Promote What You Love Instead of Bashing What You Hate

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There are, and always will be, things we love and things we hate... about situations, opinions, people. We can even feel love and hate for a person, circumstance, or reality simultaneously.

I try so hard not to use the word hate, and constantly tell my kids to express this strong emotion using “I don’t like” instead of “I hate.” Yet truthfully, among adults, hate is more accurate a word to use when it comes to what we passionately oppose, that with which we vehemently disagree, or realities we have an impossible time accepting.

I can say I hate prejudice, intolerance, racism, sexism, ignorance, misogyny, chauvinism and injustice; and there are many people who would think I am justified in my hatred.

But there is a different brand of hate on the opposite side of mine; and if that hate is what fuels my hate, then more hatred is being generated than love.

Allowing ourselves to feel hate on such a deep level can bring us to a dark place, and will never pave the way to the light.

When I suffer disappointments and dashed hopes, when my precious (possibly idealistic) expectations are not fulfilled, and when I envision the way I think others will behave (or I want them to behave) and find instead they do the opposite, hate can manifest within me, despite my desire to feel empathy instead of anger.

If we allow hate to grow in our hearts - out of fear, pain, outrage or conditioning - it can eclipse the love for which we have an unlimited capacity.

Giving love without strings attached, expectations placed, or guarantee of when or if it will be returned, is scary. Loving unconditionally is risky; it can make us feel vulnerable, powerless, and taken for granted.

Love itself is the opposite. It is powerful. It can transform and transcend. And promoting what we love - equality, justice, respect, tolerance, acceptance, hope, positivity, perseverance, generosity and kindness - especially in the glaring face of hatred, can be the difference between fostering a life consumed by ugliness, and creating one that thrives on compassion.

Multiply that exponentially, and it’s not just a life... it is a nation, a world, a global consciousness, a future generation.

Becoming You: From Tragic to Transformative

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Thirteen years ago, I had a dream job, dream husband, and dream lifestyle by the sea. Happiness was on the rise, and its expected trajectory was limitless. I was living a perfectly charmed life, despite mild insecurity and self-doubt; and the formula I had created for it centered around pronounced wellness... in health, fitness, discipline of mind and body, and professional success.

I ran three miles five times a week. I practiced yoga. I worked long hours, but was rewarded for it in title and salary. I drank green smoothies, ate vegan meals, and consumed eight glasses of water each day. I wore a size 0. I had overcome a dysfunctional childhood, suffered career failures, and let go of unfulfilling relationships. I lived in an impeccably choreographed external reality, while my internal footing was not completely solid. I fought for the life I wanted, and created the best version of it I could. I felt happy. I thought if my life could just remain stable and secure long enough, then maybe I could feel a deeper sense of happiness and belonging in my soul, down to my core.

But it didn't stay that way. I was laid off my job, got unexpectedly pregnant, and tragically lost my mother, all within the span of a year and a half. This eruption of unexpected losses and unplanned detours blew up my life, triggering unconscious wounds and undesirable outcomes. Life's curve balls were thrown so fast, and from so many directions, that there was no time to brace for disaster. They invaded my intentionally crafted existence and destroyed what I had worked so hard to craft.

Now, not only was my mom gone, but my life, as I knew it, was over. I felt left behind and tossed aside by the world. This world, which I thought had promised me a good life, had lied and reneged on its promise. My baby was born amid my crippling grief. Postpartum depression, marital disillusionment, and a monumental identity crisis soon joined in; and together, these life altering states of being uncovered a minefield of hidden wounds within me, and ignited deep emotional pain, debilitating me.

I naively thought I had paid my dues of difficulties early in life, and that this was supposed to be my time to shine. It was my turn to have a happy life. One full of joy and love. One in which I felt that I belonged, and was wanted and needed. How I always dreamed. But it was not going the way I hoped and expected. I had lost the dream. I was angry and sad. I was no longer the me I wanted to be. My neatly landscaped life was now a messy, damaged life... one chosen for me, rather than by me.

Through sheer will and stubbornness, I hastily rebuilt myself and attempted to regain control of my life. I was a mother now, but also a motherless daughter. I kept mostly intact for years, and even thrived in short, temporary bouts... in motherhood, marriage, and fitness. But my proven formula of wellness, and the method of healthy functioning I previously used before the fallout, was no match for my unresolved wounding. My life appeared put together enough from the outside (again); but inside, insecurity, hurt, and fear were emerging from the shadows. They began to eclipse the happiness I had cultivated out of tragedy, and I couldn't sustain it. Compelled to remove the masks of coping and posturing, all too common in adulthood, I exposed the dark underbelly of my sadness and perceived inadequacy, and faced it.

By my own resolve, I was forced to grow.

This kind of personal growth is distinct from the growing we do as children, which doesn't take our conscious effort. Our new bodies, ripe with possibility, develop beyond our control and without our deliberate intention. Our minds, clean slates ready to be written on like new blackboards with fresh pieces of white chalk, soak up life’s experiences like sponges. Before our physiques are done developing, our young minds and hearts begin to fill with experiences... ones that elicit hope, hurt, conceptions and conclusions. For most of us, the development of our emotional intelligence is hijacked by wounding, in its many forms, encouraging a climate of managing and minimizing to take over while a regimen of denying feelings and numbing pain sets in.

The depth of hurt and vulnerability that's inside us by the time we are adults often remains buried and unexplored, sometimes for a lifetime; unless we are compelled to dig deep and break through to the other side of pain. Loss is most often the catalyst to this unearthing, as was the case for me. Although I had been an introspective student of yoga and soul centered living for years, this was different. More confronting. I realized that emotional, spiritual and whole body wellness could no longer be a surface goal, or merely a healthy or trendy lifestyle choice. Exercise, smoothies, and meditation weren't gonna do it alone. No more glossy top coats to conceal the flaws or slurry to cover up the cracks. I needed to jackhammer that shit up, down to the foundation... to the core of my soul. I had to confront my wounding, look my pain dead in the eye, and rescue myself from its clutches.

I am still under this personal and intimate reconstruction, and expect to be indefinitely. I have learned and healed so much, yet I have so much more to discover and integrate within. I love and fear the process; but mostly, I am grateful for the insight I have gained and the perseverance I have found inside myself to stay curious, courageous, and keep healing, growing and evolving.

I have concluded that if we don't commit to doing this healing, growing and evolving bit, we are at risk of staying stuck in a version of ourselves that we've outgrown, but insist on squeezing into...  just like that tight pair of jeans we claim still fit, but require us to lie down and suck in to zip them up. Being stuck in those old, shrunken selves stifles joy, impedes our potential for true belonging, and immobilizes us from moving about our lives freely with comfort and purpose.

It is possible for personal growth and evolution to be intentional and self-motivated as well, rather than spurred on by loss or misfortune. It could be inspired by a desire for a more fulfilling existence and a deeper understanding of one's place in humankind, or it can be spurred on by the discomfort of trying to fit into those ill-fitting, played out denims.

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Whether prompted by life changing challenges or by curiosity about what exists beyond our self-imposed limits, growth happens when we open ourselves up to the possibility of exploring, healing, and becoming who we truly are. Becoming more kind, compassionate, and empathetic to ourselves and others. Becoming whole and wise and open and vulnerable. Becoming who we were meant to be, before we began to tailor and fabricate a version of ourselves to present to the world for self-preservation.

Becoming you is the single most important thing you can do in this life.

From tragic to transformative, only you have the power to make your life what you want, out of what you have. All that is required to establish strong roots and grow magnificent wings is to accept the invitation to find what authentically grounds you, and to cultivate the strength and courage to let it fly free into the wonderful wilderness of this world.

It's all inside of you... it's inside all of us.

 

POSTSCRIPT: As a strong adherent of my writing, Dr. Jennifer Johnston-Jones, founder of Roots & Wings Personal Growth and Family Excellence, a non-profit organization established in Malibu, asked me to write an article for the premiere issue of their wellness magazine.
Although they shifted gears and ultimately decided not to publish the magazine, I had already finished the article. This is it, reconstructed and edited a bit for posting here.
Roots & Wings' mission is to transform individuals and families into their best selves through parent education, personal growth coaching, child development, and school educational programs. For more information, visit www.rootsnwings.org.

We Are Not Our Faces

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We are not our faces. Our physical beauty. Our smooth skin. Our flowing hair. Our yoga poses.

Our professional accomplishments. Our bank accounts. Our cars. Our houses. Our jewels. Our reputable names.

Our extra pounds around the middle. Our gray hairs. Our dark circles. Our wrinkles.

Our shame. Our guilt. Our hurt. Our regrets. Our failures. Our vices. Our self images, distorted through other people’s lenses, tarnished when fallen short of lofty expectations. We are none of these.

These attributes and circumstances do not define us. It may feel like they do, because they have shaped and molded us into who we identify ourselves to be today; and we present these selves to the world (flaunting or concealing parts) for others to weigh in... to decide our worth or our level of acceptability.

But we aren’t these things in our core. In any way that truly matters. No, instead, we are our strength. Our vulnerability. Our kindness. Our courage. Our perseverance. Our empathy. Our hope. Our compassion. Our humanity. Our love. Our resistance to letting all that other sh*t define us.

#internationalwomensday2018

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Even in Australia

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It’s #nationalreadacrossamericaday, so books are on my mind; which, truthfully, is no different from any other day. 📖 I recently color coded my library, with inspiration from my sister’s 🌈 rainbow book display... these are just two of several shelves in my house filled with books curated over many years.

The oldest in my collection is the big red coffee table book on the far left entitled “The Movies.” It was my mom’s and sat on a shelf in the den of my childhood home for as long as I can remember. Having it here makes me happy and feel connected to her, reminding me of our shared passion for film.

But today, when I think about the book that meant the most to me as a child, I could think of no other than “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst. I grabbed it from my kids’ bookshelf in their room & added it to my library here for a moment, since I no longer have my childhood copy.

After I birthed my first child, this was the first hardcover book I purchased for my nursery library of cloth and board books. It was my favorite as a child because it taught me that it was okay to have feelings... to have MY feelings, ANY feelings I felt, no matter what anyone else said. That it was normal to feel yucky sometimes and that every day didn’t have to be picture perfect, chronicling a childhood of a chronically smiling (often fake smiling) girl.

Expectations to be cordial, well behaved and “good” dominated my childhood, and any feelings of anger or sadness were rarely accepted or validated. The pressure to present a groomed and shiny exterior, for the purpose of preserving my father’s celebrity and professional reputation, was overwhelming for me, and it didn’t leave much room for normal childhood fears and angst.

I related to Alexander and his desire to get away and move to Australia. I related to his feeling of being invisible and finding life unfair and unbalanced sometimes. This book helped me be ok with being the real me, big feelings and all, and that was transformative.✨💫

*I also wrote about this book in Some Days Are Like That

#booksaremagic #readacrossamerica

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

No Filter Rant

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There is no filter on this photo I just snapped a couple minutes ago; so there will be no filter on its caption either (which is the norm for me anyway). It is inconceivable to some that one could look out at this view from their front door & not be grateful every moment of every day. Yet, sadly, it doesn’t work that way.

Gratitude is not automatic or a given. It is not inherent in direct relation to one’s interpreted & conceived good fortune, nor even to the obvious blessing of being alive, healthy & safe. Of course, you would think it would be, but it’s not. Gratitude needs to be cultivated, & so often that part is overlooked. I am grateful a lot, but not as much as I consciously wish I would be.

