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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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The Intersection of Art, Poetry and Motherhood

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Life has a way of unfolding around us, in spite of us, for us. Do you agree?

I love writing poetry. I love making mixed media art. I love being a mother. And somehow in a whirl of synchronicity and serendipity, these passions that don’t always complement one another, have joined forces and taken an unforeseeable direction.

In the month of May and mother’s day and my birthday, we the three founding members of Maker Mamas will present “Maternal Matters” at The Shop at Flywheel Press in San Mateo, CA, a show exploring the intersection of art, poetry and motherhood. Cameras, keyboards, and canvases are the tools we use in the midst of nap, play, and dream time, nurturing our creations alongside our children.

The show opens on May 1st, 6-9 pm with the San Mateo First Friday night market, a food truck and live music. Please do pass along the information and invitation to Bay Area art lovers and mothers and non-mothers alike.

I look forward to telling you about the opening–and how it felt to scribble my heart on my sleeve and hang my stained laundry out for public scrutiny.

Until then, I leave you with my artist statement:

My intention is to coax feminine energies out of their centuries-old oppression by exploring the quintessential embodiment of femininity: motherhood. The divine nature of the feminine is to create and nurture creation; just as life on earth evolved out of our sister the ocean, dark and wet like the womb. This collection of poetry acknowledges the light and shadow sides of making and raising humans by taking a heart-centered perspective on maternal sacrifice. By seeing the unseen, specifically the woman as mother, we hold space for her to birth new ideas, inspiring women to take back their power–not just in birth but in life.

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

Take A Step; Learn A Word

“Each life is a language no one knows. With every heartbreak, discovery, and unexpected moment of joy, with every lift of music that touches us where we didn’t think we could be touched, with every experience, another letter in our alphabet is decoded. Take a step; learn a word. Feel a feeling; decode a sign. Accept a truth; translate a piece of the mystery written in your heart.

Before we live what’s next, it always seems like there is some answer we need to arrive at. But daring to enter, we are humbled to discover, again and again, that the act of living itself unravels both the answer and the question. When we watch, we remain riddles to be solved. When we enter, we become songs to be sung.

When life feels far off, remember that a flute is just something hard with holes until it’s played. So, too, the heart. As matches are just sticks until lit, as ice is not quenching until thawed, questions and problems remain obstacles until lived. In this way, the life of every soul waits like sheet music to be played. What good are we if never played?

Only when life moves through do holes become openings.”

– Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Today marks my six month anniversary in San Francisco. So it was only fitting that I came across this gorgeous passage.

By taking a step out of my home state, I have decoded another letter in my alphabet. And with it, I’ve had my fiction published and discovered a platform for my poetry and found a growing artist community of moms.

As for my family–Giovanna has had the opportunity to attend preschool in the California forest, forging a unique spiritual relationship with nature that will stick with her forever. Emile has gotten to travel on an airplane by himself at frequent intervals, allowing him to show responsibility and practice precocious independence. James continues to move forward in his career as a professional creative. And Skyla, baby Skyla, she gets to soak up all this good sunshine and ocean air, the excitement of San Francisco as it comes through her mama and daddy and siblings and self.

By leaving Seattle, we have ripped holes in our lives. Never again will my children and I feel entirely at home, but we have something else. We have San Francisco–and when the storied winds of this city blow through our holes, I hear music.

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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Dear Beautiful Women

I randomly came across this short essay in my digital journal about beauty. It was written nearly 4 years ago, yet it still makes sense to me today. I’m sure I meant to post it at some point, but like so many of my words, I kept it to myself. Today I choose to share it in hopes that it reaches you when you need it most. 

Dear Beautiful Women,

I’ve felt self-conscious lately. Vacillating between extremes. Both aware and oblivious of my own beauty, the kind that shines from the inside out.

When I’m listening to the voice in my head, the voice of knowledge, the voice that was born from all of the lies I’ve accumulated over the past 26 years, I feel ugly. I feel judged. I feel that I will never be good enough.

When I’m listening to the voice of my true self, my highest self, I find a deep knowing that I was born perfect and will always be perfect. My so-called flaws are not flaws, it is only my perception that is flawed.

Once upon a time, my aunt wanted a nose job. She is gorgeous, my aunt. As a child, innocent and pure, I was unaware of the societal consensus that a nose must be inconspicuous and perfectly curved, not too straight or too bent, to be beautiful. I could not understand what was wrong with her nose.

Can we agree that all noses are miraculous? As babies, we use our noses to seek out our mother’s breast. As we grow into children, scents have the unparalleled power to invoke emotions and memories. As adults, our noses lead us to pleasure as we inhale the scent of our lover, to relaxation as we relish in the soothing properties of a lavender sachet, and to love as we bury our noses against the head of a newborn baby.

Now in her early fifties, my aunt says, “you spend the first half of your life wishing things were different, and the second half of your life wishing everything would stay the same.” She never did get a nose job.

I want to know: what does the size of our nose matter? Or the straightness of our teeth? Or the perkiness of our breasts? If we can smell the sweetness of a rose and chew the fruit of the earth and nurse the children of our womb, why are we complaining? Why are we wasting energy when we could be celebrating the miracle of life?

The voice of knowledge, the snake in the Garden of Eden, the fallen angel — they are around every corner. In magazines, on TV, on the internet, in movies, on billboards, in windows, in parents, in friends, in spouses, in children. Everywhere. The web of lies is thick, and it’s growing every day, with so many people busy at work, adding their own intricate layer of false convictions and lies of imperfection.

The truth, however, will always set us free. No matter how detailed the lies have become, the truth is always underneath. If you stop believing in the lies, they will fall away like dead rose petals because they’ve lost the life force behind them: you.

My Dear Beautiful Women, I’ve heard your cries. You believe you aren’t good enough. You have wrinkles. Your nose is too big. Your teeth are too crooked. Your hair is too curly. Your skin is too pale. Your thighs are too big. Your breasts are too small. Your waist is too thick. Your arms are too chubby. I won’t even get started with the deeper insecurities, except for to say that you are never doing enough for your career or your children or your partner or your self.

What if we knew these were lies? What if we believed ourselves to be perfect right now as is? Your highest self knows the truth, can you hear her? Her voice is smaller than a whisper at first, but she gets louder when you learn how to tune out the other voices, the ones spouting lies.

Let the truth set you free. Let your beauty shine from the inside out. Next time you look in the mirror, allow yourself to see perfection.

I will, too.

All my love,

Lucy

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