Share Your Spring Walks

The earth is absolutely exquisite right now.

Ceilings of cherry blossoms. Blankets of wildflowers. Rows and rows of tulips. Eruptions of color and life and light.

Have you been opening your eyes to it? I love how Instagram helps us notice the beauty, and make the beauty our own by adding filters and words.

Sometimes all it takes to clear the mind, inspire creativity and increase productivity is a spring walk. Fresh air, fresh flowers, fresh perspective.

Are you taking spring walks?

If you use Instagram, hashtag your #springwalks and tag me @lucilleinthesky so I can follow you and we can share in the season of rebirth.

I want to know: what does your corner of the planet look like right now?

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Mommy Stress (Why can’t I relax?)

There we were. It was a Friday evening. A beautiful bright Friday, somewhat rare in the bipolar month of March. In two days, my baby would be four weeks old and we were taking her with us out to dinner for the first time at one of those conveyor belt sushi places. 

I anticipated the sashimi after 9+ months of abstaining.

I should have been enjoying myself.

I wasn’t.

In the car, Skyla cried. We’d left the house to pick up James’ car from the mechanic but then we’d ventured further so I could get my new iPhone. And I felt guilty. I didn’t really need a new phone, I just wanted one. I didn’t really need to stay out and about, I just wanted to. As my tiny baby flailed her arms and screamed her little heart out, growing sweaty and crimson and all out of sorts, I knew it was my fault. No longer did I want a new phone, no longer did I want to get out of the house after nearly 4 weeks of holing up, I just wanted to hold her in my arms and soothe her frayed nerves.

Alas. We were already there. The parking meter wouldn’t work and James was parking his car on another street and my moby wrap touched the dirty sidewalk as I clumsily wrapped myself in it while my baby continued to believe she was being tortured. I felt like a drippy foolish mess.

I got her in the wrap and hooked her up to my breast. James showed up and found a parking meter that would actually spit out the sticker. Gigi entertained herself in the AT&T store. I got my shiny and sharp gold iPhone. It was dinner time and we decided we might as well eat somewhere nearby. The rain had come before the sun and so the light reflected off of the slick streets, shrinking puddles of sunshine.

We were in a pedestrian-heavy neighborhood of Seattle and everyone around us seemed to be smiling. (The sun will do that to us Pacific-Northwesterners.)

I was not smiling. I clutched Giovanna’s hand, weary of the cars whizzing by, separated from my babies by just a curb. The world can be such a scary place when you have so many fingers and toes to lose. This was one of my first outings as a mother of two and I thought it to be pretty damn intimidating.

What if someone coughed on my baby? What if Giovanna caught salmonella from the sushi? (Not that she was eating the raw pieces.) What if she broke free and ran into the street? What if a car ran up onto the sidewalk? What if someone hit us on the way home? What if my baby cried again? Would there be sweat marks in the car seat? Would her brain be irrevocably damaged from the neglect? Did it count as neglect?

Why was I so stressed out? I felt jealous of everyone on the street who seemed relaxed, I felt jealous of my former childless self. So carefree and unencumbered. Never again will I be so free.

And this is what I love most about my life: my family. my children. So why can’t I take refuge in my blessings and relax into them?

A crux of parenting: either I’m not with my kids and I’m worrying about them, or I’m with them and able to focus on little else. Either way, they’re in the forefront of my mind. Unless they’re sleeping. Right now Skyla is snoozing and I can see her on the video monitor. Giovanna and Emile are with James in the hammock and though I can see them through my window, I don’t have to watch them.

Gigi has a baby doll and Emile is wearing sunglasses and I’m still worried that someone is going to fall out of the hammock and get hurt. But because they’re with their daddy, I know he will catch them.

I daresay I am semi-relaxed. I love this feeling. Like I’m dipping my toes in the ocean. I want to be here more often.

I don’t want to live my life in a state of anxiety. It’s exhausting and draining and soul-sucking. I want more trust and less fear. I want to enjoy things like a sushi dinner on a pretty Friday evening, the sunset tinging the edges of the sky orange. Not the orange that means CAUTION but the orange that means FUN.

How do parents learn to let go of their worries? Is it possible? I know there are many mothers out there who struggle with this. I feel them. We are desperate to protect our babies from hardship, disease, injury and heartbreak even while knowing that our control is not powerful but powerfully limited.

All we can do is pray. And worry.

What I don’t know is how many mothers out there have managed to siphon the stress away, channeling this nervous energy into something useful. Maybe even beautiful.

I would like to channel it into my stories, the fiction I write while everyone else is sleeping. My previous post here was part of a blog hop in which a group of writers made fun of our own paranoia by writing a story together through the eyes of an extremely anxious person. We had a grand ole time and we found some new friends in one another.

