seen in kind. May our words reveal more that they obscure. Most of all, may our minds, eyes, and tongues be guided by our hearts, and the language far older than words…”

These words gave us pause to reflect on those things from the past that we want to put to rest, and where we want to direct our energy as we renew our intentions for this year. During our discussion, we reminded the kids, and ourselves, through our words, and the insights of others, that our lives, are indeed, our own creation, and that the ultimate responsibility for our happiness lies in our own hands.

Next we watched a short YouTube video recently posted on the SpiritScience channel about “Source Energy.” This offered a few moments to discuss the interconnectedness of all things, and despite our individual responsibility to create our own experience, we, ultimately, all play a role in creation.

Lastly, we spent a few minutes, each writing our intentions for the year in our family journal, and reading an excerpt from a book, titled “Do One Thing Different,” by Bill O’Hanlon. The concept of small actions creating big changes is the premise, and the book contains some inspiring tidbits to jumpstart the process. We talked about the “stories” we tell ourselves about who we are, and how they often, have nothing to do with who we REALLY are, but are just residual energy from past experiences that we haven’t taken the time to filter properly, integrate if useful and discard, if not.

The table, now littered with flax cracker crumbs, sweetly-scented peels of clementines and colorful ballpoint pens, and aglow from the candles in our centerpiece, was itself, folding legs and all, the centerpiece of our family connection today. Its eclectic dishevelment and bits of inspiration and creativity were clearly outlined and encompassed by our five separate energies, thankful for connection, but eager to disperse our individual focuses once again.

Thus, with that, we closed the circle, reminding ourselves to be visionaries in our own lives and go forth into the New Year with consciousness, clarity and intention. With the Winter chill exuberantly dancing around our house, we will look to the Sun for inspiration.

Lion’s Call
Fierce Spirit of the Sun.
I call you into my life.
May I stand fearless in the protection of my community.
May I lead in balance knowing when to roar and when to walk nobly away from unneeded conflict.
May I learn the value of silence.

Waiting patiently for opportunity to show itself before taking action.
Invisible hunter, teach me to trust my instincts and my creative strength.
Lend me your clear vision that I might bring forth the gold hidden within my Self.

~~~
The light does not go out. It is transferred to each of us; to share and to hold, and to bring with us when we next return.

Holiday Happenings 2013

Christmas Day 2013

Despite our household being besieged with coughing, stuffy noses, sinus headaches, and just general seasonal health hurdles, we have really enjoyed the season, thus far. December always finds us busy, sometimes overwhelmed by scheduling challenges, but always grateful for the abundance in our lives, including great community and family togetherness.

Joe's Birthday "Cake" 2013
Joe's Birthday 2013
Joe's Birthday Pizza

Joe’s birthday was on the 11th of the month, having him turn ELEVEN! Grandma gave him an nice new classical guitar, which we kept a surprise for weeks. He was quite excited. He also got some cash from Mom and Dad, a treat at Pure & Simple Cafe in Greencastle, time out on the town without his sisters to spend some of his cash at the toy store, and finally, his requested “fruit cake” and vegan, gluten-free birthday pizza! It was a great way to usher in his eleventh year!

Yule

We usually recognize Yule, or the Winter Solstice, with a family circle, special meal or treats and a gift. However, Darren and Joe were both sick on the 21st, and Flo was fighting a cold, so we just lit a candle and reflected on the seasonal shift, which was highlighted by the unseasonably warm first day of Winter.

We then opened a family gift, which was a nice pair of Bose speakers for our main computer in our living room, which is connected to our TV. We hooked them up and marveled at the improved sound quality. It was a brief celebration, but memorable. Then Darren, Joe and Flo went back to bed, Zofia went to Grandma’s house, and I got to work tidying up for a potluck we were hosting the next day.

To continue to foster the spirit of conscious community, health and plant-based living in the area, we hosted a vegan potluck with our MeetUp group again this year. We had a great turnout, and there was lots of delicious food and holiday cheer.

Yuletide Yum Potluck 2013
Yuletide Yum Potluck 2013

After our gathering, we spent the next couple days in our regular routine of music lessons, and daily activities. We did a couple last minute shopping trips for stocking stuffers and a gift for Bruno, the dog. Joe would have liked to take home another pet, but with the wisdom of my forty years, I knew this was not a gift in which I could indulge him. So, he pacified himself by checking out all the pet store critters and picking out a nice gift for his canine companion.

Pretty Bird

On Christmas Eve, even though Darren was still under the weather, the kids and I went to the Unitarian Universalist church for a little holiday community and caroling. It was bitter cold, but we took a ride afterwards to see all the holiday lights in people’s yards around town.

Christmas Eve 2013
Holiday Lights

Then, on Christmas morning, we all slept in until around 10am, before Joe woke us up, eager to open gifts. We leisurely woke up Flo and Zofia, and made our way downstairs.
The kids were happy with the thoughtful items we found for them this year, and we enjoyed watching them open the gifts.

Joe got a couple new Lego projects and a remote control Formula 1 car. Zofia was content with her bag of stocking stuffer goodies, and rainbow themed gifts of a sock monkey, teddy bear and new umbrella. We found things throughout the year for Flo, including a new pair of purple Doc Martens, a longboard skateboard and an electric ukulele. We also got some musical “family gifts” to share, as well, including several new djembe drums. Fun!

Stock Stuffers

After we opened presents, I made the kids gluten-free pumpkin pancakes, Darren and I nibbled on some of the “raw” goodies from our stockings, and we just sat around relaxing. In fact, the rest of the day was spent in this manner, with the exception of a short walk I took, with Flo, out into the frigid day, and, then, another stint out into the cold night, to tear down all the extra holiday cardboard for the recycling pick-up the next morning.

Now, with less than a week left in 2013, it’s time for rest and reflection. It’s time for renewal of commitments and dreams. And, it’s almost time to start the Wheel of the Year turning once again, for an opportunity to celebrate life by creating new experiences and memories! What will 2014 hold?

Happy Holidays and a Hope-filled, Inspiring New Year to all!

Family Circle ~ Thanksgiving 2013

Family Circle ~ Thanksgiving 2013

We had a nice day just staying home. We relaxed, connected with a family circle, drew funny pictures of turkeys, ate some yummy foods, visited with Grandma when she and Tom stopped by, watched some I Love Lucy episodes, made some grateful noise with drums and rounded out the day with Flo and I going to see the movie “The Book Thief” at 10pm at the theater down the street. Grateful.

For our Family Circle today, we took the opportunity to talk about gratitude, share memories and enjoy the slower pace of the day. I made some gluten-free muffins for the kids and some nut-free kale chips, so we had some goodies to share while we talked. I always appreciate the momentary simplicity of our family circles; the ability for us all to communicate in one spot, without the interference of technology; without the distractions of routine. It is a purposeful delineation of time and space, set aside for the five of us. I am grateful for the memories made today.

Harvest your wishes, harvest your dreams
Gather in stardust, reap the Moon’s beams;
All things are possible ~ but love the Earth first,
She feeds your hunger and quenches your thirst;
Life never ending of Autumn I sing,
Yes, winter cometh, but comes then the Spring
I sing of the season’s, Earth Mother’s great wheel,
Attune to the rhythm to harvest and heal. ~ Carnelian Prayer

