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Unintentional Love Notes

It’s all bittersweet.

Time marches along and our babies get bigger and eventually they will leave us. Strangely enough, we want for them to leave us. We want them to be somewhat like us, adults with purpose and intent and independence.

Leo Babauta wrote a post on his lovely blog Zen Habits about the messes his (six) kids leave around the house and how he, as a neat freak, stays sane by viewing the legos on the floor and the cookie crumbs on the counter as unintentional love notes.

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Some love notes from my sweet GiGi.

I adopted this mentality for laundry a couple years ago and it has helped immensely. My little family makes a helluva lotta laundry. Giovanna changes (and dirties) her clothes multiple times per day. Skyla poops on her clothes multiple times per day. James washes his clothes after every use. Add Emile, as mothers of little boys everywhere know, produces the dirtiest, stinkiest laundry.

But when Emile isn’t home, when he’s at his other home, my laundry pile decreases. And believe it or not, this makes me nostalgic. When James is traveling as he often does, the pile is even smaller. And while I appreciate the reprieve, I’d take the laundry over the absence of laundry any day.

I don’t like chores. I don’t like cleaning. I don’t like doing dishes. But I enjoy the end result. The clear surfaces, the sparkly counters, the zen vibrations from a clean home, the calm before the storm. A clean home tricks me into thinking I’ve got everything together in life, that I’m the kind of person who does her taxes early instead of late, who regularly edits her wardrobe instead of hanging onto clothes for sentimental reasons, and who never makes impulse purchases.

This is not me.

I’m working on letting go of these idealisms. These pictures in my head of the woman I want to be. Serene and polished. A woman who conquers life (and life’s messes) and looks good while doing it. A woman who moves her body daily and showers daily and eats local. A woman who writes without succumbing to distractions or inhibitions. A woman who loves without fear.

Though I believe in the value of these aspirations, I do not believe that achieving this ideal picture is the purpose of life.

Picasso said: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

Alas, it must be more important that I sit down to do my work rather than clean my kitchen or put the toys away or wash my hair.

Maybe it’s not important that I have everything together. Is that possible?

Maybe my drawers are disorganized and that’s okay.

Maybe my eyebrows are overgrown but I’m still beautiful.

Maybe my bed is rarely made but I am not a slob.

Maybe my computer memory is stuffed to its limit but my own memory is not.

Maybe I haven’t practiced yoga for a few days but my body is happy anyways.

Maybe I haven’t lost all the baby weight but I am healthy anyways.

Maybe I wasted too much time on Instagram/Facebook this week but I made some meaningful connections.

Maybe Giovanna and Emile make messes everywhere all the time but they’re actually leaving me unintentional love notes.

Someday those love notes will slow and stop and I will miss the messes. Like I said, it’s all bittersweet, another all-encompassing paradoxical truth to embrace.

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

Creatures of Passion

I sit down at this computer day after day because I’m searching for something. The internet is my portal and my nemesis.

I used to write poetry on a regular basis. Sometimes I’d post it on my short fiction and poetry blog sometimes I wouldn’t. I would write to get the words flowing and hopefully create something beautiful to read.

If I were alive before blogs and internet and instant gratification, I wonder who I would be. Would I write poems just for my family and my self like my great-grandmother? Would my children later bind my poems together into a book? Or would I put down my pen in favor of the washing and the cooking and the children? Would I write more because I felt no pressure, or would I write less because I had no one to share it with?

Does the internet paralyze or liberate? I daresay both. It depends on how we use it or let it use us.

When I started writing poetry back in the third grade it was for the love of it because everything we do as children is for the love of it. Back when we were creatures of pure passion. Now we have bills to pay and ourselves to impress. Distractions that shadow our passions. We stop creating just for creation’s sake. We’re too busy.

I think the people who really have got it going on, the people who inspire and move and make change with their life’s work are the people who never lose that part of themselves: that creature of pure passion. They let their creature loose everyday whether they’re solving problems in corporate america or pounding the pavement in a pair of running shoes or raising children or designing websites or churning out content or making dinner or teaching yoga or…

Creatures of pure passion feel indifferent towards accolades and money and fame. They want only to kiss the earth and leave an imprint of love. The more we allow space for the creature to play, the less frightened we will become by her creations, and the more freely we can create in all our favorite ways.

When I stopped writing poetry I shut down one of my creatures. Now I’m inviting her back by sitting down with my pen and letting her be free, unconcerned by the scrutiny of the internet or the passage of time.

She loves tall trees and dandelion wishes and she’s not afraid of sharing.

Subscribe to my poetry blog here

Are you searching for your creatures?

Are you letting them out to play?

What do your creatures love?

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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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A Home Birth in Pictures

“Imagine what might happen if women emerged from their labor beds with a renewed sense of the strength and power of their bodies, and of their capacity for ecstasy through giving birth” — Dr. Christiane Northrup

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I’m not sure I fully explained in my birth story how good it felt to be at home, cared for by my midwife and my husband and my doula.

Natural, safe, private.

All of my wishes considered, all of my needs met.

Birthing at home is not for everyone, but it was a beautiful choice for me.

I won’t try to explain why because these photographs, taken by Jessica May Photography in the first moments after Skyla’s birth, provide a window into this tender morning, better than I can describe in words.

Aside from the few posed photos, I had no awareness that Jessica was there with her camera. I was operating in another dimension, completely wrapped up in my new baby.

