Savoring October (10 ways)

I woke up yesterday morning and I felt cold. I missed the space heaters that I already purged because I thought we'd be gone before the drafts in this big old house began to crawl under the covers.

But it's October now and they've arrived, making me even more reluctant to emerge from my bed, which I didn't think possible.

October usually makes me giddy, but this year I'm in a funk about fall. The great purge showed me that we have a million costumes and dress-up clothes and I have no business taking my kids (or myself--let's be honest) shopping for Halloween costumes. Not even at the Goodwill.

This year I miss the summer. I miss the tilt of the earth towards the sun, bringing my patch of ground that much closer to the light. I miss eating dinner outside and sunbathing at the lake with my best friend and our babies. I miss chilled cans of Sofia Coppolla sparkling wine. I miss sweet berries from the farmer's market. I miss long days and Bicycle Sundays and bare feet in cool grass. I miss ice cream because sadly ice cream doesn't taste (nearly) as good to me in the colder months. (Unless it's atop a slice of warm crumble.)

Maybe it's not the summer that I miss but my entire life as it was this past summer and will never be again. Of course everything's always changing but sometimes, sometimes it's slow and easy to ignore, and sometimes it's so quick I can hardly keep up.

But I do. I always do. Life goes on.

Yesterday, October began. The first day of a new month holds great symbolic meaning for me. A lot can happen in a month, a lot of pleasure and happiness and change and unhappiness.

So I felt compelled to slow down and make one of my favorite months count, starting with a list. Here's a 10 point bucket list to get me (and maybe you) into the spirit of October:

1. Go to the farmer's market and see what's still growing in the Pacific Northwest. (CHECK!)

2. Spend a sunny afternoon in the Washington Arboretum. Take pictures with the Japanese maple.

3. Fry some famous Washington apples in coconut oil and cinnamon. (CHECK!)

4. Consume as much butternut squash as possible, preferably in the form of a creamy soup.

5. Go on a pumpkin-themed Trader Joe's shopping spree.

6. Mull some wine. (A first for me.)

7. Visit a nearby pumpkin patch.

8. Paint and/or glitter some pumpkins.

9. Use my slow cooker.

10. Write every damn day. (Because I will be moving this month & will have so many reasons not too. But life is too short to put off doing what we love, even for one day.)

Is it obvious enough already that I really really really love food and pumpkins?

How will you savor October? Tell me in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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

IMG_1593.JPG picnicking at the Columbia City farmer's market yesterday evening

Lessons from My Children: Be Giddy

These are Lessons from My Children, a new series on the blog. Everything we experience is temporary. Feelings are fleeting and newborns learn how to sit up. Sadness ebbs and flows. Happiness is a choice, a way. Like beauty, success exists in the eye of the beholder.

Children beg us for attention and this confuses us because we think our attention is nothing too special, nothing worth working hard or crying over. We don't always know what our children know. We tend to forget we're all babies, innocent to the mystery of existence. I'm not sure who has more to learn from the other--children or adults?

We call children innocent because they know so little of the world we've spent decades seeking to understand. Including their own cuteness, their own perfection. (Does anybody?) Skyla, now 12 weeks young, bobs around in our arms, her piercing black eyes looking at everything and nothing, taking it all in, this wild world of ours.

But I'm starting to think she knows things I don't. About God and angels and the intricacies of the human face. Things I'm too busy to notice.

Giovanna spotted a butterfly on the other side of the car window and she squealed like she'd seen a miracle.

And she did, didn't she? The caterpillar, who went to sleep and awoke with wings, thinks so.

She dragged me into the front yard because "something happened." Her face looked the way we think kids should look on Christmas morning. But she didn't need a truckload of presents.

I peered between the newly opened petals and what I saw turned my skin to gooseflesh. I felt like I'd become privy to a secret, a certain intimacy with nature. In blooming, the poppy showed us what she was made of. Not just pistil and stigma, but pattern and individuality, every flower exhibiting different interpretations of the same genes.

Not unlike people. Whether you like it or not, your DNA is 99.9% the same as your neighbor, your enemy and your best friend. In that 0.01%, our opinions reside like stubborn rocks and our passions begin and bloom and wilt and die.

