Thursday, November 13, 2014

The new way to keep time

I have been trying to write my friend (okay, honestly, I've been trying to write about 7 friends) for a month. Like a real letter. Or I'd even accept an email. I got a new job, my schedule shifted, my brain shifted, my kid shifted and even my husband shifted.
I haven't been able to sit down and really focus and write a heartfelt letter in so long.
I remember the days fondly when I used to do that and I long for them now.

But I'm a parent now. A working parent. A working parent with a happy marriage.

So I don't have the same kind of time that I used to have. The same 24 hours exist, but they have shifted. We go to bed at 9p (yep!) so we can get up at 5a (yep!). Our child is in bed by 8:15p. That gives us an hour to sometimes eat, catch up, clean the kitchen, reconcile our expenses, coordinate our schedules, do laundry, prep lunches and "unwind."

*I've been writing for 3 minutes and now have to get up, because my family has just come home, just to give you an idea of how much time I actually have to write*

Mind you, I'm just talking about writing a letter. I didn't really want to even broach the subject of seeing the people I love in-person. Seems like more than a struggle.

A friend just texted me if this is what adult friendship looks like now. And I was stumped. Is it? Or is it just me? Another friend of mine has two kids and lives far away and the idea of either of us having time to truly talk on the phone and catch up (or really, more accurately, weigh in, support, share honestly about our lives, etc.) seems like a total pipe dream now.

But back to the title of this entry: The new way to keep time.

Here's what I'd like to try:

I don't talk to my close friends as much, but the closeness for me isn't lessened. It may *feel* that way or even look that way, but how can I possibly explain that their spirits just hang around me and when I walk down the street - alone-, I am actually talking to them, laughing with them, shoving them lovingly, giggling, pointing out outfits and hot people and generally "connecting" in a very different way now?

If I could text all my friends (I know, a really poor way of connecting for a lot of people, but for me, it works) when I thought of them, then I'd seem a bit insane. But I have 30 seconds for a text. What I hate is that the in-depth conversation I had with one of my friends the other day was while I drove to another city, and had to hang up abruptly because I needed to park and I hadn't even barely checked in. It was emotionally frustrating to leave the conversation in that kind of process lurch, but if I wanted to stop playing phone tag, I had to get a bluetooth hooked up (ugh) and call during my drive.

Okay, I realize this isn't an experiment, as much as it's a re-frame of time. It used to be that hours equaled the amount of love I had for a friend (not really, but it felt that way). That can't work anymore because I am constantly suffering from the idea that I am choosing one person over after day. It's not that way. Some friends I think of at 3am, after a bad dream. I imagine what they'd say and how they'd comfort me. Other times, I hear the echoes of my friend's voice telling me to slow down, be nicer to myself, and to appreciate how awesome I am. I'm confident it's her voice and not mine. So I take that as "connection" time.

Another several of my friends are new parents and if time spent with me equaled the state of our friendship then I suppose I'd have to consider the friendship in a coma, at best. But I don't want to think that. I want to reach them outside the bounds of time and space, so I can still connect with them.

Other friends don't have kids and I am struggling with the idea that I can't be with them like I used to be. And I know they have no problem with my kids coming over or hanging out, but honestly, I do! I don't want to take precious time with them and add my kid to that! I want alone time with them!

What about my husband? We have to wake up at 5am so that we can have alone time together. And that time is just so we can ground, check-in, appreciate each other, and make sure we know what's going on in the other's life. We're too beat to do it at night, and before K gets up is just the best time. But from 5-7a I want to cram in: time with hubby, writing time, art time, writing to my friends, showering, dressing, taking care of bills, and maybe a few facebook checks (which are lessening because I just don't have the mental space).

So how do adults with busy lives (kids, travel, atypical jobs, etc) stay friends? Do we need to restructure the conditions? Write more texts? Be satisfied with smaller hangout periods? Wake up earlier?
I don't know the answer.

In the meantime, I am trying to check-in with folks as much as I can, even if it's in between appointments or on the train to/from work. Sometimes I just write them quick poems and forward them along. I just have to keep reminding myself that I'm looking at a new way to keep time...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mama really lets go

I have about six posts in draft form...waiting for editing, perfecting, proofreading, etc. This is my style. I run to write down my thoughts...sometimes extreme ones that need a day or two to percolate...and then I edit and release.

With a book, it's different. It takes a lot more words, a lot more editing, a lot more nail-biting and anxiety, and even then I'll find something to keep me from publishing. A book is so...PERMANENT.

But, kind readership, I have finally published the book. The first book. I tell people I can't write a second book until I write a first. So it has to be published, right? It's on Amazon. In one day it sold 14 times. I'm surprised and delighted. I finally let go of a big one.

Here's the link: Dear Artist 

It's about my process of creativity and calling myself an artist (really, I'm calling all of you artists, too). I was nervous to share about it and promote it, thinking myself too arrogant if I did that. But I was reminded by a dear friend that sometimes letting go of something (sharing the truth or a good idea or authentic feelings) is a SERVICE to others. Who am I to keep that to myself? What if my words comfort, save, relieve, inspire, and encourage others? I would be a horribly self-centered person if I DIDN'T share if that were the case. And it's not my job to dictate that. I really don't have the biggest picture (in the universe).

The book is done. It's out there. Now I can get to writing the second one. Which may have nothing to do with the first. Maybe the next one will be about parenting. Or plants. Or furniture...

Anyway, I wanted to share here because it was a HUGE thing to let go of that book and release it to the world. It's vulnerable and scary and unknown (the top three reasons I don't like letting go, of course). If I've learned anything, it's that letting go leads to freedom most of the time or growth or both.

Check out the book. You can look at a sample if you're not sure it's for you. But give yourself a chance. It could be something that inspires you to write your own book, or create your own stuff,

Sunday, September 28, 2014


A friend of mine just had a baby a week ago and I have been thinking back to those times when K was newborn. I stare at my 3T toddler, just a few weeks over 2 years old, and I think back at the comments people shared about "time going by so fast."

Honestly, sometimes the time crawls. Like at 3am, when a screaming fit erupts because a beloved toy is lost in the blankets (why don't all toys glow in the dark?), and going back to sleep seems near impossible.

But other times, all I'm doing is folding clean laundry and I hold up something that K has worn for months and by some strange motherly gift, as I'm folding it, I sense that its dimensions no longer fit my son. I look at the tag, "18-24 mos," and that's when time speeds up. Instead of putting the item away, like I've done 20 times before, it goes into a box filled with the past of my child. A hat that's too small, a pair of socks that no longer fit, a pair of jeans with blown out knees from probably 15 kids before wearing the same piece of clothing.

Time flies when a mispronounced word is one day, all of a sudden, pronounced correctly. Or when a "yesterday" arrives in a sentence and I think, "What? How does K know about yesterday? How is he already conscious of time?" I think of my friend and I don't want to tell her time flies...she already knows that, even with a one week old baby. What I want to tell her is that during the folding of laundry and breakfast and in the car, her child is growing and sponging it all in. Our children have holidays and birthdays to mark time, too, of course. But those don't mark enough moments for me.

One night, everyone just sleeps through the night and then magically, you can't remember when it started happening and when you got some sanity. One day your child asks for salad and doesn't immediately spit it up on the plate. One day, your child magically says "please" and "thank you" without your prompting and you only realize it because you didn't hear the echo of your mother out loud when obliging a request.

We get notes home each day from K's school and sometimes, if it weren't for those, I wouldn't know what sort of things my kid was capable of doing. And I admit, when I see some competency, my first thought is "Oh no, he's growing some more," and not "Oh wow, he's learning so much!" They are so spongy there's isn't enough time to learn about what they are learning. I keep pointing things out to my husband because if I didn't, we'd miss all the subtle changes and just call him 2 years old, instead of 24 months, one day.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What do parents need?

As a parent, I know that alone time gets a new meaning and importance. We will take the walk from the carseat around to the driver's side (thanks, Louis CK) as alone time. We'll take the grocery store trip, the car wash, and the line at the DMV as alone time. It's all perspective.

I get enough alone time. And the alone time I do get actually makes me a bit anxious (it gives me too much time to think of things I might be forgetting, failing, doing wrong, etc.).

