Deep Soul Stories at the 2014 Goddess Conference

Jennifer McCormack, Gold Coast CelebrantThis year I will be presenting a 3 hour workshop at the annual GAIA Goddess Conference in Sydney. The theme for the Goddess Conference this year is “The Wellspring”, a theme that gave me delighted shivers when I heard it. This theme is well suited to my work with story, and with those attending my workshop at the Conference we will be gently stirring and peering into the wellspring of our creativity and inner guidance to form our own Deep Soul Stories.

Storytelling has always been a creative expression of mine – mostly with children, but more often in the last few years my storytelling has found therapeutic and creative expression for adults. In the Sacred Essence Women’s Circles with Melissa Joss, through private sessions, creative arts, and through my work as a Celebrant we have explored stories of grief, death, guilt, exhaustion, motherhood, inspiration, relaxation, celebration, vision-building … stories connect us, confirm our experience, inspire us to grow, reveal possibilities, give permission to feel big feelings …

mother-tigerLH

Will we finish the session with a written, fully-formed story? Maybe not, three hours is a long creative session, but some stories take time. At the end of this workshop, though, we will have learned to companion each other in the creative process, collaborated and supported each other to draw out threads of the story that wants to be told. We will have plenty of material upon which to build our self-stories, and will have an idea of where this story wants to take us. This is a workshop that is focused on process rather than solution – by being open to the creative process and by using the skills of companionship, empathic listening and creative representation, the wisdoms we need will begin to take form.

MedusaLHI will be sharing a few of my own stories with you in this session too – would you like to read some now? This one, “The Woman Who Went Inside“, goes a little into the process of creative companionship that we will explore in the workshop. This one, “The Mother, The Great Mother, and the Stranger“, was read at the Goddess Conference last year to honour the passing of one of our own, our friend and priestess.

I will also holding space at the Conference as a Mother of the Venus de Willendorf Clan. I am looking to meeting the women who will gather with me for ceremony, ritual and sisterhood. Many blessings, see you at the conference :)

Greeting the Snake 2

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Lavendilly Storytime: Why the Swamp Hen Has a Red Beak

Autumn Leaf Fairy3We spend a lot of time hanging together down by the creek. We play and we explore there, never really with much of a plan. Our story times often unfold while we sit together doing nothing much more than just watching and listening. We call to the river to tell us a story, and then we look around, and listen carefully to find it. The story then appears in a natural and collaborative way between myself, the children and the place we are in.

A few weeks ago, after a morning of delightful unstructured play and wandering down by the creek with my 4 year old daughter, we sung our Story-calling Song to the river, and then it answered in a most delightful way. One of those rushes of wind came hurtling up the river from a distance and when it blew by us, little leaves swirled all around us. There was a story there, but what was it? It sure wanted to be told. My daughter listened for a moment before saying that it wanted to tell us the story of the swamp hen. We didn’t know what the story was yet, and so we watched the swamp hens nearby so that we could find out.

The swamp hens were stepping carefully with their long toes on the lawn near the bank, and digging with their red beaks in the grass. Stepping and digging, stepping and digging. Their purply and deep blue feathers shone in the sun. Unhurried, peaceful, purposeful. Other hens were paddling in the water, and one dived right under and disappeared for a moment before shooting out of the water again like a rocket. We found this most interesting! And so we started talking about what we saw, and why we thought the swamp hens were doing these things.

My daughter had a lot of theories about what these waterbirds were doing. We wondered why they were pecking the grass – she thought they were eating the “moisture” (moys-cha), which, it turns out, she thought was lovely dark dirt. I wondered, if maybe they might be nibbling at some roots or grubs that live in the “moisture”. We wondered how they could swim when they were birds – she thought they must kick with their long toes. We wondered why the swamp hen whooshed out of the water so quickly – she thought the eels might have bitten it on the nose because it had been rude.

AH! That explains why it has a red beak!

And there we found the story. It just came, and we told it while we tried to copy the swamp hen’s movements. Have you stepped like waterbird? Stepping slowly while lifting knees and pointing toes at the same time takes balance! When we got home we looked up swamp hens in our bird book and on the computer and discovered that they DO eat the grasses and soft roots of plants near the river, and they DO sometimes attack eels (known as jurun in Yugambeh Language) – but no one knows why.

