≡ Menu

love note no. 3: dear first born.

Dear first born,

I miss you. I envy you. I think about you.

I have just received a text from you containing another slew of pictures from where you are.  You are staying in a hostel with a view of the Mediterranean from a small Italian coastal town.  Your views are stunning but your words accompanying the picture make me miss you even more.  You mention the hundreds of steps it took to get up the hill carrying your backpack.  You said you had felt like Frodo climbing the steps to get to the secret passage to Mordor. Yes. My worldly, yet nerdy, teenager just referenced her romantic Italian experience to a piece of Tolkien literature.

frodo

That’s my girl.

You have taught me many lessons but there is one very important one that I keep learning through you.  I’ll get to that in a second.

Before you left, you gave me my birthday gift which I opened a few days ago. Included in the gift was a beautifully packaged chocolate bar.  Let me rewind a bit.

soul chocolate

Your love of chocolate-making began unexpectedly in Costa Rica when Paul gave you a chance to volunteer at Caribeans. I knew you were bored and needed something to get you going in the morning.  You expected that this would be a chance to brush up on your Spanish and to make friends which you did.  Your interest in learning about cacao and how to make chocolate was probably low or an afterthought.  This volunteer gig allowed you to hop on the bike and be independent, something that you are so accustomed to being born and raised in the city.

You fell in love with the process of making chocolate.  You appreciated it as an art in and of itself – the making was artist work and the final product was a delectable masterpiece.  We came home from Costa Rica and you were full of life – ready for the world and all its possibilities.

But then you couldn’t find a job.  That sucked.  No one was going to hire you since you were leaving for Italy in the summer and leaving the city in the fall.  At least you were honest about it.  But then, as the synchronicity of life would have it, you were offered an internship by some local chocolatiers who had just started their business, Soul Chocolate.  They were eager to hear about the cacao in Costa Rica and the process you had witnessed.  You declined their offer because you wanted a paying job.

I think after that awkward interview at the local wax salon, and the fact that they were concerned you couldn’t do the receptionist job because you didn’t have a high school diploma, made you hit a low that you had never experienced.  You weren’t used to not having a job.  You have been working since you were twelve to save money for your travels.  At one point, you were working four jobs when you were sixteen.  You learned so much about life and what you enjoyed doing through work.  And I could only stand by on the sidelines now watching you becoming increasingly frustrated with life.

I remember one night you came home and sat your dad and I down.  You said maybe you weren’t going to do your semester abroad in the fall.  You said maybe you should stay in Toronto and work at a cafe and live in a basement apartment with roommates.

Do you remember what I said?

I said, “That is probably the stupidest f*cking idea I have ever heard.  You are scared.  You are living deep in the unknown right now.  And that can be scary.  You have been talking to too many people scaring the shit out of you about the ‘future’ and ‘being responsible.’ Choosing this option is what frightened people who live inside boxes would do.  You are not that person.  Go to bed.  Write about it in your journal.  Confront it.  This is what I am here to be for you – not your friend who keeps her mouth shut but your mother who is here to tell you the truth.”

I am pretty sure you thought I was harsh that night.  We spent the next day together hanging out and I took more time to patiently explain what I meant.  If money is the motivator, you will miss out on other opportunities that can lead to places where you least expect.  Holed up in a basement apartment working at a local Starbucks probably won’t lead to adventures that take you deeply into yourself.  Surrender and have faith.  Make your intentions clear and look out for signs.  And I also suggested you read The Alchemist.

And do you remember what happened?  In the next day or two, you received a text from friends that needed you to babysit their kids while they were away for a few days.  You were able to make some money taking care of children you love and who you have looked after since you were twelve.  And then you received an email from those chocolatiers.  They wanted you.  They really wanted you.  They felt really bad about not being able to pay you but they thought that they would reach out one more time.

And here is our text exchange after you received the email and you didn’t know what to do:

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 11.24.11 AM

And you accepted.  And you fell in love with making chocolate.  You made chocolate from bean to bar.  You brought home samples for us to taste, teaching us how to delight in the texture and identify the tasting notes.  You talked about the cacao beans and where they came from.  You talked about the experiments that you participated in with the owners who you adored – a young couple that LOVES what they do.  Their passion reignited your own passion for enjoying life again.  You started to make choices that brought you joy without worrying about the cost, the future implications, or what people thought.

And when I opened my gift a couple of days ago and I saw that chocolate bar you made, I was reminded of that lesson that you keep teaching me.  When you sent us that video from Genoa, that video of you slowly finishing three scoops of gelato sandwiched in a freshly baked brioche, I couldn’t help but laugh at the lesson you were giving all of us.  (Your siblings weren’t impressed at your callous disregard for their feelings, but I appreciated it.)

gelato and brioche

And this lesson that you keep teaching all of us is TO SAVOUR.  To enjoy something slowly and completely.  The word is derived from Old French, savorer “taste, breathe in; appreciate, care for.”

You are the expert on savouring.  Whether it be a new scent you wear that makes you happy or the taste of well-made chocolate, you remind me to savour, to get lost in my senses.  Savouring is the gateway to feeling ALIVE.  I remember you describing a cacao husk tea infused with maple syrup with frothy milk added to it, something that they were experimenting with at Soul Chocolate.  You described it in detail and with such appreciation for the combination and the way it made you FEEL.  You made it for me one morning and I understood.  Instead of rushing through a hectic morning, I stopped long enough to enjoy this moment with you.  We were at your grandparents’ kitchen counter and we sipped it slowly together.  The smoky sweetness hit the spot.  And when we had finished, you rushed out the door to catch a train to the test kitchen and I continued the day with a greater appreciation for just about everything.

You may not want to make chocolate forever.  But choosing to accept the internship was a gift.  As you sit on top of the hill watching the sun go down in Cinque Terre, I know you understand how to savour it.  Every experience is fleeting but you are learning to tap into the eternal NOW each time you stumble upon beauty and joy.  By accepting that internship, you felt it.  You felt that electric feeling of doing and creating something you love.  Hold on to that.  That is your compass by which you should live.

cinqueterre hostel

I know that there will be times when you doubt and you are afraid of not having enough and start aligning your choices based on money like buying Mr. Noodle in Italy to stay on budget.  I get it.  I lived on Corn Pops and Mr. Noodle after I moved out at 18.  I wish I knew to trust that by doing things that brought me to that place of creative bliss, I would be fed.

I should have bought myself that good piece of chocolate that would have cost a week’s worth of food.  You have taken it one step further by making it yourself and understanding that it is the process of creation that we learn to savour.

Thank you for being you.

I love you so very much.

(And I am out of chocolate.  So hurry back will ya?)

Love,

Mama

P.S. Thank you for giving me permission to share this private letter.  You are amazing and I am blessed to have you be one of the greatest teachers in my life.

***

100 days of love notes…

{ 2 comments }

love note no.2: dear lady rage.

Dear Lady Rage,

I didn’t have a name for you until a friend of mine sent me a newsletter on this subject by Two Bossy Dames where you are the topic of conversation:

DM: WELL, it’s hardly surprising, given the way Society pathologizes ANY emotion women express that’s not Bright Sunny Pleasantness, that women tend to shove anything more complicated or powerful than that under the rug UNTIL we explode with a marginally incomprehensible level of incoherent fury.

DS: Oh, my goodness, yes, when your palette of Officially Acceptable Emotions runs the whole entire gamut from Very, Very Mildly Annoyed (But It’s Fine, Totally Fine) to Absolutely Transported By Joy (But Not Too Often, Lest Ye Be Mistaken For a Manic Pixie Dream Girl Or Hysterical), it’s easy to see how that would be a problem. People get really worked up about female anger, and it’s a strong undercurrent in these pixel pages every week. Maybe it’s a stronger leitmotif in our minds than it is in the actual words, though? That feels uniquely feminine, too.

