"Sleep is one of our most intractable attachments. We claw and clutch and crave it. We adorn and worship it. We four-hundred-thread count it. It is our sovereign domain. We hide out there; we fantasize and burrow there; we think we can't live without it. You will see that you can live without it - just enough."

- Karen Maezen Miller in Momma Zen, chapter called Night Watch

I am no longer the mother of a newborn, and yet sleep or perhaps more lack of sleep is a topic that is never too far from my consciousness.

Take yesterday. It was a bad day. I was a bad mom. Short tempered, short tongued, listless, hot, irritable, unpleasant. We have our normal Indian Summer at the moment - but 90+ degree weather is not what I bargained for. Plus a toddler with a cold/cough and an emerging willfulness, made for a terrible, no good, very bad day.

At the end of the day yesterday when I was longing for a cold beer and some time to not be a mother, I started to think about what was different yesterday than the day before. And what I realized was that I was suffering from a great attachment: that of scheduled and predictable day time naps.

What was once solid and set in stone is now fluid and amorphous. And I don't like it. And I am realizing how inflexible I am in moving with the changing times. I LOVED nap time - for the quiet and the solitude and the productivity. And now, I am at the mercy of chaos, and the organized and determined parts of me are fighting it. I am clinging to the need to feel productive and successful, outside of my responsibilities as a mother or at least have the chance to sit quietly and re-charge. So when my day needs to be spent at the playground because 15 minutes of sleep is all he seems to need, I feel ambushed. And I unfairly blame my tiny little man who doesn't have any idea why I being so unpleasant.

One of my favorite blogs, nonchalant mom, recently posted a lovely take on back to school. I re-read it just now. And it remained me that I can be patient and grateful - for I do still have a little one and before I know it, it will be me dropping him off and then there will be this day, empty and ready to be filled.



I don't many buy magazines anymore. I let my dedicated subscription to InStyle run out and Domino folded on me. I even gave up buying the trashy magazines that I allowed myself on airplane travel. I miss the ritual though, of sitting and flipping, carefree and undisturbed through the tactile pages of those glossy things.

So I let myself buy last month's Yoga Journal. Something about this ethereal computer generated cover of Sarah McLachlan caught my eye. She is real - but the rest is true fabrication. There is actually a short explanation as to why and how towards the end of the magazine.

But that is not what I am writing about. She has had a yoga practice for 13 years - and she attributes her discipline for the practice to her teacher and the fact that she is in position to have twice weekly private instruction in her home. It made me think of my non-existent practice of anything at the moment and how much more disciplined I can be when there is a class, a classroom, an instructor and a scheduled time. But what gets in the way of that guided discipline is the unbelievable cost of a maintained yoga practice in a beautiful space in the Bay Area.

I have always been a tad envious of those women around me who are disciplined with a self practice of yoga or 5am gym visit. So it has made me think about this word and the excuses that bubble up in its place.

What does the word discipline mean to you?


My turn...

I am going to do it - I am going to talk about women and work. Actually I am going to talk about this woman and work, because that is the only truth I can tell. This is simply my experience and if yours it not the same, I honor it as simply another part of the myriad experiences that women have in working, loving, learning, mothering, creating.

It's always the first question when I meet another mom: "Did you go back to work?", asked sometimes with envy, sometimes with judgment. It always opens the floodgates of the meaning of work, and my self worth, and the fact that the arduous and sometimes monotonous tasks of being a stay-at-home don't count as work. At least not the kind that is an acceptable answer to that question.

When it comes down to it, I simply have to make peace with my choices and my decisions, and see them now as a choice instead of an obligation because I am a woman who has chosen to have a child. I suppose I just fight against how cliche our scenario gets sometimes and the gender roles I so vehemently rebelled against as a freshman in college in my first Women's Studies 101 class. In my mind, the triumph of Feminism and the Women's Movement is my right and ability now to choose.

I have been thinking a lot about our life before baby. I suppose it comes from the fact that we consciously decided that I would not return to the outside workforce in the first year of the nugget's life. For financial reasons and parenting reasons, this was the best choice for our family. The nugget's 1st birthday in March was this deadline in my mind that has now come and gone.

I think that as a woman and mother, when you return to work outside of the home, whether by choice or necessity, you are forced rather quickly to confront the role, lifestyle and person you were before having a baby. And from what I have heard, the confrontation is either tremendously pleasing or disastrously torturous. For me, the process of regaining parts of who I used to be is now approached with excitement and joy. There is this geyser of possibility and creativity bubbling at my core but I am constricted by the irony that I can not seem to find the time to nurture this next step that belongs to me, not my baby or my husband or our home.