I have been enjoying this same view & these same sunsets for over 15 years, living in this tiny edge of the world since 2002. I have gotten married while living here, changed careers, grieved the sudden loss of my mother to a car accident, birthed two children, given up having a career at one point, suffered marital challenges, stayed home (sleep deprived & depressed) nursing babies, chasing toddlers, sweeping up cheerios, wiping up smushed baby food & feeling like I wanted to (& actually have) scream & cry from the grief, hardship, mundaneness & lack of intellectual stimulation.

Today, I stand here with children who are 7 & 11 & gone most of the day navigating moments of their own lives without me, on an unpaved road leading to an unknown destination, on the journey of a new career & a new stage of life. Nothing is certain... nothing but the love I feel for my husband, my kids, my siblings, my friends.

It is easy to see that this view is quite spectacular to the naked eye (& this image doesn’t even do it justice) in all its obvious glory; it is harder to see how spectacular everything else is in your life without consciously recognizing it - without tuning in your mind, body & soul to it - breathing it in & letting it inhabit your being.

I am doing it now. NOW. Now is all we’ve got until the next moment comes. Breathe it in. All of it. It is a privilege. Even the hard... especially the hard. It is what moves us closer to our truest selves.

#nofilter #rant

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

 

The Legacy of Grief

And Why It Is So Important to Own Our Pain

 My daughter leaving flowers for her grandmother on her birthday yesterday - Now ten years old, she was born three months after my mom died.

My daughter leaving flowers for her grandmother on her birthday yesterday - Now ten years old, she was born three months after my mom died.

I am still thinking about the people who lost their loved ones in the Las Vegas shooting massacre last Sunday night, October 1st.

Yes, still. It has only been a week.

Those left behind to grieve lost loved ones are on my mind because I was them. I know what they are feeling right now. The rest of the world may have moved on, but they are still in the thick of it, possibly paralyzed by sadness, scared about the future, and looking for answers on how they are going to live without their mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, or best friend.

I know their pain. I have felt their pain; as I too lost someone in an unexpected, tragic accident. One day my mom was here, turning 60 years old, and the very next day she wasn’t. That next day changed my life forever... October 10, 2006, eleven years ago today.

The deadly weapon used to kill her was a truck, not a gun; but the person operating the weapon was unwell just the same. The driver was under the influence of prescription drugs at the time of the accident, and so her impaired state caused her to drift off the two lane highway she was speeding on. When she swerved back into her lane, she over corrected and plunged her Bronco into oncoming traffic... slamming it head on into the car in which my mom was a passenger and killing her instantly.

My mom died lying on the asphalt of a rural road in Northern California at the hands of a woman not intending to kill her that day but who wasn't in the right state of mind to safely operate a vehicle that became a lethal weapon. There was no news coverage of the accident; and no villains were vilified nor heroes celebrated (although the driver did get sentenced to a year in prison). There were no hashtags prayers. Still, my mom's death changed the lives of her family and friends instantly, just as the deaths of those 59 people in Las Vegas changed the lives of their families and friends instantly, and forever.

In both cases, the irresponsible act of one single, troubled and unwell individual took innocent lives. The Vegas tragedy was just on a much larger scale and in a very public forum; and that act was committed with malicious intent. The added sting of knowing the killer intended to harm and kill people that day is one I was spared when my mom died; yet, the result of both events was the same - people were killed violently and unexpectedly.

Social media was ablaze this past week, with some people praying for Vegas, others demanding gun policy change, and still others protesting those demands by trying to convince the opposition that they should blame the individual, not the weapon. I know this is not true, but it seems like the people in the latter group are stuck in time somehow, like we are all still living in the 19th Century, when guns were shot one bullet at a time and were used primarily for protection from looters, robbers, and carpetbaggers. Their argument frustrates and confuses me, seeming archaic and inaccurate on so many levels. Yet above all the various protests, there were genuine sentiments of grief and many heartfelt pleas for stricter laws and demands to hold our politicians accountable for their failure to implement policies that they believe could have prevented this tragedy.

Now, over a week has passed, and most voices have quieted on all sides, save the various articles still being written and shared to further the debate on the subject of guns, media, and politics. It seems most people have moved on, resuming their normal output and usual consumption of media and going about their regular lives.

As I touched upon in Forever Changed, the only post I shared last week, our society functions on our collective ability to keep the tragedies of each day at arms length, and to prevent them from penetrating the armor we built up to protect us from daily doses of bad news, depressing statistics, and inconsiderate behavior by those around us. The Vegas tragedy was so tragic though that people could not help but let it into their hearts; and so they allowed themselves to feel devastated for a day or two, or three... just as they did when deadly shootings happened in Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, or Columbine.

But eventually, after a few days, maybe a week, most people expect themselves, and each other, to revert back to their normal routine of disconnect. Be it for self-preservation or simply for keeping their lives operating, they pull themselves up, look ahead and move forward, leaving the devastation behind, along with most of the emotion connected with it. After all, they would argue that they have to get out of bed, go to work, take care of kids, and contribute to society in the way they normally do and are expected to do. They can't afford, neither financially, emotionally or mentally, to curl up under the covers and allow themselves to feel sadness, fear, and powerlessness to the detriment of their careers, families, and self-images.

For about a week, praying for the families of the victims in Vegas or "keeping them in their thoughts" was the extent of what most people would allow themselves to do or feel. This is understandable, as it really is all most of us can do. The sad reality is that a week of prayers won’t give the lost loved ones back to those families, and heartfelt thoughts won't stop future acts of violence, irresponsibility, and loss that are bound to occur in a society full of people in pain that are taught to treat the symptoms instead of the roots of problems.

The people that were demanding stricter gun laws and policy changes may have felt more in control by "taking action" rather than just sending prayers. As admirable and empowering as this feels, it may not have any effect, since deeming something illegal does not mean people will immediately abide by the law and cease seeking out and possessing it. This has proven to be true over and over again by the whiskey and rye drinkers during prohibition, the pot and hash smokers of the sixties and seventies, the cocaine snorters of the eighties and nineties, and the crack, heroin and meth IV drug users of any decade. It is a well known fact that making something “illegal” doesn't make it unattainable; it just makes it trickier and more expensive to attain.

Too many people own guns already, or possess a large enough arsenal to sell them illegally and make a lot of money. So even if stricter policy changes are made, possibly banning bump stock devices that allow semi automatic weapons to perform like automatic ones, someone somewhere will still figure out a way to make, sell, and buy them illegally.

Aside from guns though, add to those illegal drugs listed above the issue of legal drugs - alcohol, prescriptions, and medical marijuana - that are over used and abused daily, and you have a whole other group of citizens that are taking lives via DUI accidents and drug overdoses in record numbers that dwarf the 59 souls lost in Vegas at the hands of one soul with an automatic weapon.

This man’s horrific deed has incited ideological arguments, intense anger, and (more than usual) political dissonance; yet adding to the debate on gun laws, the responsibility of the media, and the political failings of our leaders is not the purpose of my writing this. It is charged subject, with multiple facets and layers that don't add up to one definitive solution. It troubles me, but I am not entirely convinced that what happened in Vegas could have been prevented by stricter gun policies in a culture that, on the whole, glorifies violence, condones separatism, and encourages and enables the denial and numbing away of our emotions.

Instead, I write to share and process my experience of loss these past eleven years, and to grieve the loss of the people killed nine days ago. Their families are just beginning their journey into grief and loss, so I honor them and the difficult road toward acceptance and healing that they have just begun to travel.

Yet I also write to ask questions. To bring up that which most don't and won't talk about. To point out the way in which our society (dis)functions as a whole to the detriment of our collective mental health and emotional intelligence. Among all this discourse about policy and politics, where is the dialogue on the state of our overall wellness as a people, as a society, as a nation?

Wellness is a buzz word these days, as is mindfulness and meditation. But these concepts, and the efforts to implement them, only seem to surface in progressive communities and are often isolated to an individual's personal journey of growth and awareness. Self help - therapeutic, holistic, spiritual or motivational - is seen by the general public as an esoteric ritual reserved for yoga instructors, therapists, fitness and lifestyle coaches and their tribe of followers.

The fact is, there is nothing alternative or obscure about addressing our natural human emotions and our fundamental need for connection and love, or honoring our pain by approaching it with awareness, compassion, empathy, and understanding.

Where is the national agenda promoting true wellness in our society, outside of Western medicine's money making racket of drugging its people up on prescription medications? Where is a national dialogue confronting how to tend to people's mental and emotional well being without the use of drugs or other numbing methods?

There isn't one. There is no national dialogue such as this.

Sure, we have renowned alternative medicine doctors, writers, and self-help gurus, such as the late Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, and Eckhart Tolle who guide and teach those who seek them out through their books, articles and talks. We also have influential people such as Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, and Brené Brown who do the same with their powerful platforms, working in their own unique ways to show us how vulnerability and emotional intelligence is not something to shame or be ashamed of, but something to strive for, encourage and support within ourselves and our fellow humans.

There are also thousands of therapists and social workers doing their part every day, without the fame and glory of the former teachers and leaders mentioned above, to instill knowledge and awareness, promote courage and healing, and help people face and overcome their adversities without the use of prescription drugs, violence, or the usual numbing tactics coveted and accepted by our society as the norm.

But on a national scale, the need for and goal of true wellness, for the most part, is unaddressed in our society. In its absence, the crises of our culture is the perpetual numbing of pain and discomfort with a host of band-aids... anticipating and celebrating wine-o'-clock, ritualizing Sunday Funday drinking, zoning out on YouTube videos for hours, and binge streaming seven seasons of Game of Thrones in seven days, to name a few.

Numbing and denying our pain, instead of embracing it, leads to isolation and disillusion. Sharing our pain and our struggles in a supportive environment, instead of sweeping it under the rug, is the road to healing and thriving. The "rug" in its many forms - alcohol, TV, drugs, movies, video games, work, social media, sex, gambling, pornography, and retail therapy - has the magical ability to camouflage and cover up a lot of hurt and pain. Yet after the magic wears off, in a matter of days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years, we are still left with the same hurt and pain, now increased exponentially. If left under there, unchecked and unresolved for too long, this pain can rot, decay, fester, and transform into something twisted and toxic, with the potential to erupt in violence; and in last Sunday's case, a shower of bullets.

So where does this leave us? Where does this leave me in writing about my cyclical grief for my mom's death and the empathetic grief I feel for the families that are suffering tremendous loss right now? I don't know. All I know is I will continue to hold the victims of this tragedy close to my heart, next to the memory of mom, for as long as my grief needs me to do so. I am open to feel and accept it all. The grief, the pain, the disappointment, and the loss. I am a living testament to working through grief and pain by embracing and owning it, instead of concealing it away in a dark corner of my soul.

I will grieve, and when I am done this time around, I will remember and cherish my mom even more. I will recall how my kids brought flowers to her grave site on her birthday yesterday... how my son placed his colorful fall bouquet in the ground and uncomfortably yet sweetly wished her a happy birthday as he looked down at her grave marker... how my ten-year-old daughter chose red roses for her because through the years she has learned that they were her favorite... and how she hugged me tight and cried her first tears ever over for the loss of her grandmother whom she never had the chance to meet.

The legacy of grief.