But I had this thought when I was talking with other mom friends (apparently, it's thought that this is a mom-only concept...although, I encourage any dads I know to pipe up and talk about it in the comments!):

I've had a lot of alone time.

When my dad died when I was six, I felt really alone.

When I was single and without a loving, supportive, awesome partner, I felt pretty alone.

When I had trouble making friends as weird kid, I felt alone.

In fact, I think I've probably had more alone time than I could ever want in a lifetime. I know, it's not the same thing. But honestly, it's perspective. Do I want to enjoy a movie in peace sometimes? Sure. But I think I need to make sure that I'm not constantly seeking alone time. I need to make sure that I am balancing time to myself and time with my family so that I don't feel like I haven't had time out or a break.

I love my family. Heck, I love YOUR family (yes, that's how many extroverts feel). I love the memories and the laughter and yes, even (sometimes especially) the tears. I love when my in-laws say that extended time with my child allows them to get to know him better...because that's the same for me too. I'm not a stay at home parent (so I also grasp that this plays into "time alone") so time with my kid can be interesting and challenging. But I had to learn that sleep counts for me (a well-rested mama can be your best friend!) as alone time. And that I needed to ask friends to watch (or listen to K cry...) when I needed a bath (and to ask for their tub, too). I also need to look at what I love about not being alone. I don't mind sharing the bathroom, or being woken up early sometimes. I do need to make sure that what I need protected stays protected, so that my kid knows how I stay sane, he knows that he is allowed to protect his time and space, and so I know what might be contributing to a foul mood.

This is a good conversation to have with a partner or extended family because I hear a lot of parents sacrificing alone time because they have no options, they forget, they don't have enough energy, etc. If I want to successfully have another child, I need to keep paying attention to this. Living in community is great too, if that's something that's clearly understood. Not all communitarians are extroverts or love kids, though!

Anyway, I digress.

My point is that I just need to make sure that I get what I need to help me feel balanced. I am not particularly trapped by not getting absolute alone time. For me, it's enough time to eat well. I also need time outside in the sun, time with my family (I NEED this and feel really horrible when I don't see or hear from my siblings and parents!). Getting your needs met (for both parents) is key. If you need alone time, find out how to get it. If you need 5 meals a day, find out how to plan for that. Teaching our kids that life goes on (and usually better) when we meet our needs is a great lesson. A hard one for sure, but a really great one.

So while I don't feel my alone time is that threatened, I am getting more and more clear about what I do need, so that I can be as present as possible when my kid waltzes into the bathroom, with no concept of privacy or "alone time."

Mama, let go

By now, if you're paying attention, you know that I don't like mess. It's not that I'm not messy, but I don't like it. I don't like crumbs (ack!) or spills or stains. You get the picture.

Yesterday was a rough day for this mama. K is frequently in underwear now, and usually makes it to the potty on time. But not yesterday. He had two accidents in the morning (!) and I KNOW I'm not supposed to get upset, but humans, being what they are (imperfect), I got so angry. I had to go scream in another far away room, I was so angry. In addition to the mess, there was a trail of oatmeal on the rug, pen marks, and a bunch of other toddler territorial markings. I was fed up (also, I wasn't feeling well).

I yelled. I'm not proud to admit it. I know my kid isn't even two, doesn't really get my annoyance at stains and mess, and frankly can't exactly control his bladder yet. I KNOW this. But a part of me felt out of control (ya think?) and out came the loud voice. Which of course K was scared of. Oh, that look of horror is enough to get a person in the deepest place in their heart. Crap. I was the yell-y mom. I sort of had yell-y parents. Not really, but I remember a few times. I remember it not working. I remember it scaring me.

But then K did something that got under my skin AGAIN and I think he saw the steam coming out of my ears and said, "Mama, no angry." That got me. Double crap. My kid was basically asking me not to get angry. I felt pure shame right then. I immediately apologized and hugged him tight, and explained as best as I could that it wasn't fair of me to get angry at him about things he couldn't control. I told him I wasn't feeling well, and I was frustrated. He said, "Yeah." Then he proceeded to talk about the yelling all day. Sad. A friend of mine who's a therapist had this to say about repeating a trauma over and over to work through it. Yep, we did that. We talked about it to papa, too.

I don't want to hang out in shame too much because that's not what K's intention is. He's two. He's recognizing what's scary, who's yelling and why, and how he can process all of that. Sadly, I'm one of the people who will likely be in several of those moments that need processing. I hate knowing that.

But I know this too: I am a forgiving person. I am an open person. I have more love than rage. I can change and I have changed. If I don't want my kid to fear me I have to stop shaming myself for being out of control sometimes (the shame is a way I keep reliving the moment myself and it backfires). It's not okay to hit or be violent. But I am not yet capable of not yelling. I am capable of reflection and asking for forgiveness and trying harder.

A mom recommended this technique which I will try next time. I need an answer for myself when I feel the steam rising. I need to let go of the mess (and how I feel about the mess). I need to let go of any possession I feel won't be marked by kids (they will all be marked!). I need to not drag myself through the mud all day.

I share this hear publicly because I know that tons of parents want to be "those" parents. The ones who are Zen calm, have amazing parenting aikido (metaphorically speaking) techniques, and who are straight awesome and gently loving 24/7/365. I haven't met one yet. All the parents I know lose it every once in a while (or more), they get fed up, they forget their tools, they feel helpless and hopeless and all in front of their beloved kids. It happens. It also changes. Don't beat yourself up. Learn about what makes you angry (I should've eaten earlier, done my daily writing, planned an outing or activity, taken painkillers, etc.) and how you can prevent it. Your kids will give you a lot of chances to try stuff out.

For me, reflection and awareness really help. I keep hearing K say, "Mama, no angry." That's what it takes for me. I can't say I'll never yell again. That would be a parent myth I don't want to propagate. I will learn new techniques. I will try new ways of being. I will keep letting go and getting better.

New moms

My midwives at In Tandem Midwifery asked these questions recently:

Did you feel like a good mom from the get go, or was there a learning curve?
Did you feel like there was a baby whispering secret that nobody told you about?
What kindness can you instill on some of our newest mamas who are struggling with their first few days?

I had a lot to say, but I thought maybe I would go into more detail here:

 "Good mom" is so loaded! I didn't know what a "good wife" was the day after I got married, so I tended to treat myself a bit more flexibly when judging myself as a parent. Did I make mistakes that annoyed me? Hell yes. Did I not know answers i thought I should know? Sure thing. 

But with a two year old now, I realize that being a good person means I'm a good mom, regardless of milestones, breastfeeding, diapers, etc. Intention is key. Just like with everything else, there's a learning curve and I definitely have figured out how I learn (trial and error, still!) and I realize, too, my kid is WAY more forgiving than I am! 

My "baby whispering secret" is to listen to my kid, both literally and figuratively. Many books can't simply cover all humans, so it was key to read less and listen more, specifically to MY kid. My intuition was KEY to my success, my feeling happy and rested, and my bonding with my son. 

Also, treating my child like a new little (already formed) human, rather than a blob baby with no skills, allowed him to share wisdom with me...he's been guiding me the entire time! And treating him with respect has been good for me to get in the habit of. 

Observing him (rather than checking charts, talking to doctors, comparing with friends) has resulted in really weird but SUCCESSFUL parenting moments (like I started talking to my kid in the womb and we have had a lot of success with telepathic communication). 

As for the first days, I had to let myself off the hook from my insane (and unrealistic) expectations. I drank coffee, didn't bathe myself or my kid, watched TV during 3am breastfeeding sessions, asked for a LOT of help from ANYONE and EVERYONE who offered, cried, and tried to be as gentle as possible. As someone who wants to look strong, it started to feel unsustainable to "act" strong, when I just needed to feel okay being "weak" or taken care of (now I see that it wasn't weak at all...just different from my normal methods). 

Parenting is unique in that one day you are pregnant and the NEXT day you are in charge of an entire person! I also didn't use language that discounted my parenting (Parenting of the Year Award--said sarcastically--, lazy, bad mom, etc). I don't like knocking myself in front of my kid. I'm a "great" mom because i said so. My kid said so, too.  

