Why Your Affirmation Aren’t Working

“The human brain doesn’t work by strictly logical rules,

but it does work by rules.”

– Eric Barker

 

Who doesn’t love themselves some good ole positive thinking? 

But you know when you’re going through one of those rough patches that life inevitably serves up to even to the most devoted, affirmation writing,  self-care prioritizing, believer in all things possible, truly optimistic among us?  And then a well-meaning, yet rather clueless, wanna-be self-help guru, friend-of-a-friend starts in with the unsolicited advice…

“When I’m having a challenging interaction with someone, I like to put an energetic bubble around both me and the other person. Even though it might still be uncomfortable, I’m able to at least just create some space for both of us…”

Hmmmm, that’s a great idea, except I’m talking about my 3-year-old. The entire reason I am frazzled at this moment, is that she doesn’t understand boundaries. She doesn’t get the closed bathroom door, much less this “energetic bubble” you speak of. 

Or another great one….Like when you made an accounting error and your checking account is quite literally in the red…

Have you tried using affirmations? When I’m really tuning into scarcity, I like to remind myself of all the natural abundance we’re surrounded by, like fresh air, clean water…”

Yeaaaaaaaaaaah.

I TOO believe we are surrounded by abundance in a myriad of ways, but right now my lien holder doesn’t care how clean the air is around my beautiful home that isn’t going to be mine much longer if I don’t pay the damn mortgage. 

Don’t get me wrong. I do love and use affirmations.
I truly believe they work.

But here’s the catch.
They aren’t a cure all.

They don’t work when we are trying to slap positive thinking over a legitimate fear or intense emotion we’re experiencing, anymore than putting a band-aid on a broken leg does. 

Researchers have identified a phenomena they refer to as “Natural Neuroscience Resistance.”

“When you provide someone with new data, they quickly accept evidence that confirms their preconceived notions and assess counter-evidence with a critical eye.”
– Excerpt from The Influential Mind, by Tali Sharot. 

So when you’re checking account is legitimately negative, and you’re trying to tune into the abundance of the pine trees, you’re brain’s not buying it. Nope. Not. Having. It. 

So you wanna know what does work?
Acknowledging the truth. Building trust with ourselves.

 Here’s an affirmation I can get behind. Truth, logic and self-love. 

 

When our brains are presented with new information that agrees with our beliefs, we eagerly accept it. 

So instead of pasting a bandaid affirmation over a genuine fear. Start with acknowledging what’s really going on.

I made a mistake, and my checking account is negative.
I feel foolish and I’m embarrassed.
I never do this however, and I can call the bank in the morning
and explain what happened.  They’ll likely reverse the fees.
And even if they don’t, it will all be alright.
I’ve been through worse before, and we all make mistakes. I need to be as compassionate with myself, as I am with everyone else.
I still have….
And then start in on your gratitude list and slowly, and gently start to tune into the truth of all the things you DO have around you. 

See the difference?

Your body starts to relax as you acknowledge the truth rather than trying to suppress it. Then, and only then, is  your brain open to new information.

It’s such a simple shift, it’s easy to overlook the power of making space for our emotions, rather than beating ourselves up. The potency of this shift is in the simplicity.

And then we can return to being our magical, light-beaming selves like this beauty right here:

Photo by Wellington Cunha from Pexels

Want more scientifically based, mind shifts AND fun, creative techniques for making them super simple?

I’ve created a new eCourse that’s packed full of fun, creative techniques to trick our own brains back into submission, and keep them working for us, and not vice versa.

We use curiosity and creativity to explore the intersection of art and science to tap back into our magic making capabilities. It’s called The Wand in the Word. 

[su_youtube_advanced url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-MZBmiMZ4M” rel=”no” theme=”light”]

Today is the last day to get $50 off the new Wand in the Word eCourse, with the code: WildChild

Learn more here:
http://wildchildtravels.com/the-wand-in-the-word/

 

Navigating this life of ours isn’t always as easy as we’d like it to be.
I’ve made it my mission to create space and hold community for those needing a little shelter to weather the storms.

And you can bet, we will have have some fun along the way!
United in the magic (and madness!) of being human,

What’s in a dream?

