July 27, 2014

people are strange when you're a stranger...

i have put this blog post off for a few weeks because i'm not really savvy on how to share good news while life sort of goes on and not awesome shit also happens. i'll simply say this: since returning from california, all efforts to clear old patterns and old energy have been amped up, whether i liked it or not.

it's been worth it, though. all that clearing has made space for new things to emerge and the bottom line is: growth.

i realize i haven't yet shared my word of the year because even now, end of july, i'm still easing into it.


it chose me and i played hard to get, knowing full well a word like that would not fail to live up to my own ideas about being more natural and unabashed, centered in truth, unencumbered by expectations. this year was about embracing and stepping into who i really am, okay in my skin, okay in my world. though it has not been without loss and as it goes on i am more and more convinced that loss should never be quantified. each grief is its own thing and requires individual attention rather than comparison and every ending also brings with it empty space waiting to be filled. that cliche is true.

it's how it works, this constant state of letting go...

when you surrender and get out of your own way, they say miracles happen. and they do, but also, in the middle of all those miracles, life still happens. you may receive confirmation that you're on the right path but may also consciously or not-so-consciously wait for the punchline, in which it will be revealed that the joke is on you. oh? you wanted this lovely thing? well, you don't get it, you don't deserve it, something bad's around the bend...

incidentally, as i was writing up this blog post, my middlest was watching a video and they mentioned cherophobia, a legit fear of feeling happy because you're afraid something bad will happen. this article pretty much sums up my experience with that, though i might also add that part of my difficulties around good news is how awfully people have responded to it, with insults or warnings or reasons why good things never last. through practice, i've gotten pretty good at accepting the mixed bag that is most days. some are full of blessings, some full of junk, and most have a little bit of both (and also, nothing lasts, that's sort of the beauty of it).

you take the good, you take the bad, you take 'em both and there you have the facts of life....right?

i'm down with change and growth and also to authentically experiencing joy in the moments meant to be enjoyed. so, life's happening, things are not under my control, and good things are afoot.

recently my work has also experienced a growth spurt, and as i settle, post-shift, i feel less all over the place. i've not been as likely to share my works in progress as i've been in the past, but i'm liking the quieter spaces i find myself in as i paint and move in a clearer direction. i have decided to start signing my paintings differently, as well, outgrowing what now feels sophomoric. there will be some sales and some giveaways as i part with old art, too, so stay tuned...

new WIPs and old works with new elements
all stages of progress

and now, drumroll please....

in getting out of my own way, my dream job sort of just materialized and fell into my lap. of course there was a bunch of behind-the-scenes action, as well, but through the magic of intention and the wonders of social media, i got a job at stranger factory, a toy store/gallery that's been at the top of my dream list since the wife and i went there on my 33rd magical mystery birthday tour. i knew i wanted to get my work in there but knew it wasn't ready at the time. in fact, even until, like, right now, i'd been too intimidated to take my artwork in and show the owners or director.

i wasn't even looking for a job but was looking at what i could do to generate more art income. i had a plan and some of it included things i wasn't sure i wanted to do and definitely didn't feel ready to do, like hosting art parties and developing an e-course, as well as things i was ready to do like seek out more local venues and galleries to hang my work.

i'm still walking around in shock and it's been two weeks. i really get to work for and with kathie olivas, her husband, brandt peters, as well as the super-fab, valency genis?!?! i mean! *pinch me*

okay. and this is just adorable...i stumbled upon valency's blog and her last post (a few months after i went in there the first time in 2012) just so happened to include her happy announcement about starting at the stranger factory, too! whoa synchronicity.

totally in love with this collab between kathie and valency.
and saving my pennies!

anyhow. yeah. wow. i attribute much of the legwork to valency, actually, and i thank her for keeping up with me on instagram (even while she was in the UK for a year) and putting in a good word for me. i am super stoked to be part of such an amazing group of creatives - the energy, the opportunity, i'm just so grateful for it all - life does not get any less strange and i kind of love it!

signs, signs, everywhere there's signs...
this is on the sidewalk near the gallery ! ! !

