Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Relationships

This Christmas evening I sit with two books in front of me.  Both have some elements I felt called upon to share.  Both have to do with relationships.

The first is a book I received as a gift from a friend in the mail only a few days ago.  It is called The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.  Mark Nepo is the author and the book is designed so that the entries are dated and start with January 1st and ends with December 31st.  When I first received the book I read the current date and then went back to my birthday to see what message I would find there too.  

Synchronicity stepped in on the night of December 23rd.  I was taking a bath in an attempt to ease the horrible cramps and back pain I was experiencing.  Pain and not feeling one's best can sometimes trigger other emotions and thoughts that are not the most positive or helpful.  In that frame of mind I was having some trust issues be re-stimulated.  On my way to the bath I had grabbed my new book.  Once in the hot water I flipped to the entry on December 23rd. 

Here is what I read:

A Surety of Roots

You didn’t come into this house
So I might tear off a piece of your life.
Perhaps when you leave,
You’ll take something of mine:
Chestnuts, roses, or a surety of roots. 
-    Pablo Neruda

“Perhaps the most stubborn thing that keeps us from knowing love is distrust.  Certainly, we have more than enough reason in our world to be cautious, alert, and guarded against being hurt or taken advantage of.  But the fact remains that in spite of all the new and terrible stories that we pass on at parties, there is no other doorway into kindness and all its gifts but through the gentle risk to open ourselves, however slightly, and try.  The question we must ask, that I ask myself every day, is which is more debilitating: to be cut off from love or to be scarred by the pain of being hurt?

What made Neruda, such a great poet is the largeness of his heart, and through his large kindness, he suggests that giving heals and that until we step into that space between each other and try, nothing can happen.  But once we do, giving and receiving become the same, and we all grow stronger for going there together.”

  • Center yourself, and bring to mind three small gifts you are will to give away.  They may be tangible or symbolic or gestures of kindness.
  • Wrap each gently in your breathing.
  • Bring these gifts with you into your day.
  • Before you come home, give them away.

I was a bit stunned that my thoughts about not trusting had been greeted by this very strong message that distrust keeps us from knowing love.  My heart and my head rolled this passage over and over again.  I knew there was great truth in this message and I thanked the Universe and Great Spirit for sending it to me. 

The second book that had also leapt out at me at the last minute is one called Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection by Gregg Krech.   This is how the book begins in the Preface:

“In 1991 a movie was released called Defending Your Life and starring Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep.  The story line centered around several characters who died and were transported to a temporary location where a decision was made about their future.  The purpose of this place—which was a rather comfortable, almost resort-like city—was to give people who passed through a chance to watch film highlights of their lives.  They had a chance to defend their conduct and the choices they made while alive, and subsequently a final decision was made about their future.  They might be sent back to earth to ‘try again’ or, if their lives were generally laudable, they would ‘move on’ to some higher form of existence.

What I found most interesting about the film was the idea of stepping back and observing your life.  In 1989 I had the opportunity to do just that for the first time, at a center located amidst the rice paddies in rural Japan.  It was a Naikan center.  The work Naikan means literally looking inside.  In the fourteen days I stayed at the center I spent about fifteen hours per day watching the films of my life run across the screen of my mind’s eye.  Prior to this experience I had been to dozen of retreats and spiritual conference.  I had spent at least one week each year on a solo trip in the wilderness to simply be quiet in nature.  I had meditated in forests and at Zen monasteries for days and weeks at a time.  Yet I had never really stepped back from my life to simply see how I had been living.

The process used at the Naikan center was very structures.  I reflected on the relationships with nearly all the key people that had played an influential role in my life.  In each case I looked at three aspects of that relationship:  What had I received from that person.  What had I given to that person.  The troubles or difficulties I had caused that person.  I sat on Japanese-style cushions and faced a blank wall in order to limit outside distractions.  Except for the time it took to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom, I did little else for two weeks.  In some ways I resembled the characters in the movie I have referred to, except that I had the opportunity to do this –fortunately—while I was still alive.

During my time at the Naikan center I had doubts.  Why spend time reviewing my past, when there was so much to do now?  Why spend time considering the troubles I was causing others when I was already striving so hard to be a good person…Notwithstanding my persistent questions and doubts, I persevered each day with the review of my personal history, as far back as I could remember.  As the days passed, I began to understand what was attractive and uncomfortable about Naikan.  Naikan involved self-examination; that is, we examine our own life, not the actions of others.  How often is our attention wasted on judging, criticizing, and correcting others while we neglect that examination and lessons of our own life?  While we can never know the actual experience of another, we know our own experience intimately.  While we can do little or nothing to control how others treat us, we can do much to control how we treat others.  And while we are often powerless to impose our choices on others, we make choices about how we shall live, moment to moment, day to day.  Examining one’s own life is profoundly sensible, though not necessarily comfortable.”