It seems like an unwanted burden to bear, but it is really an invitation to expand our capacity to love.

mind body soul truth self love attraction birthday wishes and hotel beds

The idea of traveling to Orange County to spend my birthday in Newport Beach, Irvine, and Costa Mesa came to me in 2014. I had attended college and earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Film Studies at the University of California Irvine many years ago; so I had a lot of good memories from my time there and wanted to revisit some of them.

After seeing Fleetwood Mac live at the Hollywood Bowl and staying at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel in Los Angeles on my birthday in May 2013, I decided to up the ante and escape for an entire weekend away to celebrate my birthday the following year.I got a much needed break from being a mom that weekend away in 2014 (as chronicled in Beautiful Mommy); and thus began my ritual of returning to OC each year for my birthday and then writing about it upon my return.

I wrote Birthday Weekend Away. In Short. Gratitude. after my third getaway last May, a stream of consciousness composition written with a period. after. almost. every. word. A friend challenged me to write about this year's birthday trip as a counterpoint to that piece, one without any punctuation at all (nor capitalization or paragraph breaks).

I took on his challenge, along with a lot of creative license, artistic expression, and a stream of consciousness approach once again. I expect it to create some sort of visceral response for you, the reader... although I'm not sure if it will invigorate or exhaust you. Regardless, I hope it provokes thought, elicits feelings, and, at the very least, entertains.

headed south on a thursday to start my annual birthday weekend a bit early and i couldnt wait to get it underway as soon as possible and reach the island hotel in newport beach on the dot of their check in time because i didnt want to miss one minute of my stay yet it seems the 405 freeway and its slew of accidents and infernal congestion had another plan for me so i arrived an hour later than desired but aint nothin gonna break a my stride nobody gonna slow me down oh no i got to keep on movin up to the valet i breathed a sigh of relief and elation that i was finally there and into my hotel room on the eleventh floor i went where i opened an alternate sliding door to my life like gwyneth paltrow did in that movie as well as the sliding door in my hotel room that led out to the balcony and looked out at the ocean to breathe in the same sea air i breathe at home now just 70 miles down the california coast where the islands in front of me arent the channel islands i see from my deck in malibu but balboa island hugging the newport coastline and fashion island just below me which really isnt an island at all but a big concrete slab with a forest of palm trees where neimans nordstrom and bloomingdales anchor an upscale shoppers paradise encircled by the circular newport center drive providing me with a much different view of the blue sea than i am used to yet i still find it beautiful because it is here and i am alone and loving this place already so i shed my sweater down to my tank top and move my breath and body through a few yoga vinyasas to shake off the impatience and anticipation of my arrival yet the sweater is not the only layer i shed as the cloak of my daily life as a mother wife and caretaker begins to peel off me like a snake breathing and stretching out of its old skin to allow further growth and reveal its fresh new luminous scales that had been waiting patiently below the surface to break out just like my autonomous woman slash mom on vacation skin begins to see the light of day and i feel a bit different now as a door opens and i embrace and breathe in my mind body soul and see this beautiful version of me reflecting back to me through love gratitude and connection with so much to honor and feel and be and so much energy in my body releasing and more wanting to be released but cant so i go for a run to release it by heading down below to the circular road around the man made pleasure island and watch the sunset as i move and feel the gratitude of this day and how fortunate i am to be here to feel as i do to run as i do and love as i do being who i am now glistening with endorphins walking into the gorgeous airy lobby to get snacks gratis at the marketplace before riding the mirrored elevator up to eleven to sink into my lovely room on this first night of freedom with a hot shower and soft white hotel robe enveloping me kindly while i settle in my chaise to lounge and look out at the view of the ocean now dark behind the lights of the city drink my rose kombucha eat my ranch kale chips and reflect on the wonders and gifts of the day and melt into the cloud of a bed before me to read my book until my eyes get heavy and its time to sleep dream and awake to my 45th birthday with gratitude in my heart sunshine birthday wishes on my phone and dreams of kisses cuddles and morning snuggles filling my head that are not to be while here alone in this bed still this bed is oh so heavenly and this day is free open and full of promise for whatever adventures i want to create whatever impulses i want to amuse whatever feelings i want to indulge and whatever reflections i chose to contemplate so first things first i decide to stay cocooned in my yummy sheets with my book open and my body engulfed in the pillowy softness while i read until my hearts content and my stomach calls for nourishment that can be found on a short walk across the street to the island of retail therapy where a whole foods market will curb my hunger and enliven my body with food and drink promising energy vitality immunity and wellness for a small fortune before i return to my now favorite room of all time to my beloved bryan kest yoga session cued up on my ipad so i can breathe deep and fill up with calm and peace while challenging my strength and suppleness with sensuous stretches for my body my muscles my mind and heart yet i cant help but get back under the covers after an hour or more of heat and yoga and body loving tlc to read a bit more of my book im loving about longevity of life science of aging biology of strength privilege of time and blissfully immerse myself in that bedding which smells so fresh and feels so good and tempts me to take a nap right then and there and i think i may have done so for a minute or two before i shake myself up get out of bed and lace up my running shoes for a run on pch to explore the town by foot challenge my body to go further and my mind to let go even further before i pass a store that makes me smile and flash a memory that makes me sigh and finish up my run on the actual legit island of boats yachts slips chocolate covered frozen bananas and world famous balboa bars where i stop my runners pace to a walk and stroll up to balboa beach company where that old bbc logo on the sign outside beckons me in and i find a white logo cap i must get and an anchor ornament i convince them to sell me and a sweet and cute sales boy at least twenty years my junior fumbling over his words to expose his attraction to me his interest in why im in town and his desire to know what i was doing for my birthday that night when i graciously share that i was going to do whatever i felt like doing as the feeling came to me and although it was probably odd and strange to him as it would be to many younger childless lovelies that i would chose to spend my birthday night alone when i could be with people music drinks fanfare and flirtatious men i didnt mind what he may have thought as i knew what i wanted and what i didnt want what i could have and what i couldnt have and remembered what i already have had in spades before for years pre marriage and even in marriage and how the freedom to be me individually for a few days has trumped it all these last few birthdays as i have thankfully gained the wisdom to now be a woman who loves herself enough to no longer let flattering attention define her self worth since even though a sometimes fragile ego gets a nice boost when someone shows they find you desirable vivacious and mysterious the truth is you still ultimately are left with yourself and what is inside your mind and your heart your love and your truth that no one can take away so i smiled and bid the cute and sweet boy farewell with my bbc cap and prized wooden anchor in hand and took a photo of myself right then and there on the streets of balboa island to remember my entry into 45 not the nightmare commander in chief but my birth years knowing there was going to be no one to pose for in front of a cake candle and camera later that night or a song sung while a wish is made even though i discovered a surprise birthday dessert awaiting me back in my hotel room compliments of management which i didnt eat but still appreciated so before eating dinner i decided to finally enter the mecca for shoppers across the street to buy a pair of shoes as a birthday gift to me and then return to my room to place a order for in room dining before taking another heavenly hot shower and re entering the white spa robe i cant get enough of just as my grilled salmon and veggies were delivered on a silver tray courtesy of the oak grill downstairs wow it was beautiful so i dove in voraciously as i was famished from my five mile run and then contemplated watching a movie or soaking in a bubble bath for a while but didnt do either since after applying a lot of eucalyptus mint lotion and slipping into something more comfortable yes yes i mean that divine bed ive grown quite fond of since the first sweet moments i spent on it the day i arrived so i read a few more lovely birthday messages and then a few more pages of my book before drifting off to sleep in a sea of white sheets with miles of empty real estate surrounding my small frame with no one to share it with except in my dreams and in complete contrast to the reality at home where a six year old often infiltrates my space to sleep close to his mama before the sun rises and unwittingly smacks her in the face with a flailing arm while tossing and jolting me out of my slumber to find myself pushed to the edge of the bed so god yes this nights sleep on my birthday night in my island of a bed and on my island of solitary existence was a dream compared to typical nights and those dreamy dreams i continued to have all night were followed up the next morning by no less than two hours of deep tissue massage deliciousness as i was pampered in oil and restorative touches that stimulated every inch of my body to open up and surrender its tightness and lull me to a near sleep before the session was up and my masseuse who is one of the most generous and kind people i know took me to lunch for my birthday at eat chow my favorite restaurant in these parts where good conversation grilled prawns and ceviche were consumed and full stomachs were enjoyed along with a bond of friendship that i am more thankful for with each visit and as i was leaving i realized this weekend was going by way too fast for my final plans were upon me so i ran back to the hotel to wash off the scented oils that had lubed me up good and where i wished i had time for a bubble bath but didnt since a quick change is all i could manage before getting on the road to laguna niguel to see my two childhood girlfriends and eat some amazing food at hendrix a hot new spot just opened and talk laugh and share our lives for hours until its time to bid farewell and drive the winding pacific coast highway back up from laguna beach through dana point newport coast corona del mar then finally back to my room at my island paradise where there was still no time for a bubble bath darn it as i was so sleepy and so on goes my nightgown and off go the lights as i collapse in bed reflecting on my time here with still more birthday wishes to read with gratitude before falling into a quiet and peaceful sleep until early morning when i awake to my last few hours in this place wishing i could stay and knowing that i couldnt since i had to check out by nine to head back to los angeles and dodger stadium where a little league team day parade was taking place with my daughter and her softball team as part of it and their coach my husband me and their unofficial team mascot my son who wore his coach pitch t ball uniform to be a part of the action on the field walking slow behind the girls holding their team banner feeling the excitement of the stadium from below for only a few precious moments before it was all over and then climbing several mountainous flights of stairs to our relief of shady seats in the stands to watch the dodgers play the world championship cubs in an exciting game filled with hits and home runs that i wasnt able to experience fully along with the rest of the fans standing and screaming as i remained seated holding my almost seven year old son limp and napping in my arms while recognizing clearly that my birthday getaway weekend was officially over even though it was only sunday and monday is a holiday yet my time was again becoming their time as my kids began to behave and need and nestle as children do to cause my cloak of motherhood to creep back up onto me to cover my new skin as i knew it had to as i returned to usual life and i then realized i hadnt officially made a birthday wish despite the wish i wished in my heart on my birthday in the hotel so maybe now it was time to wish upon the night sky the wish i will wish forever and a day right along with another lovely wish i know will be realized one day because i believe wishes are dreams that come to us through the truth we feel and are fulfilled through our actions and intentions and since my intent is strong my focus is clear and my hope runs deep for all that i desire for my life i know it will come to me as we all reflect what we are we see what we want and we attract what we focus on so chose to focus on hope light destiny kindness friendship positivity tenderness empathy and love always love because love is the greatest gift we have to give and receive so make sure to give and receive it with your whole heart and your mind body soul will be yours and the reflection in the mirror and the one reflected in those you love and who love you will reveal the authentic you beauteous as my mom would say and more filled with hope positivity perseverance the three things my tattoo symbolizes brighter lovelier truer than you ever imagined before

period.

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Beyond Leia

 Image: Rolling Stone Magazine/Aaron Rapoport/Corbis

Image: Rolling Stone Magazine/Aaron Rapoport/Corbis

 
I am Princess Leia, no matter what. If I were trying to get a good table, I wouldn’t say I wrote Postcards (From the Edge). Or, if I’m trying to get someone to take my check and I don’t have ID, I wouldn’t say: ‘Have you seen (When) Harry Met Sally?’ Princess Leia will be on my tombstone.
— Carrie Fisher
 

I was five years old in 1977, the year Carrie Fisher first took on the role of Princess Leia. As a toddler, I didn't see Star Wars when it first came out; so my earliest visual memory of Leia was not in a white robe with side buns, but rather in this gold slave bikini and long braid from 1983's Return of the Jedi.

