Modern-Day Royalty

An interesting thing about (average middle class American) children these days is that they are so well tended.

There’s no scavenging for water when their class goes on a field trip. They carry BPA-free bottles in their backpacks, filled that very morning by loving attentive parents.

They can play in the rain without getting chilled because they always have a change of clothing nearby, and if not, the school has something they can borrow.

There’s no sliding around in the backseat. They sit in five-point car seats and high tech strollers like modern-day chariots.

They may as well be royalty.

We work to support them and when we aren’t working, we entertain them and care for them and clean up after them.

Before they are even born our friends throw them baby showers and after they come we remember their arrival by hosting annual birthday parties. We shower them with gifts on Christmas and we set up elaborate egg hunts on Easter.

We want everything to be magical for them.

We want everything for them. Everything we had, and perhaps more.

I think kids are so well tended these days because parenting builds on the previous generation. We parent the way our parents took care of us, compensating and occasionally over compensating for the gaps that may or may not have existed in our own childhoods.

But are there dangers to over compensating? Can we possibly give our babies too many gifts or too many parties or too much attention? If we overdo it will they grow up to be generous with high social and emotional intelligence, or needy and dependent on all sorts of addictions?

I think it’s something for us to consider as we finish our holiday shopping and embark on long school breaks. Can we find balance in the season of excess?

How do you find balance? Tell me in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot!] com. I would like to know!!

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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.

Finding Equinimity as Parents

A tough thing about this gig is the polarity of moods. From great to terrible and back again. I can hardly keep up.

Yesterday I had a major mommy win in which I fulfilled my vision of coaxing both little girls to sleep in their carseats so I could watch the ocean crash against the shore.

While they slept I indulged in my guiltiest pleasure (Instagram). And I started listening to a new audio book: “Yes, Please” by Amy Poehler. Before I could get too settled in the baby woke up and then the big one woke up and the peace quickly morphed into loud tears.

The rest of the day followed suit. Skyla cried the whole way home. Messes ensued, forming faster than I could fix. The baby is becoming a munchkin. She rarely stops moving and she can climb onto our bed by herself. She has teeth and a mischievous giggle.

My children, they lasso my heart with ribbons of sweet baby’s breath, and they squeeze out of me all the energy and patience and resources I have to give. They are relentless demanding little bosses and they kick my ass on a regular basis.

The joy and the misery are two sides of the same coin. I can’t have a front without a back, an up without a down.

Buddhism teaches about equanimity: seeing good and bad as essentially the same. Not letting yourself be pulled too low or high. Practicing nonattachment. When I start feeling strong negative emotions (and when I remember) I pray for equanimity. Not indifference but evenness. So that my heart stops beating to the rhythm of anger. So that I don’t slip and say something I regret. So that I can give my little loves a decent example to follow.

It’s hard. A continuous practice. But when I write about it, it becomes that much easier.

By default we take our troubles with the utmost seriousness even when we know they will dissolve should we allow them.

Ultimately, we have control over very little, but we do have control over our moods.

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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.

Taking Risks

I think maybe the important thing for writers is just to keep writing even if they don’t at first think they have anything to say.

Only because it’s cathartic. It brings a unique satisfaction. If my brain is a leaky tire, then words are my oxygen.

I’ve long wondered what this blog would become should I make it a daily practice rather than an occasional one.

(I hate blogging about blogging but I’m going to follow this train of thought anyways.)

It could become a collection of boring thoughts that don’t make sense. It could become a compelling journal about an ordinary middle class American life. It could become an ode to mothering or writing or San Francisco. It could be good practice for finding my voice. It could be all of these and none of these depending on the day.

But I haven’t taken the leap because I don’t know if I want to expose that much of myself. Which reminds me of this poignant quote by my current favorite artist of my generation, Lena Dunham:

Shame is the emotion that makes us feel most isolated from each other, and the most isolated from ourselves. It’s deeply important to try to rid ourselves of it. Exorcising your demons is a gift that you can give to other people, I think. It’s what makes our art not totally self-indulgent nonsense.

I think I’m ready to experiment. I learned this year that change is good. 2015 is around the corner, I’ll be 30 soon. I feel like shaking things up. In truth, I’m bored more often than I’m not. Maybe because I’ve been playing it too safe.

Instead of wasting time on the how, I’m going to leave it at the intention: I intend to take more risks. I intend to blog more frequently. I intend to publish more work. I intend to make new friends.

Perhaps this could be the year..

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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.

