Friday, June 29, 2012

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Last night I lay in bed with Bodhi, frustrated that he wasn't falling asleep.  I decided to stop stewing and pour endless love and attention to him by tickling his hair, and thinking about how much I loved him as he nursed himself to sleep.  It was if I had decided to switch off aggravation and switch on compassion.

As soon as he drifted off to sleep, which was much quicker, when I opened my heart, a phone call from a dozen years ago came to mind.

A few months before Nana died, she called me out of the blue.  I was sitting on the couch watching TV next to Zach, and she said, "Go get your bible."

I took the few steps to the large book she had given me a few years before and replied, "Got it."

"Turn to the Beatitudes."  Of course she had to tell me where to turn, even though I'd read it a dozen times and even translated it in Latin during high school (please don't ask me to do that last part now).

She asked me to read it to her, so I did.

She asked me what I thought "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" meant.

I don't remember what I replied, but I never forgot what she said, "I always thought it meant, those that don't have the resources to do God's work on earth."

I didn't question her, I just listened.  Resources?  Like they didn't have a church or a bible?  Rosaries, statues or saints?  What did she mean?

Her words have come to me hundreds of times in the last twelve years.  Every time they seemed just as mysterious as the day she spoke them, until last night.

God's resources aren't physical.  They're with us always: compassion, love, attention, understanding, patience, kindness, respect, selflessness, caring, and peace.

Words sure can get us into trouble, so I won't define God as I understand it.  I'll just tell you that it's probably not what you think, but the exactly the same as you feel.  It's when we feel something with our heart, not understand it with words, that we really get it.

Last night, Nana was with me.  She had tried for years to teach her spoiled granddaughter what God's resources were, and she finally had to plant the seed once and for all, hoping that one day it would blossom.

Well, Nana, your love is blossoming, and I appreciate you so much for what you taught me.

Right before Bodhi's first birthday, her gift finally woke me up, like it never had before.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Each fracture of my heart
only exposes more love,
brightening the deep recesses
beyond view.

Like a leaf, fallen to the ground,
fertile compost,
absorbing the dark,
only to spring forth a flower in Spring.

Letting my light shine outward,
a beacon,
attracting love,
softening anger.

It never dims,
only brightens.

Even when it appears to be dying,
it is reborn anew.

Energy springing forth more energy,
like curing like,
love curing love.

My heart,
always broken,
always open.

Monday, June 25, 2012

3 + 1

The best way I can describe being at home with a three and one year old:

The highest peaks and the lowest valleys.  In the blink of an eye.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

So Much Junk

I used to be the most disorganized person you ever met.

If you knew me, you know that I used to live with tons of clutter and junk.  Every surface was covered or piled full of stuff.  Knick knacks were everywhere.

There was no rhyme or reason.  Every room was full of piles of stuff I wanted to save or needed to file away.  But the trouble was, I didn't have a place to put it, but I felt like I should just keep it.

It drove me nuts.

Eventually, we were moving to Florida and bought a twenty-eight foot RV.  Obviously, we could only take important things with us or some things that really meant something to us.

This was a huge challenge for me.

I piled everything I could into the RV, and everything else was piled into boxes and placed in Mom's attic.  I didn't think twice about it, I just piled it all away, throwing away very little.  All the junk in her attic even caused her ceiling to bow a little.  After all, it was an entire house full of stuff.

I have no idea what I was thinking.  Was I piling away an entire life?  Did I think I would return and need all this stuff, much less want it?  Did I think everything would be the same when I returned?

It turned out that the answer was no.

We loved living in our RV.  Of course we bought some cool stuff to bring home, but we learned to love living with less.

We eventually returned home to Texas, only a few hours from home.  We moved into a small house and had nothing but the stuff in our RV.  We had pretty much given all our furniture away, so we just bought what we needed.

Within a few months we packed up and moved back home to Austin.

That's when I had to face the stuff.  All the stuff in Mom's attic.

When we moved into the place we live in now, Mom started bringing all the stuff to me slowly.

Box by box.

Within a few months of moving into our first real home together, we had Z.  By then, the house wasn't cluttered at all, but not organized either.  It was much better though.  We had started to build a life in our home together.  Without all the stuff.

After Z was born and maternity leave was over, which I never wanted to return to work from, there was turmoil at work, and I quit.

It was a huge leap for me.