~~~
If the only prayer you ever say in your life is thank you, it will be enough.
– Meister Eckhart

~~~
First, the Republican:
When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion.
— Abraham Lincoln

And then, the Democrat:
It’s remarkable how much you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.
— Harry S. Truman

This just highlights the commonality amongst all people, regardless of the lens through which they see the world.

Media Reduction Challenge

Techno Nannies

Photo of Joe and Zofia a few months ago at the
consignment shop, while Flo and I were shopping.

For the month of November, our family is embarking on a “media reduction” challenge. We already do not have cable TV or video game consoles, so mainly we are sending the kids’ tablets to Grandma’s house, and allowing fairly free access to the computers in the public areas of the house during the day, as long as things that need to get done, get done first. Darren and I don’t feel our computer usage is a major hindrance to family togetherness or productivity. However, we will monitor our usage, being mindful of our example.

Cell phones are a challenge. Of course, Zofia is too young, and Joe does have a cell phone, but rarely uses it. So, poor Flo is likely to feel the most despondent with the sudden shift in phone availability. Sprint Mobile Controls has a handy [paid] feature that helps parents monitor their kid’s phone usage, lock the phone during certain times, and get updates if new apps are installed, contacts are added, and when calls or texts are received. Rather than chasing my kids around to make them relinquish their phones, yet allowing them to use them when needed, it is easier to just set the status of their phone with the click of a button on mine. Ah, the power! No, I’m not a techno-tyrant. I’m perfectly happy to let my kids use their phones to connect with friends, as long as they are meeting their obligations and contributing to family life. It’s when handheld devices become divisive that they are not healthy; radiation and cancer risk aside. :-p

As parents know, children’s electronic devices often provide a sort of respite from the chaos, while everyone retreats to their respective corners to entertain themselves. This may not be ideal for fostering family unity and resourcefulness, but it is the situation for many.

I’m sure there will be some subtle withdrawal from the relatively liberal usage of daily screen time they’ve enjoyed. And, I’m sure the onset of boredom will come quickly, but will be overcome with equal haste. I’m armed and ready to shield myself from the initial blast of resentment, and fully equipped to engage the displaced energy, even if it’s at the expense of my own momentary desires.

We are not intending a full blown media black-out, simply reducing the opportunities for distraction, and increasing those for productiveness and creativity. As homeschoolers, time management is especially important, as we are often home all day, and it is easy for the kids to simply get sidetracked texting their friends, reading silly quotes on Facebook and watching less-than-educational YouTube videos.

Our goal is not to shun the use of technology or discount the benefits of social media. It is simply to moderate their usage to allow for a balance of other pursuits. And by challenging ourselves for a month, our intent is to bring awareness to our media usage and provide the kids some contrast to draw upon in the future.

I love a challenge. This should be interesting! I’ll be sure to keep some notes of our experience for a future update!

Family Circle ~ October 30, 2013

Family Circle ~ October 30, 2013

Once again, everyone was busy and it was hard to get us all in one spot long enough to relax and focus. But, we did succeed.

We started with a Three Realms Meditation called The Tree of Life.

Then, we asked for a little divinatory guidance, using Tarot, reflecting on our thoughts in our family journal.

Ancestors Altar

We created a little ancestors altar, with pictures of family members that have passed and a few seasonal mementos.

“Hail Dark Lady of the Crossroads,
of wisdom hard-won,
grant me Thy blessing, purify my heart,
and teach me the truth of my soul;
show me that death is but the gateway to life.
Blessed Be.”

Finally, we talked about our plans to minimize our media consumption for the month of November.

We closed the circle and all returned to our respective tasks.

Fall Reflections

Fall Reflections

Mabon, or the Fall Equinox, always inspires me to reflect on the ways in which my life is out of balance, and how to restore that balance; always understanding that balance is a process, not a perpetual state of being. The darkness and light are only equal (balanced) for a short time each year, yet it is part of the full cycle of life. And, to know balance, and live fully, one must experience imbalance, as well. Contrast is the catalyst for desire and understanding. I’m feeling blessed tonight and looking forward to rest, reflection, and restoration of my light during this cycle of darkness.