28 February 2013

Thoughts for a Thursday: JUST the Thing to Share!

This is a wonderful set of rules written by Sister Corita Kent in the late 60's. I found it on Brain Pickings today via Lisa Congdon's FB page. The rules set themselves apart from any religion/religiosity. 
I love it! I absolutely can't chose which one is my favorite, though one that does stand out to me is Rule Six. "Nothing is a Mistake. There is no win & no fail. There is Only Make." So perfect for me, especially today.  

Is there one in particular that sticks out or speaks to you? Is there a rule that you would add? I would love to know! 

27 February 2013

Never Stops Giving

What is so brilliant about living in Southern California is that it seems that nature never stops giving. However, the Seasons are more subtle in this stretch of country. The first year that we lived here I ached, I so longed for the passing of a true Autumn into Winter into Spring,  that I was blinded to the beauty around me. I only saw the traffic and the noise and the pollution. I was so caught up in my own loss for what wasn't, I didn't untangle myself long enough from my misery to notice WHAT is. 

My eyes have opened a bit more now that we are in our second year here and I feel so appreciative of the gardens, and the plants, and palms, and the waves of the ocean in the distance that spill out into my soul, that now you will find me filled up with this brave new wonder, snapping photos of the life that is constantly emerging and growing around me.  For me, the outdoors is my home as well as my house, so I wanted to share signs that there IS a spring emerging here. Nature knows the darker days are ending and that light is slowly coming about. 

I was so surprised to see these daffodils. Last year, I did not notice the bulbs slowly emerging here and it makes me want to plant more so that there is an eruption of tulips and things spilling down my walk way next spring. It is always so glorious to see these seasonal flowers say hello to spring and goodbye to winter.

I caught these small trees  at the neighbors and in the park, ready to blossom. Both are almost there.  Not quite, but the purple and pink hues signal to me that they too, are ready for longer days.

One thing I actually see this year is the way the light changes its hues. Spring is dusting its generous warmth and light, beckoning to the green, to the flowers, to me.  The light dusts my skin and I feel wrapped up, knitted into these small glorious wonders. Nature is saying to me, to my boys, it is time to come out and play.

I wonder, how is nature calling to you?

Lou's Nature in the Home series is the inspiring force behind this post. I am hoping to explore a bit more of Nature indoors and out with her, and with others, over the coming weeks. Perhaps you will join us?

26 February 2013

For My Sis: a day like any other day, except...

Today is Tuesday and for many of us out there in this great and vast stretch of the world, it is a day like any other day. We will live it like any other day. We will get up, go to work, go to school, pick up our children sit with them while they do their homework, wipe their noses, make dinner, tuck our family into bed and go to sleep. Perhaps it is a day marked by little joys or grandiose hopes. We may be laughing in the park, playing a game, completing a long anticipated project, giving birth, dancing and loving and filling up life with all of our dreams. For some of us, this day may be vastly different than others. It may be day of brokenness or pain.  Some of us may lose our jobs, grieve in sickness and in death, trip ourselves up in despair and darkness.

For me, for the most part it is a day like any other day. I am up. I am writing. I will soon be waking the boys and sending them off to school; I will go about my day from one scenario to the next: Living and Breathing.

For my middle sister, however, it is a day filled with anicipation and dread, today marks the second of the three surgeries she is to have. Seven months before our mother was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), my sister Mara was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer. For us as a family, for her especially, it was shocking and awful. Mara is only in her early 30's. She is a single mom, who, until her diagnosis was living her life like any other day. Working hard at a job she loved, making ends meet, raising her daughter, and loving her friends and family. Cancer was the furthest thing from her mind, the farthest thing from any of our thoughts. Now, she stands, almost a year and a half since the doctors' first whispered cancer, scared but ready to undergo the second part of her mastectomy and the first half of her reconstruction. My sister is strong, she has lived through chemotherapy, radiation, surgery...and then the illness and subsequent death of our mom.

For those of us moving through our day in so many different ways, I wanted to take a small moment to share a bit of her hopes and fears, a bit of her story. Though the tumors themselves have been vanquished with radiation and chemotherapy, due to the particularly aggressive nature of her exact breast cancer (triple negative), she is having a double mastectomy as well as reconstruction. She doesn't want the cancer to have any chance of coming back.

Here are a few questions I posed to her that she so graciously put up with and responded to...