So yes, it is with envy that I watched as some of the moms I knew returned to careers outside of their homes that bring them joy and accomplishment. It is with gratitude for my situation that I watched others return to jobs out of necessity. And it is with intrigue that I listen and watch some of the rest of us, wishing or longing for part-time work that engages our minds, fosters our creativity, expands our adult vocabulary, aligns with our greater passions and purpose and has nothing to do with being a mother, but allows us to be the mothers we want to be.

Maybe I should have used I instead of we, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't think that I am alone.



from Body + Soul magazine

Not sure if these are really secrets.

Perhaps there is some nugget of information here that you can use. Pick one suggestion a week and see if it makes any difference in your crazy, over-scheduled life.

I am starting with Write it Out


Letting go

I have been thinking a lot about me. Not the selfish me, well maybe the selfish me, but more the me who is part of a bigger picture than our party of three in our little house. I have been thinking about purpose. And whenever that comes up, it gets very introspective around here.

All of my life I have been told to just "Let it go". "Let it go in one ear and out the other." "Don't let it bother you." Do you know how easy that is for some to say and how impossibly hard that is for others to do?

Well, its incredibly hard if you have no idea how to do it. What I have realized is that I am a sponge. That's the word that we have come up with. When I was little, when things got uncomfortable or people were cruel, I took in their emotions, their feelings and could never let it go. It went in one ear and then got all mixed up inside. Now as a adult, I have realized how detrimental this sponging is to my own mental and physical well-being, but a million people can tell me to "Let it go" and I still have no idea what they are talking about.

I have never had a reference point for it. Until now.

I don't remember where I found these images or how long they have been stored on my hard-drive but I "saw" them for the first time the other day and immediately said "That is letting go".

As I meander these thoughts of purpose and next steps, I am going to visualize these images, so that I can stay focused and calm, not distracted by the many emotions, needs and feelings of others that I tend to internalize.

I just had to smile - because that sounds really good if I can actually do it. Its easy to write it as I am alone, sitting at my computer, doing exactly what I want to be doing.

But only time will tell. And only practice will make the difference.


Being well

image from etsy dazey chick

In my mind, the five pillars to maintained well-being are:

1. Eat breakfast
2. Get enough sleep
3. Drink water
4. Get up and move
5. Calm your mind

Don't get me wrong. I totally don't do this. Figuring why is the solid question, but I'm working on that. So in the meantime, I do my best because my reality is that if I stick to this somewhat simple plan, I feel good. If I don't, I feel bad and then everything turns bad - my mood, my relationships, my body, my spirit.

So then motherhood happened and gets in the way of all of it. The eating well, the sleeping well, the calming the mind. And the worst part is that not taking care of myself means that I not only feel bad, I then can't be the type of mother that I want to be. What do I do?

For now, I have been trying to do at least one well - If I end up eating breakfast standing, while emptying the dishwasher, then I try to do some sort of meditation later in the day. It's not perfect, but I realize that feeling bad about adds a layer of quilt on the whole thing that certainly doesn't help in any way at all.

There was a bumper sticker on a car ahead of me yesterday, it read "Kindness is everything". Maybe if I start with kindness to myself, then drinking enough water, asking my husband to watch the nugget so that I can go to yoga class and actually getting to my meditation pillow won't feel so hard.

I am guessing I am not alone. What do you do? How do you take care of yourself?


Doesn't matter where it comes from...

Do you know desiderata? Seems there is some dialogue about it place and time of origin. my mom had these words hanging on our refrigerator for years - though I was perhaps too young or too uninterested to really take them in. But as I was skimming my trip journal I found a page on which I had written in big black letters:

Go placidly among the noise and the haste - Desiderata

It reminded me of the purpose of my mindfulness practice and the purpose for sitting everyday in silence. Go placidly. Say that yourself a few times. If I close my eyes and whisper those words, I can find my breath again and my whole body relaxes. Perhaps this is to be my new morning mantra. I'll try it out tomorrow.

For you, I found the whole text, just in case you are unfamiliar with it.

by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.


A refreshing and delightful place

I'm still in my journal from the trip, making sense of some of the ideas that I started while we had the glorious time to think and ponder and create.

I am grateful for my few secret writings during the silent retreat. No books, no journals, no phones, no music, no distractions. I complied with them all - except the no journal. I needed the time to process all that had bubbled to the surface as we traveled through South America, New Zealand and Australia and I knew I would have the time alone in our retreat to do that. And as you might guess, I tend to do much better when I can write things down.