In a section called Intimate Attention author Gregg Krech has this to share:

Relationship as a Vehicle for Training

Henry David Thoreau knew how to live alone.  Really alone.  A few of us may set up solitary housekeeping in a parcel of unexplored wilderness, but the vast majority will choose, and be chosen by, intimate partners.  Such choices may be temporary, or…well, actually, temporary is your only option.  These relationships are the graduate school of self-development.  They provide us with the sharpest tools, the heaviest weights, and the thickest texts.  They push us to our edge, stretch us beyond our limits.  They may wing us on a pendulum from ecstasy and joy to the farthest reaches of pain and grief.”

Please Remind Me
By Gregg Krech

Please remind me of why I am here
when I am somewhere else.

When anger stirs
over unwashed dishes,
unkept promises,
and unpaid bills,

Please soften my heart
and remind me
of why I am here.

When frustration is triggered
by the same argument
for the hundredth time,

please tame my words,
deepen my breath,
and remind me of why I am here.

When my attention is drawn
like a magnet
to myself—
my needs,
my wants,
my comfort,
my pain—

please blink my mind
and allow my eyes to see
into the heart of another,
that I may attend to their needs

and bear their pain
and be dissolved
into the reason I am here.

I know that reason
Yet, so often,
I find myself somewhere else
and forget.
So please remind me.

Lastly I want to return to The Book of Awakening and share the passage from September 20th called Unconditional Love.

“Unconditional love is not so much about how we received and endure each other, as it is about the deep vow to never, under any condition, stop bringing the flawed truth of who we are to each other.

Much is said about the unconditional love today, and I fear that it has been misconstrued as an extreme form of ‘turning the other cheek,’ which to anyone who has been abused is not good advice.  However, this exaggerated passivity is quite different from the unimpeded flow of love that carries who we are.

In truth, unconditional love does not require a passive acceptance of whatever happens in the name of love.  Rather, in the real spaces of our daily relationship, it means maintaining a commitment that no condition will keep us from bringing all of who we are to each other honestly.

For example, on any given day, I might be preoccupied with my own needs, and might overlook or bruise what you need and hurt you.  But then you tell me and show me your hurt, and I feel bad, and you accept that sometimes I go blind to those around me.  But we look deeply on each other, and you accept my flaws, but not my behavior, and I am grateful for the chance to work on myself.  Somehow, it all brings us closer.

Unconditional love is not the hole in us that received the dirt, but the sun within that never stops shining.
    • Center your self and consider a relationship in which you have recently endured some pain in the name of love.
    • As you inhale deeply, consider the conditions that keep your pain unexpressed.
    • As you exhale deeply, consider ‘being unconditional’ as a bringing forth from within, rather that the enduring of what comes from without.
    • Enter your day and consider ‘bringing forth who you are’ in the name of love.

    Unknown Author

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    A beautiful song and video to inspire you mid-week.  

    You are bountiful, blissful and beautiful. You are.

    Music - Bountiful, Blissful, Beautiful by Bachan Kaur


    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine ~ Doc Martens and Motherhood

    Come visit my We Are All Meant to Shine!column in Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine
    and be inspired by the writing of
    Corby Caffrey-Dobosh and her article called

    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    Mojo Monday ~ Lissa Rankin on The Shocking Truth About Your Health

    "Promoting health without encouraging others to seek wholeness is an exercise in futility.  Not until we realize that our bodies are mirrors of our interpersonal, spiritual, professional, sexual, creative, financial, environmental, mental, and emotional health will we truly heal."
    - Lissa Rankin

    I received an email from writer and artist Sark in which she excitedly shared the following:

    So often what comes out of scientific studies can be confusing, conflicting, or downright scary.  Well, today I heard something FABULOUS - straight from science!

    My dear friend, Dr. Lissa Rankin of - a brilliant, creative and succulent Medical Doctor - has found scientific evidence to prove that creative health is every bit as important to your body as good nutrition, daily exercise, and regular check-ups.

    It supports what I've taught for YEARS - expressing yourSELF creatively isn't just some fun luxury pastime. It's vital to living a healthy and joyful life!