Mara, what is the scariest thing about cancer?
The scariest thing about cancer is the “not knowing."  Not knowing what to expect because everyone’s body is different.  Not knowing if I’m going to live. Not knowing if the chemo is going to work. Wondering if the cancer has spread or if it’s going to come back. I was diagnosed at a young age. I still have a lot more life to live and who wants to be thinking about cancer all of the time??
What is your biggest worry about surgery?
My biggest worry is whether or not I’ll wake up. I’m not worried about the pain.  I can deal with the pain.
What do you hope for the future?
I hope for happiness and some normality after all this is over. It’s hard not to be paranoid now for the rest of my life wondering whether or not the cancer is going to come back. Headaches turn into brain cancer thoughts.  Stomach aches turn into stomach cancer thoughts.  My joint and back pain turns into bone cancer thoughts.
What would you tell others who are going through a similar experience?
Just take it day by day. Talk about your feelings, keep a journal.  The power of prayer  is amazing [or meditation or Reiki or what ever makes the most sense for you to connect with something greater than you]. Also a positive attitude and good support system can get you through some of the hardest and darkest times.  Cancer isn’t fair, fun, easy, or kind, but it is SURVIVABLE!!!
Are big sisters annoying?
Of course, but that’s what they are supposed to do.  I am my big sister’s keeper.

I love her. I love that Mara. I love that sister of mine. I hope that she knows how much we are with her today as she embarks on this next stage of her journey. That we are with her in heart and mind and spirit. So today, as you go about your day like any other day, stop and feel the wind on your face, or the tight squeeze of your child's hand or the warm nose of your dog or the cold that bites through your gloves. Just stop and for 5 seconds love what you have and love what is lost and love what is broken. Hold it all in as you take in a deep breathe. Exhale. Then keep on going, keep on going and living and breathing, go about your day, like any other day, because Living and Loving is the best antidotes to the troubles and mishaps and tragedies that trip up this world.


25 February 2013

Gratitude Monday

Gratitude for a Monday. 

Today, I am grateful for quiet repose in these very busy times. Even if the repose is stopping for 5 seconds to take a picture of something that catches your eye. 

I am grateful for all the ways my life interlocks together. gold boots, screens, blossoms, & my feet. somehow it all works together to make life more interesting.

I am grateful for black & white images. You don't need to see the overlaying tones of green to know that they are there, mixed underneath the shades of grey. These images I took are not perfect, but I love the way the light dances between all the dark.  

I am grateful for my love of art. I am grateful when my the boys come to me with arms filled with paper, pens and brushes, asking for a space at the table, ready to create. Ready to just lose themselves in a little project.  I love watching the process unfold, on making a dull space more vibrant. I am grateful for art projects completed, for displaying things hand-made proudly on our walls.
I am always grateful for moments when I see light at the end of the tunnel and can distinguish the forest for the trees. thats a hard one, but I am always grateful for it when it comes.

What are you grateful for in your life this week? 

23 February 2013

8/52 Portraits of my children in 2013.

Oldest: I found you here, in our living room. 
Afternoon sun on your neck, dust motes dancing in the air as I passed by, and you, reading a book, uninterrupted and in peace, perfectly content to only notice the story on the pages in front of you. 
 This one. My tough middle. I caught you at the table actually working on homework. Focusing! and so very intent on your task. It is a rare for you to do this (see this post Here.)  You actually should have had this homework done already and perhaps your focus is fueled by the pressure to get it done, because if you don't, you know you will be in trouble with your teacher.  I love to watch when you lose yourself in your work and forget about all the insecurities and worries you carry.
The Youngest. You still love to come into our bed in the early morning hours. This morning you got up and snuggled me on the couch while I was writing and then had me carry you to our bed so you could sleep a bit with your dad.


playing along with these very {Jodi (who started it all), Lou, Catherine, Steph, Lilly + many more!} inspiring Mama's. xo

22 February 2013

Friday Favorite Day

I walk out my door and the afternoon sun skips across the trees and reflects off the windows across the street. I close the door quickly behind me, finding myself skipping as I pick up the pace to meet you both on this favorite Friday day of the week. The smells are particular and strong, a crushed mix of blossoms from the pear trees and salt air squeezed by dust and pollution.

The sun is bright today, and after weeks of gloomy gray skies and watered down fizzy drinks, I find myself stretching my back a bit to feel the warmth flow in through my skin. I skip, hop, walk a bit faster than usual because I was lost in my at-Home-work and forgot about the time and I know that you two will be there there waiting with your friends, before I get to school.

