my big fat memorial weekend.

This weekend, in no particular order, I noncommittally plan to do all or none of the following:

1.  Read this book:

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Because the Sassy Ladies Book Club is discussing it next week.  And I haven’t read it since I taught it ten years ago.  AND, of course, Harper Lee’s much-anticipated Go Set a Watchman comes out in July.

2. Most likely watch Frodo move from scooting to officially crawling.  (This, otherwise known as Life, As We Know It, Is Officially Over).  

3.  Find a mountain.  Hike said mountain.

4.  Host a neighborhood front-yard BBQ on Memorial Day.

5.  Go swimming with this dude:

IMG_49586.  Walk two blocks up Wesley and three blocks down MacArthur to the Farmer’s Market.  Buy lettuce and Heirloom tomatoes, strawberries and cherries, asparagus (because it makes you a Super Duper Hopper, according to Cancan), broccoli and kale.

7.  See some of My People.

8.  Keep the laptop closed. Ain’t no need for technology this weekend.

9.  Set up my Mother’s Day present:

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(And, get proof of my bad sleeping habits. Also automatically become an incredibly fast runner and super stretcher, as evidenced by the woman in the above picture).

10.  Visit the chickens in our neighbors’ backyard, including one Cancan has named “Here Chicky Chicky.”  Actually, I think they’re all named “Here, Chicky Chicky,” but neither party seems to be offended by the lack of originality.

11.  And really, really exciting: Find and install closet organizational systems so we can also officially unpack the rest of our moving boxes.

Boom!

What about you?  Are you staying close to home or trekking faraway for 3-day weekend adventures?  Also, feel free to leave your best advice for talking the HBH out of seeking closet organizational systems this weekend. 

*Full disclosure: Above post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

rituals: right foot first (idelette mcvicker).

Oh friends, you are in for a treat (always).  Today’s writer is one of my favorites, even if we still haven’t met face to face.  She’s a wild and sassy, leaning into the Holy woman; she’s a world-changer and a Seven on the Enneagram (so I feel especially linked, soul to soul). So join me in welcoming the lovely Idelette …and enjoy her words today.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Alex Cairncross.
Flickr Creative Commons: Alex Cairncross.

I always enter my sacred writing space in the basement of our home with my right foot first.

It’s the simplest of acts. Call it my Threshold Ritual.

It’s the way I step out of daily life and summon the Holy to come meet me. Please?

This is the place where the door gets closed and I can sit and pray and read and journal and be. It’s a place of deep gratitude.

Love has built this room.

It started with generosity from friends poured out one Christmas, when the women decided I needed a room of my own.

They secretly rallied and gathered and hustled and collected. And on the day of our monthly SheLoves editorial meeting, they gathered in our living room and turned the tables on me.

They surprised me in the most beautiful way. They handed me an envelope with a generous amount and said, Go. Make your room the way you want it.

This outpouring of Love watered my dry places and oiled the future I dreamed of.

So, we converted the playroom with the green walls and bleach stain on the carpet to my personal writing space. We ripped out the old carpet and Scott painted the walls a light blue deep into the night, in the midst of also opening our restaurant.

Now I get to play in here. I can close the door on four children, the telephone and my darling extroverted husband. Here, my soul can be restored. Hallelujah.

I found a tiny tufted blue leather couch on Craigslist. An orange juju hat on Etsy and shipped it in from France. I sanded and painted and waxed a discarded desk from my kids’ school. Slowly, but surely my global eclectic room began to take shape.

Still, something was missing. I wanted to honor it by establishing it as a sacred space in my mind. I needed something—a sacred ritual.

Then, while reading Natalie Goldberg’s book “The True Secret of Writing,” she described the instructions to students on her writing retreats. Note number two reads:

“Please be on time at beginning of morning, afternoon, and evening sessions. Step in and out of the zendo with your right foot.”

A tiny bell went off in my heart. I could do that, I thought.

I could establish my square space in the basement as a sacred writing space by this one simple act. It seemed easy enough.

The next time I walked through the door of my writing space, I remembered to put my right foot first. I walked in and immediately something felt different. I began to be mindful that this place is a gift. The time I get to spend in this room is precious. I imagined God meeting me right here.

