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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Are Women Blocked?

At some point in history, women learned to feel shame for receiving. We were programmed to give, give, give. We deny compliments. We diminish our achievements. We downplay our strengths. We give everything away, most tragically, our power. Maybe you think you don't, maybe you know that you do. Regardless, you know a woman like this. A woman blocked from receiving. It happens on an individual level, passed between generations and families, until the program takes on a life of its own and woman everywhere are paid less than men for the same job. We repeat the pattern without realizing that it is not us.

But imbalances correct themselves, eventually. It's happening now. Women are beginning to find it in us to receive, to be the exception to the rules we've followed for so long. Women are opening. I know it's happening because I've seen it.

I saw it when my friend hesitated to accept a sizable donation for her start-up non-profit. Money she needed. Money she could use to do great things. She had good reason to hesitate as she had a strained and strange relationship with the benefactor, who is not wealthy, only generous. My friend didn't know how to accept this token of love and faith.

I saw it happen when she accepted the money as the natural flow of the universe.

I saw it when the floodgates opened and another large donation came in, and after that, a steady stream of opportunities.

I saw it when she said yes to the money, and yes to her work.

I saw it when she said yes to the money, and yes to her purpose.

I saw it when she said yes to the money, and yes to changing the world.

This is day 18 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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How Non-Racist People Perpetuate Racism

I recently entered into a discussion on Facebook with a white man who commented on a public post I made in which I shared an article about Ohio residents greeting Obama by waving confederate flags. I commented on the article with only two words: heart broken. The man responded by saying he was "tired" of the media exacerbating racial tension by pitting blacks and whites against one another. Does he count as "the media" since he posted publicly on Facebook? Aren't we, the people, the media, now? Did "the media" invent police brutality and the segregation in communities and schools that persists today?

He cites his experience as a missionary in Southern black communities as evidence of his understanding. He says he didn't experience racism in the projects. Does he think that associating with black people made him temporarily black? Does he think something doesn't exist because he has not personally experienced it?

He claims that he is not a bigot, and I might believe him, yet his denial of the discrimination faced by people of color indirectly supports it.

I do not know this man at all, but I engaged with him because I felt it important to fight against the contagions in his message. I hoped that by speaking up, I could give others the tools to speak up. I let myself become intoxicated by the freedom of speech. I knew I couldn't change his mind, but I felt empowered by disagreeing with him, openly, unapologetically.

I disagreed when he suggested that waving the confederate flag in the face of our black president was not a racist act but a political act. Then why not hold up signs with political statements as is the norm for such protests? I disagreed when he suggested the confederate flag to be a symbol of unity. The unity of whom? Certainly it was not for the unity of the human race. I disagreed when he said the treatment of blacks is not as bad as the media wants it to be. What if it's worse?

America has a long hard history with race. This country is not going to heal beneath the pretense of equality. We must demand the real thing. We can start by bearing witness to people of color. The media has largely provided us this opportunity.

The first step to change is awareness, which is why this man and so many others perpetuate racism. By pretending it's not there.

This is day 17 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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What I Learned When I Stopped Wearing Makeup

"You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'"- Erin McKean (wrongly attributed to Diana Vreeland)

It happens to most women who become mothers. We forge a new relationship with our physicality. We don't apply makeup or style our hair or accessorize for at least for a few months, maybe a year, maybe longer, maybe forever.

I still wear makeup now and again. I still like how it makes my features pop. Makeup is art. But do we need makeup as much as we are conditioned to believe we need it?

The less I wear makeup, the less I wear makeup. The less I wear it, the more comfortable I feel without it. And most notably, the less I wear it, the less beautiful I feel when I do wear it.

I used to think I needed makeup to fix parts of me. In middle school, my best friend and I were quite concerned with being beautiful. We loved spending hours together getting ready for special events, from Bar Mitzvahs to birthday parties, doing and redoing our hair, doing and redoing our eyeliner until it was "perfect." When we had nothing left to do, we would ask one another, "what can I fix?"

