keep calm and carry on

My dear cousin, also a mother of a one-year old, pointed out to me that my blog glosses over the tough spots in motherhood, and also, life. Since she has the inside scoop, she knows my struggles and challenges, which I generally don’t share on the internet. Some things are too personal, too private, too sacred to bare to the world. At least for me.

I prefer to show you the lighter side of myself. My love and my happiness and my inspiration. Our thoughts and words become our lives. If I love deeply enough and smile often enough, I believe my reality will flourish.

Still, it is impossible to sweep away all of the negative thoughts and experiences. In fact, we have little control over our lives, which is why I seek the art of letting go.

And yet, I do have control over some things. Like this blog. And I choose to keep it a positive space full of light and uplifting energy.

Motherhood presents a variety of unique challenges on a near-daily basis. Sometimes, you reach the so-called end of your rope and you want to cry or scream or something worse. Usually, you don’t do any of those things. Despite insistent claims to your husband and yourself that you are about to lose it.

Instead, you keep calm and carry on. Like the poster says. Which King George VI commissioned at the beginning of World War II to alleviate the panic and fear among the citizens of England. (And which I recently purchased.)

Life will always be full of challenges. There’s no way around it. The greatest challenge of all is to stay composed in the face of the storm. To learn from the mistakes and the tears. To find happiness in spite of (and sometimes because of) your sorrows.

Meanwhile, I’ll be here to remind you.

Life is beautiful.

Keep calm and carry on.

As for me? I’m just grateful to love the smell of incense so that the aroma of doggy diarrhea lingering in the air (and my short-term memory) isn’t quite so painful.

an unhurried life

He who keeps the Tao does not want to be full.

But precisely because he is never full,

he can remain like a hidden sprout

and does not rush to early ripening.

~ the last paragraph of the 15th verse of the Tao Te Ching

This morning I read the 15th verse of the Tao and the accompanying chapter, Living an Unhurried Life,  in Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.”

Usually, I will read a verse and it’s accompanying chapter once, roughly 4-5 pages, contemplate for a few moments and then move on. When I have time. (Clearly, this does not happen daily since I’ve been reading the book for a few weeks and I’m only in the 15th verse.) If I have time to read three chapters one day, then I will, because I know I may not find the time to pick up the book at all the next day.

This verse and Dr. Dyer’s accompanying interpretation on Living an Unhurried Life has made me realize two things:

First of all, I should only be reading one verse and chapter per day. If I have more time, I should read the same one again. And again, if I can. I need to do this so that these Taoist concepts can really implant themselves into my brain. Otherwise, I might forget. This stuff is too good, too wise, too helpful to forget. That which I am reading perhaps too hurriedly is that which is telling me to slow down. Finally, I get the message.

Secondly. I am stressed out the majority of the time because I never feel like I am getting enough done and this is not the way I should be living. Yes, I already know this. I’ve known this for months and I’ve been working on getting over this stress for months. It seems to be a side effect of motherhood. I want to repeatedly knock on my head to remind myself, “um, hello! You are madly in love with a baby who is attached to you 24/7, a 4 year old who lives with you half the week (and is here every day this particular week), and a husband, all of whom you take care of because you want to! Not to mention a fledgling tea business, a writing career, and a blog all inspiring you and keeping you impassioned. Then there’s the friends and family whom you adore and with whom you can’t ever spend enough time. There’s also the exercise keeping you sane and the time spent cooking good meals keeping you healthy. OF COURSE THERE IS TOO MUCH TO DO.”

I love all of these things. I love everything about my life. What is there to stress about? So what if the writing career and Herbal Philosophy are moving along slowly and I only post to my blog sporadically. At least words are being typed and tea is being sold. Meanwhile, my first priority is being a mom. Comforting as sharp baby teeth (and trust me, they are sharp) are poking through sore gums. Waiting to catch the falls as chubby little legs are learning to walk. Everything is always changing and there’s so little time to soak it all in.

I vow to not only accept where I am right now, but to love and cherish where I am. Which is here. Chipping away at the old block. Still making progress, little by little. Still growing, still loving, still laughing. Unhurried.

Do you feel impatient with life sometimes? Do you feel like you’re always rushing? Are you okay with these feelings or would you prefer to live an unhurried life?

If you live an unhurried life already, what’s your secret?

tuesday food day: chocolate avocado smoothie recycled *edited*

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Another bad night’s sleep and a persistent cold has turned yet another day into one that I tread through in slow motion. Feeling far away, like my real life is on pause until I get better. I want to start running more. But I have to wait until I’m better. I can barely walk around the block right now. I want to build my blog network. I want to get my teas in at another coffee shop. But every challenge seems so much grander when my head is cloudy and my nose is runny and I am breathing out of my mouth.

You see, I’m a nose breather. Especially while I sleep. Breathing through my mouth does not equal good sleep. Neither does a baby who wakes up every two to three hours to nurse. Or an overactive mind that prefers to shut down between one and two am. Sleep is once again elusive. Like what happened in April. (Any advice on the sleep subject is welcome and usually tested.)