I eventually saw the first film, along with its sequel The Empire Strikes Back, and witnessed the debut of the gun-toting Leia, with her sharp tongued quips and calm under fire demeanor that not only left Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in dumbstruck awe of her, but also firmly established her as the original cinematic female action hero. 

Leia was stubborn, courageous and formidable... put simply, a genuine badass. The image of her in that gold bikini, chained to the slimy, alien slug gangster Jabba the Hutt, definitely stuck with me; not to mention how she killed him wearing that same outfit with the very chain that bound her.

So much of Princess Leia's charm, grit and attraction is due to the fact that Carrie Fisher was the one who brought her to life onscreen. Leia exuded Carrie's strength of character, resilience, and dogged determination to reject norms, defy limited expectations, and surpass and defeat the literal and figurative restraints that an alien slug, or anyone else, tried to put on her.

Yet as strong, lovely, and memorable as she was in the Star Wars films, Carrie Fisher was much more than Princess Leia to so many, including me. In the whole of my life, she emerged beyond Leia, inhabiting other roles and other identities that have endeared her to me even more...

... more as Meg Ryan's best friend in one of my all-time favorite films, When Harry Met Sally. While in college in the early 1990's, Carrie was a big part of nursing me back to health and comforting me when I just needed to cuddle up and escape into a movie. As a Film Studies major, this was my go-to movie to put on when I was sick, burnt out from studying, or in need of a break from all the cerebral and abstract foreign films I watched in film class.

... more for her connection to my family, as the daughter of the late Debbie Reynolds, the legendary entertainer who headlined Vegas alongside my dad in the late 1970's; and as the half sister of Joely and Tricia Leigh Fisher, daughters of Connie Stevens, also a renowned actress and singer, who started a vocal group with my dad back in the 1950's and who ultimately became one of my mom's best friends.

... more for the kinship I felt with her as a fellow daughter of an entertainer father that seemed to be much more accessible to his fans then he was to his children.

... more for her bravery and transparency about her mental illness, and how she didn't let it stop her from living her life on her terms. I know a thing or two about being outspoken and honest to the point that it sometimes makes others uncomfortable, and I love that Carrie spoke her mind on topics that mattered to her, or of which she had a strong opinion. Not only did she free herself from the stigma of an illness that is often misunderstood and dismissed as imaginary or manufactured; but she helped others to feel free of it through her public candor and her writing.

... and yes, more than anything, Carrie Fisher is endeared to me for her talent as a writer, and her propensity to tell the barefaced truth. To be a good writer you need to be fearless and free; not only do you need to possess the courage to say what others won't, but also to have the forte to write what others can't. Carrie was all this and more. I aspire to be like her, and to write with the same courage and flair that she did.

The overwhelming respect and regard I have for her, her work, her honesty, her love of words, and her legacy of living life in the most unabashedly real way, far eclipses any admiration I hold for her as that beautiful, bikini-clad woman. Carrie was proud and unashamed to be who she was, and she worked and lived to ensure that her worth was not solely measured by the veil of her perceived privilege, nor the fleeting nature of her physical beauty.

And for that, I believe she succeeded famously.

Rest in peace, badass princess.

Carrie Fisher
1956 - 2016

Carrie-Fisher-Time-2015-Photo-Shoot-Star-Wars-thumb-430xauto-64608.jpeg
 
Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. They’re the temporary happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.
— Carrie Fisher
 

While Away

On the last day of 2016, my family and I visited the Sequoia National Park up in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. As we drove over thirty miles up a windy mountain road, the air temperature dropped from an already chilly (by my California coast standards) 49 degrees at the bottom of the mountain to a brisk 31 degrees at the point where we stopped amidst a winter wonderland.

We attempted to sled and saucer our way down hills so deeply covered with fresh powder that we immediately sunk down into the pillowy white snow instead of gliding atop the surface of it. This was a spontaneous day trip up the mountain, so we hadn't sought out a groomed tube park or any kind of designated sledding area. We simply stopped off the road when we saw some open space to explore and forged our own path to play in the woods where no one else was around.

This type of scenario is commonplace in my life with my adventurous husband, so I have learned to expect the unexpected over the years. As such, these natural snowy conditions were less than ideal for our planned activity. None of us seemed to mind though... we were having fun and were content to let the green of the trees and the white of the snow envelop us in their pure and pristine beauty.

The air was so crisp and fresh and the snow fell from the sky so soft and silent that, as I looked around, I felt as if I was watching a beautiful nature film with the sound turned down. Although I live in a rural mountainous area, it is temperate and always in motion, the coastal breezes and ocean waves providing us with a constant soundtrack. This frost covered forest was, in contrast, cold, quiet, and still; an environment to which I wasn't accustomed.

While my husband and kids were still trying in vain to get some speed and traction on the hills behind me, I stood alone in the middle of an open field, the blanket of white around me untouched except for the path of my footsteps. Entranced by my surroundings, I just stood there as the snow floated down and lightly settled upon me, not doing or thinking or being anything but present. I was just me. Me in that moment. Me in my mind. Me in my body. Me in my soul. Just ME.

A feeling of acceptance, peace and gratitude washed over me and I took it all in with a deep breath of cool, clean air... acceptance of myself, peace with my place in the world, and gratitude for my journey - past, present and most especially, future.

The sound of my kids laughing in the distance slowly came back into my perception, as if someone had turned the movie's volume up; and I realized they were calling for me to rejoin the fun. It seems I was being summoned back... Back to being a mom. Back to being a wife. Back to being a woman loved and needed by the same two eager and excited little humans as I am every day of my life. And most rewardingly, back to my position as the missing and vital puzzle piece that completes our family portrait.

2016 would be over in a couple of hours, and I was happy to see it go. It had been a year of examination, discovery, reflection, letting go, seeking resolution, and recommitting to dreams and goals that had always been there, but had begun to get lost in the shuffle along the way.

As I mentioned in my last post a couple days ago, I shared some things exclusively on Instagram and Facebook that I wrote during the final three months of 2016 in lieu of posting anything here on the blog at that time.
I am sharing those words and images below with you now to wrap up and bid farewell to what was a challenging and transformative year...

Milking It

 Pacific coast Highway - Santa Monica, CA

Pacific coast Highway - Santa Monica, CA

A two and half hour, traffic laden drive from the OC to LA warrants all windows down, sunroof open, bare feet, music playing, and a leg up while driving (even when wearing a dress). I drove down to Costa Mesa this morning for a dear friend's father's funeral, a fitting end to an already emotional week for me, after the tenth anniversary of my mother's death a couple days ago.

I drove most of the way home to Malibu on the clogged 405 freeway in silence and quiet reflection, thinking about life and how those we love will all inevitably leave us at some point on our life's journey, and how I knew that this was only one in a long procession of memorial services that I already had begun to attend, as my friends and I continue to lose the beloved people that came before us and reared us into this life. I also partly dreamed about just staying down there for the rest of the day, hanging out at the beach alone or calling a friend I hadn't seen in a while to meet for coffee, a smile, and a catch-up chat. Wouldn't that be lovely, I thought.

When I finally made it to the 10 freeway, traffic opened up, and so did I... shaking off my daydreams, I took a deep cleansing breath to remind me to stay in the present and seize the moment to enjoy the cool coastal breezes that were now rushing through my open car windows. As I emerged from the McClure tunnel onto Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, traffic slowed to a crawl again, and I noticed a couple people in the cars around me craning their necks and doing double takes at me.

Now, I am a 44 year old woman in a black funeral dress in an SUV on my way home to my husband and kids, not a 22 year old freewheeling chick in cutoffs and a bikini in a sports car heading to the beach; yet, I was getting some looks. I can only guess that I must have looked slightly strange and oddly comfortable with my bare leg exposed and leaning on my door while wearing that conservative black dress. My black heels were kicked off under me and my wind blown hair was no longer in its neat little bun.

I didn't care how it looked - it was as free as I was going to feel today, and I was milking it for all it was worth.

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, October 14, 2016

Strength of Heart

 Happy Kids Dental Planet - Agoura Hills, CA

This is the parking space I landed in today at my daughter's dentist office...

Seeing it reminded me that when we open our hearts, and then entrust them to others for safe keeping, we render them vulnerable to other people's insensitivity, carelessness and mistreatment. The most challenging part of recovering from the hurt and injustice done to us by others is to not close up our hearts as a means of trying to protect ourselves from additional pain.

True strength of heart hinges on our ability and willingness to keep our hearts open, kind, giving, and forgiving, despite the risk of being hurt again. It's much easier said than done, I know, but I think it's one of the most important virtues to try to honor and live by.

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, October 17, 2016

Start Doing

carljung.jpg

We are so good at saying what we feel, touting what we think, and preaching what we believe that the actual doing of it all sometimes gets lost along the way.

We promise the moon and then don't deliver it. We plant the seed then forget to water it.

Talk, talk, talk... words are our cheapest commodity. The real value is in our action and follow through.

Stop talking. Start doing.

  #actionsspeaklouderthanwords #talkischeap

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 4, 2016

Vote

Here we go...

#vote #election2016

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 8, 2016
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Be Here Now

 Pantages Theatre - Hollywood, CA

Pantages Theatre - Hollywood, CA

Date night out to the theatre last Friday night. I snapped this pic before the show began but didn't share it instantly, as I didn't feel it was worth taking even one second of my attention away from my date or the beautiful architecture of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre to do it.

It's how I felt in that moment... just an overwhelming urge to remain fully present. After all that transpired last week, and the palpable uncertainty and anxiety about the future pervading the air since the election, staying present is what felt best. (And truthfully, still does.)

The show that followed this pic was an assault to the senses - so raw, so emotional, so tragic. It reminded me of how alive you can feel, how much pain you can endure, and how, no matter what you have been through or are presently going through, there is still hope for a better day, a new start, a brighter future.

Allowing ourselves to feel alive and in our tangible reality is SO important. Yes, we all have big plans. So many of us work so hard to ensure a safe and prosperous future for ourselves, our families, our world. Yet we get so caught up in it all sometimes that we forget to live. Forget to breathe. Forget to enjoy what is right in front of us. Finding gratitude for the here and now and choosing those moments to be fully present today, without an ounce of worry or concern for what's coming next, is what energizes us to face all that lies ahead and galvanizes us to do and accomplish what we need to do tomorrow. If we don't, what are we doing it all for anyway?

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 16, 2016

After The Rain Has Fallen

 Malibu, CA

After the rain has fallen
After the tears have washed your eyes
You'll find that I've taken nothing, that
Love can't replace in the blink of an eye.

After the thunder's spoken, and
After the lightning bolt's been hurled
After the dream is broken, there'll
Still be love in the world.

-Sting

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 28, 2016

Don't Walk Away

 Sunset over the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands - Malibu, CA

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands - Malibu, CA

From my bedroom balcony, I watched this evening's stunning sunset unfold. With each passing minute, with every second even, the slightest shifts occurred, and the sky morphed from light blues and soft oranges to deep purples and intense pinks.

