Considering the future . . . and planting a big one on its lips!

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Now that I’m standing at the bottom edge of the shining bridge called “middle-age” (a little bit tarnished, I must admit), I realize that before me are beautiful opportunities for more rites of passage, including my own. I look to the upcoming 21-year-old threshold for my daughter with excitement, smiling eyes, and hands rubbing together in creative scheming, but I also look ahead to my own fiftieth (only 2 years away) with rich anticipation.

When we honor ourselves, we pave the way for our children to learn to honor themselves as well. And I’m not talking about ego. I’m talking about honest to goodness self-realization- bursting onto the stage of the next milestone of our lives with bravery, not fear. Taking it by the horns, and then planting a big one on its lips and saying, “welcome!” Honoring is giving dignity and respect to something. And the turns in our lives deserve a little encouragement.

I hope you’re thinking about the upcoming milestones in your life with hope and anticipation. There’s someone standing behind you on the bridge watching, and he or she, daughter or son, is not only observing, but quietly urging you on.

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Blessing for a rite of passage, or frankly, anyone

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the element of heartfire, artwork by Gina Mammano Vanderkam

John O’Donohue, author of Anam Cara and many other indelible books has been a source of inspiration for me over the years. HIs work is deeply insightful. I encourage you to take this blessing deeply into yourself and into your children’s lives as you remember that each day with it’s surprises, it’s difficulties, and it’s opportunity for personal transformation can be a rite of passage:

A BLESSING

May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.

May the flame of anger free you from falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and may anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.

May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

~ John O’Donohue ~

Boys to men: “enough is as good as a feast”

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Sometimes a child is more ready for a small, satisfying meal than a banquet. This was true of my son at 18. A meaningful afternoon seemed a more fitting tribute to his growth and the contributions of his mentors, than a weekend away. By creating an event within the parameters of a limited time frame, it was important to think of how to pack those few hours with meaning and affirmation.

First came the guest list. By this time in his life, my son had connected with important people that were from both genders. I thought out of the box (of my usual gender specific rites of passage) and decided to choose men and women. Because he knew about the event, I checked in with him on this one, and he approved.

“What would make a rich impact at this time in his life?” I thought. What came to mind was for these loving and accomplished people to give him two things: an object that symbolizes transition, and a thought or two about who John is now and who they see him becoming. The wonderful and the wildly adventurous showed up: a carabiner that hooked meaning and connection on the side of a cliff for his step-dad and mentor, a bark covered journal brought lovingly from a friend’s native New Zealand to record John’s thoughts, an empty notebook to write down any question at this time in his life to share with a ready and willing mentor/friend, a savored movie that opened up the worlds of meaningful conversation and art and the hope it could do this for my son, too.

And that’s really all it takes. Time. Memory. Meaning. And an extension of ourselves. These are all it takes to set the table for another person’s soul.

Crossing the threshold: a poem marking a daughter’s 13th year

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April is National Poetry Month. Honoring a threshold for yourself or your child can be marked by writing a simple piece of poetry. Bittersweet. Insanely happy. Contentedly present. All are valid emotions and valid ways of marking the passages in our lives. Here’s one I wrote marking my daughter’s 13th year awhile back:

A Chunk of Me

walked out the door

with size 2 pants and a

skateboard shirt.

I don’t know how

to bring her back;

she will experience my world

in size 12-year-old thoughts,

I will experience hers

in size 39.

I reel back the invisible

fishing line

I’ve attached to her

ankles

in the hope of synthesizing

her soul back into mine,

but like all good fish,

she slips away.

– Gina Marie Mammano

First rite of passage reflection: collecting rite words

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a place for inspiration: afternoon light in a chapel in Plain, WA

On my search for the “rite” words to inspire me and others on this creative journey toward a meaningful mentored celebration for my daughter, I wish I would have come across this quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”

But I didn’t. There were pale samplings of written fare that spoke about painful rites practiced on girls over the centuries. There were interesting menstruation rituals I looked at quite shyly. And there were more luscious ceremonies like those in India where girls are given a new sari, sprinkled with fragrant water, and donned with a crown of flowers. But none of these were traditions embedded in our own experiences, our own culture (and at times, I admit I was grateful). I was looking for something not beautiful and borrowed, but something that resonated in the caverns of our own sense of places and spaces, here, where we are living.

Our culture, or at least my culture, didn’t have a precedent for rites of passage, so creating my own seemed like a good place idea. Perhaps my daughter would pass our new traditions on to her own daughter someday, and on and on until new traditions became established, familiar, even cherished ones. When you start from scratch on most anything, you have to  brush the top layers away until you get to rockbed. And rockbed for me was touched upon by asking these types of questions: what kind of gathering would allow for the sharing of stories to ease the pain of being alone in the adolescent years? what gifts of wisdom would be most worthwhile to Ginny? how can I craft an experience that allows her to walk away feeling loved, affirmed, and more clear-eyed in gazing at who she truly is? how can I provide a fun and exuberant release so our time together is not excessively heavy?

