Harvard's Parenting Advice, Racism & My Stepparenting Essay

For your Sunday reading pleasure, here are three of my favorite links from the past week. Harvard psychologists have been studying what it takes to raise "good kids." I love the first tip: hang out with your kids. Could "good" parenting be so simple?

These tweets about how white people sound when they disagree with people of color about racism are brilliant. She puts a humorous twist on the entitlement of people who deny a problem simply because they haven't personally experienced it. You don't have to be racist to perpetuate racism.

And finally, today, Scary Mommy published my essay about the question every stepparent dreads in which I share a story from my own life to address a rarely-discussed issue concerning the fine balance of blended families.

This is day 21 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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The Trick To Winning

Have you heard the old adage, "slow and steady wins the race"? This idea contradicts many a modern mindset. We like to do things quick and effectively. We like maximum productivity. I know I do. Yet parenthood often takes us on the scenic route. Winding, yet beautiful. I write stories by stealing bits of time through out the day. A few minutes of peace at the keyboard during nap time. A line in my notebook at the library, crouched on a tiny chair, my knees knocked against the toddler table. Occasionally I will carve out enough space to find the flow and discover a new arc to the story line. This so-called flow state is what fiction writers live for. This is how we get our stuff done. I dare to believe that if it weren't for the flow, novels would not get written. But when you're a full-time mother, the flow state will inevitably be interrupted by a child waking or a school pick-up or a sibling battle.

Generally, I close my notebook or my computer and I am unsatisfied. As if I haven't gotten enough done. As if I am never getting enough done.

This belief no longer serves me. I am ready to replace it with something new.

The truth of the matter, anyways, is that I do get stuff done. I have improved my writing by writing and editing and reading and writing more. I will continue to work on my craft until the time comes to publish a novel. And when I look back on these years rich with uncertainty and sweet babies, I will regret none of it. The universe gives me exactly what I need, when I need it, whether it's motivation or ambition or support or chaos or a fire under my ass or a book deal.

I think the trick is to be satisfied, even fulfilled, by little bits of progress. They add up. There is no race. The only competition is with the person in the mirror. If you never give up, you have already won.

This is day 9 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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

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The Fear of Being Seen

Perhaps you want something, but when it comes down to actually making this thing happen, you fear what you want. This fear disallows it from happening. Sometimes consciously, mostly unconsciously. When I owned Herbal Philosophy Teas, a home-based business in which I mixed locally-sourced organic herbs into medicinal teas, I grew to dread big orders. Though I was excited each time I added a new spa to my client list, I accepted the order with a certain unease. More hours spent in the office, away from my husband, away from my children, away from my blog, away from my manuscript in process. The money was nice, but most of the dollars would go back into the business.

Looking back on this discreet form of self-sabotage, I wonder how I lasted as long as I did under that business model. Hindsight is 20/20, no? I should have hired a co-packer from the beginning to mix the teas, no matter the investment. Alas, my first business proved a tremendous learning experience, not only as an entrepreneur, but as an herbalist and a human trying to sell something. It turns out you don't have to only believe in what you're selling, you have to believe in your credibility to sell it, you have to be willing to charge money for it, and you have to focus on it.

Since I started this blog, it has never been a significant focus. I have called it a hobby, a creative outlet, a labor of love, but never a business. I am not sure what the future holds for this blog. But I do know that I want to grow the readership, and in order to do this, I have to let go of a deep-seated fear of sharing my heart and being seen in all my wounded glory.

I heal by writing my way through struggle. Perhaps my struggles are somehow related to your struggles and we can work through them together. I feel intense pain in the world, I see so much brokenness. Rampant racism and sexism and materialism and depression and anxiety and dis-ease and the list goes on. And on. But change happens on an individual level before it becomes systemic. By changing ourselves, we change the world.

My greatest motivator is the notion that what I write here can help other people. In order to help other people, I must be honest. I must share what's on my heart in order to tap into the collective consciousness.

