Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What You Tend to...Grows

Today, I'm mindful of the power of energy and where I place mine.

I'm aware that on any given day, I have a myriad of choices regarding the focus of my time and attention and sometimes, it's overwhelming.

What do I put into my body?  I know that my choice in fuel will either propel me forward into productivity and positivity or I'll spiral between caffeine/sugar and guilt that I've dipped again into the bag or box of processed fill in the blank craving.

What do I fill my head with?  Worry about the aging furnace...concern about the continued success of my jewelry business...fear about my haphazard marathon training.

What do I harbor in my heart?  Love mixed with pangs of frustration for time spent that didn't go the way I'd hoped. 

Entrenched in a podcast while scrubbing dishes, I was reminded yet again, that whatever we tend will grow.  If we nurture hope and faith, we'll find that our previously precarious circumstances seem more manageable.  If we garden belief and confidence in our capacity, soon, we discover that the things we thought we couldn't do are suddenly happening, despite our previous misconceptions.  If we harvest doubt and fear, we become fixated on all of the reasons why we cannot manifest the desires of our heart.  If we invest in anger and resentment, we learn that life is small, narrow, limited and painful.

So, what do we invest in?  Where do we give the best parts of our soul?  Who gets the benefit of our dreams and the parts of our being that sing the song that only we can deliver to the world?

These are tough questions for me.  Often, I feel that the people I love the most, get the least parts of the best me that I can offer.  I'm exhausted and irritable from giving my 'all' to obligations and I forget to tend to the relationships that matter most.

The truth is that what we tend will grow.  It just depends upon what you want.  More love?  More grace?  More hope?  More opportunity?  More regret?  More bitterness?  More fear?

The best part is that each day, particularly the ones with sunshine, give each of us a chance to till up what was, to plant fresh seeds and to start anew.  We just have to decide what we want to grow.

Friday, February 20, 2015

40 Days of Gratitude

The year I turned 25, I gave up chocolate and caffeine simultaneously...never again.  That, nearly broke me.  I've tried eliminating sweets, carbs, alcohol, cursing, yelling at my kids, binge Netflix watching, Facebook, you name it, I've given it a Lenten go.

I've never been good at removing food items or electronics or cursing or wine or....well,....I probably should try harder.  Recognizing my material weaknesses only seems to make my Catholic guilt shine brighter.  So instead of feeling like a consummate loser, three years ago, I made a decision to write a letter of gratitude every day for 40 days honoring the people that I can't imagine life without.

Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of the Lenten season and so I dutifully got my pen, paper, stamps and candle out.  I try to carve out a sacred space (okay, I turn my dining room table into a mini sanctuary) to reflect and to share my love and ultimately, my gratitude through the written word.  When I'm done (I know it sounds contrived), I sit with the letter and try to pour a sense of me into it, so that when it's received and read, it's absorbed with the full impact of my appreciation for our connection, my prayer for their life and my hope for the future.

I write both letters that are mailed and letters that are not.  I learned this a few years ago.  Sometimes, writing to those who have left me in one form or another is equally as sacrificial and cathartic.  One letter in particular, I wrote to my grandmother who has long sense been gone, but who resides in my heart...the writing of the words to her in this time of reflection was both powerful and meaningful.

Lest we get bogged down in what we do or don't do during Lent, I do believe that it's a time to be mindful in whatever way makes sense to you of what is truly important.  For me, the world is filled with distractions, too many to name really.  And at every turn, we're begged to check out from that which we feel, which causes us pain or brings us ultimately closer to our own lives, those we love, and to God.

So, if there is a moment or 40 where we can say, no distraction, not now, not in this time and space...well, then it's a worthy pursuit to draw closer to that which we are called to be...loving, grace-filled, serving, connected people.

That said, I don't believe for a minute that you have to be Catholic, to go on a Lenten journey, because as the amazing Anne Lamott professes in "Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith"....

“It's funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said 'do the best you can with these, they will have to do'. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”

Here's to finding your space to be in silence, mindful of what matters to you, right now, always.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

To Be Brave

I've always been fascinated by what it means to be brave.

Is it strength?  Is it stretching...beyond one's comfort zone into the unknown, the foreign, the uncharted terrain?  Is it simply showing up void of any expectation for outcome other than the moment at hand?  Is it bold?  Does brave scream or does it stand silently by the wayside bearing witness to the action before it? 

Last Saturday it was 17 degrees and fucking cold.  Like the kind of cold where you can both see your breath and simultaneously, catch it realizing that you've been out in the elements too long.

I didn't have much of a choice.  The previous two weeks had not leant themselves to the long run mileage I needed for my training schedule and so against my better judgment I went for 10 miles by myself.

Three miles in, I was feeling really good until I went to suck water from my Camelbak and all I got was air.  The water froze in the tubing and instantly I thought, "I can't do it."