One other thing is that sharing the struggle really helps. When we share, we release and someone else can hold us for a bit. We can see it better when we share it. We can help others when we share. That's been powerful.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Montessori learning

K is in Montessori. Admittedly, he started there because it was affordable (based on a living wage paid to a childcare provider that focused on education, it offered more care AND potty training!) and some friends had their child there.

We started mid-year and missed a few of the orientations that explained some stuff. Not a problem, we were fast learners.

K had a rough week or so in the beginning, but eventually was quite happy to say goodbye to us so he could go and explore the classroom in peace, without chatty parents hovering around. Fine by us.

But after the new parent orientation we finally attended, I got what was happening in a much bigger way. While I want my child to feel seen, heard, and have his curiosity encouraged, I am not equipped to handle this job in its entirety. There are people who are trained to observe and educationally (and often times emotionally and spiritually!) guide my child. I saw my child's Toddler guide magically, patiently, and very simply demonstrate how she works in the classroom. Boom!

I'm not saying Montessori is the *only* way or even the *best* way. I'm just saying, for now, it's really working for K. Admittedly, it isn't always working for us as parents, but it's enlightening to really look at my child and see it works for HIM. He gets a LOT out of it. And if/when it stops working, we can re-evaluate. But what Montessori has taught us, is that when we observe our child, rather than mandate or force him into doing things, he really can tell us what he needs and wants.

We don't always oblige for different reasons, but at least we can watch and learn. That's been the best part of the process for me. That observation (active listening!) reveals so much that our children can't just tell us outright. I hope I don't lose that skill as our words and assumptions try to take over...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why not me?

I have another post brewing about creativity but I saw this online today and I thought, "I want to write about THAT!"

Mindy Kaling tweeted "Why the fuck not me?" should be your motto"

I recently had a coaching session with a client where we went over her voices of fear that were keeping her stuck. After she listed all the unsupportive ways she talks to herself, we came up with responses so that the fear didn't get hog the mic in her head. 
It ended up being really fun and funny because she allowed the "sailor" to come out and swear and call the voice of fear a liar. A fucking liar.

So I read Mindy Kaling's (from The Office, and The Mindy Kaling Project) tweet and it made me laugh and think about how we talk to ourselves. 

I'm in a lot of transition (aren't I always?) and I've been letting some of my own voices of fear get too loud. Who am I write ? Who am I to make stuff? Why would I get this job? Why would so and so be my friend? Why would I get famous?

Why the fuck not me?

I can't come up with a very good reason. 

When I am struggling in my life, because I feel trapped or unseen or bored, I want to repeat this to myself, as well as, "Hell yeah!" I need more responses like these to get me out of my hum-drum (often destructive) thoughts.

Anyway, just a quick note and reflection...

Friday, July 25, 2014

What if I stopped paddling down the river and just floated

I was talking to a co-worker today about the fact that one of the BEST things I can do for myself and the world is to be a good (not even great, she said) parent to my kid. That was a little stunning to me. What can I do to be a good parent?

Luckily, the voice of spirit/intuition piped in and said, "You're already a good parent."

But what am I *doing* to be a good parent?

I am staying present. Even when it's hard. And my almost two year old is screaming/commanding me to make his oatmeal warmer or cooler or demanding to stay on the potty for 15+ minutes ("No! No leave! Still peein'!"). I keep looking for moments to get more present. I keep exploring his lack of control and matching it up with mine.

I had a bolt of lightning idea.

What if I saw his screams, hits, demands, commands, and frothing freak outs as moments of cultural and ancestral healing and I let my stuck stuff be awoken and released as he was freely expressing himself?

Stay with me. Here's what I mean:

So as someone who loves control (because of my out of control childhood), I see what my kid is doing. He is riding a big wave of experience. His life is a flowing river. There are eddies, there are rocks that threaten to overturn his boat of experience, there are branches he can catch and there are calm, quiet spots where he can kick back. At any moment, he is participating in that experience of River of Life. I did that too, once, I'm sure of it.

But then I got older and started looking at the river before getting in, and I calculated, observed, and ultimately decided that the river just looked too unpredictable to get in. Ever again. Ack. I forwent the calm, ease-ful parts of the river because I couldn't predict and prepare for the parts I couldn't handle. No thanks! So the flow in my life kinda went away, I guess. I started only wanting to interact with what I could control. That seemed easier.

And years later, I now have this amazing child, repeating this human pattern of riding down the river and I guess my idea is that when he has a freakout, that I can awaken a freakout that I still have (much deeper down), too. It would be scary and weird if I frothed at the mouth because something didn't go my way...but K gets to do that because he's only two. Why not send my freakout down the river with him? It's not his burden, I don't have to utter a word, I can just witness his letting go and his refusals and his demands as the innocence that they are, and reclaim my own.

The beauty is that he doesn't want to get out of the river. He still wants to keep going. After a frothing freakout, he's been known to, seconds later, wrap his arms around me and sweetly request a gorilla ride. Cheeks still tear-stained, his big heart has allowed both a rage-ful upset and a calm, happy desire to hang out in the same five minute moment. What brilliance! What Divine design!

I can't (and won't) promise any zen moments of acceptance at the rage, hitting, frothing, etc. from here on out. But I can see that maybe he's healing a long history of fears and wanting control and regret at getting out of the River of Life too soon.

I don't know exactly, in every moment, how to teach (or if I can teach) K how to deal with life. But I'm cluing into the fact that maybe I don't have to. And maybe he's really teaching me.

I'm dying to get back in that looks like a fun ride.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Transition in life

I'm down in San Francisco for a close friend's wedding. We were able to stay in our friends' apartment in the city and we've taken over their kitchen, prepping food for the reception.

We've left K with the grandparents at home because as much as we'd love to have him be cute in front of people, we would not enjoy having him melt down in front of those same people. Soon enough, he'll be able to enjoy the concept of big parties, but not yet.

So we have some time and space to think about this time and this transition for our friends.

Traditionally (like, *really* traditionally), the father would "give away" the bride to the groom. I haven't seen a lot of weddings lately where that still happens. But here's the thing: I feel like I am "giving away" my friend to her fiance. Not that I possessed her at all, but I guess I had the thought that, yeah, my friend has a new best friend and while I can remain close to her, I'm no longer a face she sees regularly and we don't talk on the phone that much anymore.

And this wedding means that a ceremony is taking place where two people are agreeing to transition into being the other person's person. And in effect, I'm also agreeing to it too. Not that I have a choice, but I'm witnessing and letting go of my friend in a way.

I wrote a toast for the couple and what came out was that I now understood that my errand-running days were now over with my friend. They'd been over effectively since she moved away (10 years ago!), but now it's official. We probably wouldn't be running errands together again. I know it's a weird thing to think about letting go of, but that was a thing we used to love doing together.

And it's not like our friendship is over, but it reminds me how letting go is a constant process for me (well, for everyone...) and it doesn't need to be big stuff like death or divorce. It can be small too. Like when your child grows out of a shirt that he/she has worn for a while and is have a letting go process there too.

This is how we can make peace with this though. If we let go with claw marks then it's always gonna feel like things are being ripped away. But if we are looking for the smaller letting go moments, and we realize that it doesn't have to be devastating, then we can start to be okay with the process in general. Not that we won't be sad or even broken up about something, but it won't cause severe damage, if we aren't shocked by the natural experience of loss and letting go.

This relates to parenting because I'm experiencing the letting go almost daily now. I don't think I would've thought that would be the case, but paying attention does that. When K mispronounces a word, I now think immediately not just how cute it is, but how one day, he'll eventually say the word "correctly" and I will miss the mispronunciation. So I soak up that moment, that word, that way his mouth forms to utter that sound because, like blowing a dandelion puff, pretty soon that moment will be gone forever. The beauty is in the breathe...the blowing away of the seeds...and that is always temporary...

I digress. But not by much. Getting used to letting go is key for me. Sure, I might cry at the various educational transitions, and milestones, but maybe I won't as much, because it won't be shocking or it won't be foreign. I'll have had some practice. And maybe the practice of letting go with my child, will allow me to be less devastated when I need to let go of things unrelated to my kid.

