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Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

A year ago today we left New Jersey for Ojai. We had a layover in Las Vegas (not recommended when traveling with a toddler who can’t stay away from slot machines). My son was chased by the gaming officials, knowing I couldn’t run after him at 31 weeks pregnant. Life was full of adventure and possibility after relinquishing control embracing the journey into the unknown. Tempted to post: “California or BUST!”  I remained silent virtually, thinking a woman in her 3rd trimester with a doctor’s note to let me on board should not tempt fate.

When we arrived in Ojai late that night, there was a feeling of finally being home. We were welcomed by little things my in-laws left (which felt like such big things) having been unsettled since Hurricane Sandy.

photo (2)

We had been in Ojai a few months before, the same week Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast ravishing Breezy Point, where were living at the time. When we packed for our trip to Ojai in October, I never expected not to return to Breezy Point. It was surreal returning in late November to grab a few belongings witnessing the devastation and life stopping in an instant. My son’s colored teddy bears were on the nightstand beside his bed. The plastic jack-o-lantern remained in the window which my mom bought to entertain Evan and give the house a Halloween flair. There were clues of our life before, erased like the tides.

While I was in Ojai, I learned of the fires over social media. Never really understanding Twitter, I was glued to the page as news about #breezypoint was unraveling before news stations could report. I spent the night fearing the worst to the people in a community I loved for the past 34 years as images of a 5, 6, and 7 alarm fire rang through my mind in areas I knew like the back of my hand. We had only been in Ojai for four days when Hurricane Sandy hit. I watched CNN constantly, in disbelief when familiar faces were being interviewed. I wasn’t sure where we would go when we returned, touched by the kindness of people who reached out inviting us into their homes.

Ultimately, it was a call for change sooner than planned. If not for Hurricane Sandy and that period of uncertainty, I don’t know that we would have made it here. The period between February and June of last year was precious. It was a time of nesting, redefining ourselves as a family, birthing, and community building, to see if this was where we belonged. My husband and I wistfully spoke of returning to California every winter, but there was always something. The further we settled into our New Jersey lives, the harder it became to think about leaving. We had big conversations, realizing we could choose our journey and design our life around our growing young family. I wanted to experiment before Evan was school-age, or feared living with regret. There were strong urges to let go and release our belongings to lighten the load, just as powerful as the urge to nest overcame me in the last days of pregnancy. I trusted things would work out, and ultimately leaped.

I spoke to a friend who I met a year ago (this week). She has been on a similar journey, leaving her corporate job behind in Massachusetts to follow her creative calling and moving to Santa Barbara. When we spoke last night, it was her 4-year anniversary. There is significance in honoring anniversaries, especially ones for the resilient spirit. There is power in honoring the part of ourselves that is scared and called. There is power in acknowledging gratitude for the way life has turned out, bigger and richer than my controlled, practical, and planning mind would conceive. Anniversaries remind us of who we were and where we have gone. There is power in honoring a journey that is now a written chapter of life.

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I had thought about this post long before it happened.  Have you ever done that? Do you tweet/Facebook posts in your head coming up with one-liners about how you would feel on your last day of work? What would you say? Would it be a quick “Peace out peeps!” or something more heartfelt? Maybe it would be nothing at all, which is what my day was like – (not necessarily by plan, but more by sheer emotional exhaustion after a week of sleepless nights and many tears).

Here’s what I imagined in the weeks before: I saw a courageous blog post sharing what was next. It would have a sheroic feel with “atta-girl!” comments and congratulations beneath it. I imagined feeling as free as I was after giving my resignation the month before, happy and weightless to choose my own journey riding off into the California sunset. With all of my envisioning, maybe I never believed the day would arrive.

A week ago was my last day of work. I was sad, or maybe emotionally crippled would be more accurate.

I expected to shimmy out of my role which I played for the last decade of my life as a speech language pathologist.  Instead I shed a few boxes of toys and materials for my co-workers or as part of our Early Intervention library, but my heart was heavy, and I was terrified by this new unknown.

I spent my last morning handling lingering situations. There was paperwork to be handed in (as always), and a few phone calls to be returned about meetings which never happened. There were hugs to be given, and goodbyes to be said. And that was it. I left feeling complete with the career I’ve had, but incomplete with the finality of it all.