 

Dre[am]
My dreams tell the truth of
who I am.

Never before had I noticed that
that the first person tense of the verb “to be”
sits unassuming at the end of the the word ‘dream.

Not rushing, or worrying.
No, simply sitting confidently, knowing
the inevitability of itself will occur. 

I would do well to tell my truth.
The truth of who I am at the end of my dre[am].

Who do your dreams tell you to be?
May we support one another in the truth of who we are.

Ode to My Closet Office

 

After a lifetime of living in the shadow

estranged from her own heart

she timidly took a step toward her own darkness, vast and deep.

She felt the phantom halves of herself

wander blindly toward some yet unseen truth.

The truth that lived in her being.

The truth of her existence. Of her divine nature.

Not the roaring tsunami of expectations that rattled her to the very rib cage surrounding said heart.

And with the first daring step

her hopeful heart sighed with relief. Finally she could breathe easy.

She’d been heard. One oceanic breath now.

Lives of beauty and boldness take years to unfold.

And yet much like spring seems to burst forth all in one brilliant week

after an entire season of cold, bleak winter silence,

so do our sapphire dreams.

 

This was written back on the Summer Solstice, 6/22/18 when I first spotted the desk, pictured below, that inspired my closet office. As turned the corner after dropping the kids at school, I saw it sitting on the side of the road with a free sign. I ran home, grabbed a tape measure and my husband, and loaded it up in the back of our truck. Bless my husband, that afternoon, we helped me remove all the shelving that was where the desk sits now. It fit PERFECTLY, not an inch to spare! When you show up for your creative muse, she shows up for you 💖✨

The above poem and this sweet little note were the first things I scribbled down to myself on creating my ‘office.’

“Only what I bring in, or allow, can be here in the space with me,” I wrote. “It’s my little creativity cave, where I can play and dream, unseen by the rest of the world. No judgement. No expectations. No demands. The vastness of my thoughts, cradled by the smallness of the room. Held together, but not too tightly.” 

A gallon of paint, a free desk, a little space under the stairs, a few of my favorite paintings from the thrift store, and wah-lah 💥 my little she cave!

 

I also have a workspace in my larger house, but only fun and fanciful projects are allowed in my under the stairs magic making place. Very Harry Potter-esque. No business. All fun. I highly recommend a space (even if it’s just a journal!) where the only object is to mess around. Bless the mess! It’s where all my best ideas are born!

Here’s to taking your creativity seriously (but in a playful way of course!),

 

PS. We’d love to have you in the free heART + Soul Cafe, where dreamers come to nourish their creative dreams. Wether we’re a professional creative or an ameuatur, if you feel called to make things (art, music, poetry, or muffins!) following that urge is vital to wellbeing as humans. We are by nature creative beings. Take good care of yourself.

Somethings Are Never Truly Finished

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.
That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts.
That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

Robert Fulghum

 

What—What are you doing here? How was your trip?

The sunrise after I received the news.  I made my way back as fast as I could,
yet it would still take four excruciating days before I reached home.

I’ve been avoiding social media and to a certain extent my daily life so as to minimize having to answer these questions. Not because I don’t want to answer. More because I feel like I’m holding a ticking bomb.

I have to find the least damaging moment to release my answer into the crowd of innocent bystanders, and the answer to those questions is nothing any of us expected. The words feel rough and hurtful as they leave my mouth, no matter how much grace and love I try and infuse into them. No one expects this news. There is no way to share it without causing a ripple of shock, disbelief and pain for anyone who has experienced their own loss.

I never made it to Compostela. My trip ended abruptly when we received the heartbreaking news my husband’s brother had been killed in a car accident. I rushed home as quickly as possible to be with our children, so he and his mother could get to Argentina in a fog of shock and grief to say an unwanted and agonizing final goodbye to their son and brother.

Boom. No softening the reality of death and loss.
Our previous reality has been blown into a million pieces that will never fit together in the same way again.

After a little over a week, the hurricane of thoughts are just beginning to settle, and yet of course, there is still a lifetime of memories and emotions to sort through. We’re learning to accept this news. And far more important than any piece of my trip, I am simply grateful to be home so I can love my husband and give him a safe place and heart to shelter his pain.