I'm aiming that weddings, moves, transitions in friendships, etc. will be more graceful experiences because I'll have more practice.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Polite society

My 22 month old child likes butter. He likes it in a way that seems shocking to me. Until I read, in many online forums, about the other toddlers who eat sticks of butter. Sticks. More than just the one time.

I've been resisting this butter-eating because we don't do that "in polite society."

In an email (I write him emails because I have to be honest about my poor scrapbooking skills) I wrote K that his butter cravings were insane and that people don't eat butter like that in polite society. And then I wrote, "Who am I kidding? We're not in polite society."

So it got me thinking about all the things I resist because "normal" people don't do them. I also thought about all the things that have come to me while needing to solve a problem, that no one told me about, but that were GREAT ideas and far from normal (getting on a trampoline at 1am, to bounce out K's insane gas, or putting him in the tub to relax him enough to fart, so he could go back to sleep, or asking him telepathically what he needs from me and getting a very helpful/true answer, etc). If I was still holding on to the idea pipe dream that I, or my family, will become normal anytime soon, I should now officially let go of that.

Polite society is a place where my grandma lived. In her world she needed to keep up appearances, be everyone's friend, or at least not be seen as rude, uneducated, or uncultured.

Honestly, I think that caused some suffering. How many times have I acted in ways that were really about image management and not wanting people to think I was 1) a heathen, 2) an irresponsible mother, or 3) uneducated? I'm still fairly new at this, but I've probably done (or not done) countless things because of the way it looked to others. Polite society, as it were. What people likely won't see, or won't immediately give me/us credit for is that our kid is engaged with us. Yes, he is himself, engaging, but we are also responsive. We work hard to listen to, and work on, the things we don't understand for whatever reasons.

I guess it's unacceptable to me to write things off just because of development ("It's just a phase," or "Toddlers just do 'x'.") or age or culture or whatever else. I am trying hard to listen to and witness K with compassion. I research, ask other parents, pay closer attention to K's motivations, actions and timing, ask his teachers, ask my own parents and siblings about how I was, and listen to my intuition. Polite society, be damned.

This butter thing was a lesson to me to keep paying attention to my kid. Sure, he is typical in many regards, but much of the time he does things that I can't find easily in books and online (which makes sense, looking back at my pregnancy). I was that way, too, as a kid. I'm still kinda that way. And no, I don't often mix well with polite society, so rather than shove myself and my family into that confining "polite society" of my grandma's era, I'd rather co-create a society where love and compassion rules the day.

In the case of the Butter Resistance, I eased up. I bought K some special, organic butter that's just for him and we had a little moment, mama and babe, enjoying the letting go together.

NOTE: Since buying him his OWN butter ration, and offering it up easily with every meal/food item, strangely, he has said 'no.' It was like the allowing was really what he needed. Funny, that.

You know what it's like to be a mom...

You get busy. You have a to-do list that can't possibly be written down, much less managed. You have at least one child that needs/demands almost, if not, all of your attention. Haircuts, massages, toothbrushing, showers, girls' (guys') nights, reading whole paragraphs of books, and nutrition go by the wayside. Just part of the deal, right?


Really wrong.

I'm not saying you're wrong. Or your methods are wrong. (God forbid you think I know what's best for you). But a dear friend of mine basically said that her self-care (and we're talking health care, not pedicures) wasn't a priority in her day because she was a busy, working mom.

Hold the phone. I admit, I got a little unnerved that my friend thought that there wasn't enough time in the day for her to get to urgent care and look into her medical issue. Not at her, but at the culture around her (and us) that supports that belief. She wasn't told outright that she couldn't go get her issue checked out. No, that would've incited a mamaRiot. But it was the unspoken part, about how moms just get busy and "you know how it time to go to the doctor."

Here's what made me have some strong feelings...

1) That "having no time to go to the doctor" was sorta like "no time for a haircut."
2) That I didn't know my friend even needed any help in this area (could I have come over and watched her kids while she went to the doctor?).
3) That taking time out during the day at work wasn't really a cultural norm at her work and I'm assuming she believed that she was so indispensable that she couldn't take an hour to find out about her health, because it put her reputation (and possibly, eventually, her job) at risk.
4) And that I might be doing something similar, maybe not with physical health, but with mental health.

This is important. Really important. As parents, we are a part of the culture that supports these thoughts. That being too busy (raising a family and working) means we don't get our needs met.
This is, in my not very humble opinion, what leads to depression, increased medicating of parents, addiction, divorce, and a bunch of other woes. At least it's a contributing factor.

I work VERY hard on identifying my needs (surprise! They sort of changed when I had a baby and now I need to get to know them all over again!), talking with my husband about my needs (even if they can't be solved, addressed, or understood), and then diligently getting support for them.

I recognize that is privileged. My aforementioned friend may not have time to reflect on all of that. Her spouse may be just as busy and so not able to help her identify those needs, either.

But I also don't want to start agreeing that yes, motherhood trumps self-care. Don't hate me when I tell you, it doesn't. I love being a mom. I sometimes eat less because my kid ends up wanting most of my food and all of his too. I'm not immune to sacrifice. But I also don't want that to stay the norm. I want to point it out, even if it can't change, because it's not healthy for us as a culture. And it's not just for the wealthy. Working parents can't just say that because they work, their self-care goes away sometimes.

I am learning that when my husband works at night, which contributes to our family, I give up his time for the money he makes. Every week we discuss whether it will be better to have him home, or get the cash. That's a horrible choice to have to make daily, but we do it because some days, I need him with me, caring for our son. I need his support. I'll go without food (or less food) if it means that we have a night together as a family. That's how I care for myself. I have learned that there are hard choices I HAVE to make to get my needs met. Money vs. spousal support is not like giving up a new car for college tuition. I need both money AND spousal support, so I need to think about what I need more of sometimes.

My point is just that. Self-care isn't only bubble baths and dinner out with friends. I want to be a loud (and maybe a bit belligerent) voice that says that yes, we make choices, but also, yes we need to take care of ourselves. If a job won't value you for taking care of yourself, that tells me something. If a spouse won't let you take a night off (or two) a week, for your mental sanity, that speaks volumes. If we're all about the village raising our children, then we need to work on our village and be available to each other to get stuff done so neither we, nor our kids, suffer.

I'll end with the fact that I am grateful that my friends and family have been really helpful in this arena. Sometimes I am plagued by feeling like a social burden, with my active and sometimes destructive kid. But I keep asking to come over and crash dinner parties and potlucks because I do need adult friends and board games after K goes to sleep, and food that isn't bread or pasta and not made by me.

I want to be that support for others in my village too.

Learning collaboration

K goes to Montessori. I went to Montessori. As did my three siblings, my spouse, and a bunch of my friends.
For the toddler-aged group at K's school there's a focus on both independence and learning to ask others (not just the guides) for help.
There's a lot of buzz around making our kids more independent, so they don't need us so much and so they can do things on their own. Because all kids start out as heavily-dependent babies, I totally understand the desire for independence as quickly as possible.
What I am not yet able to do myself is teach collaboration at a young age (other than by example, and admittedly, it's a tough one for me, even as an adult). Yes, it doesn't make sense to collaborate regarding holding a glass oneself, in order to drink. But, short of the very basic things one needs to do oneself, collaboration is often a natural inclination in many kids.

Our culture really focuses on being independent. Move out of your parents house, get a job, go through college, get married, figure stuff out, live a good enough life. But my experience of all of those things was pretty much closer to a nightmare (getting married wasn't, but finding a spouse was!) than an easy checklist of things to do. I had no idea what I was doing almost all of the time. I was a horrible dater, I couldn't stay in college, I was completely unemployable, I figured nothing out, and I spent too much money for a life that wasn't exactly what I wanted, and it was lucky that I got anywhere.

In my late 20s, I started to learn what it was like to stop being so independent and to start collaborating and helping others with their visions, asking for help with mine, and strengthening my resources in human capital. I got a few lessons here and there in various places and programs, but ultimately, it was a lot of "figuring it out," and I wish I had done more work on learning to collaborate earlier in my life.