I resigned with mixed emotions. Everything was telling me it was time for a change. I am ready for something new, for something of my own – but am I ready to take it on as well as being a full-time stay-at home mom?  I’ve been seeking room to breathe – is this really the way?

I was leaving wonderful childcare. I was leaving a career many stay-at-home mom friends & clients told me I was so lucky to have. I had flexibility! I worked with children! I played all day! However, what these moms didn’t know was while I was sitting on the floors of their homes with their children – I often thought about what I was compromising with my own, who didn’t have me sitting on our floors and playing — ever!

My daughter, now 6 months old is becoming a little person. She has her own opinions, but I’ve been too busy to notice them until I watched her for an uninterrupted hour at playgroup the other day. I studied her on her tummy for an extraordinary length of time (see my PT friends!) She is a social butterfly looking around the circle of adult faces until she gets a reaction from each person. If she doesn’t get a smile initially, she will growl, or raspberry at you until you acknowledge her – and then move on. There has been a special personality evolving right under my nose, but I’ve been too busy to notice.

tummy time

I don’t know if everyone understood why I was leaving. It was something I had difficulty articulating into rational/linear reasons. I have a huge supportive family. I have a mom who is currently receiving chemo. I’m connected to a wonderful community with life-long friends. But inside I was internally exhausted and unable to appreciate any of it. I woke at 5 am, rushed to get the kids to childcare and to be at my first appointment on time so the rest of the day didn’t fall apart. Working in itself was not difficult, but I was losing myself in the busy-ness of my days. I’m a really good therapist, and even on days when I felt depleted – I still gave my best to everyone else. To everyone else but me.

And to everyone else but my husband. I hated our routine of seeing each other for a few minutes when he got home at 8 pm to barely kiss good night before I fell asleep with one of the kids, bone tired.

To everyone else except my kids. I felt the guilt of my busy-ness one morning when my son asked if he could have a “mommy day.”  I looked at my schedule. It was too busy. There was a cross country move to prepare for. I wanted to catch up on writing content for my online program. My mom was starting chemo the next day and I wanted to spend time with her while I could.

I took the mommy day. We went to the park at 8:30 am. I let him play for hours with his toys and didn’t interrupt him to be on my agenda for once.

And here I am a week after leaving a job. A week after being so paralyzed with the exhaustion and tears. “Are we making a mistake?” I sobbed to my husband curled in the fetal position telling him he would never understand what it was like to leave a part of yourself, even if it was a part that was no longer working. He was looking to what was next while I was mourning all of the things I never fully appreciated while they were there – my job included.

In my resignation letter, I thanked my boss for the opportunities. I thanked her for encouraging me to go for it and think outside of the box when I wanted to start creating workshops for families, staff, and ultimately the state pushing me outside of my comfort zone. I felt grateful to have worked with talented colleagues over the last 11 years who became my closest friends. I had many “work wives” and without them I wouldn’t be the therapist, mom, or woman I am today.

So there is my leaving a job post. There were no flying flags or monumental scenes which could have been mistaken for a scene from Office Space. There were lots of hugs, and tears (on my end). And some fear as I face the uncertainty of a blank page ahead, recognizing it’s not a blank page but what’s written next which is where the journey continues.

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Finding room to breathe has been my phrase of the summer.  Before my first sip of coffee at dawn, I’m wishing for more room to breathe.  I move through the day on automatic pilot-productivity mode, wishing I was standing barefoot in the grass in mountain pose instead.  It is the part of me which over-commits, under-estimates, and forgets the true value of precious time as it slips away.

I’ve been seeking breathing room for over a year now.  First it was mental breathing room in choosing to work less to free up time to write and parent. Then I sought out financial breathing room by moving out of my home, releasing 80% of our possessions and eliminating debt.  But I needed personal breathing room this summer, and showing up on this page publicly was a challenge.  I am confronting many transitions at once.  And I’m working on taking it all one breath at a time.

breathing room 2

Breathing room – my daily walks around the block in Ojai

This past year had been an unprecedented time of change.  I  became a mother of two.  I said good-bye to my dog Journey after 16 years of companionship.  I was displaced following Hurricane Sandy, and watched the timelessness of our Breezy Point community go through a major upheaval. I moved back and forth between 3 states in 12 months – (leaving on a plane to California at 31 weeks pregnant, returning to New Jersey with a 10 week old). I watched my parents recuperate after two major surgeries, still waiting for my mom’s chemo to begin. I’m moving (again) tomorrow, which brings out all of my inner crazies (just ask my husband). And as I reread this paragraph for typos, I gasp for air.