    Sark then went on to encourage other to watch Lissa Rankin present at a TED talk.  I had heard of Lissa Rankin and I think I had even visited her web site, but watching her talk on health was really powerful.  I also happened to love that she encourages people to live "authentic lives full of mojo."  Gotta love that mojo!

    Here is an introduction to Lissa Rankin as seen on the TED Talk web site ~ "Lissa Rankin, MD is an OB/GYN physician, author, keynote speaker, consultant to health care visionaries, professional artist, and founder of the women's health and wellness community Discouraged by the broken, patriarchal health care system, she left her medical practice in 2007 only to realize that you can quit your job, but you can't quit your calling. This epiphany launched her on a journey of discovery that led her to become a leader in the field of mind/body medicine, which she blogs about at and is writing about in her third book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013).

    She teaches both patients and health care professionals how to make the body ripe for miracles by healing the mind and being healthy in all aspects of life, not just by promoting healthy behaviors like good nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep, but by encouraging health and authenticity in relationships, work, creative expression, spirituality, sexuality, finances, and living environment. She is leading a revolution to feminize how health care is received and delivered by encouraging collaboration, fostering self-healing, reconnecting health care and spirituality, empowering patients to tap into the mind's power to heal the body, and encouraging women not to settle for being merely well, but to strive for living vital, joyful, authentic lives full of "mojo."

    When not spreading the word, she chills out, paints, does yoga, and hikes in Marin County, CA with her husband and daughter."

    Learn more about Lissa Rankin on her web site called Owning Pink and without a doubt watch her Ted talk below regarding The Shocking Truth About Your Health.

    "I believe that true healing lies in changing your beliefs and tapping into your inner healer.  I also believes that you can’t hand your power over to a doctor, therapist, coach, or other practitioner in order to live a truly vital life. As a patient, you are an equal partner in the seat of honor at the healing round table, where your voice must be heard."  -Lissa Rankin, MD

    Once you watch the video share your thoughts. 

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Mojo Monday ~ This is the Year of...

    In October of 2008 I attended my first Cosmic Cowgirl event.  It was the Bountiful Conference and really I had no idea what attending that one conference would lead to and how it would alter my future.   Now it wasn’t like everything fell into perfect place and I immediately began to follow my true purpose.  There were some bumps along the way, in fact on my 40th birthday in April of 2009 some news made me feel that my world was crashing down around me and there were some very tough days from that point forward.  Yet, even through that year, which was one of my own dark nights of the soul, Cosmic Cowgirls was one of the things that sustained me.  It was a combination of both the amazing women I had met, but also just knowing that something like Cosmic Cowgirls could even exist.  I was sustained by knowing that there were women from around the country and even overseas, who were connecting and creating a circling tribe full of artistic, creative, passionate, loving, inspiring, kick-up-their-boots hootin’ and hollerin’ kick-ass wild women.

    I have learned so much from the classes I have taken with Cosmic Cowgirls.  One of the biggies is about the power of intention.  In 2010 as things in my life were healing and as I delved back into participating more with Cosmic Cowgirls I attended the member conference and then I took the class called A Year of Great Promise.  Meeting in person with some sister Cosmic Cowgirls was good for the soul and during our time together we contemplated what we wanted to declare for that year.  What I ended up declaring for myself was that 2010 was the Year of Passionately Embracing My Soul’s Creative Calling.  We also shared something we were going to release and my personal declaration was “I release perfection and embrace myself with Grace and Love.”  We created collages and special containers to hold our dreams and goals for ourselves for the year.   The course called A Year of Great Promise was really powerful and by the time the course ended I had about a 15 page document that detailed my vision for myself and the life I want to lead. 

    The art collage I created in 2010.

    Somehow in the beginning of 2011 I did not make a statement for the year and now I see that I was pressing forward with continuing as I did in 2010 to embrace my creative calling.  I joined the Cosmic Cowgirls 6 month long Leading A Legendary Life course in 2011, which was a big dream for me.  Again the work completed led me to feel more confident in my artistic abilities and to gain more clarity on the personal legend I am creating. 

    A week ago when I pulled out the letter I had written to myself back in 2010 I knew immediately what my 2012 declaration would be and without hesitation I said to myself 2012 is the year of completion and new beginnings.  I love the clarity that I have this year, but don't be disheartened if that is not the case for you.  It can actually be fun and interesting to still be in the place of figuring it out and exploring what you are wishing for to happen next. 

