This is the current situation in the hen house. Sitting hens and their guard sister. Women folk getting about the business of doing what they do. They depend on me.
These two girls do too. They wait for me morning and evening for their attention and food.
I'm pretty sure that my efforts saved this girl's life. She requires feedings, walks, grooming, and attention.
And... there's these three. Building pirate ship bunk bed forts in the morning after plates of DQ gravy and biscuits, power outages, changed diapers, band aids, smiles, and tears.
These pictures were all taken today. This is my day. Most every day. A constant giving of life needs and comforts that make living happily for these people and friends possible. It's the hardest work I've ever known and yet it is the most important.
Sometimes I get in such a routine of day in and day out, I forget that my heart and mind are demanding more of me. They are demanding I feel this life and live it with all I have. That I, who is constantly apologizing, live it unapologetically. It isn't any coincidence that the more you learn about yourself and the reality of life, the more life can ache. Falling back on the routine, and going about it as you always have, can be a way to numb that ache.
Get your slop boots on.
Shoulder 50 pound feed bags across the yard and pour two in the big barrel drum.
Get them fed and some good yard greens in their run.
Watering takes 3 gallon jugs filled by squatting over the creek - hands in cool water and minnows with their babies grazing your fingers.
Try to look not melancholic, or full of thoughts, or tired, but never can quite pull it off. Wondering if I will always be that girl who feels, thinks, and worries about her impact on others just a little too much. Hoping one day the fire in my heart will gleam in my eyes.
A moment down the path to my special place. It kind of hurts to breathe. To be alone. To feel alone.
A reward from the kind Mother after a walk with my daughters and our dog through the fields. You are ok. You are supported. Remind yourself. She says.
Check on the garden. The grass desperately needs mowed.
Yoga and breath. Yoga and release. Then, it comes. The fire in my heart chakra and solar plexus. It burns uncomfortably hot. It has a wash of tears behind it, like a flood that wants to drench the flame, but the flame says absolutely NOT! I'm here. I'm... here. I'm HERE!
That's the moment that you realize the routine is a cloud. It can completely blur the feeling that comes from wanting to know what all is possible for me. What all I can really offer others who want to be there with me. What example I can be for the women I am raising. Being in the cloud deadens the ache, the burning, the churning stomach. The release is when I know there is so much more to be done. So far to go. It's the moment I want someone with heavy arms to hold me so I can just be and feel, and figure this all out. I'm ready to grow. The energy is there. So much energy. It really is the hardest feeling I have ever had to feel. Deep fears of my entire life made into a truth holding the answer to who I really am. And, I lay in savasana trying not to think my way out of feeling it. Knowing it is there and meaningful, and longing to share itself.
One of my new goals in all this self searching I have been doing is to move toward financial independence. I currently depend upon my husband to provide all of our family's financial needs while I remain at home house-wiving, homeschooling, doing all I can do alone on our homestead, and working on side projects. It is hard for me at times to have to think about the fact that I am spending another person's hard earned money when I want to buy a gift for my girls, or something I don't particularly need, but want. We also have to make a lot of personal sacrifices in order to make sure bills are paid and we are all fed well and kept healthy. For example, I currently have two pairs of pants that fit me the way they should and don't completely fall from my body if I take my belt off. I'm rarely out of the house, so I make do.
In looking at my options for work alongside my hopes and dreams, then factoring in what I'm actually capable of doing with little to no childcare, I can't help but think of how things have changed since my childhood. My parents had readily available free childcare from my grandparents, great grandparents, and aunts and uncles. We really were raised in a village it seems and if I am honest, I don't know what would have came of us if we hadn't been. I have very little time that is not consumed by raising my children. I'm their primary caregiver, as it should be, but there is little time to be with friends, adult conversations with a real person, or to hold a job outside of the home because my daughters' grandparents aren't able to provide daily childcare (as most of them are still working full time jobs passed retirement age) and we cannot afford a paid sitter.
