Grackle & Sun

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Illumination and Gratitude

The lovely and intrepid traveler Snigdha of GETSETANDGO has nominated Grackle & Sun for the Illuminating Blogger Award.  Thank you very much, Snigdha, for thinking of G & S and including my blog for this award.  I appreciate the love.  :D

The rules for the Illuminating Blogger Award are as follows:

  • Visit the blogger who nominated you and thank them (did that).
  • Acknowledge that blogger on your own blog and link back to them (did that, too).
  • Share a random thing about yourself:  I like birdwatching.  A lot.  This morning, I saw that a few little birds were pecking at the ice that had frozen in the birdbath outside, so I got bundled up and went out to fill it with fresh water.  Apparently, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done ever, because every single bird in our neighborhood (and possibly from surrounding states) came to drink and bathe in the birdbath.  My birdbath is really just a large bottom tray to a planter (you know the part that catches the water?).  It’s big enough that I put a couple bricks in it so the birds would have something to hop up on in the middle.   We had all sorts of sparrows, nuthatches, titmice (titmouses?), cardinals, blue jays, starlings, robins, flickers, woodpeckers, and what I think was a mockingbird.  So many birds, in fact, that at one point, I had to go change out the water.   But watching them all was so much fun.  So, that was my morning.
  • Nominate 5 (or more) blogs for the award, link to their blog, and notify them on their blog.  I nominate the following:
  1. Ch’i Journey~Steph inspires me with both her chi running and 1/2 marathon training plan.  I love her insight into becoming a runner, its challenges and joys. She is awesome.
  2. Local & Bespoke~Mary is a genius at dyeing, particularly with eucalypts.  I also love her posts about tree identification and stewardship.  And the stealthy cycle-by dyestuff collection runs.
  3. Daisey Jayne~Jayne is the craftiest, and I love all the fun projects and beautiful pictures on her blog.  I really love all the reclamation posts.
  4. deborahsuejackson~Sue is a very gifted and thoughtful writer and a wonderful photographer.  I’m hoping this award will get her to post more…(hint, hint).
  5. A Polish Granddaughter & Escape to Evermore~Michelle (Shelly) is a woman of many talents.  Of course I love her posts on dyeing and knitting, but I also love her posts on family and life.
  6. Mountains & Waves~Kate posts about what she loves:  mountains and waves.  I love the photography and how every post makes me want to go outside and stay there.
  7. To Watch Me Unfold~Elizabeth has the soul of a poet and the eye of an artist.  I love how thoughtful and beautiful each post is.
  8. Agujas~Knitting, quilting, traveling…Veronica’s blog is full of every good thing!  I love her gift for observing and writing about details.  I also love that she asks questions of her readers.

I started my blog as a way of keeping track of processes that I love.  It makes me really happy to know that others enjoy reading it, too.  I’ve met a lot of really wonderful and talented people through this experience, and I am very thankful for that.

Much heartfelt gratitude for everyone who takes the time to stop by Grackle & Sun.

Thank you!

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Elevensies!

Happy Solstice, everybody, and happy first day of Elevensies!

The long, dark night is almost over.  Brighter days are ahead.

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What is Elevensies, you say?  Let me tell you.  No, I’m not referring to the meal between second breakfast and lunch, although the name is lovingly borrowed from Tolkien’s hobbits as a play on their undeniable understanding of the importance of merriment, good food, and good company, for Elevensies is all about these things.  The long and short of it is that we are not religious folk, and we could not in good conscience continue celebrating a holiday which belongs to a religion of which we are not a part.  But we love all the mid-winter festivities and deeply believe in the importance of maintaining meaningful traditions.  So when the kids were young, Husband and I sat down together and thought of all the things that were important and not important to us, and then we made our own holiday.  And we named it Elevensies.

Elevensies is the celebration of the (typically) eleven days between the Winter Solstice and the New Year.  It is all about the celebration of life in the dark of winter.  It is about honouring seasons and cycles, nature and humanity.  It is about family and togetherness and sharing merriment, good food, and good company with those you love.  It is about being mindful of what is important and casting off that which is not.  Elevensies is about generosity, but it is not about things—although we do get a few small gifts and surprise each other on different days.  Instead, we wanted the focus to be on doing, not buying.  So instead of giving presents, on each day of Elevensies, we do something fun altogether as a family.  It might be simple like going to the movies (which is a treat for us) or it might be something more elaborate like taking a rock climbing class together (shhhhh—the kids don’t know about this one yet).  Traditionally, there is always a day when we go to a bookstore (my daughter’s favorite) and also a day when we make gifts to give to our family members who celebrate Christmas.  We do spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our respective families, because we recognize that it is important to them, and we’re cool with that.  Sharing those moments are part of Elevensies, too.

