Monthly Archives: June 2009

paying attention

Buddha, San Francisco, CA, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

Whatever we pay attention to thrives.

I had the pleasure of seeing Momma Zen at a reading in south San Francisco this weekend. The talk was called the Zen of Parenting, and that one idea is what stuck: “Attention is the most concrete expression of love. What you pay attention to thrives. What you do not pay attention to withers and dies.”

That’s pretty much all we need to know, right? Karen?

What I’m paying attention to these days:
– Ben, who is truly the apple of my eye.
– My body, I’ve been sugar and dairy free for two weeks! (a little experiment)
– My marriage, to the awesomely creative, hilarious and whip smart Matt Passmore.
– The online class that Jen Lemen and I are creating (we will announce in a few weeks!)

Yep. I think it’s true.

What are you paying attention to?

Our dance

ballerina girl, Alameda, CA, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

I saw a high school rendition of High School Musical last weekend. With my soft spot for musical theater, I was excited to go. It was under the auspices that I was supporting my friend whose daughter was in the show, but the truth is that my inner twelve year old really, really wanted to be there.

As we waited for the curtain to open, they played old Michael Jackson tunes on the sound system and it moved me more than I anticipated. Crocodile tears poured down my face when I heard the words to Man in the Mirror… the lyrics seeming so poignant suddenly. 

I’m Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life,
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

But it didn’t stop there. I was choked up for the entire two hour show, wiping away my tears as each dance number came to a close and those bright little faces beamed out at the audience. I don’t even have a kid up there! I thought. What are you crying about?

But I was thinking of Ben up there dancing one day, with all that joy and hope in his eyes. I was thinking of myself up there, remembering the musicals I had done in junior high school, and how I practiced so hard each day memorizing the words to every song in the production, not just mine. I remembered when I was Maisie in The Boyfriend and there was a scene where I was supposed to kiss a boy named Noah and how terrified I was, having never kissed a boy in real life before. We never rehearsed the kiss but had sworn to each other and the director that we would do it, no problem, in the actual show. In the end, he left me up there alone for our big moment, having bolted backstage too scared to go through with it. I waited a few heart stopping seconds for him to come back, and then relieved, ran offstage as well.

As I watched, I remembered and felt the excitement and promise that performing at that age felt like-the feeling that you could do anything, that anything you dreamed was possible. I also remembered, like a bolt of lightening, that I was a dancer and a singer, that somewhere deep inside me was still that girl who loved to cartwheel, sashay and sing out loud. Life covers up so much of that essence, that distilled sense of who we are. When I look back, it seems so simple and clear, so easy to see all of her.

And for a moment, while watching High School Musical, I remembered, that she is still me.

P.S. The LUCKY winner of the Orla Kiely bag is: Robyn who said, “It’s so lovely! I would love to fill this bag with all of my little treasures.” You will be getting an email soon from All About Cute! We are all very jealous. ;)

Summer Giveaway: All About Cute

We have another giveaway folks! And it’s a good one… Especially if you are an Orla Kiely fan like me. The stylish online boutique All About Cute is offering up an Orla Kiely handbag to one lucky winner! (pictured above) If you are in the mood for a girly treat, All About Cute is the place to shop. The owner, Juli, has the most exquisite taste and her love of of color and pattern always inspires me. 

More good news:

All About Cute has offered a secret coupon code to all superhero readers:
Just enter the code “summer” to get 40% off any item in the store!

A big thank you to Juli from All About Cute for being so generous!

Giveaway Guidelines:
– You have until 9pm PST on Friday, June 26th to enter this giveaway.
– Just make a comment ON THIS POST to enter.
– One entry per person, please. (Just push “post” ONCE and wait a few seconds. The comment should appear)

down with to-do*

My delicious Ben, not sleeping, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

I am a bit of a mess today. One of those mornings when you wake up with a start at 5am with your list of everything UNDONE in your life flashing before your eyes. This is rare for me, so I decided to get up and just get to work, hoping that getting some things under my belt would help relieve that feeling, but it didn’t. As the coffee started to kick in and the emails began to mount, my to-do list kept growing.

And then I remembered. This was the precise feeling I had yesterday afternoon as I rocked Ben. It was one of those nap times where you are desperate for that child to sleep, and as you rock them you are thinking about all of the things you will accomplish while they nap. You count on those precious two hours to yourself, right? And then of course, after nearly an hour of trying to get them down, they are up officially, not sleeping, and now crabby because they are still tired.

In that moment of pure exhaustion and despair I realized the very bad news-I was never going to get enough done. There would always be more to do, I could always have done it better, and the idea that after x, y, and z was done I would feel satisfied, well that was never going to happen either. Because after that, I would notice what a disaster zone our house was, or that my site could really use a facelift, etc.

