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 🙂

 

Advertisements

Do We Need Magic to Create?

Greetings my dear readers,

I’ve been away for a while, busy with life, and probably will be again very soon.  More on that later.  But for now, I would like to share with you some wisdom I learned while reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Steven Pressfield. I first read his book The War of Art a few years back, which talks about fighting against “The Resistance” in order to pursue your creative work and accomplish your goals. He was referring to that inner critic inside your head that provides nothing but negative self-talk. That voice never goes away, but you can learn to quiet it and trust yourself.

I just finished reading another one of his books, Turning Pro, also excellent. Several passages struck me, but one really stood out, especially as it pertains to my word for the year: MAGIC. He talks throughout the book about the amateur vs. the professional mindset and how that can make all the difference. We must let go of self-doubt and procrastination by establishing discipline and striving for excellence. But one question remains.

What about the magic?

He’s referring to flashes of brilliance and moments where we feel the muse speaking directly to us.  Shouldn’t we wait for those moments? His answer is no.

“The monk glimpses the face of God not by scaling a peak in the Himalayas, but by sitting still in silence.”

This is not to say that we should do nothing. On the contrary, we should sit down in the chair every day and attempt to write, draw, design, etc. No matter how we’re feeling. No matter what is on our mind. Because eventually we’ll get there. But waiting around to get there isn’t going to make anything happen. Achieving a moment of greatness won’t do it. We’ll only be waiting for the next moment. But showing up in front of the silence of the blank page will. Every time we face that challenge, we’ll grow stronger, and be more likely to come back again and again to do the work. To make something happen.

“In order to achieve ‘flow,’ ‘magic,’ ‘the zone,’ we start by being common and ordinary and workmanlike. We set our palms against the stones in the garden wall and search, search, search until at last, in the instant when we’re ready to give up, our fingers fasten upon the secret door.”

I’m sure you’ve all experienced the magic moment before: The Flash of Greatness. But I’m calling on you to experience something more. It’s the same magic, but there’s another way in, which involves a little more searching, a little extra effort. You get there simply by starting. You’re in the tunnel, and it’s dark, lonely. But you dig anyway. Keep going. Claw your way through. Until you see a light. And before you know it, you’re in the zone, and you’re not even sure how you got there. But you know, if you did it once, you can do it again. Because you’re not waiting for it to show up. You’re going after it.

Find your magic. Find it every day. But don’t wait around for it to appear. All you have to do is begin. Start by playing. The magic will want to play too. It can’t resist. And before you know it, you will have created something unique, dynamic, and all your own. Not perfect, but something you can be proud of. Something born not out of a moment of greatness, but through patience and effort. And that which is created from such a hard-won battle is truly inspiring.

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

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

 

 

 

 

Chaos and Courage


Yokohama

Hi my dear readers,

Sorry to have been away so long.  It’s been a crazy, busy, challenging year.  A roller coaster ride if you will.  I just returned from a trip to Japan.  My sixth visit.  I never imagined ten years ago that I would be saying that!  But my life has changed in amazing, unexpected, and positive ways by embracing this new life of adventure that comes along with marrying someone who is a different background than mine.  I wouldn’t change it for anything.

At the close of this year 2016, there is a lot to think about.  Big changes for this country and the world.  What can we do about it but embrace it?  Dive into the unknown and hope things continue to progress and change for the better.  Continue to stand up and fight for the things we believe in.  Hope in our future.  If there is one constant in life, it’s change.  We can expect it just like taxes.  And when we begin to ride the tide of it, we see some amazing sights and begin to transform in unimaginable ways.

It is hard to let go of all the things we hold dear.  The safe and familiar.  For me, flying halfway across the world, living in a time zone completely opposite of ours, is always an adjustment.  Japan in some ways is the complete polar opposite of the U.S.  Their culture is polite, quiet, and small compared to our freestyle lifestyle, chatter, and super-sizing.  But sometimes there’s a beauty in living a life different from your own.  Like the city mouse and country mouse switching places for a day.  You see the world through new eyes.  You find out the way you always do things is not “The Way” but simply the way you always do things.  You learn to adapt and find new things to treasure.  You also better appreciate the familiarities of home.

On this particular trip, I embraced both flying alone and getting around Yokohama for three days by myself while my husband finished up his business trip.  With the jet lag, feeling under the weather, and not knowing the language very well, I wasn’t sure if I could manage.  But I took up the challenge anyway, even knowing how directionally challenged I am.  I managed to ride the subway a few times, explore the city, shop, and eat out at restaurants.  Sometimes not being able to talk was a welcome blessing.  A quiet I don’t often experience at home.  Other times, especially because I’m a Gemini and love to talk, not being able to communicate was frustrating, lonely, and even a little terrifying.  But luckily, it’s very safe to walk around Japan alone as a foreigner.  And if you’re lost or confused, someone will undoubtedly come to your rescue and try to help, even without knowing much English.  As it turns out, I found many ways to connect with others.  Laugher being one of the best universally shared experiences.

So I challenge each of you dear readers to end the year by stepping out of your comfort zone.  Don’t wait until 2017.  Do it now.  Take that first step toward your dream.  Meet someone new.  Go somewhere foreign.  Experience a different culture.  Learn a new language.  Talk to someone of a different background or faith and really get to know them.  And if things become awkward at any moment, don’t walk away, embrace the moment, and simply LAUGH.  Imagine the kind of world we would live in, if we all laughed just a little bit more.  Feared a little less.  Life is chaos, but we can all join in the dance.

“We live in a rainbow of chaos.”- Paul Cezanne

Previous Older Entries