You’ve got a lot going on people tell me.

I breathe in the acknowledgment I’m not losing my mind, just weathering many storms of change.

So what does breathing room look like?

breathing room

Walks in Breezy Point

I can tell you what it’s not.

It is not waking up in a hurry trying to get a baby and toddler out the door before 7:30.  It is not an over-scheduled day running 10 minutes behind every appointment.  It is not arriving at 4 pm, realizing I’ve been holding my bladder since noon.  And it is not hitting my head on the pillow thinking, I don’t want to do this again tomorrow.

Last Sunday, I gave myself some much needed solitude.  I took a train into the city.  I filled my diaper bag with a notebook planning to write, but mostly looked out the window.  I walked aimlessly down the avenues not rushing, with an hour before brunch with my mastermind soul sisters.  I remembered the time before motherhood when I thought nothing of the train ride to the city for my writing groups, life coaching program, or my Sacred Center Sundays. And in that moment, I shifted my energy to gratitude.  Thank God I learned what brought me joy in the years before becoming a mama.  While I was so anxious for this chapter to start, that prologue of meandering with my interests taught me true self care. I might not get entire days now, I might just receive a few moments. Breathe them in!

In moments like these, I can come up for air again.  I find my rhythm knowing it’s going to be okay.  I remember to just breathe.

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Humble Badass.
(BTW: I’m totally stealing this from an inspiring friend in transition).
What exactly is a humble badass you ask? She is one who moves through transitions gracefully like Jane of the Jungle swinging from vine to vine. She is grounded and steadfast, clear with her vision even when life shakes her up a bit. Aaaahhhhh (sigh) or aaaahh!!!! (SCREAM!) – she grows.

I am bringing my humble badass to motherhood. Becoming a mama of two is easier and harder in the same breath.  I am more seasoned and more frazzled. I cry in frustration but quickly surrender to the chaos. When two children are crying, a crying mother doesn’t pacify the moment.  Birthing was the easy part. Mothering is more challenging. I wonder where time goes. Sunrises melt into sunsets with the hours between a blur. I feel the tug of war between kairos and chronos time wondering why I can’t get more done, recognizing inevitable growth anyway.

Baby Charlie came Easter Sunday.  In the days before she came, I resisted her arrival. I was scared and felt unprepared. Her bedding wasn’t washed. The car seats were not re-adjusted and installed. Despite nesting like a madwoman, I was emotionally not ready. I feared the pains and passage of laboring. I was scared of her coming in the middle of the night, or en route to the hospital after meeting a midwife who birthed her second child herself.  During the full moon days before, I prayed for her to stay inside bargaining for another day. I promised to be ready by Easter.

I’m thankful labor started in the morning. I woke up and showered feeling mild contractions. I was calm and prepared. My bags were packed and the car seats were now installed. Her bassinet was ready, mirroring the Easter basket beside it. The soon-to-be-big brother ran next door to my in-laws where he relished in the last hours of being an only-child-prince at the party, especially with his cool aunts and uncles in town. 

Saying goodbye to Ev as we left for the hospital Easter morning

Humble Badass moment: saying goodbye to Ev while in labor on way to hospital

I did not shout or cry while laboring. Breathing and moaning through the contractions were easier than resisting them. I listened to a birth meditation CD on the drive to the hospital, inhaling deeply and visualizing the release of all pain. I arrived in active labor 45 minutes later, 4-5 cm dilated and progressing quickly.

I remained undecided about pain management until the pressure escalated. Half of me wanted to experience a natural birth, while the other part wanted the contractions to subside.  My pain-free side won. I wish I had been stronger like the earthy midwife, but there were gifts for my humble badass-self in a painless labor too.

