The Art of Filtering

“Always needing to stay immediate by removing what is no longer real is the working inner definition of sacrifice–giving up with reverence and compassion what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred.”
– Mark Nepo “The Book of Awakening”

I am continually humbled by this life I have chosen as a mother, wife and writer. The beauty lies in the nuances and they are so easily missed. The distractions are plentiful. I want to get back to the basics.

The blank page.

Thoughts and words, no matter their speed.

Books I look forward to opening.

Entire days with no purpose but to love and be loved by my family.

We are constantly bombarded with information and opportunities and even images. First world problems, I know, trivial but real. A favorite distraction of mine (Instagram) utilizes “filters” to communicate via images and text. Interestingly, it seems filtering is exactly what we need to do in every moment; to preserve what is real, we cannot let everything through. We must be mindful of the snarks and cynics, the media including social media, the books and websites that don’t resonate, the habits that do not serve.

We must protect ourselves. No one can filter the noise for us. Not an app nor a partner nor a boss nor a parent nor a friend nor a child. No one can make our mistakes for us, and likewise, no one can know the depth of our potential but us. We are at the mercy of ourselves. Our thoughts, our words, our deeds. Our inaction and our action.

So much of my twenties I spent shaving away the layers that had calcified over my true self. Motivations, ambitions, careers, hobbies, lifestyles, beliefs. I made strides in casting away the debris and carving “me” out of the mess, and though I know this could be a lifelong practice of collecting and experimenting and releasing–I hold the hope that my thirties will offer more stability, more rootedness in the identities that cannot be peeled away. No one said it better than my sister: “I spent much of my twenties searching for myself, but in my thirties I am enjoying the person I found.”

If we can be raw, if we can put our barest selves out there, if can we accept our callings and our quirks without reservation and negotiation, I think anything is possible.

What are you filtering? I’ll go first. (See comments.)

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To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

30 Intentions For My 30s

For my 30th birthday blog post, I started a few different lists, including 30 lessons I’ve learned, and 30 reasons I’m glad to be 30.

But I realized I don’t want to look back on what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed, I want to look forward. I want to ask, what else is possible?

I feel as if I have been waiting my whole life to enter this decade. I have idealized my thirties as a time when I will know I have arrived in adulthood. Of course now that I’m here, I realize I’ve been in “it” for years.

This decade of my life in this body is unwritten. My hope is that these intentions serve as the architecture for what is to come:

1. I go to bed at a decent hour.

2. I share my thoughts in personal and public ways.

3. I write and read everyday.

4. I make new friends and keep the old.

5. I practice patience and equinimity.

6. I see more of the world.

7. I submit and publish my stories, essays and poetry.

8. I enjoy the life I have built and the person I discovered in me in my twenties.

9. I speak nicely to my husband and children.

10. I choose love.

11. I moderate my internet and social media usage.

12. I move my body daily and I eat organic, whole, tasty foods.

13. I balance consumption with creation.

14. I feel my feelings without trying to numb them.

15. I am confident in my talents and abilities.

16. I value my worth.

17. I give freely and I receive freely.

18. I believe in the beauty of my dreams.

19. I do not worry what others think of me or say about me.

20. I stay true to myself and my values.

21. I measure time in inspiration rather than productivity.

22. I believe in miracles.

23. I notice synchronicities, and I let them guide me.

24. I listen to my intuition and I follow my heart.

25. I read to my children.

26. I date my husband.

27. I stay connected with my loved ones.

28. I practice non-attachment.

29. I relax into the present moment.

30. I allow the universe to show up for me in exciting ways.

Writing this list felt good. A wave of well-being moves through my heart each time I read it.

Thank you for being here, and please feel free to add your own intention for the next decade of your life in the comments below.

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To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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The Womannequin

The following is an essay about a piece of art I co-created for Maternal Matters at The Shop At Flywheel Press in San Mateo, CA through May 28, 2015.

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Womannequin, 2015
Mixed media on ceramic statue
Artists: Jacquelyn Krieger, Lucy Robinson

The Womannequin was born from the desire of two mothers with daughters to openly discuss how society capitalizes on female bodies.

My co-creator, Jacquelyn, and I wanted to use her, this sculpture of a woman’s body, to discuss two multi-billion dollar industries sharing women as their common denominator: the beauty industry and the business of being born.

We have adorned Womannequin with magazine imagery to explore society’s treatment of the sacred feminine. The fun of fashion and the art of beauty resides alongside the objectified female who is sliced and diced, her flesh and her photograph, to measure up to the media’s idea of what a woman should be, which is without question, different and better than who we are. Namely, younger, prettier, skinnier and sexier. (But not too sexy or we risk the label of slut!) While we feel inspired by many empowered and creative females profiled in today’s media, these pieces are juxtaposed by advertisements for weight-loss drugs and age-defying nip/tuck treatments, leaving us marginalized and confused.

