Thursday, May 21, 2009

Liner Notes Junkie

Song lyrics and their sometimes playful, sometimes sultry dance with melody have long been the form of artistic expression that I cherish above all others.

I have many treasured cd’s, recorded by my most beloved artists and they are all well worn. Thankfully, everything is now digitalized. Unfortunately, downloaded music does not come with liner notes. I mean, you can down load lyrics, but it’s not the same thing.

I am a Liner-Notes Junkie. I love nothing better than to learn a great song inside out. Pouring over the small square booklet or long folded panels of glossy lyrics, dedications, and lists of people the artist has thanked.

I read and listen again and again, until I can sing along; each note, syllable and breath imbedded in my heart.

Beautifully crafted, clever and distinct lines of song are often scribbled down in my journals, notebooks and day timers. And, will undoubtedly find their way here, eventually.

My favourite artists are those whose songs strike me and resonate within, like Tibetan bells, creating that feeling of connection, of Oneness. Isn’t that essentially the heart of what draws us to all forms of art, afterall?

I have always considered Joni Mitchell to be one of the most respected and inspirational singer/songwriters. She is a goddess of the lyric, not to mention her crafting of “warm Joni chords” and she is an awesome visual artist to boot. As part of documenting “Artists Whom I Love”, one will be certain to find many of her lyrics quoted in future posts.

In fact, one of her most joyful songs, one that never fails to lift me up and set me right, is Chelsea Morning. This little gem first appeared on Joni’s “Clouds” album recorded in April, 1969 (I was one year old) and has since been recorded by over 80 artists. The imagery is dazzling, bright and cheerful. This imagery has become a touchstone for joy and contentment for me, not only due to it's vibrancy but because of the upbeat reminder of the importance of the present moment.

Chelsea Morning

Woke up, it was a Chelsea Morning, and the first thing that I heard
Was a song outside my window, and the traffic wrote the words
It came ringing up like Christmas bells, and rapping up like pipes and drums

Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
And we’ll wear it till the night comes

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I saw
Was the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall
Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you, crimson crystal beads to beckon

Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
There’s a sun show every second

Now the curtain opens on a portrait of today
And the streets are paved with passersby
And pigeons fly
And papers lie
Waiting to blow away

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew
There was milk and toast and honey and a Bowl of Oranges, Too
And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses

Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
And we’ll talk in present tenses

When the curtain closes and the rainbow runs away
I will bring you incense owls by night
By candle light
By jewel light
If only you will stay
Pretty baby, won’t you…
Wake up, it is a Chelsea morning

~joni Mitchell

So. Now you know. In case you were wondering.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Picture This

I have been collecting children’s picture books for about twenty years. A year or so ago, I decided to take inventory and categorize my 300+ books. I have 30+ categories ranging from Alphabet Books to Winter Books, with Friends, Families, Insects, Oceans and many more in between!

My collection began when I was in college becoming an Early Childhood Educator. I remember the first books that were given to me, as a student. I was doing a two day per week field placement at a resource centre for children with behavioural and emotional difficulties. Upon completion of my placement, the staff took me out for lunch and gave me two books. One was called My Bear, I Wish, Do You? And the other was titled, This Is Me. Both were toddler-style board books. I still have them. They are in the “Toddler-Time” section of my collection.

My seven year old daughter (Sugar-Plum) has quite a nice picture book collection of her own, which she has now outgrown. She has moved on to the greener pastures of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia (much to my delight) as well as the mainstream mediocrity of the Rainbow Fairies (these books aren’t bad; they just lack the real magic that authors like J.K Rowling and C.S Lewis can make come alive on the page). As for Junie B. Jones, well she’s not welcome in our home until she learns some manners!

Anyway, Sugar Plum’s picture books have gradually become intermingled with mine. Those books still belong to her, but she has agreed that it makes sense to house them together with mine in their appropriate categories. Especially since she needs the space on her book shelf for her ever-growing collection of chapter books! There is now an impending list-and-category re-vamping to be done very soon!

I have been writing reviews for some of my best loved children’s books and do plan to feature them here in the coming weeks. For starters though, I decided to post a list of many of the best loved titles in MY collection. I tried to make a Top 10, but it is far too difficult to narrow it down.

