Meditation & Ponytails

Each day brings a reminder that I cannot practice enough.  I have  more to learn, more awareness to be had, more compassion to cultivate.  So I sit when I can — just sit.

Meditation often carries with it a connotation of being lofty, something mystics and monastics do because they can; their whole life devoted to being fully awakened.  I’m sure monks would laugh at this.  I know some nuns who certainly would.  They, too, live in the real world with real people.  Truthfully, meditation is for everyone.  It’s an opportunity to be still, be clear, and be quiet — mind, body, and soul. So I sit when I can.  I don’t do it often enough.

One morning not long ago I made time to sit.  Intention is part of the doing, but ultimately one does have to do it.  Ten minutes, twenty minutes.  I can’t even remember how long I intended to sit.  Most of the time I don’t set a timer.  When I’m ready to quit, I know I need to stay longer.

Sitting.  Breathing.  Counting.  Wandering.  Returning.  Sitting.  Breathing.  Footsteps . . . coming closer.

I feel the presence of our youngest creeping closer to me until she’s at my side, her mouth conveniently ear-level.

“Mom, I want a ponytail.”

Sweetness embodied in one simple request.  I smiled, eyes still half-shut.  I breathed deeply before turning to look at her.  Her gaze met mine, neither hopeful nor pleading.  She met me there in the moment.

“Alright,” I said softly.

I arose and went with her to the kids’ bathroom.  I fixed her hair into a ponytail.  Neither of us spoke.

The was no anger, no frustration.  She had a ponytail, and I continued my meditation for the day.

My teacher didn’t smile, but she did run out of the bathroom quickly, happily moving on to her next adventure.

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The Ice Melts

The kids are home for their second day, but at least today is a little more unplugged.  I let them watch movies yesterday thinking the power would go off, but it didn’t until almost midnight!
As the kids settle into various activities, I keep drifting to the windows, looking across the rooftops and at the now-splintered trees.  The evergreens seem to have more resilience, able to take the Dr. Seussian contortions, but the deciduous trees . . . ah, the poor trees.  There’s still the crack and snap and rush of falling ice to be heard as the melting water adds the proverbial straw, adding too much weight to the exhausted wood.  At least, that’s what I imagine.

There are times when I, too, let the elements accumulate upon me, surround me and weigh me down.  I sag and droop, losing enthusiasm and very nearly my hope.  When the sun does start to peek through the clouds, I feel the cold shroud falling away.  Sometimes I cannot help but absorb some of that which burdens me.  Sometimes it’s hard to let it all evaporate, allowing myself to eventually regain my stature.  Sometimes I want to just absorb it all and snap and break and fall away.

But I don’t.  I guess I’m more like the evergreens I see on the horizon.  I can take it, and I do.  I may be taken for granted at times, even by my very self, but it’s up to me to decide how I weather all storms.

The sun is always there.  We just have to have faith and remember to keep the windows open to our heart and soul.

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Plugged In, Tuned Out & Back Again

popcorn.jpgFor me, procrastination is an issue, but when I really need down-time (the time when responsibilities are on hold, the dishes can wait and I don’t have to think about anything seriously), I tend to pop in a movie.  Let’s just say I watched quite a few movies over the weekend.  I even took a mommy date to the movies, alone.

The movies are over and the responsibilities resumed, but I notice a common theme in the movies I watched and the movies I love most.  They’re all about women’s lives, the emotions, the trials, the triumphs, the friends and the families.

Driving home from seeing Four Christmases, I thought about movie moms.  Now, in all honesty, I had also just watched The Women at home before I left (since it was due back that day).  When was the last time a movie truly captured what being the average mother is like?  And by average mother, I mean someone who doesn’t have six-figure income, a live-in housekeeper (or one at all) or a nanny.  When was the last time a major motion picture actually depicted a true birth and what a mom really looks like hours after the baby is born, the awkward first attempts at breastfeeding?  (Though I must give thanks to Four Christmases for giving breastfeeding such prominence, despite the negative connotations.)

I’m grateful that we have films like The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth to highlight true birth.  I’m sure there are films out there about real life, true mothering, that I just haven’t seen because they haven’t made it into mainstream.  It’s too easy just to grab the latest blockbuster than to research a truly good film that might actually invoke thought during the movie.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the drama of the movies, that which adds fiction or exaggerates an aspect of life to make it more interesting, comedic and/or romantic.  Honestly, I don’t think I would have loved Under the Tuscan Sun so much had the movie just followed the book.  And even movies about ridiculously wealthy women, I suppose, gives me insight into another way of life.  Perhaps some day I might shop in Saks or drive a Lexus, but I won’t consider myself a failure if that day never comes.  After all, why watch a movie about real life when we have our own lives to live?

Next time I movie binge, I’ll try to remember that the movies I watch will affect me in some way, no matter how tuned out I may think I am.  That’s just the way energy works.  Hopefully I’ll be encouraged to live even better.

full disclosure of movies watched this weekend in order of my preference:
Amelie (in foreign films section)
The Women (the new version w/ Meg Ryan as Mary Haines)
Four Christmases
Becoming Jane

the kids watched:
Horton Hears a Who
The Wild
Aloha Scooby Doo
(because my kids’ life isn’t complete without some Scooby)

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Season of Christmas

Weeks leading to the season of Mystery.  Joyful days of Christmas, living into the heart of the mystery itself.  The Church’s New Year begun.  Days left on the calendar year.

