Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Catch my breath

"Thank you" is my mantra these days. Life is a whirlwind of activity and progress and I'm soaring in the process of finding my voice. I'm loving school and carrying a 4.0, something I never thought I could do. 
I just emerged from a deeply moving women's retreat, and I would like to pause and write about some things that were stirred up, some subjects that have been brewing but that I need to put out there in the interest of bringing some insight and awareness around certain topics, and to encourage a focus on healing. 
I've taken shelter in the fact that this blog holds many facets of my life, but I am feeling the need to streamline a bit. Being in school makes me feel all writer-ly and so forgive me for my awkward practice yet to come but I do have some ideas to put out there and possibly develop into articles. Who knows, I may decide writing is a "thing" for me. 
Speaking of blogging, my poor Waldorf handwork blog has been sorely neglected. It has been on my mind for some time now and I am in the planning stages of bringing more into it. Summer will give me that opportunity.
So after a brief foray into a few social and psychological issues on this blog, I will return to the joy of making things. (also, I have a garden now!)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thinking, Thinking

Lately, this article has had me thinking. The summary of the article reads:
"When the brain's analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed, researchers have found. The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time."
You'll have to read the article, which, like many studies, leave more questions to be answered and a rich ground for further discovery and study.
After I read this, I immediately thought of the people who others describe as "being in their head". I do think people who rely too much on the logical network risk becoming repressors and avoid feelings at all costs. What goes along with that are all kinds of negative behaviors, because if you cannot understand or care how your behavior affects another, then you will have a tendency toward behavior that is dishonest, deceitful, or downright harmful to others. Those who rely too much on empathy risk being naive and overly trusting and are taken for granted. Our culture (in a broad, general sense) seems to favor a high level of detachment, and does not know what to do with feelings.
My next thought was education. Could the way children are educated be helping them rely too much on the logical network and not enough on the part of our brains that use empathy?  What if we were all taught and encouraged, as the article says, to be fluid in our use of both parts of our brain: the logical and the empathetic?
 In my work at a Waldorf school, I find that people have different reactions to the Waldorf way of educating children. Often, people think Waldorf is an "art" school,  and therefore not academic enough (I know in other parts of the country this is not the perception). Waldorf schools have an emphasis on teaching children how to think for themselves, and how to truly be in relationship with others. It is a paradigm that is much different from what most of us are used to and art and music and drama are integral parts of Waldorf education. It is a way to develop intellect in a way that does not ignore the heart of a child. I believe studies like this highlight a real strength of Waldorf education, for practicing the arts in a certain way can help us cycle between empathy and logic
(Waldorf education is a long subject and the internet is full of sites extolling its virtues. If you want to know more, start here.) 
This is where education has the capacity to be most healing for our culture.  I once knew a little boy who grew up hearing from a parent, "Logic would dictate..." as a critical way to address his behavior. That parent was right. Logic would dictate, but empathy would understand. .  I wonder how our society would be different if we were taught in our homes, schools, and workplaces, to value this ability to move with fluidity between our heads and our hearts? Developing intellect is easy; empathy, not so much. I feel like developing deep empathy could take me a lifetime. We truly need more empathy in this world.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

crocheting again

I crocheted a quick project for bringing spring indoors.  I took an empty spice jar, crocheted a tube to fit and added a small loop for hanging, and then hung it up. It would have been more effective to crochet three more and have a proper display, but that takes more time than I have right now. Yarn from Adrienne, dyed by me. I think some daffodils are in order.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

summer camps

I am happy to be teaching two camps this summer. I'm searching for inspiration for projects right now and here is a taste of what is inspiring me in planning for these camps:

Summer camps: “ART OF THE HORSE” CAMP:
It is the Chinese Year of the Horse. Campers, ages 5-12, will celebrate all things “horse”! We will learn all about these magnificent animals and venerate them through sculpture, painting, drawing, and drama. Camp will conclude with a visit with real horses. Taught by Angela Davis. Held July 21-25.
8.00 am - 3.00 pm; $245 per week
Waldorf School of Louisville’s infamous handwork teacher, Angela Davis, will be teaching campers ages
7-14 to knit (or hone their knitting skills), felt, weave, dye and crochet. Projects may include tapestries,
wall-hangings, a knitted treehouse, small animals, and silk scarves. Some building with wood will be
incorporated as we will build an Earth Loom together. June 23-27.
8.00 am - 3.00 pm; $245 per week