I created the birth mandala I had been obsessing over for weeks in just hours before Charlie arrived, moving from left brain control to right brain intuition in the process.

what a painless labor looks like...

Humble Badass: cool as my ice pop creating a birth mandala before giving birth

Humble Badass: not yelling at my doula/husband for watching the Final 4 while in labor because I was feeling A-OK.

Humble Badass: totally okay with my doula/husband watching the Final 4 while I labored because I felt no pain
Humble Badass: Asking for a crystal foot rub when I could no longer feel my feet

Humble Badass: Calmly requesting a crystal foot rub when I could no longer feel my feet

c birth 7

Aside from my blue-eyed baby girl(!!), the completion of this birth mandala was a precious gift and memory from labor. It was my focal point during the five minutes of pushing. Charlie came in 3 contractions. After the second, my OBGYN told me I might be the first woman he witnessed to have a painless labor if I pushed with all my might.  Like a humble badass, I obliged. It was totally surreal how quickly she wanted to come into this world.

Utterly Humble Badass: her arrival

And two months later, Charlie’s favorite place to be is still this close to me. Initially frustrated when she did not take to the swing or stroller for some time to myself, I began to read her own needs. I allowed others to hold her realizing I’m not an octopus, borrowed a friend’s Moby wrap for kangaroo care, and gained a new appreciation for the phrase: it takes a village. I am so grateful for the moms who have come into my life the past few months. You have been my sanity and support and are totally humble badasses even on the days you may wish for a do-over.  That’s the dose of humility in our badass ways.  Choosing and creating this journey called motherhood one moment at a time…

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Today marks another Day in the Life post.  I loved this the first time I tried it and it became an exercise in presence.  I discovered joy taking pictures of the ordinary, loving each photo for its story.  It was a year ago when I first captured a day of my life.  I was home from work (reminded me how I LOVED not working Mondays).  My son had a double ear infection.  It was a crisp sunny day in February, and we went to the park after the pediatrician’s office.  I never thought much of the day while it was happening, but in retrospect it is a day I would love to experience again.  I would love to hear what a 17-month-old Evan said.  I would love to cuddle with my 16-year-old dog Journey for just 15 minutes more…

Hanging with Journey in the days pre-motherhood

Screen saver shot where I’m hanging with Journey in the days pre-motherhood

Here is what I realized looking at that day.  There was so much to be grateful for, but I failed to see it in the moment.  I often complained about our non-child friendly-roomy-enough home.  I now miss the comforts of home I didn’t recognize at the time.  There was furniture I liked, toys Evan just discovered, and the blessed mess of the day-to-day telling our family story.

The character Emily (Our Town) delivers this monologue after returning to a day in her life.  It stayed with me today while taking my pictures.

Our Town
written by Thornton Wilder

Emily: Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I’m dead. You’re a grandmother, Mama! Wally’s dead, too. His appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway. We felt just terrible about it – don’t you remember? But, just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s really look at one another!…I can’t. I can’t go on.It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back — up the hill — to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover’s Corners….Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking….and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths….and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute?

Stage Manager: No. (pause) The saints and poets, maybe they do some.

Emily: I’m ready to go back.

I love Instagram which takes pictures to a new level with fun filters and playing with light.

Morning starts

Morning starts

rise

7:00 am: Rise & Shine

morning writing

8:30 am – morning writing

coloring

8:30 am – while the artist colors nice monsters

wants to wear my maternity jeans
8:45 am – wants to wear my maternity jeans
chase with Daddy

10:00 am – playing chase with Daddy

Driveway art

Driveway art

messy playgroup at the park

11:15 am – messy playgroup at the park

12:30 pm - lunch dessert - berries with fresh whip cream (made by Mike).  A pregnant woman's dream...

12:30 pm – lunch dessert – berries with fresh whip cream (made by Mike). A pregnant woman’s dream…

1:00 pm - nap time

1:00 pm – nap time

1:15 pm - belly shots after lunch, pre-shower.  (I grow with every meal).

1:15 pm – belly shots after lunch, pre-shower. (I grow with every meal).

