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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Just Zoo It! Sketching at the Toledo Zoo


Early this summer, I asked an illustrator friend, Deborah Marcero, to join me on a trip to the Toledo zoo. But instead of just viewing the animals as typical spectators, our mission was to view them for the purpose of sketching them. We tried to pay attention to their details and isolate their movements. It’s actually a good practice in mindfulness. And certainly easier said than done! Sure, we could draw a sleeping tiger or rhino, but what about a hungry elephant or hippo constantly on the move? Often it turned into an exercise in contour drawing.  We also jotted down field notes for each animal.

The most interesting part to me is how we became specimens in our own habitat.  We were the “roaming sketch artists” on display.  Parents would point us out to their children saying, “See Johnny, wouldn’t you like to do something like that?”  Kids were more subtle in their approach, often sidling up to us shyly with open mouths and wide eyes.  “I like your drawings,” they said.  Even staff members stopped to take a look and offer tidbits of information about each animal like how an elephant walks on its toes and has more than 100,000 muscles in its trunk!

Our adventures reminded me of another sketching duo, Thomas Kinkade (“The Painter of Light”) and James Gurney (Dinotopia author), who “sketched their way across America” and shared their experiences in an illustrated book called The Artist’s Guide to Sketching

tail flick
ear twitch
paw against wall
one eye open
so S-L-E-E-P-Y

flippers flipping
over each other like oars

mouth open to keep cool
or simply awaiting dinner

shuffle, turn, swim
shuffle, turn, swim
life moves
S-L-O-W-L-Y
down here

ears flapping
trunks dancing
walking on toes
like prima ballerinas

horns are like hair
point up, point down
resting without a care
their wrinkles build
character

Holy Moly!
That one’s huge!

hair sticks up
tails hang down
what are YOU
looking at?