There is no one who experiences pleasure as you do. There was no other baby who cried just like you and there will never be another adult who can offer the world what you have.

It doesn't matter what excites you, what makes you giddy, it only matters that you let yourself be giddy over the things that bring you happiness in the eternally fleeting moment, whether it's a flower or an ice cream cone or an unexpected smile. Let yourself memorize faces and stare at patterns until they become something else entirely. Look up. Follow the gaze of children. Just by noticing their enthusiasm I find my heart growing and my mind wandering into uncharted territories where words flow like waterfalls and beauty appears everywhere, as prolific as flowers in the month of May.

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

Creatures of Passion

I sit down at this computer day after day because I'm searching for something. The internet is my portal and my nemesis. I used to write poetry on a regular basis. Sometimes I'd post it on my short fiction and poetry blog sometimes I wouldn't. I would write to get the words flowing and hopefully create something beautiful to read.

If I were alive before blogs and internet and instant gratification, I wonder who I would be. Would I write poems just for my family and my self like my great-grandmother? Would my children later bind my poems together into a book? Or would I put down my pen in favor of the washing and the cooking and the children? Would I write more because I felt no pressure, or would I write less because I had no one to share it with?

Does the internet paralyze or liberate? I daresay both. It depends on how we use it or let it use us.

When I started writing poetry back in the third grade it was for the love of it because everything we do as children is for the love of it. Back when we were creatures of pure passion. Now we have bills to pay and ourselves to impress. Distractions that shadow our passions. We stop creating just for creation's sake. We're too busy.

I think the people who really have got it going on, the people who inspire and move and make change with their life's work are the people who never lose that part of themselves: that creature of pure passion. They let their creature loose everyday whether they're solving problems in corporate america or pounding the pavement in a pair of running shoes or raising children or designing websites or churning out content or making dinner or teaching yoga or...

Creatures of pure passion feel indifferent towards accolades and money and fame. They want only to kiss the earth and leave an imprint of love. The more we allow space for the creature to play, the less frightened we will become by her creations, and the more freely we can create in all our favorite ways.

When I stopped writing poetry I shut down one of my creatures. Now I'm inviting her back by sitting down with my pen and letting her be free, unconcerned by the scrutiny of the internet or the passage of time.

She loves tall trees and dandelion wishes and she's not afraid of sharing.

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Are you searching for your creatures?

Are you letting them out to play?

What do your creatures love?

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Facing Impermanence

The sun came out in a profound way, the last day of April rivaling the best of summer. My mother-in-law arrived on a jetplane to meet her nine week-old granddaughter. James came home for lunch and early for dinner. Giovanna had her Grandma. None of us could keep our lips off of our squishy gorgeous baby. Love was in the balmy breezy sweet clean air.

They were making dinner together; my husband and his mother and my daughter; while I cared for Skyla. For once I didn't have to multitask. Two of my three major evening responsibilities (Giovanna and dinner) were out of my hands.

So what did I do?

I took a walk.

I slipped Skyla into my trusty front pack and I walked through the city in the heat I love so desperately, the heat I'd been craving since it sidled away eight months earlier. The sky shone robin egg's blue and flowers popped out of the ground at every opportunity and the trees loomed like giants. Bicyclists whizzed by and people walked their dogs and children drew on the sidewalks. The lake brought certain peace while the volcanic mountain, so big it looked like a painting in the sky, humbled us mere mortals.

We are at the mercy of the earth.

And on this day, Mother Nature graced the Pacific Northwest with a lush and lustrous aura. The juicy green and glassy blue landscape like a highly addictive drug, the ether charged with something golden and Good.

I was getting exercise while connecting with nature, roaming my patch of the planet both paved and wild. My husband was at home. My daughter was happy. My baby was strapped to my heart, a smiling cooing suckling sleeping angel, the light of heaven pouring out of her in the form of pure unadulterated love.

I became rigid with contentment which isn't as lovely as it sounds. While climbing a long set of stairs, I had to stop. My heart cramped.

I was afraid.

How could life get better than this? How long could I hold onto these riches? How could I possibly feel this happy when so many people are starving and sick and depressed? I was standing at the top and looking over the edge.

Anxiety wanted to ruin my moment. If everything Good is ruined by worries, what's left? Why is it so hard to let ourselves feel mind-numbingly happy?