We affixed Womannequin with our own personal objects to represent advances in modern medicine that are empowering like the ovulation test and pregnancy test, invasive like the insulin syringe, and careful like the weigh-ins. Science has opened miraculous windows into the womb using lab tests and sonograms, but the results are often interpreted using subjective numbers as the only benchmarks, resulting in misdiagnoses that fail to take into account the whole person. This fear-based culture turns a natural physiological process into illness and birth into a medical emergency, numbing our glory along with our pain.

While the businesses of beauty and birth often use pressure and fear to sell and “save” us, we celebrate femininity as something that is not inherently flawed as we were taught by patriarchy, but rather, inherently perfect. As we silence the critics, internal as well as external, we learn a new way of seeing–and loving–ourselves.

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To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Has parenting become too precious?

I recently read an article by a well-known author and TV personality. She has a deep and wide public platform, and she has five kids.

In this article she preaches about ditching manufactured mommy guilt because stress steals joy, and truly, you are doing enough for your children. You are.

I appreciated her message. But not her execution.

For she opens the article by shaming a fellow mom as follows:

“I’m about to tell you the truth: parenting has become very precious in our generation.

This very morning, a mom posted how on her son’s birthday, she assembles a comprehensive “time capsule” including items, photos, and products related to that particular year, stores it in a set of antique trunks, and plans to present them all to him on his 18th birthday as a tribute to his entire life.

Holy. Crap.

Cannot. Deal.”

I wrote an essay for Mamalode that defends this mom and all of the moms who love to take photos, or journal about their babies, or even (gasp) make a photo book!

I hope you check it out, and I hope you leave a comment over at Mamalode if you have anything add.

Thank you, as always, my friends.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Life And Death Transformation

“I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.” – Henry David Thoreau

I’ve been spending too much time in bed, tired but not sleeping. Both late at night while waiting for slumber and in the morning when the baby wants to nurse.

On Sunday, lying in bed in the last hour of Mother’s Day, I prayed a gratitude prayer, thanking spirit for my children. I have the two girls I always wanted subconsciously, plus a sweet boy who considers me “mom” simply because I have loved him and taken part in caring for him since he was two.

This summer I will care for the three of them at home and I must mentally prepare myself for the marathon. When we have this much time all together with no school, my patience wears thin. There’s three of them and one of me. But I don’t want to be the angry mommy. I want to see messes and squabbles and even disobedience with equanimity. Their childhood is all too fleeting and I want to make the most out of it. Not just for them, but for me. I want to look back on these years and know that I did my best. I want to feel like my best is good enough. Sometimes I am not so sure.

On the evening of Mother’s Day, complex emotions and utter exhaustion induced unrelenting sleeplessness, my head buzzing with metaphysical possibilities. I’d just finished reading “After This: When Life Is Over, Where Do We Go?” by Claire Bidwell Smith, a book I couldn’t put down for two days, the pages containing a litany of profound revelations about death and the afterlife. Like many, I have long contemplated death with morbid curiosity, trying to work it all out in my head while knowing I will never know the truth, not until I’ve arrived. Claire’s book helped excavate a knowingness from deep within: there is no such thing as death, not in the sense that our souls cease to exist after they leave these bodies. Death is a transformation. There is consciousness after death, even if it looks and feels different than how we look and feel while animating a human body.

Sometimes when I stay up too late (I appear to enjoy staying up too late), I find myself in tears because I love everyone so much and this is all temporary, and when I am overtired, I am less equipped to accept impermanence. My little baby is a toddler and my first baby is a girl. We are young but we are getting older. We are here but we won’t be here forever. This is what makes every moment of a good life bittersweet.

When I can’t sleep I start writing in my head. I reflect and deflect and it’s difficult to stop. I tell myself I will remember these thoughts and I will write them down when I wake up. Usually, I forget everything. I wonder, is this sleeplessness happening for a reason? Am I supposed to get up and turn on a light and disrupt my sleep cycle further by writing down these random thoughts? Will they mean something to someone if I do?

Being of service to others gives our time on earth purpose and meaning. With purpose and meaning, we do not need to pursue happiness. (Another simple but profound truth extrapolated in Claire’s book.) I am at service to my children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but what about the rest of the world? What can I do for the rest of the world that will mean something?

We can and should spin our passions into agents for change that will last longer than our bodies. It’s okay if you’re not sure what that looks like, neither do I. I’m going to start with what I love to do, which is writing and making art. Creating is my lifeline. I’m going to start by tackling the issues that have challenged me personally, writing for social change and intrapersonal discovery and spiritual awakening, yours and mine. We transform the earth by transforming ourselves.

All of this just to say that I hope you will join in the conversation by slowing down and taking the time to figure it out: why is it that I am here? What do I love and what do I hate and how can I shine love into those dark places?

Claire is doing it. She is shining light on perhaps the darkest place, and that is death.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Behind Closed Doors

So much to do so little time. Ya feel me?

