Every February for the last three years, our Saturdays have been devoted to one thing and one thing only. Chinese New Year. The mom to one Chinese kid, it is part of my job to give the Moon the opportunity to experience and participate in the culture of her birth. Almost four years ago we enrolled her in Chinese dance and it has become a very important part of our lives. Every Saturday from August until May she dons a leo and leggings and we meet her Chinese dance teacher and about 10 other little girls (a healthy mix of adopted children and children who live here with parents who have come to the US for work). They practice one dance and one dance only for the entire year in preparation for area Chinese New Year performances - thus our entire month of February (or three weekends most closely following CNY) being devoted to this holiday.
If you live in the Nashville area, here is a guide for celebrating Chinese New Year. The dates below are specific to this year, however, these are annual events, so file the article or links for future reference! Unfortunately, you'll notice that many of these events are on the same day, so choose wisely!
CAAN (Chinese Arts Alliance Nashville - http://www.chineseartsalliance.org/) CAAN offers two organization specific events: Chinese New Year 10-Course Banquet at Lucky Bamboo open to all for $85 per person (January 31, 2016) is CAAN's big fundraiser for the year but they also offer a FREE event! Their Dragon Park celebration will be held in conjunction with Dores to China (Saturday, February 6, 2016). The Dragon Park event is a lovely (but usually cold) day that also includes vendors, food trucks and more. Visit their website for information.
GNCA (Greater Nashville Chinese Association - http://gncamembers.com/) Though not open only to GNCA members, this is typically a member-only Chinese event largely attended by Nashville's Chinese (and adoption) community. With dinner and 2-hours of wonderful Chinese performances, this is a fantastic cultural event if you are looking for something beyond the Lion Dance and drumming. (Saturday, February 6, 2016)
Global Education Center Birthday Bash (http://www.globaleducationcenter.org) An Annual event, if you would like to make the evening a global event, check this out. Dancers and performers from many traditions and cultures from around the world, the GEC is a big hit and open to the entire community. (Saturday, February 6, 2016)
Discovery Center Murfreesboro. Sunday, February 7. 1:00PM to 5:00PM.
Join us as we bring in the Year of the Monkey! Chinese art, music, history, dance & more!
Little Eagles 10-Year Celebration. I do not have a link for this but on Saturday, February 13, 2016 at Father Ryan High School, Shiaolu McClaren will showcase her Little Eagles Dance Academy. If you would like more information, contact me via the contact form and I'll keep you in the loop as details unfold. (Saturday, February 13, 2016)
Asian New Year Festival. Vanderbilt Asian American Student Association. I have not attended this event and know little about it beyond what I picked up from the event page. But, it looks great! Here is the info: Join us as we ring in the Lunar New Year through a grand night filled with beautiful music, cultural dances, and meaningful stories. This year's theme JOURNEYS is a celebration of every individual’s journey, told through performance arts and a retelling of The Monkey King (Saturday, February 13, 2016)
FCC (Families with Children from China - www.fccmidtn.org) Each year the FCC puts on a Chinese New Year dinner specifically for the Chinese (and Asian) adoption community. Filled with food, fun and fellowship, it is a good time for all. (Saturday, February 20, 2016)
Nashville Lantern Festival (http://lantern.westnest.net/). An initiative from the Hillsboro cluster PTOs, this looks like an evening food and crafts followed by a lantern parade. I have not personally attended this event but see it pop up each year. If you go, be sure to let me know how it is! (Monday, February 22, 2016)
If you are a family touched by adoption, please consider sharing Chinese culture with your child by attending at least one of these events!
I've mentioned this a few times over the last few weeks, but today I'm going deep into Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Last fall I saw that Liz (we are on a first name basis - she doesn't know that, but we are) was putting out a new book. At this point in my life I am living in the world of fictional novels and online articles, so reading a self-help book (which I was drowning in years ago) is a stretch for me. (Trust me. I've read them. Many of them.)