I’m tired. I want to relax. I want parenting to be lighter. Maybe it’s not meant to be light, but surely I can learn to manage the stress when it starts to impede on my mental health and therefore my disposition.

I am going to practice. Perhaps the more I focus on relaxing, the more relaxed I will become. Perhaps the more I find my happy place, drinking herbal teas and getting massages and reading books, the better acquainted I will become with that happy place and the easier it will be to find when I need it.

I want to focus on being rather than doing. (Which includes thinking.)

I want to enjoy this fleeting and fragile time in my life with greater ferocity.

I want to embody love rather than fear.

I just want to stress less. About everything, from the rampant messes to the safety of the playground (see picture below) to the circulating illnesses to the state of their hearts.

Say it with me: don’t worry, be happy.

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The Most Outlandish Tale About Anxiety and Depression Ever

Scroll down to the stars to cut right to the story, which started here.

Today I’m posting a wee piece of fiction as part of a blog hop, Adam’s clever idea inspired by the anxiety that helps him write stories.

He says: When you think about it, having a freak out episode, or an anxiety or panic attack, or a grey matter meltdown, or whatever you wanna call it, is nothing but a series of creatively fabricated events that never happen. It’s fiction. A lot of the time, it’s really good fiction.

I’ve had this same realization about anxiety and storytelling; perhaps the gross tragedies unfolding in my mind (and torturing my soul) are not morbid and sick but a misdirected imagination, an overzealous desire to fabricate another universe.

But I never knew if this was true or simply an excuse for my paranoia. Until now. I feel so much lighter. How do you feel?

To start reading the story from the beginning, go to Adam’s blog.

Here is my 200 word contribution, the 4th installment in the series.

***

On the other side of my window, branches and leaves whisper secrets, teasing away my exhaustion.

It’s just the wind.

But if the wind is actually a man, and if the man is coming to steal my car, and if I didn’t pay the insurance as I suspect, I will most likely end up sleeping on the side of the freeway. Drinking fumes during the morning commute instead of coffee. The car is far from paid off. And public transportation around here is as sparse as my eyelashes which I pluck from my eyelids when no one is really paying attention. Including me.

I drag my rattling bones out of bed to check on the car. But when I get to the front door and reach down to turn the lock, chills drip down my back like an egg cracked on my head.

It’s a sign.

Better for my car be dissected and sold off in pieces than my body.

I climb back in between the sheets, checking for the jagged knife stashed between the mattress and wall before succumbing to my bed’s embrace. Who needs a lover when you have a down comforter and plenty of imaginary friends with benefits?

Sleep assaults me and I am safe. Until my dreams take over.

***

Now go visit the blog of the brilliant author, Ericka Clay, for what happens next!

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Spring Intentions

As winter softens into spring, each day stretching longer than the last, I have created an on-going list of my intentions for the season.

To me, intentions embody both goals and fresh ways of thinking. New perspectives and new practices.

I love to celebrate the beginning and end of each season by articulating my intentions. This practice helps me to feel more connected to the earth and rooted in my values.

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(If any of these intentions resonate with you and you’d like to join me, please let me know!)

1. Family always comes first. Mothering is enough.

I don’t need to be a famed author or a wealthy entrepreneur to be joyful. Yes, I need to write and I need to create, but the end result is irrelevant as long as I am doing what I love.

On the other hand, when it comes to mothering, the fruits of my labor mean everything: the happiness of my kids. It doesn’t matter how prolific I am on a day to day basis as long as my family is happy.

I wrote this intention because I have days when I feel like I’m not doing or being enough. I would like to revise this belief: I am caring for my children every day, and that is always enough.

2. Write when you can. Don’t feel like you must.

See #1.

Writing is like an addiction, and though it can sometimes interfere with my relationships (like all addictions, I’d venture to say), it’s better than many of the alternatives. I set this intention because I want to be easier on myself; free to enjoy my life rather than obsessing over the next opportunity to get to the keyboard.

3. Cultivate inspiration. Live an inspired life.

Take walks. Sit in the sunshine. Draw pictures. Notice small beauties. Experiment in the kitchen. Talk to people. Ask questions. Read good books and good blogs. Make lists (see #5). Write poetry. Pick flowers. Brainstorm pitches. Make pitches. Window shop. Talk to trees. Stare at the sky. Play outside.

4. Love yourself. Know your potential.

Take nothing for granted.

Remember achievements of the past, appreciate the perfection of the present, and dream big for the future.

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5. Take notes. Don’t expect the brain to hold it all.

This has been especially helpful for blogging. If I don’t write down my ideas and thoughts right as they manifest, they will often fade away, shadowed by more pressing matters. Such as feedings and tea orders and what’s for dinner.

