Ten Years – I Promised Myself I Wouldn’t Cry

On this day, 10 years ago, I was in a hospital room sucking on ice chips as my world was about to change permanently.  10 years ago exactly, I became the mother to the most amazing human being I have ever known.

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This journey has been far from easy.  In fact, it has been more difficult than any other dare devil task I have undertaken – from jumping onto moving trains, to jumping out of planes, to launching myself backwards off a trapeze.  When it comes to risking my life, it’s a shrug and a smirk on my part.  But, creating life, nurturing life – that causes so much more anxiety.

Before she entered this world, I was angry, depressed, and lonely.  I was eager to run away from the world.  At 15, my only goal was to finish high school so I could spend a year backpacking in Australia, with the determination that I wouldn’t stop traveling after that.  At 16, I found out I was pregnant.

It took two years and a few thousand miles of separation before I was able to be a mother.  I was trudging through the routine, going to college and working, and still trying to remember to feed her, get enough sleep, and still be attentive.  When an opportunity to study in Ireland presented itself, my parents urged me to take it.  They insisted they could handle things, and that I needed to be do it.  So, I submitted my application and found myself living in Derry for 6 months, and doing archaeology on Achill Island for 2.  In the middle, Ellette had her 2nd birthday and I realized that I really wanted to be a mother to her.

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Ellette is my counterweight – she pushes when I am still and digs her feet in when I move to fast.  She has always shown compassion for everyone, and constantly reminds me to see the good in people.  She helps me remember to be silly – from walking like cats down the bustling streets of Chicago, to singing about pink pajamas at the top of our lungs as we walk home from school, to building snow day forts and making silly faces.  She is my light.

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My adventure never stopped.  I have criss-crossed the country with her at my side.  We have had spontaneous road trips and meticulously planned trips, and she has been eager for every one.

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She has never asked “Are we there yet?”  She is the queen of 15 hours in a car – packing books and sketchpads and music and games to entertain herself.  She tells me to cool it when I feel road rage and is entirely game for detours to junk yards with rusty planes and vintage bikes and museums for obscure artifacts.  She can run across the fields with me and sit in the shade eating ice cream cones.

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So, 10 years have gone by so quickly.  And we have managed to pack a hundred adventures into them.  Let’s take the next 10 by storm.  Happy birthday, munchkin!

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And Tom Waits Plays on the Radio

It’s the last day of 2013, and I alone in a house that is filled with music to drown out the silence, and the heater is blasting to try to keep me warm, even though it never quite reaches my bedroom.  I am sifting through the paperwork that has spent the last year growing on my dressers and inside drawers.  I’m unwinding forgotten knitting adventures and putting away the stray knickknacks.  This is the first time, in the all the years I have been in this apartment, that it did not feel like home.  Today, it feels cold, quiet, large, and cramped.  I am overwhelmed by the amount of stuff and the lack of connection I feel suddenly.  Maybe it is simply that I have been alone since I returned on Sunday, and that in itself was a shock after being completely surrounded by people and conversation, whether or not I had decided to engage, for the week prior.  And maybe it is getting to the time I move on.  Right now it’s hard to tell.

But I am looking back at the year and marveling at how intense it was.  Looking back over the posts, and I’m amazed at how quickly everything happened.  I jumped from adventure to adventure.  Perhaps it is simply the bitter cold that is making me restless.

I taught aerial as much as possible and pushed myself to my physical limits.  I have so much inspiration to help me focus on my work now.

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There are plans.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure how my main goals are going to turn out because of my shoulder injury.  I am still healing and it bums me out very much.  The key here is patience.  I must have patience.

I traveled to Seattle:

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And Boulder for the Aerial Dance Festival:

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I went to Lakes of Fire:

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And I hope to find a way back to each in the next year.  Plans are in the works for Lakes of Fire, Burning Man is much more expensive and requires a lot more time off work, so it’s still up in the air.

I did reduce my yarn supply, but not nearly as much as I wanted to.  And on the designing front, I did not complete much.  I have a couple patterns in the testing phase right now, and a couple that just need to be written up.

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I’ve been staring at this for awhile now.  I left to think and work a bit more, and just returned to it.  I’m not quite sure what else to add.  I don’t quite have NYE plans and it’s the first time in years.