Well, we do! Here’s why:

WHY THE SWAMP HEN HAS A RED BEAK

Lavendilly Swamp Hen

Purple Swamp Hen was swimming in the shallow water of the river, looking for some food. It dived down under the water and swam about for a moment, before popping back up for a breath.

It was a beautiful bird with shiny, purply and dark blue feathers, and long, long toes that it could use to pick up food, or to swim for short distances under water. It was a neat bird, a tidy one, and it liked the way its  sleek feathers glimmered in the sunlight. Swamp Hen stepped carefully so that it would never get dirty.

Eel saw Swamp Hen swimming underwater one day. “What are you doing, swimming in my river, bird?”

Swamp Hen replied, “I’m just looking for a little food. There are some delicious delicacies here in this river. Have you tried the snail? What about these little fish? Those are delightful, but you have to be quick to catch them.”

Eel said “Only I am fast enough! This is my river and you cannot fish here! I am Jurun! I am king here.”

Swamp Hen looked Eel up and down, then rudely said, “What are you? You are too slimy to be a fish and too fat to be a snake. You couldn’t possibly be king of the river! Not like I, with my shiny feathers and graceful toes. Perhaps I should be king.”

This boasting from Swamp Hen made Eel so cross, it rushed forward and bit Swamp Hen on the beak. Swamp Hen got such a fright it whooshed straight out of the water like a rocket! Its poor beak was bright red and sore!

And that is why Swamp Hen now much prefers to spend its time stepping carefully and only using its beak to dig in the softer parts of the grasses and plants that grow by the water. Sometimes when its beak is feeling really red and sore, it uses its toes to lift up soft plants and shoots, rather than to bend down and dig. And it never spends long underwater, in case it meets Eel again.

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Professional Development for Parents (Creative, Supportive, Effective)

create logo transparent general webPart of my work with children and families is with Create & Relate, an organisation dedicated to quality early childhood education and well-being for children and families. Together with my colleague Melissa Joss, we present the Effective Parenting Weekend, among other workshops, to support family and individual well-being.

The EP Weekend is not your typical parenting course. We do not offer tips and tricks for sticky parenting situations. We do not offer advice and how-tos, nor are we trying to sell a philosophy or style of parenting. Our intention for the weekend is to support parents so they may make these decisions for themselves. We guide parents within their unique family experiences, provide support, offer new ways of thinking about parenting, and new ways of being present to life with children.

Effective Parenting 1C&R

Our work is underpinned by a framework, upon which to build family life, as these new ways unfold. This framework has been informed by our experience as educators, researchers and parents, and in our course we aim offer it in support of all aspects of family life:

PRE-PARENTING– Foundations of Effective Families
PRESENT-TIME PARENTING – Living the Family Life in this Moment
PRO-PARENTING – Proactive Family Solutions
SELF CARE – Effective Parenting Essentials

cropped-effective-parenting-montage1.jpg

Our content is grounded in current early childhood and neuroscience research, and has been developed through our own experience and knowledge as early childhood teachers, creative arts therapists and parents. Some of the processes we offer include the following:

♦ Understanding individual needs and developmental stages of growth and learning

♦ Learning the importance of considered planning for family life

♦ Clarification of family values and the creation of a family mission statement, unique to each family

♦ Strategies for support and balance within family roles

♦ Strategies for being mindfully present, positive and proactive in overwhelming situations

♦ Communication skills including empathetic listening, effective conversations, reflection and evaluation, proactive decision-making.

♦ Awareness of our own personal journey as parents and the importance and practical applications of Self Care.

Living Values Tree 1 C&R

In addition to Effective Parenting we offer the following services which have evolved from the course itself, to further support parents in more specific ways:

Refresher Course – this is a one-day workshop for families who have already attended Effective Parenting and wish to continue reflecting upon and developing their family framework, values and skills in a supported group.

Living Values – This is a two-part workshop that stems from the Effective Parenting Framework we offer on the first day of our course. We support parents in the process of clarifying values and developing a specific family mission statement. The creative component of this workshop involves representing these values and visions on canvas so they may be a visual part of the family home and culture.

Parenting the Anxious Child with Mindfulness and Creativity – supporting parents in the process of understanding and working with their children’s high needs in a creative and mindful way. Some creative arts therapy skills are taught so that parents can support their children in creating their own proactive, calming and self-help strategies for moments of high anxiety.