Although the changes were slow and subtle, they came in such a continuous progression that if you walked away for even a minute or two, you'd miss the whole thing.

There's no pause button. You can't walk away and come back to experience it when you're ready. It will happen whether or not you are watching.

I think the same could be said about life. Walk away, busy yourself, indulge in distractions, or simply take for granted life's pure beauty, with all its subtleties and fleeting nuances, and soon discover you're missing it... one minute, one day, one week, one month, one year at a time.

It's your choice. It's your life, and the only one you're gonna get on this Earth. Don't walk away. Don't sleep, swipe, surf, zone out, binge watch, or social media numb your way through it.

Please don't. Love it. Feel it. Breathe it. Live it. Just pay attention. It is worth it. Look up from your phone and see what's in front of you, live and unfiltered, in vibrant colors.

#nofilter

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, December 20, 2016

It Gets Joy

 New years Eve 2016-17

This was the first New Year's Eve my son managed to stay awake until midnight.

Since he had never been a part of the festivities before, he didn't quite understand why we were all at his grandparents' house wearing silly hats and holding bubbly drinks.

We explained it to him by saying that when a new calendar year begins, it is kind of like the Earth having a birthday - just like how he celebrates his birthday every year.

He took a couple seconds to ponder this idea, then said quietly, "So instead of the Earth getting presents, it gets joy."

Yes, sweet pie, that's exactly right.

#insightfulbeyondhisyears #wiserthanmostadults

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year to you all. I hope you will join me here often for the interesting journey that is sure to be 2017.

Ten Years After My Life Before

The life I had before... I knew how to do that. I could do that forever. But now look at me. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do with all this?
— Erica Barry (in Something's Gotta Give)

Life is not a movie. No one knows this more than me. Still, just humor me here, okay?

The quote above is one of the most poignant and heartbreaking lines from a great scene in one of my favorite movies. It speaks volumes to so many of our fears of losing control, of stepping out of our comfort zone, of challenging the false egos and fabricated identities that we offer up to the world and hide behind to protect ourselves from the heartbreak of being vulnerable, of admitting we aren't fine, and of feeling and loving deeply.

Her sentiment, "What am I going to do with all this?" really resonates with me because I have felt it, not only in regard to romantic love (as she does in the film), but in regard to losing my mom... now ten years ago today.

When my mom died, so much came up in me that I was not prepared to deal with. I had my first child three months later, and my delay in fully grieving the loss of my mother until my daughter was safely outside of my body meant I was faced with embracing overwhelming joy and tremendous grief simultaneously.

WTF? Are you kidding me? How was I going to be elated about my beautiful and healthy baby girl while finally allowing myself to feel the intense anger and crippling sorrow of my mom being killed in a car accident?

What am I going to do with all this? All this feeling. All this hurt. All this love. All this disappointment. All this hope. All this sadness. What am I gonna do?

I couldn't navigate my way through it, and I didn't have the clarity, energy, motivation or support to know that I needed some sort of outlet, or some sort of outside help, to sort out the mess that was me, that sad woman buried somewhere beneath a bunch of diapers, baby wipes, burp clothes and boppy pillows.

So instead of real help, I used band-aids. I patched up my life as best I could with quick fixes, forced positive attitudes, running, yoga, clean eating, a bit of makeup, a healthy dose of denial, and the sheer abandonment of some of my deepest passions and strongest convictions. I created some semblance of a happy home life and convinced myself that it was all somehow, in some way, going to be okay the way it was now.

The way I was now.

It wasn't. I hadn't fully understood what these new roles I now was expected to fill (wife, mom, motherless daughter) would do to my former identity, or how my attempting to fill them would demolish all that I had thought of myself. Although it looked as if I played the roles pretty well from the outside, deep down I was partly broken, unhappy with myself, my ability to parent, my marriage, my choices, and my unwanted, unchosen, effed-up circumstances.

The difficulties I faced had rippling effects that forever changed the landscape of my life and led me down roads I never imagined I would venture. Roads of thoughts, feelings, words, and actions that did not serve my life. States of mind and being (sadness, anger, bitterness, fear, self doubt, insecurity and shame, to name a few) that I expected to only visit temporarily - that is, while grieving my mom, caring for needy babies and toddlers at home, and fumbling through my domesticated, messy life - were instead the states of mind and being that I set up camp and lived in for years.

In the narrative of the film, Erica dealt with her "all this" by writing. She wrote and cried and cried and wrote, and out of all of the hurt and pain and love, she created something glorious, healed herself, and moved on with her life. In the narrative of my life, over seven years had passed before I discovered that writing would be my salvation for my personal "all this."

With every word I wrote, I began to dig out of my dark tunnel both toward the light within me and the light in my life that had been eluding me. The digging was painful, enlightening, intoxicating, scary, euphoric, and all together devastating; yet, it freed me from the purgatory between "my life before" and the life I knew wanted to have in the future.

So today, on this day that means so much yet hurts so much, I am grateful that these last ten years are over. Still, the dawn of this solemn anniversary of sorts didn't flip a switch and make all my problems magically disappear. There is no ten year statute of limitation on my pain, suffering or difficulty in life. Sure, you can look at all the photos of me as a mother these past ten years, posing with my kids through faces of love, smiles and happiness, and see part of my story. And those faces are all as authentic and real as anything. But, as we all know, snapshots taken and often shared with those outside our inner world are mere snippets of a much larger picture... and rarely do they tell the whole story.

Not having my mom here hurts still. The void she left has never been filled. I feel it most when I see the grandmothers of my kids' friends enjoying their grandchildren, and the moms of my girlfriends helping their daughters like they have been doing all their lives, being there for them and showing them the unconditional love and support that only a mother can give. I miss that. This is the part of my story that makes life challenging for me.

But it's just a story. Not a movie, but a story without a completed script or a guaranteed happy ending. We all have a choice to either indulge in our stories, let them control us and dictate how we live; or to acknowledge and honor the events that unfold in them with awareness, vulnerability and acceptance. Then all we can do is just write and cry and cry and write until we create a new chapter, heal ourselves from the plot twists that we didn't see coming, and move through the remainder of our story looking forward to the parts that have yet to be written.

Freedom

 Running at Zuma Beach - Malibu, CA

Running at Zuma Beach - Malibu, CA

Freedom from... 

_____________________


Today I am feeling free from things that had bound me for so long.

It's gratifying to cut the cord from those thoughts and behavioral patterns that no longer serve me, my life, or my overall well being.

It matters not that you know with what I personally fill in that blank; but rather that you know what YOU do... or at least what from which you still wish to be free.

Whatever it is, have faith. It IS possible.

Be patient. Do the work, persevere, and it will happen.

#fillintheblank

 
 
 
*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

My Abbey

 Lighthouse inside the Malibu Library - Malibu, CA

Lighthouse inside the Malibu Library - Malibu, CA

I love our local library. Some days I wish I could stay here... live here. It's like in the Sound of Music when Maria returns to the Abbey and begs to stay and become a nun so she can avoid the dilemma of being in love with Captain Von Trapp. The Reverend Mother says to her, "Our Abbey is not to be used as an escape... These walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live."

Of course, she is right. You must live the life you are destined to live with hope, energy, purpose, positivity, determination, perseverance, resolve, and gratitude.

And I do... most of the time; or at least I try to.

Still it seems the strong impulse to hide, to escape, to shield ourselves from the world outside is powerful at times, especially when it all just gets to be too much. When it feels like so much is being asked of us, demanded of us, and expected of us, and we just aren't sure if we have the fortitude or grace to face it on any particular day.

My Abbey on a day like that (on a day like this) is the library. A safe, comfortable and beautiful place to just sit, write, read, learn, and get completely immersed in the endless supply of books. A place where I wish I could read and write until my heart's content, with no time limits, deadlines, or bedtimes.

I know I can't live here. I can't even visit here for more than a few minutes at a time, or without a kid in tow, between all of life's commitments. Still, it's my sweet dream I dream as I sit here in silence, reading a book or writing my thoughts down and relishing a moment to shut out the noisy world for a while.

Time spent here is fast and fleeting, and it will be over soon, at least for today, when I must begrudgingly put my bookmark back in the crease of my book, gather up my son and the books he wants to check out, and face the remainder of the day, and the coming days, until I can make my next library escape.

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Eleven Years of Wedded...

... bliss. That's what you were thinking, right? The word that most often ends any sentence containing "years of wedded" is BLISS. It's ironic that bliss is the word we expect to fill in that blank when bliss is not the word most people married more than a year would use to describe their marriage being full of.

After all, bliss is something we feel when eating chocolate, having sex, lying on the beach, or binge watching our favorite TV show... not when coping and coexisting with a spouse day in and day out. It seems any degree of bliss that exists in the realm of marriage is usually confined to the moment of engagement, the day of the wedding, the honeymoon, and whatever number of months go by before reality sets in.

So how did "bliss" become the anointed word to describe the state of marriage, when the term "wedded bliss" is itself an oxymoron? Moreover, why do people continue to tie the knot when this concept is widely held, and often humorously accepted, as the dismal truth?

I celebrated my eleventh wedding anniversary last week, and I can unequivocally say that these first eleven years of marriage have been anything but wholly blissful. Still, misery, the antonym of bliss, would not be an accurate word to complete that title sentence either. For me, marriage has trod steadily between the paths of blissful and miserable... traversing a road riddled with potholes, wearing blinders to warning signs advising it to reroute in a different direction from where it was heading, and coming close to falling off a cliff a few times.

When a marriage starts off as storybook perfect and ridiculously promising as mine did, this bleak assessment may sound overdramatic, or just hard to believe; especially for those who attended the wedding or have seen the wedding photos.

I was married five years almost to the day of meeting my husband at a birthday party in a karaoke bar. True, nothing about that fact sounds storybook or promising; but I assure you, as kitschy as the setting was, it was wildly exciting when our eyes met across a crowded room, and sweetly romantic when he wrote down his phone number, walked me to my car, gave me a hug, and earnestly asked me to call him.

Our courtship was immediate and exclusive, and we were engaged four years later. We took a year to plan the wedding; and a month out, our wedding photographer shot our "engagement session" - a photo shoot that solidified our status as a couple madly in love and destined to be together forever. I mean, how could we be anything short of blissful in marriage after those photos?

We snuggled in wildflower fields, explored coastal caves, walked hand in hand along the shore, all the while staring into each others eyes and kissing... everywhere... on the rocks, in the caves, on the beach, and in the water. Lying on the sand seductively smooching as the tides enveloped us, like Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (but with clothes on), we were the picture of true romance, burning passion, and undying love.

As a woman who was about to marry the man of her dreams, I had no idea just how little I knew about the realities of the life to which I was committing myself... how idealistic I was about my expectations for married life... and how firmly I believed that love will conquer all, love is all that matters, and love will sustain in the hard times.

Our wedding was an event to behold - flawless, gorgeous, timeless, and dare I say... perfect. It was the happiest day of my life, as I have attested to for years. It was so perfect and I was so happy that it all set me up for a big, fat fall. I soon discovered through the travails and trials of life, unexpected family tragedy, and birthing a couple of babies, that the actual experience of marriage does not equate to the elation of the wedding day, nor does it resemble an engagement session. Not even close.

Yet, this is not where I say how wrong I was to believe as I did. This is not where I admit defeat and profess how naive and unrealistic I was to believe all that foolish love mumbo jumbo.

Well, maybe it is.