2013 – a wonderful year.  I grew more than I thought possible.  I went on many lovely, and sometimes frightening adventures.  I met dozens of beautiful souls throughout those adventures.  I’ve healed my broken heart (and don’t feel jaded, either).  I’m a lot stronger, wiser, and ready to take a leap.  Now I face a new year, different challenges, and some of the same, and I’m excited.  So many more adventures are coming up.

 

Aerial Dance Festival 2013

Oh boy, I was expecting to blog while I was away, but when I pulled out my laptop and charger to begin, I realized I packed the wrong charger.  *doh* So, I aimed to take a lot of pictures to share with you as soon as I got home.  Here is my photo dump update!

 

I got to Boulder on a rainy weekend.  There were clouds everywhere, it was drizzling, and I couldn’t really see much.  I kind of enjoyed how the mountain peaks (or foothill peaks) would poke their heads through the clouds.  The temperature was a little chilly, but I enjoyed walking around and exploring.

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Towards the end of Sunday, the weather picked up a little, so that I could see the mountains better.  I had found the green sock yarn I needed just before leaving, so I cast on my second sock for the trip.

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Monday morning dawned, and classes began.  I was enrolled in Duo Static Trapeze, Cyr Wheel, Advanced Static Trapeze, and Aerial Burlesque.  Each class had something new to offer me, and the energy and enthusiasm was infectious.

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The people were all interesting, supportive, and talented.  There was a significant amount of trust and camaraderie that was created in a short time, which is important when you are hanging off of someone’s feet.

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The Cyr Wheel – a large steel/aluminum circle (similar to a hula hoop, only huge) was a fantastic class.  Shayna, the instructor, did a fantastic job with teaching us, laughing with us, and encouraging us to keep going.  The last couple days were hard for me.  I felt myself getting the movement, which meant that I was throwing myself into it.  This worked wonderfully, until I fell.  I was so committed to getting right, that I frequently ended up on the floor.  I’m totally addicted, and very glad that Shayna teaches Cyr at Aloft here in Chicago.

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I think aerialists have a tendency to brag about the amount of abuse their bodies take during training.  My hands were especially sore and forming blisters and callouses, but my thighs, knees, and ankles were also getting bruised.  This is an indication of our commitment to training, and how hard we are working.  It is a matter of pride, in a way, that are so focused on training.  I really pushed myself beyond my limits, physically, mentally, creatively.

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But it wasn’t all training.  I had one girls’ night.  I was too tired for much more than that.  We went out for dinner and drinks, and found an absinthe bar on a rooftop and enjoyed the experience.

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I found a cute little yarn store where they dye their own yarns.  I love the advertisement!!

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On Saturday morning, before leaving Boulder, I wandered around the farmer’s market, had delicious chai, watching slack rope walkers and bubble blowers, and found a nice spot by the river to relax.

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There are so many faces of Boulder, I think, and they are all jumbled into a small space.  It was fantastic feeling the crush of people and socialization, while being able to walk a block and find silence and solitude when I needed it.

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I wrapped up my stay with a cold micro-brew at the Walnut Brewery and a bit of knitting. I would have had much more done than this, except that when I checked to see if the foot was long enough, I noticed that it was 4 stitches wider than the other one.  Being a perfectionist, I ripped it back to the toe and started over. A flight delay due to weather conditions gave me ample time to catch up, and I was on the cuff by the time I landed in Chicago.  Last night, I cast off the sock!

I met some really amazing people and learned many fantastic things.  I am looking ahead now with a shiny new perspective on what is possible for me, and I am eager to realize it.  The callouses and bruises are fading a bit, and it kind of makes me sad.  But the friendships and connections are still there, and that is the important part.  Thank you, all of my instructors and classmates, for all of the hard work and support you put into the week!  See you next year!

Halfway There

Back in January, I created a list of Resolutions meant to help me find my footing while my life went down a completely new and difficult path.  I wanted to recap yesterday, but as it was my first day in which I didn’t *have* to do anything, I didn’t.  I got home from work, turned on cheesy 1990’s sitcoms, opened a beer, and started knitting.  And I didn’t stop until I was feeling droopy.  I didn’t clean, I didn’t move, I didn’t answer my phone, I didn’t even cook – I just reheated Sunday’s dinner.  The house was quiet for much of the evening, and I was ok with that.  In fact, I was happy about that.  My world has been so incredibly busy lately that having a night off was heaven.

