The Gift of Being Present

Mom and Baby Polar Bear Playing at the Columbus Zoo

Hi Readers,

These days I don’t have as much time to blog, as I’m a full-time mama plus writer/illustrator.  But I haven’t forgotten you or your loyalty to this blog. So today I have a special treat. A special gift for you. It’s the gift of being present.

And it’s really all I have to give right now, even to myself. And especially to my daughter. Every day is different, with unexpected challenges and rewards. I’m constantly on my toes. Every moment has become precious. I’ve learned to do things in bite-size increments. In some ways, I feel like I’m living fast and furious. As in, how much can I get done while she’s napping? Do I clean bottles or fit in 30 minutes of writing or go take a nap? I’m sure many of you out there can relate, whether you have kids or not, but especially if you do. And certainly if you’re a first-timer, like me.

But how do we get through it?  And do we even want to? Or should we slow down and savor each moment? After all, everything changes so fast, especially when it comes to small children. So you learn to live by moments. The first time they sit up by themselves. Their joy at eating blueberries for the first time. When they finally call you “mama,” even if they don’t quite understand what it means yet, especially to you.

Schedules go out the window and plans change, sometimes by the hour. Just as you were about to go out for a walk, a dirty diaper sidetracks you. And then laundry. And then bottle washing. And then a nap. Maybe for the both of you 😉 But what a welcome thing a nap can be. And maybe just the thing you really needed. You both wake up refreshed and happy to see each other again.

This is what being present is all about. Open to whatever comes your way. Noticing the small things, that seem so insignificant. The tiny miracles that sometimes go unseen in day-to-day life.

Another upside is you don’t have as much time to focus on the past or future, which alleviates some anxiety. Past mistakes become learning opportunities and you move on. Fewer plans are made, but they’re quickly replaced by the joy of spontaneity. Small adventures. The first flower of spring. A vegan blueberry scone. Your daughter delighting in a bluejay soaring through the air. And maybe the mountain of dishes will get done. Maybe they won’t. And that’s okay. Cuddling trumps all!

I’ve definitely learned to be more efficient, but is that always better? Sometimes you have to embrace being before doing. And because some things just can’t wait, you prioritize what really matters. Like playing pat-a-cake just to see that smile that lights up the whole world.

And at night, rocking my baby to sleep becomes just as relaxing for me as I watch her eyes flutter shut and send her to dreamland. Watching her sleep is what being present in the moment is all about. After all, she won’t stay this tiny forever. I carry her everywhere now, but soon she’ll carry herself through the world. I’m not ready to think about that 😉

Baby Giraffe Standing On Its Own at the Columbus Zoo

I’d like to leave you all with a mantra I learned in my baby yoga class.

“Be present, not perfect.”

Enjoy the gift of moments! And if you have any special ones, please share 🙂

 

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My Word for the Year 2018

Greetings friends,

It’s a whole new year.  A clean slate.  I’ve been away for a while.  Many reasons.  Giving birth to my beautiful daughter. Buying a house. Wow!  Lots of life changes.  I hope to continue blogging about all these new adventures.

But even while I’m in transition, I wanted to make sure to share with you my new word for the year.  This is a word I’ve considered in the past, but this was the first time I was brave enough to choose it.  I thought words like “change” and “confidence” were difficult, but it turns out sometimes even words that sound positive by connotation can be the hardest to attach to ourselves.  Why?  Maybe on some level we don’t think we deserve it.  Maybe we feel selfish for even considering wanting something good for ourselves.  But I’m here to tell you that’s silly.  It’s a mind game.  The inner critic inside of us, otherwise known as fear, that is always trying to protect us, even if that means keeping us from something good.  Something we all deserve.  Something everyone can have.

So my word for the year is ABUNDANCE.  And let me shout it from the rooftops!  Because I deserve abundance, and you deserve abundance.  We can all have abundance, too.  That’s the secret.  It’s available to everyone.  And contrary to popular belief, there’s always enough to go around.

As usual, I’m seeing the effects of choosing my word for the year already.  The photo above is a tarot card I picked out for the day without knowing which one I was choosing.  My husband and I also recently purchased a charm for our daughter with a bunch of hearts on it.  The message behind it?  Abundance of love.  I can’t wait to see where else abundance shows up in my life.  Obviously, my life changes suggest abundance as well.  Don’t forget.  With abundance comes gratitude.  And also the opportunity to share it with others.  In case you’re still in doubt about how abundance works, I’m going to share with you one of my favorite mantras.  It’s fitting for this season.

Life is in a perfect balance of giving and receiving.

If you can keep this in mind, you’ll never be afraid to receive too much.  And it might make it easier to give to others too.  So say it with me.  ABUNDANCE!  Now go live an abundant life.

 

Check out my word for last year.  And here’s a list of my other previous words.

The True Value of Imagination

The City Museum in St. Louis, MO is like a giant playground for the imagination. Both children and the young at heart are welcome!