But then, my favorite song came on and somehow, I just kept going.  Catching up to the trail at mile five, I started losing feeling in my face because the north wind was a nasty little bitch and by that point, I was too far away from home to stop and running was the only logical choice to get back to warmth faster.

And so, I kept running.  And as I periodically checked my Garmin, I discovered that the frigid fucking tundra of weather suited my speed well.  I was pacing much faster consistently.  I was shocked, literally and figuratively.

Somehow, I got home...stripped and dove into the hottest bath that you can imagine.  It was painful and blissful all in one breath.

And in that moment, I was brave...not because I was stupid and ran in ridiculous conditions, but because I pushed myself to discern my limits.  And on that day, despite the set backs, I had none.  I was free.

Since then, I've been mindful of what it means to push and what it means to be still...how it is that we seek the unknown and strive to rise when we think we cannot. 

The problem with bravery is that it is a tricky machine.  You want enough of it to launch you into places you've never been before, but not too much to have you believing that you can fly off buildings directly into inevitable demise.

The truth is...bravery is loud when it needs to be, but for me, it's quiet most of the time.  It's the whisper in my mind that drives the beat of my heart and the buzz in my being that creates a slow, growing motion propelling me toward that which I've never known before.  And in the end, I'm better for it.  Just one frozen step at a time.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Treatise on Love

In the wake of Valentine's Day, I've been mindful of the many forms of love.

Recognizing that everyone who graces the world desires both to love and to be loved, it's really quite extraordinary to take in all of the ways that we experience, throughout the course of our lives, what it means to love.

From the star-crossed, cannot eat, sleep, think or stop dreaming about the one who has no idea that you adore them...to the mistake that you made in the one who got away that still, every now and again, haunts you...to the unconditional, sacrificial, engrained in the depth of your being love you feel walking around in the bodies of your children...to the would do anything for them, grateful that they gave you life, maddening co-dependent relationship that you sometimes bear with your parents...to the committed, secure, entrenched in deep history, enduring love that you know like the back of your hand with your life partner...to the one you call when you cannot breathe because something awful has happened or better yet, the best news ever has occurred and your friend is the one you want to confide in first...to the neighbor...to the co-worker...to the woman at the yoga studio...and the older gentleman at church...and the...list goes on.

Of all of the love poems in the world, my favorite has to be Pablo Neruda's Sonnet XVII

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,   
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:   
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,   
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries   
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,   
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose   
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,   
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,   
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,   
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.
So, in the wake of what many deem a senseless, superficial, over-priced Hallmark holiday that screams expensive movie tickets at soft-core porn flicks like "Fifty Shades of Grey,"  I say, love.  Love the way that you do and make no apologies.  Love with flowers, chocolates, words, dishwasher installations, hugs, kisses, touches behind the ear and at the nape of the neck.  Love with jewels and I'm sorry's.  Love near and love afar.  Love what is and do not be afraid to love what was.  Love is vast.  Love is mysterious.  But most importantly, through you, love is alive.

At the end of the day, at the core of it, no matter who we love or why we love them, we want to love and to be loved deeply.  Often, we can't describe or explain why it is that we love another, we just know that we do.  We recognize what it feels like when that love is reciprocated and, of course, when it is not.  And no matter how painful, and sometimes at what cost, we continue to love, because in the end, this is why we live...to love and to be loved, particularly, "between the shadow and the soul."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Prying Technology from its Clutches at Target

The best, the worst and all of the in-between shit happens, for me, at Target.

By the time I had made my second trip yesterday at 3:30pm because I forgot tampons (a fairly essential need), shampoo and extra Valentine candy for the kids' homemade cards, I was so ready to get in and to get out.

With all three kids in tow, I made the quintessential mistake of making one last pit stop into the accessories section to see if by chance, they had an evening clutch, I could use for an event on Friday...I know, everything in the eleventh hour.

The most critical need of the very small hand bag was that my phone fit inside.  After enduring endless rashes of shit for purchasing the iPhone 6 Plus, I now know why one should not own a phone that large and in charge.  Somehow, someway, I fit it snugly into the clutch, clicked the top button and thought, woo-hoo, I have a cute, fun bag for the evening.  As I attempted to open up the fucker, it was an absolute no-go.  Shit, shit, shit.  Now, what do I do?

My youngest e exclaimed, "Just bang it, mama on the side of the cart, it's bound to open."

My middle babe proclaimed, "She can't do that, Claire or she'll break the phone into a million pieces."

With my heart rate accelerating faster by the second, my oldest said, "You've got to wedge it out of there mom and for God sake, get out of the aisle, everyone can see you."

Yes, that's it...we must jimmy it out...but how?

My 10-year old son grabbed a hanger and began surgery on the clutch to retrieve the smart phone unharmed.  While we were both tearing the shit out of our fingers and nails, by the last stroke of luck, the fucker opened and the phone was safe...but unfortunately, the bag was not.

Mind you, the problem with Target after school is that every mother is there with their children.  And so, in the short span of 15 minutes, I bumped into 3 different school families, 2 of which witnessed the clutch snafoo.  Damn, damn, damn.

