I Will Not Over-Edit

We're only three minutes to midnight, midnight being doomsday, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, for reasons of "unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals." They say, "international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization." The way I see it, the human race drains the earth of her finite resources in an attempt to provide infinite stability and perpetual protection. The masculine tendency. Which is normal and necessary and effective when balanced with the feminine prerogative to nurture and give back to Mother Earth. Every mother knows she needs to care for herself first.

But we are off-balance. Because women, who hold the bulk of the nurturing feminine energies, have operated under varying forms of oppression for centuries.

Today I make a plea to the women. To balance the planet, we must own our power. We must live according to the truth of who we are, not who we've been taught to be.

I have a few ideas on how to get started, if you're interested. Treat these as mantras.

I do not over-edit myself or my work.

I do not diminish what I have to say.

I do not self-deprecate.

I do not apologize unless I've done something wrong.

I do not downplay my achievements.

I do not feel ashamed of my passions.

I do not measure my worth by my productivity.

I do not measure my life by my bank account.

I speak my mind.

I stand up for myself.

I nourish my interior self.

I listen to my intuition

I respect my feminine body. 

I feed my spirit.

I support other women.

I am worthy of recognition. 

I turn the other cheek to bullies and misogynists.

I assert my power.

We are this planet. We must fill our cups before we can fill others.

Go ahead, write your own mantras, empower yourself. Be unafraid of your power. Use it now. Nothing lasts forever.

This is day 20 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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Finding Presence As A Work-At-Home Mother

When I got pregnant over 6 years ago, I knew I wanted to try for the best of both worlds. I wanted to work, and I wanted to be the primary caregiver for my daughter. I figured I could do this by starting my own business and working from home. I was wrong.

While I may have been home, I was not always there. I had tea to mix and invoices to bill. I had marketing to do. I had a website to manage. I tried to run the business alongside raising my kids. Literally. Which meant I did neither at full speed and I always felt spent.

Possibly my greatest regret as a mother so far is that I have not always been present for my children.

But, there's a light and a shadow side to everything. I was able to breastfeed my daughter on demand through her toddler years. We spent copious amounts of time together. We still do. She received plenty of unstructured undirected play time. Now, she has a wild imagination and she can play "pretend" like no body's business.

I had high hopes for working at home. I thought my daughter could learn a strong work ethic by seeing me work. I planned to automate most of the business so I could make money and still be at home with her AND have time (and money) to write. I thought Timothy Ferris' book, "The Four Hour Work Week," offered the perfect blueprint. I just needed to fill in the blanks. Reality proved far more complex.

When my second daughter was born, my attention became divided once again. My older one came up against a brick wall of jealousy, and I struggled to carry her over it. I could not physically care for everything and everyone. Running the tea business became a burden that ceased to pull its weight. I learned the lesson we all learn sooner or later, sometimes more than once: I needed to do what I loved most. I couldn't divide my attention into so many pieces. I needed to edit and discard.

I continue to grapple with presence. I carry around books and notebooks, hungry to read and write at every opportunity. Though the books mostly remain unopened, I like to have them close by. They bring comfort. As I mentioned in my post about winning, you never know when a thought may strike or the children may become so absorbed in their play that I can read a few lines.

Modern humans have a billion different things to do and watch and read and be. Meanwhile, a bit of undivided attention goes a long way, whether it's applied to a child or a website or a novel or a movement. When faced with a gamut of opportunity, how do we prioritize? Ideally, we do it according to love. Not prestige. Not expired ideals. Not outside expectations. Not habits. Not other people's passion. But our love and our passion.

When my daughter erupts with emotion, what she needs is my full and honest presence, with a side of snuggles. In those tender moments, I see how motherhood can be simple. But this simplicity requires, without exception, presence.

This is day 11 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 Beauty in Falling

I meant to click on the Safari browser but I clicked on the Freedom button instead. The box popped up on my screen. If I pressed "okay" I would get 60 minutes of freedom from the internet. I hesitated, even when I knew the errant click had been a generous gesture from the universe. I had opened my computer to write, and I needed Freedom to focus on it. Isn't it true that our favorite things can also be our worst enemies? Booze, sugar, caffeine, the internet. You know what I'm talking about. Even a beautiful romance can be ruined by codependency.

Life is a delicate balance. I'm guessing that most of us struggle with balance in one or more areas of our life. Learning balance, like most things, often involves failing. Falling and regrouping from the bathroom floor. At least that's where I landed recently. I knew I needed to get up but it felt so good for the moment while it lasted. I belonged there. I had the stomach flu and the virus was taking my digestion system through the ringer.

The toughest balance for me these days is Mommy versus Self. I love my kids with every piece of me, it is easy to want to give them all of me, all of the time. Alas, this is not healthy. Every mom needs to be a person apart from her kids. Many moms, if they do not ask for and take their own time, don't get it. For you maybe it's balance between discipline and indulgence, work and family, work and play, friendship and partnership, adventure and rootedness.