Private Parent Mentoring Sessions – These professional sessions are offered by Jennifer, as individual support for parents to work through the content of the Effective Parenting Framework offered in the course. Jennifer draws upon her extensive experience as an early childhood teacher and parent of three, along with her training in creative arts therapy.

Creative Arts Therapy Sessions for adults and children – These professional sessions are offered by Melissa, a registered and experienced creative arts therapist, early childhood teacher and parent of two, from her private arts studio in Highland Park. Creative arts therapy is an experiential style of psychotherapy/counselling, using a rich variety of arts, including drawing, painting, sculpture, music, movement, play therapy, and more, to support clients through their own creative and emergent process of self awareness and inspired change. Melissa specialises in working with parents and children within a wide range of familial and personal challenges.

Self Care Retreats – Our vision behind offering retreats for mothers in the community is to give parents a very affordable and flexible attendance opportunity to take some much needed time out; to unwind, relax, gain the support of community and learn some effective self care habits.

Silkwood School, in Mt Nathan on the Gold Coast is hosting the Effective Parenting Weekend this term, on September 13 and 14. It will be the fifth time it has been offered to the Silkwood community since we first approached the school in 2012. To book in for the Effective Parenting Course, or any other event, please contact us at Create & Relate:

Jennifer McCormack & Melissa Joss
info@createandrelatearts.com

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Just down the river (shoo lie loo)

I’m really enjoying the song “Shoo Lie Loo” by Elizabeth Mitchell. It came to me as a gift just this week in the form of her cd Sunny Day. I recommend it as part of your collection of music for children – joyful songs, great rhythms, real music that appeals to a child’s world. The whole cd feels like adults and children alike had fun making it. “Shoo Lie Loo” has everything my children love: a catchy tune that won’t drive you nuts, simple lyrics that can be adapted, a celebration of childhood. I promise you’ll love it. There’s a clip of it at the end of this post, showing the circle game that goes with it.

Autumn Leaf Fairy3My children and I adapted this song yesterday when we went down to the river – it just burst out when we started taking note of all the bird life we have down there. We live on a quiet part of the Nerang river – just about the point where the water turns brackish and is just a little tidal still. It is more like a creek where we are, with mostly low ankle-deep water running over smooth rocks and soft weeds.

It is an interesting environment with SO MANY interesting birds. It is a very exciting event when we spot the pelican that comes to visit every now and then! It is quite odd, seeing a pelican paddling upon our quiet creek. Once my husband watched an eagle fishing, and I’ve been delighted by the flash of brilliant blue from a kingfisher.

Once we started singing, we just kept thinking of more and more birds we have seen in our area and of course we started to make a list. Our next thought is to take a photo of each of the birds and make a poster or a guide-book of our own with them

Our song goes like this:

This cheeky little one landed in our backyard and lived with us for about a month before flying away again.

This cheeky little one landed in our backyard and lived with us for about a month before flying away again.

Just down the river (shoo lie loo)

To see who lives here (shoo lie loo)

Hey Cockatoo (shoo lie loo)

Fly away over yonder (shoo lie loo)

Our song went on and on with willy wagtail, swamp hen, eagle, magpie, butcher bird, galah, ibis, pelican …. the little ones and I danced in a circle, spinning around with our arms out as we flew away over yonder. So much fun.

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New Places in Our Garden

This post, Places in our garden, was from my old home, where I was offering a weekly playgroup. It was a rental home in an estate, and we were quite lucky to be able to play with it, and in it, in such a creative way. Of course it all had to be dismantled and cut back when we left.

We have a new home now – a permanent one. It is a home that came with an established and very beautiful garden full of flowering plants, including a rose garden and lush lawn out the front, flowering natives and seasonal trees out the back. With no back fence, our backyard runs into the common land on our estate, and flows in a gentle grassy slope right down to a quiet creek at the back.

We have put in a vegetable garden, added a tree house and cubby house, and enjoyed the experience of having a deciduous tree in our back yard (FALLEN LEAVES!!! How much fun are LEAVES??)