We grew up watching movies like Clueless and Beauty and the Beast and television programs like Saved By The Bell and 90210, and reading books like the Sweet Valley High series. Stories in which the heroines were valued for their beauty and agreeable disposition. For many years, I believed I had to be pretty to be valuable and valued. Sometimes, I believed I could be pretty if I tried hard enough. Sometimes, I didn't.

Implicit in the application of make up is the belief that a woman's face is flawed and/or needs to be "flawless." When we wear makeup daily, we learn to see our made up face as the "right" face. We stop seeing the beauty in our natural features. We invest time, money and thought into fixing ourselves under the erroneous belief that beauty can be achieved by the right product and method.

I did not notice the shape of my eyes until I stopped masking them with eyeliner. I did not see clarity in my skin until I let it breathe. I did not know the perfection of my God-given colors until I stopped dying my hair blonde (it's true) and saturating every inch of my skin with self-tanner. And when I stopped wearing makeup, I started believing that I could be beautiful. Not conditionally beautiful, but unconditionally beautiful. 

I would like to encourage my fellow women to take a step back from the allure of cosmetics. I challenge you to run around a few blocks or pump some iron or take a dance class, and look in the mirror at your naked face. I would like you to see the real color in your cheeks, the unmasked sparkle in your eyes. I would like you to see all that goodness you stir up just by using your body. It's inside of you. It has been there all along.

We already know where real beauty comes from. Sometimes we have to turn inside out to find it, sometimes we have to become vulnerable to show it, but it's always in there. Because it cannot be bought, it cannot be stolen. And because it is limitless, it will not run out. Your beauty is real, and it is power, and it has nothing to do with being pretty.

This is day 15 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 Purpose of Envy

Nobody enjoys this feeling. This distance between you and who you think you are meant to be. The people and places who show up to remind you of the gap. The sickness in your heart when you come close because you still cannot cross the space between here and there. You feel stuck in the quicksands of Now. I know all about it, my friends. Do you?

I passed through San Francisco three years ago this month. July 2012. I was here without being here. I felt intense longing for more of the city. I sensed something beneath the surface that vibrated on my frequency. It didn't really occur to me that I could live here, too. In retrospect, the envious longing I felt for San Francisco was the first hint that my path would bring me here.

Envy acts like a hint from the universe. Envy tells us about our heart's deepest desires. Envy helps us reach beyond what we thought could be possible. Because we see someone else doing it or we see another place achieving it and we realize that anything, anything is possible. We realize we miss big things by thinking small.

Envy can also dampen our spirits and break our resolve. Envy can throw us off track. Envy can trick us into thinking we need something to be happy when truly nothing can bring us happiness, because happiness is not a destination. Happiness is the way.

I hope we can be happy enough Now to cast aside fear of envy, so that we may pay attention to it and explore where it's coming from and why. There's no use in numbing the tinge because chances are good that it will never go away. We can drink and forget, but when we wake up, it will be there. Waiting with a Cheshire grin.

The universe tickles our respective fancies in mysterious but purposeful ways. We can spend our lives running, or we can spend our lives chasing. What will it be?

This is day 13 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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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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Release this Burden Now

The universe has a way of teaching things to make them appear certain. Beliefs, ideologies, rules. But I've found that as I live, life turns around most things I thought I knew for sure, until I can see the other side of the proverbial coin. Either I was wrong before, or there is no right answer for everyone at every time in their lives. I am completely at the mercy of Now. Where nothing appears like it did last month or even yesterday.

I have control over myself only, though God knows I will try to exert control over others. I try to influence them because I love them, and I will be open to their influence because they love me. We run into problems, however, when we think our influence is absolute. When we think we know what is good for them, when we think we know it better than they do.

I see people all over the internet condemning one another for their parenting methods, their use or nonuse of vaccines, their personal decisions on marriage and family, their political stance, their label as pro-choice or pro-life, their diets and exercise regimens, their bodies and their religions and so on.

But we are limited to the wisdom inherent in Now, the knowledge contained by our individual brains. Human understanding has proven finite in an infinite universe. We know nothing for sure. So why do we keep claiming that we know? When will we throw up our hands and give up control and relax into the not knowing? Won't this be a great burden to release?

This is day 10 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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