The strangest, most ironic thing about death for me, is that for those of us still living, life still goes on. It seems unfair. How can time still march forward despite losing one of our most important people?

The laughter of my children and the rest of the world carrying on as if nothing has changed, pushes me places I’m not yet ready to go.

While I still feel as if I’m in a strange suspension between the past, the literally thousands of miles I traveled and this new present reality, I’m finding that doing activities that bring me into my body, like simply walking, are helping me reground. Experiencing the passing of a loved one within the framework of a spiritual pilgrimage is not lost on me. The lessons I had already collected on my heart from the trail itself, are now even more profound and still emerging given the pilgrimage was incomplete. And yet was it?

Honestly the Camino for me was never about the destination. And losing a loved one, only made it more clear that truth and meaning are everywhere, always. We only need be in a state of willingness to truly see.

Diego is of course devastated at the loss of his brother, his best friend. Sometimes he’s an absolute mess, and then others he seems okay, even possibly in good spirits.

The other day he shared with me, “You know I died once for a few seconds? In the extreme ski competition in Canada. I came over a cliff to see a huge boulder that was unavoidable. It all happened so fast, but I closed my eyes as I knew it was going to be the end, and when I opened them, I was two meters over from where I’d been. There was no explanation of this world that made sense. It was totally impossible. I felt like my body dematerialized and then came back into form two meters from where I had originally been, so that I would avoid that huge rock in my path. Like others have shared, I saw my life’s greatest moments like a movie in my head. It was so peaceful. There was absolutely no fear.” 

“It’s all love on the other side honey,” he told me. “When we cross over through death we return to the truth of love and that we are all one. Separation is the human experience, not the spiritual experience of oneness and love. I can feel my brothers love everywhere, and everything beautiful I see reminds me of him and our bond.”

Diego and his beloved brother, Martin.

May we all remember our loved ones and all the beauty they brought to our life, and while we will of course miss them immensely, we can know that nothing can every take away the love we shared with them. We will carry them in our hearts forever.

Martin you are with us always. Thank you for shining so brightly during your time with us. 
You will be missed beyond measure. 

September Delight

“The real voyage of discovery
consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

This month I’m taking 6 weeks away from all of my adult responsibilities and it feels like just the right amount of wreckless, indulgent and spiritual that I’m seeking.

One of the reasons I love to travel is when everything around me is new and foreign, it forces me to notice. The smells, the sounds, the feelings. In other words to be present. Sometimes when we’re in familiar surroundings it can be easy to look past the beauty right in front of us. I believe there is always something beautiful we can find, if we’re willing to see it.

The idea behind September Delight is that noticing/ or looking with new eyes (mindfulness!) is a tool that’s always available to us to create calm and feel good. It’s something I am working on cultivating more of in my life.  It seems so simple, yet I still struggle to do it when I’m in full on mom-mode juggling ALL. THE. THINGS.

Taming the monkey mind isn’t easy, but it’s a worthwhile pursuit, and that’s why they call it a practice. So, if you’d like to PRACTICE being present with me during my birthday month, I’d be delighted to have you!

AND because I am North American, I feel like I should be doing at least one productive thing as I’m walking across Spain eating tapas and drinking wine while the rest of the world is back to school and work.

So this is that thing.

It’s called September Delight, and it’s a virtual journey you can do from anywhere in 5 to 10 minutes. It’s FREE and FUN.

Get yourself a new journal, can be a simple or fancy as you like; Honestly it can even be scrap paper (but there is something kinda powerful about creating a container for your thoughts.)
And join me on a journey of having new eyes!

So what the heck is it?

Well while I am taking a LITERAL journey, I realize most people don’t have the luxury or the foolhardy approach of it will all work out to life that I do. (I don’t typically have the luxury of doing this, so one of the questions I’ll be pondering on my very long walk, is how do I create more depth, more meaning, and more feel good in my life when my life is full of commitments and need it most?)