I did have a lot of time to think.  The past month has been a time of reflection for me.  Now, we hit the halfway point for the year and I’m looking at what I’ve done so far, and what I have left to do.

Specifically – those resolutions.

  • Knitting a Dress – Hasn’t happened yet, and it kind of worries me.  But, there are projects on the horizon that I think will resolve this before the year is out.  I have decided to go with my own personal design, since there are several I can make happen (and one or two that *must* happen).
  • The Yarn Diet – I have been weak lately.  I bought yarn over the weekend.  I kept saying that it was for hair falls – it’s costuming – it doesn’t count!! And indeed, one skein was used up last night during a craft activity, but I still feel bad.  The yarn diet was as much about money as it was about space.  I have noticed a difference, though.  I have either used up more yarn than I realized, or I’ve gotten really good at storing it.  I have almost reached my goal of fitting it all into one dresser, but there are still boxes here and there.  One of the projects I am working on, however, should use up quite a bit of that.
  • WIP Wrap-up – I haven’t done much with this.  I did finish the shawl I started in DC!  However, I haven’t even touched the Tech Square Afghan or those Christmas socks…  On the other hand, I have been fairly diligent about not creating more lost projects.
  • Explore Chicago – Roaring success so far.  We haven’t been consistent, but we do get out at least once a month.  It has been incredible.  I have discovered a lot about this city, and I think that reaching out for suggestions has opened up conversations that bloom into friendships, and that was part of the goal for this endeavor.  We still have a lot to explore!
  • Finances – I have a plan – really, a spreadsheet – for saving money so that I can participate more intensively in aerial acrobatics.  It is right on schedule.  For probably the first time since I moved out of my parents’ house, I feel pretty stable.  I don’t worry about making rent, don’t have to get creative with food because I can’t afford groceries this week.  we can even spend some time doing frivolous things.  I feel much stronger than I did, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m very proud of myself for developing this discipline.  Granted, it still needs work, but I think that is more in the department of impulse control than in financial judgment.  I can tell myself that buying a bag of yarn is a bad idea, but I still do it.  But silk on sale is kind of hard to resist – I don’t care who you are.
  • Aerial Dance Festival – I will be in Boulder, CO attending this at the end of July.  I’m taking 3 classes – Aerial Burlesque, Cyr Wheel, and Intermediate Trapeze.  I am super excited, a little nervous, and I sincerely hope I don’t make a fool of myself when I’m there.  I’m still trying to figure out my housing situation, so if you’re in the area and willing to let a knitting, flying, manic pixie crash on your couch, it would be much appreciated. 😀
  • Be More Social – This is where I have seen the most improvement, and it constantly amazes me.  We hosted a party over the weekend, and the turnout was mind-blowing.  It warms my heart to have so many people in my circle, people who look forward to the events I host.  I have put myself in awkward and uncomfortable situations.  I have taken a deep breath and stood up tall, introducing myself to people I know nothing about.  And I have been rewarded every single time.  I have become so social that I need to take a few steps back every once in a while so I can breathe and re-energize.  I love every minute of it!
  • Try not to be a Control Freak – This has been a challenge, but I think it will always be.  I have seen improvement, though.  My house is not spotless, and I have learned to be ok with that.  People I interact with daily move to their own rhythm, and I have learned to appreciate many of their unique nuances, and let go of the rest.  It has made for a harmonious cycle.  I have also learned how to better communicate when things are bothering me.  There is still so much more that needs to be done, and I am constantly reminding myself to slow down and consider the situation from all angles before opening my mouth.
  • Designing – This is the most exciting of all.  I have not only been inspired greatly by my adventures this year, I have also acquired an outlet for them.  It will remain a bit hushed for the time being, but you can expect a lot of fun things to be emerging from this blog.

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6 months is not a long time, but I am amazed at how much I have accomplished.  The last two months have been especially enlightening.  I feel stronger and more secure than I did in January.  Most importantly, I am excited and happy with who I am today.  I know that I have the strength and determination to accomplish everything I want to, and I’m watching the pieces fall into place as I work.  Seeing everything I’ve accomplished in such a short amount of times makes me eager to see where I will be in December, and next summer when I plan on taking the next leap of faith into an all new adventure.