Another thing I noticed as a child was how completely absorbed the adults around me were in financial concerns. Did we have enough money? While I'm concerned with our family's finances and I have a clear picture of what I'd like for us in terms of lifestyle and how effectively our money is spent, I let go of most of the worry around the amount we have available. Yet, recently, I began to see the need for me to have earnings of my own more than I ever have. While it should not be the case that money brings power to a voice, I have come to realize that it does, even within many family structures. Traditional roles of womanhood and motherhood are truly outdated if we desire to be seen as peers with our male counterparts. Tradition is not always a good thing as many are informed by outdated ways of thinking and viewing the world. I feel a movement away from these traditions and to a more balanced way of being is in order.
Southeastern Kentucky, where I reside, is once again in the midst of an outward migration of people. I see quite a bit on Facebook that friends and family are planning moves outside of the region to Tennessee and Ohio most often. Our family's choice to remain in the mountains is a big one. It is in many ways a sacrifice of opportunities for ourselves and our children. However, as we currently see things, there is much to be gained by staying and trying to create our own way of life in the region. This will always be home to us who were born and raised here. It is as integral to who we are as our heart or mind. The truth is, those who stay here will have to depend on themselves and their community to develop a sustainable life post coal in the mountains.
I don't know if my current plan will result in financial independence for me, but I will have a little pocket change I hope. My plan is to make myself available as an editor to anyone requiring those services. I'm working with one client in California at the moment. I'm teaching yoga one evening a week, and I am offering my services as a writer/blogger to interested parties. It blends my passions with what I am capable of doing while still very much within a traditional role in my family as a full time mother. My success will depend a lot on my ability to market myself within the region, but also outside of it.
My dilemma is not unlike the one that residents of southeastern Kentucky are facing now and for the future. As more coal jobs are lost and our populations decline, we are searching for ways to make life here a possibility. The most common suggestions I've seen touted are tourism, farming, and manufacturing. A recent article from The Daily Yonder written by Tim Marema reported that populations of rural counties in all states who relied on these economic replacements have all lost population since the Great Recession. The only counties seeing growth were recreation counties and those only grew by 1.4%. For counties like the one I live in and those directly around us, any of these replacements would be difficult because of a lack of infrastructure and our location away from most major interstates.
As I have diversified my possibilities of earning for myself and my daughters without a typical hired position, I believe the region will only survive from a diversified approach that utilizes the internet and technology to reach populations outside of the region. We will have to put our unique stamp on what we do to attract people in and make a visit worth the effort to get here. We will also have to accept that our lifestyles may look very different from the ones we see away from here because it has to and living here is a choice.
I may have bitten off more than I can chew with my hopes of financial independence while still choosing full time mothering and homeschooling. I have no way of knowing without trying. Trying is the only thing to do. I want to show my daughters a world of possibilities in a reality of limited options. I can't help but see that it parallels the consciousness we are striving to get to in our region. Moving past the realization that what is currently taking place is unacceptable and in spite of our realities there is a world of possibilities. We have to do the work and imagine them. We have to really try.
Yesterday, I told a friend that I felt like I was about to be shot off in a rocket to the moon. I had just finished my yoga practice trying to ground myself, but at this point in time, that might be impossible. I alternate between wanting to cry really hard, laugh and be light, have very serious conversations with people I like about life, and punching a wall. It feels very discombobulated.
I've often wondered when I'd feel truly grown up. Lately, I feel more of that girl I was at 15, who I did like a whole lot. I feel her wanting to come out and be the adult that she so longed to be all those years ago. I'm doing my best to get to know her again, but I suppose part of being an adult is doing that kind of thing on limited time. Responsibilities have to be considered and the love I have for the lives I've created will forever influence my next movements.