It is a neverending cycle.

I cried when I took that in. The gravity of that feeling of not enoughness hit me hard. If this is how I am going to live my life, I thought, then what’s the point? There is no joy in this.

As I shared these thoughts with Matt this morning, he echoed my feelings. It seems we are all in need of a paradigm shift. He said something I really appreciate, “If we’re not loving the process then what are we doing? It’s not going to get better at the end of this list, because there is always another list. There is always going to be more so the trick is to love the tasks as much as possible.” Which is another way of saying, let’s love each moment as much as possible. I can see how simply doing what’s in front of you, with as much mindfulness and joy as you can is a piece of the puzzle. Maybe we should trash our to-do lists and create some to-be lists instead.

I would love to hear your words of wisdom people.

And the winner of the photo session from Thea Coughlin’s is Shawn who said, “I must have vaulted from your blog to hers at some point and loved her pictures-images. so count me in…i’d love to get some great shots of family!!” Congratulations! Thea will email you soon.

Sponsor Giveaway: Thea Coughlin Photography (in Albany, NY)

For summer, I am launching a series of sponsor giveaways! and I am delighted to kick off the series with the talented Thea Coughlin’s photography.

As I pored through Thea’s blog looking for images to dazzle you with, the only hard thing was choosing just one! I am in love with her tender, romantic style and found myself wishing Thea had been closer by when Ben was a newborn. It’s such a classic shot, but that one of the dad’s arm holding the baby in a football hold brings me to tears every time. Well done, Thea. You are rocking these mamas worlds and giving such a sacred gift to these familes.

One lucky winner will receive a Spring Fling Mini session and 11×14 mounted print! Thea is of course on the east coast, so if you are not able to visit her there, she has generously offered to make the gift transferrable. (Imagine being able to gift a friend or family member a session with her!)

Giveaway Guidelines:
– You have until 9pm PST on Friday, June 19th to enter this giveaway.
– Just make a comment ON THIS POST to enter.
– One entry per person, please. (Just push “post” ONCE and wait a few seconds. The comment should appear)

spring pleasures*

Me, taken by the talented Vivienne McMaster, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

*This photo above was taken by the lovely Vivienne McMaster in the Edible Schoolyard here in Berkeley. This is an incredible program where middle school kids get to grow, cook and eat their own food.

Other spring pleasures include…
Going to see Michael Pollan and Novella Carpenter (author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer) in conversation this Thursday.
My new, most comfortable shoes ever (like walking on clouds)
Kiehls Grapefruit Essence Oil by Kiehl’s.
Learning to cook from the talented Heidi Swanson… Her book, Super Natural Cooking is my new fave and her website is endlessly delicious. It also helps that she is an incredible photographer!
Deciding between seeing David Sedaris or Jack Kornfield tomorrow night. Feel free to weigh in!
LOVING these books by Marisa de los Santos. (Love Walked In and Belong to Me: A Novel
The hope of growing my own tomatoes.

What are your spring pleasures?

Super Ben

Ben and his dada, Berkeley, CA, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

Dear Ben,

You are two and a half years old today.

It’s hard to believe that you are even more adorable than you were when you were a baby. Seriously Ben, how is that even possible?

It might have something to do with the fact that you are talking and saying hilarious and endearing things. You are the only one I know who can talk about himself in the third person and have it sound totally normal. “Ben scared. Ben not tired. Ben no sleeping. Ben NO SLEEPING!!!” The other morning, In a moment of pure and total maternal pleasure, you hugged me really close and whispered in my ear, “I like you…”

Ben, you know how to make a girl melt.

It’s amazing to see the you-ness come out in you, the pieces that I can see now have always been there, the pure undiluted Ben-ness of you. I cherish each and every detail, the quiet confidence you have, your love of physical comedy, how sure you are of your place in the world. You are my superhero Ben, not because of what you are capable of doing, but how completely you occupy your own spirit.

Good to be back*

self-portrait, San Gregorio beach, Canon Elph

It’s scary to create space. Seriously. Taking a break is not for the faint of heart. To stop the things you normally do (work), habitually do (blog), or even compulsively do (take photos) and to sit in the space that’s left over. Well, it is confronting.

My aim was to look at the month as a cleanse, a spring cleaning of the spirit. You know those cleanses you do for allergies? where you remove all sorts of things from your diet, like dairy, wheat, sugar, and then slowly, incorporate those items back in? The idea is that you get to see how your body reacts, distinguish how each thing effects you, for better or worse. It’s also an opportunity to see if you can nourish yourself without these things.

And so I started my cleanse by clearing my physical space. I purged the heck out of it, selling everything I could, cleaning and organizing all the cluttered up nooks. I even pretended we were moving and considered each item with the same precise question, If we were moving right now would I bother putting bubble wrap around this and putting it in a box? I loved this task and felt like with every item I let go of, the more my mind could be clear, the more space there was to breathe.