In that vein, I wanted to create a way that others could take a journey of sorts of their own. And journey no matter the distance, of noticing what’s around us, or what’s going on with us. I’ve seen many other bloggers do cool experiences like this, and one of my favorite’s is Susannah Conway’s April Love and August Break, where she creates a community project to share photos.

I have combined a few of my favorite experiences here to create something fun for us:

The concept is simple.
There are 30 prompts. One for each day of the month.

1. Download your free PDF here.
You can save it to your phone, or print and hang on your wall, or paste in your journal. 

2. Read the prompt, and free write for 5 minutes.
Free writing means you write whatever pops into your head. If you freeze up and don’t know what to write, simply write, I don’t know what to write, but the point is you write for the whole 5 minutes and you don’t censor what you’re thoughts, or try to control them, you just write. The writing is for you and you alone. 

2. Distill your thoughts into a single image that represents your response to the prompt. 
Note: this does not mean your image has to be “instagramable” or pretty or perfect. Sometimes asking questions simply leads to more questions. The exercise here is to let the mind wander so we can become aware of our thoughts. There is a great saying that what is named can be tamed. So if you find yourself experiencing an emotion that has you labeling it good or bad, just let it be. When we allow ourselves our emotions, we realize they are just passing through. Looking at how we can “reframe” something however can be another tool. Trust your instincts here. 

3. Know that you are exactly where you need to be. Don’t feel like you’re behind or it’s too late to start, or that you have to commit to the whole month. Jump in and out as you like.
Use the prompts as you see fit. Share them with a friend, or keep them for yourself. Just enjoy and have fun. I’m excited to hear about your journey if you feel called to share. But again this is a NO PRESSURE experience. Let’s just enjoy the journey.

4. Ways to share with each other. Use the hashtag #Septemberdelight so we can find each other. 
Join our free Facebook Community, and share your photos and experience there, or on Instagram with the hashtag #Septemberdelight so we can find each other and share our experience. Or link your blog here (down below) so we can find your home on the internet!

As always, feel free to use these prompts in your journal to guide your own personal journey. Not everything needs to be shared to be powerful. OR you can also skip the writing and go straight to sharing a photo. These are all invitations meant to be fun, not stressful.

I can’t wait to share my Camino adventure/insights and see your journeys too! As Henry Miller once said, “One’s destination is never a placebut a new way of seeing things.”

I’m a big believer in we’re all just walking each other home…
Let’s enjoy the walk!

If you have a website or blog, please add your link below so we can find one another.
So many beautiful projects out there, I can’t wait to read about yours!

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A Very Long Walk

“One’s destination is never a place,
but a new way of seeing things.”

― Henry Miller

Photo courtesy of Drift Travel Magazine

500 miles.

That’s how far I will have traveled after completing the Camino de Santiago over the next 6 weeks.
I’ll be walking most of September, and a week into October. 

While I am hardly the first or the last to walk this popular route (The French Way) down the final span of the French Pyrenees and across the width of northern Spain, I have my personal reasons/motivations for taking 6 weeks away from day-to-day life on a very long walk.

Milestone Birthdays

Last September I celebrated my 40th birthday. That number felt big and I wanted to do something significant to honor my 4th decade. Like some hike or run or trip, or some type of big physical accomplishment. I’ve always held fast to the belief that age is merely a number and that attitude is really what matters most in this life. Nonetheless the number FOURTY felt like a crossroads between youth and the inevitability of mortality. Like it or not, things were a bit stiffer right out of bed, first thing in the AM. What was THAT about?

And as a Virgo, and one with the propensity to overthink the simplest of things, I like it when they are neat and tidy, have great alliteration and happen on meaningful milestones. Like that nice round number 40. HA!  Those of you who are much better versed in these things know, life mostly doesn’t unfold in the neat and tidy way our expectations demand, and my big 4-0 was no exception.

My birthday came and went, without much fanfare. No big milestone completed. And I was not in the best shape of my life as I had so carefully planned in my head. The stiffness wasn’t a fluke, I definitely needed to prioritize taking care of myself.

So this January, when my sister casually mentioned after the New Year, that was thinking about doing the Camino. I jumped.

“I’ve always wanted to do that!” I shrieked.