Naturally, we have inhibitions that protect us from over sharing. I fear being seen, I value my privacy. I have written a number of blogs I have never published and I have drafted many Facebook posts I have never posted. But let's be real here. Growing this blog readership will not turn me into a celebrity. I choose exactly how much I want to reveal. I am in control. I am learning how to love myself enough to see the value in my imperfections.

I struggle like everybody, but I am also lucky, and I am obliged to effect change using this platform because I feel called to do so. Even my marriage is a privilege. As good partnerships tend to do, it grants me support of my goals and strengthens my weak spots: if my husband, who knows my foibles better than anybody, loves me and respects me in spite of these fatal flaws, then maybe you can, too.

This is day 1 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I'm glad you're coming along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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

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Life And Death Transformation

On the evening of Mother's Day, complex emotions and utter exhaustion induced sleeplessness, my head buzzing with metaphysical possibilities. I'd just finished reading "After This: When Life Is Over, Where Do We Go?" by Claire Bidwell Smith, the pages containing a litany of profound revelations about death and the afterlife. Claire helped me excavate a knowingness from deep within: there is no such thing as death, not in the sense that our souls leave these bodies and we cease to exist. Death is a transformation. There is consciousness after death, even if it looks and feels different than we look and feel while animating a human body.

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Read My Fiction Now!

Taryn started twirling because she had nothing better to do. Twirling made her hair stick out straight like she’d plunged her finger into the socket and stolen the electricity meant to keep the universe on its toes. She twirled until her legs got mixed up and she fell to the ground in a tangled mess, the earth spinning around her head. For a moment she became the axis around which it revolved.

This is the first paragraph from my short story published in the current issue of MUSED, the BellaOnline literary magazine. The review called it "an emotionally gripping story of a young girl striving to make sense of her tangle of a world." Read it here.

I also had the honor as the Featured Fiction Writer to share about my writing process. Find that essay here.

Thank you, as always, for your love and support.

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

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Where are your holes?

"And the child brings again a fresh quality to life. Every child is primitive, a barbarian; now the mother has to civilize. Every child is a barbarian, remember; he is animal, wild. And the mother has to give him culture, has to teach him the ways of life, the ways of man. It is a great work. You have to remember that – that your work has not finished, it has started. Take it joyously!" - Osho

I started thinking about intentions. It seems we can boil our multitude of motivations down to a few key intentions. The deeper I go, the more I recognize my desire to help other people. Not because I think I have some kind of special authority or knowledge, but because I do not. My struggle is precisely the point. My struggle exists so that I can write my way through it. By writing my way through it, I can help other people.

Maybe. If I can get out of my own way.

The more we get out of our way, the more people we teach. We each of us have our own methods of teaching, our own things we feel called to teach, and practice, so that others will learn by example. A lawyer is under oath to practice the law so that she may lead her clients to follow the law. An accountant helps people to manage their money. A salesman educates his customers about the value of his product. A barista in a coffee shop is there to make sure you enjoy your coffee, and your morning too.

The lessons can be both subtle and glaring. They come through only when the teacher believes in the importance of what she's teaching.

I've grown tired of the cliche that motherhood is hard. Hard doesn't even begin to describe it. Hard is a ten mile run or a job interview or a bad date.

I like Osho's description better. It is great work.

Motherhood runs a long, winding gamut. I can only speak from my position on it. So let's be clear on who I am: I am a full-time mother, that's 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I have a growing career, but not a paying job. My husband, the money-maker, often travels and I am left to parent alone. I have two children at home all day but for the 9 hours per week of preschool for the five year-old. On some occasions, I have a third glorious child. I always have several bodies to care for--to clothe, feed, bathe and love--though my husband eagerly shares in this work when he is home.

I am endlessly vying for time to write sentences, fragments of sentences, poems, blog posts, essays, short stories and entire novels.

Even on the days that I do almost everything right for them and for me, I still often feel that something is missing. Something I don't notice until I get to the end of the night and it's not there. In its place is a hole. I think this is why so many binge eaters tend to consume their calories at night. They try to fill the voids with food in their attempt to become whole.