We begin Elevensies on the Solstice by decorating the house and remembering that even on the darkest night (and this year, a cold one!),  there is always light and warmth when you are surrounded by people who love you.  Husband takes a fair chunk of vacation time for Elevensies each year, so it’s a holiday in more ways than one, and we all look forward to this relaxed time together.  At the end of Elevensies, on New Year’s Eve, we clean the whole house from top to bottom, smudge it real good, beat pots and pans and make a ruckus, and then at midnight, sweep out the old year and let the New Year in.  This is a tradition taught to us by the Haggencrone, Husband’s grandmother, and it is a very good one.  All it takes is a broom and a firm intention.  Finally, we end Elevensies with our annual New Year’s Togetherness party.   Togetherness is an open house potluck on January 1st, and all our friends and family are invited.  It’s been nicknamed Empanadafest, because my husband, who learned how to make delicious Puerto Rican empanadillas from my mother, sits in the kitchen all day making empanadas as fast as people will eat them.  Last year we packed 65 people in our house, and his empanada count was in the triple digits, lol.  It is a wonderful and auspicious way to start the year.

I wish you all a very wonderful Elevensies in addition to whatever holidays you celebrate.  May this be a time of magical marvelousness and blessed togetherness for you.   And remember, all traditions first began with an idea, a belief, and a person saying, “Let’s do this.”  Traditions and the rituals surrounding them are spoken in the language of our subconscious minds and also of our hearts—that is to say, with imagery, symbols, senses, and feelings.  It is important to pay attention to them, to give them space to expand.  We make our own meaning in life, and our lives should reflect what we most deeply believe.

Merriest of the Merry!

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Many Happy Returns Today

Today is my 16th wedding anniversary.  My husband rocks.  And he is my best friend in the universe.  And he’s hot.  And awesome.   The thing I am always reminded of when I tell people how long we’ve been married (because most have a hard time believing me) is that it takes 2 whole people to make 1 whole couple.  He’s not my other half.  He is David.  And I am dre.  And together we are love.

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And it’s also our son’s 13th birthday!  :D

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WOOT!

Transitional Winds

bryce canyon

Although I come from the West, and left a bit of my soul there to guide me home, I grew up in the old, worn down mountains of the Missouri Ozarks.  It is a land that is very changeable.  A land that like Crowded House sang about, can often have four seasons in one day.  It is now December, and although last week we saw temperatures in the 20s, yesterday was almost 70 degrees.  It will do this back and forth well unto January, when winter will finally decide to settle in for a month or so.

The weather here has never fit the model of the seasons that I was taught in school as a child—each season having its 3 months at the prescribed regularly occurring times.  Winter from December to February; Spring from March to May; Summer from June to August; Autumn from September to November.  No, our temperatures rise and fall on the thermometer with a mercurial playfulness that makes gardening, planning picnics, and even dressing a daily guessing game.

There is one thing that can be counted on like clockwork, however, and that is the wind.  I am an air sign, not that I believe in that kind of thing.  Mostly.  Even so, I have always had an affinity for all things air and a natural inclination for observing the moods of the wind.  One such observance is that which I call ‘Transitional Winds’, that is, the winds that blow the out the old and blow in the new.  This is something that I have experienced since I was a child.  They occur at specific times of year when the seasons are changing, and while it sounds a little woo-woo, it is a very real, observable, tangible phenomenon.  The wind becomes different.  It used to bother me, make me restless and unsettled.  That’s how I knew when they were coming—I’d get all jumpy in my solar plexus, and the hair would raise on the back of my neck.  I had a lot of cultural superstition and a mighty religious lens to work around back then.  The lens was not my own, but nonetheless made it hard to make peace with what spoke to me.  Things are much different now.

It also happens that as these Transitional Winds keep the wheel of the seasonal cycle shifting, they also typically coincide with major shifts in my life.  Maybe it’s coincidence.  Maybe it’s my brain seeking patterns where there are none.  Or maybe it is as I see it.  Either way, it is how I live it.  And this year’s autumnal Traditional Winds were no exception.  The thing about Transitional Winds is that you can either fight them and get blown to shit, or you can allow them to bring needed change in your life and use the time to examine and reevaluate what gets stirred up.  The only way to grow is to change.  All things are impermanent.  Transitional Winds remind us to shake up the spirit, to blow the cobwebs off the soul, turn things upside down, and get to work.