I like to get there before the bell rings and when you both come spilling out of your classrooms and into my arms, when we move across the yard and start our walk home. I like this favorite day of the week. It is always a signal to me that we finally have a little bit of freedom in our time, where we can capture a bit more of these days that lead up to the rest of your life when you have moved on into that place where you are no longer a child, or someone who will hold their mom's hand in public, or give her dandelions plucked from yards.

And then we walk home, not hand in hand as I wish, but with you both chattering and scampering in and out of yards and over rocks, ready for the weekend, ready for all the many things it holds in its plans for us.

what are you up to this weekend?

21 February 2013

the Wanting and the Desire (of Good Food)

There are moments when I am hungry. There are moments when I am not. But when I am Hungry... I really EaT & eat.
It started this morning. A low grumble in my stomach that stretched up to my throat and then back down to my toes. It made me tired. It made me thirsty. I became restless, unable to get rid of the scratchy feeing on my skin. I needed to fill myself up. I needed to eat. And not just eat the quick leftovers from the boys plates and the last sips from their cereal bowls. I needed something hearty. So I made myself breakfast, which for me is a feat that is usually unheard of.  Normally I am too busy, and not that all hungry, I am over-fueled by busy boys and pressed coffee to eat in the morning, so it surprised me when I fixed myself a bowl of oatmeal and added blueberries and brown sugar. Maybe I am fighting a cold, maybe I needed the fuel, maybe I needed some sort of blue, blue berry anti-oxident mix fighting power.

However, several hours later I sat down to lunch. Which, I didn't really think about the fact that I was eating breakfast AND lunch within such a short time frame, UNTIL I fixed myself a bowl of yoghurt and cereal shortly there after.  I try to always be gentle with myself when I am in one of these unnoticeable feedings. When I do stop to notice that I am over grazing I try not to beat myself up for overconsumption, instead I try to understand the reason behind it.  Today, perhaps my hunger is triggered by the gray clouds and cool winds visiting the sky. Perhaps it is because I really don't want to fold the laundry. Or clean the kitchen. Perhaps I would rather add to the collection of dishes in the sink. It could even be that I am just hungrier than normal. 
When I think of my relationship to food, I believe that for the most part is a healthy one. When I was younger, it was not so healthy. I didn't understand that food could be a joyful explosion of flavors and heart-stopping delight. I was trapped into a mind state that not only was food strictly for nourishment, but that it was a demon to be wrestled with. The old adage that our grandmothers' used to say, "a moment on the lips, forever on the hips" haunted me. It haunted my mother, it haunted my mother's friends. When I was a young girl that seemed that the only thing that some of my mother's friends would talk about was their weight. My mother engaged in this warfare with food as well. She did not love her body. Aware of this at a young age,  I took upon my mantle this same demon of self-deprication and insecurities when it came to food and my body.  From the time I was a teenager I held the flavor of food at arms length and became obsessed with calories and fat intake rather than the quality of food. I hunted for the perfect solution for what I saw as my imperfect & unloveable body: would it be low-fat/high carb? Or fruit only? no calories? too many calories? How much exercise could justify one extra slice of pizza? I was trapped in swirling negative thoughts about my self and the core of my being so that I truly put off living, waiting for that day when I was more beautiful, thinner, attractive, then and only then I could be happier, have a boyfriend, wear a swimsuit, live life the way I wanted to live it.

But now, so many years later, and many many therapists' bills later, I am more at peace with my body than I ever have before. Maybe it is not a peace, perhaps it is a reconciliation of who I am and who I know I am not.
There are many pieces to the puzzle that have healed my loathing and fear of food. Traveling to France; understanding the stigma of beauty; reading, reading, reading tomes of literature on food, desire, eating, and love; birthing babies; breastfeeding. Perhaps one above all others is a deep understanding that my body is happier when I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. 
This mantra has led me to become a pickier eater. I don't just want food, I desire GOOD food. Acknowledging the huger in my body for quality, delicious food, allowed me to acknowledge my own hunger: not just my physical hunger, but my spiritual hunger as well.