I became mindful of the words God spoke to Moses: “… this place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

I began walking out in the same way, simply remembering my new practice, one day at a time. One entry at a time. One exit at a time.

I began to be mindful as I entered and it became a prayer: Thank you, God, for this space. Thank you for these friends who loved me in this way. Thank you for what You want to do in me in this space today. Thank You for wanting to meet me here.

Sometimes I pray in words. Sometimes my body exhales the big thank you as I step across the threshold. In and out.

It’s been nearly a year of always entering and leaving in this way. Right foot first. This small ritual a part of me already. Established.

I come to the door, grateful.

I come to the door, expecting to meet God.

I come to the door, hopeful.

I step right foot first, heart lifted in praise, body poised. Love has built this room. Together, we have sent an invitation to the future. When I enter, I imagine crossing the threshold of my dreams and then I sit to do the work.

In leaving, again I say, Thank you.

Always, Thank You.

Thank you, God, for what You’ve done here. Thank You for what You do in me. May my life and my words be acceptable in Your sight.

10441244_380013148844953_490242883243910659_nHi! I am an Afrikaner woman, born and raised in South Africa during Apartheid. That story has woken me up to the injustice and inequality in my own heart, my own neighbourhood and our larger world. I’ve lived on three continents and wherever I am now, I am home. Sixteen years ago, I married a cheeky Canadian and moved to Vancouver. We have three children (11, 10 and 7) and SheLovesmagazine.com is my fourth baby, now raised and nurtured by our beautiful village. I love Sisterhood and I imagine it as a beautiful, subversive antidote to injustice. This Chinese proverb expresses my heart: When sleeping women wake, mountains move. I bake bread, wear leopard prints and love dramatic shoes. I am happy sipping spicy chai, plain lattes or a bold red. I’d say my practice is charismatic contemplative and if I wanted you to know only thing about me, it’s this: Jesus is my hero. You can find Idelette in a number of places: on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook at Idelette, at SheLovesmagazine.com and on her blog at Idelette.com.  Otherwise, how did Idelette’s words touch you today?  Leave her some LOVE in the comment box below!

Frodo has FOMO.

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This is Frodo. He has FOMO.

I have a problem.

I have birthed little FOMO babies.  True to the century they were born in, the miniature humans who live in our house suffer from extreme Fear of Missing Out.  This is not an affliction that solely affects the twenty-somethings in our midst, but it is a clear and present danger in our house.  Especially at 2:30 in the morning.

2.30.

Two hyphen thirty.  Letter A.  Letter M.  

Unless you are working the graveyard shift – which, as one nurse-friend of mine said the other day, is her idyllic shift, “because all the patients are asleep!” – or happen to be named Edward Cullen, no human should be up at this hour.  (Parents of newborns are a rare exception: Congratulations! Welcome to parenthood! This is what bonds us together. Coffee was invented just for you. Early morning hang-outs are also your newfound birth control).  And this list of humans not being up at this hour includes almost nine month old little boy-humans who know better.

Because they know how to sleep through the night.

Now, I’m not naming names – FRODO – but when such a human decides to wake up at 11 and show the world – not naming names, but his MAMA – his laughing, singing, talking, screaming, gurgling, crying, eating, feeding, eye-rubbing skills, there’s got to be a better time for me to see witness such creativity.  I mean, I want to cheer on the little dude, but when the clock strikes midnight, and then 1 o’clock and then 2 o’clock, and my brain is quick-floating down the Mississippi on a log raft, I ain’t got time for this.

I got time for counting sheep and I got time for earplugs and I got time for warm and snuggly feather comforters and I got time for SLEEP.  But I ain’t got time for his little Up All Night shenanigans.  I did not sign up to chaperone the junior high lock-in, but I signed up to sleep.  

Or did I?

For when a so overly-tired little man just thinks you’re the bee’s knee’s and wants to snuggle lap-side, couch-side, chair-side and hip side for three hours, sometimes you just say yes.  And then when you finally realize his little FOMO party is never and will never come to a close if he’s the one calling the shots (and that it’s not actually an ear infection), you start playing Coach.  You drag the pack n play to the middle of the dining room, you sing “You are My Sunshine” for the 800th time that evening/morning/ungodly time of day, and then you close every in-between door in the house, and you have yourself a merry little five hours of sleep.

Because, after all, this is what stories are made of. 