I suppose I am still here. Life will never be the same. It just keeps getting better.

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The Perfect Painting

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Since we moved into our beloved old house, we’ve yearned for a painting to fill the big white space above our couch. We tried on a few options, such as the painting my husband received from a client who couldn’t pay, and another that I bought off the side of the road in Cambodia, beautiful but small for the space.

Instead of continuing to look, we decided to be still and wait. We loved our living room anyways, a balance of mid-century modern and colorful bohemian chic. We let go of our need to “complete” the room.

Last weekend, James and I attended the annual auction for Giovanna’s preschool, an event that provides $25,000 in scholarships. We’re in love with this school and its gentle teachers, play-based classes, diversity and community. It was like a miracle when we found it.

This painting is an extension of that miracle. Every class contributed something to the auction, benches covered in handprints and the like. Giovanna’s class  of two and three year olds created this painting. I loved it from first sight. I tried not to look at it for too long in fear of becoming attached. You could not buy this painting, you could only win it. We bought five raffle tickets for $40.

When the director drew our names, I watched her mouth form “Lu” before it came across the microphone. I couldn’t believe it. I could believe it. We took the painting home and hung it in the space that waited patiently. Sometimes, when we manage to let go of expectations, we find something better than we could have conjured with our minds. Nowhere in the world is there a painting more special, more suited to our family’s nest than a piece painted by our little girl and the classmates she loves.

And the colors just happen to be perfect.

Be still and wait. ~ T.S. Eliot

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
~ Albert Einstein

Every child is an artist. ~Pablo Picasso

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christmas came early

Christmas came early with a new coffee table from CB2. And, 11 months after we moved, my living room is complete. (For now.)

What I love most about this table, besides it’s height and size, is that it doesn’t obstruct our Anthropologie rug. And my husband and I love the table equally, which is perfection in and of itself.

Is your home *complete* or is it always evolving (like mine)? Do you and your partner agree or do you argue on home decor? If the latter, who usually wins?

i love you, blogs & tea

A new piece of art can brighten up your home, mood and life.

In the name of self-love, I have been in the process of creating a beautiful home office. A place where I want to work and create for hours on end. When I found this print on MadeByGirl (pictured above next to my desk), I knew I had to have it. I am a blogger and a tea maker (buy my organic remedy teas here). Right now, I am drinking tea and blogging. I love you, blogs & tea.

Thank you to Jen at MadeByGirl for an amazing store and blog. This was not my first purchase and will surely not be the last. Look out for future posts featuring her work. (And NO, I am not being paid to promote MadeByGirl.)

What are you doing in the name of self-love?

i find it helps to organize

I’ve turned over a new leaf.

The exact source of inspiration is difficult to pinpoint as the message came to me from multiple channels: You need to declutter. Organize your home, your life. Clear your space of everything but the essentials. Once this is complete, you will be more focused, centered.

It all started with the kitchen.

My kitchen, like my bedroom and my office and I suppose my entire house, is a sacred space. Eating and cooking are serious matters of business. Fresh, organic, nutrient-rich meals are what I like to see come out of my kitchen. I want the room to feel conducive to creativity and delicious food.

The clutter on the countertops and in the cupboards and drawers started to drive me crazy. Not sure how long they’d been bothering me, it could have been many months.

I felt trapped. And not only in the kitchen.

Trapped by my own stuff, and by my husband’s stuff, and by the stuff we share, and by the stuff that neither of us would claim as our own. When I moved in to this home two years ago, I moved my stuff in on top of his stuff. Too many dishes, too many clothes, too many pillows, too many suitcases, too much junk.

Like I said, it all started with the kitchen. I turned the junk drawer (yes, I will admit that I had one of these) into my tea drawer, displaying the plethora of teas from which my guests can choose. Herbal Philosophy to Zhena’s Gypsy Tea to Celestial Seasonings to Bigelow to Trader Joe’s to The Republic of Tea to World Market. I’m an equal opportunity tea lover. Each tea brand has something special and unique to offer, including Herbal Philosophy. (But I digress.)

Next, it was the toys. The junky plastic toys that are never used. And ugly. Two of my dearest friends were visiting when I enlisted their help to determine the fate of each toy. One by one. I couldn’t have done it as effectively by myself. (Remember the scene in Sex and the City, the movie, when the girls helped Carrie clean out her closet by rating each item of clothing? It was like that. Kinda.) Some toys were donated to the Goodwill, some toys were sent to children in Kenya (thanks to another dear friend), and some stayed. Quality over quantity.

The process of purging felt so good, I couldn’t stop. I moved on to the office (which required much assistance from my husband, who has been quite supportive of my new kick). The bathrooms. The stacks of magazines. The bedrooms. The linen closet.

My closet is next. For me, getting rid of clothes is harder than losing the baby weight. I wish I was kidding.

I’ve made two trips to donate items to the Goodwill and one trip to tent city, sent one box of stuff to Kenya, and deposited many items into the garbage and recycling.

I’m hooked. I went so far as to organize the desktop on my Mac and the blogs in my Google reader (folders!) and the subscriptions coming to my inbox (unsubscribe!). We are redoing the home office. Every single room is going to be better that it was before.

My home is becoming exactly what it should be: a sanctuary.

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by your material possessions, decluttering and redecorating is highly therapeutic and highly recommended.

What are your best organization tips, tricks, products? I could use all the help I can get.