    As I write this Mojo Monday post I am realizing that I have not yet considered if there is something I wish to release and embrace this year.  The first thing that comes to mind is the fretting I have done over friendship these past few years.  I experienced some shifts in friendships that put me through a great deal of distress for a few years.  I think it has taken this much time to get to this place and makes it possible for me to say that I release those former connections with great love and I embrace knowing deep in my soul that though I am imperfect and may make mistakes I am a loving and good hearted friend who cares and loves deeply and never intentionally hurts others.

    My letter I wrote to myself in 2010.
    Before I bid 2011 goodbye I will write myself a letter and I will create a new piece of art that will represent my intentions for the new year.  

    Consider what your heart and soul wishes for you in the new year.

    Join me in making your own declaration and then make the time to go through your own creative process of expressing that declaration. 

    Maybe you want to create a collage or paint the vision you hold for yourself. 

    Another possibility is to write a poem or take some photographs that capture your intentions.

    Also is there something you wish to release and in turn embrace? 

    I hope you’ll share your new year declaration and your plans for releasing and embracing.   

    If you need time to think it through, explore it this week and come back and share what arises for you.

    One other great lesson I have learned is that there is great power in speaking aloud one’s intentions.  One can gain strength from sharing such things within a community or a circle.  

    I offer that this is a great place to be witnessed and heard.

    With Love and In Support of Your Intentions,
    Michelle (aka Red and Ida Shine!)

    Some other things to explore as you ponder your dreams and goals:

    Oprah’s January issue that is just about to hit the stands has a great article by Martha Beck called You Can See Clearly Now.  She takes readers through a clarifying process of really determining what one wants.  She breaks it down into the four P’s: Pushback, Possibilities, Preferences and Pinpointing. In the simplest terms Pushback involves figuring out what you don’t want. Martha describes it as the “bitch and moan” portion that allows you to figure out that you no longer what to do such and such or no longer want to be with so and so.  The next step of Possibilities involves beginning to use your imagination to see past what is no longer working for you.  She describes Preferences as being the place where you start to notice which possibilities leave you feeling intrigued, curious, and a bit lighter.  When you get to the Pinpoint part this is when you are finally reaching clarity on exactly what you want.  You are envisioning it and can then set your intentions on achieving it.

    There is a great book called Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  I was given this book a several years ago by the fost-adoption agency I have worked for for nearly 8 years now.  When you buy the book new there is a sealed envelope in the back that when opened provides you with a key to enter into an on-line personality test.  I was really blown away by the accuracy of the results.  The exam identifies your strengths and can be a tool for some people to use in seeking their path in life.

    Lastly for fun you can always check your numerology and see what personal year you happen to be leaving and which one you are about to gain entry to in 2012.  Supposedly we go through 9 year life cycles.  2011 was a 9 year for me which means I am at the end of a cycle.  Entering into a 1 year in 2012 means I am embarking on a new cycle.  A common description of a 9 year is that this is your year to finish up all unfinished business, to clean house and make room for new things.  In short the 1 year is described as follows: You are starting a new nine year Epicycle. Everything you do now will affect your future. Do not hold back the inner force of creation. Be direct, daring, bold. You will have more confidence and determination this year, particularly in comparison with last year, which was a time of letting go. This year represents a time of birth. It's a time to take charge and to apply yourself to your dream.

    Two sites that offer free numerology readings can be found here:

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    Mojo Monday ~ The Good Places of Friendship

    A friend of mine gave me a copy of this very powerful article about friendship by Belinda Recio.  It appeared in the November-December issue of a publication called Spirituality Health.

    I love the deepness of the following passage:
    "In such friendships, the friends understand and accept the imperfections of the relationship, themselves, and each other.  They accept the risk of betrayal because they understand that the seed of forgiveness is contained within the betrayal."

    Here is a copy of the entire article. 
    (Note if the text appears too small you should be able to click on the image to see a larger version)

    Recently I had a friend contact me to talk through a situation she was experiencing with another friend.    This friend has done the same for me in the past when I was working through and processing some difficult terrain in a couple of friendships.

    I am not a friendship guru and I have made my own mistakes for certain, especially when I was going through some tough times and in a depressed state of mind.  

    I didn't want to give "advice" so all I shared was something along the lines of this:

    1) we can own our part of things 

    2) we can sincerely apologize if we know we have hurt or offended a friend

    3) we can make efforts to express our desire to continue to be friends

    4) we can do things that make us feel good about our friend and the friendship - such as sending cards, emails, little gifts.

