Intention Scripts Experience

"We script intention into our designs, and in turn, our intention scripts our subjective experience." - Jason Silva

I look around my home at what I've designed for my family and I see three children who enjoy one another. Who want for nothing. (Except for maybe a Baby Alive doll.) Who spent the morning at the community center and are sitting on the floor in the living room, playing pretend. Who will go to the library in the afternoon and to bed with nourished bodies and clean teeth. Children who travel and know their extended family and love to watch YouTube videos.

In a city with hair and nail salons on every block, in a culture where women generally wait much longer to have kids than I did, in a neighborhood where you don't see school-aged children at the playground (unless they are with a summer camp), I am the women with unshaved legs and a toddling baby and a boy who looks bigger than his 9 years and a girl in the middle. People love to ask me, "are they all yours?" A question I cannot answer gracefully without doubting myself.

I end up feeling self-conscious. Not because of the question nor the hair on my legs (which is less of a statement and more of a symptom of busy-ness), but because I see no others mothers trying to entertain three children with an 8 year age range. Who do I think I am? I am most certainly not good at this. I most certainly lose my composure on a near-daily basis.

So I return to my intention. My intention was to be their teacher this summer. To take them on adventures around this fair city. To build memories together. But there was a learning curve. It took time to get into the groove of leaving the house every chance we got. It took time to figure out the right activities and schedules and techniques for conflict resolution. It took time to figure out how much food I would need to carry with me at all times. It took time to realize what I am attempting with my daughters and my stepson--summer camp plus home school plus school break plus sibling bonding.

Upon articulating motivations, we can better understand the process and the outcomes. Rather unconsciously, I decided to let my bohemian hippie self run the show this summer, keeping my children out of conventional structured activities and close to my side. This was the experience we needed Now. Nothing happens on accident. Including the resulting isolation and unease that pushed me back into this online world, head first. Where I have no one to answer to but myself. Where I can speak to adults. Where I can do something beyond washing and feeding and disciplining.

I see positive changes in my children, too. I see them listening better. I see them excited to get out of the house. I see them exercising their imaginations. I see them reading books, enamored by the local library. I see them making things. I see them learning at the California Academy of Sciences and engaging with nature at the Botanical Gardens and building forts in the Presidio. I see them sticking up for one another.

We engineer our experiences. Next summer, I may release control of my older children. I may maintain smooth legs. I may paint my toes. I may do more work. I may be different. But now that I understand the intentions that shaped this time, my head has cleared. I understand how I got here. I understand why it is right and important and so, so good.

This is day 12 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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Creating Family Traditions: Mama's Easy Crepes

Family traditions are often embedded so deeply in our psyches that we fail to recognize these patterns of behavior as "traditions." We simply do what we do when we do it. Traditions help us feel closer to those closest to us. They strengthen our values and give us roots of structure, continuity and belonging, says Psychology Today. I feel compelled to create new traditions that are less common, but I don't want to force anything. Traditions, if you ask me, should arise organically. Like crepes on a Sunday morning.

My husband calls me a crepe expert; I learned at a young age. Weekend crepe feasts are a happy memory from my own childhood, started by my Francophile mama who spent a year studying abroad in Paris. On my most recent trip home, she made us crepes every single morning. To me, crepes are love.

Last night, in honor of Bastille Day, I made dinner crepes for the first time, and my family raved. These crepes are smaller than street crepes as I use an iron skillet, but just as tasty and, of course, accessible to anyone with basic kitchen tools.

Mama's Crepe Recipe

  1. Heat the iron skillet on medium-high heat.
  2. Blend: 2 cups organic milk (I use 2%) 4 pastured eggs 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional--for sweet crepes only)
  3. Generously spread organic butter in the heated skillet. Pour the batter until it covers the bottom of the skillet. The batter will likely have a thinner consistency than you expect and will come out quickly. It takes practice to figure out the right amount of liquid since different people prefer a different crepe thickness, so if you want to measure, use 1/4 cup of batter per crepe.
  4. This is the tricky part. You want the crepe cooked through so that it will stay together when you flip it, but you don't want it overdone because it will become hard and papery. Usually when the crepe is consistently a few shades darker than the batter it will be ready to flip. (Again, the more you make crepes, the easier this gets.)
  5. Use a thin metal spatula. The crepe will only need to cook for approximately 30 seconds on the other side.
  6. Fill the crepe, let the cheese melt if using, and serve up. Sometimes I fold the crepe in half, sometimes I roll it. Variety is the spice of life.

