Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

6Oct/150

Looking Forward

I feel like I'm coming in, trying to blow off the cobwebs, remove the dustcovers, and start setting things to order again.

So very much has been happening, it has really been overwhelming at times. I would start to post about things, then it would be too much and I'd put it off. Then it got to the point it felt like I'd never write a catch up post.

Like any Practice, the essence is in the present moment. The Now.

So what has happened since May?

More yoga classes have happened. I teach a total of eight classes a week currently. Seven classes are at studios or clubs, two of which don't require membership to attend. One class I've started under my own business name, Samatha Yoga, is a Yoga for Women class that I hold at a studio space I rent in downtown Portland.

In April I started to investigate Integrated Movement Therapy (IMT) as a possible direction to head in my desire to train in a form of Yoga Therapy. That classes are largely held in Washington, Seattle and a little town called Plain, and Portland was part of the appeal. I also heard some really great feedback about IMT from the Executive Director of Living Yoga.

I signed up for some group classes on Yoga for Anxiety with one of the IMT instructors and felt a real connection. The more weeks into the program I went, the more interested I became in the ways the IMT approach to Yoga Therapy. In mid-April I took the IMT Basics class as well as the Level I 3-day intensive on IMT for Adults. My hope is to be complete with the program, including practicum and internship, by next winter.

In May I joined the Board of Directors for Living Yoga. I was starting to do a dive into helping improve the usefulness of data and some software-as-a-service type tools when August rolled around with a huge pile of Big Life Changes. A sudden increase in stress, combined with the realization that the schedule I'm taking for my IMT studies conflicts with many of the Board meetings, as well as wanting to take as many teaching positions as possible right now to help extend our savings further, led me to the decision to leave the Board. I'm hoping I may be able to revisit joining sometime in the future.

Also in May, we purchased a used 2002 Chevy Astro Passenger Van. We'd done some research on vans to facilitate moving props to group classes and for us to camp in. The Astro was the winner and we found a good one at a very small dealer near our house.

June is the month of the Surprise Bulldog. I'd taken the van to our mechanic's shop for a good once-over and an oil change. I came home with a shy, skittish, 6-month old bulldog puppy. His owners had gone through a traumatic breakup. One would no longer have anything to do with him and the other owner, the adult son of the owner of the shop I go to, was keeping him crated for up to 13 hours a day. When the van was done, the puppy came up with me. Later that night we named him Bertie. Depending upon who you ask it is either short for Bertrand Russell (CK) or Bertram Wilberforce Wooster (me).  Let me tell you, an English Bulldog puppy is an adventure in so many ways

In early August, after several years of not being heard or respected, among other things, CK decided to leave her position at her high tech, high stress job. Right now she's been taking it easy and deciding what she wants to build. This whole event gave us some rather intense weeks throughout the month as we got closer to her last day, August 27th, the day before my birthday.

On August 26th I received a truly mean, spiteful letter in the mail from my Mother. Thankfully I had an appointment with my therapist scheduled for the 27th in anticipation of birthday blues, so the letter got immediate attention. I have wondered if she's trying to provoke me into responding somehow, or if it is just pure maliciousness and making sure she gets the last word in. In the future I'll be returning mail from her unopened.

Then I was 46 and we had a relaxing day. I taught a yoga class, because I wanted to, and otherwise we just had a mellow day. We ended the day with rock & roll; seeing Steve Earle & the Dukes perform. I am happy to report that 46 is not too old to rock and roll, however, I personally recommend at least a day's recovery time afterward.

To make my birthday extra awesome CK snapped a picture of Steve Earle and me. She also told him it was my birthday and he signed a personalized message on the concert poster we'd picked up.

That brings us right in September. The first week CK was officially not working she built a beautiful book shelf for our living room. I spent the first week of the month getting ready for the two-week, residential training retreat I had coming up. The official Samarya Yoga Teacher Training intensive, held at the Grunewald Guild in Plain, Washington. Given some of the experiences I had with Zen sesshin practice, I had a lot of anxiety going up there. Not to mention the heightened stress I was under due to the rather busy August we'd had. Still, can't keep putting things off until I feel "strong enough" to do them.

