Colors and Contrast

A couple weeks ago, the color assignment at apples for poppy anne was for lots and lots of colors. The week before that, we were sent forth to find contrast. I've been thinking a lot in the past couple of weeks about both these tasks, together.

Each week, I've been looking at both home and work for images that fit these assignments. Sometimes I find things that fit from both settings, sometimes not. Over the past week, this assignment has been opening my eyes to colors, in an intense plural.

I've found that my home abounds with color; I see it everywhere. Much of it is new since we became parents. We were rather muted in our decorating pre-kids, but since they've joined our home, we've been changed, and the colors drastically intensified. From books, to clothing, to art supplies, to bath toys, to hats...everything is in technicolor here! In my own pursuits, too, I'm finding loads of color. I'm knitting and sewing again, and colors are everywhere in the fabrics, yarns, even my pins and scissors. Also, the foods we make, especially now in the wonderful, bountiful summer, shout out the rainbow.

I'm loving the vibrancy of my home life. Sometimes I'm shocked by it, being a woman who has worn mostly earth tones and black since about age 12. But I feel so alive and happy (although sometimes overwhelmed by all the tasks, tantrums, and lack of sleep), and it feels like it fits.

However, this search for color has brought out the contrast between my work and my home lives. When I looked for lots of intense color at work, I came up mostly empty. Certainly, that's not earth-shattering; offices are often muted and mild for some good reasons, but it got me to thinking further. Therapy can be a practice of many colors and much artistic creativity and expression. I work with some gifted and vibrant therapists who create works of art in sessions with clients as a part of the healing work. But that's not me.

My office is a nice place, with photos of some beautiful places and pastels by my husband and mother-in-law, but it does not sing with color. Nor do my sessions, exactly. I don't routinely work with creative expression as a central part of my therapeutic practice. I am a heady, cerebral therapist. I lean much more towards existential and psychodynamic models. And the main form of expression in my office is talk.

Sometimes I'm quite critical of this part of my professional self. I am envious of others who so easily integrate the expressive and colorful into their work. I try from time to time and have had some positive experiences (and some duds), but I come back to the talking over and over.

Truth be told, I love talking. I love figuring things out with my clients. I find that I am able to help people find real healing with this wordy practice. However, I often have trouble thinking of talk therapy as creative. But, sometimes, maybe when I've just had a client tell me that something major clicked and that she's able to look at the world differently and see that her wounds were not her fault or when someone has gotten herself out of dangerous relationship because she remembers the words we've practiced, I realize that, indeed, what I do is creative. And profoundly so. It is, in essence, the creation of narrative and the finding of meanings around experiences and events. I still don't think that I'd describe it as "colorful," exactly, and there is a striking contrast between the creativity of my home and work selves, but certainly my work can not be described as dull.

***Thanks to Linnea at Peppermint Alley for the inspiration for the fortune cookie image and thanks to J. for getting this lovely fortune the other day in her *first* fortune cookie!


Ready for CSA?

So the mad dash to eat up all the yummy, local, organic produce in our weekly share begins...


Celebrating Grandpa

We've just come to the end of a nice visit from my dad and stepmom (their first time meeting C.!). The visit fell right in between my dad's birthday and Father's Day, so there was a good bit of celebrating him. Here's what J. and I made for him:

J. is obsessed with tracing her hands and feet, so we went with it and quilted it, to boot.

And, of course there was cake!

However, clearly, the best gift was Grandpa's time with his granddaughters.



I can't stop. I think about it all the time. I gave it up for many years--cold turkey. It was hurting me so I put it aside. But, I've picked it up again: a knitting addiction.

It is known that addictions run in families. I've been quite lucky; no serious addictions plague my family. But fiber does seem to be a substance we're drawn to. My mother is a knitting and spinning nut. We've been playfully mocking her myriad creations since our kids were born (their births seemed to feed the dependency tremendously). I gave up knitting many years ago because my hands were aching. But, I've since realized that I was trying to do some too tough stuff, namely a crazily difficult Classic Elite pattern with a cotton/linen blend. What was I thinking!? Now I've realized I can do it without pain if I stick to easy patterns and forgiving wool.

It was this shawl, you see. This May, Amanda Soule referred to a shawl she had made some time ago in her SouleMama blog. The shawl pattern was inexpensive, the pictures were so lovely, and it promised to be easy. I kept thinking about it and coveting it.

So, I did it. I bought two balls of daringly colored sock yarn this weekend and have been at it ever since. Well, I did manage to spend time with my family, sleep (a bit, anyway), eat, and go to work. But, I have figured out that I can nurse and knit at the same time. This may be a sign of some pathology, don't you think?

p.s. This is also my contribution to it begins with a colour... this week. I do love how things sometimes coincide beautifully! Who knew Erin would look for lots of colors this week? And that she would start with yarn?


"Life Moves Pretty Fast"

Sometimes, it is all a blur.