And really, would we really have it any other way?

Night night!

So, what say you?  “Uh, Cara …wake up and smell the coffee beans, sister.”  “Did you think parenthood really warranted sleep-filled nights?  Mwah ah ah ah.”  Go ahead.  Carry on now.

rituals: spiritual practice on a living room floor (mindy haidle).

We aren’t even halfway through the year and I can honestly say that I LOVE Tuesdays. I love Guest Post Tuesdays, and I love the rituals, and I love the writers and I love the stories we’re exposed to here on be, mama. be. Today’s storyteller – and her words – are no exception, and she also happens to be one of my favorite people on this earth.  So, welcome Mindy back to this space, writer of last year’s “Not Dead Yet,” which still rings true in my ears today.  Enjoy to the greatest degree, enjoy. 

Photo cred: tricsr4kidz, Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo cred: tricsr4kidz, Flickr Creative Commons.

I used to think that truth, ritual and practice were learned from a teacher.  Imparted to you via the institutions of academia or faith, found within the walls of university or church.  Or a yoga studio.  Certainly not via something online.  And absolutely not through the soles of my own feet.  Here’s my story.

I’d been practicing yoga for over a decade when I discovered the appeal of being able to move my body on the mat while never leaving the front door.  I work full time and am a mother and the yoga schedules just never seem to work for me—and they’re damn expensive.

A friend, a fellow yogi, had told me about an online yoga program years ago—as many as five. And it just sounded strange, like how online dating sounds strange to people who got married before the Internet.

You see, I love attending yoga classes. I love any type of class, really. I crave sitting in rapt attention to an expert speak on a topic, listening, asking questions and soaking up every last detail. To glean endless truth and knowledge and understanding—who doesn’t want that?

Yoga classes were an extension of my obsession with school, which was really about receiving teacher feedback, which was really based in my desire for the approval and validation of third party authorities. Whew! There I said it. I wanted the expert to pat me on the head and say, “You are brilliant, Mindy. You are amazing. You are worthy.”

Naturally, when my friend mentioned these online classes, I didn’t get the draw. No feedback from the teacher? No way. Granted, it was a fraction of the cost—rounding in at $18 for an entire month of unlimited yoga contrasted with the $15 per class I would pay at the local studio. Cost benefit aside, my ego couldn’t do it. The external approval was too motivating.

Another two years passed before I’d consider it again.

How I started doing online yoga is less interesting than what happened when I actually did. Suffice to say, my hankering for more consistent yoga in my life coincided with a decrease in our family’s income.

I could no longer avoid online yoga.

Plus there was a two-week, no-strings-attached free trial period! Gotta love the Internet.

That was nearly three years ago and I’ve missed fewer than ten days on the mat since then. Sometimes habits and rituals take years to build. There are others that take hold overnight, start fire immediately and alter the course of your life.

Online yoga was the latter for me.

It was like water in the desert. Like peanut butter on jelly. Like Eric Liddell from the film “Chariots of Fire” saying, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

Something changed for me when I took my craving for approval out of the classroom, out of someone else’s hands and made it my own. Granted, I still am taking a class from a teacher; they still set the agenda for the class.

But it’s a streaming video, for heaven’s sake! They can’t give me any feedback more than Frank Underwood can tell you he likes your hair. I have to give myself the feedback—that I am enough. That I am strong. That I am showing up in my life. That I am lovable.

So the ritual itself: after my five-year-old son goes to bed around 8 or 9pm, I go put on my yoga clothes or pajamas. It doesn’t honestly matter.

I take out my yoga mat from the closet, put it on the living room carpet and open up my laptop. I go to the site, find a class that matches my time, intensity and mood for the night and start at once. For an hour or twenty or fifteen minutes, I am transported away from my job, piles of laundry and demanding family responsibilities.

No, actually, that’s not what happens.

In those tiny moments—however much I have—I am invited to step deeper into my life, to notice my body and soul. To listen to the sacred temple that is my flesh and blood—spirit embodied in me.

Amidst what feels like an insane life sometimes, I show up in full witness to all of it: I stand or sit or fold and feel it.

I listen to my breath.

The poses help me move the breath around. They remind me that my body and mind and spirit are capable of more than I know. The attention to breath enables me—on a good day—to acknowledge and calm my raging thoughts. Or at least not judge them as harshly.