“I haven’t,” she laughed. “But for some reason, I want to do it this year. People have asked me before to join them, and I’ve never been interested. But I feel like I need it this year.”

“Let’s do it then!” I encouraged her. “This would actually be a good year for me to do. The kids are finally old enough for me to be away that long. And i’m on a 10-month contract with the college right now. And I feel like I NEED to spend a month walking to reclaim my body.” 

If there is one thing my older, yet smaller, sister and I have in common, it’s pulling off stunts others think are a.) ridiculous and b.) not possible or too much work. She runs a small store that’s open 7 days a week and needs constant attention.  And I, in addition to work, have two small children that are around 7 days a week and need constant attention.  But somewhere along the course of the previous 8 months we managed to solve all of the logistical details and bought non-refundable airfare to Spain. Here we GO!

So while I didn’t get my big milestone on my 40th birthday, this year, I will celebrate my actual 41st birthday (September 17th!) somewhere along the Camino de Santiago. Yea for odd numbers with no rhyme or reason (or alliteration for that matter!).

Photo I took of a cool gate in the little seaside town of Calafell, just south of Barcelona, circa 2014

So why the camino? There are lots of hikes in the states. 

Well for starters, the camino has a TON of infrastructure along the way. Unlike a trail like the Appalachian or the Pacific Crest, where you have to carry everything from a stove for preparing semi-edible meals, to water filtrations systems, your sleeping arrangements and first aid, the Camino is a highly traveled route with probably everything one would ever need to thrive. While I love backpacking for short stints, the idea of backpacking for longer than a week is more romantic in my head than the reality of my butt being too wide for those hard-core hiker people mats that make too much noise when I toss and turn. Having the luxury of walking through beautiful countryside during the day, then having a hot meal and glass of Spanish Rioja every evening sounds like my speed of adventure. And because there is so much infrastructure, one can be spontaneous on this route, like more technical hikes do not allow for.

And honestly, Spain has always had a pull on me.

Before I had ever even set foot on Spanish soil, I planned to stay for a year on my first visit. Everything I had seen and heard about the land of flamenco, fiesta and Don Quixote, seemed joyful, celebratory and most alluringly ALIVE. Somehow I knew I would feel that sense of belonging. When I arrived, it made sense. Spain and California have so many connections and similarities. I find the geography from the sea to the high desert terrain to the rolling foothills to be reminiscent of my northern California upbringing.

The Val d’ Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees is where I shed the hangups of who I thought I should be and embraced the truth of the somewhat lost and aimless twenty-something I was.  I decided it was time to quit hiding from my future and create it. I would spend 2 years nestled in that valley surrounded by weather as dramatic as the mountain peaks and it is there that the greatest love story of my life began. I didn’t so much know what I wanted to do with my life, so much as that I wanted to share whatever I did with someone who found the world as interesting and full of possibility as I did.  Diego and I didn’t waste much time before we promised one another forever, and it felt slightly reckless. But is there really anything in life worth having that comes with a guarantee? Maybe for some, but I’m not one of those.

The camino has been a spiritual pilgrimage for many since around 812 AD. It is said that the remains of St. James are buried in the city of Santiago de Compostela.

While I was raised Protestant, I do not identify with an organized religion. I believe God is in each of us,  we are all creative by design and that love is at the root of every belief system.  Underneath all the rules and the shoulds and shouldn’ts, is the desire to be a good human. So the allure for me is less around the religious aspect and more about a universal understanding of how we are all connected. Apparently the Milky Way is directly over the French route, and beyond Santiago, at the edge of the sea is a place called Finisterrae, which in latin literally translates to the ‘end of the world,’ or ‘Land’s End.‘ All of that seems like something I’d like to spend time aimlessly exploring and what better way than on foot.

I guess my connection to Spain itself, the fact that I speak enough Spanish, and that I have two partners (Linda and Kelly) willing to go the distance with me, make the Camino my milestone I’ve been searching for. I have done very little reading about the camino, as I want to come in with an open mind and have my own experience without a lot of influence from what others have shared.