To make it a little easier on me I outfitted the van for a camping try-out. I had power, so an electric blanket to stay warm during the chilly mountain nights as well as power for my laptop and my very own electric kettle. I also made some snazzy curtains to cover all the windows.

I ended up flipping the bed around, finding that those back doors let in quite a draft. I came away with several items to improve the experience. The suction cups to hold the curtains need better positioning, and perhaps more of them. I want to find a way to block the back doors. Other than that, I was very comfortable in my little van-cave and so grateful for a place that offered total retreat when I was overwhelmed.

The training was intense. Upon returning and starting to catch-up (debrief) with my therapist she asked me about making a list of everything that came up, so we could prioritize them. I looked at her without blinking and told her that Everything had come up, in due time, across the long days of the retreat.

It was at times a tour through trauma. It was at other times hugely uplifting, the satisfaction of learning deeply, curiosity encouraged, dynamics of human interaction explored, the practice of gratitude established, an understanding of sisterhood unfolded, and so much more. The picture is of me just after our closing ceremony (still have taken very few selfies, but this one isn't too bad).

I was back home for 5 days after that experience, teaching all my classes, and then up to Seattle for a 3-day intensive on Level I IMT for Teens. I'm working on getting my time with my mentors done, hopefully over the next few weeks. In mid-October I'll have the 3-day intensive on Level I for Children. I leave again for Plain, Washington on November 1st for the 1-week, IMT Level II intensive.

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24Jul/150

Flowering

May was spent processing anger, waves of it. Then, unexpectedly, a childhood memory suddenly focused into clarity, which took some grieving and new, different anger to integrate and express.

Enjoying the Cool of the Park - June 21, 2015 - Tigard, Oregon

Similarly to learning safe ways to express anger I've also been exploring ways to "have a good cry". The idea of putting the words "good" and "cry" together is absolutely alien to me given my family of origin. Animal movies, sentimental ones particularly, seem to do the trick. Periodically Dora and I've watched a few really sappy dog movies when CK's has been away on work trips.

It has been a learning experience, in many ways.

 

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25May/150

Stumbling Towards Peace

So much for my National Poetry Month pledge. Ah well.

Red Gerbera Daisy - May 25, 2015 - Portland, Oregon

Creativity, writing or other artistic medium, has been distant this winter into spring. I'm also not really motivated to read much either. I was thinking this morning about the two kinds of shame that arise around this. First out of the gate comes the, "Why are you at your desk working on collage, polymer clay pieces, organizing, bead work, anything!?" That one is so obvious. I should be making an effort to spend time at my desk dedicated to my art. This is the way artists  become selling artists.

The more subtle voice of criticism is softer and hints at some colossal, irredeemable flaw in not wanting to be creative. To be perfectly content in this slow, fugue state and not desire to break out and make art seems like the biggest betrayal, failure of them all.

Which means that some days, still many days, I work a little (3 classes a week, moving up to 5 come June), try to take care of some household errands and/or chores, and nap. I still feel kind of amazed at just how much  I still nap and how an hour of therapy can throw me into a tailspin lasting for days. A particularly intense therapy session earlier this month has seen me back to nearly daily naps, many over 2-3 hours.

What finally occurred to me on the 11th was that I'm angry. I left that therapy session angry, which was a far healthier response than the shame and body disgust I went in with. That said, I'm really at a loss when it comes to anger. A childhood of being disallowed the expression of any "negative emotions", anger, disrespecting elders, "talking smart", anything perceived or labeled as "back talk", etc. As a young child this was enforced through physical action followed by banishing me to my bedroom where I was also not to cry and carry on, lest I be "given something to cry about". As I grew older I would mostly just be banished. Cut off from contact aside from school attendance. The rest of the time I was in my room with the door closed, shutting me away.