July 14, 2014

beginner's mind

last night, my two littles and i were discussing the idea of breath. i was marveling, first, at the fact that i'd asked them to take some deep breaths with me. and they did.

they didn't sigh or refuse. they just did it. they've done it before but lately it's not been without conflict or outright refusal. oftentimes we're simply too distracted to get still.

as we took several good, long inhalations we fell into such a peaceful state that my youngest let out a toot which i subsequently inhaled. fully. before i could even think to stop myself. oh the giggles that caused! even from me. for once, i didn't say anything or wonder whether or not i'd just fart-shamed my kid. i laughed about it. i mean, i did just read that sniffing farts can prevent disease but i'm pretty sure it was the actual breath work that helped me not freak the fuck out because omg i've been smelling smelly things that are smelly ever since my little brother was born and i'm over it.

after the laughter subsided, i started to think about how we take breath for granted. expecting it to be automatic, we often hold our breath without even realizing it. an awareness of our breath can reduce the impact of stress, but only if we really breathe. i know. obvious, but also epiphany. i took the opportunity to ask the boys how often they took such deep, cleansing breaths on their own.

my eight year old said, "when i'm reminded to."

"and how often are you reminded?"

"about once a week."

i remind myself to breathe several times a day and i remind them more than once a week, though, as i mentioned, we're not always receptive. if i had to guess, i'd say i only take deep, cleansing breaths about 1 time for every 6 reminders.

"what kinds of things could we do to remind ourselves more often?" i asked.

a circular argument ensued wherein my eight year old suggested that you just remember and then do it until it becomes habit, problem solved.

maybe it is that easy for some folks and i just muddied up his story by explaining that sometimes we forget the things we need to remember, especially when there's quite a few of them, so it helps if we have other ways to remind ourselves.

"we could write it down!" he said.

"good. we could write it down. i write stuff down all the time, in notebooks. then i close them and don't open them again until i have something else to write...how could we make our reminders more visible?"

"let's write it on our arm"

"okay," i said, "actually, i'll write it on my hand like a gangsta: breathe, muthafucka."

at which point, my suddenly very moral five year old says, "i don't want you to be a whatever you just said. you're not a gangsta."

"you're right...but," i tried to recover, "there's a shirt that says: gentle spirit badass motherfucker on it. i think of it often, we can be both. i mean, i am both a gentle spirit and a badass motherfucker."

"but that's bad," he said.

"the words can have bad feelings associated with them, but they're not bad, in and of themselves. one day you may appreciate that mama thinks batman, for instance, is a badass motherfucker and that's not a bad thing...but for now, i will be more mindful of my language."

i didn't explain to him how i no longer define things as good or bad because i embrace the way light and dark can and must co-exist. i know that buddha says we must be impeccable with our word, but i will probably always swear. some part of me, no matter how softened, will always be a little hardcore, however, mindful daily practice helps me act less out of guilt, and more out of a desire to best model what i want for myself and for my children. he is only five and all that matters to him is that i am his kind mama. right. now.

"mama? don't really put that word on your hand."

i assure him that i won't and then smile at my own beginner's mind. though i feel always-mindful of his sensitivity, i'd taken for granted his sweet innocence. it hadn't occurred to me that he would think i'd actually put a swear word on my body.

yeah. i'm not gangsta.

even though both boys are playing at the neighbor's, and it is mildly tempting to at least add "mofo" after "breathe," i won't even do that. i will keep my word.

i have been called to clear massive amounts of old energy (dare, i say ALL the old energy?) and today, especially, i am looking around my beautiful, cozy home with new eyes and carefully listening to myself, learning where i am still stuck.

"i might want that big craft table in my studio but it's so heavy and would be such a pain in the ass to move" or "i could move my desk and put yoga stuff in that corner, but then i'd have to rearrange all that stuff on the wall."

my vision and my motivation are not currently in sync, in all areas. and that's okay.

the opportunity to change arises in each moment. thereafter, it becomes a conscious choice. much like my eight year old described, you can just decide to do something and then go do it, however, in my experience, not without frequent reminders and baby steps, and not all at once.

they don't call it practice for nothing ;)

May 2, 2014

on overcoming. or "get over your hill and see..."

i posted this on facebook a week or so ago on sunday, four days before i started this post last night.
(that's what kind of week this has been.)

one of those people was my best friend, also known as my wife.

one of the reasons she's my wife is because we have come to the understanding that sometimes we just need a break from each other in order to grow, or not grow. we have crossed paths, went our separate ways, and re-convened at several junctures since we met, almost 18 years ago. it's the way we learn things and expand our boundaries. i will not be so arrogant as to claim certainty over events that have yet to happen so there's no way for me to know that history will repeat itself or when or how. for all i know, she may never speak to me again.

i felt an almost instantaneous peace with it all for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was having just read, "loving what is," by byron katie. plus, some pretty big internal shifts were taking place and i was all prepared for the grand cross and shit. wished her peace, as well, and that was that.

interestingly, i started this post last night and this popped up on my FB feed this morning.
and well, it sums up where i'm at with all that. a lot...