I stopped eating when I wasn't hungry, because I allowed myself to eat when I WAS hungry.  I slowly stopped beating myself up when I gained weight...so much so that I lost weight.  I fell head over heals in love...with Food. And as time went by, I fell in love, head over heals, with N. And as time went on, there were 3 boys to fall head over heals in love with as well.
From time to time, I still struggle with my self image. Especially in times of vulnerability...but I know that my want and desire for good food is not something to be feared, it is not a demon to be wrestled with. Instead it is a very human, very real emotion. And sometimes in moments of unnoticeable feedings, I am able to set the fork down and emotionally walk away from food and all its glory, because I know it will still be there when I come back.

 I am so lucky to be as much at peace with my body as I am. And if you, out there somewhere, struggle with the fear of food, and the weight of unmanageable self hatred, I hope that I can share some of my own peace, even only if it is a spec of a grain of self worth and contentment. Because if you hold onto it and carry it in your pocket, carry it in your soul, I know that someday it will grow into a mountain of self confidence and self worth.


20 February 2013

My Heart is a Nomad

My heart is a nomad, my heart is a wandering Lover.  Ducking into trash bins, running down bright alleys, looking out across the back stoops of lives, weaving in and out across the Hidden and the Quiet.
My heart is a nomad, my heart is a wandering Lover. Passing through books, digging up tales of streams that feed towns and valleys and livestock.

 My heart is a nomad, a wandering Lover that climbs to the top of Palm trees on dark days and waits under the leaves until the patter of rain stops. My heart, my heart is a nomad, wandering from place to place, searching for some Braveness to hold her still. 

My heart loves to wander and wonder about things. I am not betraying any sort of marriage vow, but my heart loves to dream. So much so, that sometimes I have a hard time sitting still and actually living. I wrote this past Monday, "I am grateful for perspective on my home. Loving it for all of its smallness, for its views, for the closeness it offers us as a family. The small lessons it gives us in loving what you have and living into what that is.  This wee house has taught us to claim the life offered to us now, as our own, rather than waiting for the coveted moment in life when all happens as it should." Lovely Nina from the lovely blog ...Tabiboo... commented, "Home is where the heart is - I'm such a great believer." And this small sentence made me think about this heart of mine. How restless it can be. How much time my heart can dream about a better day and better times by stringing together these words in my mind, "If only I had/could/would/did do/had done..." There are all sorts of ways to finish the sentence as well, and all too often I find myself caught up in this wandering, this drifting away from what is Here and what is Now. If I follow down the path for too long, I find myself face to face with emotions I don't like such as jealousy, anger and resentment. AND, I always have a hard time letting those emotions go once I get there.

However, sometimes my heart does rest & breathe (sometimes because it has no other choice), and though things may not turn out as perfect as I desire, just letting go can be what exactly what I need to make things happen. Let me tell you the story of our home:
When N accepted the job offer out here, and we knew we were moving, I immediately began to search online listings for apartments, town homes and even houses to rent. Since we were moving across the country, I wanted everything to be perfect. I felt frantic and worried that if we didn't find the exact right address, the boys wouldn't be in the exact right school (especially my oldest, as he was starting middle school) and that would mean our life would fall apart before it even began in our new place. It was hard to be across the country and not Know what living out here would be like. Then one day, I must have been bouncing back from the frantic rock bottom place I was in, I felt myself let it all go. Somehow, I felt that whatever school the boys would be in would be good and okay, and that we, as a family, would make it all work.  So I said to N, "I am done looking. Next time you are out there, could you (please) find us a place to live." So he did. And it is good. And practically perfect. It IS small, quite small for our brood -but that is the nature of living on this coastline. However, we have a yard and that helps the smallness, the boys can safely escape to the outside; AND I do so love the way the house flows. It has an open kitchen so the first time in a long time I can cook dinner and watch the boys play in the living room. It has a little entrance and coat closet where I can hang guests coats and the boys can deposit their shoes. And the whole school thing, has most definitely worked out. The boys have great friends and good teachers and (for the first time ever!) They Can Walk to school. I love that part. I love that it is faster to walk the four blocks than to drive. And we didn't even know that part when we rented it. We had no idea at all. N and I both took a leap of faith, shelved (some) of our worries, then life seems to have opened up in ways I could not have imagined. It seems that the answers were already there for us, for me, I was just over searching. Over wandering it seems.

So I love that my heart is a wanderer, I love that my heart is a nomad. My heart invites in imagination ad creativity. She searches and wants more out of life. My heart's dreams and imaginings are food for my soul. All of this is good, but sometimes My Heart needs to learn to be a bit more in the present and let things go. Let Life in a bit, and see how things Unfold.