And so I did. And I don't regret having broken that rule, because I get to re-read this...

Meditation is a skillful letting go, deliberately emptying out the mind,
so we can see the purity of the mind;
cleaning it out so we can put the right things in it.
You respect the mind, so you are more careful about what you put in it.
You bring in things that will enhance it and make it a refreshing and delightful place.

daily quote, day 7, from Skillful Means by Ajahn Sumeda

What did you do today to make your mind a refreshing and delightful place?



I've re:opened the journal that I bought in Singapore during our 1o months of traveling. I bought it at a very Borders like bookstore, which is why it looks more like something I would have bought at home than while traveling in Asia. As you can see the corners are a bit rounded and the pages inside, dirty on the edges.

Inside, there is a wealth of beauty and memories and reminders. Entries expressing the deep emotional cleansing that happened during our trip, entries of drawings of pants and shoes and dresses and shirts that we designed and had tailored in Vietnam and secretly written entries during our 10 days of silence in a Thai monastery.

There is where I landed and have stayed...because I needed to be reminded of this:

"The stability of long breathing cures the instability of a restless mind."

-daily quote from day 5 at Suan Mokh

My meditation practice these days is non-existent. Every time I have gotten on the pillow in the last few weeks, I can barely get through one deep breath before my mind is racing through everything I think I should be doing instead. And so I stop and make a statement like "My meditation was not very good". But that is exactly the wrong thing to say. My meditation is never good or bad, it is always just what it is.

So, I will simple start again to get stable my breathing. It could take 5 minutes or 5 days or 5 years. But that of course, is the whole darn point.


A inspirational pause

It wasn't my old Domino ritual, but boy it came close.

It was my intention this week to write only about money. Saving money, spending money, making money and all the other things about money that come up when you are working on getting your financial house in order. But then today, unexpectedly in my inbox, there was a notice that the August/September issue of Lonny Magazine was available.

So, I paused.

And read each article and clicked on some links and did a real virtual magazine browse. And as I said, it could not replace the "everything stops for an hour while I sit and read the Domino that arrived in my mailbox today" but it was the perfect little indulgence to distract me from mortgage insurance, savings accounts, transferring funds and working out our monthly budget. I think if I had actually taken my laptop to the comfy chair and made some tea, instead of sitting at my office desk, it would have come closer to my Domino ritual. I'll remember that for next time.

My favorite shots: the three images above from designer Vicente Wolfe's home on Montauk (New York). At the end of the article, he is quoted as saying, "I've seen a lot of places, and this Montauk home stands on its own with Bali, the Caribbean, Big Sur and the South of France. It's magical." Take out the Caribbean (only because I haven't been) and these are my three favorite places on earth. No wonder I had the immense urge to just move right in and not change a single thing.

Perhaps you can find a moment to pause and enjoy Lonny as well, maybe find something that inspires you. Their website by the way, has fantastic inspiration images and a great archive.

Happy reading!


Save now

We're hitting the SAVE button all the time. On emails, on documents. And we save stuff like birthday cards and magazine articles and baby clothes. So we should be really good at saving money too. Shouldn't we?

But we're not. As I am navigating my way through our own personal finances, I am learning more about the habits and realities of my fellow citizens. I just learned that more then 50% of Americans have over $10K in credit card debt, no retirement savings and no emergency savings. So we're obviously not saving in the right places.

Don't get me wrong - I believe that there is a fine line between saving for the future and spending in the now. But I come from a family where we didn't save and didn't plan and I see the affects of those choices now.

So in an attempt to save, I decided that August was going to be a No Spend month. Well, August is over and Quicken is updated and though a category like Personal Items is low, others show the affect of not being fully aware of how much we spend. And not being fully committed either. Now I have my husband on board and Groceries will be just as frugally purchased as everything else.

By the way, I would love to know what you all spend a month on grocery shopping? Our monthly total for August was staggering and not sustainable.

Anyway, we are going to try it again, for real. And instead of calling September a No Spend month, its going to be a Mindful Spending month.

We will hopefully:
curb impulse buying
plan meals and grocery shopping
delay gratification
avoid debt

And so begins, our form of saving now for what is important later.


"Money makes the world go round, the world go round..."

Isn't that how the song goes?


How can such a small little word, which rhymes with something as sweet as honey and has only 5 letters be so loaded, so scary, so corruptible, so full of potential, so necessary and so consuming?