Early Morning Upside Down (triptych 1)

The most major change recently is that following my daughter’s decision to leave homeschooling so that she might attend a new charter Arts Academy, my son, out of the blue, decided in mid-October to do the same.  My kids are artsy, and they wanted both a new experience and to have the opportunities that a school with daily multi-discipline arts instruction could provide.  So, I went from living a decade of unschooling and progressive, child-led learning philosophy and education to having kids in public school (gasp!) and me looking for a day job in the span of one week.  Whoa.    And though I struggled with it for a good minute, seeing both of my kids doing well in said school, despite my continued disillusionment and disagreement with the American Educational System, has been very reassuring and rewarding.  Realizing that I am now free to pursue interests that I’d put on hold is also ridiculously exciting in a quiet, can’t-quite-say-it-all-out-loud kind of way.    As wonderful as homeschooling was, it was a tremendous responsibility—one that I must admit to bearing with difficulty at times.  Like every worthwhile thing in life, it was not always  cuddly puppies and sparkly rainbows.   I had to learn my unschooling mantra very quickly:  Observe, Reflect, Adjust.  It was a challenge to give two completely different kids with two completely different learning styles everything that they needed each day.  I did my best.  My degree and certification in Elementary Education was, contrary to what most people thought, often more of a hindrance than a help.  I had a lot to unlearn and relearn properly, you see.  Homeschooling was, however, a fantastic journey and one I’d do again in a heartbeat.  I think the Chickpeas would, too.

It seems that I am looking down the barrel of finding a new job, potentially a new career, and I’m totally stoked.  I’d feel conflicted about it, but the Chickpeas are happy with their choice, and that, it seems, was the key to my new-found liberation.  It is an amazing double truth of motherhood—from the moment your first child quickens in your womb, one full part of your brain is always on them, dedicated to their health, safety, and well-being; and when your children are happy, you can be happy, too.  Knowing that they are where they want to be—even if it was not where I imagined in a million years they would be—feels really good.  Not being solely responsible for their educations feels good, too.  I feel lighter than I have in years. Happy to just be Mom.

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So what is next?  Well, for a decade I’ve said that I would never go back to teaching.  And I meant it.  I have no desire to teach in a regular school setting, because we’ve got two very different philosophies of education, how children learn, and what is in their best interest.  Trying to fit in that system would require lying to myself and everyone else in ways that I do not find acceptable—which is to say, at all.  But I do love teaching.  Rather, I love helping to facilitate and guide learning.  There’s a difference.   I don’t want to waste a perfectly good degree—one that can give me a steady job (that is NOT waiting tables), a meaningful career, be a positive influence on the lives of children, and someday help us to retire.  So I started thinking about under what circumstances I would feel good about returning to the profession of teaching, and immediately I thought of the different types of “alternative”, progressive models of schools out there:  Reggio Emilia, Sudbury, free skool, and Montessori  to name a few.  I had studied, albeit briefly, a few of these different philosophies and methods when I was at University, but soon found that while my degree required that I know they exist, it did not require that I learn how to pursue working within those models.  In practice, it was actually discouraged, which is sad because I felt a real spark for these models even as a green teacher-in-training.   Now I have been revisiting these models with a different kind of experience under my belt, and I have a steadily growing realization that this is the direction I need to take.  As it turns out, my decade as an unschooler (which is its own story) probably taught me more about education, how children really learn, and the true role of a teacher than I ever learned in my degree program.   As I am relearning the tenets of these models, I’m realizing that I pretty much unknowingly gave my kids a Reggio Emilia and Montessori inspired education for the last ten years.   That makes me smile.

There aren’t very many “progressive” schools where I live here in the good ole Heartland, but that is sloooooowly changing.  I was very happy to find that there are several Montessori training centers right here.  I’m not only looking into adding a Montessori certification to my credentials, but I’ve been interviewing with a couple schools for assistant positions (all Montessori teachers have to start out as assistants).  I’m really excited about the potential for working within a school environment that is harmonious with my beliefs about education and child development.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Good things are happening.  Now I have the challenge of being patient, waiting for others’ decisions and seeing what opportunities pan out.