Thankfully, a lovely Target employee walked by and assured us that they could "damage out" the bag saving both my ego and my pocket book.

Walking to the car both exasperated and relieved, my son turns to me and says, "I guess sometimes we have to decide if technology is worth it, right, mom?"

Sweet Jesus.  Another day, another dollar, another joy ride at the local Target.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ode to Sam on Your 10th Birthday

Dear Sam,

I remember as if it was yesterday, the moment that I learned I was going to be a mother.  I know, because I had been waiting for it my whole life.  While I knew from a young age that I wanted to make a difference in the world, I had no idea that the greatest transformation of my life would come through you.

You were the first...the one that I researched and agonized over every choice from breast to bottle feeding, organic versus DIY baby food, setting a schedule or letting you set your own, childcare versus staying at home, reading, American Sign Language, micro-soccer, t-ball, preschool curriculum, Catholic school versus public, non-toxic, GMO free finger paint...you name it, your papa and I scrutinized every choice wanting the absolute best for you at every turn.  Not that we don't for your sisters, we just don't have time anymore and well, they seem to be doing just fine.

And on this day, that you turn double digits, you are still our Guinea pig with parenting decisions about friends, sports, homework, bedtimes, sleepovers, music and literary choices.  We're still learning with you.

So thank you.  Thank you for hanging in there with us.  Forgiving us when we expect too much, because we really do set the bar very high.  Smiling when I repeat myself over and over, not for fear that you won't double check your responses on a Social Studies test, but because I feel better saying it four times instead of just once.  Thank you for being an extraordinary big brother...the kind of role model to Kate and Claire that really takes my breath away.  Thank you for reading with them and not always hitting as hard as you could when engaging in Nerf gun wars and dragon battles.

Thank you for being interesting.  I know that sounds weird, but you really are.  You're curious and engaged and you want to know about the world and the people who are in it.  And you really have no idea how cool that is in a person.  Thank you for loving to read and to write and for challenging papa and I to read the material that you are.

But most importantly, thank you for being both courageous and kind almost always in the same moment.  Thank you showing up comfortable in your own skin, to be your own person, to do your own thing and to respect the kid next to you who is doing his, but to also stand up for the one who needs an extra hand.

I can hardly believe that God has gifted you to us for entire decade.  And that, in six years you'll be driving and in eight years, you'll be gone to school in a far off land changing the world, just like I had dreamed of.

But while you're here for just a little longer, I'll say thank you for making me a mother.  It is the greatest gift of both courage and kindness that I have ever known.

Here's to an amazing tenth year...may you rise to meet it in all that it offers...knowing that I'll be here every step of the way.

I love you,


Friday, February 6, 2015

Draw It...Until it Comes

I've had zero time for writing which has made me both sad and anxious. 

One month ago, I launched a new business as a merchandiser with chloe+isabel, a high-end jewelry company out of Tribeca, New York and I couldn't be happier.  I've been busy acquainting my friends, family, and previous Lia Sophia clientele with my new jewelry line and it's been exhilarating, rejuvenating and exhausting all in the same breath.

Simultaneously, my marathon training has been going to hell in a hand basket.  For the most part, I've been maintaining my mid-week runs, but finding time to sneak in 12+ miles for long runs on Saturdays has proved insane the last two weeks. 

And when I don't run and I don't write and my period is getting ready to make a visit, I'm truly a hot mess.  A ball of shitty, irritable, bitchy, irrational, stay the fuck away from me mess.

Luckily, my mother-in-law is in town and making everything better.  This morning, we're headed into Claire's preschool classroom to read a much beloved story to her classmates..."Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Crocket Johnson.  Have you read it?  Oh man, you have to, if you haven't.

 Essentially, Harold takes his purple crayon and draws the world around him...inclusive of dragons, airplanes, skyscrapers, boats, you name it...until he draws the covers, snuggles into bed and dreams for the evening.

The 1955 classic book got me thinking...this is what we should all be doing...drawing the world around us until it comes. 

We get so busy that we forget to dream or we purposely don't because it's too painful if it doesn't come true...but really, why not?  Why not create the world that we want around us with an imaginary crayon until it comes or until it doesn't?  And if it doesn't come to fruition, it's okay, because for a brief moment, we had it, in our minds.  We lived out the vision in our own time and space and it was beautiful...completely unencumbered by the practical, rather built out of what we believe when no one's telling us not to...and whether you use a purple, orange or glitter marker, paint brush, pencil or camera of images...the world becomes yours, as it should be.

I'm going to weather through the busyness of the days to come by lacing up running shoes, meeting my friends for coffee sharing sparklies, singing "Annie" with my daughters and preparing for my son to turn double digits (how did that happen), and drawing with words my world...the one where dragons come and friends meet in Paris and novels are written in Tuscany and little black dresses get worn and champagne gets drank and money grows on trees and smiles abound.