So many books to read and stories to write.

So many faces to kiss and smiles to feel.

So many experiences to have and restaurants to try.

So many sites to browse and things to know

So many cities to visit and songs to sing.

So much creativity pulsating behind so many closed doors.

I like to put myself in the bird’s-eye view and soar overhead. I try to stay on this peninsula we call San Francisco while I am here in body, because if I don’t, I might get lost out there.

I see the beaches and the tall trees and the harrowing hills. The Golden Gate Bridge and the Victorians and Coit Tower, and then I go deeper. I see people walking and running and talking. I see them tapping away at their computers and moving across the land because they always have places to be. I see them wanting, wanting, wanting so much. I see their creative energy bolstered by mine and vice versa. I see our work weaving in and out of each other even if we’re not sure how or why or what the end result will be. I see tapestries of thought, intricate patterns emerging, ideas becoming things, an invisible and indivisible underbelly of love.

The work you do in your mind is the work you do for the mind. The work you do from your heart is the work you do from the heart.

I hope you know where you fit in today. I hope you can step back and admire your patch in the tapestry, whether it be tangled and tight, or lovely and loose. I hope you know your value. I hope you do work and I hope you own it. I hope you do things that scare you. I hope you aren’t too scared to back away.

I hope today is your perfect day. I hope you embrace imperfections as perfections, and death as life. I hope you see two sides of the same coin. I hope we can all understand the paradox that in order to create, something must die.

What are you creating? What’s happening behind your closed doors? Have you thought about opening them?

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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The Act of Speaking Frees Us (+ My Installation at The Shop This Month)

“It is the speaking of one’s heart that makes a human being human. For even if no one hears us, it is the act of speaking that frees us by letting the spirit swim and fly through the world.

– Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

The act of speaking frees us.

This must be why we are drawn to posting our thoughts, revelations, complaints, beliefs and more on social media and blogs. The online community provides us such an opportunity. We can say anything at any time. We can spill parts of ourselves here and there so that we do not have to keep it all inside. We do not have to explode, or implode. There is power in having a platform.

But do you know what’s missing when we post online? (Coming from someone who has posted nearly 600 times on this blog alone.) We cannot witness reactions in real time. No matter how many likes or comments or views your thoughts may garner, it is not the same as meeting eyes with your audience and seeing their tears and hearing their unedited stream of consciousness in reaction to your work.

When you don’t blog for money, when you don’t (yet) have a big community in your city, when you just want to connect with other people over truth, when you hope and pray that your words will touch readers the way you intend them to, when the only thing that matters is making the world a softer sweeter place one person at the time, when you struggle with the best way to do this using your creative passions–and then you see something happen, in real time, it settles you. Another piece of you finds its spot and burrows deep.

Last Friday, May 1st, “Maternal Matters” opened at The Shop at Flywheel Press. An unparalleled privilege to explore the intersection of art, poetry and motherhood with my co-creators and co-founders of Maker Mamas, Danila Rumold and Jacquelyn Krieger, two women who’ve brought immeasurable inspiration and support to my life. Read my artist statement here.

Our show will be at The Shop through May 28th, which happens to be my 30th birthday. Of course.

I am showing an installation piece entitled “Words On Whites,” featuring poetry about (what else?) maternal matters.

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Gallery description: I am a writer but I have terrible handwriting. I am a mother but I am neither quick nor skilled with laundry. My whites are stained and I still love white clothing. At any give time, you will likely find piles of laundry, sorted and unsorted, in my bedroom as I divert time I could spend on household chores to writing and reading and mothering. It made perfect sense to hand write verse about motherhood onto clothing and linens worn and ruined by my daughters and I. My undone laundry is the canvas for my work.

Embracing these challenges by making art out of my poor laundry skills and fragmented attention somehow makes me feel better on those days when it seems like I’m no longer holding it together, and the icing on the cake appears to be my daughter’s tangled hair and stained ballet leotard.

The act of speaking frees us. 

I have a smaller piece up called “Filtered/Unfiltered,” showcasing digital photographs layered with poetry.

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Gallery Description: Like many a modern parent, I photograph my children every day using my iPhone. I curate select images for my blog and Instagram, hence the square orientation. The hard truth is that I am a technology addict. In this piece I seek to embrace my addiction and put it to good use by making something beautiful for my children to keep. I want them to understand who their mother was while they were young (and why I could often be found behind my computer or phone), in hopes that this information will ultimately bring them to a deeper understanding of where they came from and therefore who they are.

The title comes from the photographs, which are filtered, and the words, which are unfiltered.

Lastly, I collaborated with Jacquelyn on a multimedia project, our beloved “Womannequin,” who deserves a post of her own. More on her, later.

Maternal Matters” will be at The Shop at Flywheel press, located at 309 7th Ave in San Mateo, CA, May 1-28, 2015. The gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11-7 pm.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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