Around this time of naming you, I was learning about Oya in my Sacred Female Soul Journey course from my friend Hannah.  In Yoruba, Oya means “She Tore.”  She is the only African Orisha brave enough to confront death.  Oya would definitely be the poster-lady of rage.  But where Oya is the goddess of winds and tempests and signals a dignified and powerful rage, you sometimes seem like a toddler throwing a tantrum in the guise of a mature married woman with five children…

pre-rage

You arrived as an uninvited party crasher yesterday morning on my birthday.  See this picture above?  This was taken right before you came.  A mild incident blew the door wide open enough for you to make a grand entrance, sashaying to centre stage wrapped in a pink boa of arrogant self-righteousness disguised as justified indignation.  Each step you took in your piercing stilettos detonated a slew of f-bombs and cries of outrage.

Thank goodness I escorted you outside on a stroll through our city ravines.  In an amazing display of sacrifice and unconditional love, my Ever-Patient husband accompanied us both on our rage walk.  You needed both a spectator and audience participant and with a deep sigh he reluctantly volunteered.

For a while I thought I had exorcised you out of my psyche.  You had disappeared.  I looked for you at a certain time every month but all I found was Lady Weary with her signature eye roll and slouched shoulders.  Maybe I missed the signs of your presence.  I couldn’t detect you when I took the path of least resistance.  As far as I can tell, you went to sleep when you figured you weren’t needed.  I had a bag of tricks that repelled you and kept you in the shadows.

But you were in fine form yesterday morning.  For the first hour of our rage walk, you performed the first act rather convincingly but very predictably.  You began with the usual Rant n’ Rage and then progressed to the Cuss n’ Cry.  Even in the tangle of our beautiful ravine system, you managed to disturb the peace of cyclists, pedestrians, and animals alike.  You even snapped at hubby dearest for saying Good Morning to every passer-by because you really held tight to the belief that in fact, it wasn’t a good morning.  To each her own, I say.

About halfway through, you threw my flip flops in the brush.  Apparently, in addition to cheery morning greetings and amicable head nods from strangers in spandex, your footwear was aggravating you too.  You definitely got your badass Leo self on at the expense of everyone in your roar path, including me.  At this point, you took pleasure in berating me as a deplorably annoying hypocritical earth mother that not too long ago hated walking barefoot and killed insects at will.  In that moment, I knew that this rage was different.  It was from a desperate place.  A place that wanted to stay hidden and dark.  A place where my sorrow burrowed a hole where it stayed worried about being unearthed and caressed.

Lady, you taught me what sorrowful rage could feel like.  It was a descent I had put off.  A descent into shadow. When I saw this, I wanted to tear my clothes off and sit on a rock like that Van Gogh sketch I had found.  And in the midst of walking barefoot with my husband who was now walking at a safe distance apart from me – far enough away for me to flail without him getting caught with a sharp elbow to the face and close enough to hold a space of love and compassion so I could just let it all out without fear of judgement and reproach.  With this act of love, he withheld opinions, solutions, and defensive tactics.  He saw you, Lady Rage, and he dared you to try your best to conquer love.

Obviously, you were no match.  You had no idea what walking barefoot would do to you.  You had no clue that it would stop you long enough for me to stop the Cuss n’ Cry and move to Surrender n’ Sob.  You weren’t prepared for mama earth herself to step in and take care of us – both of us.

You fought hard.  I admired your tenacious pursuit of being right and how you spewed with reckless abandon, weaponizing words like ‘should’ and ‘can’t.’  I admit that I felt the thrill and liked it – the rush of heat that churned from an ancient and wounded place, an unmapped territory found deep within the female body.

When my hand grazed the Queen Anne’s Lace, the softness of the flowers softened you.  I noticed your brief hesitation before saying out loud, “Nice try you little weed.  You can’t wake me up from this.  I have her and I am not letting her go.”  Then you tugged me back to the darkness even as my toes were tickled by the stalks of plantain.   I heard you faintly murmuring, “Oh plantain, you son of a bitch.”  I formed a small smile recalling memories of the kids and I using its leaves for healing on our nature walks.

Then there it was, all alone in a perfect green patch of grass.  The buttercup.  Golden and innocent with a sheen that sparkled in the sunlight.  You started to tell the buttercup to f*ck off when I just couldn’t take you seriously anymore.  You were cursing at a freaking buttercup.  I started to laugh at the absurdity of it all.  It was beautiful and perfect as-is, that little buttercup. As-is. Completely ignoring you and going about its business almost flaunting its natural ease at being.  How does one rage at a buttercup?  Come on.  That was the beginning of your demise.

You weren’t prepared for Act Two.  We came to one last hill and a set of stairs that we had to climb to get out of the ravine.  I could sense your confusion.  Normally, there was nothing that could get you to back down so fast.  Your eruption was almost always followed by days of irritability or guilt or shame. But I was smiling.  That was new to you.  I was smiling because I finally knew that I needed it all – coming face-to-face with you and letting you loose.  I needed to descend and face the parts of me I keep hidden and locked away in my own Pandora’s box.  Yes, someone accidentally opened it but instead of struggling to shut it, trying to catch all the demons by their tails and shoving them back in before anyone sees them, I voluntarily emptied it out with a little bit of affection, a little bit of acceptance, and a little detachment.

With each step up out of the valley, I prayed.  I prayed for you mostly.  I prayed for help from all the deities, spirits, angels, and saints I could think of.  Every step was an act of invoking grace.  When I reached the top, I told you something you have never heard before.  I said, “I love you Lady Rage. Thank you for being there when I need you.  But we’re done for now.  Goodbye.”  And you left quietly with the next gust of wind that came through on top of that hill.

And so I grabbed my husband’s hand in silent gratitude and walked home barefoot.  I walked through neighbourhoods and city streets, stepping on lawns to give my feet temporary comfort from the hot pavement.  But it was stepping on all the unintended soft patches of growth between the cracks in the sidewalk that reminded me to leave the welcome mat for you the next time you came knocking.

And by the way, I wrote this poem just for you:

She ToreJPG

 

Love,

Rozanne

#normalizeladyrage

***

100 days of love notes…

{ 3 comments }

a birthday + a 100 day project.

Today is my 38th birthday and I am ready to blog again.  There I said it.  I put it out there to all of you.  Now I am accountable.  Now I am about to get my creative ON.

And I am ready because of two miracles that happened today which I will get to later in this post.

I’m sure you can imagine why I have stayed off this very public forum.  This space is for me.  It has been a safe place to document, to reflect, and to share.  I write about what’s going on in front of me.  I have found that this makes it very freeing and less about what I think people want to read about.  I tried blogging about parenting only or homeschooling only or creativity only.  But I am all of it and none of it.  I write for release.  I write for the me now.  But what happens when what is in front of you is very private and very raw? I have two teenagers, a pubescent, and two children who are old enough to play on their own but still young enough that they need me to read bedtime stories to them.  We are making some dramatic changes to our life and to some they have been abrupt and unwanted.

Shit is getting real here.

I have been holding space for all of us.  There have been outbursts, freak outs, and full on biblical lamentations.  I have held children in embraces in the middle of the hallway, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a song. A dear friend called me last week asking who was holding space for me as I talked about giving my kids room to feel it all.   I burst into tears.  I realized that as I held the space for my family, I had to hold it all in.  Hold back the tears, hold back the emotion, and hold my breath.  I needed to put it all on hold so I could stand and be what they needed me to be.  There were times that I folded into my husband, collapsing to take a small reprieve. But even then, I held it in.  There was just still so much that I could not let out.

And in that moment, I understood “how I was.” I finally could put a name to the all encompassing feeling that filled me but I didn’t want to give space to because there is so much to be grateful and happy about.  But here I am, steeped in this unfamiliar emotion.

SORROW.

Here is what wikipedia has to say about sorrow:

Sorrow is an emotion, feeling or sentiment. Sorrow “is more ‘intense’ than sadness… it implies a long-term state”. At the same time “sorrow — but not unhappiness — suggests a degree of resignation… which lends sorrow its peculiar air of dignity”.