What I realized now is that when I'm angry I tend to get in a gray, exhausted, demotiavted funk really quickly. This leads me to just go to bed and nap. I go somewhere quiet and try to wait it out. Which really worked for me growing up, but as an adult.... well it still works because I'm teaching and not working some stressful, full-time+ job in IT. However, I also get that the anger I feel at the abuses I survived is a pretty reasonable response.

And yet... there are my vows, particularly the Ninth Grave Precept which directs us to, "Actualize harmony. Do not be angry."

So I'm trying to find ways that let me acknowledge and reconcile the anger I feel, particularly my "inner, younger selves" that were so utterly denied any way to express anger at what was happening in the present moment. Ways to express the anger that are safe, measured, and do not bring further harm to myself or others. I'm brainstorming some "intuitive art" sessions where I just pick colors, textures, words, and images from my collage materials that the inner anger resonates with and, on the advice of my therapist and CK, I occasionally try yelling and screaming in the car.

2Apr/150

Learning Rest

I've only been able to establish a restful sleeping pattern in the past year. Peeling back the years of trauma and job-related stress (those 17 odd years of being on call) that created my inability to sleep well, chronic insomnia (couldn't get to sleep, couldn't stay asleep), starting from age 4 or earlier, has been hard. Multiple professionals have helped to treat me and give me tools to help me learn to rest at last.

These days I don't sleep as often or as much as I was in early 2014, but the need is still there. After more than a year of practice I am finally able to listen to my body without fear or self-shaming and let myself nap, fully rest, whenever I need to. It is nothing short of miraculous.

Learning Rest

Bleeding Hearts Return - Portland, Oregon - April 2, 2015

After a lifetime
Of restlessness.
Nights of scattered,
Small hours of sleep
Caught between the
Night terrors and the
Waking anxiety that
Brings them.

To experience the
Gift of sleep, to
Learn the rhythm
Of the body and
Its need for rest,
True rest that heals,
Is sipping from
Kwan Yin's jug.

Drinking in the
Elixir of life.

23Mar/150

Taking Flight

In February I registered my business, Samatha Yoga, which I hope to begin growing this year as a mobile yoga teaching practice, bringing classes to offices, conferences, wedding showers, and more. I've been communicating with one local company already after having counter-pitched an inquiry from a technical recruiter; saying that I wasn't in the tech business anymore but wouldn't they love to improve the Health and Wellness options at the office by having me come teach yoga.

I've also been teaching two mornings a week at a gym in Happy Valley. It really is growing the ideas I come up with without any props aside from the yoga mats the students bring themselves. However, if my resolve to eventually only teach classes or private sessions were props are abundantly available wasn't already made, this experience only strengthens it!

I also spent part of a week attending workshops at Art and Soul last month, which was exhausting and exhilarating in equal measures. I took two workshops, which I'll be writing about soon on the ZenZada blog soon.

I've recently done some immersions where yoga, meditation, and/or energy work and journaling is used an approach to work with anxiety. These aren't teacher training, but as a teacher I'm finding them very valuable as I gather information to make the best decision for my training to become a certified yoga therapist.

At the beginning of March I sold my old house in North Portland. The sales cleared all the debt associated with the property as well as some remaining personal debt, including the very last of my student loans. As embark upon this exciting new experience of running my own business it is an enormous relief to have the liability of the house hanging over me now that I no longer receive a lucrative tech income.

So in many ways my new life seems to be taking off! Which is as exciting as it is tiring.

Fly away, Scrub Jay!

This month also sees my unemployment benefits expire. I am feeling anxious and guilty about this date sneaking up on me. I have been refining, tweaking, researching, refining, etc. on my application to the Self Employment Assistance Program that I'm afraid I may have missed the deadline to apply. There's another federal program I should still be able to apply for, I hope.

I'm feeling mad and frustrated with myself and the days where I feel like I've been zapped by a Cone of Demotivation (+4) that leaves it hard to even keep up with things around the house, make art, improve my business materials. I've been hit by another round of headaches; seems muscle tension is impeding the circulation of lymphatic fluid and blood in my head and neck.