6. Blog weekly.

At least once per week. Preferably two. Maybe three. Because I love this creative outlet. And because writing about my life is incredibly cathartic and empowering and enlightening.

7. Drink one green smoothie per day in April.

My friend Jessica posted on Facebook about the 30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge and I immediately agreed to do it. I already drink green smoothies on a regular basis, but I was excited to step up the frequency a bit. 8 days in and I fall more in love with green smoothies every day. Someday soon I’ll post my current favorite recipe.

8. Exercise 30 minutes per day.  

This one was inspired by the #1800minutechallenge which challenges bloggers to exercise for an average of 30 minutes per day April 1-May 30. Since I am still recovering from childbirth I am pretty liberal with my minutes, counting every thing from easy walking and gentle stretching to cleaning the house with a baby strapped to my chest. Really, at this point, I just want to get back into the exercise habit and figure out how to make it work for this particular season of my life.

9. Connect.

Make plans with friends. Talk to friendly strangers. Schedules dates with James, even if we don’t leave the house.

When I choose to venture into social media land, I will not click away without connecting at least once, leaving comments and likes and replies.

Listen to people. Listen deeply to what they’re really trying to say. Read between the lines.

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Choosing Happiness Over Cleanliness?

If I followed my kids around with a camera you might be surprised at how quickly and severely they can mess up a perfectly clean house.

Or maybe you have kids of your own and you wouldn’t be surprised at all.

I bought this coffee table book for James: “A Perfectly Kept House Is the Sign of a Misspent Life.” He was not interested. He likes a clean house, as do I.

But it’s driving me nuts. With a newborn in the mix, I have very little time to clean. We live in a big house and our two older children are like twin tornados.

Spring break is coming up and it’s our year to have Emile and we’re not traveling anywhere which means it’s me and three kids at home all week and God knows that I’m going to be quite frustrated quite often if I don’t learn how to LET IT GO (cue Frozen soundtrack). The house is going to be a disaster zone and I can either enjoy the extra time with my daughters and my stepson or I can have a clean house.

I know this and yet I can pretty much guarantee that I will fight with them about cleaning up behind themselves at some point. Or more likely at multiple points. And I’m not sure if this is a good and necessary thing or a waste of breath and time. Inevitably I will either do most of the clean up myself, or exhaust myself by harping on and on, offering bribes and taking away privileges and such.

This is a significant source of stress for me or else I wouldn’t be blogging about it. (Talk about first world problems.) I want them to be mindful and aware of their surroundings and I want my living space to be zen but at what cost?

After all, I want to live life, not clean up after it.

Dear readers, what would you do? Fight the messes or succumb to their power? Ideally, I could find a balance though it has eluded me thus far. Any tips or tricks or mind games to play with them/myself?

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Tiny Ballerina

Like her mama and her grammy before her, Giovanna loves ballet.

I cried when I saw her on stage at her first recital, smiling big and loving the audience. The power of this moment; watching your child do something they love that you also love; took me by surprise.

The universe conspired to bring plenty of ballet to our lives this winter. First, we found an awesome class, far superior to the previous class we took at another place. What’s more, some of our old friends from Stroller Strides were already enrolled. (Nothing like a community!) The sweet and talented teacher invited Gigi to participate in the December recital even though we’d just joined. Then, I won two tickets to the PNB’s big fancy performance of the Nutcracker courtesy of Trophy Cupcakes. And finally, the cherry on top, our ballet teacher hosted an extra special Nutcracker tea, complete with costumes.

The simplest pleasures continue to bring the most joy. A pair of ballet shoes. A handmade sparkly tutu. A little girl spinning across the living room. (Scroll to the bottom for a video and a cool surprise!).

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How cute is this cream and pink sparkly tutu? Handmade by MissEmmasBoutique on Etsy, a work-at-home mom here in the Seattle area. (She even makes a Seahawks tutu!)

And just for fun, from the Dancers Over 40 Facebook page…because these ballerinas are stunning. And apparently over 40.

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7 Ways to Get Unstuck

Something kinda cool happened the other day.

I was rifling through the folders on my hard-working laptop when I found an article that I’d written exactly one year earlier with a specific website in mind. When they didn’t want it, I forgot about it. In the past year I’ve discovered a new website (is it just me or are websites as infinite as the stars in the sky?) that I love even more than that other one. And so I sent in this randomly-found piece and they claimed it just a few hours later.

It made me wonder…what else is hiding out in my computer, waiting patiently to be published? What else is possible?

The article explains 7 Ways to Get Unstuck. It occurred to me that the article itself had to get “unstuck,” and paradoxically it took both #3 (Be still and wait) and #7 (Stop waiting) to get there.

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image via ceitci.org