Moreover, “in terms of attitude, sorrow can be said to be half way between sadness (accepting) and distress (not accepting)”.

This completely defines how I have been feeling throughout the spring and into the first bit of summer.  As much as I have felt grateful for it all, there has even been a tinge of sorrow in the gratitude because it has a lot to do with saying goodbye and moving on.

And looking at the etymology of the word, I find this:

Old English sorg “grief, regret, trouble, care, pain, anxiety.”

Grief. Another piece to the puzzle.

Grief is another can of worms I can open right now.  I know it’s there.  I know there will be more especially in September.  But simply acknowledging and giving a place for sorrow and grief to mingle is already helping me exhale.  I am sure, if you continue to read this blog for the next 100 days, there will be plenty of reference to grief.

I have been sad and distressed before but this is not what it is. It is exactly somewhere in between that I have taken up residence.  And sorrow does have a “peculiar air of dignity.”  It is almost romantic.  An ode to an age where there is a beauty in staying still in sorrow instead of distracting ourselves out of it or numbing the feeling all together.

An underlying sorrow has tinged most of my emotions.  Like a thin layer of dust settling on undisturbed furniture pieces in an abandoned home, sorrow blankets the things I have not faced yet.

Accompanying the Wikipedia entry on “sorrow” is Van Gogh’s aptly-named sketch, Sorrow:

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Sorrow

I love this sketch.  And to be honest, it looks like me.  Sagging boobs, paunch belly, unbrushed hair, and all.  But in a strange way, it gives me comfort to look at it.  It’s as if she is saying to the world, “Leave me be. I am going to sit right here stripped and exposed, feel both beautiful and disgusted sitting in my shit, and I just don’t give a fuck.”  YES.

Which brings me to my 100 day project.  100 days of love notes.  I used to write a love note for my oldest daughter every day and put it in her lunch box when she was in school.  They were more for me than her.  I see that now. I needed to know that she knew.  I wanted it written down to make it official and so that she knew I took the time to record what I loved about her.  For the next 100 days, I want to give space to what I love that’s in front of me – the big and the small because this is why I have felt the sorrow.  The sorrow of anticipated missing.  The sorrow of looking back.  The sorrow of letting be.  The sorrow of loving across distances. These love notes will be my way of giving a place at the table for sorrow and grief.  It is my way of disturbing the dust just enough to shift things around.  Letters to write to make enough space for miracles.

As I wrote in my journal today, two miracles occurred to get me here again.

  1. My daughter sent her flight info to us and is not returning on July 29 as we had thought.  She is returning on July 28 which means we can say one last goodbye to the house as a family.
  2. My friend, Ulrike, commented on an old post of mine, expressing gratitude for having this blog as a reference.

These two things happened one after the other.  Two tiny miracles that made me shift a touch.  (And reading last year’s birthday post helped a little too.  Making those birthday intentions led to a year of unbelievable adventures and life changes.)

And the third miracle is that I found my Book of Hours.  I had lost it and didn’t have the heart to start a new one until I found the old.  I was also not in the creating place I was in last year at this time. But I am going to return to it.  The last page that I had touched was a page full of the warmest colours.  We were in Costa Rica and the kids were getting a lesson in natural paints from a German botanist we had met.  We had used different tropical plant material including turmeric, hibiscus, and other flowers to paint the page.  And here is my entry today:

boh july 23 2016

***

Today’s letter is a love note to myself.

Hey girl,

Oh sorrow.  To give something a name begins the story of it.  Now that I have found a name for this place, I understand it.  Sorrow prepares you for joy.  Let the sorrow carry you.  Let it move you deeper into life.  Let it tug at you when you least expect it.  Let it  violently sweep everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. Curl up and hold yourself as the housecleaning dispels the dust bunnies you’ve made friends with.  Allow yourself to sink just this once because I guarantee you won’t feel like you’re drowning this time.  Because guess what my love?

You are a motherfucking mermaid.

With love and forgiveness and the most gentle embraces,

The Love of your Life – You.

***

If you wrote a love note to yourself, what would YOU say?  Would you be kind?  Would you accuse?  Would you give comfort or criticize?

 

 

 

 

 

{ 4 comments }

waxing nostalgic…friend or foe?

7peasinapod

We bought snap peas at the farmer’s market this morning.  My youngest daughter calls out to me and says, “Mama, I found 7 peas in a pod! It’s our family!” She urges me to take a pic and I smile trying to hold back the tears.

From my last post, you must have gathered it’s been a bit of a circus show around these parts.

Well, yes, and then some which is why I haven’t been here even though I have needed to write about the process because that’s how I deal with stress these days.  But I haven’t been able to write because I don’t know where to begin.  This post has been sitting in drafts for a week because it feels like an emotional discharge that is impossible to water down or edit to under a thousand words.  Finally, today I am posting as-is because I have to start writing again to save myself from living in my head and to find what I always find when I put words down – clarity.

We sold our house quickly and recently moved back in to say goodbye.  We are living out of boxes and purging and purging and purging.

Needless to say, the month of May was an emotional roller coaster ride for my family.  There was A LOT.  Just a lot – A lot of explaining, a lot of questions, a lot of emotions, a lot of avoiding, and a lot of busy.  We spent April in the unsettling state of getting things in motion, making choices that began a tidal wave of change in May.

I haven’t considered myself a sentimental person.  I am the one that throws out photos and looks back on the past with a feeling of relief – a kind of “glad that’s over and we can move on” type of outlook.  I toss out the kids’ artwork like moldy leftovers always praising the process and not the end result.  It’s only over the last few years that I have had both the time and inclination to step back and notice that my family keeps changing.  Even my blog posts have grown more reflective as opposed to my early years of blogging when it was just about getting through the day with a house full of little ones.

It’s hard to zoom out when you are mama to babies and toddlers.  At that stage, life is very moment to moment and all one’s energy is placed in getting people’s physical needs AND emotional needs met which is something that only Mama can do.  Multiply that by five and there is no time to wax nostalgic.  Heck, in those moments, I couldn’t even remember the last time I had showered or the day of the week.

In those early years of motherhood, waxing nostalgic was a time-waster and an activity for fools – fools that had the opportunity to shower daily and spend hours wistfully looking out the window.  It was for someone who could remember what they said five minutes ago, let alone ten years ago.  It was something that old people did when they complained about today – today’s youth, today’s society, whatever was right in front of them.

Now I find myself in a jarring state of departure.  In this house, we are all finding ourselves in different states of departure.  I am leaving something behind that used to care for us in the way that I needed. This house was the third parent.  It was more than a roof over our heads.  It has been a safe harbour, a shoulder to lean on, a witness to this little family we have created and nurtured – a scrapbook of who our family has become.

It held space for my children when I couldn’t. Like extra ingredients in a haphazard recipe, new children were added to the mix over the years changing the chemistry of the dish but the house was the constant.  The house was the container that held us all in as we figured it all out.

So of course, what do I do for almost an entire month?

I become what I can only describe as a nostalgic mess – an addict of the past.  It’s as though I have turned in my badge as the champion (and sometimes the annoying authoritative expert) of the present moment in favour of the illusory consolation of returning to the past.  Returning to an imaginary place of ease because the present is so rife with chaos and uncertainty.

When all of your children take turns in waging mutiny on decisions you make on their behalf, challenging your faith in the present moment by becoming shape shifters in every instant, and demand that you be that unshakeable and confident mother you professed to them all their lives, you take shelter in the cozy confines of a past where you could nurse your babies to comfort them and the most serious quarrel in your day had surrounded taking a bath (and in most times, you would acquiesce and tuck them into bed dirty feet and all).

For the last month, my husband and I talked about the past every chance we had alone. Every person we have told about our move wanted more information but it really can be summed up in one question, “How did you get here?”  How did we get to this place of choosing to leave our home when everything was for all intents and purposes, perfect?

We all returned to the past in different ways this month.

My husband and I dissected our life over the last 20 years trying to figure out how to explain how we have gotten here – looking back with a sense of wonder at our miracle journey.  (“Dude, we are STILL together after all that hoopla. High five.”)

