Tag Archives: the happiness project

Camille’s Birthday

Journal Entry
February 19, 2014

Camille’s Birthday

Oh, what a joy it is, to have a daughter!
Oh, how I can remember EXACTLY
what it was like when she was born —
the entire birth process, from waking up at 3 a.m.
when I felt the contractions start
to driving to the hospital
(and stopping for video camera cartridges)
and how the bumps in the road
triggered more contractions,
and standing in the bathroom
alone feeling a little sorry for myself,
knowing the pain that was coming,
to sitting in my bed
to try to manage my contractions
(dumb; I worked so hard at it that
I actually slowed down the birth process,

which Jack later pointed out),
to fussing at him for making noises
like crackling the newspaper and
squeaking his shoes on the floor,
to him feeding me ice chips from a styrofoam cup
to almost throwing up

from the pain and holding on to him
and then standing up and pushing with him
for three entire hours! and then seeing the crown
of her head in the mirror and summoning
the last of my strength
to push push push so they would not have to
grab her head with the suction cup
and then finally, finally out she came,
that beautiful rose-colored baby 8 pounds 9 ounces
I will never forget
and her will her indomitable will
as she lustily cried her lungs out while the poor nurses
tried to clean her up and ink her foot for a footprint,
and then wrapped in my arms again, tight
in a cotton blanket with a knit cap
in baby colors against our red and blue pillow case
behind me as I looked down at her
feeling absolutely triumphant
and Jack was outside crying
and then we were back again together
showing her off to family but
I never once never even once thought of
letting anyone else hold her
and then finally the next day my mother came
and she held her in her lap
and unwrapped the blankets so she could see
her perfect little body with her strawberry mark
on her shoulder and the dark, dark hair
covering her head, and Jack’s face
inches from hers adoring her
and we were so, so happy.

Camille Rose Guidry
February 19, 1995
9:19 p.m.
Touro Infirmary
New Orleans, Louisiana

photo

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The Happiness Project, Revisited

As I await winter solstice, the nights are long, and the days are short.  This is a variation of Gretchen Rubin’s truism: “The days are long, but the years are short.”

IMG_4226

I will remember these years, of getting the children off to school.  These high school years, when I did it on my own.  Anchored by my chair, and my journal, I have been present for them, preparing breakfast, helping to find socks, watching the time; all the while, they grew up.

I’ve been waiting to see if Matt would get up, without me reminding him again. Waiting to see if Camille made it out on time, so I wouldn’t have to threaten to drive her to school myself the next day. Waiting to see if the birds would come to rest at the bird feeder in line of sight from my chair; I pause to check them out as I write.

This morning, three cardinals came to rest on the iron table under the feeder — a bright red male, a juvenile in dull browns, and a female. How long will they stay?  I wait to see.

Sitting in this circle of light, I am glad to have been Here, Now, available to my children, and my own self, as we each face the day.

Seasons pass.
Years pass.
Eras pass.

Soon, I will not have any children left to rouse, and the mornings will be different.  But today, I’ll be grateful, for the flash of red, for the circle of light, for the honey toast crusts left on the Matthew’s plate.  All the joys, the simple joys, of being Here, Now, in this moment, in winter’s light.

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground, ” says Rumi.

Here.
In the garden.

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Women Writing for (a) Change: Why Here, Why Now

IMG_1188Tonight at dinner, when I mentioned the Divine Mother during a prayer, my son said, wryly, “So, it’s all about female gods for you now, is it?”

We then proceeded to have a very interesting conversation about Greek mythology — which he loves — and the origins of the female goddesses, then the shift to patriarchal models. He thought that perhaps this evolution was due to men’s superior physical strength.

I explained that the first figures worshipped and represented in cave drawings were women, because of their mysterious capacity to create new life. We then traced the evolution of that worship (for various reasons) from woman as Goddess to woman as property, given the right to vote in the United States just a short time ago.

“Did you know,” he said, rather seriously, “that in some countries today it’s forbidden for women to even speak in the presence of men?”

As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.

