Want to Get Rich Quick?

I saw this little quip on a church reader board in Napa, California: Want to get rich quick? Count your blessings. We strive for more to ensure future survival, but in the process, we forget that in order to thrive, we must love our lives as they are. Now. Right Now.

I strapped a tired toddler to my back on a recent morning and I hiked up a storied San Francisco hill. This felt luxurious. The warm squirming child, the 70 degree sunny skies, the world-famous architecture, the views of the bay. I looked people in the eye when I passed them. Sometimes they pretended not to see me. I discovered new sets of stairs to climb. I looked with new eyes, and I saw new things. I walked without a destination, like I do when I'm a tourist. I love to travel my own city and explore it's many undiscovered pockets.

All of this felt so good that it was too good. Guilt arrived to drag me off my cloud, back to the cold hard ground. Who am I to love my life this much? Who am I to live in this beautiful city and have time to take a walk at 10 am on a Monday morning? Who am I to write a blog and expect people to come?

Why is it so hard for us to enjoy what we have?

I dreamt of the life I have now. I did not take shortcuts. I worked hard to get here.

So why do I waste time thinking I do not deserve it, or that I have far more to accomplish? Haven't I done enough for today? Won't the rest come in time?

Perhaps our nature has not caught up to modern life in which we have all our basic needs met. Perhaps we invent problems to solve. Or perhaps, humans have struggled with this brand of guilt and dissatisfaction for eons. This could be an inextricable part of being human--or not. I don't know. But I'm done with it.

People often speak of gratitude lists and counting blessings because we must be reminded, and often, to focus on the good. Because there is bad, too. Because the world contracts and expands according to our focus. Our thoughts, they matter. Our thoughts, they can make us poor, or they can make us rich.

This is day 19 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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Collecting Moments

Time stretches before me like a magic carpet willing to take me anywhere. I remember back when I thought I'd never grow up, when the end always felt so far. Four years of college passed. Four years of my daughter's life happened. Now the first four months of my second daughter's life are nearly over. She was just born and soon she'll be walking. Change happens without regard for the weary. 20140611-112841.jpg

How is it that I am both the oldest I've ever been and the youngest I will ever be? How is it that I have children and a husband and a home of my own and all these terrifying adult responsibilities? It happened slowly over time, moment by moment, and yet so much of those moments have disappeared. Important things happen but they fade until the memories bear no distinction from dreams and I must ask myself: did that really happen or did I dream it?

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Important things take place and I forget them completely as if they never happened at all. Either they fall into the vortex forever and I have no knowingness to miss them, or something reminds me. A picture, a person, an event. And though I may still not remember it for myself, I find comfort that I have a past. It's out there. I've been living. I've been breathing for 29 years. The atmosphere contains me and I contain the atmosphere. Time unravels as it winds around itself. Time cannot be conquered nor reigned in nor slowed. So how do we cope with it?

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Perhaps in another dimension we can manipulate time, but not here, not now.

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I cope by writing about it and taking pictures of it and trying not to dwell on it. Time cannot be reigned in, but my thoughts can. I try to be happy about time rather than nostalgic. I collect moments to remember.

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I spend a lot of time these days "wearing" Skyla. We both love it, the closeness and ease of nursing and napping and traveling this way. Occasionally she will be nursing in the pack and I will look down and see her staring at me. Or I will look down and see her smiling at me. And those eyes. And that smile. And that fuzzy little head. Joy pours out of me like smoke from a burning building.

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She opens to this plane of being. Unfurling, unfolding, uncurling like the spiral of hair on the crown of her head. She stretches her limbs longer today than yesterday, grabbing and kicking at an understanding of what it means to exist here and now.

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Giovanna is a force to be reckoned with, a spirited opinionated stubborn girl-child. She's not my baby as much as she is her own person with awareness, consciousness, and a memory of her own. She doesn't care much about following the rules at home. She draws on walls and sneaks downstairs when she's supposed to be sleeping. She thinks her brother is the coolest and her sister the cutest. She loves them something fierce. She finds everything I might ever try to hide from her because she's always looking, her brain is always turning. She reminds me every day to give her the gummy vitamins. She loves water balloons and dresses.