My children have needed me in ways that are reminiscent to those early years when they needed assurance of my presence to feel safe and when really they just needed us to LOVE them.  They didn’t need me to go over pros and cons or give practical explanations or dole out Hallmark card promises that chapters end and it’s only through change that we grow.  They needed hugs that held on for eternity, nights to sleep with me under the crook of my arm even if they couldn’t fit in it anymore, moments where I only listened and held back the tears to give space for them to cry, and allow them to cling to memories without tainting them with a real behind-the-scenes play by play.  The one gift I can give them right now is to let them believe in fairy tales, happy endings, and that we will always be here to make everything better.  (And why not? Happy endings come in many shapes and forms.  It is the happy middles that we all seem to have trouble with.)

The danger in nostalgia is the longing that is associated with it.  The wish to be somewhere else – in another place and another time.  The word is made up of two greek words: nostos (homecoming) + algos (pain, grief, distress).  Basically, it means to be homesick.  It is a yearning to return home where “home” just means a simpler place and time where things were predictable and familiar.  A place where life is static and immovable as if we could go beyond capturing moments in photographic stills and actually freeze that candid mid-laugh moment or that group picture where no one leaves.

As much as I want to curl up with photo albums and scrapbooks and talk about where we have come from or immerse myself in pinning jungle house ideas on my pinterest boards, the present moment beckons me again.  I can’t fast forward through this in-between and middle space.  Today my children wake me up from my reverie of days gone by with a baby nursing, a toddler or two under my arms, and a older child laying across my legs.  They jostle my eyes open to who they are now – struggling and rejoicing in the same moment, needing me and not needing me in the same breath, dipping in and out of the hot and cold pools of confidence and insecurity.

We are in the in-between – the stage just before adolescence, the stage immediately before adulthood, the summer before our family changes from seven to six, spending our days in a house that is no longer ours, dreaming about a home not yet built, and answering questions with “I don’t know yet.”

It is in this space where hope springs eternal I am told.  It is here where that magical moment before dawn resides.  The edge of becoming where possibility dwells. The day before the birthday.  The waiting in traffic.  Any type of waiting.  It is in this waiting place that nostalgia sneaks in.  Hope and wait are the same word in Spanish.   Our mind wanders and we would like to be in any place but this place of anticipation.

I sink into a place where even my children or my husband can’t come or have visited, a secret place of motherhood past – a place where I tell myself that I did the best I could even when I know I didn’t.  This is the secret in-between place of motherhood – a place between guilt and acceptance.  It is a place I find myself more and more as my children grow older.  As we wait to see what’s around the corner for all of us, as we wait for the time we have to say goodbye to each other and to this place and this time, I wait and hope.

Maybe this is the problem with waxing nostalgic.  You always end up waiting.  You end up tricking yourself that those days will come again soon even if it looks like something different and you will get through this middle.  Hope is waiting for something to come around the corner that will save you from this middle.  But it always takes you away from HERE. The middle part.  The transition from arrival to departure to arrival.  It is only in this middle place where I am saved – the awareness that it is always the middle where life thrives.  In the thick.  In the juiciest part.  It is here, in this place of infinite potential that I can appreciate it all.  The past.  The present.  The yet to be.

My second daughter bought fully bloomed peonies at the farmer’s market today.  She bought half a dozen for $10 of her hard-earned cash.  She took the bouquet, closed her eyes, and inhaled the scent of them.  The farmer gave her an extra one.  I think he saw what I saw – a perfect example of the glorification of NOW.  She spent an hour’s worth of babysitting on impermanent beauty.  The flowers will probably last another day or two but that expression on her face, that will be with me forever.

 

 

 

***

I will be holding one last Book of Hours Workshop before we leave for Costa Rica in October.  And I will be beginning another 100 Day Project soon.  Stay tuned for details…

 

 

{ 0 comments }

how my dreams came true.

Do you know what that moment feels like when you realize that all your dreams have come true?

I had this moment this morning when I went downstairs and saw this:

emptyhouseandstudying

An empty house and my daughter studying for her first university exam.

(In fact, she is writing it now as I write this post.)

Before I get to the empty house, let me explain where I am right now.

Life is beautifully perfect.  We are living the life of our dreams.  Our days look like summer afternoons in July.  My husband and I have slow mornings and have our coffee together as the sun rises in our bedroom.  The kids slowly wake up and have time to learn at the slowest of paces.  We are financially stable.  I have healed and continue to heal all of the relationships in my life.

I love myself and I love my life.

We have lived in this home, that I love as an eighth member of our family, for 10 years in a community that loves and supports us.  I have lived in this city all of my life and love what it has offered my children – a homeschool community, close proximity to family, diversity, the arts, and a chance to understand a little bit more about their parent’s childhood stories.  We live on a street that my mother walked daily to school when she first immigrated to Canada as a young girl.  We live in a neighbourhood that embraced my immigrant grandparents who came with nothing,  We did not intend to live in this area, let alone this house.  My grandmother died and I wanted to be closer to her.  We sold our home in another area of the city and bought this house because I felt her presence.

I have never been happier and felt more peaceful.

Back to the photo of the current state of our house.  It’s empty because we have decided to sell it.  Now that our life is absolutely amazing and perfect, we have decided to move and begin another adventure.

We have bought property in Costa Rica and plan to move there.

On our last trip to Costa Rica, we discovered a community of people with whom our family fell in love with.  I connected to the land in a way I hadn’t connected to a place since we bought this home 10 years ago.  For the first time in a long time, I felt my grandmother with me as she guided me to this new dream.

Over the course of the next few months, I will talk more about our plans and what’s on the horizon for our family.  But for today, I wanted to talk about how I sit in my empty living room overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude.

I was speaking to some our neighbours the other day.  They are so sad at our pending departure from the hood.  They also mentioned how courageous we were to take this step.  As we make this big leap, I have felt a little anxious and nervous.  I have felt sad.  I have felt excited.  I have felt a little stressed at the daunting list of things that we need to do in order to sell our house that I haven’t even wrapped my head around what comes next.

But courageous?  No.  I haven’t felt that.

And as we tell more and more people about our plans, that word keeps popping up.

You guys are so courageous for doing this.

This is such a brave action.

Wow, it’s amazing you guys have the courage to uproot your family and make this change!

For some reason, I don’t feel particularly courageous or brave.  Yes, this is a huge deal.  I get it.  It’s a big deal to give up a long-term investment in this city.  It’s a big deal to explore a different lifestyle abroad.  It’s a big deal to leave comfort zones.

It’s only when I walked down the stairs this morning did I realize why this decision to leave this home doesn’t feel like an act of bravery.  Seeing this picture of my daughter, happy and studying something she loves at a higher level, in a home we made for our children, reminded me that it took 19 years of courageous acts for us to live the life of our dreams, far more courageous than this choice to leave this city.

Flashback to 1997.  I am five months pregnant, alone, and homeless.  I was on my way to a friend’s house temporarily before heading to a shelter for young women when at the last minute, my father offered his couch for me to stay. He helped me move out of my mom’s house and into his home which he shared with his extended family.  I remember those days vividly.  I worked part-time and went to school part-time at the university.  My university tuition for that year was covered by a scholarship and I made a small wage at a receptionist gig at the university.

I was so afraid.  I remember not knowing what my future looked like and thinking I ruined my life and that of my unborn child.  I didn’t know what I was doing.  I didn’t know how to take care of myself.  I didn’t know how I would pay for school.  I figured I would have to quit and just find a job somewhere.  Where was I going to live?  I couldn’t stay on a couch.  The house was full of people and I knew there was no rush for me to leave but there was just no room for me.