20 Best Loved Titles

A Colour of His Own

Leo Lionni

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Judith Viorst

Are You My Mother?
P.D Eastman

Big Sarah's Little Boots
Paulette Bourgeois
Brenda Clark

Big Wolf and Little Wolf
Sharon Philips Denslow
Cathie Felstead

The Carrot Seed
Ruth Krauss
Crockett Johnson

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
Sam McBratney
Jill Barton

Green Eggs and Ham
Dr. Seuss

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Laura Joffe Numeroff

It Looked Like Spilt Milk
Charles G. Shaw

Jillian Jiggs
Phoebe Gilman

Night Is Coming
W. Nikola-Lisa
Jamichael Henterly

One Grey Mouse
Katherine Burton
Kim Fernades

Owl and The Pussycat, The
Lear, Edward
Brett, Jan

The Popcorn Shop
Alice Low
Patti Hammel

Rain Talk
Mary Serfozo
Keiko Narahashi

The Snowy Day
Ezra Jack Keats

The Temper Tantrum Book
Edna Mitchell Preston
Rainey Bennet

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Eric Carle

Wombat Stew
Marcia K. Vaughan
Pamela Lofts

I will soon post a list of favourites from Sugar Plum's collection as well as a list of favs that I don't actually own.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Protecting My Bliss

Here is the latest enCouraging Bliss Challenge from BlissChick. Christine asks:

Looking back over your week (or month!), when and how did you find yourself not respecting your boundaries, not living from your integrity, not following your bliss?Do you notice any patterns? For example, do you tend to get too involved, like me, with other people's problems in lieu of working on your own?Do you find yourself "pushing through" some giant list of "shoulds" rather than doing what your heart is aching for you to do? What is your excuse?How, then, can you eliminate these things, people, events, that are eating away at instead of feeding your bliss?

Okay, this week I had a meltdown.
I planned too many things for myself.
I placed too many expectation on myself.
I began to feel overwhelmed.
I listened to those divas in my head telling me unkind things about myself.
I didn’t create time to listen to or play music.
I felt angry and resentful.
And above all, I held it all in until I was ready to explode.
And then, I did.
I erupted like a volcano upon my long suffering partner.

Long suffering, because, this is a pattern of mine and he has put up with it for many years now. I’m very fortunate, he’s loving and understanding of my “meltdowns”. But I went too far this time. I placed blame on him and our relationship as being “part of the problem”. I said mean and hurtful things. I used terms like “you never…” and “you always…” in my argument. These terms are never a good idea to use with someone you love while having a discussion about your relationship. I KNOW THIS! I just …couldn’t … stop … myself…… That’s the kind of state I was in, out of control.

He’s very rational and logical and calm. I’m very emotional, fanciful and flighty.
He helps to keep me grounded. Sometimes, his logic and rationality can drive me crazy, but in the long run he usually makes me feel better when I meltdown by being ever so rational, logical and calm.

Now, to take a look at ways of eliminating the events of this week which lead up to my meltdown and being hurtful to the one I love……

Respect my boundaries (stop taking on extra hours at work….just say no; there was a reason that I swapped my full-time position for a part-time one last Sept.)

Be more reasonable in my expectations of just how much I can accomplish in one week. I find this one really difficult. It is as though, (as has been pointed out to me by Fishguy) I set myself up for disappointment and failure.

Make friends with some people that I can talk to about things that are going on with me instead of letting things build up to the point of eruption. I do not have very many close friends. I have a few close friends, who live far away and I don’t see them often and I am really terrible about keeping in touch. We have lived in this community for almost three years and I while I have many acquaintances, I still don’t have any close friends. I don’t get close to people easily. I feel socially awkward. Some people who know me, might find this hard to believe, but it's true. I have difficulty with eye contact and knowing whether or not I’ve come across as aloof and distant or if I’ve shared too much information. I’m working on this and now have small circle of people who I could potentially open up with.

Seek some professional help to aid in coping with what often feels like my inability to cope. I keep saying that I’m going to do this, then I have a meltdown and then I feel fine for a while. I do not want to take a pill to make me better, (while I recognize that this is a viable option for some people and mental health issues) but there are some therapies that I have considered. I’ve been to a counselor/therapist a few times in the past and that has always been helpful. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I might like to try some Reiki or other type of energy healing.

Listen to music or pick up my guitar or just sing my heart out. This can always make me feel better (duh, it IS my Bliss!), but somehow, when I’m on the path to boil and then meltdown, I tend to “forget” this and stop doing it.

Stop listening to those divas. You know the ones I mean, the nagging soundtrack that says things like… “you’re not good enough, you’re not talented, you don’t measure up, and hey, you must be crazy!” So, when they start ranting, I will just shut them up with some feel good music.

Make a Bliss List, of things that make me happy and when I feel the meltdown simmering, read my list and pick something from it to do as preventative medicine.