When you've been shot off in a rocket to the moon, there's falling involved. For the first time, I'm reading the novel written by Gurney Norman - Divine Right's Trip. He's a Kentucky author and former poet laureate whom I've taken some writing workshops with. Back when I taught public school, I thoroughly enjoyed sharing his story "Fat Monroe" from his collection Kinfolks with my seventh graders. (Dang, I'm old enough to have taught school and that be 10 years ago! My students are now getting married and having their own babies.) There's a segment I read a few days ago that made my heart ache tremendously.
from Falling: When D.R. felt particularly tired, and dirty, and locked up in his mind, it was like he was the one who was falling, with Estelle being dragged along behind. That wasn’t accurate of course. That was just stuff in D.R.’s head, a product of the same weary fever that produced the sense of falling in the first place. There was a way in which Estelle had already fallen further than D.R. had, already knew stuff that he had yet to learn. In a way, she was coming up as he went down, and reaching out a hand to save him from what she already knew. The thing that overwhelmed D.R. when he thought about it that way was how utterly generous that was of her, and how dangerous for her.
I identify with both characters here, but I do feel like I'm doing my best to climb out of the hole. It is strange that I so want company in the climbing. I'm used to dealing with personal conflicts almost completely on my own. This time, I don't want to.
I also wouldn't have thought that at nearly 40 years old, I'd be blogging about personal growth. I know one day I'll get back to posting more about my interests and my daughters. I'm simply thankful this point in my life is happening in summer as I am nearly totally consumed by experiencing it. I can feel all this while my girls play outside at dusk. I can take long walks with my Gwen on my back and the dog on the leash. I can have conversations without worrying about the time even though I will always worry that my desire to have people I appreciate along for this ride will be a bother to them. Historically, that has been true. I'm trying to let go and know that those who want to be with me, will be there for me. I will return the favor. I truly always do.
I keep trying to ground this rocket because I don't want to end up alone on the moon. I do yoga. I write. I say sappy things to friends who I'm convinced I aggravate like the plague. Despite all this effort to stay on my own two feet, it only takes minutes for the fires to burn again. I get the jittery feeling around my heart, the butterflies in my stomach, and the ache to cry and laugh while someone holds me and I actually do take off to the moon - alone or otherwise.
This week I'm welcoming again Barbara Hannelore as a guest blogger! This is the second installment of a two part post on harnessing the power we hold within the menstrual cycle and using it for the betterment of ourselves and all those we influence. I'm so glad to share Barbara's work with you. I hope you enjoy it! ~Kelli
Last month’s post was about how our menstrual cycle actually carries a valuable rhythm that we can use to our advantage, to stay in balance, anticipate our needs, and take valuable time for self-care, in order to be at our best. Our cycle can actually become a tool for success when used wisely! Today, I’d like to go into more specifics as to how you can discover your own personal rhythm and its value for you.
We were talking before about the phases or “seasons” of our own month, and how they resemble the phases of the moon or seasons of the year. We have all four phases, or all four seasons, each month during our own cycle. This is such a great model to follow, because we can see how these different aspects of the month compliment each other and keep us in balance. Our “outer” time of social focus and busy accomplishment is balanced by a time to turn inward for reflection, creativity and renewal.
Let’s take a closer look at the phase of the month that tends to give us the most challenges - the premenstrual time. What if we knew how to approach this time in a positive way that supports our needs, instead of just trying to plow through it, acting like it’s not happening, and assuming there was something wrong with us? When we realize that our premenstrual time is at the end of our cycle, and is our own "autumn” season, we can being to approach it in a very different way. Autumn is the season of harvest, of completion and review. It is a time when the leaves fall, letting go of that which is no longer needed; getting ready for winter.
What does this mean for us? Our premenstrual time is our own time for rebalancing. It is the time when things that want our attention will come to the surface, and we’ll be drawn to finish projects and review aspects of our lives in a more critical way. We can begin to see our annoying “symptoms” as signals instead, alerting us to what may be out of balance, and not healthy for us in the long term. We tend to think of these imbalances in terms of nutrition or hormones, but it goes much deeper than that. What about our emotional lives? Are we finding avenues for expression for our creativity, for our feelings, for our dreams and plans? Are we doing things that are fulfilling for us?