“She isn’t rich… She’s clever. That means she knows how to use her imagination. When you can do that, you can do anything.” –from The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

I don’t usually start a blog post with a quote, but this one really struck me. In fact, it’s the whole reason for the blog post. It reminds me of my childhood. Like most children, my sisters and I didn’t have every toy we wanted when we were growing up. Some kids might complain about that, and sometimes we probably did. But then something magical happened. We realized we could use our imaginations to create what we wanted.

We had this great big basement playroom, and luckily, our mom would let us do whatever we wanted with it, provided we clean it up every once in a while.  She called this “overhauling,” which usually meant giving some beloved but never used old toys and junk away.  Anyway, we had toys, games, and craft items down there.  Usually I’d convince my younger sister to join me for some fun, as our older sister was often “too cool” for us, doing mysterious older sister things in her room.

Sometimes we’d rearrange our old toys into something new, making castles for our toy figures out of chairs, kitchen stove sets, plastic telephones, toy cash registers, and the like.  Other times, we’d see toys we wanted on TV and decide to create them ourselves. Toilet paper and paper towel roll tubes turned into action figures.  Cut-out watercolor drawings of kids turned into paper dolls.  We even invented things and conducted experiments.

Other times, especially in the summer, we’d make a tent out of tables, chairs, and blankets, sleeping inside it every night.  I also invented something called “the boat game,” where we had 5 minutes to gather everything we could (toys, games, etc.) and get onto the boat (i.e. bed or couch) before it sailed away.  Then we’d play with all our stuff there, which was much more exciting than simply playing with it at the table or on the floor.  We were on an adventure! My favorite part and probably my sister’s least favorite was when I would nudge her off the bed and say, “Oh you fell into the sea!  Now I have to rescue you!”  Then I’d slowly pull her back up to safety 😉

I hope kids these days still find time to use their imagination.  More importantly, I hope they understand what imagination is and that its value far exceeds the worth of any toys, video games, or electronics they might have.  As an adult, your imagination can take you places too.  You learn resourcefulness and how to carefully use your resources.  You come up with creative problem-solving.  You find solutions where you otherwise might not.  And let’s face it, imagination is just plain fun!  It’s what gives us hope and provides a means of entertainment and escape from reality, even if just for a while.

For me, my imagination is what has allowed me to become a children’s writer and illustrator.  I use it when I conduct storytime for the kids at the library.  And it fills me with a sense of wonder whenever I travel, visit a park, or go to an art gallery.  Imagination keeps me young at heart, and I wouldn’t trade that for all the money in the world.

Have you used your imagination recently?  What is it worth to you?  Please share!

 

 

Get Your Hygge On!

Picnic in the Park

Hi Lovely Readers,

Can you believe March is already almost over?  I guess I’m a little over the wind, but then again, that means we now move on to the rain 😉  But I did read a nice quote today on Facebook that gave me a little perspective: “Partly cloudy with a chance of rain, or partly cloudy with a chance of a rainbow.  You choose.”  Something to think about.

Today I want to introduce you to a Danish concept I think we can all benefit from: hygge (pronounced HOO-ga).  I first learned about this unique approach to life in an article on Today.com titled, “What is hygge?  Why the world’s happiest country says this is their secret.”

The basic translation for this word is “cozy” and in broader terms it relates to the way you can cultivate more happiness in your life by learning to make your life more cozy and taking time to feel cozy everyday without experiencing the guilt that often goes along with it.  Here in America, we’re prized for how much we can get done, our worth is measured by how successful we are, and we see happiness as something we can buy or own.  But in Denmark, they’re operating under a different system.

According to the article, they take time to slow down and create little moments in their day, adding cozy elements where they can.  This includes stopping for a coffee break, reading a good book, putting on a pair of fuzzy socks, walking in the woods to get fresh air, and catching up with a friend.  The focus is on fun, whether that be playing a game or telling a funny story.  And the more you share this experience with others, the better.

You can set the mood for hygge in your own house by lighting candles, decorating your house with silly or whimsical elements like old toys or funny pillows, or placing some dishes of chocolate within arm’s reach in different rooms.  The idea is to make yourself laugh and not take life so seriously.

You can even employ the concept of hygge at work by adding plants to your cubicle or a comfy sweater to the back of your chair.  And since hygge is also about connecting with people, consider bringing in lunch for your co-workers or organizing a weekly potluck where you can share yummy food and catch up with co-workers on non-work-related stuff.

I think we can all use a healthy dose of hygge in our lives.  So stop being so hard on yourself if you don’t finish that 10th item on your to-do list.  Instead go run barefoot in the fresh, spring grass or make that cup of tea you like and read a funny article in your favorite magazine.  Just remember that hygge is not another routine or rule to follow.  Make it spontaneous and remember to just let go and have a moment of fun just for the sake of it 🙂

My friend reminded me of this today when she sent me a text reminding me to take time out to breathe slowly and meditate.  The advice sounded so good, I immediately got up and did some random yogic poses.  After stretching, I felt completely relaxed and energized!  She also sent me a little joke that allowed me to laugh at myself and how our bodies change as we get older.  So now, I think I’ll go have a couple of maple cookies, because life isn’t all about fitness, either.