Our favorite sweet fillings:

  • butter and coconut sugar with a squeeze of lemon
  • whipped cream and apples fried in coconut oil with cinnamon
  • whipped cream and any kind of stewed fruits
  • nutella with banana and/or strawberries
  • ricotta cheese and honey

Our favorite savory fillings:

  • pesto and parmesan
  • brushetta and goat cheese
  • smoked salmon, avocado and mozzarella
  • cooked spinach, garlic and cream cheese

The possibilities are endless. Fill these crepes with anything on-hand, though I recommend you omit the vanilla if making a savory crepe.

They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, beneficial fats and high quality protein. We like them hot off the grill (plus I like any excuse to keep my family at the table for longer) but you can also keep them stacked in a warm oven to serve everyone at once.

Bon appetit!

This is day 3 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 Art of Filtering

"Always needing to stay immediate by removing what is no longer real is the working inner definition of sacrifice--giving up with reverence and compassion what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred."- Mark Nepo "The Book of Awakening"

I am continually humbled by this life I have chosen as a mother, wife and writer. The beauty lies in the nuances and they are so easily missed. The distractions are plentiful. I want to get back to the basics.

The blank page.

Thoughts and words, no matter their speed.

Books I look forward to opening.

Entire days with no purpose but to love and be loved by my family.

We are constantly bombarded with information and opportunities and even images. First world problems, I know, trivial but real. A favorite distraction of mine (Instagram) utilizes "filters" to communicate via images and text. Interestingly, it seems filtering is exactly what we need to do in every moment; to preserve what is real, we cannot let everything through. We must be mindful of the snarks and cynics, the media including social media, the books and websites that don't resonate, the habits that do not serve.

We must protect ourselves. No one can filter the noise for us. Not an app nor a partner nor a boss nor a parent nor a friend nor a child. No one can make our mistakes for us, and likewise, no one can know the depth of our potential but us. We are at the mercy of ourselves. Our thoughts, our words, our deeds. Our inaction and our action.

So much of my twenties I spent shaving away the layers that had calcified over my true self. Motivations, ambitions, careers, hobbies, lifestyles, beliefs. I made strides in casting away the debris and carving "me" out of the mess, and though I know this could be a lifelong practice of collecting and experimenting and releasing--I hold the hope that my thirties will offer more stability, more rootedness in the identities that cannot be peeled away. No one said it better than my sister: "I spent much of my twenties searching for myself, but in my thirties I am enjoying the person I found."

If we can be raw, if we can put our barest selves out there, if can we accept our callings and our quirks without reservation and negotiation, I think anything is possible.

What are you filtering? I'll go first. (See comments.)

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Take A Step; Learn A Word

"Each life is a language no one knows. With every heartbreak, discovery, and unexpected moment of joy, with every lift of music that touches us where we didn't think we could be touched, with every experience, another letter in our alphabet is decoded. Take a step; learn a word. Feel a feeling; decode a sign. Accept a truth; translate a piece of the mystery written in your heart. Before we live what's next, it always seems like there is some answer we need to arrive at. But daring to enter, we are humbled to discover, again and again, that the act of living itself unravels both the answer and the question. When we watch, we remain riddles to be solved. When we enter, we become songs to be sung.

When life feels far off, remember that a flute is just something hard with holes until it's played. So, too, the heart. As matches are just sticks until lit, as ice is not quenching until thawed, questions and problems remain obstacles until lived. In this way, the life of every soul waits like sheet music to be played. What good are we if never played?

Only when life moves through do holes become openings."

- Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Today marks my six month anniversary in San Francisco. So it was only fitting that I came across this gorgeous passage.

By taking a step out of my home state, I have decoded another letter in my alphabet. And with it, I've had my fiction published and discovered a platform for my poetry and found a growing artist community of moms.

As for my family--Giovanna has had the opportunity to attend preschool in the California forest, forging a unique spiritual relationship with nature that will stick with her forever. Emile has gotten to travel on an airplane by himself at frequent intervals, allowing him to show responsibility and practice precocious independence. James continues to move forward in his career as a professional creative. And Skyla, baby Skyla, she gets to soak up all this good sunshine and ocean air, the excitement of San Francisco as it comes through her mama and daddy and siblings and self.

By leaving Seattle, we have ripped holes in our lives. Never again will my children and I feel entirely at home, but we have something else. We have San Francisco--and when the storied winds of this city blow through our holes, I hear music.

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Living With Change As The Only Constant

Life changes so fast. Just when I get used to things being a certain way, everything rearranges. I'd like to think this is always for the good. Always. For the good. It's absolutely terrifying to live this way. To think that bands break apart and marriages break up and children break off into the big bad world--and it's all for the greater good. To think that everyone is going to die and somehow, we need to accept this if we want to delve deeper. I feel pain. Not just my own, but yours. You feel my pain, too, don't you?

I hear horrible stories about children drowning and men taking their own life and I feel the residual pain on a very physical level. My heart moving upward. Grief squeezing the hope out of me. None of it is okay. The tragedy never disappears. It follows people everywhere. It follows their children. It stops them from living.

