Tag Archives: gratitude

Season to be ‘Kindful’

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My five-year-old son yelled for me to come upstairs this morning yet again. He was really excited while listening to the “ta dum da dum dum” Christmas song.

“Hurry, mommy! You’re going to miss it!”

So, I stopped brushing my teeth and slowly climbed the stairs back up to the den for the third time that morning. Every time I tried to get ready for the day, he’d yell for me to come back up. He’s beside himself about Christmas this year.

“Do you know what Christmas is really about, mommy?” he asked with an infectious smile. Since he’s going to a Catholic preschool, I answered, “The baby Jesus?”

“Nope. Well, maybe. But that’s not really it. Know it?” His eyes widened and he had this ‘I one-upped you’ look on his face. “Hmmm, what is it about?” I answered.

“Well, it’s not about the presents and stuff. It’s kindful. You know, being kindful.”

I just love that. All my aggravation about our slow-moving morning faded as I kissed his forehead and thought about his new word. James has inherited my inclination to create words. My whole childhood was filled with merged words or dyslectic sayings that only I or one of my sisters could understand. But isn’t ‘kindful’ just wonderful? To me, it’s kindness married with being mindful and joyful at the same time.

And it’s such a good reminder for me right now, too. (My best teachers always surprise me.) It’s only December 2nd and I’m already finding myself stressed with an over-stretched schedule. There are at least five violin concerts, soccer practices, games and parties for me and both boys. There are Christmas travel plans to be made, (or not) and of course the biggies for me: my final two weeks of yoga teacher training and the book I’m writing. Phew—The book I’m writing—When do I find the time to squeeze in a bit more work on the sixth chapter? My most emotionally draining and engaging chapter so far. Dropping in feels like landing on the moon and after an hour or so of writing, I feel dazed and unfocussed on immediate needs and scheduling, as I think on heavy topics and characters filled with angst.

So…as I typically ramble on before getting to a proper point… I’d like to encourage all of us to take moments out of each day this month to be kindful. We can only do so much. I, especially, need to be kindful to myself. I’ve been through a lot lately. And, like many of you, I may not get as much done as I’d like. But if I can be kind, mindful and listen to my children, maybe throw in a few giggles, that will infinitely mean more to them than having the perfectly decorated house or perfectly orchestrated holiday. Right?

Isn’t it amazing that my five-year-old has become such an insightful teacher for me? What if I had stayed focussed on not being late for preschool and refused to go upstairs this morning? Think of what I would have lost. Later this morning, as I was getting James dressed, he looked at me squarely in the eye and asked, “Ok, who are you?” I answered my little buddhist boy by saying: “I’m your mommy filled with love.” Since he’s entered the age of being afraid of transforming monsters, I knew where this was coming from. He asked again, “Really, that’s who you are?”

And as I answered him again, that I was his mommy filled with love, I realized that in each moment I have the opportunity to answer him and my older son, by my actions. Each time I yell, or refuse to listen, or get frustrated and snap while in the car, I’ll be telling them that I’m a different version. So, it’s my time to stop, breathe and be the version of me they deserve.

You know, sometimes when we stop, breathe and stay in the moment—even if it means being late for an appointment—we open ourselves up to possible moments of joy and insight, that may stay with us a lifetime.

I may not write again in this blog before the holidays, as I’m working feverishly on my book Uriel’s Mask. So, I’ll take this moment to wish all of you ‘kindful’ moments. Next time you’re stuck in aggressive or slow-moving traffic, rushing to a party or an appointment, or frantically shopping, I hope you think of this post. Take a breath (like I will be doing) and think about the big picture. What sort of moments are you cultivating? Are your children in the back seat? Are they listening? Are you listening to them? What really matters in the end? Is it all of the presents under the tree? Or is it our presence? Is it what money can buy? Is it what neighbors think? Is it trying to meet expectations that others or family have set for you? Or is it trailing your own, mindful path?

Here’s hoping that we all take babysteps toward kindfulness this season.

Happy Holidays! x

Gratitude, Courage and The Single Mom

Yesterday morning I was hit with a vivid memory that soccer-punched the air out of me and left me with a longing and nostalgia that I haven’t felt in a long time.  I had just driven past the Madonna Del Rifugio (ancient convent near our villa dedicated to the Madonna and child) on Via dei Frati (our dirt road, translated to “The Brothers”)  in Sinalunga, Italy. I was on my way to buy pastries to take back to the villa. We were leaving for Rome (where I am today) and my man was at home packing up all the many bags and machines he needs to keep his 80-year-old father alive—who is the reason for our trip this summer, back to his grandfather’s homeland.

As I navigate through the narrow dei Frati, past olive groves down into town, the soulful tune “Oh, What a Lucky Man, He Was” starts to play on the radio.  Tears of recognition sting my eyes. The Emerson Lake and Palmer song was playing 3.5 years ago as doctors performed a C-section to deliver James. The memory came rushing back as the song played, and I could literally see the hospital room at UCLA and the doctors and nurses and my ex sitting at my head looking down at me.  I pulled up to the coffee bar, smiled at my new friend Eva serving cappuccinos, and sat listening to the words. I raised one finger and nodded, letting her know I’d be inside soon, put my sunglasses on to hide my eyes, and felt a knot form deep within.