It was probably the scariest thing I've ever done.  Having a child, when I never considered myself much of a kid person, was huge.  Then there was staying at home full time.

It felt right, even if it didn't fit into my story.

Suddenly, I let life begin to write itself.

I surrendered and threw myself into the line of fire.

I was a stay at home mom.

I had no idea what I was doing.  Z was an awesome baby, so we just had fun all day.

I figured out how to do stuff around the house, and began to organize a little.

I never had any sort of a schedule.  I just did what needed to be done.

The kid was hungry.  I sat down and fed him.  Cuddling and bonding was a huge bonus there.

The laundry was dirty.  I washed it.

The dishes needed to be washed.  So I washed them.

I figured out a system and I didn't even know it.

I did what needed to be done.

Everything told me when it needed to be done.

Then I added in a to-do list.  I was happy to tick things off.  Then I realized, I was focusing so much on ticking things off that I lost a little focus of what was in front of me.

It is no coincidence that this happened most intensely right after my Grandmother passed away.  Plus, I really wanted the kids to grow up in a de-cluttered and organized home.  I was pregnant with baby number two and if I didn't get more organized now, it wouldn't happen for years.

Eventually, I unpacked each of those boxes I had stored.  About 90% of each box was worthy of being tossed out or given away.  It blew my mind.  What the hell did I save that for?  Wow.

I disposed of truckloads of stuff.  My niece had a garage sale and kept whatever she made from it.  You have no idea the amount of stuff I got rid of.  

It was so refreshing.  It felt so good to get rid of everything that had bogged me down for so many years.  

Within a week, I cleaned all seven closets in the house and organized them from top to bottom.  If you know me this was a huge huge task.  Z was happy playing with all the junk, so that was cool.  We kind of did it together, as much as a two year old can clean closets.

I bought containers, and made room and space for a lot of stuff.  All the unnecessary or old junk was given away or tossed.

It was literally the hugest Spring cleaning of my life.

Over the next year and a half I've bought shelfs, boxes, and used what was in our home to give everything a place.  It felt really good.

The things we have, are here for a reason.

Yes, I still have a storage shed, and what is in there will be sorted and tossed.  I couldn't do it all, but that's ok.

In the beginning, was also able to make more time to sit on the cushion, more often, with only one child.  So I realized what I was doing more than ever before.  I wasn't dealing with a lot of stuff and feelings, like I hadn't dealt with the stuff.

I not only had the stuff to go through but the other stuff, the mental stuff.  Everything in my mind was only begin half brought to the surface.  It's not like I can think things away, but when I don't deal with what's in front of me, it festers, like an open, untreated wound.

Sometimes I like to learn the hard way.

My mind, like the stuff, wasn't being given enough attention.

It was all right in front of me.

So I sat some more.

I realized that he problem was the grasping of stuff.


I had hit the nail on the head.

Having an organized home, which always takes arranging and re-arranging, prioritizing and sorting, adding and removing, is much like my life.

It's when I don't deal with stuff that it just sits and takes space.  It bothers me, even if it isn't on the surface.

I need to feel things fully, right then and there.

Sometimes it bugs the hell out of me to know that the shed has boxes I haven't gone through, just like sometimes it bugs the hell out of me that not all issues in my mind, have been sorted through, understood or not, and released.

There's always something to do.  There's always work to be done.

I don't need a list.  I need to do what needs to be done.

I don't need to let things sit.  I need to focus on them right away, or categorize them and put them somewhere to file.

One of the important things is, nothing has to be perfect.

Another important thing is, what's right in front of me, my boys.

Stuff can sit on a shelf for a little while.  Boxes can wait to be sorted.  The dishes will get done, just put them in the sink.

There is no thing as perfect.  Yet, everything is perfect and whole, as it is, if I can just see it.

There is always something to do, but I don't have to go crazy trying to do it all at once.  It's impossible.

It will all get done, but I'll never be done.  Done is an illusion.

Just as: there is no destination.  There is only the journey.

There is always a time and a place.

I need to be with what is in front of me.

If it surfaces, hopefully I will deal with it.

I can categorize it as it crosses my path, or better yet, just say hello, and carry on, like an acquaintance passing on the street.

When I do, everyone is happier.  The entire family is better off.