This afternoon, C. gobbled up her weight in rice cereal and then was eyeing my palak paneer and nan this evening. But wasn't it just yesterday that she latched on for the first time? Soon, we'll introduce her to oatmeal, then bananas, then avocado, and soon the mango lassies her sister sucks down in seconds flat will be a part of her menu, too!

And, speaking of that sister of hers...how fast she is growing and changing! This week, on a lovely visit to the playground, J. tried the monkey bars for the first time (with lots of help, but she's able to reach them!!!!). On this same trip, she awe-struck her mother by, out of the blue, identifying a mourning dove's song.

The break-neck speed with which these girls are moving through their early lives is staggering! To be truthful, I'm not the type who is mournful and terribly upset about my kids' growing up. Sure, there are pangs as I know I'll never do this or that again, but, really, I'm so excited to get to know these amazing people more and more. I find I like each age better than the previous one. I can't wait to know all the intricacies of these girls as they grow, even (especially!) when they are teenagers!

But, I do want to keep reminding myself to be mindful in this time as in all the others to follow. That moment the other day when J. told me that it was a mourning dove she was hearing brought that home to me. It was a perfect moment, and one that I'm so grateful I managed to experience in focus.



This week's image hunt from apples for poppy anne is for contrast. So, I began looking around my office yesterday. And, lo! How's this for contrast? Right there on my bookshelf, keeping each other company were two books so contrasting in their content and approach: Our Bodies Ourselves and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR.

Now, this snapshot is nothing particularly special, but what it represents to me is tremendously important to my work as a therapist. It is so much about the practice I seek to create. I strive to be a feminist therapist and one that embraces all the parts of my clients. But I also know from my education and experience, that research and diagnosis are really crucial parts of good service, too. These two books bring that out beautifully.

The DSM offers a very concrete, research-based view of people and their struggles. It gives numbers, it's based on data, and it is created by the largely male-dominated world of psychiatry. But, it does prove itself useful in day-to-day practice. I've seen many a client breathe a sigh of true relief at knowing that she has something that others have seen before, often Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Knowing that the struggles and symptoms she's dealing with daily, hourly, minute-to-minute make some sort of sense and connect with experiences in her life, she can start to figure out a bit more how to understand them in her own context and, hopefully, find paths to healing.

But, of course, the DSM has a long history of being used in a dehumanizing manner and aiding those who seek to reduce real people with real hurts to labels. It must be used with caution. And that is where the approach of its partner on my shelf comes in.

In the pages of Our Bodies Ourselves, one can find an understanding of women as more than their pathology. It presents a view of women as complete, complicated beings. It embraces the whole lifespan and the transitions and changes throughout. But, even more importantly, it is written with the idea that we are, ourselves, the experts of our lives, that we can possess the knowledge to keep ourselves well, and that this is a celebration. This message of empowerment is so critical to good practice. And, of course, bringing talk of real bodies into the room is so important to getting to the healing in sexual abuse therapy.

These books represent a sort of yin and yang of my therapy practice. It is my work to find a balance between these two worlds: to support empowerment but also use my training and expertise; to think about what is working but also what is not; to embrace both femininity and masculinity; to honor individuality but also universality. I know from my reaction of real pleasure to finding this image that this balancing act is part of why I love what I do.


A Celebration of Choices

I'm still processing and trying to cope with the news of Dr. George Tiller's murder last week. There are so many thoughts and feelings. I'm struggling with anger, despair, and rage.

But, I'm trying ever so hard to dwell in a different place. I'm trying to find the real meaning and heart of the work of Dr. Tiller and others providing abortion services. I believe that it is about hope and possibilities. It's about allowing women and men to decide when they embark on this wondrous and challenging journey of parenthood. Yes, reproductive freedom is about difficult, heart wrenching situations, but it is also, at its core, about being allowed to wait for wondrous experiences and honoring them.

In the wake of this tragedy, I'm trying very hard to remember the celebration that is chosen pregnancy and parenting. It is from this place that I will keep on working for reproductive freedom.

The tests that told us that C. and J. were on the way!


Pumpkin Bread to the Rescue!

This was not a good morning. I woke up grumpy and tired, J. flatly refused to get up and was not pleased with the world when she finally acquiesced, and C. would have nothing to do with a morning nap. Even Bailey wouldn't lie in the doll sling properly.

So, I decided baking cures all. We had some pureed pumpkin left over from making some yummy pumpkin pancakes the other day, so I decided to make some pumpkin bread. I used the Fannie Farmer Cookbook recipe we love. Thankfully C. did finally decide a nap was a good idea, and J. and I were able to connect and concoct.

We love finding an occasion to get the nutmegs out!

J. carefully helped chop nuts with Mommy's Grammie's chopper.

The final addition.

So, the morning wasn't a loss, entirely. Sadly, naptime didn't come easily. I'm hoping that the lovely loaves of bread waiting for us downstairs after our snoozes will start the afternoon off right.

p.s. The photo of the recipe is my addition to this week's number hunt with "it begins with a colour".