I used to judge people who didn’t want to work on their ‘issues’ and patterns. I questioned their emotional courage, their fortitude, their depth. To be sure, many of us- myself included- could do a better job of dealing with our stuff head on. But, at the same time, I now recognize that we cannot know how courageous someone else is by looking at their lives from the outside. Perhaps they are carrying around so much unresolved emotional material- their own, even that of the collective- that they do not have any energy left over for processing. Or perhaps they are working in the deep within in ways that we cannot begin to imagine- healing their unresolveds, quietly building the egoic foundation necessary to take on the next level of inner work. It’s so hard to know where courage lives. 
- Jeff Brown

just a day or so after the break-up my oldest son comes to me and says maybe he doesn't want to go to college after all, maybe he wants to move to california. i told him that i totally support him pursuing his dreams and all, but he kind of needed a plan. graduation was three weeks away.

he said he could look into a job transfer and mentioned staying with some friends that lived in the bay area but also wanting to play music on the SoCal beaches and while i love a good sense of adventure, i also like safety measures. he'd just returned from a spring break choir trip to disneyland and it's pretty much his favorite place ever so i asked him if he'd thought about working there.

he got right on it and applied. he texted me last thursday: i have an interview for disneyland on may 1st.

then he texted me again: it's in person. they don't do phone interviews anymore.


my mom agreed to drive him out there.

two days later, i kicked him out of the house*.

it was actually a very conscious decision even if it came in the midst of drama, even if i could have just let it go, even if byron katie, herself, might have a chuckle because i'd wanted him to fill out the judge-your-neighbor-worksheet and he was refusing to cooperate.

it was the culmination of 18 years of being at odds with the first person i loved with a ferocity i didn't know what to do with...

i was absolutely DONE being ignored and disrespected and taken for granted while more and more expectations were stacking up against me. even if that's just one perspective and another one is:

i was also done trying. it was just exhausting and letting things go, being the bigger person, not engaging, well...it looked a lot like being a pushover. if he wasn't coming and going as he pleased, he'd ask something of me and if i wasn't delivering the response he wanted, it was all drama, all the time. i'm still not sure if it was ego or soul preservation at work but i have learned to quickly let go of anything that provokes anger, resentment, shame, guilt and all other manner of hurtful things - i acknowledge their existence but they are not invited on my journey to healing and in the last few years the family members i am still in contact with has dwindled down to nearly zero because i'm all about acknowledging and then breaking these cycles, not repeating them (and sometimes that looks like avoidance, but it's not).

to explain further would be far outside the scope of this blog post but the history here is that my son has always felt more comfortable calling my mother his mom and living under her roof (*technically, is it kicking him out if he returns to his grandmother's or here when they get back from california?).

yesterday, exactly a week after the interview was scheduled, he texted me again:
so.....i got the job. i start may 31.

when i was in disneyland in february for the art journaling the magic workshop, i totally envisioned him there. he just has "the disney look" and he loves LOVES loves disneyland...one of the tour guides in walt's apartment reminded me so much of my son and i just knew, in that moment, he'd fit right in.

before they left, my mom told me the only reason she agreed to take him was because she knew he'd get the job. i told her i thought the same thing. i felt really positive about this, and despite drama earlier in the week, i wanted nothing but the best for him.

photo cred goes to my sister @ last night's celebratory in-n-out dinner

all afternoon and well into last night, i was giddy, giving silent thanks, and undoing the knots in my stomach. nervous but secure. some distance is good and necessary. some of us have to fall a lot or from farther heights when we're learning to fly, some leave the nest fully prepared to soar.

i am so amazed to be here. living my word. putting faith and trust into action, with absolutely no need to control outcomes or predict the future. if i have given my son anything, it's the confidence to follow his heart. my first baby boy has his foot in the door, and i am still a little wow'd by how quickly things fell into place - and so SO thankful that he can embark upon his first, big adventure with a safety net just large enough to comfort this mama's heart.

here's to may, which will be no less intense than last month - as we search for living quarters and put in some creative elbow grease to fund his great move out west!


UPDATE: we may have found *the perfect, most suitable* living situation for zach, we'll know by friday. yay! he wants to leave just a day or two after his graduation ceremony so he's set up a gofundme account to help him on his new adventure. every little bit helps and if you can share the link or spare a few bucks, it would be deeply appreciated!!!