Something about this book grabbed my attention. Maybe it was the cover, maybe it was just that my soul said, "This One". I don't know, but I hopped over to Amazon, read the reviews and promptly ordered the darn thing. My soul wasn't finished and it said, "You cannot do this alone". I'm still not sure if that meant I cannot accomplish on my own or maybe that I shouldn't do it alone. Regardless. I received that message as well and invited a whole bunch of women via FB into my sacred circle to create Big Magic in their own lives.
I broke the gathering into 8 weeks. They looked like this:
There have been times when I have sat in circles and seen lively discussion and times when I have seen extreme discomfort. For this group - some who knew each other, some new to us all - we had both of those things plus the quiet and reflectiveness that I think has to come with this type of work.
Okay, what's Big Magic about and why should you read it? I am a Priestess. There, I said it. I have been to the fire. I have been the initiate. I have been the leader. The point to that is that I have been around the spiritual block (knowing I have SO SO SO much left to learn) and have studied with master teachers and read the books and chanted and done all of those things. If you are looking for THAT book. This is NOT it.
This is another book. It is the raw, in your face, practical approach to getting into your creative space and getting out of YOUR OWN WAY! This is the book that doesn't say "let go of your fear" it is the book that ACKNOWLEDGES your fear and knows that it's probably always going to be with you and to get over it. This is the book that tells you how to walk in step with those dark places in a real and often humorous way. This is the book that says, yeah, you might be a tortured soul, but don't live in that space. Honor it and hold it's hand but then keep moving (Liz tells that part of the soul to "get in the back seat, it's days of driving are over"). This book is so much that I cannot even tell you what it is.
What I can tell you is it is not a book going to the used bookstore. It's one I recommend to my friends. It's full of "a-ha's". It's, well, Big Magic.
A little more on what we did as we worked through Big Magic:
There are so many things you can do around this book to bring Big Magic into your life. What are you waiting for? If you don't read anything else this year, this is it. Not sure? Below are some of my favorite Big Magic quotes:
There's a lot of noise in today's world. If I signed up for every newsletter, blog post, feed that came in front of me I could begin reading online in the morning and, well, never get up again. A few months ago I realized I was "following" a lot of people and my inbox looked like my mailbox during the holiday catalog season. I really didn't even want to check my email or scroll through my FB feeds due to the overwhelm. So, I asked myself, "Are those things in my inbox and my feed helping me or making me a better person or are they contributing to my modern day information anxiety?"
I bet you can guess what conclusion I came to on that one! So, I did what I do to my closets on regular occasions. I purged and purged and then purged again and got it down to whose voice I really want to hear when I open my inbox. You may not have the same tastes as I or you may be in a different industry or maybe you like to subscribe to 15 food blogs because you are always hungry.
The point is, cut down on the noise and examine what voices are important to you. Here's my list, in case you are wondering:
I have three other folks that I have invited, yes, invited, in my sacred inbox in 2016. As I listen to their stories and see the unfoldment of their work, I'll update you. For now, check out the folks above. You won't be sorry.
[Post contains affiliate links.]
No stranger to the warm sacred circles found in women's spirituality, I found myself in the fall longing for the center of the spiral once again in my life. Upon asking my higher self and the Goddess for guidance, I was shown Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and knew that my study of this fantastic work needed to be done in sacredness with others. I created a Facebook event, cast the net, and made the call to about 35 women who I thought might, just might, benefit from this study. 7 women answered and 8 weeks of Big Magic began with uncertainty and ended in a lovely night of honoring the return of the light in the world and within ourselves on the Winter Solstice. As the women were leaving on the last night, several asked, "What's Next?" Indeed. What was next?
Monthly healing sessions? Speakers? Divination? Another book study? I didn't know. What I did know was that sacred circles were involved and then, one day, it hit me. It was in the quiet of the kitchen when I was in the meditative state that the mundane task of washing dishes sometimes brings. Manifestation. A monthly manifestation circle. Big Magic.
Once again I created the event and sent out the call. I knew some of last fall's participants would not come. And, I knew their place in the circle would be filled by others. The call, an honest and sincere invitation, looked like this:
Through my years of spiritual study I have found that my energy is amplified and working at its highest level when done in the supportive circle of like-minded women. While metaphysical reasons abound, the reality is that sharing our hopes, dreams and visions with others in a meaningful way helps us to stay on target in our lives while weathering the storms that sometimes threaten to derail us from our course.