A few years back, I started a blog called “One Brave Voice.” I wanted to express my feelings about politics at that time. The blog was short-lived; it quickly devolved into an argument with one particular person.

Maybe, my sister said to me afterward (a bit thoughtfully), maybe the blog was just your own still, small voice, trying to get your attention.

Hmmm.

After my marriage dissolved, I found my voice in the pages of my journal. I wrote, constantly, and the clean white pages were a container for my grief as well as my growth. Over time, the pages changed from dark lines of dense black ink to colorful, looping letters inside journals covered with birds, flowers, and butterflies. Each page was an opening into my own soul, my interior acre, my spiritual garden.

My journal listened to my inner voice, cultivated it, and nurtured it.

IMG_0670Last spring, I went on a field trip with my daughter. She’s an intelligent, lovely person and a budding biologist. As we ate lunch, I overheard the woman next to me, a biology teacher, talking about how, on another school field trip, she had directed two young girls to read some scripture out loud. She went on to say that her son had gotten up and walked away, and, when she had asked him where he was going, he reminded her that their church teaches that women cannot be spiritual leaders.

“What? I asked, incredulously.

“Oh, yes,” she said, blithely. “It’s true. It says that in the Bible. In Timothy.”

I could not believe my ears. Here was this woman, a teacher herself, actually defending this position, in today’s day and age. The message for me was, my daughter was not the equal of her son. That her voice was not as valuable as his.

I was outraged.


This summer, I studied Conscious Feminine leadership at the Women Writing for (a) Change school, founded in Cincinnati 20 years ago www.WomenWriting.org. After three weeks, I knew that opening an affiliate site in Jacksonville was my next step.

I don’t want to argue about politics.
I don’t want to argue about religion.

What I do want to do is create a space in Jacksonville for any woman, young or old, to feel welcome, honored and listened to, through the medium of writing and creative self-expression. It will be women writing for (a) change. And someone will be listening.

I live my life by several quotes these days. One is:

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when?” (Hillel)

The other is,

“I will do what I can,
where I am,
with what I have.”
(Theodore Roosevelt)


wwfc-logo-box-final2Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, is simply the place where I am called. It’s where my “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” as Frederick Buechner said.

Please join me in the WWf(a)C mission: To nurture and celebrate the individual voice by facilitating supportive writing circles and by encouraging people to craft more conscious lives through the art of writing and the practices of community.

You can support this community in several ways: 1) SIGN UP today for the sampler series starting Oct. 9 at Re-Threaded; 2) HOLD THE SPACE if you can’t attend but would like to sponsor another woman from Re-Threaded’s staff to attend in your place; or 3) FORWARD this email to someone you know who would value this experience.

This event is a fund-raiser for Re-Threaded, which provides safe, viable, and dignity-giving work to survivors of the sex trade: www.rethreaded.com. I share the values of this organization, and want to support it as best I can. My goal is to raise $1,000 with this effort.

All the details are on my website: www.WomenWritingJacksonville.com. Thank you for listening and for your support. Even if all you do is simply hold the space for this dream to come to fruition, I would be most grateful.

Here.
In the garden called, Women Writing for (a) Change.

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The bluebirds are back!

Daddy and Mama Bluebird survey their new domain.

The other day, my son Matthew woke up not feeling well, and complained that his throat was hoarse and swollen.  As I glanced at his nearby iPad, I wondered briefly if he was just overtired, and felt the tug of guilt.  Was he not getting enough rest because I was letting him use his electronics too much? Was he up late on his iPad?  Did he just not feel like going to school today?

But sometimes I need to just believe him. So, I did,  And, in fact, when he woke up later, I could tell he was genuinely quite sick. However, by mid-afternoon, he was feeling better, and happened to be standing in my office with me when we noticed the bluebirds flying around the nest box.

“Mom!’ he said.  “We have to set up the camera in the nest box!”  Forgetting he was not well, he wanted to go out immediately and hook up the wires.  I know from experience that if my kids want to do something with me, especially in the garden, I better hop to it pronto! So I said, “Yes.”

Blue back, red breast, on the alert.