And I’m thrilled to experience 6 weeks living life at the pace of nature (and as we talked about, an abundance of beautiful red spanish table wines). Walking for 8 to 10 hours a day, gives the mind that delicious time to wander against the steady rhythm of your feet. Something about having to physically slow down gives the mind a resting beat and in that space I believe is where creative magic takes root.

I am understandably nervous about being away from my children for that long, and yet I’m excited for that piece for both myself and for them. Despite it not being a popular opinion, I believe it’s good for us to have time apart. I know I’ll miss them like crazy, but I think in families its very easy to take one another for granted. And one of the best things, is that their Abuela (Diego’s mom) is coming from Spain to spend 8 weeks at our house. They’ll be able to connect with her on a much deeper level given my absence.  My hope is that it will be a special time for everyone. And yes, I’m probably justifying a decision I have already made. No one says two words about Diego (or any other man for that matter) being gone for a month or two, but folks, the mom guilt is real. 

A photo of the route we’ll be walking. Photo of Spain in top section for scale. 

My intention for the camino

I walk to celebrate my health and to celebrate all the things my body is capable of doing. I am walking with my sister to celebrate our friendship and to reaffirm our bond as not only sisters but as friends. I walk with my children in my heart. To ask the universe to show me how to draw on the wisdom of the millions of mothers who have come before me, and struggle with how to do what is best for their children and support them in becoming the best versions of themselves, all while living my hopes and dreams and having some fun along the way.  I walk with Diego in my heart. I want to take this space to publicly thank him for loving me, all of me, both the light and the shadow of my person. I am too much for a lot of people, and that’s okay. I’m thankful that he chooses to walk this lifetime with me as my partner, in love, life and business, and for being the proof that love is really all you need.

May I be open to the messages that divine has to offer me on this long walk across one of my favorite places. And may I be blessed with an abundance of red wine (i know it’s the third time I’ve said it), good food and company. A little art and music along the way wouldn’t hurt either!

Here’s to 41 and the odd way milestones actually unfold.
Thanks for being here to share the journey.

In my next post, I’m going to be sharing a way that you can take a virtual journey with me!
Hope you’ll join me!

A Sunday Morning Chat with Eliza Fayle of Artful, Joyful, You

Excited to share this video interview with the lovely Eliza Fayle of Artful, Joyful You!

Eliza and I crossed path two years ago as we were both determined to reignite our creativity, and had enrolled in an online blogging course.

This morning she shares:

– how she infuses creativity into her life despite a non-creative job
(she’s an IT manager for the government!)

– some of the events that led to both neglecting her artistic self, and reunited with her imaginative being

– why creativity is so important to share with our children

 

flat,800x800,070,f.u3Original work by Eliza Fayle

 

Eliza Fayle is a Whimsical Doodle Artist living in the Gatineau Hills of Quebec, Canada, with her very French Hubby. She is mom to two daughters and one son — all grown up — and a late teens step son. She is owned by two cats, and plays host to deer, wild turkeys and other wild critters. 
Having passed the half century mark, Eliza is dedicated to spending the next fifty years exploring and living life as art. This journey is currently being captured in her upcoming coffee table book The Everyday Goddess Storybook. 
This exclusive interview is part of the Art & Soul Cafe where I offer creative invitations, journal prompts and meet-ups with other creative co-conspirators. The intention is to provide connection with ourselves and others through creativity!
Eliza can be found at:
Instagram: Eliza Fayle
Thank you again Eliza!
It’s been an absolute pleasure.

Have a joyful day everyone!

Spoiler Alert: A RTW Trip Doesn’t Save A Marriage

“You will lose everything. Your money, your power, your fame, your success, perhaps even your memories. Your looks will go. Loved ones will die. Your body will fall apart. Everything that seems permanent is impermanent and will be smashed. Experience will gradually, or not so gradually, strip away everything that it can strip away. Waking up means facing this reality with open eyes and no longer turning away. But right now, we stand on sacred and holy ground, for that which will be lost has not yet been lost, and realising this is the key to unspeakable joy. Whoever or whatever is in your life right now has not yet been taken away from you. This may sound trivial, obvious, like nothing, but really it is the key to everything, the why and how and wherefore of existence. Impermanence has already rendered everything and everyone around you so deeply holy and significant and worthy of your heartbreaking gratitude.
Loss has already transfigured your life into an altar.”