In my meditation practice I've returned back to something my old Zen teacher used to say, "I am whole, complete, lacking nothing." It helps keep firm the reframing of seeing myself as wounded, not broken. I'm working on a bright book of affirmations for the year and am including this mantra, of sorts in it.

In February I also played around with using one of the heavy paper cranes I'd made for our first wedding as the basis for collage, becoming a kind of paper sculpture. One of these large cranes had been delivered to my Mother in the hospital on that day. When packing up her things for the last time I chose to keep it. However, seeing it was rather bittersweet for me. I added more layers of paint to it, a quote from Mary Oliver on one side, "Leave some room in your heart for the unimaginable." and that mantra on the other. In February it was sent, along with 60 beautiful cranes folded from chiyogami paper and two hats, knitted by my friend LG, with a paper crane pattern worked into it. It made it in time to Lansing, Michigan, to bring one of the last smiles smiled by my second college friend to lose their battle with cancer. Yesterday, very early, she peacefully passed onto the next journey.

Spring starts as rather a mixed bag. Sadness, excitement, joy, anxiety (always), hope.

Cranes4CJ Paper Sculpture

8Oct/140

October Observations

October is here, arriving with a burst of rain and then come days of warm, summery days and crisp evenings. Really, one of my favorite times of year in Portland. Leaves are just turning, apples are plentiful, all the moss that had gone brown in the summer heat turns to green again. I'll miss the last two weeks of the month because we'll be leaving the house, and all the beautiful creatures living in it, in the very capable hands of a dear friend while CK and I enjoy a trip.

Kitchen Benefactors

Part of the trip for her will be work, but we have several days for just us. It has only taken two marriage ceremonies for us to have a honeymoon, but we're finally doing it. I'm getting really excited for the adventure of an entirely new place, one I've always wanted to visit. I'm also just happy for us, the last few trips CK and have taken together have been completely overshadowed by the Mama-Drama-Rama the claimed 2012 & 2013. We deserve a nice holiday with no emergencies to deal with at home.W

My talk to MozFest didn't get accepted, which is disappointing, but it is nice to not be worrying about my slides, etc. before giving a talk. I will be attending though, if anyone else is there and wants to look me up.

I've been applying for teaching positions at studios around town. Really, it feels like auditioning, particularly when I give a demo of my teaching. I never thought I'd come to prefer the grueling, multi-person, multi-hour interviews of the tech industry, but the audition thing is so nerve wracking that I'd take the old way back any day! What I've discovered is that there are a lot of teachers in the area and a lot of owners that have a very specific image they're trying to project.

No, I'm still not working in tech. The earliest review of that, a date given grudgingly, would be January 2015. However, the overwhelming opinion is in favor of me not going back to the tech industry at all. I've been noodling over this quite a bit the past few weeks after getting some unexpected news about my last company/team. I spent a good week in blue sky mode, fantasizing about going back so I could prove I could hack it, or make a difference, or finish something.

Then I had a good talk about all these feelings coming up with my therapist and after some discussion I saw that a large part of my desire to return to my last company is out of some hope it will "fix" my feelings about leaving college. It will somehow repair the past if I prove something that doesn't really matter in the present.

That brings me back to healing from the idea that you can spend 17 years building yourself into something and be told that you have to stop. I never thought that would ever happen. Maybe wouldn't have had I not had such a supportive wife and felt that I still had to keep everything moving along, regardless of my own health and the health of my relationships.

I am humbled by the abundance of support I now have in my life. Instead of trying to find a job that just gets me by, that doesn't let me take the time to really heal the hurt and trauma I've survived, I am instead thinking of ideas of how to market my private yoga sessions with people. I'm also on Week 6 of The Artist's Way, and that has been bringing me some profound insight on how I view my health and identifying the ways in which I'm mean to myself; writing things down so I can better work with them. I've also been working through a lot of anger about my Mother, huge amounts; my therapist and PMHNP both say that it is about time for me to feel angry, about a whole lot of things.