Now, back to my cushion.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thirteen Summers

Summer has always been an awakening time for us, filled with light and love.  Especially near the Solstice.  

Thirteen summers ago, I started college, a mere two weeks after graduating.  I swore I wasn't going to date anyone for a long long time and was in the middle of a long and drawn out break up.  There was one cool hot dude had asked me out a few times.  I wasn't really taken, I just hadn't let go yet.

Twelve summers ago, I was madly in love with the man I would later marry.  It was that cool hot dude.  He is and was and is my best friend.  It would be another eight years before we spent a night apart.

Eleven summers ago, I was writing poetry, making art, and emerging from a semester off.  I was about to dive straight into my first class in philosophy, which became a second love.  I felt at home, on the way to something, but not knowing what.

Ten summers ago, we were taking a magical two-week motorcycle trip in the mountains of New Mexico.  We traveled the winding paths of the Enchanted Circle together.

Nine summers ago, was a blur.  I remember an amazing trip where we camped in Colorado for a week.  We walked towards the big dipper every night as it lowered into the lake between mountains.  He still loved me, even if I hadn't shaved my armpits in a week.

Eight summers ago, right on the Summer Solstice, we married on the shores of Lake Travis.  It was the longest, most light filled day of the year, filled with family and friends.  A few days later we headed to The Keys where we found an incredible last minute spot to stare at the ever changing ocean and each other for days.

Seven summers ago, we were living in a tiny home on Lake Whipporwill in Florida.  Zach attended the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute and I worked at Full Sail.  It was gorgeous, full of white beaches, clear water, and the most amazing lightning storms we've ever witnessed.  I adore and miss my Florida friends, but Orlando never felt like home.

Six summers ago, we were on the precipice of the unknown.  We eventually moved back to Texas after Zach graduated, but Corpus was disgusting.  We felt regret the moment we drove down South Padre Island Drive.  We tried to make the best of it, but were thankful that home, Austin, was only a few hours away.

Five summers ago, back in Austin, I spent the summer depressed, dwelling on my first miscarriage.  It was a huge epiphany the moment I read the positive line.  I didn't know that I wanted to be a mama until then.  We moved back to Austin, just because that's where we wanted to raise our child.  Then it was all over in the blink of an eye.  I felt empty, but it didn't hit me until I sat alone for so many months.

Four summers ago, I was hot and pregnant again!   We were getting ready to move into Been Acre.  I began to practice Zen, with the help of one awesome little book and one beautiful teacher.  I was preparing for the hugest, most awakening moment of my life.

Three summers ago, I found myself a stay at home mom and figuring out a whole new world.  This world was one that I never knew existed or ever thought I wanted to be a part of until I took the leap.  It would turn out to be the best and most challenging decision of my life.  To say it opened my eyes and heart is an understatement.

Two summers ago, I was pushing my Grandmother to go to the doctor, where eventually we would find out that her cancer had returned.  This was a few months after my second miscarriage.  And a month after I did something I had never done before: I drove to Houston alone to meet that beautiful teacher, Maezen, for my first Dharma Talk.  It would be a moment that opened me up even further and prepared me for what lie ahead and tackling what was behind me.  It welcomed me into deepening my practice.

One summer ago, I was two weeks away from the birth of beautiful Bodhi and deeply missing my Grandmother.  It was a hard, hot summer, full of equal parts of love and loss.

Today, we celebrate eight years of marriage and the union of our beautiful families.  Through trials and tribulations, practice, heart ache and expansion, I've made it to a spot of more love, happiness and joy than I can ever remember.  My heart has begun to crack wide open.

Every moment is perfect in itself, and is my teacher, even if I don't see it right away.  I am eternally grateful for everything and everyone in my life, the awesome and the not awesome, the easy and the tough.

I married my best friend, who became the father of our two beautiful boys.  He sacrifices a lot more than many dads do.  His boys are lucky to have him.  Me too!

Through the years, we would learn that there is nothing more special than compromise and unconditional love.  He's stuck by my side, and I his, through the thick and the thin.  We've quarreled, made up, wondered and wandered together, and always been there for each other.

We've both put up with a lot, but I'm sure he's put up with more of my changes than I have his.  We've settled many differences, and grown together, side by side, even if it seems like we live in parallel universes sometimes.  That's what love is: growing and evolving together, despite differences.  There's always differences.