We may need rest, or exercise, or just need to get out of our normal routine and do something different for awhile! The menstrual time brings us back to the body and is a time when our Wild Woman wants to come out and prowl a little, so finding a way to loosen into some of those creative urges can be wonderfully freeing and healing. Another thing you may be craving is time alone. This is a powerful and unrecognized need for most women, and ignoring it is what causes a lot of the irritability and overwhelm in the first place! You may actually be feeling less social premenstrually, and needing to carve some “time out” space into your calendar.
This brings us to the topic of calendars, which are an essential way to begin to keep track of your month and anticipate your times for optimal self care. Here is a good way to begin: You will find a monthly calendar page that you can print out on my website, www.womenswaymooncycles.com, when you enter your email address. A sample of the page is also in my book, The Moon and You, on page 64. This is a very simple calendar that just shows all the days of one month, and allows you to mark the days of your most recent period. Then, the trick is, to look ahead to next month and use another calendar page to mark the days that you anticipate your next period, as well! Now you can plan ahead!
So, using two identical pages, with the dates filled in for two months, you will mark the days that you had your last period, and then mark when you anticipate the next one. Draw a red line, for example, through the days that you expect will be premenstrual and menstrual days in the coming month. Then - do not plan any optional activities during these days. No dentist appointments or get-togethers with friends. No big trips or big meetings, if you can avoid it. Give yourself the gift of this free time, and then when the time comes you can decide what you want to do and what you don’t. Uninterrupted time to just do nothing is valuable, and essential for deep creativity and a different kind of intelligence to emerge. In my book and classes, I go much more deeply into what kinds of things can emerge during this time, and some ways to support yourself and do some personal healing.
Once your period starts, you have another opportunity to make some small changes and plans for this part of your month, that will make a huge difference in the quality of your experience. For example: You can plan special things for yourself to make your period a special time - even something to look forward to!
• Begin to gather pretty things that are special and meaningful to you, such as objects from nature, things that remind you of the moon, or of the Feminine. These are things you will only bring out when you begin to bleed each month, as a reminder to treat this time differently.
• Think in terms of pampering items such as towels or pillows, soft socks and scarves, or teas and a special mug. Think of adornment, such as shawls, bracelets, necklaces or fiery red underwear! Include creativity too - a journal and pen, a small set of paints, a tiny flute.
• Gather red things, in honor of the power that has always been associated with that color! You could create your own Red Tent retreat space - start with just a red pillow or candle if you need to, and build from there!
• Look for a decorative basket or box that will contain these items. This is a box that you will only open when your period begins! Imagine having something pleasant to look forward to! You can transform your “personal time” into something you treasure, a retreat into a different quality of time and space, even in small ways.
Believe it or not, I have heard time and again from women that simply beginning some of these self-care practices, thinking of their month in terms of seasons or phases, and paying attention to the moon, has transformed their cycles! Difficult cramps have gone away, and women actually look forward to this time of the month as a time to settle in and slow down a bit.
One of the key insights to help you “allow yourself” to shift gears at this time of month, is that you will make up for it during the following phase, when the renewed energy of the next cycle begins to assert itself. More physical energy and greater mental clarity are often noticeable in the weeks after your period; especially if you have taken the time to recharge during the time when your body and mind were requesting it!
Remember the example of trees from last month’s post: They retreat into their roots in winter in order to rest and recharge for the coming year. If they didn’t, they would not have the energy they need for the coming bright season of productivity! Your own month follows a similar rhythm, and when you surround yourself with nourishing experiences during your most feminine phase, you will have that inner resource to draw from, and be able to give the best of yourself during the rest of the month! I wish you the very best, and would love to hear your thoughts or questions as you try some of these approaches to your cycle.