All that means I'm also still napping, which I'm trying to be less judgmental about having identified my impatience for my need to rest as a way I'm mean to myself! Some things, like having a 45 minute conversation about what it was like at my job this time last year as part of the process to review my eligibility for unemployment benefits, will leave me feeling worn out for a day or two. I am keeping in mind and trying to celebrate that it is an improvement over a week's fugue-state after challenging tasks like that.

The good news about sticking with the hard work is that it is helping things out; I am getting unemployment benefits now that I've been released to some kind of work and am actively searching. I'm going to be applying for a couple of programs that help you establish your own business, which I'm qualifying for since my physician has advised me not to return to my old career. Teaching classes here and there is going to be hectic and costly in regards to time spent commuting and fuel. CK has been brainstorming ideas for me to set up a solo teaching practice, with a class or workshop at a studio here and there.

I've also just started an Etsy shop. It isn't "open" yet because I need to face down my block over photographing artwork to post. In addition to pieces listed, I'll also be taking custom work. This winter I experienced a huge shift it what I was creating and am really excited by the direction I'm heading it, but I've avoiding photography for some fear of failure.

I'm planning to take an introduction to matting and framing artwork class at the Multnomah Arts Center next month. I plan to use at least one of my own pieces of artwork since I have so many questions on how to mat them. I know it will get me over the fear of using the mat cutter I bought a few months ago!

Since I've been doing so much with making art, I've started a new blog, ZenZada. We're also going to include stories about our life (mostly raccoon adventures thus far), reviews of places we stay when we travel, vegan/GF travel tips, and other lifestyle things like that. I started it in part to have a place to write about my co-creative art project with a Portland artist.

Vegan Nosh continues to move along, I've been doing a series of experiments with vegan burger recipes and posting about them. Since we found out CK cannot have gluten, I've been doing more experimenting and cooking at home, which is really better for us in so many ways.

10Aug/140

Full Moon, August 10, 2014

It has been kind of a tough week. Not anxious, more down, just another low of grief and anger to process. Between the session a week and a half ago and going through some photos of me as a child I've been stuck in a kind of anti-social funk all week. Once I just accepted that my week was going to include this processing, made space for it, I was able to find things I felt like I could accomplish and was also to take moments to really feel the happiness the exists concurrently, in the same space as the grief and anger.

Despite my hermit-y mood, I did make it out Friday to a neighborhood, small-business owner lunch. It was held at a place I was familiar with and knew food wouldn't be an issue. I got to practice saying things like, 'I'm a yoga teacher." and "I'm an artist" with strangers. Also practiced acknowledging I got really ill this past winter due to extreme stress and sleep disruption with both my old job and living with my Mother. I left with someone possibly interested in some private sessions to help her create a home practice she is comfortable with.

Today I got up and walked Dora then started puttering around the house most of the day. I may have over done it about, especially since there was a lot of moving stuff from upstairs to down and from down to up. However, I look around at the work done, much of it to improve my own studio space, and it feels good to make progress despite feeling a lot of aches.

After some dinner and watching a little MLS on television I went out to soak in out hot tub, listen to the frogs singing, and appreciate the "super moon" rising. We never really had any wish to have a hot tub when we were house hunting in 2012. That said, we're appreciative of the house having one that's so convenient to use (right off the kitchen on the deck). My doctor and other care-givers strongly urge me to soak every night before bed, and I do think it has been helping a lot with sleep and the level of nighttime-to-morning pain.

Tomorrow CK returns from London, briefly, before heading down to California. It will be so nice to have her company for a little while. Her laugh and made-up songs always lift my mood.

Super-moon - August 10, 2014 - Portland, Oregon

 

 

I couldn't resist a haiku in honor of tonight's moon:

Summer moon rises.
Golden and full in the sky.
Frogs sing gratitude.

11Mar/140

Releasing the Past

Since Mom's abrupt departure this past November we've been slowly making the house feel more like our space. We've made the guest room more welcoming and moved in the dressers CK's Mom and step-father brought up for us. What was Mom's bedroom has become our practice room; a space for meditation and yoga.