Over the next 12-months, you are invited to a monthly manifestation circle. Within the circle, you are welcome to share your own manifestation work - the successes and the failures - and will be supported along your journey to fulfill your personal work.
Each month we will share food and drink, work on a particular topic or challenge and create a visual reminder individual to each person's work.
On months of an Equinox or Solstice, we will move the meeting to coordinate with those dates for a deeper work of manifestation.
Little did I know when I spoke of storms derailing us, that one of the largest snowstorms in many years was to hit Nashville the weekend of our first gathering. No matter. We successfully rescheduled and truthfully, I think it will be an even larger gathering than initially planned. It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. It is also said that we often teach what we need to learn.
I am both teacher and student and am open to the guidance from above and from the women who are preparing to step into the sacred circle.
Watch for updates as we spiral through the year through the lens of manifestation. January's focus is visioning - creating your vision board as a visual representation of the goals you have set for the year.
There are two kinds of migraines in my world. The kind I can control and the kind I can't. I know, for many, if not most, folks, there is an idea that the onset of a migraine is completely out of your hands. But, is it? Really? There was a time I believed that as well. That all changed when I was in my late 20's and began walking the path of holistic healing by hiring local iridologist Brenda Starr determine the source of my chronic health problems which included constipation (since childhood), migraines, and various aches and pains.
For three months, Brenda prescribed a regime of supplements and a diet which eliminated wheat, gluten, dairy and pork. By the end of the time I had lost weight, cured my constipation and virtually eliminated my migraines. As soon as it was over I quickly went back to my old ways and my issues soon returned. I knew that the changes I had made were the "cures" to what ailed me but remained in denial for several more years.
Fast forward to about 2005 and I was still in a nasty cycle of digestive upset, migraines, sleep issues and more. I went away for 7 days for feng shui training and at the end of the week I asked for my health issues to be relieved and to be free from the things that caused me continued discomfort (note to self: ask for GENTLE release in the future). Boy, did I get what I asked for. Within 30 days I had severe abdominal pain and found myself in bed for approximately 3 days followed by several visits to my doctor which included a surgical scope to rule out anything serious. NOTHING. NADA. Following these procedures was an extreme yeast infection that cause temporary loss of taste and smell. Things were getting serious.
I knew my former spiritual teacher had opened a health and wellness center and was doing cleanses, colon therapy, foot baths, Reiki, you name it and I called her. Similar to what my iridologist had prescribed years prior, she put me on a cleansing regime. In addition, I went on an elimination diet. Not because she suggested it but because I could NOT TOLERATE most foods. I became vegetarian and gluten-free pretty much overnight - and it changed my life for good.
My migraines virtually disappeared, my gastro upsets and pains were eliminated. I've talked about this before when I have discussed being gluten-free. But, I have not told you the extent to which my migraines were alleviated by taking this road.
In 1999 my migraines were at their worst to the point that I became essentially paralyzed by one especially bad episode and my doctor ran scans to ensure that I had not suffered a stroke. Things continued this way on and off for years - until about 10 years ago in fact - and until I had the release that sent me into vegetarianism and the gluten-free world. This is when I realized that my migraines were largely a product of how I was living my life. Not completely. I want you to know that there are some types of migraines out of my control. But those daily, out of the blue, keeping me down migraines pretty much disappeared.
Now, let's get down to the details. I'm not going to be that person that says that EVERYTHING that works or does not work for me will work for you. But, I do want to say that for people with chronic health issues, sometimes getting extreme and sticking to it can work. So, for the two kinds of migraines:
1. Migraines I can control. These are the migraines that are food, stress or environmentally induced. Last Thanksgiving I made the conscious choice to eat Sister Shubert's yeast rolls at my hubby's family feast. In addition, I had cured pork and who the hell knows what else. I tried to limit my bad choices to those two things but as I decided to not bring my own food for once, I was at the mercy of those good Southern cooks. Based on the migraine that began the next day and lasted for three days, I would not be surprised to find out they had used chicken broth with MSG as well. (Migraine sufferers take note: MSG bad.)
KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS. I cannot state this enough. If you don't know where to start, do a Google search for common migraine triggers. I love onions. For years I thought it was odd that I would get a migraine after eating raw onions on a sandwich. Then, I finally found a list of common migraine triggers. Guess what? Raw onions is high on the list for most migraine sufferers.
Dehydration. DRINK WATER. This cannot be emphasized enough. I cannot tell you how many people I talk to about this and they insist they are hydrated, yet I NEVER see them with water. Sodas, teas, coffees, never water. They believe that drinking fluids hydrates them. Nope. I love my coffee and my decaf sweet tea, but the health benefits only go so far. Like all good things, too much coffee and tea actually dehydrates you and sodas are never a good choice (except when being bad and having pizza which means a migraine cycle).
Environmental triggers include perfumes or really fumes of any kind, cigarette smoke, diesel fumes. There are other environmental triggers as well. If you suffer from migraines, take note of your surroundings when they happen. Not everyone can control these things (for example, if you are a waitress in a bar), but if you can, eliminate these triggers from your life. On scents, I can use pure essential oils, but not all of them. Some well meaning essential oils trigger my migraines as well.
Lack of sleep and exercise. Burning the midnight oil? Guess what? If you are a migraine sufferer you are really doing yourself a disservice. Get 7-8 hours of sleep. Sleep goes both ways. Too much sleep can put you in a slingshot cycle and wreak havoc as well. Take a walk. I am a big believer in movement and vitamin D for good health and to keep chronic conditions at bay or at least manageable.
Stress. This one is tricky and is both controllable and uncontrollable. What makes stress controllable? Alleviating stressful situations (relationships, etc.) but more importantly, finding ways to MANAGE your stress (rest, reading a book, meditation, yoga, etc.) There is no one size fits all in stress management. Find what works for you and use it regularly.
2. Migraines I cannot control. There are essentially two kinds of migraines in my life that I cannot control plus an occasional third which I'll touch on briefly. I am loathe to say that there is something in my life out of my control. These uncontrollable migraines are weather induced (keep reading) and hormonally induced migraines that I get once a month when beginning my period. What do you do? I do what I can and just get through it. Water, good foods, rest, walking.....I usually have two bad days a month which is a big change from 15 to 20 bad days.
Pressure systems. What? Yes, pressure systems as in weather pressure. I live in a bowl in Nashville, Tn. We have the one of the highest migraine prescription rates in the ENTIRE nation. We are sitting in a unique place topographically speaking and regularly have two pressure systems lock horns directly over our fair city. About 4 times per year when we see EXTREME weather situations (like this week's 8-inches of snow), I get the migraine to end all migraines. In fact, that is why I sat down to write this post. I have suffered from a migraine on and off since Friday when the snow began. It took me about 2 days to realize what was causing this as everything else is great. Snow falling on Nashville.
And, here we are back to stress. It is an unavoidable aspect of life and can be out of our control. For example, last February my father had surgery which caused me severe stress. I am quite sure a migraine followed. Now, was the migraine stress induced? Or, was it the combination of things that accompanied that stress? Personally, I find that stress induced migraines go hand in hand with lack of sleep, poor diet choices due to things like running back and forth to the hospital, drinking caffeine to keep me going while making those long drives....see what I mean?
No one can promise full elimination of migraines. For those of us who suffer, it is often a tight-rope walking situation. But, what I can promise is that for those willing to go that extra mile and make some serious changes to your life, you can expect SOME relief. Find what works and make the change. You'll thank yourself later.
(This article is not intended to be a replacement for medical advice.)
