Chosen

At night, when I tuck my kids into bed, we say affirmations.  It goes something like this:

Me: Repeat after me.

Kid: Repeat after me.

(Years of doing affirmations and they still laugh at the ‘repeat’ thing.)

Me: I am brave.

Kid: I am brave.

Me: I am kind.

Kid: I am kind.

You get the idea.  A few more generic ones, and then I deviate according to the kid’s personality, something we struggled with that day, or something silly.  I love to make up songs on the spot and they enjoy my goofiness as well, which I know won’t last forever so I’m soaking it in.  We always end with “I love myself, I’m proud of myself, and I can do great things.”

I love myself and I’m proud of myself were not part of my original formula, they came to me a couple of years ago when I was thinking about how to have the kids’ validation come from within, rather than from others, including their parents.  I’m not of the opinion that me arriving on Earth earlier makes me any more of an authority on how to be human, it only makes me responsible for their care, safety, and guiding them with things like manners, potty training, and when it’s acceptable to yell “Go Dawgs” at strangers. (Hint: Always. It’s always acceptable.)

Some nights I thank them for choosing me to be their Mama when they were souls preparing to come to Earth.  I feel so grateful and honored that they chose me, knowing they’d be vulnerable and I’d be so very … well, flawed.  Human.  Ill-prepared for the task.

When I was young enough to have a bedtime, Bonmama tucked me into bed most nights.  My mom worked late nights as a radio DJ, so she was usually gone and Bonpapa was downstairs working in his office or occasionally asleep in his recliner in front of an episode of Dragnet.

We walked down the narrow hallway, Bonmama and I, feet scuffing on the vintage green carpet (it had odd sections that looked a lot like the tops of cauliflower to me and I liked how it felt underfoot) until we reached her bedroom.  I had my own bed in my own bedroom across the hall, but didn’t sleep in it because it was big and I was small and afraid of the dark.

So she had an antique bed brought in from Lacanau – her mother’s home – and squeezed it beside her bed, the foot of it nearly touching her delicate dark wooden vanity, and that bed, pushed back into the corner of her room, is where I slept every night.  That was our room.  Bonmama, Bonpapa, and me.

[[Side note:  Eventually, I acquired an ugly gray radio/alarm clock and I was allowed to listen to the public broadcasts each night until one of them came to bed.  It helped me to sleep and not feel alone.  Usually, my choices for night time listening were the grainy audio from some mediocre stage production of Macbeth, or an opera with commercials interspersed.  I always chose the opera.  It’s so romantic, dramatic, and while I couldn’t ever understand what was being sung about, I could tell it was earnest and urgent.  As an idealistic young dreamer, I loved the sounds of catastrophe, climax, and resignation.   If Bonpapa chose the station – which he sometimes did – it was Beethoven.  I still listen to music when I nap, usually Italian opera or Beethoven.]]

I climbed into my little bed, nestled amongst my “menagerie” of stuffed animals, including a mangy-looking white Persian cat and its equally scruffy black sibling, and Bonmama sat beside me arranging pillows and blankets around us.  Once I was still, she prayed with me, beginning with the Lord’s prayer in French, and sometimes invoking Archangel Michael to watch over me.  “You are special to Michel,” she’d say.  “You’re named after him.”  There was something about the way she said it.  I believed the fiercest of Heaven’s warriors might actually have taken time to check in on me as I slept, if I asked him to.

Some nights she rubbed my back or chatted with me about the day.  Every night without fail, she said to me and I repeated back to her:

Bonne Nuit,

Bonne Reves, and

Je t’aime beaucoup. 

Those are French for Good Night, Sweet Dreams, and I love you.

Not exactly affirmations, but no less affirming to my heart and soul.

It’s been a hard week, mostly due to missing her, and today was a welcome reprieve. I spent all day with my boys, just the three of us.  We began with breakfast, then painting.  We went to the field and kicked the soccer ball around, threw a football, raced, and fell down and laughed with each other.  We shared a pizza for dinner, and they played video games while I sat in my big chair and read a book.

Forgive me if my writing is scattered.  All of these thoughts are strung like twinkling patio lights in my head, a web of love and comfort and tradition.  Tradition in the sense that no one is really gone as long as you remember, and echo, and say their name and – here’s the important part, the reason I’m writing this tonight – pay their love forward into new hearts.

A lightning-strike realization. Another revelation.  They keep coming, unexpectedly, as I think and overthink my life and hers and that sweet spot where they intersected, and I wonder if this isn’t another unrecognized stage of grief:

Epiphany.