Creating Community

Community.  At it’s heart, what keeps these fire festivals burning, is community; people coming together, working, imagining, building, and playing together, to create something entirely outside of themselves.  It is an experience to share, so that it can grow and reach toward others.

Lakes of Fire (and other burn festivals) have “themed” camps – people coming together to create an experience following a theme, and they have something to share and explore with the other participants.  This isn’t something to share within their group.  Rather, it is something that as a group they are able to share with others.  I probably would not have attended had it not been for our camp.

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Gothee House – a gothic themed 24 hr coffee house turned industrial dance club in the evening.  Together, we created a structure, an ambience, and a community that brought people from all over the festival to us.

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We all contributed, in every way we could.  I made decorations, others built the “gothedral” which sadly did not make it completely standing, but we all learned from our mistakes and figured out what to do instead.

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The moment when we erected the frame, and not only the people who organized the camp, but people drinking coffee and walking by, all stopped and rushed in to aid us.  For me on the edge, holding up a steel pole as high as I could and watching everyone around me doing the same, as still others came rushing in with the support beams – it was the most extraordinary rush of emotion.  There is a Native American story about pushing up the sky.  The sky was so close to earth that the inhabitants had to crouch to walk around.  Banding together, they took long poles and pushed the sky as far away as they could.  Where the poles poked through the sky, a brilliant light could be seen shining through.

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Working as a community, they created something wonderful.  Watching this group, being a part of this group, as we banded together in a similar way to erect a communal space, was one of the most beautiful things I witnessed.  Instead of stars, we strung LEDs, and we all danced together.

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A member of the camp turned the fallen spire into an interactive art display, and I hadn’t actually looked inside for most of the weekend, I just saw it being worked on.  But even when things went wrong differently than planned, we found a way to make it work.

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The important things, we understood, were music, and coffee.

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The coffee flowed freely.  People came and went.  In a clever effort to get them to hang around a bit, and ease some of our workload, the rule was in place that, to receive coffee, you must grind it yourself.  People who wanted to continue chatting gladly continued grinding.  And we continued brewing.

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As we were packing up on Sunday, I was nearly brought to tears.  Chicago has not been what I would consider a friendly city for me.  It has been difficult for me to reach outside of myself and meet people, to feel like I belong anywhere.  Had it not been for Gothee House, I would not have attended Lakes of Fire.  This whole experience would have been lost to me.  As it is, it took one person inviting me, and the courage (and restlessness) to say yes, and I ended the weekend on an incredibly high note, feeling stronger and more secure.

To my Gothee Baristas, thank you.  A million time.  Thank you.  For pulling me outside of my comfort zone, for pulling me into your fold.  The acceptance, appreciation, and peace you gave me is not something I have ever felt.  I had no doubt that my presence was desired and enjoyed, and my absence felt, and as I stood in our camp Sunday morning, watching everything being taken down, packed up, and a few last cups of coffee brewed, I felt the community that we had created together, strung between us and its tendrils reaching for more to bring in and hug.  Thank you for helping me be me.

Lakes of Fire in Retrospect

For two days now, I have wondered how to sum up the amazing weekend I just experienced.  I have gone through the pictures I have taken, scoured the web for photos from others, read testimonials from others who were there, and had a difficult time adjusting to my regular life.  Actually, this last one has been the worst.  I am still cleaning dirt from under my fingernails, there is still sand and oil in my hair, I get a whiff of campfire now and again and keep finding new ideas for next year.  I still haven’t unpacked and all of my camp and circus gear is in a giant pile in my parlor still, ready to be loaded up for another trip should the fancy strike.  Knowing that I really need to be a responsible adult, pay the bills, and tuck money aside for next year’s goals is kind of a downer.

