November 28, 2007

wise mamas

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Garden gnome or baby Ben?, botanical garden, sf, Canon Rebel XTI


I have been excited about books as gifts this holiday. A few in particular have been gifted to me lately and I want you to know about them!

Life Artist by Ali Edwards. If you don't know her blog, hop on over and give it a read. Ali is a scrapbook celebrity, a talented designer and also lives and breathes pure inspiration. I think it has something to do with the fact that she is a life artist.

The book is part scrapbooking how to and partly about living creatively and enjoying the simple beauty in life. My kind of girl.

Her life art principles:
It's about being awake.
It means celebrating everyday things.
It means letting go of your need for perfection.
It means using words and photos to tell your story.
It means sharing yourself.
It's about being real.
It's about documenting, telling, celebrating and experiencing life.
It's about being open and embracing the process of creativity.
It's about cultivating a lifestyle of creativity and beauty-with you as the creative director.
....

Confession: I fall asleep to most every book I pick up. After about three pages (sometimes three paragraphs) I doze off. I am a slow reader for this reason and often don't finish books at all. (Full permission from superhero headquarters to sell or giveaway any and all unfinished books! Down with book guilt! Sometimes we get what we came for in the first chapter!)

Anyway, this has not been the case with Karen Maezen Miller's fabulous book Momma Zen. I fell in love in the first few pages and have been snuggling up in bed enjoying her every word. This is a wonderful gift for your mama friends (and mamas to be) There is so much permission in here to be imperfect... and how enough that truly is.

An excerpt:
Buddhism teaches that all of life and all existences are perfect as they are. I can easily accept that about a bird or a fish or a rock, but hardly about my fellow human beings and never about me, a lowly bottle-feeding mother. You can substitute the circumstances in your own story (you know it by heart) and the comparisons and recriminations remain. How many of your thoughts are about not being good enough? My guess is nearly all of them. And none of them are the means for getting on with your life. They are the means for avoiding your life-detouring from what is right in front of you to make endless mental laps around the ground long ago covered and gone."

Can I get an amen? I love this book.

Posted on 07:56 AM | Comments (32)

November 26, 2007

Self Portrait Challenge: What I Wear Week 4

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joy necklace and curvy jeans, Canon Rebel XTI

I have been wanting to submit to the Self Portrait Challenge for ages and was inspired by some of my friends' entries this month. I am wearing my trusty superhero necklace in joy and my brand new jeans. I wouldn't normally mention who makes these jeans, but I was delighted to find a pair that fit my curvy booty! They are the Gap curvy jeans... apparently the ones that Oprah raves about.

And two other delights
Superhero necklace giveaway over at Design Mom this week! as well some other giveaways... So fun!

and the most wonderful photos I've seen in a long time (by Jan Von Holleben)

Posted on 02:19 PM | Comments (29)

November 25, 2007

joy to the world

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joy necklace, photo by Maile at Relish Portrait Studio, Canon Rebel XTI

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I was tickled to see the collection of superhero girls on Flickr. So much fun to see everyone! The photo above is of the fabulous Myriam of the ever so appropriate Joy Spread the Word which is coming soon.

Just a little reminder to order your superhero jewels soon for timely holiday delivery! (If you are shopping for Channuakah and need your jewels expedited, just let me know)

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And for those of you requesting bracelets this year, they are finally back! Thank you for being so patient.

Posted on 09:12 AM | Comments (10)

November 22, 2007

my gratitude gremlin

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totally grateful for my Ben, Canon Rebel XTI

I know this is a sacrilege to mention on Thanksgiving Day, scandalous to say out loud on any day really, but I have a confession: I'm having an allergy to the word gratitude.

Maybe it's just been overused, maybe there are too many books abut it, maybe I am just being finicky, but the word is losing its meaning for me. Even more, lately when I hear the word gratitude I feel anxious, then ungrateful, then maybe even a little ashamed. The voices in my head get really loud. My gratitude gremlin picks up a megaphone: YOU ARE NOT GRATEFUL ENOUGH! WHAT HAPPPENED TO THAT GRATITUDE JOURNAL? IF YOU WERE MORE GRATEFUL, YOU WOULD BE HAPPY.

Do you remember the bewilderment of eating dinner when you were a kid and having a parent say, "Eat the rest of your food! There are children starving in Africa!" I remember feeling shame at these moments, then guilt and confusion about how I could mail the food to a faraway land. Being grateful can be yet another way we beat ourselves up, another tool for self-loathing, or a way to explain the upsets in our lives. I wasn't grateful enough...

How do we find our way into gratitude when this word is often loaded with a lot of old and even new (age) baggage?