    There are also things that we have to realize we can't control though.

    1) we cannot control how they take things (we all have our own perspective that will color how we respond to situations)  

    2) we cannot control if they accept our apology 

    3) we cannot control if they will accept us back into their heart 

    4) we cannot control if they treat us differently  

    5) we cannot control if they do not wish to remain friends 

    My friend wondered - what if this friend won't take her apology to heart?  I said that is the hardest part about relationships, not having any control over how someone takes something or if they don't want to remain in a relationship with us.  I shared that if her friend had been in another mind set and was perhaps in a better place in her life that the comment made would not have fazed her one bit.  I added that her reaction is more about her friend than what she said.  I also knew that what she said was done with concern and love, not with an intent to hurt or criticize.  There is a big difference between the two I believe. 

    What do we do if a wall is built and a heart is closed to us?  We can either hang in there hoping things will change.  What if it doesn't?  Is there ever a time to walk away?  I don't know the answer to that.  Sometimes the answer may be yes.  I recently saw this quote "Relationships are like glass. Sometimes it's better to leave them broken than try to hurt yourself putting it back together."  ~Author Unknown.  Perhaps as it proposes there are times when it best for one's own happiness and mental health to walk away and just let it be. 

    What are your thoughts regarding traversing difficult times in a friendship?  

    Do you have any words of wisdom to share?

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    Mojo Monday ~ Women Making History

    Amazing "Women Making History in Portland" mural

    In August of this year I learned for the first time of the amazing Gerda Lerner who founded Women’s Studies in the USA.  It led me to devote a Mojo Monday post on September 1st to her and her accomplishments.  One of her quotes that stays with me is the following:  “Now, in one of the best graduate schools in the country I was presented with a history of the past in which women did not seem to exist, except for a few rulers or some who created disturbances. What I was learning in graduate school did not so much leave out continents and their people, as had my Viennese education, as it left out half the human race, women.”  

    Sadly what still appears to happen in school in this country is that the history that is taught to our children still remains more focused on the accomplishments of men.  History was one of my favorite subjects in school and I so loved it that I even went on to get one of my university degrees in history.  One of the papers I wrote and still remember well was about Native American women warriors.  Yet I can tell you as a History major that there never was much of a focus on the contributions of women.  

    Recently though I spotted a book called Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh.  Spotting that one book led me to a wonderful discovery – that there are more incredible books out there that focus on the history of women and many have been written for children.  As a mom to two little girls I was doubly excited about adding these books to our family library.  One of my goals is to raise confident daughters with healthy and positive self images.  Sharing with them the stories of the many trailblazing women in history not only allows us to honor all the women who came before, but also gives them models and opens up to them all the possibilities that lie before them.

    Here is a list of books that I am incredibly excited about reading and if you know of any books not mentioned that cover the history and contributions of women please leave a comment.

     Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America
    by Charlotte S. Waisman and Jill S. Tietjen
    Her Story is a vivid documentation of the breadth and diversity of American women's achievements throughout U.S. history. This one-of-a-kind illustrated timeline highlights the awesome, varied, and often unrecognized contributions of American women since the 1500s.
    There have been women trailblazers throughout American history; women have had a profound impact on the intellectual, social, and political development of our society. But many of their contributions have gone unnoticed. Most people have heard of Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Margaret Sanger, and Eleanor Roosevelt. But did you know that a woman microbiologist discovered the bacterium responsible for undulant fever, which then led to the pasteurization of all milk? Or that a woman patented the paper-bag folding machine to make square-bottom bags (the grocery bag)? Or that a female mathematician's work laid the foundation for abstract algebra? 

    The women featured in Her Story range from writers, artists, actors, and athletes to doctors, scientists, social and political activists, educators, and inventors, and include women of all backgrounds and philosophies. The authors of Her Story, Charlotte S. Waisman and Jill S. Tietjen, have compiled an extraordinary collection of women and events that provides a unique view of history. Part of Her Story's distinctiveness is the inclusion of hundreds of lesser-known women from all walks of life who have broken barriers and created paths of noteworthy and inspiring achievement. 

    In her Foreword to the book, Madeleine Albright comments, "Spanning the centuries from 1587 . . . this book will allow women and men to become more aware of and informed about the women who have been instrumental in giving us the quality of life we enjoy today. Often stepping outside of the expected modes of behavior for women during their lives, the profiled women were the pioneers for their causes, their professions, or their passions. Their accomplishments have advanced the arts, the sciences, politics, and business." 

    Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
    by Catherine Thimmesh
    In kitchens and living rooms, in garages and labs and basements, even in converted chicken coops, women and girls have come up with ingenious innovations that have made our lives simpler and better. Their creations are some of the most enduring (the windshield wiper) and best loved (the chocolate chip cookie). What inspired these women, and just how did they turn their ideas into realities?
    From Sybilla Masters, the first American woman with a documented invention (although the patent had to be in her husband's name), to twelve-year-old Becky Schroeder, who in 1974 became the youngest girl to receive a patent, Girls Think of Everything tells the stories of these women's obstacles and their remarkable victories.

    The Sky's the Limit: Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls
    by Catherine Thimmesh
    They study the night sky, watch chimpanzees in the wild, and dig up ancient clay treasures. They search the beach for rare fossils, photograph old rock carvings, explore the hazards of lead poisoning, and wander into dark caves. And in their watching, digging, and wandering, they become discoverers. Young and old, they are women and girls who discover seventy-million-year-old sea lizards, the very origins of counting and writing, Stone Age cave art, mysterious matter in the universe, and how a puddle of water can be sanitized when heated by the sun.
    Here is a tribute to the findings and revelations of these remarkable women and girls: to their perseverance, their epiphanies, their wondrous curiosity. Brought to life by innovative collage illustrations, these inspiring stories drawn from primary sources consistently probe into still unanswered questions. Here are discoveries that open our eyes not only to what women and girls can accomplish but also to the astonishing world in which we live.

    Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics
    by Catherine Thimmesh 

    When Abigail Adams asked her husband to “Remember the Ladies,” women could not vote or own property in America. Some seventy years later, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote, “To vote is the most sacred act of citizenship,” the government of the United States still did not treat women as equals, having yet to grant them the right to vote. But sixty-four years after that, Geraldine Ferraro declared, “We can do anything,” and became the first American woman to run for vice president on a major party ticket. Today, surely our country is ready for a leader who, as Elizabeth Dole said, “will call America to her better nature.” This captivating book illuminates the bravery and tenacity of the women who have come before us. With an engaging narrative, fascinating quotes, and elegant illustrations, it not only shows how far women have come but also reveals the many unsung roles women have played in political history. Step by step, these capable ladies have paved the way for our young leaders of tomorrow. They have enabled and empowered us to ask today: Well, why not the presidency?

    Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists
    by Jeannine Atkins (Author), and Paula Conner (Illustrator) 
    Girls Who Looked Under Rocks portrays the youths and careers of six remarkable women whose curiosity about nature fueled a passion to steadfastly overcome obstacles to careers in traditionally men-only occupations. The six--Maria Merian (b.1647), Anna Comstock (b.1854), Frances Hamerstrom (b.1907), Rachel Carson (b.1907), Miriam Rothschild (b.1908), and Jane Goodall (b.1934)--all became renowned scientists, artists and writers.

    The New York Public Library Amazing Women in American History: A Book of Answers for Kids (The New York Public Library Books for Kids)
    by Sue Heinemann
    Taking a chronological and historical approach, the book makes use of a question and answer format to respond to questions that students might be asked in class, or ask for themselves, about historical figures. Beginning with Native American women, the chronologically arranged chapters cover a variety of historical periods. Attention is given to abolitionists, the temperance and labor movements, and to developments in literature and science. Additional information in the margins and boxed highlights expand upon or add to the Q&A material. The author includes as much information as possible on Native American, African-American, Latina, and Asian women. When providing names, she often offers variants of first names and married names. She includes famous women such as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and far less famous ones like Nanye-hi (Nancy Ward), a Cherokee elder and leader who led her people to victory and who negotiated peace agreements with white settlers in 1755 and Kaahumanu, a 19th-century ruler of Hawaii.

    Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World
    by Cynthia Chin-Lee (Author), Megan Halsey  (Illustrator), Sean Addy (Illustrator)
    An introduction to 26 diverse, 20th-century women who have made a difference in such varied fields as the arts, sports, journalism, science, and entertainment. The entries include Dolores Huerta, Frida Kahlo, Lena Horne, Maya Lin, and Patricia Schroeder. Determination, imagination, perseverance, and strength are what bind them together. Entries are arranged alphabetically by first name; each woman is featured on a full page that includes a two-paragraph introduction, a quote, and striking mixed-media art that illustrates the essence of the person. There is sophistication in both the quotes and in the art, encouraging repeated readings. The nuggets of information should inspire readers and leave them with a thirst to know more about these women.