Now – to create a playscape ….. We want a butterfly garden and a fairy garden and a dinosaur garden. I want a herb garden and more fruit trees …. oh and a native beehive …

I’m not really a gardener, but I am an artist, and the children and I do enjoy creating new spaces. Caring for those spaces is part of the fun.

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Stories and Storytelling

I’ve updated my collection of stories. All the stories I’ve posted on the blog are now listed here on one page for you to find. There are stories for children, stories for adults, therapeutic stories and birthing stories.

You may also be interested the following storytelling services:

  • Story Commissions -If you would like your birth story transformed into a tale to share with your children, or if you are seeking some clarity and acceptance with your birth experience I can help you to gently and lovingly re-tell your story in a way that celebrates you, your child and your shared birth.
  • Storytelling Workshops – for an interested group of parents, or for early childhood educators, our storytelling workshop covers practical skills for sharing stories, therapeutic benefits of storytelling, story construction and how stories can be used to create a sense of belonging in your group – to each other, to the class, to the environment. A great practical and inspiring workshop for any who live or work with young children.
  • Deep Soul Story Sessions - these are a creative enquiry into your own experience to draw out themes and threads from your own wellspring of creativity, inspiration and wisdom. Deep Soul Story Sessions can be an introduction to your own storywriting or felt-making expression.
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Lavendilly Story Time: The Ringing Bell

Little Garden FaerieThis is the story of my Little One’s caesarean birth. I wrote this to tell at her 4th birthday party, although I told a simplified version. My Little One sat on her birthday pillow, inside the silk rainbow circle, and I told this story with only a little bell as a prop in the story. At the end I put a rainbow necklace with a bell on it over her head. She felt so special.

THE RINGING BELL

Written by and Copyright to Jennifer McCormack, July 2014

In a little house by a creek there lived a family of fairies. There was Mumma and Daddy fairy, and Brother and Sister fairy. Mumma was a water fairy, Daddy was a wind fairy, Brother was a fire fairy and Sister was a song fairy. They were happy together, each one unique, each one interested in different things, but all living harmoniously together.

One day Mumma thought she heard the jingling of a little bell. It was only faint, but it jingled on and off all day. “Do you hear that?” she asked Daddy. Daddy couldn’t hear it at first, but after a while, if he listened carefully, he could make out the sweet faint jingling sound.

It wasn’t long before Brother and Sister could hear it too, and the sweet jingling, ringing sound grew louder every day. “I know what it is,” said Mumma Fairy, “a new little fairy is going to join our family!”

The whole family heard the jingling sound for many months. Some days it was strong, and some days it was soft. Sometimes they heard it at night, and at other times it woke them up in the morning. “Sweet Little One,” they would say, “when are you coming?”

Day after day the fairy family would make their home ready for their new Little One, and the ringing grew louder and louder! Everyone was very excited.

But one morning Mama Fairy woke up because the jingling sound wasn’t loud. It was very soft, and it didn’t ring very often. As the morning went on, the sound stopped all together. Mumma could feel her Little One in her heart, and deep inside her womb she knew her baby fairy would be coming today, but she couldn’t hear the clear ringing of her Little One’s bell at all! This worried her.

“Oh dear!” thought Mumma Fairy, “I need some help! It’s time for our baby fairy to come, but it seems to have gone away. Come little fairy, come! Wake up Little One!”

They all tried to use their talents to help their Little One come. Mumma the water fairy rocked and danced like the gentle waves of a river. Daddy the wind fairy spoke words of wisdom and bravery, encouraging Little One (and Mumma) to not be afraid. Brother the fire fairy used his fire talent to make their home warm and welcoming. Sister the song fairy sang to their Little One a song of love and joy, calling for the sound of the bell. But no bell could be heard. All was still and quiet.

They needed some more help. Daddy called a Healer Fairy to come and help them call their Little One in.

The Healer Fairy listened to Mumma’s story, and listened carefully for the bell. She put her hands on Mumma Fairy’s belly and gently called out to the Little One:

“Baby Fairy ring your bell, 

Jingle, tinkle, ring it well!

Your birthing day has begun

Come join your family, Little One”

All was still, even their house was quiet, as everyone listened carefully for the ringing, jingling sound. Still the baby fairy’s bell remained silent. The Healer Fairy told Mumma and Daddy that she would need some more help, and they would need to visit the Great Healing Hall because the magic was powerful there, where lots of healer fairies worked together.

