An unplanned artist date

Do you know the concept of artist dates?

It's simple:

An Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly "artistic"-- think mischief more than mastery. (via The Artists Way)

I first learned about artists dates and morning pages when I devoured a copy of Julia Cameron's The Artists Way, almost 10 years ago. It came to me like so many things have come to me in my life: at the time, when I needed it the most.

I diligently followed the exercizes and even stuck with the ritual of daily morning pages - all in an attempt to find clarity and my creativity.

I was mostly transformed by the concept of the artist date because it gave a name to something that I craved, but rarely did. I need solitude, a lot of it. And I need quiet and I need time for reflection. And I need opportunities to watch and observe and be inspired. And I need beautiful things. Or at least time to look at beautiful things.

It was easy to incorporate artist dates into my single life in San Francisco. I only needed to walk down Valencia Street between 16th and 17th Streets, for example. As a wife, it became harder for me to take this time, though as I realized how truly essential it is to my state of being, I found it easier to take the time I needed. Now as a mom, well, do I really have to say it?

It's impossible. Ok, it's impossible for me. 

It's impossible for me because it means asking for a babysitter for something that is not "practical".

It's impossible for me because it means asking for something for me, just me and nobody else.

It's impossible for me because it means asking for time by myself that does not include physical exercise, showering, sleeping, grocery shopping, meditation, tax paying, bill paying or a social get together with the lovely women in my life. I have internally put a value judgement on my need for artist dates, have assumed others do the same and as you can see, they get valued less than paying bills. How twisted and not funny is that?

But there is something brewing in the air - a re-aligning with what makes me me. A learning process that involves me asking for what I need. I am not sure what path it is going to take, but it feels good.

So on Monday, when I happened to have 20 unexpected, child and husband free minutes in San Francisco, instead of sitting in the car and checking emails or heading home and stopping at Whole Foods, I parked, fed the meter and without a care wandered into Past Perfect, a consignment furniture store in the Marina.

And here is what caught my fancy...

I am dreaming of a work space of my own. Digging this chair. I am envisioning it painted white with a new pillow, in orange wool pillow or something like that.

Old lobster cage - add a piece of glass and you have one cool coffee table. I sort of like the ceramic ram piece too - don't ask me what I would do with it.

Just really like this yellow cabinet - not really sure what I would use it for.

It's hard not to have toys on the brain, or at least toy storage. Thought these old metal baskets would look really great in the living room.

And old school desk - a perfect craft table for a toddler! Or 2 vintage toddler chairs could do the trick too.

Now, 2 days later, I am still thinking of the wicker chair. I was "good" and brought no new project home with me because I have plenty of half-started creative endeavors waiting for my attention. So, I will lock it away in my memory bank. More importantly though, 2 days later, I am feeling the affect of choosing to do something impractical and not feel guilty about it at all. I might have to do it again, sometime soon.


Letting go

All of my life, I have been hearing "You just have to let it go." If it were only that easy.

I think this is what "letting go" looks like.

But what letting go is, I still don't know.

I found this poem in a folder that was labeled "personal" amongst my dad's things. I was 19 when he died, so I just kept the folder, figuring maybe something would become relevant at some point.
I think this came from his time in AA, but I can't be sure.

To let go doesn't mean to stop caring,
it means I can't do it for someone else.

To let go is not to get yourself off,
it is the realization that I can't control another.

To let go is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness,
which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try to change or blame another;
I can only change myself.

To let go is not to care for,
but to care about.

To let go is not to fix,
but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not be in the middle of arranging outcomes,
but to allow others to effect their own outcomes.

To let go is not to be protective;
it is to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny,
but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes and to cherish the moment.

To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more.


This right here - this is my work.


SOS Japan

It took me almost a week to actually look at news footage from Japan. My husband fed me updates as I meagerly tried to keep moving, in a straight line, through the mundane tasks of emptying the dishwasher, bathing a toddler and filling up a shopping cart. I kept at it, one foot in front of the other, over and over again, all the while thinking that these things we do with such regularity and most times ambivalence, are so quickly taken away.

As the coverage withered a bit and other world news wiggled its way to the headlines, I did my own browsing, watching in utter disbelief as mass amounts of water suffocated a city. The stream of tears and sorrow and fear and helplessness came over the next day and then it wouldn't let go.