My parents didn't model collaboration, either. I never saw them relying on anyone. It wasn't that they didn't want to, but I guess they didn't need to. So I thought I shouldn't need to either.

Enter parenthood.

Yikes. If there was ever a time to get a crash course in collaborating and asking for help, it's right when it dawns on you that now you really can't do it all by yourself anymore.  Going on day five of no shower, trying to make a meal with only 2 ingredients in your house (and mustard and tortillas do not a meal make) to feed yourself and your baby, and losing your mind with all the details you can't keep straight, is enough to drive someone insane. We need help!

But many parents I talk to won't ask for help. Maybe they'll rely on some family here and there, but they don't really develop the collaborative muscles that I believe become more and more necessary as a family grows. I'm using 'help' and 'collaborate' interchangeably on purpose. It's common to think of help as related to neediness. But collaboration is where two or more folks work TOGETHER. Ah. So yes, I need collaboration in raising my kid and not just from my spouse.

It's hard to let go of my independence, I admit it. I don't always want to make five phone calls to folks asking advice on teething, potty training, biting, or child care. I want to read a quick book and nail it the first time. I also don't want to ask for help if I'm feeling lonely or hungry or maxed out. I don't want to burden anyone with that, or detect judgment, or worse, feel helpless/needy. I want to be optimistic and force that optimism to carry me through all sorts of trials and eventually wash up on the shore of "doing better today." And then smile at all the other (probably suffering) parents doing the same.

Recently though, when I have shared my struggle, I notice different things than what I imagined I'd feel. I notice willingness, ease, fun, connection, love, and strength. Oh, so that's what collaboration is all about! I was mistakenly under the impression that it was admitting failure at independence!

I hope that K is seeing all of that. That we are collaborating with people. That we give and take. That we also struggle a bit with what it can look like to others, too. That ultimately, it's easier and more fun to share the load. And that it shouldn't take massive catastrophe to do the sharing (it usually does...). It also brings out gifts and talents that may otherwise lay dormant. Independence isn't the ultimate goal. Interdependence is far more expansive and allows a much bigger view of the world and all it can offer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


My life is a spiral. I've been able to see similar events, at various times in my life, look different simply because of a different perspective (time, experience, wisdom, help, etc.). That's cool.

I just watched a documentary called: TINY. It was interesting to me because I have enjoyed the concept of compact living for a LONG time. I saw an RV with a washing machine inside once, as a kid, and I thought, "What? People LIVE like this? Cool!"

I like train life, plane life, the cabs on trucks, motor homes, etc. I even liked dorm life. The essentials, creatively accounted for, in a small space. It makes me a little hot and bothered, honestly. I studied industrial design probably because of this.

This video basically encapsulates all that I love about it. Living lean and creatively, without feeling like I "can't afford" it. That's the thing. I know I could live in a hut, like 2/3 of the world does (mostly involuntarily--but check out Shiguru Ban), but that's not really what I crave or find appealing. I just like the design concept of each feature having three uses, flexibility of space, and reflecting a desire for ecological care in housing, without compromise of the important things needs.

I have lived (well, 'spent time' is more respectful, I think) in a variety of small and simple ways. From huts in Africa to abandoned cement buildings in Honduras, to people-crammed homes in Israel, to simple caravans in Scotland, I have enjoyed the pared-down homes that I have been welcomed into.

I enjoyed not having boxes of stuff everywhere. I have loved not needing additional space for things I am saving (why do we want to save things? Why do I, more importantly...another post...). I liked a cleaning session only lasting minutes, instead of hours. I have loved the smiling (or even not smiling) faces of people I love spending time with. I have loved the homes filled with music, delicious food smells, fresh rain and freshly picked food (from feet away!).

I guess I have always wanted a more simple life, filled with what matters and most of the time that seems to include a much smaller house (but to be fair, in most of the above places, it also involves much larger common/shared spaces and nicer weather, or an easier time being outside).

I also am thinking about our financial freedom and that would ultimately include other freedoms like the ability to travel, work in remote locations, afford college for kids if they wanted, and generally be as generous as we want to be. Those are big things to me/us.

Here's the but...

I romanticize a life with less. A lot. Is it chicken or egg? Would living small create a calmer kid, or do we have the amazing sleeping kid we have because we don't live small (because he can sleep soundlessly far away from us, and frankly so can we!)? Does having the space we crave bring us closer or would living in a small space create an even closer relationship? Would living closer to people make us engage more, or has living farther away from the people we love forced us to learn to engage as intentionally as we can, so that we can have the community we crave? I think about this a lot.

And maybe living small, for us at least, is an experience we will have later, when our kids are older and can contribute to the decision intentionally (so we're not forcing them to live in a way counter to their personalities and therefore creating unnecessary stress for all) .

I came to this because a part of me, right now, wants space. Lots of space. As an empathetic extrovert, it can be hard to tear myself away from people because I love them (as a group and as individuals) so much. Heartbreakingly so. And I need downtime from them (like I learned K does as well). Even in my own home of extroverts. Living in 100 square feet would be too challenging. And frankly, loud and hard to escape. Which I like to do sometimes.

I've been reading about Minimalism and many folks say it isn't about deprivation, it's about living with less than you have right now...oh! I can do *that*. I unconsciously spread out in my house because empty space is challenging. But can I simplify more? You bet. Can I focus on the aforementioned smiling faces, delicious smells, and room to breathe and get rid of the stuff that isn't serving me? Hell yeah. Can I live happily and comfortably in a house half the size? YES! Minimalism isn't about no possessions or concrete floors in Soho Lofts. It's subjective. I can do that.

It's been hard to let go of a lot of my ideals of parenting. That's been a running theme during my journey so far. I am getting to know the person I actually am, rather than clutching so tightly to the person I think I want (and should) be. In addition to that, I am learning to allow my kid to be the way HE is, even though many times it has clashed so harshly with my ideals. There's that definite part of me that wants to push through and really force my ideals onto K. I have to admit that, lest you think I can and do gracefully accept all that has changed in my life and shown up in my kid. We throw things away that I'd never throw away before. We eat things I didn't want to eat. We stayed in disposables. We have two cars...the list of things I have let go of, ideal-wise, is long and a bit depressing. I have to make the silver lining of letting go of those ideals be that I am now more open to what is actually in front of me. And it allows me to find gifts I may not have found in simply holding tightly to my ideals. Sometimes giving up my eco-warrior status is heart-breaking and what makes up for it (sort of) is that my compassion for others (and myself) has widened. I need to believe that's how it works. Instead of a kid who just follows along (or is forced to follow along) on my path, I have a kid on his own path. That's cool, too.

Letting go of things, ideals, parts of me, beliefs, etc., has been an interesting process...and mostly it involves a "forever" kind of letting go. But for now, this letting go of living really small, can be revisited at another time. Maybe when the kids are grown. Maybe when we become a traveling troupe. Maybe when we've let go of more things and beliefs.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Am I an a**hole if...?

Hey peeps, sorry it's been a while since I've written. With an active talker/walker life and time is a bit different. I guess is always going to be like that from now on...

While K chats in his crib (I'm just not ready to make it a toddler bed yet, no matter how many developmental stages he's experiencing), I sit and think about the last few mama/parent conversations I've had with newly preggie mamas and experienced/old hat parents. It's amazing.
I imagine the oral traditions of yore to be around fires,  caves, and down by the river, full of symbology and mythology. And yet, our current oral traditions have morphed into youtube videos, blog posts, content articles online, texts, and phone calls. But a lot of crazy myths are still being propagated.

One woman I'm in a group with asked bluntly if she was an asshole for wanting to go back to work after maternity leave, even if she didn't need to. A newly pregnant friend of mine didn't want people to think she and her pregnancy were public domain and wanted to talk about something other than babies and parenting at parties. Another friend had misgivings about putting her kid in daycare because she was worried about people thinking she was letting "someone else raise her kid."

Ugh. Sometimes I end up yelling and spewing saliva in agitation because these myths, these straight-up mean judgments, rob us of being who we are. They (these decisions and actions) imply that we aren't paying attention or thinking things through. Really?