Honoring Bonmama is not just about saying her name or making her bread.  It’s about the love she’s given me, that can never be divided, only multiplied, and pouring that devotion into my children so that they meet her, and know the best parts of her, even if they don’t know it’s her they are meeting.

I felt like a good mom today.  A Bonmama – type of mom.  At the end of the day, my kids knew without any doubt just how treasured they are.  Cherished.  That’s a word she liked to use.  I like it, too.  (As I type this, my boys are asleep in my bed, surrounded by 15-20 of their “favorite” stuffed animals. This is the kind of history I don’t mind repeating.)

What I’m thinking about over and over as I listen to them gently snoring is, I am so grateful for the choosing. 

That Bonmama chose to be more to us – and give more to us – than she was required.

That my sons chose me in the “before”, and that they continue to choose me every day despite my shortcomings.

Grateful, too, that I am choosing and choose in each moment to show up for them, to be better than I might have been, to give more than I sometimes want to, to try again and fail and apologize and cry and keep working at it.

The words are a comfort and certainly, we like to say them.  I want to hear the words, repeat the words, have fun with the affirmations.  But the love – the evidence and proof and depth of that love – exists, I think, in the choosing.

Philosophy and a Pork Platter

Driving to pick up some barbecue for dinner today, I had a revelation.  It stems from the outfit I’m wearing today.

I’ll explain.

I’m wearing a dress today that I have had for a long time, maybe a year or so.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  The dress is lovely and light, perfect for Summertime and it fits me well.  It’s yellow and floral and frilly and beautiful, and I have until today been afraid to wear it.

Wait, what?

Who’s afraid of a dress (I mean besides the big white ones that come with rings and dramatic promises)?  Well, this girl was, for a number of reasons.

First, this dress is bright and happy, and I wasn’t feeling that way.  Yellow is not a color that says “I am moody” or “Don’t talk to me”.  It screams, “Smile!” and “Sunny day bicycle ride” and “Let’s go get a popsicle together!”

Second, this dress is sexy. 

To clarify: it’s not a sexy dress.  It’s not what you think of when I say the word “sexy”.  (Yes, there’s a difference.)  This dress isn’t cut to hug every curve or show a lot of skin.  It covers much of me and it flows away from my skin in the breeze.  But when I put it on, it feels like I’m wrapping myself in a long-forgotten version of me, or perhaps she’s a brand-new version I’ve not become.

For most of my life, in my friend groups, I have not taken on the role of Sexy Friend. Historically, I’ve played the part of a sincere friend, helpful friend, aloof friend, sidekick friend, even bitchy sarcastic friend on certain late nights and weekends.  Never was I up front, sitting center, or walking in slow-mo to maximize the effect that me walking by might have.  That’s just not who I am – or how I saw myself – outside of the confines of my own living space.

Wearing this dress today I have felt open, and sexy, and radiant, and … well, happy.  True happy, which is way above fake-it-til-you-make-it happy or posing for a photograph happy.  I’m talking true, puppy who just got adopted, tail wagging so hard it’s spinning me in circles, happy.

So this dress – or rather, the beams of light radiating from me as I float through the world in this dress today – got me thinking about good energy vs bad energy, or high vibration vs low vibration, and what happens when the two meet in human form.

For example, let’s say you’re feeling fly like a G6 and smiling and saying hello to your neighbors and even when the barista gets your coffee order wrong you’re still singing in the car all the way to work because you’re grateful to have that kind of First World problems.  Then you run into a kindred spirit who is similarly cheerful, grateful, and radiating light.  You are instantly attracted.  Not in a romantic way, but in recognition. You want to be near them, and it’s not really a thought as much as it is a pulling feeling in the center of the chest or navel area.

This attraction happens because you’re reflecting back to them the light that they are.  You are vibrating at a high frequency, and their vibration is at a similar frequency, and your inner beings create harmony together. The divinity in them recognizes the divinity in you.  It’s like a soul hug.  Or a Vulcan mind-meld but with less agonized screaming.

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“I can literally FEEL the gratitude.”

On the other side of that, (and this is the really important part for me because I am living it out and I literally just realized what is going on) when someone is repelled by you and your light (the you that is functioning as a divine light being having a human experience, your best self), two things are happening:

One, you are reflecting back to them what they are not – which is to say, what they are but they are not currently BEING or choosing to be, because in truth they always are the divine and the light, just as you are.**  When they see and feel your energy, they immediately feel things like guilt, or shame, or insecurity.  This is not your fault.  It’s only because you act as a mirror for them to see themselves clearly and for many people, that’s too much information that they’d rather not look at so closely.