Public Transit Vs. Driving With Kids

I thought that maybe if I took the bus I could journal for a moment. But it was crowded and I had to stand with the baby on my back and when I did get a seat, the baby grew fussy. I could barely hang onto the lurching bus and my girls at once, much less open my purse. Skyla lost her patience around the same time we got to our stop, so naturally, I missed it.IMG_3551.JPGNo worries though, we walked through Chinatown for the first time and got caught in the rain before hopping on a bus back up the hill to the 22 foot gingerbread house at the Fairmont in San Francisco. I do love public transit that comes every 5-10 minutes.IMG_3569.JPGI experience something on the bus from time to time like when Skyla flirts with everyone she can catch with her eyes, smiling and babbling and a fat little hand on an elderly man’s chest, or when Giovanna chooses to stand rather than sit with a smirk of pride. A swelling of my heart, simple but deep enjoyment of my children. It makes me sad for all of the hours I’ve spent in my car. Isolated, bored, lonely. Convenience and speed the tippy top priority. Time too finite to waste. Yet driving is another sort of waste… And a whole lot of freedom.IMG_3565.JPGOnce we have our basic needs met, what do we chase? A lot, but at the center of it all is freedom, I think. Freedom of expression via art. Freedom to explore via travel. Freedom to consume via money. Freedom to grow via information. (Enter the internet!)IMG_3577.JPGInterestingly, motherhood seems to impose the opposite of freedom. By it’s very nature motherhood occupies our bodies and consumes our hearts, sometimes our thoughts. Whether we want to accept it or not, our children are like teeny tiny bosses. IMG_3595.JPGDriving can become its own sort of break as our children are temporarily encumbered by their carseats. Their only power in that position comes from the power they have over us. Both of my daughters have been known to wail in the car, and I have been known to pull over. I’ve grown more skilled at handling the cries with my second babe and I do wonder how this will affect her in the long run, praying it will be mostly good rather than mostly bad.IMG_3592.JPGDriving, when the children are quiet or sleeping, becomes its own meditation. It gives you choices.

Taking the bus is a social and cultural experience. It allows you to look sideways in addition to forward.IMG_3612.JPGI’m grateful to live in a city where I can do both. And I encourage other people, not just mothers but especially mothers, to shake up their transportation routines. Bus instead of drive. Transit instead of taxi. Walk a different way. You might just get inspired by something new.

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Great Expectations

At some point my husband and I began likening our children to little animals. They play in the mud and they jump on the furniture and they fight over food. In the past week one has peed on the floor, one has (innocently) taken a bite of her daddy’s finger, and one has broken the slat on a brand new bed. They are hardly house-trained and certainly not civilized.

We started calling them so. Little animals. It became a term we used often to cope with the exhaustive forces of parenting three children.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps they (the older ones, not the sweet baby) were acting more beastly the more we pointed out this aspect of their personalities. Or maybe we were noticing it more? No matter, I decided we should accept our children’s behavior for what it is. They are not miniature adults, they are wild and free and uninhibited. Perhaps I’m putting a damper on their childhood by admonishing them for having a scuffle in the museum or forbidding ice cream when they aren’t listening. Clearly I myself am imperfect seeing that I offer food bribes.

When I find myself repeatedly disappointed by their animal behavior, I wonder if I’m the one with the problem, not them. Are my expectations too high? What happened to my patience? Was I too harsh? Am I a terrible mother?

But James reminded me that it might be good to have high expectations for our children. We give them something to work for. We show faith in their ability to change. We force them into cleanliness in hopes that it becomes a habit. We teach them manners and norms and how society expects them to act.

(The rebel on my shoulder responds: who cares how society wants us to act?)

What do you think? Do we let kids be kids, or do we demand they clean their room before dinner and stay seated while they eat? How do we strike the right balance? Tell me in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot] com with your thoughts on parenting. I love hearing from you!

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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An Already-Done List

I like to make lists. So I’m trying a new variation on an old favorite: an already-done list rather than a to-do list. A way to expand on that feeling of accomplishment and self-efficacy, which helps us feel good about ourselves, according to this article.

It doubles as a gratitude list, apropos for this Thanksgiving week. Because I am so thankful for these privileges. Even the school tours because I have the time and space to do them. Even the unpacking because it means a fresh start, empty spaces and the opportunity to be organized for a little while, or a long while.

Without further ado, here are some things I’ve done during my first six weeks in San Francisco:

Attended several playground-based playgroups.

Taken Giovanna to gymnastics and yoga. I love seeing the joy she finds in movement.

Walked the city with and without the littles. My big girl is learning how to get her city legs.

Attended a style soiree, won a facial, gotten my hair cut and blown out, let a Benefit make-up artist do up my eyebrows, and tried on designer dresses for rent. Just because it’s fun to be a girl.

Taken barre classes at three different studios.

Secured a part-time spot in an amazing non-traditional preschool.

Hired a babysitter.

Gone to dinner with friends.

Hosted brunch for extended family.

Played on the beach.

Written a short story.

Unpacked the majority of my boxes.

Visited my cousin and her children 100 miles away.

Went on a movie date.

Listened to live music at a jazz club on Fillmore.

Taken the bus.

Bought a new wardrobe for Skyla at the Tea Collection sample sale.

Shopped at the farmer’s market.

Signed up for a CSA home delivery.