If I decide to put my kid in care before five years old, and you assume it's because I'm lazy, you are totally missing my point, my essence, and of course, who my kid is. Also, I had the realization recently, because my 20 month old IS in the care of others for half the day, that because I am sharing time with him, with others, that they get to be blessed by his gifts now too. Call me arrogant if you want, but if you met my kid, you too might see the beauty that is the world in him. And it's not because of me, I know. He's brilliant because he's a child of Spirit. I'm just a caretaker at the moment. Just another perspective on putting your child in daycare. And to be honest, I really like the people who have K half day. They are people I'd want to be around my kid anyway.

Same goes for going back to work. I went back to work, and then decided that I wanted a bit more time with K, but not 24/7 (we need more jobs that are part time but well-paid for new moms!). So I work at home with a flexible schedule so that I am available, but I do not pretend to be able to hang out with my son easily all day, every day. There are those who can do this and I'm so glad it works for them. But I'm not 'less than' because I can't or don't want to. I'm not a worse person or a worse mom. I don't like that a mom who stays at home is considered brave while I, who wants to work, is not brave? What an interesting way to discount my worth, by categorizing who's better and braver and whatever else we think (via our culture). A mom who cares for her kid at home just is. It's awesome, yes, but no less awesome than a mom who works. Both moms are showing their kid different parts of them. And I want to applaud that, rather than judge who's better.

I had this experience the other day: I was working on my coaching business, writing a book, and doing my work at home stuff. It was a flow day, where everything was coming out awesome, I felt good, I felt energetic, and aligned. K was sleeping and gave me a solid two and a half hours to work uninterrupted. Bliss. When I heard his first wake up chirps, my heart skipped a beat and I quickly finished up on the computer and went to go get him. And as I walked to his room, I felt so grateful that I was able to work, to feel fulfilled by that work, and to then be emotionally and energetically available to K when he got up from his nap. Win. He got a free and clear mama, who took time to do the work that fueled her, so that she could be present.

What better gift is there for a child? Had I ignored my desire to work and listen to my calling, I would be a grumpy, unsatisfied, and frustrated mama. I have been that mama. I've been maxed out and unappreciated and then came home to be available and 'on,' but with no time in the middle to get my needs met. And I need to meet my own needs before I can be fully available to my kid. It's a fact of life for me.

And regarding the friend who's pregnant and now everyone thinks they can say stuff to her without thinking about it first, a similar thing is true. Let's try to not lump ALL PREGNANT WOMEN into one giant category and then regale them with horror birth stories, warnings, finger-wagging, boring conversations they've probably had 30 times already, and assumptions about who they are. Let's pretend, just for a moment, that they still have hobbies, dreams, thoughts other than, "I have a baby in my belly," and they don't all love being pregnant 24/7. I've met maybe three people who enjoyed pregnancy and I've known hundreds (thousands?) of pregnant women.

Pregnant women (and new dads too) cross a threshold when a child enters their world and they become transformed (regardless of their knowledge or acceptance of that fact, by the way) and that transformation isn't just into parenthood, or out of couplehood. It's so profound, I don't even have words for it (yet!). My point is this, who you think you know, may have just become an entirely different person overnight. We should honor that. Celebrate that. Hold that. Hold them. It's crazy scary and not just because they are new parents with another person to be responsible for, but because, before all of our eyes, they changed! That's insane! So be nice, be gentle, be open and available. See them in their new light. They will be grateful.

This ends today's musings. Any comments? I'd love to know what you think!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The village

I bristle when people start talking about, (well, judging really) "daycare." I was there once too, I remember. Sending kids "away" seemed like a strange way to deal with parenthood. You had the kid, you should take care of the kid. And yet, here I am, my child away for 3.5 hours a day, in a place with "strangers."

But no, that's not what it is, I realize now.

My child, curious, talkative, social, engaging, has a big village loving him. His guides at school are part of his village. He doesn't keep love from them. He doesn't hide from them or cry when he sees them. They are part of his village. The village that's raising him.

Everyday I am grateful for that village of willing adults, some related, some not, that share time with K. He's a bright star in the world, and he can be exhausting. But I don't let my lack of energy and my self-judgment cloud his world. He loves school. I love that he loves school.

I know other mamas who can spend 24/7 with their littles and I applaud them, but I don't simultaneously beat myself up for not doing that. It's not fair. It means I'm telling K that our choice to put him in school wasn't a choice at all. If I beat myself up, I'm saying we failed.

But that's not the case.

We just grew our village some more.

And that village is huge, to contain the love of our kid. He's capable of loving outside his DNA. He's interested, he's engaged, and he's surprisingly already aware that his circle of influence is larger. Who am I to keep him from that?

So when I see those comments flying around about who should be caring for my child, I speak up and say that my kid just has a bigger village now. And anyone who has a heart big enough to care for children they didn't originally intend to raise, gets a hug of gratitude from me. Thank you for caring so deeply for my child. Thank you for your patience and willingness. Thank you for inviting us in to your village, too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Being in charge

So mostly I blog about parenthood. Letting go of things BECAUSE of parenthood. Mostly.

And now, I am sitting here home alone while K is with his grandparents, and I'm staring at unpaid bills, unemployment letters, debt collection correspondence, and enticing credit card offers. Hubby is at work and I'm feeling pretty lonely about life.

I have a lot of interests and I'm wondering which ones to pursue.

I work intuitively with homes, I own a seasonal B&B, I write, I love to speak publicly, I used to be an administrative assistant, and now I am faced with the choice to take charge of my life and earn my own income directly.

It's easy to be in charge of a little person's life. Simple tasks: eat, sleep, change diapers, put on clothes, put toys away, take toys out, listen to "birdies," visit with family members, etc. I can manage those things pretty well now.

But what about taking charge of my own life? What about choosing the scary, unknown thing over the thing that doesn't pay enough but is "comfortable?"

What I am learning about parenting is that there are some things I can easily be in charge of and other things that are basically out of my control. I get out of balance when I want to control things I can't, or I don't take charge of things I can. I can apply the same fluidity to my life, as I try to apply to my parenting. It's not a perfect balance most of the time since I'm still learning and my little one is still pretty small. But I know that when he wakes up from a nap, he's always hungry, so I can have food ready. I can take charge in that way.

What are the ways I can take charge of my work life? I can spend more time doing what I enjoy AND what I'm good at. I'm a good writer, I'm a great coach, I co-run a kickin' B&B. I can't control who comes to me or requests my services, but I can keep improving, I can keep sharing, and I can keep doing what I love. See how that works?

I have to remind myself of this stuff daily. I need to constantly engage the parts of me that work, that feel good, that are harmonious. Just like interacting with my child! When things are tough or he gets stuck on something, I have tactics to move him onto the next thing. Or I have an intuitive feeling about dealing with the current thing so that we can move on later. If he's cranky then I know what 2-3 things we can do to work with that. Same goes for me. When I am stuck on something I need to know the right tactics to be able to move myself onto something else.

That's what being in charge means to me. It doesn't mean try to control everything, it means choosing how I can move myself along in my life and letting go of what I can't actually control. Knowing I have that power is pretty awesome.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Whose transition is it?

Yesterday was K's first day of school. Actually, it was just his first hour, because where he goes, they transition kids into the classroom in smaller increments. Brilliant, I thought. K will get to have a little more time each day to get used to going to school.

He's been without us for a long time 3-4 days a week, so this shouldn't be that weird or disconcerting, right?

But the transition isn't really about "school" or "new." It's about the fact that basically, his primary care people have been biologically related to him (except for one-off days) since his birth. And this begins a life of more routine.

And as I'm realizing why this is a "bigger" deal, it's because the big deal is for me (and J too!). We are going through a transition as much as K is, if not more in many ways.

Starting school means there's a clear drop-off and pick-up time, there are clear responsibilities for us to take care of each day (lunch, coat, the right clothes, etc.) and that's totally new for us! We can't shuffle him out in pajamas (nor, can we drop him off at school in our own pajamas!). We can't be late, we can't drop off in a poopy diaper (or a diaper at all), we can't ask the guide to take care of his GF food needs because we didn't go grocery shopping, we can't have K be dropped off by his guide just because of a car snafu. Many different things will have to change and that's something we need to get used to, too.