When I run into troubles with my family, I start looking for the triggers. Some of them are easy to find, but many are not. Maybe she's not getting enough social stimulation or he's coping with the changes. Maybe she's teething or she's not eating enough whole foods. Maybe he's under a lot of pressure or she feels unseen.

Today my girls and I exercised and we went on adventures and we connected with other parents and kids. Today we cooked and cleaned and walked and read books and played.

Today I disciplined. Today I tried again to teach my little animals the ways of the world--the importance of bathing after you blow out of a diaper and apologizing when you cave to the compulsion of stealing.

Today I spoke to strangers. Today I corresponded with friends. Today I posted lines from a poem to Instagram in an effort to connect with other poetry lovers.

But when I got to the end of the day, I felt a deep well of sadness rise in me. Beyond my duties as a mother, I struggled to see my worth as a human.

That's when I started thinking about intentions, and how I can help other people. Which brought me here. Back to my words.

Where are your holes and how can you fill them?

Since I do not have a paying job, my holes often exist in my net worth, in my isolation, in my writing career. Writing novels is a huge risk. There are no guarantees. Many artists, particularly women artists, have to work extra hard to be seen.

Part of filling my holes is sharing and connecting with my blog readers.

Part of filling my holes is writing as much as humanly possible.

Part of filling my holes is reading as much as humanly possible.

Where are your holes and how can you fill them?

As always, I am available via email, lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot] com, and I love hearing from you.

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

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We're all messed up

When this life feels like a hierarchy, I don't like it. But what else can we be? How can we exist here and now in this heavily populated existence? We don't live on farms, miles apart. We don't grow our own food and ferment our own grapes. Generally we are entertained by popular musical artists and prime time television and mass-produced fiction words than our own pianos and imaginations. We drive one another around and serve one another dinner, hedging for more, curating our prettiest moments to share on a universal bulletin board. We are tangled and torn. Our soft spots snagging on one another's sharp edges. Scrambling up, falling down. Looking for a place to settle. Believing and disbelieving that our place in society says nothing about our worth as human beings. Learning, and breaking, and growing strong where we were once weak.

I love wearing red lipstick because it makes me brighter and louder even when I am feeling quiet and shadowy. I don't have to look how I feel. I can be anything anyone anywhere I want to be. So long as I respect reasonable limits.

The truth is that I don't always like myself. Sometimes I distinctly dislike myself. I'm sick of talking about myself. But my life and my thoughts are fodder for my art. Perhaps, if you can relate, this isn't a bunch of narcissistic bullshit but rather a mirror that reveals something far more important than a flat image trapped beneath the looking glass.

Friends are like mirrors, too. My best friends know me so well. From my vices to my dreams to my privileges. When I sit across from them I am turned inside out and even though my insides are messy and scarred they show hints of something promising. I see my friends, too. Their talents as they discover and hone them and use them. We feel conscious of our imperfect selves and jealous of one another's creativity but mostly just admiring. We see one another for what we are and we are beautiful. And hopeful.

I'm listening to the audiobook of Lena Dunham's memoir. She's brilliant and I love her. She exposes so much of herself, I don't know how she does it. I also love her show, Girls. I love how she portrays modern youth, calling us out for our somewhat crazy spoiled reckless behavior, breaking hearts (our own and others) like a man with a loaded gun on a rampage. As a dear friend (not the one pictured below, however) recently said to me, "we're all messed up, we're all crazy. But we're also beautiful and creative and amazing." An ironic statement seeing that it came from a seemingly perfect mormon mother, the homecoming queen of my high school, an athlete and a cheerleader. Someone I've always admired, even in the moment she beat me out for senior class secretary.

Could it be our flaws that make us our most beautiful and cherished and powerful selves?

Hegarty says that fearlessness produces creativity.

So that's why I'm wearing red lipstick and telling you about my insecurities. After all, I have no reason not to like myself, but sometimes I just don't.

Maybe you understand.

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