So, here I am, still readjusting and trying to put the weekend into words.  An experience that makes you want to run so fast you start to fly and hug absolute strangers because you know they have a beautiful soul is not one that can easily be summed up.  Trying to even tell you what Lakes of Fire is or was or could be feels impossible.  It is simple and complex and colorful and clear, but only if you are in the midst of it.  It is an energy that ebbs and flows between the participants so that it is more than a festival, it is an immersive experience for all of your senses.  It is difficult to *grasp* but easy to understand once you let down your barriers and respond to that flowing energy.  You can’t help but smile and relax.  My boss told me when I returned on Monday morning that I was breathing deeply and calmly, that she could tell I had enjoyed myself and taken advantage of my vacation, that I seemed at peace for the first time since I started working in an office.  That feeling hasn’t left yet.

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Lakes of Fire is, at it’s core, described as a fire festival.  What is that?  It is an exhibition of art, talent, and community that culminates in a fire performance and the burning of an effigy.  This effigy was standing all weekend, and participants were able to crawl all over it, climb it an look out over the lake at the entire festival, write notes on the walls and string paper cranes from the rafters.  We imbued the structure with our energy, our dreams and words and poems and love, to be shared within the community.

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When it burned, it became a celebration of life, love and community – the cycle of all things.  Each person shared the experience, and experienced it in our own individual ways.

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This being my first burn event of any sort, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was lightly familiar with the culture, but had never felt so fully immersed.  There was no way my imagination could have come up with the amazing performance, the fireworks, the color, and the feeling of anticipation and excitement that emanated from the crowd.

There is so much more to describe to you about the weekend, but I need to formulate the thoughts and pictures in my head.  I hope I have passed some of the energy to you!

Explore Chicago: A Mid-Week Escape

I declared yesterday “Mental Health Day.”  With the spur of activity that has surrounded me for the last couple of weeks and what I see in the upcoming ones, my psyche was on the brink of total metldown.  I could hear that little voice in my head crying out “Run Away!” every time a new task fell into my lap.  My to-do list is far too long to ever think about completing, and I don’t foresee another opportunity for a break until June.

So, what did I do?  I played hookey.

Ok, not entirely truthful.  I clocked out of the office after a half-day, with the reasoning that mental health is just as important as physical well-being, and if they wanted a happy and productive employee, they would let me take the time off.

A friend and I hopped on the train at 2 and headed for the city.  He couldn’t believe that I had never been to Garrett’s (or the Magnificent Mile for that matter), so that was our first destination.

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There was a line stretching out the door and down the block, and I loved watching the little kids pressing against the glass cases that were filled with tons and tons of delicious smelling popcorn.  We got our bags (one of cheese and one of caramel) and started walking.  Garrett’s popcorn is definitely as good as it is made out to be.  (I have the remnants in a drawer of my desk and have been sneaking handfuls throughout the workday.  Yumm!)

As we were walking down Mag Mile, I stopped dead and I’m pretty sure my chin hit the ground and my tongue went rolling like a cartoon when I spotted this lovely window display.

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That look you see on my face – that’s the “up-to-no-good-can-I-smash-the-window” look.

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I probably spent about 10 minutes inspecting every machine close enough to look at.  I didn’t spot my featherweight though, which was a little disheartening.

We then went to the John Hancock building, up to the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor.  We had cocktails (deceivingly strong ones) and admired  the view.  I feel bad for being there without Ellette, who would have gone crazy with excitement.  We will plan a return trip later in the spring, when the weather warms up and we have a bit more time.

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While I was sitting there, staring out over the city, and running my mouth like a crazy woman about every little thing under the sun, I couldn’t believe that this is where I live now.  I have been in Chicago for almost 3 years. I have avoided a lot of the touristy attractions in search of a more real, down to earth, side street kind of scene.  I have met some wonderful and talented people, seen some amazing shows, and learned a lot of new and sometimes strange things in doing so.  But being up there, looking down, it was all kind of surreal.

Afterwards, we walked along the lake front until we came to Millenium Park and the iconic Bean (because everyone has to see the bean).  It was fun watching all of the tourists getting excited about all of the different ways they could photograph the sculpture.

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We capped our day with a very satisfying dinner at the Chiago Diner in Boystown.  This is one of my favorite restaurants – and a must try for any vegan/vegetarian reading this.  Everything on the menu caters to a meatless diet and their ethics are fantastic.  Their wait staff has always been wonderful and their food is mouth-watering.   I have yet to get a dish I don’t enjoy.  They are small, but always bustling, with a charming and vibrant atmosphere.

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This was the perfect break I needed.

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