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Emile turned eight last week. He is the sweetest handful. He likes to talk back and he thinks he knows everything there is to know. He is very willing to read stories to GiGi and help herd her to bed, though he's not so keen on his own bedtime. He loves bugs, legos, playing with his little sister and holding his littlest sister. He loves babies. He is a bona fide boy with holes in his pants, dirt lodged beneath his fingernails, and a tendency to tackle. He calls me out when I let a swear world slips (he doesn't like it). He is quick to forgive. He's already up to my shoulders.

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They take so much out of me. They keep me awake, they demand my time, they suck me dry. Yet I am willing to give more, I am willing to give everything. These moments are everything.

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Nothing Lasts Forever

I turn 29 tomorrow. My golden year is nearly over. Though it terrifies me to think of myself as 30 years-old in one year, in some ways I feel older than 30. As if I've been 30 for years. Which somehow makes sense considering that I also feel like I am my 13 year-old self at times.

Birthdays often bring introspection and this one is no different.

Right now I am sipping my espresso and milk, nibbling on ultra dark chocolate, nursing my baby and typing with one hand… Now she's in the swing next to me, asleep. I can see mountains and tree tops and water from up here on my perch. Though I have many things I still want to accomplish, many moments to look forward to, I am perfectly content where I am right now.

Things continues to change rapidly. Time never stops nor slows. Everyone is getting older. People come and go. Nothing lasts forever--a truth that troubles me deeply because I am happy now. I am aware that I have it good. I love being a mother to small children and though it is exhausting it is delightful and precious and wonderful. When James is at home we exchange glances a hundred times a day, smiling over the unbearable cuteness, grimacing over the tears, laughing over the funny; we are partners on this glorious adventure. We are in it and we love it and we love each other.

But nothing lasts forever. Our children are only getting older. So are we.

I might be especially preoccupied with time right now because it gallops along at an unfair pace when you have a baby. Just the other day Skyla was a skinny-legged newborn who slept all day and now she has rolls beneath her chin and she is attempting communication. She has beautiful brown inquisitive eyes and a generous smile. The rest of us won't stop gushing about her. That's four people head over heels in love with one tiny person. She handles our affection with grace. She soaks it up and makes it her own and beams it back at us.

The thing about having children is the love they bring into a home. Every challenge in parenting is punctuated with love. You've got to work for the love I suppose, but oh sweet universe, the rewards outlive the work.

It's like anyone's life's work, really. You don't need to have kids to experience this kind of infinite love. You need only to give your best away, offer it up to the greatest good. Your best efforts, your best creations. It's the only way to live properly: find what you can (and love to) do to add value whether it's by raising a person or founding a movement or taking care of people.

We have to do it now. Today. There's no time to waste. We must run with ideas, listen for callings, ask God and other people for help.

We're only getting older and nothing lasts forever.

Yet there's an undeniable beauty to growing older because youth is replaced with wisdom. Each day is a new experience and each experience lends itself to our understanding of why the hell we're alive and what we're supposed to do while we're here to make the most of our brief forays on this four-dimensional plane. So that we may not only leave the earth better than we came upon it, but we may in the process delight in the taste of water and chocolate, the sensation of sunshine and wind, the swell of love and connection.

Since I enjoy quotes and learning and wisdom, I will celebrate my birthday tomorrow by sharing 29 of my favorite quotes and pearls of wisdom--lessons and philosophies that have enriched my 29 years of life, whether or not I have mastered or even understood their meaning.

Until tomorrow.

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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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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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We Are All Babies

We think we're so grown up, don't we? We understand so very little about the vastness of the universe, about the force that makes the sun shine and the flowers grow and the rain fall and our hearts beat. It's not our fault. We are only human. We can only see ahead of us so far as the earth curves. Just like our babies can only focus on objects 8-15 inches in front of their eyes.