We looked around for the power cord after setting everything up, but it could not be found.  Impatient to know what to do, Matthew called the bird place himself, and found out that I could pick up a power cord the next day. “Mom, you gotta make sure you go tomorrow!” he stressed.  “It’s free, too!” he assured me.

But the next day he was still sick, so he asked if we could go together to get the cord.  He took the lead, going into the store first and talking to the guy.  By the time I followed, he had already gotten what we needed. “He’s a very mature young man,” said the store owner, smiling at me.

Of course, we fixed up the power cord at home, fussed with the focus, and finally, voila!  There was the mama bluebird!  She had already started building, and we could watch as she brought bits and pieces of pine straw, leaves, grass and moss inside the box to fill the nest, using her body to press and “schootch” them into place.

The mama scooches down into the nest with her belly, making a snug hollow for the eggs.

I’ve been sitting out on the front bench most mornings since, feeding the bluebirds and watching them go in and out of the nest box.  I’ve taken photos and had little conversations with them, to make sure they are comfortable with me sitting out there.  The show has been terrific.  The other day, the male bird “saluted” me!  And I’ve had fun posting photos on instagram.

Salute!

As we’ve watched on the monitor for these past few days, the nest has gotten much thicker and much softer. No light shines through the bottom anymore, and the surface looks soft and fine, not just pine straw as it was before.

And last night, on the Spring Equinox, I saw something else.  “Quick,” I called out to Matthew and Camille. “Come see!” They both came running. I’d seen something new in the nest box: two sky-blue eggs.

Sky blue.

So. Spring has sprung.  The potential of the world is captured in two eggs, a snug nest, and a full heart.  Happiness is available to us, despite the sadness in the world.  Here.  In the garden.

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The Happiness Project

This year, I spent New Year’s Eve in Sedona. It was a reunion with friends I met last year on New Year’s Eve, when we were all licking our wounds from various traumatic events in our lives.

On the way to our reunion, in the airport, I noticed that book (again), called The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. This time I picked it up and made note. Even took a picture! But I did not buy it. Just left it on the shelf, thoughtfully.

The next morning, we took a “wall yoga” class (Have you tried it? Really cool. You hang from a strap on the wall! We always try to do something new and different when we get together.) The instructor announced that “letting go” was the theme of the class. That seemed appropriate! Then, at the end, he read an affirmation that really caught my attention: “I affirm my ability to have a happy life.”

Can I do that? Can I have a happy life? Can I let go of the sorrows of my past, honor them, and then step lightly into a new life filled with happiness and joy?

We had a sparkling New Year’s Eve black-tie dinner party that night with a lovely group of Danish friends. I drank champagne, ate tasty raw oysters and fragrant cod, did some ballroom dancing, and deliciously, took a nap by the fireplace until the ball started to drop!

And the next morning, as the brilliant sun rose over the beautiful Sedona rock formations, I woke up happy.

So. I’ve decided to make 2012 my own personal Happiness Project. I decided to do things every day this year that will make me happy. For example, I made an artsy collage of my intentions for the month of January. I played ping pong with my son even though it was bedtime. I bought three new books and started reading them: The Road Less Traveled, The Happiness Project, and A Life of One’s Own. And I spent a few hours last Saturday in the garden, trimming old branches and cleaning up debris.

I even created a Meetup.com group for people in Jacksonville called “the Happiness Project — Jacksonville.” It’s live! Invitations will go out to the general public in the next day or so!

http://www.meetup.com/Happiness-Project-Jacksonville-FL/

So. Not sure where this will lead. I’ve been journaling a lot, focusing on all that I am grateful for, but also acknowledging the difficulties in my life. And there are a few of them. However…this too shall pass. I don’t think it has to ruin my happiness. In fact, it may even be necessary for my happiness, to feel the pain and walk through it, and get to the other side.

I just read this lovely passage in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Your True Home:

The goodness of suffering is something real. Without suffering there cannot be happiness. Without mud there cannot be any lotus flowers. So if you know HOW to suffer, suffering is OK. And the moment you have that attitude, you don’t suffer much anymore. And out of suffering, a lotus flower of happiness can open.

Here. In the garden.

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