I did not credit all the photos....arrrgggghhh. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

broken windows

The broken windows theory has intrigued me for some time now, especially when I read somewhere (I'm sorry I cannot give proper credit) how it was applied to human relationships. Basically, the broken windows theory says that the appearance of an environment affects the way people treat it. For instance, if a neighborhood is littered and run down in appearance, people will feel free to toss their litter on the ground or leave a door broken. This attitude, in turn, invites other forms of misbehavior and increases crime rates.
When I read about this theory as applied to relationships, the author was saying there is a relationship between how you treat your inner house and how others treat it. In other words, if you allow your windows to be broken, others might feel free to smash your windows or bust a door frame. You might even invite them to trash your inner space with you. In talking about this with a friend, he said, "but not everyone will break the windows. Some will help fix it."
That was profound for me. It didn't occur to me that people make choices about how they treat their environment and also in how they treat other people. I've always blamed myself. Perhaps something being in a broken state makes it more vulnerable because it is attractive to the type of character who would cause even more destruction, both in environment and relationship.
It made me appreciate the people who have empathy and compassion, and made me want to seek those people out. The truth is, we all have some windows that are broken, some doors that are jammed shut, some furniture missing and in disrepair. What if we all purposed to be the safe kind of person who can hang out in someone's inner space and say, "hey, I know that hurts. Let's get a hammer and nails and we can make that better."
It seems I have a pattern of inviting people who harshly judge my inner space, or who I allow a mutual wrecking, and give the wrong messages. My friend's message was impactful for me because it showed me a way out of my shame for having "broken windows" and gave me hope. Not everyone breaks your windows, my dear.
I think this applies to women who get in situations where they feel like they give too much in their relationships, and get little in return. It's true that men and women differ in their approaches to their emotions, but things like kindness, empathy, attentiveness, acceptance, tolerance, and presence are gender-neutral. Either you show up in each other's broken houses and make things right, or you don't. Give all your gifts and furniture away, and give it away to a person who will give you something better in return. It all sounds so idealistic, doesn't it? But I think on a basic level give and take and improve and heal is how it operates.

What about the houses that are beautiful on the outside, but cold and sparse on the inside? They do not welcome with warmth. There is not much happening, but their windows don't appear to be broken. Theirs is an illusion...the illusion of caring yet the caring is superficial and there is not much of real value offered. 
Interesting, isn't it? And I'm sure the metaphor could be carried on and helps me pay attention to how I treat others and myself. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Back Yard Plans

My back yard is a blank slate. I'm getting resourceful about putting it together. Collecting pallets and finding sources of free mulch are slow but sure ways to get the elements I want. My neighbor offered his truck to help me haul mulch and dirt. The first major obstacle is the honeysuckle vine. Another neighbor, an established and even more serious homesteader than me, recommended a propane torch. I can see myself in the back yard, taking a torch to honeysuckle vines this summer...ha! A shed is sorely needed. Then the list of fun stuff begins.
In addition to having a back yard that sustains animals and lots of plants and flowers, I want a back yard that is just plain FUN. I've been searching for ideas on how to construct circus equipment , tree houses, and a zipline with minimal investment. My half acre is on an incline and has plentiful trees, making it well suited for a zipline. Eventually we will have bees, chickens and rabbit runs, but that is far away.
Spring is the energy of making plans, putting dreams into action, and preparing for future growth. This is true on so many levels here, and for now, we humbly and simply prepare, and honor the joy of fertile spring.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring has sprung!

I couldn't be happier that Spring has arrived. The first sign was that I lost interest in my phone. This winter seemed to relentlessly drive me inward, bringing me to a mindless huddle around my phone as a means of escape. Turning outward now gives me great pleasure. The kids and I cleaned out the van today. We then went to one of those places where you can vacuum and hose down your vehicle. I let the kids go wild with the foam brush and spray wand. Now our old van is somewhat clean, and in the meantime we "strung pearls". We opted to plan a camping trip next weekend at our favorite haunt and save some of the fancier, more expensive stuff for the summer.
Other welcome sights of spring: clothes on the line, flowers, Easter egg hunts, and spring cleaning.
Two things have taken over my life: college and circus. This weekend ends our circus stint, and we will be sad but relieved.
Last night felt a bit surreal at the circus. It's odd and disorienting when seemingly disparate aspects of your life show up in the same room. We were surrounded by circus pirates, for that is the theme of this year's show, and someone said there were sheep here. Sheep? At the circus? So we went around to where two baby lambs were. BABY LAMBS. I just about died, and even asked, "how much are they?" Yes, and "I'll just go find a cash machine." I have seriously considered setting up my land for a miniature breed, but now is not the time for that, and what am I thinking??? That is how strong baby lambs are.
Pictures below of all of the above.

Inside the circus: Pirates abound!!!

Outside the circus: Heart-melting livestock