And then there was my body to cleanse. I needed to heal. I needed to rest. I was sick as a dog for nearly two months, had had a sore throat for most of that time, and after a round of antibiotics and lots of acupuncture I was out of ideas. Let me add that when I get sick, I keep going. Partly out of necessity (Ben has needs that supercede my own) but also out of habit, out of a compulsive need to do do do, keep up, lest everyone forgets about me, I fall behind, I blow it, I fail, it all falls apart. There is some deep fear embedded in there, like if I stop or get help, or god forbid take a vacation, I will be behind. Losing. I have always been like this, as evidenced by my perfect attendance record all through elementary school and high school. Seriously. I have witnesses.

So I rested, and also made a pledge to stop finishing Ben’s hot dogs and french fries and go to Farmer’s markets more. I started practicing yoga again (oh, painful) got on my bicycle (I love you Flirt) and started drinking Kombucha tea (the first few bottles tasted like salad dressing, but now I quite like it) I also planted vegetables for the first time in my life, three kinds of tomatoes.

But those were the easy parts.

The thing about creating space is that you get to see where you’ve been hiding.

For me, it was in work. I stopped blogging, for example, but couldn’t resist filling my blog with awesome guest bloggers while I was away (They were so good I considered outsourcing the whole enterprise) I put an autoresponder on my email that I was away, but couldn’t resist filling jewelry orders anyway. It took me weeks to unfurl myself from my habitual ways of being and doing. it was uncomfortable. I noticed that there was empty space there. What do I do now? And there is some pain in feeling that emptiness, noticing the holes we fill by working hard and using social media and compulsively connecting, connecting, connecting… It was painful to see some of the places I hadn’t tended while I was tending other parts of my life.

It’s easy to do what works. It’s easy to feed the thing that is flowing, that makes you feel satisfied because it is giving you some juice. There is nothing wrong with that. Of course we are going to feed the things that are working best in our lives. But having the courage to look squarely in the face of what is hard, to turn toward what is challenging and tend those things too, (however confronting they are) well that’s another thing entirely.

So what are the benefits of stopping then, right?

At yoga recently, the teacher talked about how our greatest strengths can be our greatest weaknesses. He used the example of how he is really friendly and kind, and how this strength gets him really far in life. “Until,” he said, “I really have to fight for something or set a strong boundary. Then it is my greatest weakness.”

I mused on this as I practiced, noticing that my greatest strength in yoga is my flexibilty (like feet behind the ears crazy talk) how I don’t have to be incredibly strong because I can always use my flexibility to pick up the slack. I can get by on my flexibility in almost every pose. Except for the poses where I can’t! and then I get to see where I need to build up my strength.

I think that’s what this break did for me. I got to see where things are out of balance. I got to see the pieces of my life that I lean into because they work, because I am good at them, because I can almost, almost, get by on just those things.

I can even forget that say, being strong is important too. That being healthy is important. That having fun is important. I can forget that inviting friends to dinner and going on adventures with my family is important. But it is. I want all of that too.

I’m adding blogging back into my diet again and I’m going to watch how it feels. I don’t think I’m allergic to it, but everything in moderation, right? I did miss you guys. Thank you for being here. And guest bloggers, bless you! It was so much fun to visit my blog and see your faces and words here. It’s good to be back!

Guest Blogger: Katherine Center

I’ve been trying to write this post for days, but it hasn’t been happening.

Which is totally nuts. Because I can always, always, always write. Even when I can’t sleep, I can write. Even when I can’t think, or talk, or dream, I can write.

But not this week. Or last week. Or possibly even next week.

I’m just empty.

It’s been a crazy few months in my life—running around promoting my new book, doing thing after thing to help it. And when I say crazy, I mean good crazy. Awesome crazy, even. And also, a little bit: exhausting crazy.

I guess I normally try to structure in a lot of leisure time. At least, as much leisure time as a parent of little kids who’s squeezing a full-time job into part-time hours can hope for. I’m a napper. And a lounger. In my regular life, I try to stay in my pajamas as much as possible.

But I gave up leisure time—personal time, quiet time, nap time, gym time—for the book, for a little while. There are only so many hours in the day, after all. A new book has a short season when it’s out on display in bookstores and when it needs a lot of attention and care. I was happy to give up leisure time for the book. Kind of the way I’ve been happy to give up sleep for my kids. Some things, you just do.

But maybe six weeks ago, I looked around and thought, “I am running on empty.” And then I never filled back up. And now I’m running on whatever comes after empty. Fumes, maybe. And there are no filling stations anywhere in sight.