My Foundation Class, Welcome Your Rhythm, begins on June 22, for 5 weeks, by phone. If you and a friend wish to enroll together, you may each receive a $30 discount. Please let me know your names and I’ll send you each a discount code to use when you enroll! This is a great way to take the class, since you’ll be able to compare notes about your experiences. www.WelcomeRhythm.eventbrite.com
The first four women to enroll will also receive a complimentary Cycle Comfort Coaching Session with me, which can be used either before or during our 5-week course! You can discuss any aspect of your cycle, or work on creating more healthy habits in general.
No, I'm talking my basic personhood. I've taken detours and received certifications, a Master's Degree, and pursued side interests in hopes of making money that would allow my husband to not have to work so hard and free him to be with us more, but nothing that I felt spoke to the real me or allowed me to be fully myself in this world. When the girls were born, I took their education upon my shoulders because I felt there was no other good option here at home. To provide them with what I felt they deserved and to fulfill my responsibility to them in bringing them into the world, I gladly took on the traditional role of wife, mother, and homeschooler. While my husband took on the pressure of providing for us solely on his income, he was still free to pursue his goals in art and music.
Is being an adult claiming responsibility? As a kid, I had always been told this. Adulthood is about sacrifice and responsibility. I don't know though. It may just be my family's makeup, but I can't remember many adults around me that would have said they were leading a life that made them happy or that made them feel fulfilled. I saw sorrow, depression, heartache, and anger written on the faces of many of the adults who loved me so very much. It covered my world. Am I selfish in thinking it doesn't have to be that way?
My main goal is to show my daughters that the world is wide open for us. There is no role we can't accept or value we have to feel pressured to espouse. It is about following our heart and going forward from a place of love and respect for others. All else is a coin toss, and the odds of us winning are perfect as we are infinitely supported by the very stardust we were created from.
An independent, strong minded woman makes people nervous. A woman that seeks her own fulfillment so that her light can shine as brightly as possible in this world, can expect to be seen as scandalous. She may not fit in any box set out by society. She may take risks others see as unnecessary. It may be hard for those who feel the need to fit her into a category to be with her as she steps into this empowered place. The fact is, she isn't going to care. What she knows is that if you love her and want her, you will walk by her through all of it. If you cannot, it is okay. Both you and she will be okay.
It isn't about living in the shadows of another. In this mountain culture I've grown up in, the matriarchy is a hidden power. There isn't a person on this planet any stronger than an Appalachian woman. They've held families together for generations of rises and falls. Through all of this, she quietly worried that her best wasn't enough and it would all fall through her fingers. While all of her family knew it was really her that bound them all together, her effort wasn't pronounced except maybe at her funeral.
I pray that my daughters don't take a lifetime to learn that they can speak up about what they need and not feel guilty for needing it. I want them to know that if their current situation is not making their heart sing that patience, a fearless heart, hard work, and their empowered voice will change that. They aren't obligated to anyone but those who they choose to be obligated to and those who call them mother. I want them to be brave. I want them to know they are worthy of the type of love that wants the essence of them so hard, their every breath is like a song, and that when they give that kind of love, they should expect it returned to them.
Our lives matter right now. I've decided for the sake of myself and my daughters not to wait for mine to begin anymore. I'm surrounding myself with the people who feed my spirit and want to know me for me. I'm talking consistently with those who already have shown me that they do. I've went out on a limb and decided to return to the game plan of my youth modified for what I know now. I'm excited. One day, I will be able to type here that I am healthy, happy, and fulfilled most every day. It's coming.
There, at the top of the world, as I took deep breaths crouched over that ageless rock, the coin was tossed. The butterflies in my stomach set free for a time and I felt whole again in the silence. One day, my Ivy will know what she's capable of because her mother did her best to show her. It might not come easy to either of us, but she will know.
Kelli Hansel Haywood is the mother of three daughters living in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. She is a writer, weightlifter, yoga and movement instructor, chakra reader, and Reiki practitioner.