April 10, 2014

sweet clarity

sweet clarity
at once concrete
then like running water

i catch a glimpse
cannot grasp

make excuses

you know every time
i think i should write it down
i should

because i forget
despite everywhere reminders


i still feel out of sorts
out of alignment
with the seasons

does this happen?
as we age and take up more space?

i've heard time spins faster
but i always imagined i could keep up


i found an old collage
i think about from time to time

i'd been looking for it recently
thought perhaps i'd thrown it out
in some fit of being a better me
now, in the present tense

i didn't think i'd ever have parted with it
but knowing that some partings aren't chosen
i stopped searching

last week as i pulled into the garage
i saw my old art portfolio
against the wall
by my car door
where it's been since the move

behind it, the collage
 started ten years ago
i'd been wanting to finish it

and so it begins

girl in circles

above the girls it reads: here's to women waging peace

being peace
daily struggle
my children, my guides

learning the lessons of reflection
mirrored by all

last moontime i realized
that some most all external discord
is caused by internal disharmony

and even though i often feel alone,
adrift, out to sea with no anchor
it is up to no one but me to reel myself back

and again

learning to ride the waves
and kiss the tide
the reluctant gift of self-reliance


March 25, 2014

day one

i started this post at the beginning of the month.
it is now nearly over.
i'm almost 35.
i just had to exhale after i typed that.

actually, i didn't. i typed that at the beginning month and as my birthday swiftly approaches, it's less shocking but...

i used to think 35 was old.
i used to think i wouldn't live this long.
(but also, now, i think there were a lot of years i wasn't even living.)

i am about to enter my fifth seven year cycle.
and maybe for the first time in my life, i expect great things to come.
i say that in as non-attached a way as possible, which i guess is to say:
great things are to come.

in fact, they're already here.

it dawned on me the other day that when someone asks, "how are you (doing/feeling/etc.)? i no longer shrug and say, "meh" or feel as though it's a loaded question that they don't really want me to answer.

in the past, when things were going well i used to minimize it for fear that it wouldn't last or that i wasn't deserving or that someone would take it away from me.
i used to think others had that much power.
i used to give them that much power.

it was one of those lessons i had to learn and continue to learn.
i'm not even sure i'll never have to take the test again but right now it feels as though i finally passed a class i'd repeatedly failed.

i can now say things are great.
i am great.

and mean it.

there will probably always be days that i wish stuff was different or easier or better...

and i know, almost for a fact, that there will still be days when i am stricken by a grief that feels extra-heavy on my bones. that's sort of the way life works.

it's definitely how i work.
how i feel everything.

but here's what i've learned, what i carry into this next trip around the sun...

just as i can stand firmly
in my fear.
in my loss.
in my head.

i can also stand, confidently
in celebration.
in love.
in truth.

isn't that all we can do?

to live each of our breaths as though they were our last?
to find the joy and pure bliss of this experience and take none of it for granted?

we are here to feel our emotions, ALL OF THEM, but to react and respond from our core, like the spoke of a wheel.


no matter how fast the world is spinning around us.


remember that time i had a living room full of journals?

i had to get up on the couch to capture this 8-ft spread.

reading that blog post again and wow.

evidence that even slow growth is still growth.

after that first phase,i set aside 16 journals and a portable file box of old poetry to go through at a later date.
i had to give each page the time it deserved before i could just toss it.
these were the pages i'd carried around for fifteen, twenty years. lifetimes.

last october, after nearly losing my sight, going through those reserved journals was the goal but i started with my jewelry boxes, little treasures of gemstones in hidden places, my closets, bookshelves, studio...anything to keep me from the hard work

forever girl in circles.
accepted and embraced.
this is how i roll.
aware, almost the whole time, of i how i get in my own way and distract myself.
i'm the best at it.

last week i decided it was time to do this thing.
to step aside and enter the the second, most brutal phase.

i brought out the file box and those 16 journals and sat down in the middle of my studio.

i'd taken three years of poetry classes when i was getting my psych degree.
because i couldn't afford the luxury of therapy.
i wrote.

the other day i threw out my final portfolios.
said good-bye to ten pounds of classroom poetry,
other people's work and their commentary on mine.

for a minute i thought i'd regret it.
i think it's made for some incredibly strange dreams since.
but i don't regret it.

i kept my teenage composition notebook with fleetwood mac lyrics and tragic love letters.
and just one embarrassing childhood diary.

everything is now organized by topic or project and it all fits in a small file box.