On other fronts, I’ve been spending a lot of time considering my new passion for natural dyeing and how to better integrate it with other aspects of my life that are similar—native gardening, sustainability, simplicity… I find myself wanting to more fully settle into these practices and flesh them out not only individually, but also to suss out how they can work together.  I’ve recently been inspired by the projects of others who are working to be more sustainable in their use of fiber and textiles—right down to the clothes they wear and what they’ll use for crafting.  I’ve got a lot incubating in my head about that.  I’ve also been following my usually dip into wintertime introspection and examining how I am living out my beliefs in my daily life.  There’s been more sussing out on a spiritual level about the connection between soulwork, physicality, and how one can be an atheist and a pagan-daoist-stoic all at the same time.  I finally made peace with the fact that I’ve known for decades what my path is, I just had to accept that it doesn’t have words, titles, labels, or names.  It is not tidy, but it is real, and my goal now is to find a voice for what I do, so that it can be outside my head, too.  Talking about things like ‘Transitional Winds’ is a start.   I’m thinking ahead to what the New Year is going to bring with an optimism that I haven’t felt in a while.  I feel firmly in my skin and happy to encounter new adventures.

Here’s to Transitional Winds and the lessons they bring.

Office Chair Workouts: Week 19

Links to the videos for all these exercises can be found here in the post from Week 14.  This is the last week of my month-long challenge of incorporating LovingFit exercises into my workouts.  I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in strength and my overall ability to perform most of these moves, but the shoulder issue is still problematic.  Actually, I found that it became worse with some of these exercises that I was hoping would help (like the wall climbers, crab side plank lift, and 1/2 dive bombers), and so I pretty much took them out of rotation.  I’m kind of at a loss for what to do.   I’d love to get to the point where I can do the LovingFit workouts as-is, but I’m just not there—not without a lot of modifications.  But I worry that by just pulling individual exercises from them and incorporating those, I’m missing the bigger picture of the workouts as they are designed.  I either need to be ok with that, or I need to be ok with only kinda-sorta doing the workouts as presented.  Food for thought.

Monday:  Upper Body

  • Diagonal Bear Push-ups
  • Slow Pull Down
  • Walk Over Scissor Planks
  • Circle Shoulder Press
  • Double Bicycle
  • Mt. Climber Push-off

All exercises x 12 reps.  Had to stop at 1 set.  Stupid rotator cuff.  Nearly face-planted on the last Mt. Climber Push-off.  Then I get so MAD, that I have to bully through just to finish a workout at all.  But it’s a weenie thing to quit over.   So, I did another set.  Had to modify the Mt. Climber Push-off to just a Push-off.  On my knees.  But I did it.  So there.

Dre: 1

Rotator cuff: 0

Tuesday:  Lower Body

Something a little different than what I usually do.  Only 4 exercises.  Part 1, each exercises is timed 1 minute on, 15 seconds off.  5 rounds for the squats, 6 rounds for the other 2.

  • Go-Stop-Go Squats (managed 11 on every round, total of 55)
  • Step Up Knee Up (did either 15 or 16 on each round, total of approx. 45 per leg)
  • Cook Lift (averaged around 40 per round, total approx 120 per leg)

Total Time:  22 minutes

Part 2:  Isometric Squat Side Bends.  20 per side.  These are way harder than they look!

The Rest of the Week:  :/

I worked extra this week, and therefore was extra tired.I had two, count ’em, TWO job interviews which were in the time slots when I’d usually work out.
And there was a doctor’s appointment in there somewhere, too.

Read this as:  I got lazy and made excuses and didn’t work out the rest of the week.

Why?  Dude, I don’t know.  Some days—I’m not even kidding about this—it is as simple as if for some reason my workout gets shifted to a later time, I won’t have enough time for my hair to dry after a shower before I have to go to work, or that it will mean taking 2 showers (and isn’t that just ridiculous and wasteful?).  Typing that for the general public to read just instantly put that into perspective, let me tell you.  I let little things derail me from things that I really do find important.  I have spent my whole life being one of those people who never does the same thing at the same time two days in a row—ie, I’m inconsistent.  But I’ve always desired consistency.  Go figure.  My blogging friend Stephanie wrote a really great post about this same issue.  It appears that we were both riding the excuse train this week.  :/  I love her idea of a motivation board on Pinterest.  I also like that reading her post made me have to sit with the reality of this issue and get up close and personal with it.   Not easy, but necessary.  And good.

The positive that all of this has shown me is that I have changed in a small but very important way.  It used to be that getting derailed even once would mean the kiss of death for my new “healthy habit”.  I’d just quit altogether.   I don’t do that anymore.  I get back on the horse over and over and over again.   I am thankful for this small victory, and I hope that one day it will transform into something resembling consistency.    I have another job interview tomorrow.  My goal is to work out afterward even if it means I have to take 2 showers, lol.