— Jeff Foster

hooverwildnerness-2

Despite big dreams and a whole lotta love—Diego and I have decided to separate.

Since selling our home and trading our security for our passions—there’s been monumental highs and lows. But at the end of the day, most of the lows come from the way we relate to one another. It’s not for lack of love or trying.

When we arrived back in California the beginning of this summer, we didn’t really even know where to park ourselves. We’ve been working hard all summer to establish a little stability, even though what we’re all still craving is adventure. A boat. Love and tranquility.

But as a couple, those things seems constantly just out of reach.
When we’re apart they seem as natural as inhaling.

There’s so many losses we’re grieving it’s hard to separate one from the other. But move forward we must. And honestly we’re both pretty hopeful people.

We were so close to all our grandiose plans before it all unraveled. It seemed the harder we worked, the more difficult life became.

In many ways, it feels like a failure of epic proportions—but we’ve all grown so much together—I like to focus on that. Just because love is ending, doesn’t mean it was never here. And the four of us will be intertwined for life.

I’m a firm believer in life happens for us, not to us—so I’m being still and quiet as the lessons and truths from all this experience has to offer shower down around me.

I think what’s most difficult—is whenever I’ve lost a significant relationship in the past, my jam was to run as far away from the person as possible; Bury my sorrows on a far-flung alpine peak in the Pyrenees, or with dance it out with a tribe of villagers in the Volta region of Ghana.

Obviously that’s not an option for me as the mother of two small children. They need both their mama and their daddy here together, even if we’re not “together.”

So I have had to get creative and resourceful and find ways to break and heal while keeping myself strong and present for my children. Sometimes life gives us circumstances that remind us we are capable of such much more than we thought possible.

I’m spending a lot of time in my art journals as well as the wilderness of my own heart and physical mountains around me. My babies are watching, and while at times I’m able to find the space to quietly fall apart, for the most part their faith in me gives me unbelievable strength to face this, and the path of destruction and healing that lays ahead.

Here’s a few photos from my forage into the wilderness last weekend. There’s nothing like a baptism in a cold alpine lake to realign your spirit.

hooverwildnerness-3A little eastern Sierra magic is always a good idea.

hooverwildnerness-6Alpine glow in the late afternoon sun.

hooverwildnerness-1Laughter really is the best medicine.

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I’m grateful beyond measure for the women in my life who have walked this path before me, and are so ready to allow me to lean into them during this time. A woman whom I’ve only just met, (yet I felt her magic instantly, for friendship is not time spent, but rather being present for one another) sent me a note that seared through all the pain, right to my core. She shared some of her own struggles and her “grace and gratitude” method for tackling one day at a time. Love comes to us in unexpected ways when we need it most.

This isn’t the ending I had in mind when we set out two years ago on a journey to reclaim our hearts and spirits. But I know if we keep love (and not fear) at the heart of every decision we’re faced with—we’ll all come out with even more love than we started with.

And a little positive thinking never hurt anyone.

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Here’s to love. May we cherish it in whatever form it comes to us.

Five Things Mexico Taught Me About Parenting

Nine months ago my family drove over the Mexican border at Nogales in search of a year long adventure. But who could predict that 12 short months as an expat would profoundly change the way I parent?

The following are five key difference in parenting norms that touched me deeply, and I’ll be carrying them home with me, along with my stash of colorful hand embroidered textiles.

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A_Map-4Excited to hit the road

1.  There’s no such thing as other people’s children.

“Eh güera—cuidado,” be careful, I hear a man shout as he reaches out to stop my 4 year old daughter. I turn confused, I thought she was on the far side of me, but now I see her stepping down into a busy street, scooter in hand.

I drop my market bags, and scoop my daughter up, turning to face the man sharpening knives on the large, stone wheel attached to his bicycle.

“Thank you,”  I breath out with genuine gratitude. It took her less than a second to exit my protective gaze and move into the street.

Scenarios like this are common. It’s not unusual for other adults to offer direction to your children. Even if you’re right beside them, the advice is generally given directly to your child, not you. The first few times I encountered this I got defensive, feeling that I was somehow not doing my job as a parent, and those around me where having to pick up my slack.

