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Category Archives: Parenting

Being Grateful in Every Moment

imageI was once a full-on hippie, living from my car, camping my way across this North American continent.  Barely 18 and driving myself from the Midwest to Alaska. I rejected family, commitment, and mostly, responsibility.  I sought truth, the wild, beauty, and answers to the purpose of this life.

My life today is different.  I live in a lovely home, work a professional job, have a husband, children and daily commitments.  I have to carve time for adventures into the wild, and usually I bring my children with me.


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Yet the truth seeker, the beauty seeker, the wild seeker, she has not left.

So when I recently overheard someone telling a group to “stop seeking the answers of life for as soon as you find the answer, the questions will change” I was shocked.

Isn’t that the very point?  Follow with me for a moment.  As a child I was obsessed with reading historical literature (the whole living a thousand lives through books).  Then I became obsessed with religion and spirituality.  That transitioned into a questioning of the status quo and American Dream, which lead me to Alaska and exploring true wilderness (while learning to do so safely).  From there I delved into science, which lead me to a rewarding career.  The professional life and subsequent financial planning led to questioning my values and purpose in life.  Thanks to all the previous questioning (and answering) it was easy to  know my/my partner’s values and uproot our lives to better align with those values.  Now that we have children, all of those previous cycles of questioning and answering have culminated in the responsibility of raising people who will go out into the world and make their own way (a bonus of the Alaska years is knowing how to safely take them into the wild).

The constantly changing questions in my life have fueled my evolution.  

So, what does ring true to me?  I no longer reject commitment, responsibility, even tradition.  What I have come to believe wholeheartedly is:

The purpose of life is to be grateful in every moment.  

I used to read that line and scoff, how can I be grateful in the face of loss, tragedy?  Now I live these words, for the worst in my life has prepared me for the best.

And the commitments I used to flee, now I am thankful. Every commitment in my life, shows how my life is interconnected to those I love.

As I wrote that last line, I received a message from a beloved friend.  Her eldest is in the hospital with a newly-diagnosed, serious disease.  He is three.  Her third child is in her womb, past her due date.

My heart races to her, yet she is across the country and I cannot immediately be there. I am trying to get there.  Once there, I could help, sure, but I cannot take the challenging roles she must play out.  I cannot birth her baby for her, as much as I wish.  She has been up at night for weeks taking care of her son, waiting for some cure, diagnosis and she is exhausted.  I could sit at her son’s bedside but it is her that he wants and her that needs to be there.  In times like this it is so clear how strong we must be (in this instance, as mothers) and how deep our commitments must run.

It is moments like these that the biggest lesson I have learned comes heavily to me.

My life is to love.  My life’s work is to act on that love, to be strong for those who need strength, to be present for those who need me.  

It’s why the outcome of the mountaintop retreat is for me to give up my career in the next 8 months.  I have the answers to the questions that particular career gave me, and my focus has shifted again.  My role has changed and being at work, no matter how rewarding at one time, is no longer my focus, nor deepest commitment.

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Precipice

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Precipice.
Today that is where I stand.
Much as I did 14 years ago on the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Looking down into unfathomable depths, unbridgeable gaps.

Then, I merely hiked to the bottom and back. A personal challenge, beautiful memory and party anecdote.

Today, it is different. My baby goes in for an EEG tomorrow.

My baby.

Hopeful epilepsy isn’t uttered and I can quiet another nagging voice inside my head.

Hopeful, our reality won’t forever change.

I gave up years ago, the bliss of worrying for only oneself, the naïveté that my children would be unharmed.

I have lost babes.
I have held both of my sons, carrying them into operating rooms.
Tomorrow’s procedure is without pain or blood,
Yet it kills a little bit of my naïveté yet again.
My reality has become seeing love and beauty, in all moments.
Thankfulness at what we have, whatever it may be.
Focusing on that which is real, that is, the health and happiness of my family.
Let it be.