    For your enjoyment here is a short video about how the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America by Charlotte S. Waisman and Jill S. Tietjen came into being. 

    Again if you know of any books not mentioned that cover the history and contributions of women please share it in a comment.

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Mojo Monday ~ Being Thankful

    “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melodie Beattie

    Here is a beautiful song called I Give Thanks by the talented Kathryn Mostow. 

    This week the majority of people in the USA will gather on Thursday for a holiday called Thanksgiving.  The origins of the holiday may have a complicated historical past, yet the idea of families and friends gathering together to share in a day of Giving Thanks and expressing their Gratitude is inspiring.    

    I have been in some circles where we have gone around the dining table in order for each person to express his/her gratitude.  I have also experienced meals where we each wrote down something for which we were thankful on a piece of paper and then they were all read at the table.  

    This last Friday night my family gathered with some other adult friends and we all dined together.  We shared one thing we had learned this past year and at least one thing we are grateful for.  Even my daughters shared what they were grateful for in their kindergarten class and brought home a drawing and the words written out for us to see.

    Share with us here on the Red Boa what you will be Giving Thanks for this year.

    “Embrace your ordinary life, whatever its wrapping, for in the embrace you will hear the whisper of Gratitude. Listen for her in the ordinary activities of your day, in the ordinary encounters with loved ones, and in the ordinary challenges that greet you each morning. She speaks from the depths of you, in the voice of your ordinary life.” —Patricia Lynn Reilly

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Mojo Monday ~ US! Celebrating the Power of Friendship with Mary Anne Radmacher

    I have long admired writer and artist Mary Anne Radmacher.  Her writing and images have been in my life for a very long time.  One of the things I most love about technology is how I have been able to connect more personally with some of the writers I love most.  Mary Anne has a strong positive presence on Facebook and she actually takes the time to connect with people.  I was already familiar with some of her wonderful tales regarding letter exchanges between her and friends from her books.  Through my recent interactions with her though I have had the chance to observe on a more personal level her incredible generosity and her very caring ways, so it came as no surprise when I learned she was releasing a book about friendship called US! Celebrating the Power of Friendship. 

    I was then incredibly honored to be contacted by her publisher to see if I would take part in a Mary Ann Radmacher blog tour.  No one had to ask me twice!   There was also the fact that I have been noticing a trend here on my own Red Boa blog, which is that the two most popular and most read posts are on friendship and belonging.  I believe that we humans experience the most joy and deepest sorrows in regards to our relationships.  They are what keep us going, and sadly at times, are what drag us to the depths of grief and loss.  It appears that the topic of friendship is one that draws many to seek advice and answers.  If you are seeking some guidance regarding friendship you have come to the right place.  Here are some words of wisdom from Mary Anne Radmacher herself regarding friendship.  

    Special Note - Don't miss the opportunity to win a FREE copy of US! Celebrating the Power of Friendship. See details below!

    10 Questions with Mary Anne Radmacher about Friendship and US!

    What inspired you to write a book about friendship? Was there a particular friend that kindled the idea?

    My friend, Maureen, was a high school senior when I was a sophomore. When she graduated she gave me a book of quotes about friendship. I knew when I finished enjoying those great thoughts that someday I would write a book on friendship. When I was 19 I operated a switchboard for a small college in San Francisco. In the quiet moments, I would work on my friendship book. A teacher who stopped by my desk each day, Professor Sparks, greeted me with an unusual question – “What dream are you working on today?” I easily and quickly replied, “My book on friendship.” Thirty five years later US! CELEBRATING THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP features some of the things I knew and treasured about friendship when I was still a teenager.

    Why is friendship important - to women especially?

    I first want to say that I believe friendships are very important to men – and I have observed that they deal with it and talk about it (when they talk about it at all) differently than women. Women want to affirm, support, validate what they know to and for each other. Women have an increasingly demanding set of roles to fulfill in our culture, and our friends help us “suit up” for those various tasks. Women friends offer each other support that is both tangible and metaphysical.

    Is friendship more important than familial relationships? As important? 

    The answer to that question depends on the nature of one’s relationship to family. I was born around the time my parents were celebrating 25 years of marriage. Two of my siblings could have been my parents. The participants in my family structure were either a) tired or b) involved in their own life activities. From early on I learned to create my own “tribe” first from the neighborhood, then school, then peers in my life experiences. My friends, in all practical applications, have been like family to me.

