Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Greetings and a Quote

Holiday greetings to all! I’ve been away from the online world, mostly because my computer has been out of commission, but also because of the busy time with holiday preparations.

I’m very thankful for all the people in my life, and for all their love and caring. I’m thankful for the blessings of abundance that surround me. Thank you Universe!

We had a wonderful Winter Solstice ritual and celebration on Friday night with a small festive group of family and friends. The ritual was fun, and the feast was delicious. We didn’t have as many guests as we’ve had other years, and I enjoyed having a mellow gathering. Only four of us stayed up to keep the vigil; this was the first year that ElvenTiger has made it all night! We played games and ate candy and hung out by the fire.

Our Christmas celebration was also a lot of fun. We gathered at Mom’s on Christmas Eve for a yummy supper and to watch a movie. I also got to bond with her new kitten a bit. Then, on Christmas morning, we opened gifts at my house, had Christmas dinner and played with the new games and toys. The celebration continued into the evening, as Raven and BlackLion joined us to open gifts, have some munchies and play a game.

Then I took a shower and collapsed into bed. I tend to get caught up in doing too much to get ready for the winter holidays. While I wasn’t stressed out this year, I do feel tired, like I did too much and wore myself out a bit. I want to take some time to just relax and restore, and not have to accomplish anything.

Here’s a quote I found today that spoke to me of the importance of being present where and when you are:

“If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.”
- Maria Edgeworth

Friday, December 14, 2007

From Holiday Frenzy to Holiday Fun

Over the years, I’ve been gradually figuring out how to not only survive the holidays, but to thrive throughout the season. I’m lucky to have a Mom who loves this season, and so my holiday spirit is strong. Yet preparing for the holidays has certainly become a lot of work over the years, especially after having kids. We celebrate both Winter Solstice and Christmas, so we have multiple gatherings to prepare for and host.

Six or seven years ago, when the kids were small, it got really overwhelming and stressful, and I had to rethink the things I chose to do around the holidays. I want to cook and make cards and gifts and buy presents and decorate the house and all of that, but for the right reasons. I want to have fun, and put positive energy into what I’m doing, not be freaking out because there’s not enough time to “do it all.” As the saying goes, it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.

Ever since then, I’ve been gradually refining how I craft my experience of the winter holidays. First, I acknowledge that December is a busy time, and don’t try to do too much. I recognize that the preparation for the holidays is my creative project for the month, and try not to add others. Second, I make sure that I take time to have fun and relax. Some of my holiday preparations are relaxing, like making collage cards for my immediate family. I enjoy thinking of each individual as I work, creating a card that reflects their interests and personality. I also take time to read, which is my way of recharging. Third, I go easy on myself. I’m learning not to be so quick to judge myself when I don’t do a “good enough” job, or I eat sugar or don’t find time to exercise. Especially at this time of year, I “go with the flow” more and try to be in the moment, no matter what I’m doing.

If I do get overwhelmed or find myself getting stressed out, I have tools to release myself from those states of being. The major one is skillful use of lists. Having a long “to do” list can in itself be stressful, but if you prioritize the list and note when you’re going to work on each item, you can see the big picture and know that everything will get done. Next is asking for help. Especially now that the kids are older, they're a big help with things like cooking and wrapping gifts. Not only that, it’s fun to do together! Putting on some Christmas music also keeps me in a cheerful mood, and reminds me of the fun of the season.

And finally, after preparing busily for events like the annual Winter Solstice ritual and celebration, or our family’s Christmas Day get-together, I consciously relax and enjoy myself. Spending time with friends and family is an essential part of the holiday season, and I look forward to those times, even as I enjoy curling up in a quiet moment to create unique gifts for them.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Kid quote

We've been listening to an all-holiday-music commercial radio station in the car. Last night we heard an ad about how to reduce your consumerism. "Getting off the consumer treadmill will be easy for us," quipped Crow. "I don't even think we're on it!"

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Creating a Process-Folio

I recently read “The Unschooled Mind” by Howard Gardner. It was focused primarily on how to change and improve public education in order to foster true understanding (rather than the “teaching to the test” that goes on too much of the time). One of the concepts that I found really intriguing is that of “process-folios.”

Many unschoolers track their learning by creating yearly portfolios, which display some aspects of the subjects they’ve been studying. Often these consist of finished products such as artwork, reports, workbook pages and the like.

A process-folio, which focuses on a particular project, goes deeper. Here’s the idea. As you work on a project, you tend to generate papers and other items along the way. Save all of these for your process folio. They might be jotted notes, journal entries, first drafts, fabric swatches, feedback from colleagues or peers, photos, printed e-mails or other communications, doodles and drawings, lists of CDs or books that inspired you…whatever materials in some way contribute to or inform the final product or performance. In the book, Gardner related how students were encouraged to seek input from peers and teachers on their work while it was in progress, and to write journal entries about how the project was going. You should even hang onto ideas that proved to be a dead end or were changed along the way.

When you are finished with the project, compile this archive of items into a process-folio. You can then get an idea of your own creative process, find what worked and what didn’t, note what support you might seek out next time, and even discover inspirations for your next undertaking. You can also share your process-folio, if you choose, with project partners, colleagues or family members.

I think this is a great idea for unschoolers, and also for anyone working on creative projects. I plan to do this for all of my current creations, and I’ve already begun to compile in folders the printed drafts and notes I tend to hang onto anyway. Now that I think about it, maybe one of the reasons I’m so drawn to this idea is that I tend to be a pack rat when it comes to paperwork. Oh well, it’s good to put to new use the stacks of papers that clutter my desk and bookshelves!