Make a Done List. I am a chronic list maker. This is part of my bliss. I enjoy making lists, they help me. Sometimes the giant list of Things To Do can get overwhelming though. So, I’ve decided to make a Done List instead, by this I mean a list of accomplishments and things that I have done that I feel good and proud about. Then I can read it when those divas start their berating.

Well, that was a therapeutic. Now on to those Lists!!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I’m Downright Giddy!!

In case you haven’t already guessed, Christine is my new Best Friend!! And if by some miracle you have happened here by accident and do not already know who she is, you absolutely must check out her fantabulous blog, BlissChick; a deep well of inspiring wisdom.

Christine has been “Paying It Forward” by passing on blog recognition and leaving a trail of giddy newbie bloggers in her wake! I am very grateful and honoured to be counted as one of them.

And what a great idea it is too! Kinda makes me wanna….. Pay it Forward.

And so without further ado….I would like to make mention of some of the blogs I like to frequent when I am quenching my thirst for wisdom, laughter and inspiration.

The Zen In You
Yogadiva’s Divine Life
12 Pairs
Everyday Reading
It’s Not All Mary Poppins
warm chords
Serena Lewis

These bloggers are not new, but well worth recognition and checking out!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Day 17 of 100 Days of Yoga; Getting Pulled up by the Hair

I have accepted a dare! Christine over at BlissChick issued a dare to her readers a couple of weeks ago.

Pick one thing to do every day for 100 days. Pick THE one thing that you know you should be doing or not doing but you’ve been avoiding it because it’s something you’re really attached to (or unattached to).

I had a long list of possibilities. Here is what I posted in BlissChick’s comments:

Yikes! What a challenge.

How, how, how do I narrow down my long list of self improvement possibilities to....
One Single Thing? I've been in deep contemplation since yesterday morning. Even though I teach yoga three times a week, my personal daily practice has been stagnating. Therefore, that is my first thought, to renew my dedication to yoga. But would that be something "Really Hard"?

There are so many things I could benefit from committing to for 100 days.

-stop picking at my fingernails and cuticles and take care of my messed up hands

-eat totally vegetarian

-recommit to walking 20 min. every day

-No Junk Food!!

-Stop swearing

-play guitar and sing

Well, I am still working on a decision. On Monday I will post my vow.
Pardon me, for taking up so much space in your comments section Christine.

Also coming Monday... my very own blog!!! There. I've publicly announced it. Now I will follow through.Thank you again for helping me to achieve it.
April 18, 2009 10:08 AM

I did things a little backwards, taking up the challenge and then starting my blog and now posting about the challenge- but I’m a do things differently kinda gal!

So to follow up now, I will tell you that I chose the daily yoga practice. I have just been feeling too much guilt over letting my personal practice slip away since I started facilitating yoga for others.

I also figured that those other things on my list above would be easier for me to work towards if I have a solid foundation of daily yoga in which to set my intentions for the day.

Here is a report of my routine and progress thus far:

  • Every day I set my timer for 20 minutes first thing in the morning and take it to the mat.
  • I light a candle.
  • I sit quiet for a moment or two to just “get present”.
  • My practice follows a Sivananda flow (watch for it in a future post).
  • The timer ringing signals the end of my physical practice.
  • I reset for another 10 minutes.
  • I use this time to meditate and get quiet.
  • I then focus on my intention for the day.
  • I finish with a small chant or mantra which just raises my vibration and sets me on my way.
  • I have been faithful to this for 17 days now.

Some days I feel I don’t have a full 30 minutes to dedicate to this practice. On those days I set my timer for 10 minutes of stretches and maintain my 10 minutes of meditation/intention setting. 20 minutes is better than nothing. That has only happened 2 or 3 times and I usually end up closer to the full 30 minutes when I am done because once I get started, IT IS HARD TO DO LESS!

That’s what I find so fascinating about this challenge. Getting started is more than half the battle. It reminds me of a quote I read in the sidebar of Yoga Diva’s Divine Life. The quote is by Vanda Scarvelli in which she says “ In the beginning you have to make room for yoga in your daily life and give it the place it deserves. But after some time, yoga itself will pull you up by the hair and make you do it!”