Many fairies were already waiting at the Great Healing Hall. They were singing and chanting together, songs of love and birth and healing and the music entered the Healing Hall on sweet drifting strands. Mumma and Daddy Fairy heard their friends sing and felt strong, brave and loved. The many voices making music together was part of the healing magic. The healer fairies gathered around Mumma and Daddy and called to the Little One to ring her bell … and … after a while:

A faint, sweet jingling. There it was! They could all hear it!

The healing fairies rested their wands on Mumma Fairy’s brow and asked her “Are you ready for your Little One to come?” Mumma held Daddy’s hand. She was ready. They were all ready.  It was time and they could hardly wait.

The healing fairies rested their wands upon Mumma Fairy’s heart and asked her “Are you ready to receive your Little One with love and openness, however your Little One arrives?” Mumma Fairy was ready. Her heart was now bursting with the sound of her Little One’s bell. A soft feeling, almost like sleep swept over her as she relaxed, ready to receive.

The healing fairies rested their wands at Mumma Fairy’s womb and asked her “Are you ready to open the door, to help your Little One come through?” Mumma Fairy was ready. She put her hands on her womb and listened for the ringing, jingling bell. She could hear it and feel it growing stronger. She whispered the Healing Fairy’s special words to the Little One over and over:

“Baby Fairy ring your bell, 

Jingle, tinkle, ring it well!

Your birthing day has begun

Come join your family, Little One”

The fairies outside the Great Healing Hall kept singing and chanting. Daddy Fairy and Mumma Fairy held each other, and held their breath with anticipation. They could hardly wait to meet their Little One. The healing fairies drew a line with fairy magic across Mumma Fairy’s womb with their wands, and a door opened. From this door came a bridge of rainbow light – and a loud clear ringing sound filled the room as a little baby Rainbow fairy came through the door, lifted over the bridge of coloured light, helped by the healing fairies, landing snuggly in Mumma Fairy’s arms. Their Little One was perfectly well, perfect in every way, and slept in Mumma’s arms safe and sound, ringing gently as she breathed.

The healing fairies waved their wands again and as the door in Mumma’s womb was magically closed, the bridge of rainbow light disappeared. All was still, all was quiet, and cloaked in peace. Only the sound of singing from the fairies outside of the Great Healing Hall drifted in through the windows. Everyone smiled.

Brother and Sister Fairy were delighted to meet their sister, Little Rainbow Fairy , and they took turns holding her and talking to her. Brother Fairy warmed her and Sister Fairy sang to her.

“You silly little fairy,” crooned Mumma,” We were worried about you, and here you are, perfect in every way. If this is the way you come into our family, I can see that you will have plenty more adventures, and come out of them just fine every time.”

And do you know, that’s exactly what happened. Four years have passed, and the Little Rainbow Fairy still wakes up every day, ringing and jingling happily, finding adventure every where she looks.

* * *

She was a plannedLittle One's Birthday Ceremony. LH home birth, but it seems our Little One had something else in mind. In the end we went to hospital because our baby was very quiet and still, with a faint heart beat. It just so happened that on this same day many of my friends and community were outside the hospital attending a rally in support of the re-opening of the Gold Coast Hospital Birth Centre. They were singing and chanting together and I could hear them from my room. It gave me great comfort to know they were outside while I was inside with my husband and our two wonderful midwives, who were really looking after me. Caesarean was exactly what we were trying to avoid, but in this case I felt supported in the decision to go ahead.

In the end our Little One was perfectly fine, the little cheeky little thing. A picture of perfect baby health. We have just celebrated her fourth birthday and she has grown into a bright, cheery and chatty little thing – always ready for the adventure each day brings.

I thought that I had already processed her birth, and found myself ok with how it unfolded, despite our worry about her at the time, and my very ordinary recovery after surgery … but writing this story brought me more joy on another level, and I found a new kind of acceptance and peace with my experience. I hope, if you have experienced an unplanned cesarean, that you find some solace and beauty in my story too.

You may be interested to read more about my reflections of this experience:

A Mother Blessed – a poem about my unplanned caesarean birth (this one!)

Cold Birth: Reclaiming my Labour – my immediate reflections about this birth and my thoughts about what it was like to give birth without labour.

xx Jennifer

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