I have been to Japan, I have friends in Japan, we live in California, we are citizens of this world - none of these characteristics make my sorrow any more special. In fact, I would say that my sorrow is far from special. In fact, it shouldn't even be attended too, for my sorrow comes at such a distance - a distance from the devastation, the loss, the death, the brokenness, the continued uncertainty of what is still to come. But mostly, my sorrow is saturated with helplessness - that gut wrenching feeling of not knowing what to do or who to help.

I retreated into the world of the blogs I like the most and found one fundraiser after another. I commend their efforts and everyone has to find their path out of the stifling feeling of helplessness, but more me, buying a poster or a t-shirt was not it.

Instead, I found a project, created by my writing friend, Wakako, the creative force behind baum-kuchen. She has gathered and translated SOS messages and comments coming from Japan, that were posted in various places around the web.

It is hard to read because it makes it personal. But that is exactly what I needed.

Please visit SOS Japan


Do you ever come across something that just sort of takes your breath away?

In our world of ever increasing technology and mass produced, disposable stuff, it is often difficult to see past the ordinaryness of it all and dive straight into the mastery and divine creativity of something made entirely by hand.  But then something crosses your path.

That something was these Moses Baskets by Caderno Branco.

I first saw them featured on Bloesem Kids in April of last year and with longing heard myself say, "If we have another baby, this is the only thing that I will want". And then, I let it pass.

And so almost a year has passed and I still occasionally think about these stunning creations. Today, as the rain continues to drench the earth and keep us inside, I allowed myself to browse through their shop and engulf myself in every last image.

Yes, if we have another baby, this is the only thing that I will want.

By the way, the 2nd image is actually a doll basket - and if you have a little girl, you might just want to take a look at the rest of the collection. Click here


10 Steps to Being Well

1. Fire up your metalbolism and stabilize blood sugar for a clear mind: EAT BREAKFAST.

2. Release endorphins through exercise, ask where and how your body wants to move.

3. Nourish yourself; eat slowly and enjoy each meal.

4. Be kind to your kidneys and stomach; drink water moderately and without ice.

5. Follow natural bio-rhythms; recognize when you need to rest and take time to do it.

6. Curb sugar cravings; eat more protein and fat and drink less caffeine.

7. Get Vitamin D and perspective; go outside for fresh air.

8. Practice self-massage; the abdomen for digestive health, breasts or prostrate for tissue health.

9. Love your adrenals; do less, stop rushing and savor life.

10. Rejuvenate with plenty of sleep; get enough to feel awake without coffee.

Borrowed from the desk of acupuncturists Andrea Anderson {website} and Brooke Moen {website}

This little postcard with these little suggestions have been in my "to-do" binder for too long to mention. I kept it because I liked how succinct and clear these ten items are. Nothing new - eat breakfast, drink water, move your body, sleep. So why is it so hard?

I can use the excuse of being a mom, but when I really look at it, that is just another excuse or reason for not taking care of myself. Yes, I have found it harder to do most of these things as I navigate making sure that someone else does most of these things, but I wasn't totally good at doing them for myself before the nugget came along, to be totally honest. I ask for water without ice, feel better when I get outside and hike up the hill and do fairly well without caffeine. As for the rest, well, not so good. But I know better. And I know how I feel when I actually do them.

So what is the problem?

Habits and discipline.

And both take work and determination and effort and awareness and dedication. And 21 days.

Did you know that? That it takes 21 days to form a habit.

I didn't. So when I found out about habitforge a few weeks ago, I was sure this would be the ticket to consistent exercise, meditation and mindful eating. So I signed up, entered "20 min of pilates everyday" as my goal and off I went.

And I didn't even do it 2 days in a row.

What I realized is that I started too big with too much change when what I needed to do was start with changing a habit I could succeed at - that required no babysitter or yoga pants or gym membership or time. And I know, 20 min of pilates a day doesn't sound like too big, but it was. I am working on figuring out why.

In the mean time, I simplified. The new goal is "take vitamins with a large glass of water, everyday, at breakfast". I figure, there is no way to talk my way out of this one...

Today is day 1.


I found this rustic rabbit coin bank here, on etsy. I was looking for some vintage bunny bank as my image for today's post and I found this. I am not even sure if it is cute. But something about it is exactly why it's here.

It's here because it's simple and hand-made and practical and those are the exact words that could describe our financial plan.