To get to my part-time job, my dad would drop me off at the train station.  He lives in the suburbs and I would have to take the train into the city.  I would buy myself a snack and then sit on that 2:00pm train and cry.  One day, instead of buying a bag of chips and a can of pop, I bought chocolate milk and a bag of almonds.  I decided that I was going to start taking care of myself and my baby.  Then I started writing letters to her in a notebook instead of cry on that train ride.  I began with a commitment to myself and to my child.  I began writing all the things that I actually didn’t believe would happen – we would be ok, life would work out, we would always have enough.  And I wrote the only thing I knew to be true at that moment – I loved her from the very beginning.  I would write about how much I loved her because at that moment, loving her was the only thing within my control.

Each day, for months before she was born, I wrote to her.  And that’s when the miracles began to happen.  I received two government grants which allowed me to continue to go to school.  I was able to get Employment Insurance after she was born.  My grandmother, my dad’s mom, ended up going to the Philippines for a few months so I was able to move into her room just before I gave birth.  I remember feeling so grateful to have a bed.  My dad and I began a father-daughter relationship that changed my life.  After my daughter was born, my family started to lend support.  And just when my grandmother returned from the Philippines, I received notice that I was at the top of the list to receive a subsidized family apartment on campus.

There were still challenges after that but it was in that moment when I decided to create my reality and live as if everything was always going to be ok did I take the most courageous act of my life – to have faith.  I would look around and my physical senses would show me that I have nothing but then I began to believe that I had everything I would ever need which changed the course of my life.

When I remember those train rides, I look at my life now with complete gratitude – every day is the cherry on top.  Every single day.  We dreamed about owning a house in the city and our daughter growing up and being able to have more opportunities than I could imagine for her laid at her feet.  And this is what I saw when I came down the stairs this morning.  Thousands of small and large courageous acts of believing and dreaming and choosing.  Choosing to listen to what makes our hearts sing.  Choosing to love when everything else seems to fall apart.

And choosing to trust ourselves when it’s time to follow another dream.

When we first had our daughter, we wanted to prove to everyone that we could do it.  We could make it.  We could make a ton of money and buy real estate which we did.  I was 21 when we bought our first home.  I was driven to succeed but somewhere along the way, I forgot about those train rides where love was really all we needed.  I became obsessed with making money, shoving my daughter in daycare when we probably didn’t need to do that.  After things started to go south in my relationships and I became disgusted the way I was absent as a mother, we shifted our dreams again.  We wanted to expand our family to two kids and do things that we were passionate about.  I gave up my job in banking and investments and went back to school for Interior Design at the same time my husband gave up his stable IT job and followed his dream to start his own business as a personal trainer.

So this move may seem like we are being courageous.  But for us, it’s how we roll and we can’t live any other way.  We are making space for something new.  And we have had two decades of life just getting better and better as we adjust our dreams to our changing paths and to take advantage of opportunities that fall into our laps.  It never ceases to amaze us.  Every time we did things that made people outside our inner circle scratch their heads – five children, a tiny house in the city, entrepreneurship, homeschooling, travel, joining a cow share to buy raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products, we started to understand what that feeling was like to carve out a life that brings you joy.

This will be a spring and summer of closing chapters, endings, and goodbyes.  But before we start that process, before we move the last bit out so we can stage our house and sell it in the next few weeks, I will take today to remember the most courageous act of my life that took place on a train on an ordinary day in 1997.  A day that brought me here – a place where dreams come true and still come true and where it is no longer a courageous act but a natural way for us to live.

It is the day that I chose love.  It is the day where I may not have trusted myself or loved myself but I was on my knees with nothing else to try.  And as I face homelessness with my family on a far different and intentional level, I will remember that love has always been more than enough for us and it is only through love that has led us to live out our wildest dreams.

 

 

{ 4 comments }

a lesson in permission.

My sweet child turned 18 a few weeks ago.  EIGHTEEN. Whoa.

valle de estrella_1

This post is about what she has taught me about boundaries and permission.  (I know that every child is different but I want to share what I have learned about parenting this teen.)

Back in December, my oldest daughter came home from her art gallery youth council meeting just after 8:30pm at night.  She plopped herself down beside me on the couch and got into her customary cuddle position.  Our conversation went something like this:

Her:  “The council meeting was great.  I am really getting along with this group.  They all went out for sushi after the council meeting.  I thought about going but I knew you would want me home.”

I gave her a puzzled look and shook my head.  I was confused and started to wonder if I was losing my memory because I didn’t remember ever telling her that I wanted her home right after the council meeting.

Me: “Don’t take this the wrong way but I didn’t need you home.  You could have gone out.  You know, you will be 18 in a few months.  And the time is coming that you won’t need to ask me for permission.  I hope that you will let us know your plans out of courtesy but permission is another thing.  In fact, when you turn 18, the biggest thing that changes for us is that you will no longer need my written consent to travel without your father and I.”

She sat quiet for some time.  This information had taken her off guard.

Her: “But what does this mean?  That’s it?  I can’t come to you or dad?  But what if I don’t know what to do.  What if I can’t make the decision on my own.  What if I am not ready to leave childhood yet?”

I held her tightly, holding back my emotions.

Me:  “Of course, this isn’t ‘it.’  Dad and I will always be here for guidance and advice whether you like it or not. We will always be available but at some point, I won’t be right there with you to help you make a decision and you and I will both need to trust ourselves.  I have to trust that I have gotten you this far and that you will be ok no matter what and I have to trust that you are on your own path.  You have to trust that you know what you need and that wherever you go and whatever you do, you are there because that is YOUR path that you need to walk.  And you have to trust that we will never stop loving you, no matter where your path leads you.”

And we cuddled some more and ever since then, I have watched my daughter take action in her own life.  I have watched her move towards more and more independence while truly valuing what I have to say.

We have our moments still.  She exerts her opinion and I react impulsively without truly listening to what she is saying behind the defiance and the changing mind.  For both of us, we are still trying to distinguish between that nervous feeling that is associated with fear and that instinctual feeling of changing direction.

Sometimes it is that same gut feeling that makes us both want to puke.

I often sit back and wonder how I arrived at this relationship with my daughter – open, full of mutual respect, and a love that has liberated both of us.

And I think it comes back to the act of permission.

The age of majority in our province is 18.

According to wikipedia, here is what the age of majority means:

“The age of majority is the threshold of adulthood as it is conceptualized (and recognized or declared) in law. It is the chronological moment when minors cease to legally be considered children and assume control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thereby terminating the legal control and legal responsibilities of their parents or guardian over and for them. Most countries set majority at 18. The word majority here refers to having greater years and being of full age; it is opposed to minority, the state of being a minor. The law in a given jurisdiction may never actually use the term “age of majority” and the term thereby refers to a collection of laws bestowing the status of adulthood.”

Developmentally, I think 21 is a more appropriate age of majority.  However, I have to accept that this is what our society deems the beginning of adulthood so we have to adapt and have tried to prepare our daughter for what this means.

What does this mean to have control over their own person?  As I sat and thought about this, I reflected on how we have parented over the last few years to get to this moment.  It was a gradual handing over the controls.

We give permission to our children every moment of every day, especially if you have littler folk.  They ask for routine things – if they can have a snack, go outside to play, and sometimes make orange juice from scratch (cringe) which I just agreed to but am ignoring the sounds of splat on the kitchen floor as I type this.  As they get older, the “asks” get more complicated and as a parent, you constantly have to look at your child at who they are and what they are capable of and weigh your yes’s and no’s very carefully.  They ask to go out on their own.  They ask to read a more mature piece of literature or watch a film that may not be in their best interests to watch.  They ask to be untethered from you and you decide how much slack to give.

This is a dance that I sometimes get right and sometimes I am all left feet getting tangled in the rope that I tried so effortlessly to rein in or let out.  (And it can get even more dicey for the dads.)