It's not that I was wrong about LOVE, per se. I do not and will not refute the power of love to uplift, heal, and do all kinds of miraculous things. I truly believe love will conquer all, love is all that matters, love will sustain in the hard times, and all the other meaningful memes about love. Oh, "love wins" is another one.

What I was wrong about was the kind of love that conquers, matters, sustains, and wins.

Ultimately, as a young, fresh-faced, newly engaged fiancé, it was ROMANTIC love that I hung my hopes on and put my blind faith in. You know... Romance. Happily Ever After. Fairy Tale Love. Romantic Comedy Love. Whatever you want to call it, I was fully invested in this variety of love and believed wholeheartedly that the fervent love I felt was IT, the real deal. This was the stuff. This was the love that will last.

But romantic love did not live up to all the hype. The false advertising I was fed all those years as a young girl - one born, bred, and brainwashed by soap operas, romantic comedies, and silly love songs - was debunked by the challenges of marriage. I had believed, or wanted so badly to believe, that the dreamy brand of love that all those melodramas, far-fetched narratives, and sappy lyrics were heralding was not only the kind of love I should desire and seek more than anything else, but it was the only kind of love that mattered in the context of an intimate relationship.

Intensity, passion, conflict, drama, attraction, and the desperate love for another human being... these were the attributes in which I was indoctrinated to believe. These were the emotions celebrated and lauded as the essential ingredients that define true love stories.

But they don't. Oh my, how they don't.

Love is so much more than a passionate kiss in the park. It is so much more intricate than a romantic snapshot on the beach. And although swooning over someone is fun and exhilarating, it will not sustain a relationship... much less a marriage. Romantic love does not even sustain itself most of the time, its power is so fleeting and temperamental. Its delicate survival depends on an unrealistic mix of circumstance, expectation, and the existence of simultaneous feelings and efforts on the part of two diverse and complicated people. Of individuals who sometimes don't even know what they want themselves, while being expected to fulfill the needs, desires, and dreams of another.

Soon after pledging "I give you this ring," my relationship began to be strained by unexpected roadblocks and pitfalls that quickly challenged my notions and expectations of how married life would be for us. The story I had written in my own mind was not the one playing out in my life. Work and economic setbacks coupled with the death of my mother and the birth of my baby made the first few years of married life especially difficult.

Yet, more than anything, my husband's and my divergent viewpoints and differing philosophies on almost everything under the sun made our signature "opposites attract" love affair much less charming and endearing than it was before we said our I dos. The attributes in each other that had intrigued us in courtship were becoming liabilities in wedlock.

This disturbing new perspective did not bode well for our proficiency as partners in parenting; and the conflicts that arose between us after having children further eroded the fondness and devotion we had for each other - that which I had once deemed unshakable. I was forced to realize that love after, and within, marriage is so much more than a flutter in your heart, butterflies in your stomach, or desire in your body. I came to recognize that love has to surpass the romantic realm and elevate to a higher vibration in order to withstand all that life throws at it. That it must let go of ego, find humility, cultivate depth of character, and shed its romantic fallacy to transform into a version of itself that knows full well what it's up against, yet charges into battle anyway with a strong will to triumph.

Sometimes, love in marriage is as simple as staying. As simply being there. As being true to the intentions that fueled its existence in the first place. It is rooted in reality, commitment, and duty... in surviving late night feedings, postpartum depression, and disagreements about how to raise kids... in overcoming career crises, money issues, and disparate dreams for the future... in staying home Friday nights to watch family flicks, play board games, and wake up early for Saturday morning soccer games... and in understanding that the big picture we're living is far more significant and paramount than the small illusions we contrive in our minds and hearts.

The sprinkles on top of all that sobering responsibility and accountability can most definitely be romance, lust, candlelight, flowers, sex and candy... whatever floats your boat; but these sprinkles alone should never be expected to keep a marriage afloat. Unwittingly place romantic love at the foundation of your marriage, expecting it to hold it all up, and perfectly construct an imperfect union in peril of drowning under the weight, truth and actuality of life, careers, egos, kids, growth, aging, and the passage of time.

So as I enter my twelfth year of marriage, I take all that I have learned and move forward. Forward as a wife, mother and woman who knows what it takes; while still being a wife, mother and woman who knows it is not easy to do, be, or live what it takes. The knowing is now the easy part, the doing is definitely the hard challenge, and the trying means absolutely everything. Keep trying and soon find the doing will happen, even when it doesn't seem like it will.

And that doing of it... is LOVE.

 with our one and five year olds - January 2012

with our one and five year olds - January 2012

*For the follow up story about how this post was received by thousands of readers, go to Honestly, I Want to See You Be Brave.

The Power of Perspective

 
 

A two week vacation from your regular, daily routine over the winter break can provide immense perspective on your life... on the aspects for which you are grateful, the parts of it you really like (or would like to do without), the areas in it that fulfill you, and those you wish were more fulfilling.

Many of us make New Years resolutions to jump start the "new and improved" life we so desire, hoping the holiday will give us that extra boost of motivation we think we need to finally do the things we've been putting off all year long out of fear, procrastination, complacency, or simply, unhappiness.

What most of us looking to change our lives for the better often overlook, however, is how powerful our perspective can be in helping or hindering us getting what we truly want. Above any external or behavioral change we can vow, or "resolve" to make with the flipping of a calendar page, our lives change and improve most effectively with a shift in perspective. Our strength and willingness to find the best perspective that will move us forward in the most positive and beneficial way is ultimately what will define the course of our future. Not a better job. Not a smaller waist size. Not a better boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. Not a "new and improved" version of us visible only from the outside. None of these external elements in our lives can be positively changed anyway until our outlook changes first. Our attitude, our courage and ability to work toward hard changes, while still accepting the parts that cannot be changed (like how I have accepted I will never have a flawless olive skin tone or a head full of long, flowing locks), and our overall capacity to feel joy and gratitude in our lives... these all hinge on perspective.

And therein lies the challenge.

Finding, adopting, and authentically living the healthiest perspective for ourselves is one of the hardest things to do; especially when our preconceived thoughts and expectations - about how things should be, ought to be, or were going to be in our perfectly planned lives - often hamper our present willingness and ability to embrace, or even simply accept, the WHAT IS of our lives.

There are many aspects of my own life that I predicted would be different... things I expected to happen, or I planned on having, that have not actually come to be. I didn't anticipate getting laid off my high-paying, career-making job just one month after getting married and closing escrow on my new home. I didn't envision getting pregnant with my first child just one year after that while I was still forging the path toward a new career. And I most definitely didn't imagine losing my mother to a tragic car accident six months later while six months pregnant with her first grandchild.

Life has not panned out the way I thought it would and it has been a long and bumpy road toward acceptance of what life has brought. I have risen above it with strength and dogged determination just as often as I have fallen below it with agony and crushing defeat. At times I have found the will and resilience to keep myself healthy and positive; while other times I have allowed the weight of it all to break me down and almost extinguish my hope - the hope I so fervently cherish.

So after all the highs and lows and through all the hope and despair, I have learned that nothing will improve unless you yourself decide to change your perspective. Unless YOU decide how you are going to approach your life and the challenges you inevitably face and how you are going to create your life - not only with those challenges but with the gifts you have been given - every single day. To create a life in which you live your individual truth without apology, without shame, and without fear of failure, judgement or rejection. To live without succumbing to the ideologies of our society that breed insecurities and feelings of inadequacy that can bog you down and make you doubt your inner power.

No one can do this for you. No one can make it right or better for you (or worse for that matter, unless you give them that power). But more importantly - and this is where we often get hung up - NO ONE can love, support, inspire, complement or sweet talk you enough to grant you the life you want or any kind of lasting and sustainable happiness... unless that someone is you.

Relying on others to fix things or be the source of your happiness will always leave you wanting. It will always leave you searching. It is up to you to find happiness within yourself, however formidable that concept is to us. To know that your life is valuable, to know that you are valuable, and to cultivate gratitude for the what is, even when the what is doesn't resemble the previously imagined will be. That perfect "will be" image never existed anyway, except in your mind; and it can't even compete with what you can manifest in reality if you find, embrace and maintain the perspective that will empower you to be your best and live your best life.

We Are the Choices We Make

This is what I look like most days... baseball cap, yoga or running clothes, sunglasses, no makeup. No glamour, no glitz. No sign of professional success or status. No power lunches, business trips, or expense accounts. No coffee dates, happy hour hang outs, or peer camaraderie.

This is what I do most days... DRIVE. Me in the car, alone. For miles. That is, until I am descended upon by little minds and hearts and souls with their meltdowns, attitudes, bargaining, hunger, crankiness, and loudness (and at times, cuteness).

Whether it is up and down the coast highway or over the canyon to the valley, I live in a place where I have to drive quite a few miles to get anywhere.

This is a typical Monday, when I drive the same stretch of PCH four times. Seventeen miles down the coast from home to my son's school, nine miles back up to my daughter's school, ten miles back down to ballet class, a mile to the library with my son while she dances, that same mile back to pick her up, and then a final eighteen miles up the coast to home for the night. Fifty-six miles logged in four hours without leaving Malibu.

On days like these, it's hard to feel like I've accomplished anything or was at all efficient in my day. Am I doomed to be the horribly inefficient underachiever I feel I am at this stage in my life? Is my dream of being Mrs. Goal Reacher and meeting all the (possibly unrealistic) expectations I put on myself on any given day just an illusion? It seems like other people get so much accomplished in the span of a single work day (albeit many hours longer than mine) while I have been feeling extremely underwhelmed by my ability to do the same, because of the limit on my time. Or is it more because I am just not as organized and pulled together as them or as I once was?

When I still had a toddler at home, it was expected (and perfectly acceptable) to do less, to get less done, and to be less efficient. After all, there was a little person demanding my attention in a myriad of ways, and that always took precedence. It had to. I was being a mom and doing all kinds of important mom stuff, all day long. My success in that was easily rated by the smile on the kid's face, the fullness of his tummy and the dryness of his diaper... and the fact that we both simply survived another harried day of toddlerdom, relatively unscathed.

But now, it is different. No one's here but me. There's no excuse for a day (or at least, a morning) not ripe with boxes checked, goals reached, and missions accomplished. When you once were a person who worked a full time job as a single, successful professional, often lauded by your employer and peers for your ability to get stuff done quick and get it done well, you remember that driven and organized version of yourself and you kinda miss being her. You sometimes wish you were her again. You think you can conjure her up to perform on the same level as she did before; like the last ten years of all the baby making and isolated domestication didn't happen. And although some remnants of the former you are still in there (albeit ten years older), she just isn't flourishing as well as she used to in this messy and unpredictable environment that has replaced her former kid-free and organized life.

Now a five hour work day at home (interrupted by moving clothes from the washer to the dryer, folding and putting laundry away, or emptying and filling the dishwasher) feels anything but productive, at least in the self congratulatory, "Yay me!" kind of way that getting to do the work you love or finding the satisfaction in accomplishing what you set out to do that day does. And it is most definitely no match for a full workday outside the home where you are held accountable to, and appreciated by, someone other than yourself for completing your tasks and making cool stuff happen in the world. I know I could be getting so much further in my ambition to share, connect, and inspire through my work and my writing, if only I just had a few more hours each day to share, connect, and inspire.