And yet we think we know what's best for us. We think we know what makes us happy. We think we know what's important. We think we know how to live.

Because how else could we function if we didn't pretend to know what we're doing and where we're headed?

(Fake it 'til you make it.)

Like my 7 year-old stepson, Emile, says: "I know all the facts about life." If we listen to children and consider deeply their feelings and motivations and opinions, we can learn quite a lot from them. How often do we think we know "all the facts" about something, only to find out (seconds or days or years later) that we were missing vital pieces of information? How often do we think to ourselves, if only I knew then what I know now?

(Hindsight is 20/20.)

We have ideas about death but really we have no idea what happens to us after the life-force that lives behind our eyes goes away forever. Does forever exist or is time cyclical like the days and the seasons and the years? Whose to say we know any more about living than we do about dying?

And whose to say adults know any more about life than seven year-olds? In the grand scheme of creation, aren't we all babies?

I look at my baby and I can see that she is perfect.

According to certain spiritual teachings, this is how God sees us. We are perfect in all of perfection's shades of gray. Imperfectly perfect. Perfectly imperfect. Sinners with full redemption.

My baby scratched herself on the nose recently. I was sad that she accidentally hurt herself with those flailing little arms. She didn't mean to. But she's okay. Wounds heal.

Isn't it the same with us? God, the Universe, All That Is watches as we hurt ourselves. We undervalue, we doubt, we over promise ourselves. We flail about and we fall. God knows we don't mean to do it, but we are confused, we are disorganized, we don't always see what's right in front of us.

My baby gets very upset in the car. We never go anywhere until she has nursed. If she's fed and asleep, she usually wakes up when I strap her in. If she's fed and awake, she will last for an average of 15-20 minutes before losing her cool. And if she's fed and truly tired, she does not fall asleep peacefully in the carseat. Rather, she cries. If we're going longer than 5 minutes, I pull over and nurse her, but this doesn't usually help unless I can knock her out with milk while still strapped in her carseat, a feat of contortion and a test of patience and an investment of time, all of which are more often than not in short supply. She wails and she screams at the top of her lungs (have you ever heard the top of a newborn's lungs?) and she grows sweaty and those arms wave in the air like she's calling out to Jesus.

I hate it. Those cries scratch my heart like the keenest fingernails on the squeakiest chalkboard, like the anguish of the person you love most in the world. I want to save her. I want to wipe away her sadness. I don't want to go anywhere in the car, and when Giovanna was a baby (who did the same thing) I often didn't. But my life is a different life now. Mainly I have a 4 year-old who goes to preschool and likes to do things and if we stayed home all the time she and I might both go crazy. So I try to pretend it's not happening. Sometimes I cry along with her. And when she cries for so long that her cries slow to intermittent wails and the sweat on her head leaves wet shadows on the carseat, I think I must be the worst mother ever to let my tiny child feel such desperation.

Alas I also know she's okay. She may feel lonely or tired or bored, but she's being cared for, even strapped inside that loathed seat. It will be over soon and I will take her in my arms and make everything better. I can do that for her.

Don't you think it's the same for God? God watches us as we go through things. We become strapped to our burdens and burdened by our minds. We have bad days and depressive periods and new lows. We call for help and when no one answers we call louder. We think that maybe no one's listening, but really God is listening, waiting for the right moment. Waiting for us to arrive so we can be delivered from our pain. Because everything is temporary. And if we get out early, we won't ever get to where we're supposed to be going.

Have I told you that my baby is beautiful? I have never seen a human being more beautiful. She is beautiful because she is pure light. She shines with divinity. Her physical appearance does me in. The pocket of flesh beneath her chin and the rolls on her limbs and the rotundity of her belly. The dark brown in her eyes and the cradle cap in her eyebrows and the fuzzy hair on her ears that remind just how very new she is. The length and elegance of her fingers and the softness of her feet and the itsy bitsy milia on her face.