    Why do we need to take time out to appreciate our friends? Everyone leads busy lives, and our friends certainly understand that.

    The busier I am the more conscious I am of how important it is to stay connected to my friends. It’s too tempting to relegate our friends to the back of the line. When, in fact, our relationships are one of the greatest graces of our lives.

    Digital Art by Createwings Designs
    What are some easy ways to show our appreciation?

    I’m a BIG FAN of the postal service. Sending a fun or meaningful card “just because” is a real tender connection between friends. I use technology to take photos with the short caption, “I saw this and it made me think of you.” I’m encouraging groups of friends to use my US! book as a “scrap book” or to use an older term , “autograph book.” Each member of the circle has a copy and each book gets passed around. Friends write their own thoughts of appreciation on the page that most reminds them of their friend. Combining my words and illustrations with loving words from your own friends – a powerful and memorable combination.

    Being cued in to the present and real struggles a friend is facing is important. More than saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” DOING something practical really shows how much you appreciate your friend. My friend is moving this week. She has a two hour daily commute. AND she has special food needs with a variety of allergies. I made allergy-appropriate lunches for her for a week. I said, “I know when you are moving you don’t even know where your kitchen utensils ARE! I hope this makes making good, healthy choices easier for you this week.” It got a big WOW from my friend.

    As we get older, it becomes more and more difficult to establish new friendships. Why is that?

    Age brings a certain predictability and a whole road of judgments and assessments at our backs. It becomes very easy to judge someone in advance and tell ourselves all the reasons why we likely wouldn’t like this person or that. Also, we’ve had a few friendship failures as we’ve gotten older and might be less inclined to be vulnerable. My dad outlived all his old friends and he told me one of the regrets of his life is that he did not take the time to make new friends. My life is like a shelf on a bookcase. My oldest and my newest friends are the book ends that hold all the other books together!

    What are some ways to foster new relationships?

    Be open to people who are different than you. Say yes to experience new gatherings and go to events that are a little out of your comfort zone. Listen attentively and observe how you feel listening to this new person. If you are immediately engaged, interested and alert…that might be an excellent basis for exploring the possibility of a friendship. If someone says, “We should talk about that,” or “I’d love to get together sometime and learn about your experiences with_________,” schedule the time. Sometime soon. Listening is an excellent way to foster a new relationship. And it’s also a litmus! If you find yourself endlessly listening with no opportunity to speak, that might be an indicator of a relationship you want NOT to foster. That’s important to pay attention to, as well. Not everyone you meet would make a good friend for you.

    If you could plan a perfect night with a friend, or group of friends, what would that be?

    I get to have quite a few of those kinds of nights. We share healthy and yummy food, work on some sort of art project and tell each other fabulous stories. Most of them even true!

    What is your advice for people who have grown distant from friends, and don't know how to change that?

    Reach out. Take the risk and say, “I miss our times of connecting. I thought of you just the other day and remembered the time that we…..” Sometimes just confessing that you’ve noticed some distance has crept in will be a relief – they have likely noticed it, too, and haven’t known what to do, either!

    We can't talk about your books without mentioning the artwork. Do your friends inspire you, advise, you or in any way assist you in your creative life?

    My friends deliver honest advice and critique when I ask for it and otherwise have an abundant supply of “Ooooooh’s” and “Ahhhhh’s.” That sweet celebration is like the warmest, softest sweater on a chilly afternoon. The finest compliment I get from any of my friends is when they purchase my work and give it as a gift to their other friends. Not only are they supporting my career but they are affirming that what I communicate has functional value to them. That means so much to me. 

    Some additional words of wisdom from Mary Anne Radmacher.

    Digital Art by Digitreats

    Do you have any words of wisdom regarding friendship?  

    How do you nurture your friendships?

    The words and work of Mary Anne Radmacher have circled the globe on products, quotes in books, been included in speeches, are part of ceremonies from graduation to weddings to memorial services.

    Radmacher's words are woven into media from Oprah's Harpo Studio headquarters, commercials, to being quoted in newscasts from the 2011 Tour de France coverage to the evening news with Diane Sawyer. Her signature posters are in board rooms and school rooms, adorn hospital halls and homes around the world (and found at and her work is visible from the Clinton Museum Store to gifts store on the corner.

    Stay current with her appearances and what writing processes she is guiding at

    You can find US! Celebrating the Power of Friendship here.
    Her previous book LIVE WITH INTENTION was also just released as an ebook and can be found here.

    Digital Art - Color My World Kit by Kay Miller