When going through (in)fertility I had folks say to me, "You should just be grateful you have a husband who loves you." How can you argue with this? It is true... and I was grateful for that. I also longed for a baby. To let that longing feel wrong, or to feel unworthy of anything more, was a confusing part of the grief of that journey. Today, when I feel exhausted, frustrated or less than supermom, I feel guilty all over again. After wanting Ben for so many years, I feel extra self-conscious when I don't regularly gush about how grateful I am (even to myself).

Is there a better way into gratitude? One with a little less guilt involved? Am I the only one with a gratitude gremlin?

I had a realization the other day during a coaching session. I began the call by saying that I had been feeling chronically out of touch with myself, ungrounded, not present. I said that I had this sense that I wanted to feel more gratitude, be more in the moment, not such a doing machine.

We began by just sinking into my body. What did it feel like to stop? to feel the weight of my body on the ground? I noticed that I had a hard time letting go of all of the things I had to do. My list of unfinished things was endless and creating a lot of anxiety. I couldn't help but think I was wasting time lying there.

After a few more minutes though I sunk in and felt how good it felt to stop. Like that saying about the water settling and becoming clear, I began to see how my mind became more clear when I stopped moving. I noticed how much energy I spend doing things that aren't really important. I saw how my energy was all over the map, how if I moved more slowly, with more intention, I could be more efficient abut where to put my energy and not exhaust myself. I could put my energy into things that really matter to me.

After our session, I knew I needed to walk, with one simple task: to see, to notice, and to appreciate. I had a blissful stroll in the autumn oranges, yellows and greens (that I posted about last week) and I realized that this is how I do it. This is how I practice gratitude. It is in the seeing for me, the noticing, the appreciating. It's where my camera becomes a very handy tool, because when I am carrying it, I am also carrying the question: What is beautiful about this moment? What is interesting? What is there to notice? What is there to appreciate?

At the end of that walk, I felt full. I felt thankful. I would have even been able to tell you what I felt grateful for (guilt free). But I had to get there first, to that place of noticing to count my blessings.

This Thanksgiving, I have an assignment for you. Take a minute and stop. Maybe it's when you are in the bathroom powdering your nose at your in-laws. Maybe you take a brisk walk around the block. Then trade in the word gratitude for appreciation and notice what there is to appreciate. If you were to take a picture, what would you snap? Is it a perfectly cooked turkey? Did someone choose just the right flowers for the centerpiece? What is there to appreciate about your family? Is it the lovely way your mom's hair curls over her ear? Is it the sweet voice your brother uses with his nephew? Is it the crackle of the fire or the smell of wood smoke?

One of my all time favorite quotes is by Robert Henri from the book The Art Spirit. He says, "It's not about making art, it's about living a life that makes art inevitable." I believe the same can go for being thankful. It's about stopping every once in a while, being present, and living in a space of appreciation. This might be the closest thing to living a life that makes gratitude inevitable.

Posted on 08:36 AM | Comments (49)

November 18, 2007

Praying

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grass at Alameda beach, CA, Canon Rebel XTI

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
-Mary Oliver

Posted on 06:00 PM | Comments (22)

Ben Harper

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Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA, Canon Rebel XTI

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Ben Harper, Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA, Canon Elph SD1000

Saw the incredible Ben Harper perform last night. He was as beautiful and soulful as always... I had to promise Matt that I would stay away from the tour bus after the show. :)

Posted on 09:55 AM | Comments (16)

November 15, 2007

seeing

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leaf diptych, Berkeley, CA, Canon Rebel Xti

Took a little miracle walk today.
I left the house with the intention of seeing and not letting life pass me by. It was amazing all of the things I saw that I had never noticed in my neighborhood before.... The orange flowers on the vine up high that juxtaposed so perfectly with the blue sky, the massive pile of leaves that someone had shoved to the side of the sidewalk, the veins in the leaves, and how, when you stand underneath that one maple tree down the street, it's like being under a bouquet of stars...

Posted on 04:57 PM | Comments (24)

November 13, 2007

quiet

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one leaf, Berkeley, CA, Canon Rebel Xti

"We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us, that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet." -W.B. Yeats

Posted on 08:44 AM | Comments (22)

November 12, 2007

sometimes it's totally worth ordering your own cake

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Citrus Chantelle with ladyfingers, Masse's Pastries, Berkeley, CA, Canon Rebel XTI

This was the tastiest cake I have ever eaten, and one of the prettiest. (Although I do have fond memories from childhood of grocery store cake straight from the fridge the morning after.)

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When I posted about my neurotic relationship to my birthday I didn't realize I'd be in such good company! I appreciated all of your comments and funny stories... It seems that part of adulthood is doing some self-parenting along the way. Up with self-parenting! In the end, my birthday was truly special, spent with some dear friends and complete with lovely gifts. In partiucular, some awesome books: The Silver Spoon (According to my italian friend, the bible of italian cooking that has finally been translated) Water for Elephants which I had been eyeing for its intriguing cover and Celebrations Rituals Prayer by Maya Angelou. I also have a gift certificate and since we all have similar tastes in books, I'd love to know your current faves.

