Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 5: Kindness [Be Gentle, Be Love]

You know its a kindness when someone tells you that you kind of look like crap and should probably go home to spend some time with yourself. Because that isn't a particularly nice thing to do... but I needed someone to say it. I didn't actually get that time to myself... in fact someone is getting tickle tackled in my room as we speak.

Niceness = Like
Kindness = Love

I've thought about this sentiment a lot in the past couple of days and I think for me a "niceness" is doing something "nice" because you have to (for whatever reason). A kindness is doing something you want to do. Some nice things turn into kind things and vice versa. What started out of love can become a chore, and what started out as a responsibility, turns into one of the most meaningful things you've ever done.

This reminds me of the book Same Kind of Different as Me which is about the unlikely friendship of an art dealer who becomes friends with a homeless guy. His wife makes him go help out at the homeless shelter and he is only doing it at first because this is what his wife has told him to do. Then he learns to love it.

I've got a similar story. Okay, its a bit easier to take care of your nephews than to befriend a homeless man, but the experience has taught me a lot. I'm still learning. Its funny to see them grow up and expand in ways that I never thought they would. I hope they never stop telling me their opinions and hopes and dreams.

Kindness (love) is important because without it we humans tend to delve into our instincts and ignore others. I've had people show me this love in a myriad of ways. It always seems to be random acts of kindness because I never expect them! I have one co-worker that is always giving me random food she doesn't want in her house--sometimes I suspect she goes and buys the food for my kids. I've gotten a TON of clothes recently for my baby girl... totally unexpected since I never received this much at one time for any of the four boys.

I would say the most special "random act of kindness" was when the IRS came and took all of the money out of my bank account in 2009. They waited until my work check went through and snatched it. I've been over and under, but I had never seen my bank account at zero. I found out while I was in line at Kroger's. The lady was SO nice. She kept my food to the side while I called my bank account to see what was going on. And then when I put everything on my credit card since we had to have diapers, she personally took my groceries out while I was crying my eyes out. She's one of the managers at that store and while I think her boss is kind of a jerk, I go to Kroger now because of her. I imagine if she quits, I will go somewhere else, because it isn't the prices that keep me there.

Another awesome act of kindness came later that week. A co-worker dropped off a couple hundred dollars at my house. I told her I wanted to pay her and the others at my work that chipped in--when I got money back I didn't want to "owe" anyone anything. She wouldn't tell me who gave the money. I hardly ever see her anymore but she literally saved the lives of my family in a significant way... the IRS had done this in December, thereby insuring there wouldn't be presents for anyone!

Actually, for every [bad word] at my work, there is an equal amount of people who have lifted me up and inspired me to do better.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 4: Strength [Be Gentle, Be Love]

I have a really eclectic sort of religion. I've mashed up Christianity, humanism, paganism, a little bit of ancestory worship--it's all there. So when I started thinking of my strength totem, animal, whatnot, I immediately thought butterfly. I adore butterflies. One of my pseudonyms on the internet is butterflyvertigo. I chose it because being a dizzy butterfly can actually be freeing. I also love that for how fragile butterflies are to us, they are so strong. They metamorph from plain caterpillars; they brave the winds; they live so briefly. Packing a lot of life into a little space, no matter how long on earth you have...

But when it came time for me to create my token, I started thinking of the strengths in my life, my family instead. I was having a hard time deciding what kind of butterfly it should be anyways. My mother, my grandmother, my children. So tonight I created some scrapbook pages instead. I've only ever made about four other scrapbook pages before so its not something I have a real hobby of. I tried to do a class at the library and bought all of these supplies (with my own money) and then only a couple of people showed up.

This is my first baby. He's about 8 in these pictures. He's 11 now. I got him when he was only 7 months old. He hasn't lived with me his whole life, but I think we've been together 7 years total. I love him. He used to be my everything when he was just a baby. We used to hang out so much! I always let him know that he was my strength in learning how to love children. 