FullSizeRender-13

For the last 5 years, I have signed consent forms for my eldest to travel.  We go to the same notary public.  I call him up and he knows the drill.  My husband and I climb the narrow set of stairs to a tiny windowless office at the back of a building situated on a busy street near our home. We banter with him about where my daughter is headed this time and how fortunate she is and how nervous a parent can get.  We pay him a nominal fee.  With one little piece paper, I have given permission for my daughter to explore the world without me.  It is one of those difficult letters to sign.  She carried this piece of paper with her as a safety net through her travels and as a vote of confidence from her number one fans.

a girl in paris

This type of permission has set her free.  This type of permission, after setting so many boundaries for so many years for safety reasons, has been crucial to her finding her own way.  It’s not a “Yes, do whatever you want and what makes you feel good,” type of permission.  It’s a “I know that you are ready.  You’ve got this.”

I set clear boundaries for my children as they are growing up.  I set them because we live in a world where we need to learn to co-exist with others.  They will live in communities where no one wants to live next to a jerk who can’t be considerate and feels entitled to voice their opinion regardless if it hurts the feelings of others.  I believe in non-violation.  You can do what you need to do as long as you are not violating others and this doesn’t necessarily mean physical aggression.  It means with words, intentions, and the very way you think about the person in front of you.  I am still working on it and my kids are full witness to my own limitations, especially when I am driving in city traffic.  They keep me accountable and we can have honest discussions about how I could have been a better neighbour and fellow human citizen showing a little bit more compassion along the way but also how I have the right to walk away from people that violate my sense of well-being.

Here’s the interesting part.  Between the years 12 and 15, my boundaries didn’t slacken.  I didn’t let them do whatever they wanted, slapped my hands together and rested because I was done.  My parenting muscle was flexed even more.  I find that my children need me even more to be certain about where I stand on things as they figure out where they stand.  They may disagree with me and but they know that they can safely explore other avenues.  I hold on tightly when I need to hold on to – when they are flailing and they just need to do so in the safety of arms that love them. I was reminded over and over again that they still needed to feel safe knowing that I was unwavering in my love no matter what they did or said.

And then from 15 to 18 years of age, I hardly ever said no.  I can’t remember a time when my daughter came to me and asked to do something and I said no.  We talked a lot about consequences of actions and safety as she began to travel abroad without us but within a controlled group situation.  It really is impossible to act entitled and spoiled when travelling with a group who are helping others.  In fact, it had the opposite effect.  It opened my daughter to interacting with the outside world with compassion and authenticity.  Seeing Filipino children, who share the same ancestry, but who don’t have the same access that she does, changed her when she was 15.  Imagine that knowledge.

After that experience, my permission granting became a means of supporting her using her own voice and carving her own path.  It is allowing her to be whoever she is today and having an unshakeable faith in my child. This faith   has changed my own life.  It is understanding that real love doesn’t constrict or restrict – it sets you free to be whoever you need to be even if it is a “high school dropout” that wants to travel the world.

FullSizeRender-12

You see, I have found that when my husband and I follow our own dreams and live our lives authentically and be unapologetic about our choices, even if they end up not working out how we planned, we give permission for all of our children to do the same.  As we allow ourselves to dream and leap big, they do too.  It is such a beautiful thing to see.  As my daughter plans her trip to Italy, she has never doubted that she would go, working hard to save all year.  Even as she has struggled to find a job and doubted herself, she is saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes her way and even creating some pretty fantastic ones too.  She was able to volunteer on an incredible cacao farm, Caribeans, on her trip to Costa Rica and help take care of children in the neighbourhood too.

She is the product of our grand homeschooling experiment that began when we pulled her out of middle school.  I read one book that changed everything. It changed the way I was going to approach parenting adolescence.  It changed what I wanted for my children.  We have had our ups and downs.  We gave our permission to go to high school to try it out, and when that experiment epically failed, she complained about it for awhile.  That was the moment that I wanted to give in to what was easy, to give her what she wanted – the social life, the norm, the feeling of belonging to something.  But we didn’t give in.  We wanted her to find her way in this world without the pressure of peers and testing.  But I didn’t leave her completely alone to wallow and watch netflix all day.  I presented opportunities for her and suggested she take advantage of them.  She apprenticed with a theatre group and although she decided that wasn’t for her, she made a life long friend along the way.  She joined the youth council for our art gallery which spawned so many wonderful experiences and interactions with art and the city. We wanted her to interact with the community and to travel.  She was reluctant and angry but we pushed.

And today, she is grateful we didn’t give in.  We didn’t let go.

As my daughter launches herself and continues to question, I tell her one thing over and over again.

It’s ok to not know.

There is nothing I can tell her anymore that she hasn’t seen for herself watching us and experiencing it as  a part of our family and on her own.

But this is what I hope she remembers:

It is in the unknown that magic and miracles happen.  It is the feelings of appreciation and gratitude that gets you through the rough patches and that whisper the secrets of happiness.  It is in having faith that everyone is a teachER or a teachING where you can find the truth.  It’s ok to make the grandest of mistakes and failures because you will look back and be surprised that they actually weren’t mistakes or failures after all but the greatest lessons that lead you to where you needed to be.  It is leaning into light and love and not fear where the answers will find you and you won’t even have to seek them.  The questions are enough.  And that we will always be here to remind you to give yourself permission to delight and dance in them.  

No matter how far you travel, our hearts are connected through a special gateway of light.  It is connected outside of space and time.  And wherever we are, we connect with love.  A love that truly liberates both of us.

Thank you for teaching me more about parenthood and to trust myself as a mother more than any book or other resource available.  Thank you for giving me permission to forgive myself for all the things that I thought I never gave you and for all the ways that I thought I failed you.  You are amazing simply because you choose to be YOU.

 

 

 

{ 0 comments }

the art of the unsettled life.

I don’t like that word – unsettled.  But that’s all I have felt this month which is why I haven’t written here in awhile.  I have about a dozen drafts of stories about my trip but my mind keeps jumping too far ahead into the future to really be here to reflect on our awesome travels.

(And according to Mystic Mamma, this is the theme for April – “unsettled.”  If you read the description, it totally sums up the month for me so far.)

In the first week of April, my oldest child turned 18.  (I have a post coming up about my thoughts on that event.) I held it together and prepared myself for this milestone event.  I felt very “settled” as a mama and very proud of our relationship as we approached her birthday.  We had one of the most entertaining and fun birthday parties I had been to in awhile and on her actual birthday, we spent time together.

Me and one

But then my youngest child lost his first tooth that same week.

That was my tipping point.  I knew in that moment that April was going to have its way with me.  And then he lost a second tooth and I was not prepared to see this toothless smile greeting me.  Then people began to tell me how much my third daughter had grown while we were away.  I hadn’t noticed because we were in bathing suits for the last few months.  But then she put on a pair of pants she hadn’t worn since January and they looked like they had shrunk.  I started to stare at her more.  I began to notice that her body had changed.  She had lengthened and her face had lost that “baby” roundness.  She is also now one of the tallest players on her volleyball team even though she is a year (or even two years) younger than all the other players.

There’s more. Yesterday my second daughter informed me she was going out to her favourite crystal and gem store, which is a 20 minute subway ride away, by herself! She was very nonchalant and casual and proceeded to leave the house with confidence.

j_manzanillo

Wait it gets better.

My phone beeps with a text and I ask #4 to pass me my phone and she giggles because she read the text.  This child who couldn’t read well before we left, let alone read messages on my phone which is why I ask her to pass me the phone, can fully read.

What is going on here?!?

I can’t.  I can’t keep up.

And there are other changes happening that are moving us in a very definite direction that is full of unknowns and undefined edges.  Big changes that I hope to talk about soon.

Then there is snow on the ground every few days.  In April.

I texted a friend yesterday that I have found myself so unsettled that I take moments to sit by the window to smoke my pretend cigarette and drink my pretend whisky.

Then it dawned on me this morning.  (And it this happened literally at dawn.) This feeling creeps up on me when I am in the midst of transition.  This is the feeling of the in-between, the space between the spaces.  The place where everything and nothing happens all at once.  It is a place where I find myself in more often than not because I felt major shifts in my body, my mind, and my spirit in the last two years.