So that’s the question I’ve been carrying around lately. How do you fill back up? I’ve traveled so much in the past few months, and written essays, and schmoozed, and blogged, and nursed sick kids, and planned birthday parties, and spoken at luncheons, and rocked my wakeful son at 3 a.m.—every single 3 a.m. for weeks and weeks. At this point, as the busy season comes to a close, I’m absolutely ready to relax or recharge or rejuvenate.

But I think I can’t remember how.

I want to make a to-do list. I want to attack the project of getting my equilibrium back with verve and moxie. I want to have a plan. I want to feel like I’m using my time wisely. There is so much I need to get done every single day that I don’t get done. Hours are precious, and minutes, too. I find myself wanting to turbo-recharge. Thinking maybe if I go for a pedicure, and take the New York Times Magazine, and bring my iPod loaded up with Sarah Vaughan I’ll come out feeling triply refreshed! And then maybe I can use the time I’m saving to get some work done.

I’m just ready to feel like my regular self again. But, of course, being me—the regular me—means lots of time frittered away. Lots of daydreaming about remodeling the kitchen and doodling plans for a butterfly garden and watching my kids sing and dance on the coffee table.

In general, I believe that downtime is essential for creativity. That the brain has to be allowed to wander. But I’ve been moving-and-shaking for so long now that being busy has started to seem like the only way to be productive. I’m a little afraid to let go of this efficient version of myself.

But then I remind myself of things I used to know: that opposites can work together, that you can only hear certain things when it’s quiet, that—as they say—not all who wander are lost. And while pushing yourself is certainly good for you, it’s also good to be comfortable. I am grateful for the busy months I’ve just had, and I’m also grateful for my pajamas. And tomorrow, if I wear them to the grocery store by accident, I will be grateful for that, too: For any way I can manage to hurry up and slow down.

You can find the talented author Katherine Center on her website or you can simply read one of her awesome books. I just finished The Bright Side of Disaster and fell in love.

Guest Blogger: Kelly Rae Roberts

Recently i took a little trip to Hawaii – a vacation where my heart + spirit took a much needed break from long working hours, deadlines, and self-imposed pressure. while i was there i wrote about the kind of joy that finds me only when i slow down enough to see and feel its breath and expanse: the brightness of being alive. it finds me in unexpected moments of calm, when my heart takes refuge from the ever growing to-do list, when my perfectionism gives way to feeling, to release. and when it arrives, the brightness feels deeply spacious and warm, like an intertwining celebration of all things brave in love.

Do you ever notice that when we slow down and pay close attention to our lives, we feel the enormity and the magic of beginnings, endings, and all the small yet meaningful moments in between? we cry when we hear music or read words that touch down into the spaces of our hearts that are a bit undercover, not frequently visited. we get emotional when we consider the distance we’ve traveled with our best girlfriends. we stand in awe when we see and hear stories of dreams coming true. we recognize the tiniest exchanges between us and our partners that leave us feeling loved. and we are deeply touched by the circle of life, stories told, and memories shared.

Although i feel the brightness in my everyday life, I’ll admit that i really felt it while on vacation, when my heart had a little more room and permission to rest and to see. the downtime gave me a good dose of perspective and clarity about all the things i could do to infuse more joy and fun into my life back home. but wouldn’t you know that the minute i returned home, i was back to overwhelm, long working hours, too much computer time, and an unbalanced routine that left me feeling dull and depleted. by day 3 of this i began to panic. is this the life i’ve chosen? you are so blessed, why are you complaining? geez kelly, what is your problem?

And that’s when i sent out an urgent email to a few dear friends asking for help. after admitting defeat and overwhelm, i asked: how do you get out of the house, tend to your creative yearnings, build a business, maintain that business, nurture your relationships, meet your deadlines, and on and on? if you have a secret, please share.

Of course it turns out that nobody had the secret. we’re all just doing the best we can, sometimes juggling it all with confidence + grace, sometimes not. it also turns out that by opening up the conversation, we each had an opportunity to relate, to feel less alone, to admit defeat in other areas of our lives, and even to celebrate what was working in our lives. the simple act of reaching out, asking for help, and hearing their stories of struggle and triumphs was exactly what i needed to take few steps back and adjust.

What i’m learning this week while i navigate these waters is this: that we are 100% allowed to stop – that we won’t be forgotten if we do. that our overwhelm is a whisper worth listening to. that our dreams can absolutely change shape and our everyday lives/balance/routine can change accordingly. that we must speak up about our feelings of defeat/burnout/overwhelm, because we’re not alone. and most importantly, that its our vulnerabilities that connect us and that we can soar, always soar on the brightness of being alive.

You can find the brilliant and soulful Kelly Rae Roberts on her website and blog… The beautiful photo of her above is by Denise Andrade.