Okay it’s your turn to share.  How do you plan to practice hygge and bring more moments of joy into your everyday life?

Mad Tea Party

March Magic!

Happy March everyone!  It sure is coming in like a lion 😉  But I’ve never been more excited about it.  I’m very happy to see February go, mostly because it means spring is right around the corner.

I started thinking about the best way to welcome a new month and the coming of a new season.  How about with some magic!

I recently read a great article online titled, “33 Ways to Invite & Invoke More Magic Into Your Life” by Kara Maria Ananda, a Healing Arts Educator, Holistic Business Coach, Speaker and Writer.  I’d like to highlight a few of my favorites, some of which I plan to focus on for this year.

  • Drink more water.
  • Dance, stretch, do yoga and move your body.
  • Play with children.
  • Go somewhere new in your own town.
  • Pay attention to synchronicity.
  • Get a massage.
  • Meditate.
  • Leave secret notes with positive messages in public places for people to find.
  • Make art.
  • Read your favorite books from your childhood.
  • Walk barefoot on the Earth.
  • Get all dressed up just because.

Check out Ananda’s article to find out even more ways to cultivate magic in your life.

And here are a few magical quotes from some books I’ve been reading lately.  The first is from a book I just started called The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox.  The other two quotes are from the 2017 Newbery-winning book, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, which I highly recommend.  The quotes from these books take two very different tones but they intersect in interesting ways, just like everything in life.

“In times like these, according to Great-Aunt Margaret, magic bubbled up, rising out of the confusion and strife of war.  Troubled times stirred up magic like dumplings in a stew.”

“And there was something else, too.  This surging feeling in her bones.  This clicking inside her head.  This feeling as though she had an invisible gear inside her, pushing her, inch by inch, towards…something.  Her whole life, she never knew what.  Magic, her bones said.”

“Her grandmother had taught Luna…how a caterpillar lives, growing big and fat and sweet-tempered, until it forms a chrysalis.  And inside the chrysalis, it changes.  Its body unmakes.  Every portion of itself unravels, unwinds, undoes, and reforms into something else…  “It feels like magic,” her grandmother had said…”

Magic is my word for the year, so it is always fun to see where it pops up.  I think everyone can use a little more magic in their lives.  It’s that spark that makes life meaningful and gives us hope.

How will you invite magic into your life this month?  Please share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Word for the Year: 2017

Bamboo Forest Illumination in Kyoto, Japan

It’s a new year, My Lovelies, and you know what that means.  Time to pick a new word to represent 2017.  This time, I had a little trouble choosing.  A lot of words hold special meaning for me these days, some of them challenging, others encouraging.  But ultimately, I realized I needed something dynamic and fun.  Something that would get me excited to jump out of bed every morning and start the day.  Something that would give me hope in a very complex world.

So without further ado, my word for the year is…

MAGIC

 

And here are some quotes to express exactly what magic means to me.

“You can’t tame the spirit of someone who has magic in their veins.” –unknown

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” –Roald Dahl

“Magic is believing in yourself.  If you can do that, you can make anything happen.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Words and magic were in the beginning one and the same thing and even today words retain much of their magical power.” –Sigmund Freud

“Love is the closest thing we have to magic.” — from Aquamarine (movie)

“It’s important to remember that we all have magic inside us.” — J. K. Rowling

“Magic is something you make.” –unknown

“Look for magic in daily routine.”  –Lou Barlow

“By choosing to be our most authentic and loving self, we leave a trail of magic everywhere we go.”  –Emmanuel Dagher

I hope you will find ways in the coming year to invite magic into your life.  And don’t forget to come up with your own word for the year!

Check out the list of my past words here.

The Thing About Miracles


My word for the year has been “miracles.”  As such, I’ve invited all kinds of miracles into my life, some intended and some not.  It has been fun and exciting to watch them unfold and then document them afterwards.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t make them happen.  You also can’t predict how they will work out.  In fact, some miracles are actually preceded by sacrifice and loss.

I learned to meditate this year in order to help my insomnia and anxiety.  But the road to relaxation has not always been an easy one.  Mainly because mindfulness is easier said than done.  I’ve had to let go of a lot of old behaviors that trigger worry and doubt.  I’ve had to look my fears in the face and learn to embrace them like old friends.

But if you’re open to change, transformation is inevitable.  And when you get your wings and another chance in life, the experience becomes truly miraculous.

“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”
–Judy Blume

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
–Eleanor Roosevelt

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”
–Louisa May Alcott

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” –Audrey Hepburn

“Out of difficulties grow miracles.” –Jean de la Bruyere

 

 

 

 

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