This month is one of those in-between places.  Although technically we celebrated the arrival of spring a few weeks ago, mother nature hasn’t gotten the memo in these parts.  There has been a lot of waiting and preparing on my end.  Waiting to move.  Waiting to start our spring science block of botany, astronomy, and geology which all include outdoor lessons. Waiting to create.  Waiting to decide.  Preparing for change. Preparing to step out of limbo.

Then I remembered one of the most amazing lessons that I learned in Costa Rica – nothing lasts forever.  One of the yoga teachers and a new friend, Danielle, would repeat this mantra during the yin moments of the practice where we would have to hold a tough pose for 5-6 minutes or when we did core work that set my mid-section on fire.

Nothing lasts forever.

Take this chocolate for instance.  I made this beautiful piece of chocolate in a chocolate-making workshop in Costa Rica.  I love this picture because it has already started to melt in the heat.  I could admire it a little longer and it would continue to melt away or I could pop it in my mouth and savour it.  Yes, it would be gone but nothing lasts forever.

melting chocolate

If I can hold that mantra in my heart – hold it as I look around at these children who tower over me, cook for themselves, and go out into the world, I can remind myself that I am always in a space of departure and arrival.  I am always in transition.  I am always unsettled.  This is the beauty and wonder of feeling alive.  To move without resistance to the flow of what is happening in front of me.  I can pause and marvel but never for too long because life will move me when it’s time to go.

One of the definition of “unsettled” is to “undo from a fixed position.”  The opposite of staying in one place permanently.  And if you have ever held pigeon pose for 5-6 minutes, you know how unsettling (and painful) it feels to release and come out of that position.  Sometimes we do have to stay in one place for awhile – to catch our breath, to have awareness, to appreciate, to refer to our inner guidance system, to listen.

Having children that inevitably grow up and out on their own timetables keep me moving.  When I don’t allow for their own growth because I want us all to stand still, to remain this little family that I can hold together for a little longer, they rebel and resist me.  I have children ages 6 to 18.  The dust never settles.  If I look at the past 18 years of being a parent, life never actually settled down.  My most stress-free and happy moments were when we laughed at the chaos and made the biggest messes of things without worrying about the potential clean-up.

In fact, life with 5 children is an unsettled life.  Life in a house with 7 people is unsettling.  Everyone needs something different at every moment of the day.  Yes of course I feel unsettled!  What else could I be?  Would I really want to settle?

lopez7costarica

What if we never settled?  What if we never settled for a lesser experience?  What if we never settled on the conventional and widely accepted modes for living?  What if we never settled on choices that gave us security without joy?  What if we settled on a life that was less than we deserved?  What if we never settled because it was uncomfortable and unbalancing but led to exponential growth and learning?

When my third daughter was little, she would put on her shoes and say, “I wonder where my feet will take me today.”  And she would smile with a twinkle in her eye and walk out the door never knowing where our day would lead.

Today I am going to make peace with this unsettled feeling.  I am going to stop letting my mind tell me that I need to feel sure about everything.  I am going to dance and move and feel everything.  I am going to meet my children where they are at today.

I am going to put on my shoes and let my feet move me to where I need to be.

{ 1 comment }

a lesson in life support.

My husband went on a 10-day surfing trip to the pacific coast of Costa Rica.  We stayed behind in the Caribe Sur.  He had never been away from us for more than a week.

aloneJPG

The 10 days without him felt like I was on my retreat again. I know you may be wondering what that means.  Alone with 5 kids, how could I have possibly have felt I was on a retreat?

I’ll come back to that.

I began to get a little anxious about Chris’ departure a few days before he left.  My mind started to race with contingency plans, strategies, what-if scenarios, and general worry.  We are in a foreign country where pretty much anything goes because of the weather. l also started to worry about driving a monster 12-passenger van with manual transmission and no 4-wheel drive for 10 days.

My mind spiralled in fear.

When we are home in Toronto and he leaves for business trips, I have the support of my family, friends, and the rhythm of my home.  In fact, he is away in L.A. right now and we are in the midst of a family sleepover for the weekend.

What would happen while we were in a new place in another country???

I didn’t sleep at all that night.  The jungle sounds, which I had grown to love over the last month as sweet lullabies, became menacing and creepy background noise to a horror movie.

The next morning, the day before Chris left, my body told me to go to yoga. My mind tried to convince me that I had too much to do and I had no time for a class and to do a quick personal practice session at home.

As I gave my mind room to be heard, I quickly became aware that I had forgotten a lesson that I had learned deeply on my retreat and in fact, this whole trip:

My body knows better.

And I went to yoga which happened to be a fusion flow – a mix of pilates and yoga – taught by an amazing teacher, Danielle.

Danielle talked about strengthening the core, firing it up first thing in the morning.  She talked about being fully supported by your core.

Fully supported by MY core.  Well of course.  My body knew.

As I physically began to strengthen my core, and slowly feel that by body was fully supported, my feelings changed.  I no longer felt fear.  After that 75 minute yoga class, I loved my body and stayed in that feeling of core strength.

I knew I was ready and that I always had been ready. My body just had to give me a nudge in the right direction to remind me.

And that was my mantra for the 10 days:

I am fully supported.

In that moment, I had no doubt that everything would be fine.  My eldest two children told me that they would make dinner every night.  The other ones committed to clearing the table and did the dishes after dinner.  (And as a thank you/incentive gift, I bought them each a pareo for the beach – a fair exchange of energy, in my opinion.)

A few hours after Chris left, one of my children’s bellies began to feel off.  We went for ice cream with friends and she assured me that she felt fine enough to eat a scoop of homemade artisanal ice cream.  So she did.  And 15 minutes later, she threw up in the ice cream place.

I wanted to cry.  I started to imagine the worst and focused my attention on stomach bugs and what it would be like to clean up vomit for 10 days as it rampaged our entire family.  I stopped breathing.

But then I looked down at my daughter and switched to mama mode.  I took a cleansing breath and I guided her to throw up in the garden instead of the floor.  I wiped up the vomit on her and stroked her head.

And because in that moment, I took myself out of my head and into my body to just handle what was in front of me, I remembered my mantra, and I whispered:

I am fully supported.

Two seconds after I whispered it, the owner came brought me paper towels, proceeded to give me the most comforting and sympathetic look, and asked if there was anything he could do to help. Any mama knows how much genuine compassion is valued when handling a challenging situation with children so you can imagine how this seemingly tiny offering immediately began to give me enough space to breathe.

A woman I had just met minutes ago, who was a friend of a new friend I was meeting for ice cream, hopped on her bike to ride home to pick up some activated charcoal for me.

My children asked if there was anything else their sister needed.

These small gestures gave me the most amount of relief that I wanted to cry again, but because I was filled with gratitude.  I was fully supported.

It was miracle after miracle after miracle from that moment on.  Text messages offering support and people checking up on me.  Hugs everywhere I went.  Playdates and playdates and playdates abound (for both the children and myself).

Whenever something unexpected happened, I returned to my body – that physical feeling of support – rather than let my mind spiral into convincing me to feel overwhelmed and create a reality of fear. And in each moment that I returned to that core strength, I would find immediate evidence of support.

Those 10 days became magical for both myself and my husband who was on the opposite side of the country.  We both said yes to experiences without overanalyzing the potential outcomes.  We learned how taking care of ourselves always had to come first because we cannot give to others what we don’t give to ourselves – care, support, and of course, love.

I drove out of town and onto dirt roads, only to find magic waiting each time. Sometimes I drove in the dark. Sometimes I drove in the pouring rain.  I listened to my body’s needs for rest, for solitude, for community, for connection, for movement, for touch, for walking barefoot in the jungle.  And it was there that I found gratitude each time.

If I had listened to the incessant chatter of my mind,

“You have no 4-wheel drive.”

“You can’t drive on this road in the dark while it’s raining.”

“You have no business leaving the kids at home at night to go out.”

“The car could break down in the middle of nowhere.”

“You are alone with children so don’t be irresponsible.”

“You can’t maneuver this large van on small dirt roads.”

“You are too tired to walk with them.”

“You are too tired to do anything on your own.”