These questions and thoughts were the touchstones to ponder. They would help form the new words I’d be sculpting from. I would eventually collect and add others on: symbol, feasting, keepsake, music, blessing. I would look to these key thoughts to be my inspiration to hold closely in the desire to share extravagantly with my daughter the riches of being a woman at the nascency of this rare and precious journey.

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hand painted peace flags dancing in the wind

First rite of passage: fashioning the invitation

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hand-crafted love

How do you fashion love and admiration into a 4 x 6 piece of cardstock? That was my dilemma. I wanted the invitees to know via a well-crafted invitation the importance and thoughtfulness I was carefully ladling into this delectable event, as well as their treasured contribution. An invitation, as most of you probably already know, is more than the words cradled on the inside. Just like a tasty morsel before the celebratory feast, it is the well-placed appetizer. An intentioned, beautiful invitation will be savored. I know, I have a number of them still mingled with keepsakes floating around my house that I randomly pull out to gaze on and re-roll around in my mouth in happy memory.

When crafting a good appetizer, or a good invitation, it’s always important to think about what you want it to embody. In the case of this first rite of passage, I wanted it to taste like beauty, home, the rich textures of womanhood, with a hint of mystery. I know that sounds like a lot of ingredients for a little invitation, but the presentation, or the first blush of a project, often paves the way for the love and intentionality that goes into the rest. Each card was hand crafted (there were only 9; the last a keepsake for a possible memory book from the event). The expense was time, not materials. Paper scraps, juicy vintage photos (actually copies of them), and inexpensive trinkets were the main contributions. And though they took some time to complete, the joy in knowing that each one would fly off to a glad recipient was more than worth it.

As you can see, I took photos of each of these little art pieces to remember the look of them as well as their significance in the entre of this new path of creating threshold experiences for my daughter and others. With a little glue, a meaningful quote or phrase, and a warmth imbued in a hand-scrawled signature, they were off, as was my imagination to what their journey could eventually bring back to my door . . .

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vintage mentorship

A first rite of passage: gathering the women

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three generations of “us”- Ginny, mom, and me

I want to lay down some history here. The story of creating a first rite of passage for my 14 year old daughter has a long and rich beginning, so I’ve decided to spend the first 8 or so posts breaking it into bite sized pieces. Taste and enjoy!

Who to pick? Who to pick? So many lovely, intelligent, wise women. Who to pick? Who to pick? So many interesting, fun-loving, enlivening, historied women. Who to pick? It was Ginny’s first rite of passage (and mine as well), and the criteria was slowly starting to form in my mind.

  • She has to be somebody Ginny enjoys as a person.
  • She has to be somebody Ginny looks up to in some way, conventionally, or unconventionally.
  • She has to be someone that Ginny could learn something from.
  • She has to be someone who loves Ginny- who really loves Ginny.

There were women who could fill out that list from so many places: close family, long time friends, spiritual mentors, women from our arts group, etc., but I wanted to limit myself to 9, including me. Not all the juicy, wonderful women I knew could participate in this round, but I knew that these amazing women in Ginny’s life could be included in another way that she would also deeply cherish (coming up in an upcoming blog entry!)

So I began with choosing my mother. Having the three generations of Cornett/Mammano/Schneider girls, growing together from the same family tree, all together at this event would be very special. And feeling held by her closest predecessors, would be a kind and loving act. I next thought of Ginny’s godmother, Tricia. She knew Ginny while I was housing her in my maternity clothes, she carted her in a backpack around Victoria, BC at 8 months, and she had been rooting for her with so much vigor and intention throughout her growing years. My thoughts then went to Sharon. Dear, dear friend who knew how to live out intellect, playfulness, and soulfulness, and had done just that in Ginny’s presence. Karmyn was always a favorite with both of my children. She knew how to embrace life with all of the joy, energy, and enthusiasm a human being could muster. She would definitely teach Ginny something valuable.

Her “Auntie Maril,” an honorary aunt in our little world embodied place, grace, and a combination of refinement and homespun beauty. She was a woman who was often an encouragement and a comfort in our lives. Next was Nancy. Through Montage, an artist’s group I have been a part of for nearly two decades, Ginny had been exposed to the incredible beauty, love, and wisdom of Nancy and her husband, Drew. She admired Nancy’s skill and creativity and would enjoy having her as part of this gathering. And last, but definitely not least, our friend and a-couple-of-neighborhoods away neighbor, Valerie. At the time, Valerie was somewhat of a newcomer in our lives, but I had known since the moment I met her that she was quality. She was a bright, funny, strong woman- an inspiration and a voracious reader! I now had my nine . . . I just had to ask them . . .