Where to go from here?

Quite obviously, I took time away from the blog-front to finish up the last-minute gifts.  Now I have to deal with the consequences of house neglect and the incoming gift explosion.  But more than that is the continual contemplation of my life as it is.  My husband says this next year is “the” year.  It’s his 30th.  I think I thought the same for my 30th, too, but that has come and gone.  I’m hesitant to say life is what it is with a sort of resigned sigh, but that’s what comes to mind.

Unfortunately for me, I have a hormonal challenge to overcome this week of weeks to bring back the optimist in me.  I hope to make the right lists, the right resolutions and the right choices.  I’m barking at the kids to make the right choices.  They know what is right and wrong (i.e. be kind, put things back,etc.).  I know what is right and wrong, too, supposedly.  Often, though, I don’t make the right choices, either.

So, here’s to getting the funk out of the system, to making the right choices and to living lovingly and simply.  Our T days this week will include lists, lists that I hope will help me in the coming year.  If they help you, consider it a late gift.  🙂

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Creative Moments

For you mothers out there, please visit Mother Words today for some beautiful poetry and solidly good recommended reading.

For you moms with children asking what to give their friends this holiday season, let me share what I told my oldest: recycle.  For some this may sound offensive, and if it does, please ignore.  We don’t, however, have the means to buy a new gift for each child-friend we have.  If the friends would be offended, we’ll go without giving a gift, but for those who would appreciate a thoughtfully put-together present, we’ll gladly do so.

My suggestion:  a couple of books in new condition, topped with a never-played-with small stuffed animal, tied together with a pretty ribbon, set in a box and wrapped with love.  Perhaps even a DVD in between or atop the books.  Instantly, a $30+ gift with no out-of-pocket expense.

Feed your soul this season.  Appreciate your abundance even if your accounts look grim.  There’s no better time to be creative.

Much love.

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Housekeeping::Soul Tending

I don’t know that there specifically is a link to the cleanliness of our house and the well-being of my very soul, but, if personal experience is evidence enough, I have to say this is true.

I posted in my FaceBook profile that I was “waiting for the house to clean itself.”  I really wanted it to or at least for some of the others in the same house to make an effort.  Honestly, I just wanted to sit and knit, maybe even watch a movie.

Alas, finishing one of the books on my reading list (I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was) Barbara Sher points out that some people have a tendency to be “ragers,” meaning that you “rage against the ordinary” or are too good to do the everyday work everyone has to do to survive.  Perhaps I was raging.  Maybe I just needed to give myself some time to shift gears so that I could do the little bit deeper cleaning that I needed (and still need) to do.

It’s always easier to do the heavy work if the clutter is out of the way.

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Much Needed Mommy Time

Actually, the title should say “Much Needed Mommy Me Time.” 

Once we become mothers, our identity as an individual woman is lost.  Birth is greater than bringing a new life to the world, as huge as that is.  Birth also ushers in our motherhood, full force.  We agree to be responsible for growing a body and nurturing a soul and may consent to continue to nurture said being for the rest of our living days.  So here I am, in the thick of “nurturing” and realizing that I need to take care of myself so I can better care for those who depend upon me (a recurring theme, I know).

Part of my care includes recognizing myself as a woman.  My needs are not only the needs of the family.  To keep my life in perspective, I have to carefully evaluate what I need to feel like I’m fully living my purpose.  Not everyone feels this way, and it’s important to know what your personal needs are.

A friend of mine and I are doing a baby-sitting swap.  For frugal mothers (whether of desire or necessity) who seek their alone time, this is solid gold.  It’s giving and receiving.  Today I got to go to the library and browse in the upstairs section.  It doesn’t matter that we were at the library yesterday.  I can’t remember when last I checked a book out for myself.  After the library, I went to a local bookstore.  It was time to buy an ’09 calendar, and they had some beautiful ones.  Not every time for me includes an expense, but it is a reward to myself for all the work I put into this family-rearing that justifies my purchases when I make them.  (Hope you agree, dear.)  😉

Now this evening we enjoy our church’s meal before the service (trans: “I don’t have to cook”).  After the short, kid-friendly/chaotic service, I facilitate a women’s spirituality circle.  The church provides a nursery.

I know it doesn’t always take a village to raise a child, but I’m a firm believer that it helps greatly.  If nothing else, it makes for better mothers.

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Reality Check

Finally, I see where all the fall colors come from.  So often each tree changes to its one color, then the leaves drop and become the brown, crunchy mass.  This past week, I’ve seen trees in all shades, from blazing orange to fiery red to brilliant gold.  Yesterday I even saw one of the most beautiful fall maples with shades from green to yellow and red to orange.  If I hadn’t been driving, I think I would have stopped to bask in its brilliance.