I would have missed out on LIFE.  I would have missed out on the most beautiful and deeply connected encounters with people that have become lifelong friends.  I would have missed time with women that inspire me and reinforce my feeling of inner and outer support.  I would have denied my daughters and son the opportunity to see their mother demonstrate a deep knowledge of her own power and confidence in her strength.  I would have denied them the experience of seeing a community of people, who we have come to know in less than 2 months, offer and give us support with generosity and kindness.  I would have missed out on spending time with our Toronto friends who came to visit this sweet little town.  I would have missed out on driving the van and picking up women (and children) who needed rides.  I would have missed out on a dinner that led to a special event in the jungle (which will be the subject of another post).

If I listened to the chatter, I would have holed us up on our little rental property in fear of what could happen.

This is what I learned first on the retreat then and over and over on this trip – how much power we can give to our thoughts.  We are such creative and imaginative beings that we can create either a reality based in fear or one based in faith and love. The 10 days felt like a retreat back into my body again.  To fully go back to the sensations instead of relying on thoughts for guidance.  My mind could create hundreds of danger scenarios in a foreign place, alone with my children. I learned the skill of living in my body on the retreat and I practiced it in such an extreme way while Chris was gone because it wasn’t just about taking care of myself but extending that care to my children.  I had to trust my inner guidance system which begins in my body.

How can I keep talking about “listening to intuition” and to their “gut” if I couldn’t do the same? Every time I let go of my mind’s stories, I allowed myself to be happy.  I allowed myself to live loud.  I allowed myself to practice magic.  I allowed myself to do things that made me feel good.

I allowed love in.  I allowed the jungle to wrap her arms around me.

jungle love

Strength didn’t come with feeling like I could do everything on my own.  It came from knowing that I didn’t have to.

And once I figured that out, I realized that I have always been and always will be fully supported.

 

{ 0 comments }

an apology + an update.

heart on a tree

We are back in Toronto after two months abroad and I owe you an apology.

In the previous post that I wrote about a month ago, I promised to post sooner.

It has now been a full moon’s cycle.

I apologize for the absence, the cliff hanging, and the neglect.

Costa Rica, specifically the Caribe Sur, gently, and sometimes not so gently, nudged me into the present moment.  Every encounter was full of magic and surprise.  After I threw expectation out the window, each moment guided me to the next. (I also spent a lot of time making these large leaves into hearts and leaving them in the jungle for people to find.)

And at no point in time did the place tell me to sit at this laptop.

Wifi was spotty in the house we rented and I didn’t want to spend my days blogging in a cafe while life was happening in front of me.  I didn’t want to be an observer.  I became an active participant.  I was guided to  life-changing events and to meet extraordinary souls along the way.  And none of that would have happened if I was on this laptop at a cafe documenting and not living.

Now that we are in Toronto again, I am in full reflection mode.  We are in familiar surroundings and my senses are taking a break from being bombarded day and night. As I adjust to cooler temperatures, my body is saying it is time to stop, to keep warm, and to be still.  I interpret this as making myself a hot cup of coffee, curling in a blanket and reading through my journal and writing down anything that comes in moments of clarity. It is time to disseminate and absorb.  It is time to play back the stimulating sensory reel of the last two months while staying right here.  To reflect without attachment but only with fondness and an understanding of how I arrived here.  Back home.

I love how everything has its time and place.

This week I began a journey held by Sacred Female Space.  The timing of everything is uncanny.  Spring equinox ushered in a transitional phase, a space between here and there, and a planting of seeds abroad and at home.  This particular journey begins at a simultaneous place of departure and at a place of arrival.  The planting of seeds abroad came with visions and dreams that I am piecing together here at home. I hope to share more information about what I learn with my community of women here.  I will have more info on how that will happen soon.

As I begin this spring season of new beginnings and new intentions, a time to step back and look at the broader picture, I want to share my experiences with you.  I want to release all that I have learned in the last couple of months right here in a huge exhale.  I want to tell our family stories of living in the jungle for the last two months.  I want to tell you about my own story of finding things I didn’t know I was looking for.  I want to tell you how this trip became a rite of passage for me as a mother about to launch my first born.  I want to tell you about all the moments we danced in the rain and sang songs of thanks as we skipped through our jungle playground.I want to tell stories of trust, wisdom, and intuition.  I want to tell you how I encountered magic and learned to practice it.   I want to talk about the power of words and the miracle of feelings.  I want to tell you about the ocean’s whisperings and the earth’s sighs.   I want to tell you about hellos, goodbyes, and see you soons.

Tomorrow I begin with the story of what happened when my husband left us in our little Costa Rican caribbean town for 10 days…

 

{ 0 comments }

full moon |full circle

full moon_cr

Part two of “thoughts on my retreat experience” will be coming up later this week.  For reasons I will explain later, I am participating in an exercise where I can’t talk about the past for the next three days.  This is a difficult exercise and I am sure I am going to reference the past here a little but I feel compelled to share something that is on my mind and what is permeating through my heart right now.

For the first time that I can remember, my cycle coincides with the full moon.

For the first time, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for being a woman.

Can you believe that?

I don’t think in all my gratitude journals and in all the circles I have attended or all of the nights I have shared what I am grateful for with my children have I ever simply stated,

“I am grateful to be a woman.”

For the first time, I am feeling every cramp, every breast soreness, every ounce of fatigue, every night sweat with a deep breath of gratitude.  My body is telling me to stop, to surrender, and to breathe.  If I close my eyes, it feels like the first moments of when I was ready to welcome my children into the world – the five most miraculous times of my life.

For the first time, I am not feeling the arrival of my menstrual flow as a burden or a hindrance.  I am not sitting in frustration at the steps that I have to take in order to “deal” with this.

For the first time, I feel solidarity and community with every single woman who has ever lived, who lives now, and who has yet to come into this world.  I know that all of our cycles were once in full rhythm with the moon.  The true moon cycle repeated in our own bodies because we were once all in symbiosis with nature.

For the first time, I yearn deeply for a red tent.  A place to gather and to honour my body with my mothers, my sisters, and my daughters.  I am grateful for the weekly women’s circle here that is held by my new friend, Hannah, from Sacred Female Space, and who will be holding a space for women with other women, a Red Tent, at Envision Festival this week.

For the first time,  I know why my throat has bothered me ever since my heart began to open.  It is the lost voice coming through and returning on behalf of all of the women who haven’t been able to tell her story.  My voice is changing.  The words I use are changing.  My language of what it means to be a woman is changing.

For the first time, I celebrate this release.  This beautiful evidence of the feminine energy to create, house, and bring forth life.

For the first time, I am looking forward to finally allowing myself to see my moon-time as my sacred mama-time.  A time to reflect on womanhood.  A time to model for my daughters how to receive this time as a blessing and shift my own perspective of my cycle.

I now feel a deep sense of sorrow for all of the women who cannot go to school or to work during this time, or who have had to hide their feminine products, or who feel compelled to “push through” this week, or who have ever looked upon this time as a curse, or who have felt inferior, or who have seen this as a weakness instead of the most powerful strength. Myself included.

As my own daughters prepare to experience their moon times, I will tell them the story of Selene, the moon goddess, “Queen of the Starlit Heavens.”  From Michael Babcock and Susan Seddon Boulet’s Goddessess cards, we read that she “represents the fullness of life, incorporating all phases of light and darkness in her shining.”

I will tell them the story of Medusa, a moon goddess in her own right who actually is, according to the cards, “a symbol of growth and generation that dies so that from death may come life.”  Without her death, the winged horse Pegasus would not have been created.  Pegasus represents “instinct, wisdom, imagination, life force, and intuitive understanding.”

I will tell them that there is a cycle for all things.  An energy of creation/birth, preservation, and destruction/release.  A time for rest and a time for activity.  I will tell them how blessed we are as women to have this cycle of nature built within us, a gift to have the moon as the ultimate mid-wife and sister.

And above all else, I will tell them how grateful I am to be a woman.

{ 1 comment }