So, it is not surprising that I cannot shake this nasty cold. At least I only spent one day with a fever. Until Saturday, I had not had a fever (that I can remember) since 2007.

I’m not making excuses. After all, we are all only blogging for ourselves. Not for a boss or a paycheck. (Well, maybe some of us. But not me. Not yet.) I’m just letting life take it’s course. Not trying to fight it. If I’m going to be sick, I’m going to give myself a break. No use in breaking the spirit instead. I encourage you, too, to be kind to yourself when you’re not at your best. It’s simply a matter of self-love.

Accordingly, I will not write a new Tuesday Food Day entry today. Instead, I am going to enjoy the rest of the evening with my handsome husband while my sweet babies sleep upstairs. And I’m going to make a chocolate avocado smoothie to share. Better than ice cream. Infinitely more nutritious and yes, more delicious.

See the original post and recipe here.

How do you treat yourself when you get sick? Do you slow down or do you power through, proceeding with life as usual?

What do you find is most effective at helping you get well? Rest, vitamins, herbs, medicine, fruit, something else, or just time?

settled down?

Recently, I came to realize that this summer is the very first one that I will be living in the same place as the prior summer. Since I graduated from high school in 2003.

Where have I been?

Summer 2003: My parent’s house. Waiting for college. Working early mornings as a barista and late nights as a server. Not the best idea.

Summer 2004: A fraternity at UW. Each summer, about half of the men move out and the house is transformed into a co-ed compound. Why would I do this to myself? Rent was dirt cheap, like $300 for the entire summer. And I’m not going to pretend that it wasn’t fun.

Summer 2005: Italy and France, studying and nannying. Exploring.

Summer 2006: A five bedroom house in Seattle with a bajillion other girls. We shared rooms.

Summer 2007: Thailand. Teaching, learning and interning.

Summer 2008: My bachelorette pad condominium in downtown Seattle. Working. Partying.

Summer 2009: Here, with my husband and stepson. Living. Brainstorming. Growing a baby.

Summer 2010: Still here, but this year, we are joined by our sweet baby girl.

Two summers living in the same place. Finally. Does this mean that I’m settled down?

Duh, you must be thinking. I have a husband, two kids, and a business. How could I possibly be more settled down?

On the other hand, I am only 25. I have so much more to see and do. There are countries I will visit and adventures I will have. There are future houses waiting for me to call them home. There are future neighborhoods for me to memorize like the back of my hand. Friends I haven’t met yet. Careers I haven’t started yet.

Life is anything but static. I used to think that my life would become somewhat predictable after I got married and had children. Boring, even. On the contrary, my days have become rich with unpredictable moments of joy. Little surprises around every corner. A baby’s infectious giggle, a child’s sweet words, a man’s loving embrace. I may not enjoy the same freedom of going anywhere at anytime. Eating or drinking anything I please. Dancing the night away. I do not even have the simple luxury of watching a movie from start to finish. Or taking a shower every day. And I won’t even get started about how long it takes to simply get out of the house with an infant.

Because I do not go anywhere without my daughter. I am exclusively breast feeding and so I rarely drink even small amounts of alcohol. Or eat as much delicious seafood as I’d like for fear of the mercury harming her little body. She needs me for nourishment and comfort. I need her to maintain peace of mind. If I’m not with her, I am worried about her. (Maybe I need to relax a bit lot.) We are two little peas in a pod.

Elizabeth Stone said it best, “Making the decision to have a child – It’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

I may not be jetting to Las Vegas for a weekend of debauchery. Or drinking beer at a football game. Or even going to the gym. Instead I have the sweetest little family. And I’d rather be with them than do absolutely anything else.

When you become a mother for the first time, your child takes over your life. Completely and utterly takes over your life. There is no greater sacrifice a woman can make than becoming a mother. (And I’m not even talking about what pregnancy does to our bodies.) Yet none of it is a sacrifice at all. On the contrary, a baby is the greatest gift we know we could have ever been given. We know, the universe has been good to us to gift us a baby.

The point of this post is to express my perspective as a young mother who is still thirsty for adventure. Wanderlust, you may call it. I know I am not alone, which is why many of my contemporaries would never dream of settling down with a man who has a child from a previous marriage, and then having a child of their own. Someday, they say. But definitely not yet. Pass the pill.

I used to be one of those women. (Minus the pill. Ha.) Thinking that I would wait to have kids until my late twenties or early thirties. I had dreams of traveling to every continent not covered in ice, living in an ashram, salsa dancing in Cuba. And then my life unfolded before me and I became who I am today. A mom, a stepmom and a wife.

Fortunately, my husband and I share the passion for traveling. We will travel as much as we can, babies in tow or not. Before we lay down to rest, we’ll stand in the shadow of an Egyptian pyramid and we’ll dance in Havana. We plan to live our lives to the fullest by indulging in our passions. Travel is what I’m talking about today, but this holds true whether it be travel or design or writing or blogging or cycling or yoga.

So, I may have a “crew” with which I travel, but we are not boring or dull or even completely settled down.