Is this really my life now? This chaotic and harried existence in which I sacrifice so much of me for the "them" in my life? Things are not going to be exactly how I want them to be all the time, I know. Actually, they are not most of the time. This I understand and accept, to a certain degree, even if I do so a little begrudgingly. However, I often have to stop and remind myself that, each and every day, no matter what I get done or don't get done in my own realm of work, websites, and writing, I am still always accomplishing something: LIFE.

Yes, this is my life, these are my days and those are my kids who are learning, experiencing and growing. They do all these things, go all these places, and learn all these things, because of me. Because I am their caretaker. Because I am their shepherd. Because I am the one that promotes and encourages and facilitates these opportunities and journeys they have.

It is easy to feel like a mere shuttle driver in their lives while we move from place to place, in and out of the car and in and out of experiences. I sometimes have to remind myself to accept, be present, and recognize that I too am on this journey, and that this is my time too. My time to hang out, have fun, and enjoy them at these ages. My time to support and guide them, love and protect them, learn and grow with them.

Regardless of all the things my mind may think up or my heart may yearn for that go unfulfilled each day, I realize that when I am with them, I am exactly where I need to be and am doing exactly what I need to do.

Yes, I know all this. I do all this. I rise up (most of the time) and kick ass at all this. But it is still hard. And it may always be hard. To get out of my ego. To surrender some of my deepest desires for theirs and to find new and different ones of my own. To escape the intoxicating mode of busyness and the lure of personal aspiration. To deal with their strong emotions, growing pains, and kid-sized hurts (alongside my adult-sized ones) while still trying to be a model and example of human decency, empathy, compassion, and love.

Life as a grown-up is hard. Life as a parent is hard. Life as a spouse is hard. Life as a feeling, driven, passionate, and naturally flawed person is hard. It's all so hard. Yet it's all so easy. It's all so devastating, and it's all so wonderful. It's all so... much. Just sometimes. It's challenging, beautiful, f'ed up, and contradictory. It tests our patience, resilience, and resolve; and it dares us to live it the best way we know how.

It has been said by many, in many variations, that "We are the choices we make." Nothing could be both more painfully and inspirationally true. Our realities are built on what we have previously chosen for ourselves; and to accept, or better yet, embrace this truth, is essential.

So it stands to reckon that our futures will then be determined by what choices we make next. We steer our lives from where they have come to where they will go. We are the sum of our past efforts + our current attitudes to = create our future realities. We are our perspective, we are our hope. We are our awareness, our positivity, our perseverance. We are always evolving, as long as we are paying attention, and we are always learning. And although we may need to stay the course of the commitments and obligations that have already been routed for and by us, we can still venture out and explore new roads along the way, possibly forging new paths that will transform us to who we will be in the future.

All it takes is looking forward. FORWARD, NOT BACK. We're not going that way anyway, so who we were in the past can inform us, but doesn't have to define us. Even though we are the choices we have made, we are also the ones we make today, and we will be the ones we make tomorrow.

Make them count. Make them wisely. Make them without fear and without regret. Make them for you, your spouse, your kids, your life; and make them without the influence of ANYONE who may want to steer you to do so for their advantage, for their benefit, for their ego.

You may be miles away from who you were, but you are now on the road to who you will be. You have nothing to lose but your resistance and fear, and nothing to gain but the life you want to create.

Why Being Real Matters More Than Being Perfect

 
 page excerpts From "I'm a frog!" by  mo Willems

page excerpts From "I'm a frog!" by mo Willems

 

I write what I feel. Always. At times, what comes out is encouraging and inspirational to me (and maybe to those that read it) and other times it is just... not so much. Still, even if I am in the muck for a minute or two, admitting to myself, and to you, that life just ain't all that and a bag of chips sometimes, I always seem to glean some insight from the process and find some positivity in the end.

Acknowledging the muck works better for me than trying to pretend it's not there; and trying to convince myself that life is all unicorns and rainbows all the time feels highly inauthentic to me. I can't fool myself into thinking that anyway, and I don't need or want to try to fool anyone else either. What's the point? Connecting with and owning the parts of you and your life that are hard and that you may not like so much (you know, those parts you choose not to proudly post on social media) is the best and healthiest thing you can do. It sets you free, allows you to grow, teaches you acceptance, and makes you stronger for it. It frees you from buying into the bullsh*t everyone else is flinging while they're trying to keep up with the Joneses, working so hard to convince others, along with themselves, that their life is as good and charmed and envious and pride worthy as everybody else's seemingly perfect life.

I say to them, and to you, that one's life is good and worthy even if it is a little f*ed up. ESPECIALLY if it's a little f*ed up. It means that you are alive. It means that you are showing up. It means that you are not only surviving it, but thriving in it.

I posted a blog a couple months ago called This Is It that was an edited down version of what I originally wrote it to be. As posted, it was one of the shortest pieces I have shared, probably because I left so much out of it. The parts I omitted were a bit heavy, and I opted (back in December in the middle of all the fun and merriment of holiday season) to include only the light and positive aspects of it, and not to bog it down with the heavy.

The problem is, the heavy is the truth. The heavy is the reality. The HEAVY is what makes the light and positive possible. If you don't go through the heavy, you can't get to the light. What I posted was a nice, brief summation of the issue at hand that didn't give the whole picture nor did it reveal the whole thought process... the slogging through the muck and the feelings of frustration, self-doubt and disappointment.

Some would say - Good. THANK YOU. Thanks for sparing me that. I like it as is... I like to read it in its neat little package of positive insights and be on my way. Yet there are others that would probably like to read the muck. To take comfort in the muck. For them (and me), reading and discovering that there are others wading through the same sh*t makes one feel less alone in it.

So, for all the muck seekers out there, I am posting what I originally wrote entitled We Are the Choices We Make. If you like the hope and positivity (and brevity) of This is It, then this may be too much for you. It is kind of too much for me, and I wrote it! But it's the truth, and since writing it brought me to the hope and positivity that I arrived at in the first post, I think it is worth sharing it.

It is my hope that by sharing my experience with the hard things, maybe I can lend a voice to others that feel the same way. Maybe reading it can bring connection and comfort to those sometimes weary of navigating this life of kids, careers, and grown-up challenges. It's revealing what's behind the velvet curtain... giving a look at the wrinkled, stained and ripped side of my life that exists on the other side of the ironed, pretty and nice one more often seen by others. I believe that if we can embrace and accept this imperfect side without apology and without shame, then maybe we can rise above the challenges and find our way through it together.

Surviving (and Enjoying) the Holidays Without Your Village

This time of the year is a challenging one. Growing up in a big family, the holiday season for me has always meant weeks and weeks of activities during the months of November and December... like going to friends and family gatherings and baking cookies at grandma's. In my youth and throughout my adulthood, my mom also had her unique way of making Christmas time so warm and comfortable year after year... candles flickering, fireplace blazing, comfy Christmas pillows to snuggle up with on the couch, the same personalized stockings and ceramic Santa mugs brought out, and my dad singing in the background, his classic Christmas album playing on heavy rotation for days on end.

It was all so fun, so familiar, so comfortable... the family traditions I knew so well. Even when I met my husband and we began dating, our holiday traditions stayed pretty much the same, as he slipped into whatever my family already had in place and I alternately fit into his family's own traditions.

Family, parents, kids, lifelong friends... all the people I loved most in my life, gathering together year after year in the ways we always had to support and enjoy each other and celebrate the season and all our blessings.

That's the way it was. It wasn't perfect or magical, although it felt that way sometimes; but it was always special and unique to us. It was our way. It was home to me - my home base, my reality, my village. It just WAS.

Then, it wasn't.

What seems like almost overnight, but what actually took several years to creep into existence, those traditions have - and that particular togetherness has - slowly faded away. The gatherings of certain family members and friends that once were, are now no more than cherished memories.   

People have died, friends have moved on, and family members have aged or become complacent, or both... a mix of circumstances all culminating in the demise of the village of people I once knew. Of the village I relied upon. Of the village I didn't realize was disbanding until it was no longer there.

And now that it is gone, I miss it. I miss what it once was. I miss what I once was, and of what I once was a part. I miss the individuals not here that made up the whole.

When your heart fits with another, the void left by their absence is palpable. Whether it was someone I loved that has passed away or someone I love that is still here but out of my reach, the reality of going on without certain people is just hard. Finding the presence of those once so dominant in my life almost non-existent now has the potential to render me a shambles emotionally... if I let it.

I just won't let it. And you should not either.

As much as we seek comfort in the old, we must embrace the new. While remembering that which once was, we must discover what still can be. There are new traditions to be started and old ones to keep alive... new villages to build and old ones to revere... new relationships to cultivate and old ones to honor and cherish.

Enjoying the holiday season without your village may take some acceptance that life is not as it once was. It may take some mindfulness to cultivate gratitude for the good that is in your life now. It may take you momentarily feeling the sadness and the void of those not with you as they were before; but it also may take you finding the resolve and awareness to fully embrace and appreciate those that are with you in the present moment.

It may take what it takes... but it is possible. And it is definitely worth the effort. New lives, new traditions, new villages - they are started every day. Everywhere. All we have to do is recognize them, greet them, and be open to letting them into our hearts.

The Trick is to Keep Breathing

I'm sick. My head feels like it's full of cotton packed in tight and my nasal passages are so stuffed that even after using half the tissues in the box to blow my nose, I still can only breathe through my mouth. My lips are raw and so severely chapped that they burn. Ouch.

When I crawled into bed tonight, curling up under my teal afghan a dear friend knitted for me, all I could feel amidst the discomfort and exhaustion was a need for comfort and peace. I lie here and I just want to feel warm, cozy, and safe. I want to feel that everything is as it is supposed to be... me nurturing myself back to health and doing nothing but relaxing with that focused intention. I want to feel like there's nothing in the world more important to me than getting rest and recovering.

TrickistokeepBreathing.jpg

Achieving this peaceful state of presence and acceptance is always a challenge... for me, and I would guess, for many others. I have already been sick for a week now, and the myriad of the things I wanted to do, believe I have to do, and feel I need to do, all have not been done (and are not going to be done) any time soon. The important "must-dos" of my mind have been moved to the back burner, proven to be nothing more than precious "want to-dos".

After muddling, almost sleepwalking, through the necessities and responsibilities of life that couldn't be put off, all in a cloud of stuffiness and in a body full of achiness, my personal to-do list has gone straight out the window this past week. The big plans I had - to publish new blogs, to submit articles to editors, to clean out my clothes closet - all have easily fallen by the wayside, while I continue to lie under my afghan, drink my hot tea with honey, and incessantly blow my persistently stuffy nose.

Feeling this way can throw your priorities for a loop and quickly demonstrate how little power you have over your life when you're not feeling well, and when it comes to the things you wanted to make happen. Accepting the fact that you don't have the strength, clarity and capacity to actually do those things in your weakened state is not easy. And as a recovering perfectionist and moderate control freak, it's hard for me to not be disappointed or deflated by this all too apparent truth.

But as my mind turns to the people that lost their lives in last Friday's Paris attacks, along with those who loved them, my perspective shifts. It's only been a week in which so many people have been living in this new reality, in the aftermath of tragedy, and I know it has already changed them and their lives forever. I understand from my own experience the shock they felt (and are probably still feeling) upon discovering they've lost someone... so suddenly, so unexpectedly, so devastatingly; and I cannot help but feel an equal mix of empathy, sadness, and frustration. I also feel a hesitant gratitude... for my life, and for the safety of my loved ones.