After several months here however, I realized that, unlike North America, raising children is viewed as a communal effort. There seems to be an unspoken code that it is the duty of all grown ups to look out the younger, more vulnerable, members of society. I decided to focus on the positive, and now find it refreshing I don’t bear the entire burden of responsibility alone.

The sense of community, is one of my favorite things about Mexican culture. One that I hope my children carry with them for life.

My little güera

2. Sugar is nice, but it’s better with spice. You’re never too young for flavor.

Chili sauce isn’t just for tacos. In the market you’ll see colorful bags of fresh cut mango, jicama, melons and more, with a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice, then sprinkled with bright red chili powder. And apparently you’re never to young to appreciate the added heat. My children discovered that the hard way.

At a friend’s birthday celebration, my 4 and 6-year old leaped in with excitement when the piñata burst open and spilled it’s sugary treasures to the ground. They worked quickly to beat the other children, scooping up as many treats as they could. A few licks in, my daughter looked as if she’d been kicked in the face.  Even the lollipops aren’t spared from the chili craze. Needless to say, our bags full of candy were left behind.

MexicanParenting-5Taking that piñata to town!

3. Kids can handle the D-word.

Death is not a dirty word whispered in hushed tones only in grown up circles.

As Americans we tend to shield our children for weighty concepts such as the passing of life, but the Mexicans include even the youngest members of their family in the Dia de los Muertos festivities. Schools all organize a comparsa for each classroom, and the children march through the streets dancing and singing through their elaborately painted faces.

While the name Dia de los muertos suggest that it’s a day to honor the dead, we learned it is a week long celebration.

The cemeteries fill with life as a carnival type atmosphere moves in, complete with amusement park rides, games and vendors selling everything from fresh cut flowers to funnel cake. Bands play live music and individual musicians offer to serenade the deceased with their favorite songs for a fee.

Altars are erected all over the city—in restaurants, offices, public parks, any where there’s sufficient space really. Platters laden with the late loved one’s favorite comidas are tucked between the blooms of marigolds and celosias. The person’s memory is not only honored, but celebrated.

Death is part of life, no need to hide the truth from our children. While we lose people we love, we don’t forget them. A far cry from the “Disnified” Halloween parties we share with our kids back home.

MexicanParenting-10The kids were my favorite part of the Dia de los Muertos festivities.

4. There’s no such thing as a Kid’s table

Children are part of the social fabric in Mexico. In my country of citizenship, I often feel uncomfortable and judged by childless people around me, be it waiting in the line at the grocery store, or out for a nice dinner.

In the States, is seems the consensus is that other people should never have to be inconvenienced by a child (or an elderly or disabled person for that matter) who can’t keep up with the pace of a healthy well bodied adult.

While I think twice about where I take my children and hover over their every move in California, I never worry about that here. Youngsters are welcome everywhere including weddings and upscale restaurants. 

One of my favorite restaurant’s takes it a step further, and offers a bounce house and a team of nannies to entertain your child.

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MexicanParenting-6Taken at one of my favorite rooftop bars in Oaxaca. Children welcome at anytime day or night and they even provide blankets for when it gets cold.

5. Everything is a family event

This speaks to the point above. Whether its a trip to the market, or a night out on the town, I have yet to feel out of place with my children in tow here in Mexico. While I might prefer a routine grocery run alone, so I can linger over the delicious moles and abundance of fresh produce, I don’t cringe in fear if my child shouts or does some normal kid move.

This phenomena does motivate me to make my big box store runs during the week, because Saturdays mean family shopping day. And while I love the spirit of togetherness, the American in me grumbles about trying to maneuver my cart around a family of seven laughing and milling around the aisles.

Mexico’s love for their country’s children is apparent— children are truly a mark of achievement here.

The best thing I have taken from the Mexicans, is that while children are indeed precious, they are capable of much more than we give them credit for, from more responsibility and independence, to a more sophisticated palette. To put it simply—children are but little people.

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It’s a big world out there!
I’m delighted you choose to spend your time with me.