Also, K now has these relationships with other people that aren't in our family unit, or even in our friend circle. He goes to school, has a separate life that we can't capture on camera, and then we just get to ask basic questions...we don't get to go over it at night, after we put him down and catch up as parents. We can look at the notes his guide took while at school, but without the visuals from one of us, there's not much to talk about. It feels weird, I guess.

So the letting go isn't just about our baby going to school. It's about how we now have a new orientation around our days, who hangs with K, and how we feel about it. To be fair, K is handling it pretty well so far. We are still adjusting.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Letting go of fear of financial insecurity

On my desk sit papers from the state employment office. I need to complete a very thorough questionnaire proving that I am not earning additional income and not reporting it.
I have cleaned the kitchen, taken a shower, organized papers, contemplated book topics and titles, read email, checked facebook...all in an attempt to not look at this questionnaire (again...I've read through it, gotten overwhelmed, and put it aside).

I didn't do anything wrong (I have not earned any additional income, and of course since I didn't there was nothing to report), and yet the questions are like pointing fingers and each finger is telling me that I'm wrong, I'm fucking my kid up (with money shit), I'm horrible with money, I don't have anything helpful to share with the world, I'm not employable, I'm a mess, and anything else I can sneak in there to mean I'm just not fucking worth it. And I certainly don't deserve any help from the state. Even though everyone thinks that I get to spend all these blissful moments with K, now that I am "home," this is really what is going through my head most of the day, sadly.

I'm educated, literate, skilled, and resourceful and, in one glance at some state-issued paperwork, I am reduced to scum, in a heartbeat.

So what am I letting go of here?

Good question.

Why am I so worked up? What is this questionnaire symbolizing? I have to go that route, because I'm one of those people that believes I can make something *mean* something...usually this is done in a negative slant first, but I am capable of turning it around to mean something else. So what does it mean?

When I left my secure, reliable, somewhat manageable job I knew the demons would come. I knew that I would hear in my head the protests of leaving a safe job, of leaving something predictable and something I'm capable of doing (proof to the world that I can do something valuable). But man, I did NOT expect the dialogue (more like lecturing, I think) to be so loud!

  • Why have you done?
  • Who do you think you are?
  • You're a horrible writer and even if you are any good, who wants to read about your life?
  • You're destined for a life working in an office, answering phones and doing data entry, so you should give up any other ideas. Oh, and you have no follow-through, so good luck with any and all creative pursuits.
  • There are MILLIONS of other people writing, thinking, making money at stuff you are excited about, so there's no use in trying.
  • You're ruining your family, both biological and chosen.
  • It's your fault that you are broke.
  • You'll never get ahead. Or out of debt.
  • You can't bring another kid into this hellish life (btw, I don't think my life is hellish, but that demon voice inside seems to!)
  • Your friends will leave you soon, since you are a sad-sack and a non-contributing member to society.
  • Your friends want to hang out with someone successful, rich, and generous and you are none of those things!
  • Your family is tired of helping you.
  • You don't follow the rules correctly (this may seem small to some, but as a proud rule-follower, this is one statement that can really knock the wind out of me) and therefore don't deserve anything.
  • You want too much.
  • You want too little.
  • You are asking for impossible miracles.
  • You'll be homeless soon.
  • You are straining your marriage.
That's just a sample, with many variations of those things, said differently, just to make it sound worse.

There's something hanging on inside of me that is very, very afraid, if that's the kind of stuff that comes up for me. I can imagine the grip of the demon, knuckles white, grasping for every single bad thing I've ever thought ONCE in my whole life, to get me to go back to safety and security. Even the rule thing...this paperwork scared me so bad that I lost sleep, went to a job interview offering an unsustainable wage, and considered working weekends (basically eliminating seeing my kid and husband at the same time).

So I know I gotta let that fear of insecurity go...I know that I need to keep trusting in the Spirit/Source/Universe...It's a constant practice, right? I want to just declare to this Safety Demon that I understand its concern...I know it sees really horrible things and wants to keep me/us from those experiences (again)...I know that my safety has been taken away several times in my life and all this little monster is trying to do is prevent further damage.

But here's the point I'm making: Clinging to safety doesn't make me feel secure. Asking and receiving does, though. Giving people a chance to connect to me and give to me makes me feel more secure. Working hard to strengthen my friendships, and offer what I can makes me feel safe. And ultimately, feeling like I can contribute to people/the world, makes me feel safe and valuable, too.

So Security and Safety Demon, here's the deal. I can't convince you that I am valuable. I can't show you a paycheck (just yet) proving that my words and my ideas help other people. I can't for all time, say that we'll be financially taken care of (yet). But let's work together.
 How about you only alert me when I'm in danger of harming myself or others. You can help me write more compelling stories and blogs, you can help me make money through Amazon, coaching, speaking and inspiring others. You can spend time acting as my intuitive bodyguard, speaking up only when I am doing stuff that's really not a good idea (gambling, debting, ignoring paperwork, etc). You can ask me quietly and nicely, if I have considered all my options. You can even prevent me from heart-breaking, soul-numbing, underemployment because that's ALSO not a good idea, security-wise. And moreover, when I get those pesky letters from Unemployment, you can calmly tell me that all I need to do is answer the questions to the best of my ability (that's all I can do, anyway) and then wait for a response. When the worst case scenario happens, then you can help me get out of it, but until then, I don't need you just hanging around causing me grief and creating more fear. I have plenty of that without you. Thank you for you service, but I'd like to put you to better use.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A world where American mamas don't cry...

I read an article posted on FB about African babies not crying (really, NO babies cry in Africa? I find that hard to believe, but I digress). While the personal narrative experience of the author was nice and interesting, culturally, it wasn't a definitive study about how we mess up our kids and how to stop.

What it did was continue to propagate a MamaMyth, that if we were "better" our kids wouldn't cry as much. Nevermind that crying is just a form of early communication from babies who don't have a very wide array of verbal communication early on.

A commenter on the post tangentially mentioned that our culture will pay for putting kids in all day preschool (not the subject of the article). I debated commenting. After all, it's not the point of my friend's post. But I couldn't just let that comment sit there so that other mamas could either silently feel judged or collectively high five each other if they were able and chose to stay home with their kids.

Also, the article spoke about breastfeeding those "quiet" babies in Africa no matter what was happening. Okay, so there is no crying technically because there's a boob in the mouth physically. That makes sense logistically. And then I think about my experience with my baby.

I won't break down every moment where this concept ran through my head (and was used to emotionally flog myself because my kid didn't quiet when offered the breast). But as I started to listen to each cry and how they were different, I realized that I could solve most problems based on what was actually needed, not based on quieting my kid with boob/food. I learned what was an "attention" cry versus a "hungry" cry versus an "over-stimulation" cry. This really helped me learn my kid's world faster. It's not just crying, my son was telling me what he needed. And as a result, I have a really great communication system with him. I'm not saying my method works for everyone (I'm just sharing what I did), but I was trapped in the idea that every cry was a milk/boob-craving cry. And my kid didn't always want to nurse. Just like he wasn't able to be born vaginally and it wasn't my fault, I needed to listen to my reality, not just my idealism. And I needed to listen to myself and my kid.

As a new mom, it was hard to listen to myself. I had "no idea" theoretically, what I was doing. Other more experienced moms knew better, I was convinced. I read the books,  chatted with the experienced moms, and knew the studies. But one thing that no one considered: none of those people were looking at or listening to MY kid! And they weren't ME! So all bets were off, eventually. This was between me and my kid. I had a lot of information and support, but I needed to go through this struggle and pay attention to what was really happening. No amount of doctor recommendations or 30 peppy hippie mamas suggesting x/y/z could replace those moments when I was listening to my kid. And we forget to tell new moms that a lot. We're getting better about telling each other that what matters is what works for us individually, but as a culture, we still judge the crap out of everyone.

In the last few weeks I've hung out with some of my mom friends and I've been listening to not just what we all tell each other, but how and why.