It wasn't just my stomach that made me lose my balance. It was my husband traveling, the sleepless nights on my own, the puddles of puke to clean up, the piles of laundry to sort and put away, the diarrhea in the bathtub, the unexpected temper tantrums, the absence of writing time, the shortage of alone time, the never ending to do list, the feeling that this cannot go on much longer--or can it?

But there's a flip side to everything. Depending on when you ask, I am also thriving. I've started to find my groove at the gym. A literary magazine picked up a short story I wrote. Said literary magazine liked this story so much they asked me to be the featured fiction author for the issue and write yet another piece for them. My artist moms group, Maker Mamas, is in the midst of creating something special. (More on that, later.) I am making connections and enjoying meaningful conversations. I am praying. I am supported and loved and known.

Best of all, I am filled with awe. Awe for my children. Their beauty and sweet spirits. The shape of their eyes and the pitch of their laughter. The purity of their needs. The lessons they impart if I pay attention. Awe for this city. A city of transplants and foreigners and art and technology. For the friendly people who comfort me when my daughter pitches a fit and the open people who share their stories so willingly. Awe for my privilege. That I live here in this year in this place with these people. That I get to write words people read. That my family is healthy. That I have good food available whenever I want it. That I get to sit in a steam room every now and then. Awe for my relationships. For the love that bounces among us.

The understanding seems to be slow in coming, but it's coming. There is a richness to the chaos. There is a purpose to the falling. There is a method to the madness, so to speak. There are people who can help you, if you ask. There is a divine intelligence at work, but it cannot be directed, it can only provide direction.

Some days are nuts. Some days we are in it. This is good. This is where we are supposed to be. Even if it's the bathroom floor.

"Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work, it means to still be in the midst of those things & be calm in your heart" - Unknown

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Great Expectations

At some point my husband and I began likening our children to little animals. They play in the mud and they jump on the furniture and they fight over food. In the past week one has peed on the floor, one has (innocently) taken a bite of her daddy's finger, and one has broken the slat on a brand new bed. They are hardly house-trained and certainly not civilized. We started calling them so. Little animals. It became a term we used often to cope with the exhaustive forces of parenting three children.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps they (the older ones, not the sweet baby) were acting more beastly the more we pointed out this aspect of their personalities. Or maybe we were noticing it more? No matter, I decided we should accept our children's behavior for what it is. They are not miniature adults, they are wild and free and uninhibited. Perhaps I'm putting a damper on their childhood by admonishing them for having a scuffle in the museum or forbidding ice cream when they aren't listening. Clearly I myself am imperfect seeing that I offer food bribes.

When I find myself repeatedly disappointed by their animal behavior, I wonder if I'm the one with the problem, not them. Are my expectations too high? What happened to my patience? Was I too harsh? Am I a terrible mother?

But James reminded me that it might be good to have high expectations for our children. We give them something to work for. We show faith in their ability to change. We force them into cleanliness in hopes that it becomes a habit. We teach them manners and norms and how society expects them to act.

(The rebel on my shoulder responds: who cares how society wants us to act?)

What do you think? Do we let kids be kids, or do we demand they clean their room before dinner and stay seated while they eat? How do we strike the right balance? Tell me in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot] com with your thoughts on parenting. 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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Choosing Happiness Over Cleanliness?

If I followed my kids around with a camera you might be surprised at how quickly and severely they can mess up a perfectly clean house. Or maybe you have kids of your own and you wouldn't be surprised at all.

I bought this coffee table book for James: "A Perfectly Kept House Is the Sign of a Misspent Life." He was not interested. He likes a clean house, as do I.

But it's driving me nuts. With a newborn in the mix, I have very little time to clean. We live in a big house and our two older children are like twin tornados.

Spring break is coming up and it's our year to have Emile and we're not traveling anywhere which means it's me and three kids at home all week and God knows that I'm going to be quite frustrated quite often if I don't learn how to LET IT GO (cue Frozen soundtrack). The house is going to be a disaster zone and I can either enjoy the extra time with my daughters and my stepson or I can have a clean house.

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I know this and yet I can pretty much guarantee that I will fight with them about cleaning up behind themselves at some point. Or more likely at multiple points. And I'm not sure if this is a good and necessary thing or a waste of breath and time. Inevitably I will either do most of the clean up myself, or exhaust myself by harping on and on, offering bribes and taking away privileges and such.

This is a significant source of stress for me or else I wouldn't be blogging about it. (Talk about first world problems.) I want them to be mindful and aware of their surroundings and I want my living space to be zen but at what cost?

After all, I want to live life, not clean up after it.

Dear readers, what would you do? Fight the messes or succumb to their power? Ideally, I could find a balance though it has eluded me thus far. Any tips or tricks or mind games to play with them/myself?