I love you, Zach.  Thank you for faithfully being by my side and being the best father these boys could ever have.

Here's the Apache prayer that Zach's brothers read at our wedding:

Now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness,
for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons,
but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead
and through all the years.
May happiness be your companion,
and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

Here's to our one life.

Twelve and a half years together.  Eight years married.  Two beautiful children, two sweet pups and a crazy cat later.  Here we are, and it still feels like the beginning.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Whole Heart

As I lay nursing Bodhi to sleep a few nights ago, it just hit me out of the blue, just how beautiful being a mother is.

It was one of those moments, at the end of an ordinary day, where your whole heart opens up as you stroke your child's hair and peer into each other's heart.  He dazed off and I just lay there with tears in my eyes, just so grateful to be these boys' mama.

I went to check on Z, and gently kissed his cheek as he lay sleeping.  He woke a little, sat up, put out his hand, and said, "Can you hold this."  I pretended to take whatever it was and said, "Yes.  I got it."  Then he smiled, lay back down, and said, "Mom."

Yes, dear boy.  I will hold whatever you need me to.

It's a magnificent but sometimes daunting task, to be responsible for complete and utter miracles.  The universe gave me the greatest gifts ever, and trusted me to raise and guide them.  Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve such beauty.  It's such an important task for an ordinary human, to raise babes with extraordinary love.  Like I've said, nothing has ever opened my heart more.

I remind myself daily, in between, and in the awesome and not so awesome moments, how lucky I am.

I need to always slow down, reflect and pause.

Go when my name is called.

Say yes as often as possible.

Love unconditionally.  Unconditionally.  As my mother loves me.

Be grateful for their presence.

They truly are perfect little miracles, teaching me so much about myself every single day.

I am their mama.

I am one with them.

I am the one they trust and turn to.

I am the one to lead by example.

I am the one to learn through and with them.

I am there to listen to them.

I am always there for them, even if they have to call my name more than once.

When unpleasant or antsy thoughts pervade my mind I need to stop.  Stop and think of the miracles before me.

The emotion is my signal.  It is there for me to take notice of it.  It's my chance.

It's my one and only chance to ask -can I sit with this?

It's my one and only chance to stop or go.

It's my one and only chance to respond how they need me to respond.

It's my one and only chance to surrender.

I screw up plenty.  I lose my patience.  I lose my temper.  I yell.  I'm far from perfect.

They've seen me at my best and at my worst.  But above all, they see how I come back from the worst and take responsibility for it.

Can I truly be sorry and move forward when it happens?  Can I show them that I mean it?  Yes, I can.

I'm honored to be their mother.

Thank you, boys, for your unconditional love.

You are my whole heart.

Friday, June 8, 2012

This Moment

{these moments} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  Inspired by SouleMama.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

It's Always Darkest Before Dawn

It's always darkest before dawn.

I don't remember what quite set it off, but I've a had a disheartening and hard month or more.  I dug a hole, fell into it, and had a hard time climbing out.  I know that when this happens, it's up to me to figure the way out myself.  My meditation practice and my children help me to see what's really important, but sometimes it's hard to act when you feel a bit paralyzed.

It's the culmination of many events that transpired with family after my Grandmother passed last January.  There seemed to be too many unresolved issues that I couldn't let go of.  I believe in moving forward not living for yesterday, but sometimes that's hard to do, especially when others choose not to.

When the big stuff goes unresolved, the little stuff starts to effect me, and can bring some more big stuff with it.  Then the domino effect begins and it rolls down to my children, family, those I love, and everyone around me.  Like a friend says, "When Mama ain't happy, no ones happy."  It's not a selfish statement, it's because every Mama is one of the most important parts of a child's life.  It's our job to be strong, or know when we're weak, and pick ourselves up, and ask for help if we need it.

Someone that I love has had a very hard time moving forward and something very unfortunate happened to him.  I chose to help instead of throw my hands up.  It was a hard decision, because it wasn't just a little help.  That choice made someone even closer to me say some very cruel things because they weren't happy with their life and their choices.  Many things said were untrue and borderline insane so I tried to let it go.  I couldn't.  It's hard to let things go when others are hurting and they try to hurt you.  Bitter resentment will eat you up if you let it.  I have learned to live with and understand many of my resentments, so when I see others stewing in despair, it hurts.