There’s no doubt we’re in the midst of fall now; the leaves are quickly dropping, the nights are cold, the holiday goods are out in all the stores, and the lights being put all around the square.  Now I figure is a good time to be honest with myself and take a good look at where I am, who I am, what I’m doing and where I’m going.  I should have done this on my birthday, but I was too busy doing.  I’m getting signs that now would be a good time.  (I share this with you not to boast or brag or complain out loud but rather to encourage you to take time to do the same for yourself at some point.)

note_creative_author.jpgI ground myself in my writing.  To write, I must be still so as to receive the truth that is being channeled through me.  I have to be careful about my influences, for everything in my environment affects how I interpret any given moment.  When writing, I feel my closest connection to the Divine and feel that this is my right livelihood.  Going forward, I make a conscious effort to write more daily, be a productive writer and establish myself as such.

I craft to disperse the creative energy in a physical, practical way.  Perhaps if I channeled all my creative energy into writing, I wouldn’t need to write more, but I enjoy greatly using my goods, giving handmade gifts and teaching the children how to make thin  Now I will increase my skills with what I have and make what I need or need to give.  I would like to make a few things well to sell in an Etsy shop.  That would be nice.

My relationships with others I feel has always been golden.  I do my best to be authentic with them, to listen well and to be participatory.  With my children and husband, I have to make a conscious effort to love myself well so that I may love them wholly.  We are currently seeking a family counselor so as to address our needs, for raising kids is harder than we ever imagined it could be.  We need some help, and asking for help is completely okay.  It’s better to ask for help than to sink into despair, withdrawing from yourself and others.  May we be always honest, loving and respectful of ourselves and each other.

In the daily round, I am pleased with where my expectations are.  I’ve come a long way in understanding what I can and cannot do, steering myself away from the buckets of shoulds.  That’s not to say I don’t occasionally regress.  In a given day, like all mothers, I combine all my different roles.  I am at once a writer, wife, mother, spiritual seeker and birth advocate and educator/doula.  I’m sure that’s probably not even all aspects of my being, but they affect most of what I do, day in and day out.

As with the leaves, I am constantly changing.  Where I am today differs from yesterday and tomorrow, but if I can hear what I need from and for my soul, then I can visualize it and try my best to make it manifest.  To do so, I need some quiet, some time for me.  Thanks, Casey, for giving me that time yesterday when I needed it so badly.  Thanks, Kaye, for listening.

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A Simple Birthday Party

Letting go of extravagant birthday parties takes effort, and I am blessed to say that after eight years, I feel I have arrived at something.

My eldest daughter had an extraordinary “Blue’s Clues” themed party for her second birthday.  Many adults, a few children and lots of chaos and expense.  She was exhausted at the end and didn’t really feel up to opening her gazillion presents.  It was fun, to be sure, and maybe I was doing it because the next month assured the loss of her place as an only child.  Yes, I was nearly nine months pregnant.  I, too, was exhausted at the end of the day.

Fast-forward to our fourth child.

She’s easy-going and doesn’t need a thing.  We have planned a family party, but I’m not planning a big to-do.  The opportunity arose to have a playdate at the park today– fun and very age appropriate.

autumns2ndb-day.JPG.jpgSeveral moms and kids met us there.  I brought a cake I made.  We played and visited.  It’s a beautiful day.  I had requested no gifts, but one “re-gifted” present was brought, which was perfect.  We were back home for lunch and nap-time out of routine, not exhaustion.

There’s a time and place for the full-blown birthday parties, but I’m glad to know the difference and to appreciate the beauty of simplicity.


(I even let Autumn help add sprinkles!)
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Kids in the Kitchen

It was only a couple of weeks ago that my seven-year-old watched closely (and I do mean right at my elbow) as I fried up some eggs.  The next two days, he was doing it on his own. 

The older kids are back to school now, and I’m slowly adjusting to an
earlier morning routine.  Very slowly.  This morning, however, I was
delightfully surprised to smell eggs cooking.  My two sons were hungry
and determined to have egg sandwiches.

Am I nervous about my seven-year-old using the stove, nearly unsupervised, with his four-year-old brother?  I could be, but I’m not.  I figure it’s another exercise in independence for him, and the fewer condescending or cautionary things I say to him about it, the better off we are.

I look forward to the days when there are at least four of us in the kitchen cooking together.  Last night, my aforementioned older son also watched the pot come to a boil and cooked the angel hair for our eggplant parmigiana.  For me, that’s one less thing to worry about and more time to focus on frying the eggplant (and I also did squash for my picky ones). The day will come when I have all hands on deck, but I also know that it will require much patience on my part.  We know it’s “easier” to do things our way, without others underfoot, but you don’t want to miss out on the chance for the kids to learn, to hear the wonderful communication between their parents, to contribute, to share their day with you through their own stories.  There are loads of lessons and joys to be had in the kitchen, and, of course, there will be lots of messes, too.

So, grab all aprons (so you don’t mess your clothes with all this fried food), bring in the young apprentices and get cooking.  Family Fun has a kids’ cooking section. Rachel Ray has a cookbook my older daughter enjoys, and there are countless other resources on the www.

Let go and have fun!

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