Some other fun indie artist gifts I received are a camera strap (from Boho girl) a custom pendant with a pic of Ben inside (thank you Thea!) and an pin board from Ideal (I plan to use this as a manifesting tool for the coming year)

Posted on 10:59 AM | Comments (54)

November 08, 2007

3 plus 6

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cake, Canon Rebel Xti

I turn 36 tomorrow. I am particularly fond of this number because it is divisible by nine, adds up to nine, and my birthday is on the ninth. My affinity for nine began when I turned nine years old, had nine teeth missing and the numbers on my address (252) added up to nine.

One thing hasn't changed since then. Having a birthday can be a bit, let's say, charged...Back then it was about getting the right present (how much do they love me?) did everyone remember? (who really loves me?) and who will come to my party? (do they really really love me?) Usually it worked out alright but it's interesting to notice that somehow my birthday became a big who-loves-me test. If they only knew that magic set was a deal breaker!

In an effort to break through this wounded little bit, I try to remind myself to ask for what I want out of my birthday and not test the loved ones around me. If I want a cake, I am sure to ask someone to bring one (or pick it out myself) If I want a party, I don't wait for others to organize. I do like it when Matt writes the invitation so I always request that.

I can also take this to the extreme.

For Mother's Day this year, I told Matt exactly what I wanted. It was a pretty bracelet from a jeweler in nyc. I dropped little hints throughout the month, hoping he wouldn't forget. A week or so before the big day though, Matt said to me, "Oh yeah... I've got to get you something for Mother's Day." Something clicked in me and I went into survival mode. I ordered the bracelet myself when he went to work. About an hour later I got a call from Matt.

Me: Hello?
Matt: Did you order that bracelet yourself?
Me: (embarrassed) Umm.... yeah?
Matt: I just called to order it for you and they told me that the same bracelet was already going to the same address! I cancelled your order and bought it on my own card. Did you not even trust me to get you your Mother's Day gift?!
Me: I guess not...
Matt: That's so sad.

What I realized was that I wanted to protect myself. I couldn't bear the possibility of him forgetting... and I figured if I bought it myself I wouldn't have to endure any disappointment. (We don't have to go into the psychoanalysis here to know that this is my old stuff creeping up) But I missed out on the delight of receiving and didn't create any space for Matt to give... I took the pleasure out of the gift-giving that year for us both!

This year I am trying to stand in balance between these two forces. Taking care of myself, yes, and also letting people give to me and surprise me.

I did order a beautiful cake today though. And I only felt a little bit funny when I said, "You can write on it, Happy Birthday Andrea."

Posted on 10:16 PM | Comments (96)

November 07, 2007

smile

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Anastasia Goodstein, San Francisco, CA, Canon Rebel Xti

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. -Thich Nhat Hanh

Posted on 11:23 AM | Comments (18)

November 05, 2007

Jen Gray rocks

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Jen, Point Reyes, CA, Canon Rebel Xti

This made me miss my friend Jen Gray. She is one badass mama.

Posted on 10:20 AM | Comments (15)

Safe baby toys

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Ben and me, Berkeley, CA, by Boho Denise, Canon Rebel Xti

I know I'm not the only mom/auntie/grandma who is concerned about lead paint and phthalates (chemicals used to make certain plastics) in their kid's toys. I've already had to throw away some of Ben's things that were recalled and I am looking at everything else in the toy bin with a suspicious eye. Of course everything (even the bottom of my shoes and the stroller tires) is chewed and licked like a fine delicacy. It's so hard to know what's safe!

I was inspired by an article I read in Mothering magazine to compile a short list of safe, non-toxic options for bottles, teethers, toys, etc. Feel free to pass it along! (or buy the new issue of Mothering for the full scoop)

Toxin-free toys:
Oompa: Lots of wooden toys made in Europe.
A Bumble bee to ride into the sunset... and other toys at Maukilo.
Nova Natural: Love their rainbow blocks and stackers...
Another awesome wooden toy company called Brio that has been around forever. It seems to specialize in railway toys.
I love this cake decorating kit at Mahar Dry Goods
Natural pod: I like this stone cave.
Tiny Love
Kangarooboo

My favorite organic clothing shops:
Happy Green Bee
Speesees
A Little Lark

Baby body care products: (My favorites)
California Baby
Little Twig

Botttles and sippy cups:
Born Free
Adiri Natural Nurser
Evenflo glass bottles
Klean Kanteen
Lasinoh safe storage bottles
Sigg bottles are safe and stylish

Bibs and teethers
Tiny Love
Haba
First Years
Gerber

Posted on 08:27 AM | Comments (18)

November 03, 2007

handsome boy

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Ben, Berkeley, CA, Canon Rebel Xti

Posted on 09:02 AM | Comments (23)