Several years ago, when Mom was moving out of the home she and my Dad shared I took home the remaining of her Seven Dwarves, a little gnome, and leprechaun. Mom didn't want them, given that she was downsizing to an urban apartment she didn't have the space, and the dwarves themselves reminded her of her mother. We'd put them and a few other things at the front of the door, hoping that the familiar might help Mom in the transition to living with us.

My grandmother had made each daughter a set of the Seven Dwarves. She had got around to making a Snow White for her oldest daughter, her favorite, but never managed to get around to making one for my Mom.

As we've reclaimed the space there's been a lot of discussion about the disposition of these yard ornaments. They really weren't in good enough condition to donate, one even being broken at the back, and having them around just reminded me of the dreams for Mom I've had to let go of.

I took all the ideas and decided to put them all into play in different ways. Those ornaments that weren't already breaking I would "release into the world". Today our friend MC and I took Dora for a walk and placed the 2 unbroken dwarves and the gnome out along a trail in a small park not far from the house. It felt good to place these, I hope that these bring a smile to people walking in the park, a bit of whimsy to brighten their day.

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5Mar/140

A.M. (After Mom)

Today is my Mom's 71st birthday. I've not sent her a card and will not be calling her later, in fact I don't even have whatever number she now has.

I feel like a terrible daughter, but I'm working on that because I know that having set this boundary with my Mother is the best choice for the sake of my health and they health of my marriage. I wisely scheduled a visit from friends for lunch and therapy this afternoon.

A year ago we were trying to make a celebration in Hawaii for Mom's 70th birthday, an age I never expected her to see. Even though we'd made all the arrangements and took special care, I was left feeling like Mom found her birthday a let down. On her birthday itself we went out to a restaurant where we could all get tasty food and she could have the fish she had said she was craving. She'd have rather gone to a different restaurant, but knew it would leave CK and I with no real choice for something we could eat. Later she'd make a point to tell me how the fish at a restaurant we like wasn't good, in fact she'd tell me at least a couple more times while in Hawaii that her birthday dinner wasn't very good. The travel back home was miserable.

I feels like things started to deteriorate rather quickly after that trip. Mom's increasing dissatisfaction in living with us; snide comments escalating to sharp words. Again overhearing her telling friends how it wasn't what it seemed here, that we didn't really take good care of her or make anything nice for her to eat or special dishes. Worse, her intimating to people that she felt I was misusing my access to her bank account. Attempts to take her out for lunch on weekends were spent in near silence, her eating but not really interested in engaging with us at all.

When Mom came to live with us I still had this desperate hope that I could really help. I had an even more tightly held hope that my Mom wasn't as bad as I thought, that some of my tense, defensive behavior toward her wasn't warranted. Seeing Mom through the lens of CK's view, free of my history, would let me heal some of that distrust that came up for me.

Only that turned out not to be the case, not entirely and not how I hoped. True, we managed to tremendously improve Mom's health. She was in better health than she'd been in for a few years. She was in much better health for making the transition to an assisted living facility. One of the things that hurts is finding out that Mom didn't really want her health improved, she didn't want to let go of her personal mythology that her health was an insurmountable obstacle and she a helpless victim of her bad health. She resented that careful blood glucose monitoring and insulin adjustments, along with a healthier, vegan diet improved her health noticeably.

The rest of it, the harder part, is how quickly CK saw the narcissistic, petty, ill person I'd been raised by. Not only was my feeling the need to defend myself warranted, it needed to be bolstered by setting the kind of boundary I've now set. As painful as this has all been, devastatingly so, I know I wouldn't have been able to see my Mom and my childhood quite so clearly if we hadn't moved Mom in with us. I was correct that in changing my view by seeing her as CK sees her would teach me a lot, the sad part is that it wasn't what I was hoping for. It wasn't that changing my stiff interactions with her would improve anything, not in the long run, since my Mom has never really wanted a relationship with me. The only relationship that is possible with her is the one where I'm not me, I'm her "miracle daughter" who takes care of her every selfish need. The mirror of the person she wanted to be.