My theory? Because we grow attached to the current picture of our life. And we know deep down we can't take it with us. Everything exists only in fleeting passages.

My baby will soon be grown.

The weather will soon turn.

Everyone dies.

We intuit these truths of impermanence and we fret that everything will change before we are ready. Before we have really gotten to know someone or told them how we feel or followed a dream or appreciated the perfume of prolific oxygen.

I stood there for a moment, deciding that I deserved to feel Good without guilt or anxiety. I'd hit some lows the week before and I'd learned some lessons. I'd waited long and patiently for this baby and for the spring.

So I gathered presence around me and I breathed it in and I knew it: the best is yet to come. I could learn how to move comfortably within my natural state of joy. Instead of aching along with society, I could take my birth right and use it to weave light into the dark places.

My joints loosened and I noticed the moss on the edges of the stairs like a decorative trim. I took the next step and emerged out of the shade. Sun flooded my eyeballs as if to say, yes.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

- Marianne Williamson

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Spring Intentions

As winter softens into spring, each day stretching longer than the last, I have created an on-going list of my intentions for the season. To me, intentions embody both goals and fresh ways of thinking. New perspectives and new practices.

I love to celebrate the beginning and end of each season by articulating my intentions. This practice helps me to feel more connected to the earth and rooted in my values.

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(If any of these intentions resonate with you and you'd like to join me, please let me know!)

1. Family always comes first. Mothering is enough.

I don't need to be a famed author or a wealthy entrepreneur to be joyful. Yes, I need to write and I need to create, but the end result is irrelevant as long as I am doing what I love.

On the other hand, when it comes to mothering, the fruits of my labor mean everything: the happiness of my kids. It doesn't matter how prolific I am on a day to day basis as long as my family is happy.

I wrote this intention because I have days when I feel like I'm not doing or being enough. I would like to revise this belief: I am caring for my children every day, and that is always enough.

2. Write when you can. Don't feel like you must.

See #1.

Writing is like an addiction, and though it can sometimes interfere with my relationships (like all addictions, I'd venture to say), it's better than many of the alternatives. I set this intention because I want to be easier on myself; free to enjoy my life rather than obsessing over the next opportunity to get to the keyboard.

3. Cultivate inspiration. Live an inspired life.

Take walks. Sit in the sunshine. Draw pictures. Notice small beauties. Experiment in the kitchen. Talk to people. Ask questions. Read good books and good blogs. Make lists (see #5). Write poetry. Pick flowers. Brainstorm pitches. Make pitches. Window shop. Talk to trees. Stare at the sky. Play outside.

4. Love yourself. Know your potential.

Take nothing for granted.

Remember achievements of the past, appreciate the perfection of the present, and dream big for the future.

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5. Take notes. Don't expect the brain to hold it all.

This has been especially helpful for blogging. If I don't write down my ideas and thoughts right as they manifest, they will often fade away, shadowed by more pressing matters. Such as feedings and tea orders and what's for dinner.

6. Blog weekly.

At least once per week. Preferably two. Maybe three. Because I love this creative outlet. And because writing about my life is incredibly cathartic and empowering and enlightening.

7. Drink one green smoothie per day in April.

My friend Jessica posted on Facebook about the 30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge and I immediately agreed to do it. I already drink green smoothies on a regular basis, but I was excited to step up the frequency a bit. 8 days in and I fall more in love with green smoothies every day. Someday soon I'll post my current favorite recipe.

8. Exercise 30 minutes per day.  

This one was inspired by the #1800minutechallenge which challenges bloggers to exercise for an average of 30 minutes per day April 1-May 30. Since I am still recovering from childbirth I am pretty liberal with my minutes, counting every thing from easy walking and gentle stretching to cleaning the house with a baby strapped to my chest. Really, at this point, I just want to get back into the exercise habit and figure out how to make it work for this particular season of my life.

9. Connect.

Make plans with friends. Talk to friendly strangers. Schedules dates with James, even if we don't leave the house.

When I choose to venture into social media land, I will not click away without connecting at least once, leaving comments and likes and replies.

Listen to people. Listen deeply to what they're really trying to say. Read between the lines.

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