There is still too much to see.

How would you define “settling down”? Have you settled down? If so, at what age? And how does it feel?

the thing about birthdays

I am deeply humbled by all of the love and praise in response to my birthday post.

I want to live life to the fullest. I want my life to be a story that I can recall with great satisfaction and little regret. When I’m old and gray, surrounded by kids and grandkids and maybe even great-grandkids (God willing), I hope that I can look back on my life and be proud of the way I lived it. Of the lives I’ve touched, of the places I’ve been, of the children I’ve raised, of the way I’ve loved. 
Never before have I had the courage to recap, or relive in a sense, a year of my life. But after the success of the recap of ages 20-25, after your encouragement and praise which made me feel confident and happy and whole, I declare it a birthday tradition. Each year, I will take a moment to remember the highlights. This sounds like a small task, and it is, but it is also profound. There is no better motivation to make each year count than accountability to yourself. At least for me. 
That being said, I cannot and I will not take credit for my life so far. I am lucky. I have been blessed with many opportunities and much love. Supportive parents, loyal friends, a loving husband. Accomplishments are nothing but a culmination of inspiration. And I am inspired by my loved ones. I owe everything I am and everything I have to them.
So, here I am one year older and one year wiser. On Friday, I learned something new. About birthdays. 
The thing about birthdays is that some of us (myself included) approach them with expectations. Usually these expectations are not met. Not because we are not loved and appreciated, but because life happens. Babies are fussy. Husbands have to work to bring home the bread. Parents, siblings, friends have their own busy lives. Celebrations will be early or late. Usually not on time, and that’s ok. 
If you treat your birthday like the other 364 days out of the year, there’s no room for disappointment. So as long as someone sings you happy birthday at least once, you’re satisfied. As long as your special day is acknowledged, there’s no room for disappointment. And if you happen to be lucky enough to go out to a gourmet dinner and come home to savor a rich and decadent chocolate dessert, like I did on my 25th birthday, you feel like a princess.  
What do you like to do to celebrate your birthday? Do you have any traditions? Do you find yourself with expectations? If so, are these expectations usually met?
Now it’s time for some picture love! A few memories from my early birthday celebration at my parents’ house:
my brother is off to the side making Giovanna laugh 🙂

with my friend, Sally, and her son, Mateo

Emile and Mateo

A photo of Giovanna before my birthday lunch with my mom:
notice the baby leg warmers?
On my birthday:
this is the wall in our kitchen

happy birthday to me

Today is my birthday. I am 25. Halfway to 30.

Does this mean I’m in my prime? And if so, is it only downhill from here? Will life only get harder as I get older? Am I nearing the expiration date for reaching my dreams?

I’m sure that every person reading this over 30 would tell me that there’s no such thing as an expiration date. At least I hope so. Therefore, instead of worrying about getting older, I’m going to embrace my brand new age. 25 is a great age. An age where things can happen.

And I plan to make many things happen this year.

In celebration of surviving half of my twenties, I will share with you a recap. From time to time, I find myself wondering what it is I have accomplished thus far in my life. What I’ve done and where I’m going. And we would be lying if we didn’t admit to savoring the feeling of accomplishment. Fleeting or not.

More for myself than for anyone else, I knew I had to take the time to think about it. Savor my own life, at least the past 5 years. Write down the highlights so that they are memorialized. Be proud of my accomplishments and learn from my mistakes.

I chose to focus on positive events. For the most part, heartbreaks and hardships are not welcome. When I made this list, I just happen to leave most of those things out…there’s not enough room in my memories for it all. I’d rather hold on to the good stuff and discard the bad.

So, here you go. The highlights of each year are as follows.

Age 20:
– studied abroad in Rome
– traveled in Spain, France, Italy
– nannied for French family in France
– scored a paying accounting internship at a promising start-up business

Age 21:
– said good-bye to maternal grandmother and my namesake, Grandma Lucy
– graduated from college, Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa
– worked as auditor at big 4 accounting firm
– left for Thailand on one-way ticket
– worked as teacher in Thailand
– traveled to Malaysia

Age 22:
– worked as teacher in Thailand
– worked as management intern at health/detox resort on the beach in Thailand
– traveled in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
– returned to U.S. and offered great investor relations/marketing/PR/event planning/sales/lots of fun job by old college friend with his promising new company
– purchased first piece of real estate, condominium in downtown Seattle

Age 23:
– said good bye to paternal grandfather, Grandpa Ray (day after 23rd birthday)
– traveled to Peru three times with job
– traveled to Indonesia on vacation
– fell in love with “the one”
– traveled to Jamaica with future hubby
– got laid off, said college friend turned out to be dishonest, job not so great and not so stable

Age 24:
– got married
– became a stepmother
– honeymooned in Hawaii
– gave birth to my first child, became a mother
– started a business, Herbal Philosophy
– became dedicated blogger

What will 25 hold? Stay tuned.

P.S. I am almost to 100 followers! Wouldn’t that be a great birthday present? Hint hint…