What if our pain is perfect as it is? What if there is a purpose behind it? I have a hard time finding purpose in a murder, for example, but maybe that's part of it. We are mere mortals. We cannot begin to wrap our heads around good and evil, though maybe we can untangle the two if we never give up. Maybe that's what pain is, at its core. An untangling of truth and lies. A separation. A deconstruction.

Who are we and what do we want and why do we always want more when we finally get what we want?

Of all my failures, it might be my hunger for more that hits the hardest, digs the deepest. Instead of focusing on being happy with everything I have, I tend to believe that I'll be happier once I have this or I've done that. I know this is flawed, and I know why it is flawed and I have been working hard to release this belief. There will always be something else, some reason why now is less than perfect.

Instead of congratulating myself for writing for 20 minutes, I usually feel defeated. Only 20 minutes before I picked up my phone or the baby woke up or I had to pick my daughter up from school. 20 minutes doesn't get you very far down a page.

But it gets you somewhere. And before you know it, you've written a book. And your baby is now a kid and your house with a sprawling yard is now a flat on an urban block and your exercise routine looks different. So do the trees. So does your hair.

You wonder how long it will be until you understand that now only happens now and it is absolutely perfect. Even the fat salty tears are perfectly formulated to smooth out the rough edges of pain.

I loved school as a kid. Especially September. New classmates, new classroom, new teacher, new routine. But by the time spring rolled around, I was over it. Bored, mostly. Ready for the next thing. Then, summer would come and go and finally it occurred to me that I missed the energy of my old class. Something so familiar and boring, gone forever. Last year when I intuited that we would not live in our Seattle house much longer, weeks before we actually had plans to move, I walked the perimeter of the yard. I tried to memorize it.

Soon this time in our lives will be reduced to a memory. We think we have the good stuff memorized, but eventually, we will forget most of it. I cope with the passage of time, the temporary nature of existence, with my words and my camera.

That bald little head. Her bouncing curly head. Tiny round teeth. Precocious eyebrows. Squeals. Squeaks. Giggles. Deep questions. Baby babbling. Kid-isms. Snuggles. The baby's breath. A hungry little mouth. Those voices. The word "mama" and "mommy" and "daddy." My hair and skin still relatively thick with youth. My twenties, my husband's thirties, both of which are nearly over. My life as a fresh transplant in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. The stories untold. The possibilities.

I cope with challenges by remembering they are temporary.

The sleepless nights. The query letters. The rejections. The exhaustion. The messes. The laundry. The temper tantrums. The screaming. The uncertainties. The travel. The loneliness. The tedium. The waiting.

My sister won't always live on the other side of the planet (RIGHT?!). I won't always be the new kid in my city. My children won't always want me 24 hours per day. We won't always have to prove ourselves.

But maybe the proving could be just as enjoyable as being proven.

Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour. - Walt Whitman

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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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Sisters: 5 years and (nearly) 1 year

They make my life brighter and deeper. Something bottomless lives inside of them. I see it in their eyes. When they feel joy, it soaks through to me, and for a brief moment, chaos becomes peace. I sense the precision in a leaf's fall to the ground. I see the inherent beauty of flaws, the growth brought by discomfort, the pain that forces us to expand our notion of happiness and lack thereof. When I drop off Giovanna at preschool, I like to loiter a bit. I put Skyla down and I let her interact and inevitably someone says, "what a smiley baby." Regardless of how loudly she screamed in the carseat just a moment earlier, or how soundly she slept until I gently lifted the carseat out of its base in the vain hopes that she might stay sleeping (she never does), she still finds it in her to smile at people when they smile at her.

During these drop-offs, Giovanna loves to swoop in and pull Skyla onto her lap and assert her ownership. She kisses her baby sister and coos at her and tries to walk her around by standing behind her and holding her by the hands and encouraging her to take steps.

Lately Skyla has taken to rewarding her big sister with a giant open-mouth on her face. In the mornings when GiGi comes in to snuggle, in the evenings when the day accumulates with rambunctious delirium, in the in between moments, between giggles and head wiggles and tickles. Skyla goes in for the kiss by grabbing a fistful of GiGi's bobbing curls and pulling herself towards her big sister. Then we all squeal and coo and I get that good full feeling of being whole rather than broken, complete rather than fragmented.

Back to the head wiggles. Skyla has a way of wiggling her head back and forth that is less like a nod or shake and more a dance move or a bobble-head impression. Sometimes she does it when she is so super excited about something that she can't believe her good fortune. It's like the "thank you" before she picks up the new toy or the blessing before she eats something delicious. She wiggles her head to the beat of a good song. She wiggles her head when we prompt her by wiggling our own heads. And she wiggles her head for no discernible reason but the simple joy of existing.