Other kids came along--his older brothers in 2001 and this little guy in 2008. This is a scrapbook page of Preston eating his first chinese food. There are two things that are tragic about it--his dad hates "ethnic" food so we never get to eat it (although he ate some sushi this past Sunday and hated it so maybe he takes after his dad more than I would like to admit). The second thing is that the reason that my husband wasn't around is because I had to drive to Central Texas to put together my mother's funeral.

She had died in kind of freak accident circumstances. In fact, the pictures I used for her scrapbook page are ones she was putting up on dating websites a month before she died. I thought she looked so goofy and was totally annoyed that she was making me take the pictures. Now, of course, I'm extremely grateful. Her strength was that she always enjoyed life and lived it to her fullest.

My grandmother is still alive. She is 93 years old and has been married three times. Her second marriage was to my grandfather. The picture above is with Jimmy and Zan, her bio kids, and Iris, her stepdaughter. My grandfather had been married before as well! It was unusual to have a blended family like that in the 50s. I've always loved her strength and tenacity for standing up to society and leaving a man that was an alcoholic and likely to be a danger to her.

This is the tattoo I got last year in honor of my mother and bio dad. My mother had an ivy leaf tattoo on her arm--my first word was tattoo! I felt pretty invincible afterwards--this pain was useful to me. I had to get over my mother's death in some meaningful way. I don't know if I've moved on, per say, but I've moved above?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 3: Independence [Be Gentle Be Love]

Freak Flag: my cute online made freak flag is here:

Freak flag is so 1960s. But I like to let my independence fly. I'm even a Texan at heart and not particularly an "American". We do it big in Texas. Independence probably means different things to different people. I feel I've always been independent, but then I also have to realize that I've ALSO always relied on "the kindness of strangers." My mother told me a couple of times about how really independent I was even when I was little. In kindergarten, I waved goodbye to her while the rest of the kids were crying. She says it always broke her heart that I didn't need her. The problem is that I DID need her, just not in the way she wanted to be needed. I'm an extremely needy person, although it usually ends up looking like drama queen, or high strung, or bossy. I think anyways.

  • How are you bucking the system?
I go to an all inclusive church--Unitarian Universalist. So obscure that even spellcheck says its wrong... hmm. I believe in love and the goodness in all people. I think a lot of people don't believe that. Well even I'm trying to be like that. I speak my mind and I've been told on multiple times that is a good thing. I've also been told multiple times to shut my mouth. :) I'm also trying to get over the keeping up with the Joneses attitude which I've always had and just accept myself for who I am and what I contribute to the world.
  • How are you living an unconventional life?
Unconventional conventionist. I have a blended family of my sisters kids and my kids. I play video games (a lot) and I'm a 33 year old female. And I don't mean Farmville or Wii Fit. I mean Halo and Red Dead Redemption. I read a lot too. In my circle that is common, but not so common in the general population. I tried to be middle class and gave up. I just asked my husband and he asked me what do I think a conventional woman does--I guess he's hinting at me not cleaning, or cooking. ;) Or he might mean the competitive streak. I don't know. I was the only pregnant lady to march in a gay pride parade last year.
  • Do you feel like you are free to make your own choices?
I don't feel that I am free to make my own choices with the amount of children I have. Although that itself was a conscious choice. I could have said no to taking care of kids. I could have had abortions. But I would never have done that. So in certain things, everyday tasks I can make my own choices, but I don't think I am ever going to make "earth shattering" choices again. But you never know.
  • Do you have a story about how you won back your independence?
I went back to school in 2003, got therapy and decided that status quo wasn't good enough. Now I'm a librarian doing what I love to do. I think it worked out pretty well. There have been a couple of finding myself moments along the way. That isn't really a story per say but I know what I am talking about. :)
  • How are you changing the world with your choices?
Being a better person daily. Being a librarian enables me to help people in ways I find enjoyable. Connecting with the community at large. Being. I don't recycle but I freecycle and up cycle. I'm trying to teach my kids the right way so they can change the world with their choices. Trying to convince my husband to get out of his shell...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 2: Wonder [Be Gentle Be Love]

Wonder and smell and wonder and coloring. It has been years since I've colored. I went through a saturday morning cartoon and coloring period during my first divorce because I always felt the need to center myself during that time and it was a good way to do it. I don't trust myself often with my hands or with my creativity but I went to work today using some OLD oil pastels of my mothers from the early 80s. I am frankly surprised they still work.