XXOO  Does your heart dream? Does it dream big? What does it dream? Does it over wander and lead you off your course from time to time?

18 February 2013

Gratitude Mondays

Where Gratitude is the New Black

Today, I am grateful for our home...
 I am grateful for perspective on my home. Loving it for all of its smallness, for its views, for the closeness it offers us as a family. The small lessons it gives us in loving what you have and living into what that is.  This wee house has taught us to claim the life offered to us now, as our own, rather than waiting for the coveted moment in life when all happens as it should.

I am grateful for food...
I am grateful for all the edibles eaten by my children. For the money in our pocket to purchase things that are yummy and nutritious. I am grateful for Healthy Bounty.

I am grateful for this Ocean...
I am so, so, grateful for the Ocean. So grateful for her. I dream of this Summer when I can dive under, feel weightless and held in her arms; in Summer when I can stand on the shore with the Boys, dancing in and out of the strength of the waves, get rolled by them and remember, I just absolutely can't control really anything at all.  

I am grateful for roads...
Today I am grateful for all the twisting pavement, and all highway roads, that lead to visiting family. Grateful for graciousness from the boys on the small journeys and the longer ones'. And, of course, I am always grateful when the road is short and sweet. 

I am also grateful for plants...
So Grateful for plants. For snap-pea plants that were given out for free at the Farmer's Market. For the fun and the food it will bring. I am grateful to find flowers for a friend who is sick. Wish I could bring her the happy news she needs, but for now, tulips will have to do.    

What are you grateful for this week? I would love to know.

reflecting on the homework yucks

The Boys, on task, and other times not...

I feel as if it was just yesterday, that I was tripping over their little construction toys and encouraging them to take their first steps. Then in blink of an eye they dashed out of my arms, amidst my own tears, sadness, and pride, out of our door into their first Kindergarten class.

Now here they are, a bit more grown-up, working after dinner on their tasks. They look peaceful and content here in these photographs. I love when they settle into their work so nicely. That evening they were working diligently, and when that happens I am always thankful.

However, most often at our house, & especially for these older two, homework time is a a series of grumblings and resistance in the afternoons & evenings.  Our middle has dyslexia and there are days when he comes home and he JUST wants to be done translating everything he sees into a contextual understanding. He wants to so disengage from it all that it is hard to pull him back into the work he so needs to do. Our oldest is just that, the oldest, with a good sense of responsibility but lately, as he has entered his teen years, he puts everything off until the last minute. And when both of these worlds collide I feel as I will collapse. The most trying for me is when they engage in toddler like behavior: where they stamp their feet, pout and create a ruckus over, what seems to their dad and me, an insignificant amount of school work at home. Then it seems that they each try to out do each other, vying for some sort of unknown medal in the battle of the homework. Sometimes I wonder if they have met in secret, betting their allowance on who can make mommy break down first.
We have approached this time in many different ways. We have always tried to allow for a little space and time for the boys to come home and unplug from their day at school. In all honesty though, I have never found a system that works for all three of them. In my ideal world, I would love for them to do their homework right away after school, then they could play, make&have dinner, then hopefully have time for puzzles and games until bed time. But I think that has worked maybe once or twice in all of our years doing homework. It also doesn't help that their dad is often gone several nights a week, working late.

We are never sure which way to go with it. Homework as soon as able after school? Or homework as the evening draws to a close? We have found that the boys are a bit more focused in the evening hours, but we, as their parents are not. Also, if I am the only one home, I am battling three different wills, that are going in three different directions.  Ultimately I would love it if the later evening time was our time as grown-ups to unplug, but with a teen rapidly approaching his last years in middle school and our middle man who struggles with severe learning differences, perhaps our "down" time really can't be, yet, what we want it to be.

Do you struggle to find the happy homework system? Does it clash with what your vision of the afternoon and evening should be? Have you found a way to work the chore of homework in your house? I would love to know what works and what doesn't for you.


16 February 2013


 This week I am tried to snap an Instagram photo of the boys for the series, "A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."  It is always difficult to grab them, they are so busy, busy, busy. It is easier to catch one of the Pups in repose than the boys.

First there is the Third, who I swear has fairy blood in him. Second, is the Middle, who has the hardest time believing in himself (he doesn't see what the world sees -that he is bright & wonderful). Then there is the First, who more often than not, is reading, rather than talking.


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