My daily ritual of yoga is for me. No one else. There are no gold stars. No promises of money. No “A” on the report card.

This I do for my own joy, my own satisfaction. For my own well-being.

My therapist calls this self-care.

I call it heaven.

I do it every day because I don’t know how to be Mindy anymore without it. It’s not a chore. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy or fun.

But it’s single-handedly the best part of my day: over, and over, and over.

And it’s mine.

With my feet on the ground, I learn to feel my own worth, the weight of my soul, my incarnation. 

avatarMindy spends her days interviewing people about their dreams, hopes and disappointments on behalf of large American brands. Sometimes she’s a secret shopper, sometimes she’s sleuthing on the interwebs, but always asking questions, always seeking to know more. Mindy loves to cuddle while listening to classic rock. I know, I know – do you not love this woman, or what?  How did Mindy’s words strike a chord with you?  

how blogging has made me a better writer.

The Gift of Writing

I never set out to be a blogger.

In fact, were you to ask me over steaming cup of tea if I’m a blogger, I’d probably hem and haw, unable to answer a simple yes to your even simpler question.

I’m a blogger who writes, I’d probably say to you.

When I first left the traditional workforce to pursue a career in writing and speaking, I held the belief that bloggers weren’t real writers. Bloggers were in a camp all their own—quickly, sloppily pushing out information; competing for clicks and tweets and reposts; attending blogging conferences instead of writing conferences, learning how to Get More, Be More and Achieve More in the online world.

Blogging, I believed, wasn’t about the art. It was about pushing sloppy mimicry into the world. It was the opposite of creating, far from what I saw myself doing and achieving and being as a writer.

But things have come a long way in the online world and no matter what we call ourselves, blogging is part of being a writer. Blogging is writing. And as I look back on my relationship with blogging I can honestly say that it has made me a better writer. Here’s what blogging has taught me:

1. Consistency is key. 

Writing is a daily exercise. I can’t expect to magically be able to play Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” if I haven’t sat down on a piano bench in years. Likewise, an intrinsic motivation exists in blogging, knowing that a small pack of people wait to read my words. But it’s not just consistency in frequency that matters – it’s consistency in voice and in caliber.

Click here to read seven more ways that blogging has made me a better writer.

Otherwise, if you’re a writer-blogger, what have you learned along the way?  More importantly, is there a difference between writing and blogging?  Are we all the same species?  Am I one of ….them?!

rewriting a picture (on motherhood).

A few Saturdays ago, the HBH (Hot Black Husband) snapped this picture of Cancan and me:

11154588_10153239347697988_3581710056462314592_oIt was only a couple of weeks after we’d moved in to our new house.  Although you can’t see it very well, the kitchen counter behind me lay stacked with bowls and cups and plates; beyond that, another eight or nine boxes sat dormant, contents wrapped in cellophane, awaited placement.  Because there is nothing speedy about the moving and the unpacking and the settling process in general, especially not when two miniature humans have decided to make nest in your home as well.  Instead, it takes weeks, months, years, perhaps, to make a house a home, to usher into place where everything should land.

That particular day we’d trekked two blocks up Wesley and then another three down MacArthur to the farmer’s market.  Cheap Scot that I am, we’ve continued to made do with a single-seat stroller: Baby Brother sits strapped into the real seat while Cancan balances precariously on the Bob’s front triangle.  Frodo kicks him mercilessly but we call it a massage, and Big Brother somehow trusts in the health benefits of an eight month old’s deep tissue kneading ways.

When we enter the market, we meander the crammed and crooked aisles, tasting strawberries and sampling the Cara Cara oranges.  We stand in line for a plate of hummus and greens and chips, because it’s one of the only meals we can successfully share between adult and tinies.  We hand our dollars over to the teenager at the bounce house religiously, week after week, because of the joy one climb up and another slide down produces for one such two-year-old boy.

And after we’ve wandered and tasted and seen the grit, the beauty, the life of this little slice of our neighborhood, we trudge back up the hill, babies screaming and Mama sweating.  

And then I make the Great Escape.