I chose to take a stand and do what was right.  My relationships are my business.  If someone doesn't like them then that is their problem not mine.  I don't have to discuss anything you don't want to hear and you don't have to ask.  Seems simple to me, but we are human.  One thing that I know is that you can't tell anyone what to do, they have to decide for themselves.

Then, last week, my littlest one came down with a virus and we had four sad question-filled days with fever.  It was like a mediation retreat, doing nothing but loving and cuddling my tiny boy, sending him love and trying to send myself some kind and gentle love.  Thank goodness Grandma was off to play with Z, while I nursed Bodhi for days.

Everything hit me.  I was deeply questioning every choice I made.  Was I really being a good mother?  Good wife?  Good daughter?  Good friend?  Kind?  Gentle?  Loving?  Forgiving?  What have I done wrong?  Am I doing anything right?  How come everyone else seems to have their shit together?  Everyone does so many different things.  Some people can take care of their family and find time to do what they love, and sometimes make a living doing it.  Do I need to find my niche in life besides being a mother right now?

That last one hit me harder than I expected.  It had been in the back of my mind for a few months now.

Right before all the questioning, I had began reading some things that helped me in my journey.  Things that were deep in my heart but had to be pulled to the surface, and put right in front of my face.  

There was this.  It helped me take a step back and see things from a distance.  It gave me the perspective of time and space.  It was a little lightbulb above my head.  "Step back."  Look at it from the other's perspective, from the whole room's perspective, from my city, from my state, all the way to the end of the universe.  What was going on was not grand on the whole scale of sadness.  It was, in the words of Lemony Snicket, a series of unfortunate events.  It allowed me to see things in real time.  Was most of the stuff that was bothering me going to matter in five minutes?  An hour?  Next week?  Next year?  Ten years?  No?  What the hell am I grasping this hot cole for?  Feel that tension, don't speak, don't act, move forward gently, as gently as possible.  Send out love, not hate.  Don't be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution.

Then I read this.  There's always more rope at the end.  There's always a new day.  There's always a beginning.  Seemingly infinite times a day we can choose to begin again.  I even started taking Z back to bed and symbolically saying, "Let's start over.  Let's begin again.  I'm sorry."  When we both acted out.  It worked.  Then a whole new day came and it was my clear slate.

This really helped to solidify it.  Wow.  Most of the stuff won't matter in 5 minutes, definitely not in a hundred years.  It's a blink in the universe, and most won't matter, but love will.  I don't have to act on every frustration or problem that comes my way.  Most stuff resolves itself if I wait patiently.  As a bonus, there's always a new day or moment when I screw up, or choose to see the shadows instead of the sunshine.

The sun is always there.  It will always rise.

How I choose to live this moment matters, it can effect generations to come.  So love love love.  Then love some more.  Forgive yourself.  Forgive others.  "Be here now."

I was feeling good.  It was all coming to a head.  I removed myself from feeling responsible for other's pain and took responsibility for my own.  I will always be here to love when they are ready.  I will always be open and forgiving.  And believe me, you don't know the half, a fraction of what I've forgiven.  It's not that it doesn't hurt, but all I can do is be me, and be ready and accepting.

Then I woke up one day and saw this, thanks to her.:

It was as if the sun within me was beginning to shine again.  The clouds were lifting.  

I suddenly didn't feel so lost.  I suddenly felt OK with my place and my relationships.  More OK than I had in a long long time.  I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.  I know when it's time for something new.  I always know when I pay attention.  I can't push the river.  

A new day has dawned.  

No one but me could work through it.  I asked for help when I needed it.  Some came directly, some from afar, and some I just found out of the great big blue.

But it came.  

Just in time.

And now I can breathe a little easier.

Thank you, to those that loved and helped.  Even if it was just existing in my presence -that's pretty important in my book.


I read these very powerful words just after writing this:

The warrior is never caught in the trap of doubt. The fundamental doubt is doubting yourself. This doubt can manifest as anxiety, jealousy, or arrogance. In its extreme form, you slander others because you doubt your own confidence. The warrior of perky, symbolized by the snow lion, rests in a state of trust that is based on modesty and mindfulness. Confident within him- or herself, therefore, this warrior has no doubt. He or she is always aware and is never confused about what to accept or reject.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, The Sacred Path of the Warrior

(This is book I read and re-read over and over, and highly recommend it.)