We're not sure where she picked up the head wiggle, it could be an innate gesture, though we do suspect GiGi, whose curls are often bouncing, had something to do with it. They've begun to play together, or at least side by side. Snatching dolls and building block towers and knocking them down. Mostly, though, their play includes hugging and holding and kissing. Two little animals showing their love the best way they know how.

This is only the beginning for these two. God willing, they have a lifetime to learn from and delight in one another. Meanwhile, I'll be in the background, facilitating their childhoods with a gentle hand and soft voice (one can hope), and writing my way through the bittersweet thick of it.

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Little Animals

This weekend James looked at me over the top of 3 little heads and said, "this is like living in a zoo. These kids are little animals." And it is and they are. IMG_2599.JPG

Dirt on the carpet. Handprints on the windows. Crumbs on the couch. Candy wrappers in the bed. Halloween is my favorite holiday and a huge deal here in San Francisco. But the day after is a parenting nightmare. On Saturday we gathered our grown-up treats (coffee and fancy french pastries) and retreated to the playground where the little animals could run and climb and jump it off. The rubber ground was teeming with them, these fun crazy tiny people fueled by (sugar and) a zest for life that we tend to lose somewhere along the way.

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On Sunday we ventured to the edge of the west coast, the ocean pulling us in with her cavernous well of magnetism, intoxicating the children with negative ions and subtly salted air. Their smiles swelled with joy. The joy radiated from them, leaving a trail like cookie crumbs or pixie dust.

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They communed with the sand---crawling across it and burrowing under it and face planting into it. Now there's sand in my car and my shower and my laundry machine. Parenting guarantees a dizzying assortment of messes. And though the infinite work exhausts me, it also fills me up. Because all that laundry means we played today and all those dishes mean we ate and drank well today. We roasted in the sun and tasted the earth and dipped our toes into her generous bounty.

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Everything revolves around our kids these days. Parents are notorious for making extreme sacrifices, our lives no longer belonging to us alone. The needs of our children become the tippy top of our priorities at the expense of our other relationships and passions and commitments. The little animals need us to survive after all, but we need them for something, too. They remind us why we are here. To feel joy when we manage to find it.

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Where do you find joy? Was the day after Halloween as bad for you as it was for me? 

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Are you doing what you love today?

Have you found something that makes you so clearly happy that you wonder how you ever survived without it? Things like family, sports, creative outlets, maybe your home or community or even a great job.

But then life gets in the way and you stop running or painting or staying ahead at work or paying much attention to your spouse or kids. Something of this variety happens to all of us now and then because we are human. A distracted breed. We are interesting and beautiful because of our mutability.

It's not our fault. We have so much to experience. Too much. So many ends to tie up. Too many. (At least it often feels this way!) Billions of unique balls of human energy are firing through the atmosphere at every given moment, getting tangled in one another, inspiring and maddening and exciting and teaching one another.

Every time I drive on the highway these days, I'm struck by my fellow humans, all of us in our respective cars, these hunks of mineral protecting us from one another so that we can fulfill our individualized agendas. Perhaps our life purposes. We have places to go. Down highways and across skies and up mountains. We are smart. We lead complex lives, rich and sumptuous with love for one another and for life itself.

This is all good and well. Until we start dropping ends because we've picked up too many. And we feel like we're in a horror movie because our heads are spinning. We can see in every direction, all of the possible paths. Some call them parallel universes. And because there are many different directions to take, we get confused. We say yes when we mean no. We say no when we mean yes.

It's easy to lose the way. The way is completely subjective, after all. What you love will be different than what your mother or father or brother or sister or partner or best friend or enemy loves.

In this day and age, distractions are as abundant as opportunities. We have to stay mindful of our daily activities. Are we staying true to our heart's desire?

I'm interested in this idea of focus. Focusing on what you love most and not letting superfluous distractions steal too much of your most finite resource. Time.

Why is it that we often have to force ourselves to do things that we love such as exercising, writing, even socializing? My cousin loves salsa dancing as much as anyone can love salsa dancing. But as a mother of two battling Lyme Disease and chronic pain, she rarely gets the opportunity to go out and dance. She's been out of the salsa scene for so long that she's hardly looking forward to attending the annual conference in San Francisco next month. This was something she used to anticipate for months prior and savor for months afterwards. And I'm sure that once she gets to that conference and onto the dance floor, she will enter the flow, that state of being from which artistic expression arises.

It's about momentum. When we get into the habit of doing what we love every day or every other day or every week, that's when we know I could never survive without this. So why do we try?

Are you doing what you love today?

Please tell me what it is YOU love in the comments or send me an email lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I love hearing from you! 

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

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