All I really have to do right now is keep breathing. That's it. If I do nothing else, even in light of not getting much done last week, I can at least just do that. BREATHE. Breathe and be grateful that I am still here on this Earth... breathing. I lie here, breathing in and out, and fully recognize the privilege I have of doing so, even if it is only through my mouth and past painfully dry lips.

I GET TO DO THIS. I get to lie here, in my comfy bed with my cozy blanket, and I get to feel the warmth of my life in all its overwhelming, overbooked, and over-complicated glory, while the virus that has taken hold of my immune system gives me a reality check, and gives my week's to-do list the finger.

And for this I am so fortunate.

As our world was collectively shaken by the tragic events of last week, ALL of our individual existences are subject to a reality check... on why we are doing what, when, and how; and how we are affecting ourselves and each other in the process. I began feeling really sick on the day the attacks took place, and as I lie here now a week later, still sick, I see that not reaching my goal of posting a new blog, nor accomplishing all the other tasks I deemed significant or important, is far from tragic. Heck, it isn't even newsworthy. It's a trifle, a mere delay, a setback easily recovered from. It's a blip on the radar of this blog's life. Of my life.

But those people that lost their lives to terrorism last week? They don't get any more opportunities to fulfill their goals or reach for new ones. They don't get another chance to live their lives or realize their dreams. Yet, I do. I get more chances. I get more time. I get to be here still.

Finding forgiveness for the evil in this world is hard, but finding gratitude for the good in it is easy. And it is SO VITAL.

Recognize the good in your life. Be grateful for it. Celebrate it. Cherish it. SEE IT... for it is most definitely there, living and breathing all around you... even under that mound of used tissues.

Why Dads Are Not Mr. Moms

Yes, I was one of those moms that started out believing that my husband should do and say and be just like me when it came to our children. When they were babies, I thought I held the premium on knowing how to care for them and I wasn't shy about making sure he, and everyone else, knew just that.

My mother died in a car accident when I was six month pregnant, just three short months before I was set to welcome our first child and her first grandchild into this world. So not only was I a postpartum and sleep-deprived new mommy, but I was also a severely grief-stricken one that desperately needed to feel in control of something in my life. Taking care of my newborn baby girl was that something.

 daddy with daughter on his 1st fathers day back in 2007

daddy with daughter on his 1st fathers day back in 2007

As a result, I was very controlling and overbearing in relation to how my husband dealt with her. I believed I reigned supreme on all baby duties... from feeding, diapering, burping, rocking - you name it - I just knew better. From that skewed perspective, I expected my husband to take his cue from me or he was just going to be doing it all wrong.

It was a tough beginning to what was supposed to be a magical time. We got through it, and the rough times made way to healing and easier states of existence, enough so to want to have a second child. Yet surprisingly with the second, I still seemed to hang on to the idea that I was boss. Now we had a baby boy and a four-year-old girl, and a new sibling dynamic emerged that gave way to even more challenges to contend with. Good grief... it was almost worse the second time around!

Yet this time, I was not mourning the loss of my mother nor was I flying blind, now a seasoned veteran of motherhood... kinda. Blame it on the ever present lack of sleep or postpartum hormones run amok, but something in me still held strong to the idea that, since I was the one who gave up so much of the day-to-day reality of my previous life, and I was the one who stayed home ALL day, EVERY day with these children, then I deserved some sort of free pass to dictate what my husband should do in relation to them. After all, he was gone all day! I figured that acknowledging this truth would be obvious to him and perfectly reasonable since, of course, I knew best.

Great in theory... disaster in reality.

As you can imagine, he didn't appreciate or agree much with my ideology.  As a committed new dad, he wanted to do things his way, on his time, using his instincts and opinions, and he resented me trying to micro-manage his parenting. Conversely, I felt his blatant disregard for my "expertise" and insight into the kids' behavioral patterns and preferences was egotistical and irresponsible.

I tried to control everything to such a degree that I ended up getting the opposite of what I was seeking. Instead of heeding my advice and guidance, he firmly protested against it, and turned a deaf ear to most anything I had to say about the kids' care. He approached dealing with them on his own terms with little regard for my opinion. Not the best way to nurture a "we're in this together" team vibe as parents or to display a united front to the kids. It didn't do wonders for our marriage either.

Today, over eight years into parenting, I have since conceded to the fact that my husband has his own unique gifts and attributes that he brings to the table that aren't intrinsic in me - and that's a good thing. I see how some of his strengths can benefit my children as much as certain strengths of mine can. I recognize how the things that don't come naturally to me seem to be instinctual to him, and vice versa. He too has been able to see that there is method to my madness; and we have both come to accept that conceding to the other in certain situations is for the greater good. 

 daddy coaching daughter's softball team this spring

daddy coaching daughter's softball team this spring

You could say we are two halves of the perfect parent, if there is such a thing, which I know there is not. And even though we still butt heads at times about how to do things regarding our children, we try to be respectful of each other's opinions and feelings even when we are on opposing sides of an issue. 

Even so, I don't conceive it ever to be completely smooth sailing for us; and I admit I envy those couples who are more compatible when it comes to their parenting ideologies. However, I now see that his freedom to experience parenting authentically for himself and to contribute his own thoughts and ideas to the mix is vital for our family's harmony. I also know that not allowing him that freedom, but instead continuing to demand he behave like a carbon copy of me (a Mr. Mom of sorts), is not in anyone's best interest, least of all the kids.  

I feel there is greater benefit for them when we both are able to be who we are: and for us, it's mom and DAD. And them discovering and accepting that not everyone thinks alike or agrees on everything... well that's a lesson in life that is never too early to learn.

*Article as featured on the GoodMenProject.com

Write On

Update 11-11-15: I have fallen in love with four men in my life, and each time the experience was different. One was exciting, one scary, one effortless, one unexpected. The common thread amongst them all is how they each profoundly changed the course of my life.
Falling in love changes things... for better, for worse, forever. How can it not? You love, you sometimes lose, but you always learn. From learning, you grow, and (hopefully) you thrive, both in the midst of love and in the wake of it.
I wrote this one year ago today. It's about new love and how it changed my life last year... for better, for worse, forever.
~

I fell in love this past spring. Hook. Line. Sinker.

You know when you don't want to do anything but talk to, be with, or exist in the presence of another? That is how I felt.

I started writing this blog in March after not writing consistently for many years. As I began the endeavor, life was as crazy as it could get. Both Spring Break and the Easter holiday weekend were approaching, and out of town guests were ascending on our house from a couple different directions. Definitely not the ideal time to start this time consuming venture. However, unexpectedly and most pleasantly, a spark was lit under me and I had inspiration that didn't relent and would not let me waver in my efforts. Thank you, inspiration... or curse you?

Once I started writing, I didn't want to stop. I discovered I had a whole bunch to say with not enough time to say it. I stayed up late many nights, just so I could write. I also wrote during the day, at times shirking some of my other responsibilities and tasks. You know, the ones that entail keeping your house in order and taking care of your kids the best way you know possible? THOSE. I took short cuts where I hadn't before, looking for the path of least resistance and quickest way to get things done so I had more time for me and more time to write. Gradually, and oh-so subtly, I found my new passion to be transformative in some really great ways, and some not so great ways. Falling in love with something or someone has the potential to do that to you, especially if you are unaware that's what's actually happening. The spell you are under pretty much leads you to not care about what you are risking, and you find that you just surrender to it, even at the peril of you and your life.

 after a run - June 23, 2014

after a run - June 23, 2014

By the time summer hit, this love of mine bred a new attitude of autonomy that slowly began to consume me, eventually making it challenging to enjoy some other aspects of my life. Summertime with two kids out of school didn't leave me with a lot of free time to myself, which made living in my new state of being even harder. I no longer approached time with my kids with the same enthusiasm as I did before, having found something new that felt both effortless and challenging in the most exciting of ways. It seems that when you find this type of happiness and fulfillment, you tend to want it all the time. And I mean, ALL THE TIME. I fell deep into the feelings that this new aspect of my life elicited, as what I felt was extremely intoxicating.  

I began to shift my focus from being a mother and giving every bit of myself to my kids, to being a woman and recognizing I had gone too long without giving any bit of myself to me. Now I was determined to focus on what I was feeling, what I desired, what I needed, what I wanted to do. I went running more, practiced yoga more, and sat at my computer to write more - all of this resulting in the majority of my energy and attention being taken away from the other parts of my life that needed them to sustain and flourish: my relationships with my kids and my husband.

As an adolescent, I grew up in a home where my mother often, both unknowingly and at times blatantly, behaved in ways that made her children feel like we were keeping her from something better - like if we just weren't there she would be free... free to do as she wanted with her life and free to get back to where she thought her life was going before she had given it all up at the age of twenty-two to marry my father. Birthing four kids while finding herself in an unhappy marriage most definitely was not in her plan, and we were not spared her feelings of resentment and dissatisfaction when she found herself divorced and single at thirty-five years old.

By August, I was troubled to recognize this side of my mom in myself. As most of my efforts in the last few months had been directed toward my own wants and needs, I realized it was to the severe detriment of most everything else in my life. My joy of motherhood, or at the very least the due diligence with which I approached my role as a mother, had dissipated drastically, and the dedication and effort I had always previously put into my marriage had waned. Thoughts of wanting to live an alternate reality had dominated my mind. I unwittingly had stepped into my mom's shoes, in a way, understanding for the first time what she may have felt, and disturbed by the fact that I could relate. 

At that same point in time, I watched marriages end around me, learned of couples suffering in unhappy unions, and witnessed some of the most unhealthy of relationships play out in front of me in ways that showed clearly how people can get so lost in their own egos and expectations.

All these various situations and circumstances swirled around me in a perfect storm to eventually lead me to this place I've now arrived... where the sun on my March-October romance with writing, and what I can only call my mind/body/soul, has set. Although the love is still most definitely there, it has been tempered by an acceptance of reality - the reality of my choices, of my responsibilities, of my life. It's now November, and after many conflicting feelings, confusing frustrations, and A LOT of contemplation, I have brought back my attention, and intention, to the other vital parts of my life that beg for it, and most humbly deserve it.

I didn't expect to fall in love as I had. No one was more surprised than me that I began to feel and act as I did. It was both the best and the worst thing to happen to me. Through it, however, I did write... and create, and feel, and discover, and connect. That is a good thing, and not a thing I regret. I have written and experienced much more than I have published here; and I have so much more inside of me that has yet to be written. Although some of it will remain forever my own, the rest will be told in due time. I rekindled a passion that I wasn't aware existed, and I am so glad that I did.  

I am still getting my legs here though. Still wading in the water of getting comfortable with sharing my life as it exists behind the velvet curtain. Some of my strongest convictions, greatest challenges, and hardest moments have been laid bare in the posts preceding this one; and I can imagine exposing my perfectionist tendencies, misguided thoughts, and intimate vulnerabilities will inevitably continue. Still, I feel a shift coming on, as all this introspection has been f**king exhausting.

I personally shared my writing on this website with only five people during the first year of its existence. As it is slowly discovered by others (and when I finally make the decision to widely share it with more than my inner circle), I can't help but wonder if anyone is going to read it, be interested, or even care in the least about what I have to say.

It doesn't really matter. Regardless of its audience, or lack there of, this place is a warm blanket in which to cuddle up, a friend that will always be there, and a love that will remain.