There's a lot of confessing, disclaiming with "TMI, but I want to share..." (TMI=too much information), telling half-stories (to test the water and see if anyone will judge), and more clever mama tactics to make sure no one calls CPS, commits someone to a mental ward, or other damning actions.

It breaks my heart, honestly. My heart actually aches having the awareness and sensing that fear, anxiety, and guilt in other mamas. Because of course I am also doing this. I am also trying to make it look good, while inside or alone my experiences are confusing, isolating, and sometimes scary.

To think that one thing will be the demise of our culture is ignorant. Another friend pointed out that even if babies don't cry in Africa, there is a lot of violence, rape, poverty, submission, dictatorship, etc., so how can we look at the broader picture and not make one thing the definition of a culture? And frankly, putting kids in all day preschool isn't usually a simple choice. Would financial strain with one income be better? What about the sanity of the parents?

When I was done with maternity leave, I was eager to get back to work. Not because I didn't love my little one, but because there was a large part of me that was aching to stretch my brain, my creative desires, etc., again. Not just to have "adult conversation" (but that's valid, too), I wanted to keep offering my gifts...and I couldn't turn magically turn into a full time mom. It's not who I was, despite my lineage of stay at home moms (but now, I wonder if there weren't a few mamas in my line who wanted to do something else that just wasn't done back then). And honestly, motherhood made me cry a lot. For all the reasons one might expect, sometimes I just couldn't do it one more day, one more night. What then?

So while it's a nice story that one Kenyan woman experienced some relief and peace by breastfeeding, there are many other ways for mothers, especially here in the US, where tribal culture is different in many fundamental ways, to get help and support. Whether that means their child gets cared for by others in a preschool setting (which we are doing now expressly so that our kid has  more stability in his life, at least on a topical level), or the moms create a larger network of support in friends, family, and in-home child care givers, or they stay at home (or the papas stay at home), there are many ways to create a happy, healthy, sane family.

But what I can do is to shed light on the truth of my life specifically and hint at the larger group of mamas who struggle with their new role. And let mamas express themselves so that they don't feel alone. That isolating feeling in moms can create more damage than a crying child. Isolation kills people in reality. Moms that feel they have no recourse to a life of struggle often (yes, OFTEN) choose to end their lives. And if I could make the difference, by listening, by encouraging honest expression, by creating a system of support, then I want to focus on that. That's what raises healthy kids. A sense that an entire community is holding them, not just their parents. And we can do that without government advocacy (because we can't wait until that happens), without college education and co-sleeping and breastfeeding until two (or later). Yes, those things are nice and beneficial, if they work for the families, but if they don't, other things work too and families need to know that. 

I'd like to promote a culture where mamas don't cry either...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Releasing Weight

As a new mom, with a lot of other new mom friends, there's a lot of talk about losing weight/pre-baby weight/honoring our bodies and all the suggestions and advice that comes along with that. I've heard and read some wise words, but still the weight clings.

Yes, yes, I know that I need to "exercise more and eat less," but as an energy practitioner, a spiritual person and frankly, (shh, don't tell anyone), a believer in unexplained miracles, I have this strange notion that won't leave my head that it's not about exercising more and eating less. Not for me, anyway.

"Then what it is about?" I eagerly ask myself.

And after the short pause I like to give (yes, I am capable of pauses, contrary to popular belief!) myself when asking a question that's as deep as this one, it comes to me.

All the stuff that's hanging around my body with nothing to do, honestly, is a manifestation of what I'm not giving away.

Now, before you go and apply this to yourself, then think I'm completely wrong/crazy/off my rocker, I'll offer this disclaimer:

This is my experience. And this insight came to me in a quiet moment when thinking about my life. I've had a lot of time to think about my life, a lot of therapy, a lot of personal work, etc. So the best I can say is this is the most accurate for me. It may not be for you. I'm not a doctor or a shaman or a health professional. So take what you want and leave the rest.

Back to it. I've recently been exploring a few things that have come up in my daily writing and this thought just came to me. My extra weight is stagnant energy that I didn't want to release for whatever reason. It's a delightful mixture of fear, scarcity, laziness, and resistance. And that's just my first glance.

I was trying on clothes and it was strange because my friend who was with me saw what seemed like a very different person than I saw in the mirror. She used words like beautiful, stunning, and some others that I blocked out of my mind because she was obviously 1) lying 2) talking to someone else 3) feeling bad that I was so unattractive and 4) ultimately crazy.

But that weight that I was so intent on making fun of, using as a defense against cute clothes, and holding on to, was not the issue. It was the 'me' behind it. My head (which consequently makes a lot of decisions based on the past, incomplete info, and straight up fear) was perfectly fine keeping me in sweats and hoodies. It was so obvious. The little voice in my head that eeked out, "Hey, this is kind of cute" was quickly squashed by the uncontrollable tic of my hands grabbing a love handle and pointing out that the dress wasn't able to camouflage my new chub. That poor little voice of "cute reason" was smashed, again.

Why do I want to stay chubby, I asked myself. What do I gain (pun not intended...) by holding on to this weight, this look, and these feelings? Nothing. Really. I feel horrible. I look worse to myself. I'm uncomfortable. And it's no fun!

Back to the idea of what I am not giving away...this is a complex question to pose to myself. I have made it look like (to myself only, probably) that I am giving away plenty. But the truth is, I'm not giving away what I am capable of giving away. There's a big difference when I look closely.

I am mostly nice, reasonably generous, I smile occasionally, I'm friendly, I try hard. That seems to be good enough for the most part. But I don't even know the extent of how much more I can release into the world. Can I be nicer? More generous? More loving? More fucking smiley? Friendlier? Can I say "That's a nice dress" to more strangers? Can I tell more friends how much they mean to me and the friends I already say it too, can I say it more? Can I exhaust myself with new and different ways to find the awesome in people I've known for years and people who I've just met? Can I actually follow through on all the wonderful artwork I've made for people in my mind (trust me, I could open my own gallery with the pieces I've ideated {new word} just to show people how much they mean to me)? I'm not saying I'm not good enough...that's not the point. I know people know that I love them, but to be in balance with the Universe like I want to be, I have a lot more to give than I have been and my hypothesis is if I actually attempt to achieve (okay, striving will be good enough) this balance, then maybe I will release the weight.

To make a finer point, there is a difference between communicating loving feelings, and emptying myself of all the love that is inside me as often as I can manage it. I think I might be surprised how much is really in there waiting to get out and be given to its rightful recipient.


There will be no awards ceremony, where I get to stand up in front of all of you and thank you from the bottom of my heart, in front of the world. No sparkling lights or expensive gowns. No red carpet or after party with lavish gift bags.

You won't see all your effort, generosity, or impact immediately in the life I'm living right now. Not at first blush, anyway.

You don't know how often I am thanking you, or weeping with gratitude at the thoughtful words you shared with me, or feeling really full from the mere presence of you in my life.
Extreme tragedy, in my opinion, and these words feel so small to your bigness.

I'm going through what feels like a massive butterfly (or soon to be butterfly) stage and the cocoon of transformation is made up of the tiny cells of love you have created around me. At times, I have pushed those offerings onto K, like you only gave them to me for him and I'm just his agent. But that dismisses the outpouring of love that you graciously give, most times without a second thought.

Letting go isn't just about releasing my hand from the tight grip I have on all things (it seems) and crossing my fingers, hoping. I am able to do this constant letting go, but at times when I am not able to (or just not supposed to) hold on to something, you are there holding on to me. With a gentle firmness that feels like a snug blanket wrapped tight.

It would be incorrect to say that this butterfly transformation is only for K (or only because of K), even though it basically started that way. Now it's so much more. It's for you too. You have cocooned me so beautifully, that you became a part of the creation, my creation, itself. I hear your words of encouragement, I see your smiles in my mind's eye, your gifts of time, labor, and delicious artifacts,  surrounding my life. Those are becoming part of me, part of my butterfly self.

I don't always know how to thank you. Or appreciate you. Or tell you how profound the gifts you have bestowed have been in my life. And the only way I see being able to repay you, is to fully become that thing of beauty. To give you the pleasure of seeing me fly, float, and share my beautiful colors with you.

Watch me become what you have helped create me to be...


My favorite baby

My inspiration

My inspiration