At some point, I was elected CFO of this corporation of 3. Maybe it was because I had the most to learn about money, in both spending and saving it, or maybe it was because I had the most to heal around money. I have fought and cried my way through Quicken and tax preparation, I have ground my teeth through retirement planning and self-employed IRA's and I triumphed over private mortgage insurance, reappraisals and loan repayment. And so when I read a short essay about money and finances in the year of the Rabbit in early January, I paid attention. I paid attention because I finally feel like I am orchestrating our financial life instead of being orchestrated by it.

Katy Song is a CFP who works for Vita Vie Financial Planning, a resource for new families. She writes a column in the newsletter that I receive and to be honest, its the only feature that I really read. This one, titled "Three Cheers for the Year of the Rabbit" stayed with me, and here is why:

Chinese Rabbit wisdom: Money can be made without too much labor. Life should be leisurely as we allow ourselves the luxuries which we have been craving.

Katy's suggestion: Pick the one thing that means the most to you and is financially feasible and commit to doing it in 2011.

Chinese Rabbit wisdom: However, do not become too indulgent. The influence of the Rabbit tends to spoil those who like too much comfort, and thus impair their effectiveness and sense of duty.

Katy's suggestion: Look at your list of wants to to-do's for 2011 - if you try to do everything on your list, you may end up lessening the value of each individual item.

Chinese Rabbit wisdom: Use diplomacy to get what you want, not force. By using persuasion, acting with discretion and making reasonable concessions, you will get your desired outcome without too much difficulty.

Katy's suggestion: Are you thinking of buying a new home or asking for a raise? Use reason and persuasion instead of issuing ultimatums to get what you want.

Chinese Rabbit wisdom: Law and order will be lax. No one seems very inclined to bother with these unpleasant realities.

Katy's suggestion: Do not let the calmness of the Rabbit cause another year to go by. Look at your Financial To Do list and commit to tackling the goals that have been there for years.

So, take a deep breath and then exhale. Exhale all the stuff that doesn't feel important and start to think about that which is important but has been too scary or overwhelming to tackle. Because there is room to sort it all out, one hand-made piggy or rabbit bank at a time.


More Rabbit wisdom

I'm still on the Rabbit thing.

"According to Chinese tradition, the Rabbit brings a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves. It is a time for negotiation. Don't try to force issues, because if you do you will ultimately fail. To gain the greatest benefits from this time, focus on home, family, security, diplomacy, and your relationships with women and children. Make it a goal to create a safe, peaceful lifestyle, so you will be able to calmly deal with any problem that may arise."

I am stuck on the "create a safe, peaceful lifestyle". Every part of me is yearning for this on every level.

So I wonder about our house and our choices and our parenting skills and our decisions. I wonder about buying vs. renting. I wonder about a second baby. I wonder about preschool. I wonder about my mom. I then I am reminded of the last line that says "so you will be able to calmly deal with any problem that may arise" and realize that all of these things simply fall into the category of things can may arise and if I/we come from a peaceful place than deciphering the right solution for us at the right time will feel easier and less tumultuous.

But what does a safe and peaceful lifestyle look like?

Perhaps it is different for each of us.

What does it look like for you?


My new reality

A new Anthropologie catalog arrived yesterday.

And this post was going to be about my favorite images, especially the one of the girl in the jungle which makes me think that warm and luscious weather is somewhere around the corner, just waiting for me. I love the dress and the funky colorful necklaces with it. And then I wanted to swoon over the rustic house (supposedly in Jamaica somewhere) in which the home photos were styled. I love every imperfect nook.

And then, a tired and somewhat bored toddler made his way to the table and snatched the catalog into his  chubby little hands, all the time saying "hela, hela" in the hopes that this new piece of reading material might be about helicopters, trucks and fire engines. I watched him flip through the pages while I sauteed the tofu and admired his fascination with the bugs that graced one page and the unexpected little girl who graced another. I mean, it had been just as fascinated just a few moments earlier.

When dinner was ready, he decided that his new found piece of reading material would serve just as well as a placemat and pushed away my attempts to remove it before placing his food and drink on top of it. And so, I let it be.

I let it be and watched as the pages became saturated with spilt water and Pad Thai that didn't make it in his mouth. I watched as the pages started to ripple under the weight of the liquid that it wasn't intended to hold. I watched as the one page I hadn't yet photographed became a blurry mess. I watched as he ate every bit of Pad Thai with gusto and smiled that I had made something we were all devouring.

I don't think the creative team at Anthropologie had intended their catalog to become a placemat, but for me, yesterday, it became a moment to savor. A moment to remind me of my new reality and just smile.