What if God see us the same way? Sweet and gentle creatures with cute noses and funny pimples and jiggly thighs and hair in weird places, every speck of us adorable and perfect. Could it be possible that there is nothing inherently wrong with any of us after all? Did God give us the gift of babies so we could know how much we are loved by source?

After all, we all come from God. Source. We are all God's babies.

I like to think of us this way. Smart, sophisticated and savvy humans doing complex and important things to help this planet evolve, but underneath it all we're just sweet little babes, looking for some love, wondering about this world and what's going to happen next.

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." - Albert Einstein

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Skyla & Cruz, soul-cousins born 9 days apart

Being Mommy to a Baby

I think you know that I am smitten with motherhood. It's not something I seek to underplay or overplay for the sake of this blog. And though I wear many hats in the course of one day (writer, blogger, business owner, tea mixer, cook, maid, driver, punching bag, etc), motherhood is more than a hat because I cannot take it off. My children occupy a prime piece of real estate in my heart and my mind, and even temporarily my body.

They started out here, first inside of me and then attached to my breast and my lap and my side, so needy for me. For mommy. And though this is exhausting, I love it. I love my babies and I love being loved by my babies.

(Which is something I must remember when I feel swarmed with children and I hear myself wishing or even asking for space.)

When I was five years old I used to play house with my best friend and her little sister. My best friend was the teacher and I was the mommy and her little sister was my daughter. I clearly remember instructing this two year-old to hug me as I talked to the teacher. She was supposed to be so glad to see me after school.

Motherhood is more than a hat, more than a job, more than a career, motherhood is a life's work.

And yes, it is the hardest work out there, a lifestyle of selflessness and generosity and boundless patience.

I wonder if I'll ever get the hang of it.

Four years and 3 months into this thing and I've taken one trip sans children. It lasted exactly 48 hours including travel and though heavy with anxiety about being an airplane ride away from Giovanna, it was worth it for the time spent with James and a few special loved ones in the California sunshine. I love to travel, I love my husband, and like a migratory bird I love flying south in the winter.

But I didn't try for it again. It was fun, but a tad excruciating. As much as I want to maintain my sense of self I have a hard time leaving my children voluntarily, and I find it nearly impossible to leave my little baby. Even for a yoga class or a hair cut. Yes, I feel a bit trapped by my own anxieties and expectations. Yes, they could survive without me. But I want to be there, I want to be here. For only a short time, I hung the moon. My body delivers unparalleled comfort and nourishment and home. Sometimes I can even heal with a hug.

And I guess I don't want to miss a moment. Being a mommy to a baby is like nothing else. And though my love for my children is both infinite and always expanding, not unlike the universe, it is babyhood that I feel most adept at handling.

(Except for when my babies scream in their car seats, but that's another post.)

It is babyhood that makes me feel like I was made for this. When I look into Skyla's big black eyes and she looks back at me, I can hardly move. Everything else falls away. There's a person behind those eyes. She's here and she's beautiful and she smells like heaven. I wrote this on Instagram last week, accompanied by the picture below:

When my tiny baby smiles at me like this, the joy becomes so thick it clouds my vision, and reality seems more like a dream. Hazy and magical.

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Literally. I meant literally my vision clouds over. This might sound dramatic but I'm going to trust that you know what I mean: it's like entering another dimension, a golden world, where the density of this realm fades away and everything becomes as light and joyful as babies.

Babies.

Oh, babies. Their perfect innocence and helplessness let's them do something else perfectly: love. And all you have to do to be loved by a baby is love them first.

People are so kind, they always want to know how I'm doing.

The answer?

Yes, I am tired. I am carrying around more flesh than I am used to. I can't seem to find the time or energy to exercise. I crave dark chocolate like never before. I am a slave to her little rooting mouth. I am struggling with Giovanna who feels displaced. I am responsible for another person for 18 years. I am responsible for another person for the rest of my earthly life.

And I am blissful and I am happy and I am grateful and I am happy.

Because there's nothing I ever loved more.

Than being mommy to a baby.