Not once. Not twice. Not three times. But, FIVE times this week I have literally been stopped in my tracks. It all began on Tuesday. It was my turn to deliver a meal to friends whose daughter was on day 21 in the ICU due to complications from a risky heart surgery. I had arranged the entire day (including the delivery) around my son's schedule. (Note to self: my schedule is now the priority.) He had circus practice at 3:15 (yes, I said circus), a mandatory 8th grade parent meeting at 6:00 (only 1/2 of the parents showed - another note to self) and Scouts at 7:00. In the midst of all of that I had to deliver a meal and find a way to feed myself and the kids. As I left to pick up the Moon and deliver the meal I received a phone call that circus was cancelled. What? I really DESPISE last minute cancellations, especially when it meant we could have eaten at home instead of eating out which was really all we could do that night. After circumnavigating the city with the Moon, picking up the Sun and having dinner, I sat down to bitch to my fellow parent at the meeting and mid-way through the tirade I simply stopped. My conversation went from, "I am so frustrated" to.....
"I am SO grateful that I have a car to drive around the city, money to eat out tonight and healthy kids not lying in the hospital."
Did I mention my friend is the religious ed director for a large Episcopal church? Her reply was, "It's all a matter of perspective." Amen to that.
The week has continued in a similar vein. With on and off snow this week, the children have been home since Wednesday morning, which is when I got the call that a much older cousin's wife had died suddenly. This meant a Thursday afternoon trip to pick up my father and head out on a two hour drive to a rural Tennessee town for a funeral visitation in freezing rain which ended in dinner at Krystal's (see my next post on migraines in case you want to know how that ends). Her name was Pearlee and her daughter and I are close in age and spent time together during the long hot summers of my youth in Lawrence County - what I like to call God's country.
Friday morning brought another cold day and the blessed snow that we have all been waiting for. I say blessed because it was a blessing watching my hubby and the kids outside on and off all day playing in the 8-inches that piled up around our home. Normally I would be in the fray but the aforementioned migraine had a different plan for me. Throughout the day, as I counted my blessings - truly for I know that every day brings something new - I watched FB anxiously. Our friend whose daughter was in the ICU was rushed once again to surgery. Did I mention they are our friends that we had lost touch with (or my husband's friends I should say) then reconnected through the joys of adoption and the local Families with Children from China group? As I watched them try to get to the hospital and the updates on their FB page they posted another update about another family. A family who, coincidentally, brought home their daughter on the same plane from China on the same night last September. My friend's daughter came out of surgery alive and well once again. The other family were not so lucky.
I had felt all day that something was wrong. The funeral, the snow, my friend's daughter, the migraine...and now this. Seeing a family - who I truthfully do not EVEN know, lose their daughter made the evening long as I paced around, picking up things and putting them down. Trying to clean the kitchen but losing my focus for even that mundane task. Once again this week being stopped in its tracks.
And now, today, I once again wake with a migraine. I decided I could lay in bed and suffer or try to work a little and hope that my thoughts come out coherently. A friend posted on her FB page that she believed the snow was good as it has made us all take a break from regular life, rest, reconnect and play. Maybe being stopped in our tracks is a good thing. Maybe we need to put the breaks on more often which gives us the space to count our blessings.
“For today and its blessings, I owe the world an attitude of gratitude.” - unknown
(Affiliate links included.) Without sharing their story, as it is not mine to share, I want to tell you of a friend whose daughter was admitted to the hospital for a surgery and 21 days later is still there due to what appears to be a secondary infection in the intestines. I wish I could say this is the first time I have heard this story. A couple of years ago my MIL's friend went into the hospital for a hernia surgery and then was kept for an additional month due to a secondary intestinal infection which created septsis in her body.
My own stories (yes, stories) are similar. Each time I have had surgery (for my vascular malformation or my cesarean section), I have developed such intense illness in my gut that I wondered for years if it were just my own delicate system. No. No. No. It is the the challenge of how allopathic medicine addresses the tie between gut health and the overall health of the body.
I have had this conversation twice in the last week which is why I paid attention when I received Dr. Eric Z's email in my box this morning to the upcoming Heal Your Gut Summt. After promptly signing up, I decided this is worth sharing with my readers.
If you are wondering what the number one thing you can do to heal your body, to start today building a foundation - this is where you begin. Start healing your gut today!
I’m Dana Croy and I am a modern day mama. Balancing family and work is not always easy (not to mention a little self-care). Though being Mama to two fantastic kiddos is a huge part of my life, that was not always the case. I wear many other hats and invite to sit down and find harmony with me.