a newer one. with the poetry, went the old, broken one. it's black pleather stood as an ironic box of darkness filled with opinions i no longer needed.


today is day one.

no more keeping strange hours or staying up until 4am, because, obviously that means that come 8 the next morn, i am not going to be the best functioning person i can be,  much less a functioning mama.

no more fear of ...dun, dun, dun....a schedule.
keeping track.

it occurred to me the other day that what i feared most was that schedules somehow lead to a lack of creativity or spontaneity, that i would lose touch with the very madness that i derive my best ideas from but then i broke it down...

nothing is never not born from and into chaos, but nothing ever gets done if we're just floating around in chaotic shit all the time. we're not helpless, and no matter how buddhist you are, you have to admit that we are always enacting some sort of control over, or manipulating, at the very least, our experiences.

schedules can help harness the magic, then action can be taken.

i confused this necessary step with rigid schedules that constrict and bind and choke.
the kind that are "mandatory" and often associated with a name tag or uniform.

i am not uniform and so i resisted schedules for years. YEARS. even though, pick up any number of remaining journals of mine and you will see notes that look something like this:

morning: yoga, stretch, journaling/reading, coffee, breakfast, circle time, stories

mid-morning: snack, outside play, lesson books, free play

lunch, clean-up.
art, clean-up.

afternoon: snack, outside play, story time, stretch/music and movement

that was my formula for being an awesome, present, involved homeschooling mama but it left very little time or space for me and what else i have to accomplish (like making art, selling art, bookkeeping job-job, and making more books, yo!!!)

often i would sneak little or large chunks of time for updating the etsy shop or taking photos, painting or writing. i'd stay up late. wake early...or, as of late, wake late more and more and still feel exhausted. i felt scattered and flustered and knew my kids were suffering as much as i was. it wasn't so much that i wasn't giving them proper attention so much as i was inconsistent with it.

yesterday was one of the worst days we've had in a long time

i left the boys with awesome papa and did my favorite thing.
drove around a while, then sat in my car and cried.

before it was time to pick teen up from work, i decided it was time to hit the bookstore, find a book that called to me, and get my head clear. this is my new form of free therapy.

i saw a copy of hands free mama's new book by the same title.
i was a little meh about all the god-talk but it didn't turn me off as much as some reviewers.
it caught me off guard but the fact that i kept reading it means i've grown as a person.

and i know how to take what resonates and leave the rest.

i may have even bought it, save for i'm on a book diet.
plus, what i took from it while i sat there for thirty minutes was just the perspective i needed.
i felt the shift then and there and realized that my pretend schedules never lasted long (sort of like fad diets, yk?) because i tried to fit in all this awesome-hands-on-mom-time without making an actual on-paper schedule for my work/projects/me-time.

i often felt like i was "stealing" or sneaking this time to get things done because i was. sprinkled into our busy days, the inconsistency produced a lot of unnecessary stress.

last night my eight year old and i came up with a plan.

he called it: "gadget-free until three" meaning that we would tend to our homeschooling and housekeeping tasks throughout the day, staying off the electronics, until 3pm, at which point he and his brother could watch TV or play video games and i could work until dinner.

sounds SO simple but our homeschooling rhythm completely falls apart if they kids start playing minecraft after breakfast or i start checking FB, updating my etsy shop, or making work-related phone calls first, and of course, my teen's work schedule varies and i am driving him to and from work at least three days a week.

middlest and i were on the same page, though, and came up with a pretty nifty, flexible schedule.
in an effort to maximize our time and positive energy, we came up with a daily rhythm much like the oft-repeated, infrequently implemented ideal schedule but with time for mom built into the equation.

i even have myself going to bed by midnight at the latest.
this is revolutionary.

we did have a few bumpy spots after lunch, but it was warm out so we went to the park for an hour and while my middlest was itching to play on the computer when we got home, the littlest was gadget free ALL day. he didn't even ask for the ipad once. AND. and. AND?

i was able to work for four hours straight!
my kids didn't fight!

granted, teen and awesome papa were home, but the kids weren't even deferring to either of them to break up conflicts. there just weren't any. littlest only interrupted me a few times and it was toward the end of my scheduled block of time, anyhow.

after day one my four year old said "this was the best day ever" and even though he says that quite often, it wasn't accompanied by one of the many, daily declarations that it was also the worst day ever.

i call that a win.

...now. art and writing to happen, not on the whim of my crazy muse, but on a schedule.
which is no longer a bad word in my book.

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