I smudged and smudged with my fingers. This was a way of connecting me with my mother in a way. She's been dead for 2 and a half years and I have daily reminders of her. The bed frame I use was hers, a couple of my kids remind me of her. I'm always expecting her to call.

The oil pastels smelled terrible. They are obviously in the process of breaking down and giving back to the earth. And while I was coloring my three year old wanted my attention with his extremely stinky diaper. Motherhood and memories at it again. My husband changed it so I could continue drawing.

I'm having a really good time just sitting and contemplating. There are clothes all over the floor and its okay. I have been trying to actively let go and just be. My sense of wonder then is a continually evolving thing. Just playing with Picnik and realizing it had so many options trying to get pictures sized right was wonderful. I spent 30 minutes messing with the different options with the picture above.

Its baby feeding time.

Day 1: Joyfulness [Be Gentle Be Love]

Take a photo of your eyes or someone else's eyes smiling.  Get real close, try to capture the essence of the smile without capturing the mouth at all. 

I had a really hard time with this one. First of all, its amazing how many people don't want pictures of themselves taken because they perceive themselves as ugly or they thought it was a waste of time. I told them I was doing a photography e-course, and I got a couple of people to let me. It was kind of fun going out of my comfort zone. A couple said I could take a picture but I couldn't put it on the internet. But one friend at work let me.

She's got super gorgeous eyes so that helps. I asked her to "smize" a la Tyra Banks--I learned it off of Ru Paul's drag race. The second picture was easier: Take a photo of either yourself or someone else's mouth smiling.

I took this picture first thing in the morning. Corbin is three months old and she has just really started to smile. She is an extremely SMILeY baby. It is awesome. The third prompt was to take a photo of something that makes you smile. Well I already did that right? :) I ended up taking my camera to the park with the kids and taking some pics of them. Then I went to the church rally that my older kids were at--I was sort of a night watchmen last night until 3 a.m. It was fun! I took a picture of a sconce that is on the walkway up to my church. I never see it at night.

Its a Unitarian Universalist chalice. 

  • How did this exercise make you feel?
I was really nervous. I haven't taken pictures in a really long time and I felt like I would screw it up. In fact, when my husband looked at the pictures, he asked me what all the blurry pictures were for. I was practicing how to use the camera again... low light, zoom, flash, how all the stuff on the camera I have works.
  • What are some of the events that transpired because of your constant smiling?
I felt funny sitting at my computer smiling, but I think overall I was a happier more productive person.
  • What made you smile today?
I went outside my comfort zone again with inviting people over to my house, so that made me smile. My kids, of course. Especially the oldest, who is always so closed off to me. Since I was volunteering at the rally, I got to see him in a different light than I usually see him. He was the leader of a group and he was super confident. I wanted to go over and hug him right then but I was pretty sure he'd be embarrassed. Of course I wanted to kick him (or ask him a lot of embarrassing questions) later when during the night rounds I found him huddled up with a girl in the corner. But I resisted. :)
  • When was the last time you made someone smile?
Yesterday talking to people I felt I got a couple of people to smile that wouldn't normally do it in that context.
  • What was the last thing that made you smile?
Baby. She is SO smiley
  • Do you smile often when you are alone?
I might laugh at something I saw but I don't really.
  • When was the last time you felt the need to paint on a smile?
Everyday at work. Customer service is really hard sometimes.
  • What is guaranteed to put a smile on your face?
My kids.