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A List of Bliss

Thinking back over the past week, I am quite amazed at the many, many moments of bliss that I was fortunate enough to experience. I am very thankful to Blisschick for prompting me to stop long enough to contemplate it, through her enCouraging Bliss weekly challenge to:

"Think back over your last week. Where, what, when, and how did you find moments of bliss? Were there times or activities during which you felt completely on this path of bliss? "

I found that the moments that were most blissful were not necessarily due to specific events or activities (although they were great too!) but rather the underlying sense of Oneness that I felt while engaged in them. Oneness with nature. Oneness with loved ones. Oneness with music. Oneness with creativity. Oneness with Beauty and the Divine.

And here’s my list:

  • Facilitating a very nice new yoga class on Friday mornings and sharing a few laughs and a cup of tea after class with the participants.
  • I arranged an S.O.S (swap of services). In other words, I bartered yoga lessons for a lovely pedicure (dark purple polish!). Now I have fancy looking feet for my new yoga class.
  • Going to see one of my favourite singer/songwriters in concert with my sweetheart, the Fishguy.
  • Facilitating a Yoga workshop at a Child Care Conference and feeling so good about how well it went.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed the inspirational keynote address at the conference as well (fodder for future post!).
  • Reading with my daughter
  • Daily yoga practice!!
  • The cat coming to rest on my chest while I was in Savasana
  • Feeling like a part of my community through yoga
  • Listening to the almost deafening ringing of theSpring Peepers behind our house in the evenings
  • A lovely glass (or two!) of red wine on Saturday evening with Fishguy.

6:00 a.m. Ramblings

Ahh, the morning pages. A daily writing exercise designed by Julia Cameron in her book “The Artist’s Way” in which one writes (long-hand) three pages of stream of consciousness, first thing in the morning. It generally takes me about 25 minutes.

I have been rifling through my morning pages because sometimes, not always mind you, but sometimes, something really great comes out of them.

An idea for a piece of writing. A revelation. A spark. An insight.

Most days however, they are simply a means to clear out the clutter inside my head, to make space for the rest of my more creative ideas. Often I use them as a self dialogue of what’s on my mind first thing in the morning, which is usually the long list of Things To Do. This works quite well for me since, once I’ve written down my TTD, I know that I’m half way down the road to having them accomplished.

So today, I thought I would post a random selection from my morning pages. I know that morning pages aren’t intended to be read by anyone but the person who wrote them and I’m not putting this out here as any form of polished literature by any means. Just as a sample of the ramblings that go on inside my head at 6:00 a.m. This is usually one long non-stop block of writing, but I have broken it up a bit for easier reading.

Yikes! I work an extra few hours this week and the house falls apart! I have little fires burning all over the place. But I can and will get on top of them in very short order. All I need to do is spend a few minutes here and there putting them out. First though, 15 minutes here, an abbreviated session so at least I write something today.

I need a lap top! That’s all there is to it, I could get so much done writing wise with a lap top. I could work (write) on my break at work or today when I am off at 1:30 and don’t know what time Fishguy* can pick me up. And in the evening when he is on the comp—all evening long… Which reminds me I better e-mail Sonja this morning. And call Susan.

After I am done this I am setting my timer 3 times for 10 minutes each to tackle:
1. the dining room floor area which has become piled up with THINGS
2. the coffee table
3. my desk and filing cabinet.

These are my usual hotspots. So yeah, 30 minutes and the fires should be under control. Then another 15 minutes on the kitchen and the dishes from last night. Note to self: Stop leaving the dishes until the morning!!

And then what. Hmmmmmm. Oh yes pull the laundry out from the washer and hang it up to dry. I don’t think it’s going to rain today, but if I hang it outside it likely will. Wake Fishguy* and Sugar Plum* up out of bed and….Oops where is my guitar practice gonna fit in there?

I would do it at 7:00 usually, but we have to leave the house at 8 this morning since I have to work at 8:30. Yikes. Well I may just have to practice when I get home before going back to work for a staff meeting @ 5:30.

Ah well. Now the other writing I need to do. The Newsletter. The Blog. The Flyer. The workshop. I must work on that @ 1:30 today when I get off work. I must get that flyer printed today and posted around town. I must call Judy @ the town office @ precisely 8:00 to confirm booking the library for Thursday evenings. And now the timer just went off and it is time to set it for 10 minutes and become a fire fighter!

So that’s a typical day’s worth of morning pages for me (well that’s actually only a page and a half, but it gives an idea).

* I haven't quite decided yet, what to call my partner and daughter in this Blog. For now I’ll be referring to my daughter as “Sugar Plum” and my better half, her dad as “Fishguy”.

I’m curious what sort of writing the morning pages produces for others who practice them. Do you also list your Things To Do? Do you record your dreams from the night before? Do you write creatively?