That day, I went to Nordstrom Rack to purchase new unmentionables and to find a shirt or two I could wear on a daily basis that wasn’t already covered in spit-up stains.  I mailed a package that had been sitting in the car for a week and I stopped in at Starbucks for an afternoon Frappuccino without having to run circles around the tantalizing display of five dollar dried fruits and nuts.  I may have even read for a few minutes in the car before heading home, before returning to the chaos, before opening the door to pleas for chocolate chip cookie making time.

And that’s when this picture was snapped.

When I still didn’t feel like I had the patience necessary to be a good mom.

When I felt down on myself for yet-to-lose baby weight, when Ugly seemed to carry more weight than Pretty.  

When I found myself wearing my husband’s undershirt because I didn’t have any that fit properly.

When all I wanted to do was refuse my son’s pleas for time together, for stirring and mixing and creating, side by side.

But I’m beginning to see this picture differently now.

Because I think it’s in in these moments of inadequacy that we discover our true selves – we discover that Beauty can be found in the most unlikely of places.  We see the way our son holds his taste-tester spoon, eyes gleaming, beaming, alive with delight and spirit and spunk.  And we see ourselves, maybe, potentially, actually, as we are truly seen.

As beautiful.

As loved.

As enough.

As wanted and desired and embraced, as is, not as will be, not as was.   

I’m rewriting what the picture actually, really is, instead of what I sometimes feel that it is.

I’m listening to the Voice.

xo, c.

What picture needs to be rewritten?  What story are you believing that you need to let be redirected today?  And for all those mamas out there, when and if you’re ever feeling down on yourself for the weight, for the lack of patience, for the desire to return to All Things Normal, hang in there.  You are not alone. Not ever. 

four fabulous fiction finds.

Sometimes the most amazing problem comes my way: I read too many good books.

Gone are the days (for the most part) when I find myself downloading Fifty Shades of Gray, simply because “it’s a New York Times Bestseller!”  Gone are the days (again, for the most part) when it takes me months to read a book, because I’m getting selective with the books I read.

I’m choosing books based on the recommendations of other book nerds I trust, or because it’s written by an author whose words I’ve come to know and trust.

It’s kind of like the literary geek within is starting to grow up.

Well, praise be, praise be.

That being said, here are four fabulous fiction finds I’ve read in the last month or two that I think you’ll love.  Of course, you’re free not to love them, but if you find yourself in want of a good weekend read, try one of these:

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For the young adult within:

I’ll Give You the Sun (Nelson) – I don’t know if you’ve ever been around a young teenager, but a lot of times they’ll say, “I know the answer, but I can’t find the words for it…” That response is developmentally spot-on for the middle school population, and likewise with metaphors, similes and figurative language in general. Nelson encompasses the young teenage voice in all its gritty, beautiful glory so very well.  A fair warning to some readers, though: contains overt themes of sexuality, death and dying.

We Were Liars (Lockhart) – I had to read this with my Pretend Hat on, pretending that I didn’t know what was to come, pretending that I was reading this as my sixteen-year-old self.  And it worked, for the most part.  Both of these YA books are similar in a time-jumping narrative (as seems to be the fashion in contemporary fiction today), but as one critic said, the book is as beautiful as it is tragic.

For the fan of historical fiction:

Brideshead Revisited (Waugh) – Contrary to earlier statements, this book did take me a couple of months to rally through, mostly because I couldn’t get past the first chapter.  (War openers do that to me – sorry, military mindsets).  But once I started it over and got through said war scene, I was hooked.  The dialogue is quick and witty, hilarious and driven.  The plot is rich and full and captivating throughout.  AND it’s a classic.  I’m eager to now check out the mini-series, circa 1981.

For the one with religious leanings: 

Lila (Robinson) – East of Eden fans, meet a modern-day Hosea.  Marilynne Robinson introduces us to a new set of characters in the cozy and familiar setting of Gilead.  And whether you have religious (namely, Christian) leanings or not, you’ll find yourself engulfed by Lila’s story.  As for me, I mostly just want to sit down and chat with the author, and ask her how she effortlessly weaves scripture and narrative together.

There you have it: four fabulous fiction finds.  So, do yourself a favor – head to your local independent bookstore and pull these off the shelves.  You can thank me later.

Happy reading!

So, what about you?  What must-read fiction have you found yourself engulfed within lately?  What would you recommend to me, and to the rest of the be, mama. be community?  

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links.  Thanks for supporting my reading habits!