Office Chair Workouts: Weeks 17 & 18

Week 17 was a total loss due to a wicked case of food poisoning that left me feeling like a wrung out dish towel for the better part of the week.  I think that exercise can be helpful in getting over the last bit of something like a cold or the sniffles, but for many illnesses, the body just needs to be allowed to rest.  So I rested.  I lost a good 6 lbs with this bout, and it took a while for me to be able to eat anything without my stomach cramping up and turning into a rock.  I’ve haven’t been this keenly aware of the temperament of my innards since I had that bad burrito from Taco Bell in the early ’90’s.  Oh well.  All is better now.

On another note, but tied to all this food poisoning stuff, I decided to postpone the Whole30.  Technically, just using electrolyte rehydrating solutions (although I made my own with honey/salt/coconut water) meant that I broke the Whole30 in the first week.  Not a great way to start, so I will revisit this after the New Year.

Monday:  Job Interview!

Keep your fingers crossed, everybody!

Tuesday:  LovingFit Full Body Workout

The first part is upper, the second part is lower.  I did all exercises x 15 reps for 2 sets each.

Thursday:  LovingFit Full Body Workout

  • Star Abs x 5
  • Scissor Planks x 5       ( alternate 3 times)
  • Skater | Reverse Lunge Knee Up x 20 (each leg)
  • Bear Push-ups x 5
  • Crab Toe-touches x 5      (alternate 3 times)

Finish with 10 Sun Pose

Sunday:  Full Body

30 reps (each side) of each exercise done in sets of 10, timed in circuits.

  • Bird dogs
  • Mt. Climbers
  • Plank Up Downs + Scissor
  • Star Abs
  • Skater + Reverse Lunge Knee Up
  • Sun Pose
  1. 5:58
  2. 6:07
  3. 6:32

Having those first 4 right in a row was such an ab killer!

Ended with Qigong practice.  Great way to finish out the week.

 

 

 

The Fast and the Fugitive: Pokeberry Edition

It is once again time to play…

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OR

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I sandwiched the samples from each of the original pokeberry dyebaths between heavy cardboard and taped it up against a south-facing window for a month.  All yarn is 100% wool mordanted with vinegar only.  Here are the results:

Pokeberry–First Dyebath

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-25-02 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-24-25 PM

Pokeberry–Second Dyebath (First exhaust)

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-26-29 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-26-05 PM

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-27-47 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-27-35 PM

Pokeberry—Third Dyebath (Second Exhaust):  These are on superwash wool.  Somehow I didn’t test the skein of regular wool from this bath.  Not sure why.

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-29-10 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-28-43 PM

Pokeberry—Cold Dyebath

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-30-47 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-30-05 PMSo far, I think everything is as should be expected.  We know that pokeberry is not normally lightfast, but that with proper mordanting and dyeweight ratios, can be made more so.   You can see a substantial difference in the lightfastness between the original dyebath and the two exhaust baths.  Here is the good news.  This lightfastness test was conducted in a room in my house lovingly known as The Snug, short for Snuggery, aka the Sun Room.  It is a very tiny little nook of a room made entirely of mullioned windows.  For the purposes of this post, that means that anything in the room gets not only full south-facing sun, but also east and west sun, as well.  The photos you’ve seen so far are of the side of the yarn which had direct south-facing exposure pressed right up on the glass.  The next series of photos are of the back side of the exposed yarn—the side exposed to normal daily levels of ambient light from the east and west windows.  You can just see the outlines of the direct-exposed areas.  It’s like the yarn has tan lines.  Look at this:

First Dyebath

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-25-17 PM

Second Dyebath (First Exhaust)

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-26-42 PMPokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-28-01 PM

Third Dyebath (Second Exhaust)

Pokeberry Lightfastness Test Results 11-17-2012 2-29-23 PM

Pretty cool, huhn?  The first dyebath had almost no fading on the ambient-exposed side of the yarn.  The exhaust baths had very little.  I think this is a good sign that these pokeberry dyed yarns will stand up to regular wear in normal lighting.  I mean, it’s not like anyone is going to be wearing handknit items when the UV levels are crazy high, so I’m not terribly worried about it.  I’m particularly impressed with the cold dye process.  Not only did it dye awesomely, but it was the most lightfast out of the bunch, too.  The back side of the sample was as purple as the covered section.  It was just hard to get a good picture of it.

Next, I’ve got to get lightfastness tests of the raceme dyelots.  Gotta wait for more sun, though.  Until then,

Live happy, dye happy!

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