Two, you are in high vibration and high frequency and they are at a lower vibration, which creates dissonance.  You both experience disharmony.   Again, it’s not a thought, and very seldom does the conscious mind understand what’s happening.  It’s not a soul hug this time, it’s more like a soul wedgie.  It is a feeling within that instead of pulling, pushes.  You want to get away from them and likely, they want to either get away from you as well or to lower your vibration so that it matches theirs (and therefore you are in harmony, which FEELS better.)

Side note:  When this happens it’s very common to lose friends, family members, and other people from our lives unexpectedly and sometimes in big and messy ways.  Harsh words are said, feelings are hurt, pride is injured. They will do what they can (unconsciously) to lower your vibration because it’s comfortable for them.  It is easier to lower frequency than to raise it, so please be aware of yourself and do what it takes to keep yourself shining light.

In my mind, losing friends is preferable to lowering vibration.  To achieve higher vibration there has to be a willingness to confront and integrate the shadow, to heal the inner child and old traumas, to cut out discordant beliefs, fears, and stories.  It is hard work.  The reward for that work is the privelege of embodying a version of yourself that isn’t dependent on outer circumstances and isn’t easily changed by being in the company of lower-vibe people.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

All of this happened in my mind in the span of about 8 minutes, and I really couldn’t wait to come home and write it down.

 

**No person is really darkness except he who chooses to be (and even in that choice, he is just denying the light he came from, not truly existing as darkness.)

 

 

Say Geronimo!

I went running this morning at one of my favorite parks.  It’s close to my house and the scenery is breathtaking, so when the stars align and I am able to get there for a workout, I feel grateful.  These days I’m trying to be outdoors more (and on the treadmill less) in order to improve my fitness and raise my vibration.

This park has several miles of woodland trails for running and mountain biking.  I normally run the mountain bike trails because they’re wider, and because there’s a nice canopy of trees that shields me from the sun a bit.  The downside is that there are tons of giant tree roots, and the canopy seems to hold in all the humidity, so some days it feels like running through a giant sauna obstacle course.

Today I decided to run a different route, to challenge myself and keep the ol’ neurons firing.  I parked at the exit, grabbed my pretty pink pepper spray and my cell phone, and set off down the road.  Little did I know, spiritual growth was waiting right around the corner for me.

Having grown up in this city, one might expect that I know a thing or twelve about this park.  The number of trails, the length of those trials, elevation, length of the road, etc.  Useful things.  I don’t actually know any of that.  The positive to this is that so far I have learned something new on each run, which I actually find exciting, so I’ve decided to stick with this “discovery-running” strategy.  I have heard that there are 5-7 miles of trails in this park, though it’s also possible that I have made that number up completely.  (A quick Google search did nothing to help clarify.)  Anyway, I started running knowing I had somewhere between 5 and 7 miles of road to go on, and I wouldn’t make it that far anyway, so my plan was to run as far as I wanted and turn around and run back to my car.

Running through a gorgeous park on a Saturday in Georgia is a glorious experience. I said “hello” and received similar greetings from walkers, runners, bikers, kids, grandmothers, disc-golfers, and a lady carrying a casserole in one hand and a baby in the other.  I could hear country music coming from the speakers of a pickup parked down by the lake, kids laughing as they played in the waterfalls, and friends encouraging each other as they cycled up a steep climb.  The whole place was abuzz with activity, and I was buzzing along in the middle of it.  I felt like I was in a movie, in one of those opening sequences where the camera starts out in space, and slowly zooms all the way into the town where the story takes place, until the focus is on the main characters.  That thought made me smile.

As I was making my way up and down the hilly pavement, mindful of cars and trying to keep my breath steady, I thought about how far I might run today.  1 mile?  If I turn around then, it would be 2 when I reached the car.  It was pretty hot out.  Maybe 1.5?  That makes 3 total.  Maybe I’ll just go .75 and then turn around, but I’ll run it faster than I’m used to.  I have to go to work tonight and I don’t want to be tired and sore at the beginning of my shift.  I knew I couldn’t run the 5-7 miles to the entrance even ONCE, let alone do it and turn around and run all the way back to my car.

Suddenly, just as that negative “I can’t” thought was forming, other thoughts popped up, as if to banish it before it planted roots in my brain.  These other thoughts were encouraging, motivating thoughts.  For example:

  • The story about Bruce Lee and his friend running 5 miles, and Bruce’s philosophy on life. (The story can be found HERE.)
  • Kathy Freston’s book Quantum Wellness, in which she says you should always go farther than you believe you can.
  • The reality that part of me was trying to give up before I’d even truly begun.