My OBGYN, who I consider a friend, played the mix tape he had made for his wife when she was delivering their son 20+ years earlier, at my delivery. I was insanely honored. I’ve known this man for 11 years and he is the reason why we moved back from London, in order to let him over-see the birth and my bed-rest. His first name is William and his brother’s James—the names of my two children coincidentally. He saw me through the chicken pox, then the premature contractions that landed me on bedrest for two months, and then this emergency C-section. October 24, 2008 was such a special day and hearing that song slammed me back to a time when I was filled with hope.

It’s a little ironic that our street in Italy is named the brothers. Little James always refers to his big brother and his best friends as “the brothers.” He often says, “I want to stay up and play with the brothers!” when William has a friend over to spend the night. It’s adorable and always makes me think that he was in a brotherhood of some sort in another life. This month we’ve also stayed down the road from an ancient, but working, convent that celebrates the Madonna and child. Our villa is on the hill above the village of Sinalunga, which is also dedicated to the Madonna. (Probably many villages throughout Italy are!) But everywhere you look, above door ways, bars, restaurants, churches and even offices, you can find paintings or sculptures of the Madonna and child, like the one in the picture above that I took.

Everywhere I’ve looked throughout my month away, I have been reminded of how important and revered motherhood is. There is no higher calling in Italy. It’s renewed my strength and filled me with more gratitude.

Life rarely works out the way we plan, does it? Who would have thought 3.5 years ago, after I delivered an adorable baby boy with crazy, spiked red hair like a British punk rocker, that I’d be separated and raising the boys solo 8 months later. It was too painful for words, so I won’t bother. But hearing that song again yesterday haunted me and felt like a wake-up call.

I am the lucky one.

Life has crazy twists and turns and so much is out of our control. But what is in our control is the power to see what is good and what is important in our lives. Flash forward 3.5 years and who would have thunk that I’d be spending a month in Italy with a boyfriend and his 80-year-old father who I adore. I’m seeing how vulnerable and tenuous every moment is through their eyes. And although some in America may not value motherhood as much as the Italians—you and I should never take their viewpoint seriously.

No one could argue with a woman who puts her children first, while no longer being a doormat. However you need to take care of them—if you are putting their needs first—you have your head and your heart in the right place.

Keep reminding yourself that you do have a job, you are competent, and that you are important. You are more than important—you are your children’s emotional security and source of love—that provides a roadmap for them to love themselves and others as adults.

So next time you find yourself having to defend what you do, or defend the needs of your children, or stand up for yourself, do what I plan to do: take a deep breath and focus on your children’s faces. They’ll inspire you to do what you need to do. And I, for one, intend to remember to always show gratitude. If your ex is taking good care of the kids, like mine is this week, say thank you. If your ex takes pains to call the children, tell him you appreciate it. It’s a little step towards a peaceful future.

Single Mom’s Wanderlust: A State of Mind

As many of you may know, I used to live in London and traveled quite a bit. I moved back to California in the summer of 2008, when 7 months pregnant. Southern California is a great place to be when you’re sleep deprived and in need of sunshine and fresh air. But lately, I find myself starting to get that twitchy foot. The itch that, in the past, would make want to purchase a last minute rail ticket for a weekend excursion to somewhere in Europe. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss my old life at all. I really do believe that I was supposed to go through this mess: this divorce, this single motherhood thing and that it’s all part of a plan. It’s forcing me to grow and realize my inner strength and  I have embraced that better things are yet to come. BUT, that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes need to GET AWAY.

Now that I’m regularly sleeping through the night, (isn’t it marvelous when your child finally lets you??) I’m feeling the urge to hit the open road. I crave getting into my car and driving for long periods at a time with no real destination. I recall reading Ann Tyler’s book Ladder of Years where the main character, a 40-year-old mom, took a walk and just kept walking until she moved to another town altogether. I loved it. (Although I adore all of Ann Tyler’s books.)

Don’t worry, ya’ll. I’m not about to do that. But I realize that I need vistas. I need to explore. It’s always been a part of my DNA. My Ex hated that I rarely planned or structured our trips beyond arranging a house swap or renting a flat or house somewhere. I liked to meander and discover things—to sit at cafes and people watch or talk with a chatty local and get the low-down on where to go that evening. I miss spontaneity. In college, I’d take off and drive from Georgia to Maine with no set stopping places in between. I’d stop where it felt good to do so. I naturally gravitated to journalism as I liked the constant change of scenery or new voices. As a child, I wandered in the woods and horse trails. I love discovering by happenstance. With that said, I’m literally and financially too grounded to take off as a single mom of two kiddos.

But I’m realizing that I can still get a little bit of that flight feeling by opening my eyes wider and exploring closer to home. By being present and taking in my surroundings or taking short excursions with the boys, we can explore. So, I’m rarely without my camera these days. I’m far from a photographer, (and none of my pictures were taken with special lenses or have been touched up in some way) but I find that shooting pictures of the beauty that surrounds me in Southern California reminds me there are things to discover in my own backyard. It helps ease that yearning for an excursion I can’t have right now.

There will be days ahead for faraway travel. But for now, I’m going to keep drinking in my sun-kissed part of the world. When I take pictures and look at them later, I’ll remember to thank God for second chances at a new life. I am grateful to stay put at the moment. I am grateful to have the time to create and discover what beauty surrounds and lies within.