Joined the San Francisco Public Library.

Attended multiple elementary school tours for next year.

Hiked in the Presidio.

Joined the California Academy of Sciences.

And on the horizon:

Cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Take family pictures with the phenomenal photographer who captured our wedding and now lives in SF.

Attend a new book club.

See the Nutcracker performed by the SF Youth Ballet and the Velveteen Rabbit by ODC/Dance.

Redeem said facial.

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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Powerful Beyond Measure

When Simone, a dear reader, sent me an email to offer support and wisdom for my recent interstate move, she said, “no need to control or fix or worry. All needs are met, and they always have been.” I knew I wanted to hear more so I asked if she would share her story about moving across the country and how it changed her. Here it is. Enjoy.

My plan was simple, move to Los Angeles, spread my professional wings a little further than I was able to in Philadelphia and then, perhaps move back to the east coast.

The first 6 months here, I unraveled, and my plan disappeared.

I became a person I didn’t recognize, like or want to be around.  I was shedding, crying, self-loathing and withdrawing from all the parts of myself I thought I knew and recognized.

2 months into my move, I became introverted and disillusioned. The expectations I had for myself were unrealistic and full of ego.  In Philadelphia, I wore a lot of hats, accomplished some pretty hefty goals and had a lot of titles. I had a BA in journalism from Temple University and an MS in arts administration from Drexel University.  My resume was 3 pages full of outlined experiences, and I cared a great deal about those achievements. They validated me, boosted my courage, and gave me a fantastic sense of self-esteem. Or so I thought.

By month 3, I had been on quite a few interviews, with no call back.  I didn’t understand. I had all the experience, qualified – many times over qualified and nobody wanted me. I was quickly learning that all that used to matter, didn’t matter anymore. What was wrong with me? Was I not enough? What was going to be my fall back plan? I had no job. No real sense of how to get around LA without a GPS (which depressed me) and no creative outlet. I was stuck. It was hard for me to see outside of the cloud I had created for myself. I was drowning in doubt, worrying about going back to Philly and what that would look like and what others would think.

I didn’t recognize myself and had no idea who I was turning into…

I desperately needed an answer, a sign a reminder, warning – something! I wasn’t at all sympathetic to the person I was becoming. I was used to always falling on my feet, while lining things up so that if plan A didn’t work, there was always plan B. I was used to being in control.

Little did I realize, I was that sign I was asking for.

After drowning myself in job applications and interviews, I welcomed any distraction.  I do not remember quite how I stumbled upon the author Marianne Williamson, but I will forever be grateful that I did. The first book I read by her was A Return to Love and digested it within a few days. I was new to the idea of speaking to the Universe, meditation or envisioning how I wanted to feel out of life, rather than what I wanted to happen or do in life. (That’s an important difference)

So, I called out. ‘Who am I?’ ‘Why am I here?’ It felt weird, and I was resistant. I struggled with releasing control and believing that all my needs would be met, without a tangible plan. That knowing (of the unknown) scared me, but I was willing to try.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” –M. Williamson

Was this true? Could I have been afraid of all that was waiting for me to experience? The thought of me being fearful of success or that my wildest dreams and ideas could actually manifest was silly to me.

Me?

Truth is; I was. The Universe gave me exactly what I needed. I needed to sit down and be with myself. Take a real good, long look at who I was, in that present moment. Forget goals, ideas, or dreams. I was a control freak, a perfectionist, and I felt like the world owed me because of the work I put in – I had a huge ego. With so many thoughts flooding my mind, I began to journal more frequently and meditate which became a beautiful distraction.  My thoughts changed from why I moved to LA and what I wanted to accomplish to who I wanted to become and what I wanted my life to mean.

I was here.

I was talented enough. I was experienced enough. I was opening my mind to possibility and definitely not afraid to learn what I didn’t already know.  I stopped rejecting what wasn’t about my life and became more open to what was happening and good about my life. I was exactly where I needed to be. I began to simply enjoy and look forward to every day.

I changed my attitude and approach.

I released the need to control or even worry about what direction I should take. I began to carve out time for reading, writing, job searching, discovering LA, talking to family and friends without shame or embarrassment and that became my routine.

I landed a job by month 6.

Did I particularly enjoy my emotional rollercoaster? No. But, I saw it through. Our truth can knock us down, but it is our willing heart that will always be ready to jump right back in! The question is; will you follow?

“Much of our anxiety and stress comes when we’re focused on fear and disconnected from the voice of our inner guide.” –Gabrielle Bernstein

dawn

“When life descends into the pit
I must become my own candle
willingly burning myself
to light up the darkness around me” – Alice Walker

i’m a wildflower. constantly unfolding, learning, experiencing, and loving…in los angeles. – Simone

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Have you been scared of your own beauty? Have you struggled to follow your heart? Tell me about it in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I love hearing from you. 

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

Thank you for your beautiful words, Simone!