What happened was simultaneously anti-climactic and miraculous:

I simply decided to run the entire path, from exit to entrance. My legs felt strong, my breathing was pretty good, and even though I had never done it before, I decided that I would do it.

That’s it.  Hardly worth mentioning, right?  And yet, in that millisecond that I made the choice to “just do it”, my life changed a little bit.  My mindset rotated from “can’t” to “will”.  There was never a question after that whether I could make it, just a quiet, confident knowing that I would.

The rest of the story is that yes, I ran it all.  Guess what?  The road in it’s entirety ended up being a little over two miles, beginning at the exit gate and going “all the way” around the the entrance.  Yep, this thing that I had negated and barred myself from ever doing was only two miles.  I had never taken the time to find out the actual distance, because I already believed it to be further than I could run!! I had counted myself out of the race without ever starting.  This got me thinking – How many times in my life have I done this?  With work?  With friendships and relationships?

Here’s a funny thing about enlightenment, acceptance, and finally letting go of old beliefs:  oftentimes we are standing on the precipice of greatness, and once we step off the edge, we can finally see the beauty of where we are headed.  Before we take that first step, though, all we see is the edge.  We see danger. The unknown. The unattainable.  We see the can’t, won’t, shouldn’t signs all around us that discourage us from trying.  So we don’t.  We don’t try, we stay safe, and we continue to live our lives as we’ve always lived them, because that’s comfortable.

I’m writing this blog today to encourage you to GET UNCOMFORTABLE. Whatever edge you find yourself standing on today, take the leap!  Take a step.  Do something outside of your comfort zone and just see what happens.

Small picture, I ran 4 miles. This, in itself, is not a big deal, I know.  The bigger picture is that I came away from this run with just a smidge more enlightenment than when I entered.  A mental barrier was overcome.  My perspective was significantly altered.  What is can’t?  What is too hard?  What in life is truly unattainable?  I learned an invaluable lesson about belief, ability, and being willing to say “Geronimo!” and jump off the edge, even and especially when I can’t see what’s coming next.

How to be the Best Mom

It’s not a competition.

Wait… is it?  Motherhood is, and should be, a deeply personal and private experience.  How we choose to raise our kids, feed them, discipline them, etc., varies by individual.  We are all different in our beliefs, cultures, and heritage.  So it stands to reason that there is no one “right” way to be a Mom.  In these days of social media and over-sharing, though, it feels much more like a contest.  Those of us “less than” moms – I’ll call us the “non goops” – who don’t always have our shirts neatly pressed or dress our kids in coordinating lobster-print boat shoes for sushi day at the prep school, it can be overwhelming.

There are innumerable blogs, websites, and articles out there on the grand ol’ internet about being a mom.  How to be a better mom.  The things we should be doing, but aren’t.  The things we are doing but stop doing immediately or face ruining our child’s existence forever.  The things we didn’t even know were things, we are so far behind, but we need to buy for our kids, make them by hand or from scratch, avoid doing or our kids might die, continue doing or they might die, things to teach them, tell them, make sure they know, make sure they are aware of, sign them up for, keep them away from, feed them, bathe them in, sing to them, DIY for them, protect them from, and so on…

I have been killing myself the past couple of days trying to keep my son occupied.  He is 5 years old, and not in school yet because he has a late birthday.  So I decided that we would do “projects” every day to learn.  Along with projects, we have meals and snacks and karate (or “ninja school”, he says), lego building and swimming and church activities.  Our routine up to this past week has been more relaxed.  I keep reading articles that make me feel pressured to deliver, so I am trying to step it up.  I don’t want to be the one mom at carpool whose son isn’t already counting in 3 languages and taking Chinese calligraphy lessons from a certified master.  My days have been PACKED.  So much so, that I barely got to eat yesterday, did not work out, and did not nap.  Yes I know naps are not a necessity but I could have really used a nap yesterday.

Today, I took a different approach.  We got up, ate (non gf, non organic, very tasty) breakfast, got dressed, and went to a playground.  The weather was gorgeous.  I sat on a shaded bench, reading a book while he ran around and sang songs to himself.  Do you know what happened??  Nothing.  He did not die.  He did not fall down a black whole of insecurity because I was ignoring him.  Seriously.  He was delighted.  I was at peace.  It was great.

In that moment I was reminded of my own childhood.  I was raised by grandparents, mostly, (mom worked a lot) and I remember thinking that they were the best ever.  Literally.  No kid was as lucky as me and my brother.  We had it all – a house to live in, food to eat, clothes, and on Fridays (grocery day) I got to eat a treat from the grocery store.  WOO HOO!  I was living the high life, and life was GOOD.