We (my husband and I) have been chipping away at some sort of financial planning for the last 4 years. A meeting here, a spreadsheet there and article of college 529 plans there. But now as parents and "real grown-ups" (I write that with a smile on my face), there is a sense of urgency to get our financial life in order. Because what I see now, is how it affects every decision that we make - from vacations in Mexico to me going back to work to childcare to buying a house to moving to Bali for a year to helping an aging parent. Most ironically, I have been elected CFO of this small enterprise and it is requiring me to first look deeply into my relationship with money.

And deep I will go.


Unhappy, really?

photo by Jessica Todd Harper for New York Magazine

A writing teacher of mine once told me that "Thinking about writing is writing." That would mean that I have written several novels, a manuscript, a book of short stories and a few children books. I am always thinking about writing - in fact not a day goes by that I don't have 20 ideas or happenings that I want to transform into the written word. And then comes motherhood.

Take this post for example. It has been sitting in my drafts folder for 7 days. And its been in the drafts folder in my head as well - taking up precious resources and energy that I don't have to spare. And taking me out of the present moment, when I could be fully immersed instead with planes, trains and automobiles.

As you can see, I am not only a little behind in my blog writing, I am also behind in outside reading. I don't always get the news right when its happening which means I don't get the interesting editorials either. This one from New York Magazine is from June and its only September. That's not too bad, is it?

All Joy and no fun - why parents hate parenting by Jennifer Senior (for full article follow this link NY Magazine) candidly explores the not so sunshiny part of parenthood. The part where you snap at your partner just because he is there, the part where you open a beer at 5pm because it might be only thing to calm your nerves, the part where you feel alienated from the rest of the adult world because you spent your day in the sandbox, the part where you feel like you have been traveling without speaking the language because you have been trying to decipher the signs and sounds and pointing of an 18 month old whose mind is much sharper than his language skills and the part where you have to use every part of your creative mind and master degree educated brain to figure out how to get your child to eat, anything.

This article supports the claim that I heard many months ago, that people with children under the age of 5 report to be the unhappiest amongst parents. No surprise. It's hard. And no amount of profound love and divine connection that you have with your baby changes that.

So why are people with children less happy than people without children, as the article suggests. There could be so many reasons and so many factors, but I think that at the very essence of the matter is this: expectations. We wait for happiness: until we get into our 1st choice college, until we find that perfect mate and have that perfect wedding, until we find the right house, until we have that perfect baby, until we have that second perfect baby, and so on. Should I continue?

And then when we (I am speaking for women here) have some or all of those things, we try to do it all. Work, mother, cook organic meals every night, keep a perfectly clean house, maintain friendships, maintain our marriage and maintain a wonderfully put together physical appearance. Um, please tell me how you make this work?

This expectation and need to do all of these things is what makes me unhappy.

I can see this play out in my own life, even though I know how fleeting and useless this line of happiness seeking is. And when I do actually allow myself to just get on the floor and build the garage with my little engineer, that is when it hits me that I can simply be happy. That I have a choice. But then I start to think about dinner that has to be made and the emails that I haven't answered and finances I haven't dealt with and the blog posts that I really, really want to write and then the flood of "I am so unhappy with my life" washes over me.

I don't like the monotony of raising a child or the extra energy it takes to let him walk down the stairs by himself or the extra time I have to take to wait until he puts all his pacifiers back in his bed in the morning, but it is part of my choice to become a mother. Part of raising a child in this modern Western world. And really, my reaction, my happiness, my attitude, is all up to me.


Tired, again

I am tired, again.

Oh so very tired.

And after 3 nights of wake-ups every 1-3 hours and 3 days with naps that happened with screaming and crying and unhappiness and 4 days of wakefulness that is full of pleading and yearning and frustration and this bitterly annoying "eahhh" sound, I finally looked into my favorite sleep manual (bedtiming by lewis and granic). And what did I find, divine clarity. Why does it take me so long to realize this, every time?

Seems he is in the 17-21 month developmental phase - which is HUGE. HUGER than many that came before. Crying, yearning, frustration, curiosity, wanting, needing, whining, pleading, doing, looking, exploring = a really tired mom. Solution - to be patient, to be in the moment, to be understanding, to be loving and to be aware. And yes, this too shall pass.

So, once again, my productivity slides to an all time low. And my internal dialogue and dislike of this is what makes it worse and keeps me from taking a nap or at least resting during the day. And then, I fall apart.

I have permission from everyone to rest, except myself. Funny.