Before I pick up my pen- writing routine

image I was once told that Jamie Kirkland (one of my favorite painters), does not pick up her brush until she has reached a meditative state.  Given that my attraction to her paintings is for their serene quality, I believe this statement, whether true or not.

I have since employed the same technique before picking up my pen to write (or my camera to shoot).  I feel a heightened mental and sensory state occurs after a bit of meditation.  My words and purpose seem to vibrate at the surface of my awareness.  My work has greater clarity and concludes with greater satisfaction.

I’ve written before about writing and Morning Pages (see Julia Cameron).  I still employ the technique of daily, 15 minute, uninterrupted, stream-of-conscience writing.  However, as the mother of toddlers, I have had to modify the practice.

The idea of setting an alarm for before they awake, to write for 15 minutes in bed before anything else, is great.  The reality with toddlers is they wake up on their own schedule.  I recognize that this season of my life is dedicated to needs.   The needs of the boys, work, hubby, and my own needs.  I often need to sleep until they awake, to catch up on the missed sleep of previous days, weeks, years.  Yet the creative side of myself cannot be put on the shelf,  so I modify and find a space for creation in my life.

Writing Routine

My routine begins when I step into my studio for the day. First, I space clear (put away anything out of place).  Since I usually do this before leaving in the evening, this doesn’t take long.  I am one who has difficulty ignoring a mess.  I find the mind keeps returning to things left undone.

Second, I do a few yoga postures to release any tension and quiet my mind (reach my meditative state). Third, I set my intention for the day.  Typical intentions are: health, strength, listen, love, respect, calm, centered, open.

Next, I light a few candles (repeating my intention each time), turn on some centering music (Deuter and Takenobu are regulars), and set my phone timer for at least 15 minutes.

It is then that I pick up my pen and write uninterrupted until the timer goes off.  I write continuously, stream of conscious.  It is important to not self-edit, to not worry about a reader.  This way one can really see where they are and what is needed in ones life that day.

This morning, my entire focus was on sharing my routine with others.  It has helped me greatly in my life.  I share in case it helps someone else.  So here it is, Namaste.

Mountaintop Couples Retreat- Part I

imageThe couples retreat was heavenly.  Began the journey with an easy car ride through the mountains filled with deep conversations stemming from the workbook.  I felt lucky in that my hubby was completely on board with the idea and I didn’t feel I was forcing him to do anything.  It definitely helped that we were both extremely overworked (hubby had two days off in the past seven weeks) and  were in need of time together, away from our precious kids.

The previous post centered on why we were doing a couples retreat.  This post centers on how to prepare for a couples retreat (or simply time you plan together to discuss life, your relationship and direction).

Prep

While we based our retreat off a workbook specific to a Christian focus, there are any number of retreat workbooks out there.  The important thing is to ask and answer questions as a couple that help get to the root of your direction in life, values and the direction you want to go for the next month, year, five years…

I highly suggest that each person review the workbook during the week before the retreat.  Starting even earlier would have been helpful.  The more time you have to think, pray, dream and daydream over the topics and plans for your life as a couple- the better spent your time together will be.

Focus and Ground Rules

It helps to began the trip knowing what the focus of the retreat will be and the ground rules.  The focus should be on yourself and not on changing your partner.  This of course triggered recall of one of my favorite quotes.

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” ― Aldous Huxley

This is critical, as a sure way to block progress would be to bring up past grievances you have with one another.  Which called to mind another favorite quote.

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We proved this one to be a true but more on that in the upcoming Mountaintop Couples Retreat- Part III (sounds like a horrible movie sequel).  Thankfully our retreat was anything but horrible.

After a shorter than expected drive, we arrived in Telluride, which is every bit as breathtaking as its’ reputation.  We entered the resort prepared for our three days of couples visioning and planning for our family’s future.

We were then royally upgraded to a beautiful residence and patio all overlooking the view posted at the top.  Gratitude, my constant mantra, was easy to come by in this moment.

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