The funniest thing about all the best days will those ‘best’ people, is that at no point did they make me feel like I was the center of the universe.  The sun, I was assured, neither rose or set out of my bum.  I did not get brand-new clothes (lots of hand-me downs and hand-sewn dresses), I did not eat fast food, there was not much tv, no video games, no DIY projects to keep me occupied.  It was more like, “go outside until lunchtime.”  So we did.  We are better for it.

After the playground today, I made homemade french fries (method at bottom) and reheated some leftover pork chops and broccoli.  While we ate together, my son  talked about life (5 year olds have deep thoughts!) and then suddenly, out of nowhere, he looked up at me and said “Mommy, you are the BEST Mommy there ever was.”  And you know something?  He meant it.

As adults we don’t remember the outfits we wore (less the tragic, embarrassing ones) but we do remember words of affirmation.  We don’t appreciate eating twinkies as much as we appreciate those days in the sun laughing with people from our own tribe.  Lobster-print boat shoes?  Forget about it.  I had my step-mom’s old high-top Reeboks.  To me, they were beautiful because she was beautiful, and because she loved me.

My point is, competing with other moms is silliness, when we won’t know them in 20 years anyway.  Enriching our kids’ lives has nothing to do with what other moms are doing and EVERYTHING to do with how much of ourselves we pour into them in every moment.  Loving words.  Homemade meals.  Story time.  Making up silly songs.  Praying together (he always spontaneously hugs me).  These are the criteria for “best mom”, and how wonderful that it’s an honor we can all achieve.

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Homemade French Fries (super simple)

prep time: 5 mins cook time: 25 mins  total time: 30 mins

Select 2 medium red potatoes.  Rinse.  Cut into slices or squares.

Place potato pieces in a bowl, drizzle with sesame oil (a little at a time – it goes a long way!)

Add salt as desired (again, a little should do), mix with hands.

Spread out on aluminum foil on baking sheet

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes (depending on how thick the pieces are) or until tender.

Serve plain or with ketchup.  Pat self on back. Receive hugs.

Featured for Spring/Summer 2015

Hey Guys and Dolls,

Just a short note to say “Look at me, look at me!”  I’m kidding.  It’s really a short note to say, “Look at Him! Look at Him!”  Please take a minute and go read, download, and support this amazing resource for teenagers and college-aged women.

DEVOTION Magazine Spring/Summer 2015 Issue:

http://devotionmagazine.com/the-mags/4584315832

[Featuring “Promiscuous Girl”, a snippet of my testimony.]

Hebrews 12:1

“12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

My analysis and how to apply this…

Starting at the beginning: yes, we are surrounded by a huge crowd, aren’t we, followers? Everywhere we turn people are observing, watching us to see if we are like Jesus. SO that is motivation to really be like him, to really lead them to church and ultimately, to the Lord. I don’t want to be the one who convinces someone they DON’T need what Jesus offers!

Many Christians struggle with extra weight, anger is mine which I have told you girls a thousand times already, but there are others, and we all have them. I think this verse is saying to lay that all down because otherwise we can’t run this race. I think about soldiers who run with big 50 lb packs on their backs. I would fall down and die! And my anger is like those packs, weighing me down, slowing me down, and usually making it impossible for me to continue the way God wants. UNTIL, I put it down.

I must say, I love the analogy of running. I feel like it’s so accurate to what this life is like, what my walk with God feels like. Sometimes it’s exhilarating, feeling awesome, wind in my face, I’m totally confident I’m going to make it to the finish. Other days it’s lots of hills, slow going, having to coach myself out loud to take another step.

One last thing to mention. The NIV version says to run the race that is “marked out for us”. I wanted to include that because, it’s so important not to compare our race with others. Keep your eyes on your own lane on the track! Your race might be shorter or slower, faster, bumpier, smoother, whatever… than someone else’s race. But it has been marked out FOR YOU. You’re not running their race, you’re running the one that was given especially to you. The other way I read that is that the course has been MARKED. Which, if you’ve ever run a trail race you know the markers that tell you where to turn are crucial to success. Without them you get lost in the wilderness. Same goes for our faith. The race has been marked out, if we follow Jesus we won’t get lost.

Prayer for today: Father, thank you for this word today! Thank you for how happy I feel writing about it. Help me to keep this light and share it with others and always feel this passion for witnessing. Thank you for my race. Thank you for marking the way for me and encouraging me to keep going. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Run!
Run!