That explains it so well, that she expected me to mirror back to her the girl she had wanted to be. Between trying to force me into becoming the person she wished she'd been, and either subverting and punishing me for asserting my own identity, it makes sense. When called on this behavior she attacked us.

I wisely scheduled a visit with one of my therapists today. She asked me what it was I was losing by sticking with my boundary-setting not contacting her. I thought about it a lot, I mean I'm clearly "losing" many things that do not further my life or my health. What is it that I feel loss for, what do I grieve, that's what I thought about. I finally replied that I was losing the fairy tale; a mother who cherished, supported, and believed in me. A mother who cheered me on as I made my way and who would always have my back. The kind of mother I see so many friends write about having. I have to set that particular hope aside so that I can move forward with healing and becoming the person I want to be.

I can still hold her in my heart, sending thoughts of loving-kindness her way along with my earnest wishes for her to experience peace and happiness, or even just contentment. I can feel great compassion for her inability to move towards health, but I cannot see her. Having compassion for her does not mean I set aside my own health or sacrifice my relationship with CK.

22Feb/140

Rediscovering Creativity

The last several weeks have been strange, new territory for me. Sleeping. Creating. Learning how to be cared for. Letting go into rest.

I've had a few interviews and a lot of interest, but nothing solid yet. Perhaps as spring arrives new opportunities will as well career-wise.

There's quite a lot up in the air, awaiting decisions from other parties. My goal is to try not to think too much about the unknown. As always, the practice of just being present.

We've made quite of lot of changes around our home since November. We've hung up a few more things, moved furniture around, had a few more pieces of art framed. It feels more like a home now, safer and more comforting. All the companion animals feel it too. Obie particularly has come further out of his shell and plays much more than he ever has, sometimes even bringing me one of his favorite toy mice.

Perhaps one of the most significant signs of healing has been my return to making art. In December I devoted some time to emptying boxes and really making my desk in our shared, basement office usable. I have unpacked Igal's acrylic supplies and have now added several more paint colors and mediums to the mix. At times I'm really mindful of the grief I still feel for his death, how I wish I could share with him how he's influenced my art.

I first started out by making a mixed media collage ATC. Experimenting with how the underlying black or white gesso changed the look. I made a little piece with a bit of scrap cardboard as a base and a great octopus off of a business card I'd picked up somewhere along the way. I started on a shine to feature a bit from one of Mary Oliver's poems. I finally made a page to send to Seth Apter for a combined artists project he's been collecting pages for. I've also worked on two very personal pieces that have helped me process some of the emotions around my Mom.

The puzzle pieces really are inspiring me. Those along with finding phrases and words, either torn from old kids' books found at thrift stores, or specially printed off on laser printer so the words stand up the the acrylic mediums. I had several puzzled pieces that I'd grabbed from the "conference game" at OSCON this past summer. These quickly began to take on layers of collage and acrylic medium. It has been really healing to work a little at a time with these projects, going through materials, finding words, and creating each piece.

I've made small tin shrines in the past, but really focused on using paper to cover the tin almost entirely. Now using the acrylic medium I feel like I'm creating something that has a lot more depth.

A friend recently sparked an idea I had to make a cigar box that would be filled with reminders of what to do when I'm anxious or cannot sleep. It would also have things like a small plush toy, a nice rock to hold in my hand, maybe a couple of nice marbles. I discussed the idea with my therapists and brainstormed lists of things I can do. PB suggested that rather than just note cards I use my puzzle pieces, so that each suggestion was also something lovely and tactile to hold. I then observed what I needed even more was something "travel-sized" so I could have safe, soothing activity reminders that I could do anywhere and I could carry it with me.

I've made a couple of what I'm calling "self-soothing boxes", one for myself and one for CK to take when she travels. The trick is finding the right sized puzzle pieces to fit in them! In my search for them I've found some that I want to try making into brooches. I've also found some as big as my head and am having fun working on a larger piece using one. I finished the box with the Mary Oliver quote, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" (from "A Summer's Day") and am really pleased with the outcome.