1:45 pm: self portrait taking in 80 degree afternoon sun outside

1:45 pm: self portrait taking in 80 degree afternoon sun outside

1:45 pm - taking in the view

1:45 pm – taking in the view

2:57 blogging

2:57 pm blogging

4:05 pm - Mike's exercise
4:05 pm – Mike’s exercise
walking next door to Grammy & Gramps

walking next door to visit Grammy & Gramps

happy hour

happy hour

afternoon tractor ride with Grampy O

afternoon tractor ride with Grampy O and Cosimo

7:45 pm - false bat alarm.  Only a bird

7:45 pm – false bat alarm. Only a bird

7:55 pm - bath time

7:55 pm – bath time

8:00 pm - bath tub swim

8:00 pm – bathtub swim

8:20 pm - bedtime stories

8:20 pm – bedtime stories

8:25 silly faces

8:25 silly faces

9:25 pm -  TV time

9:25 pm – TV time

9:40 pm - finishing this post
So whether you are on a 40-day journey towards motherhood or not right now, I recommend taking pictures from your own day in the life.  Allow the photos to remind you of what was happening in this moment.  And maybe in time, you will see the hidden treasures you would give anything to experience again~

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Last month I proposed a 30 day timeless gratitude challenge following a journaling workshop I led on a yoga retreat.  I had no clue what the outcome would look like, or what I would take from my practice – only hoping to open my heart.

Today, (day 30) I realized the concept of a 30 day challenge for TIMELESS gratitude was an oxymoron.  Why limit gratitude to 30 days?  What did timeless really mean?

My gratitude challenge inspired me to notice gifts all around: a piece of art, transforming advice, and conversations with my great aunts to name a few.  Acknowledging others for their words or presence never felt obligatory to the challenge, rather it was heartfelt and soulful.

I was not perfect.  There were days I did not post.  There were days I let busyness clog my grateful heart falling off the gratitude wagon, but I continued to stay the course.  I chose to be as gentle and kind to my heart as I was to those who touched mine.

Would you like to go on this timeless journey too?  I promise to hold your hand if you participate.  Share what or who you are grateful for and challenge us all to express our hearts and create more joy each day.  Now that’s timeless~

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My week started with my friend Annette coming to help me prepare for my upcoming move.

I get by with a little help from my friends…

I remembered to be gentle this week, giving myself breaks to read and relax at Barnes & Noble.  (For those of you who know me, I am quite the book whore, and it was a challenge to part with my books.)

What I would buy if I was not packing all of my other books I’m still intending to read…

Friday evening officially started our holiday weekend.  We reminisced about leaving our home while listening to our son yell, “DUDE!” and crack up at himself.

Enjoying backyard time

Our next door neighbor brought us 2 cold ones Saturday afternoon when we were knee-deep in moving ughs.  It was a moment of grace, and my mouth waters just thinking about it.

Gratitude Break of the Weekend

I packed/organized/sorted until 2 am that night, and was woken up by my little guy before dawn.  I dreamt of packing, complaining my sleep didn’t count.  We decided to take a 24 hour beach break to Breezy Point with our dog Journey.  A major uphill continues to be Journey’s unpredictable accidents, with this trip marking her first time in doggy diapers.  Despite loving to dress her up in the past, this was not amusing all.

Breaks my heart…

We met my childhood friend at the beach and her husband and little guy (also my 12/6 birthday twin).  I think he is just the coolest lookin’ little dude, don’t you?

Cool Cole

An interesting observation while watching our little guys play:  The beach is their oyster.  What’s yours is theirs (thank you to the folks around us who were gracious with their Cheetos, and apologies to the children whose pails and shovels were hijacked).  The favorite game of the day was knocking the red and blue balls.

little boys & their balls

One more shot of the little dudes, our next generation… Breezy Boys.

I went for a bike ride before leaving this morning.

Morning ride

I pedaled to the 9/11 memorial.  Twenty-nine lives were lost in our small community, with a number of NYC firefighters living on this Irish Riviera.  The memorial overlooks Coney Island, with missing views of the Twin Towers and NYC skyline on a clear day.

Breezy Point – 9/11 memorial

Breezy Point: 9/11 Memorial

Red, white & blue carnations left earlier had me overcome with emotion.  God bless those who serve and protect us.

made from steel from the WTC

Choosing to honor this memorial today left more than footprints in the sand.  There are a few more impressions on my heart.

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