Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ten Minutes in Heaven

By midday yesterday, I needed rescue. Too little sleep the previous night and lots of heat outside = Aggitated Mama.

When both babies were sleeping soundly in their rooms, I turned to a favorite restorative yoga pose that always refreshes. Viparita karani, or legs up the wall pose, is my go-to pose when I need a quick fix.

To get into the pose, slide your bum up against a wall and allow your legs to stretch up the wall. Your back is on the floor. I add a touch recommended by a chiropractor - putting a rolled towel under my neck to allow those muscles to realign. The theraputic benefits of this pose include the following:

  • Relieves tired or cramped legs and feet

  • Gently stretches the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck

  • Relieves mild backache

  • Calms the mind

Ten minutes in legs up the wall pose and I feel like a new woman: maybe not Zen Mama, but at least Refreshed Mama.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

summer lovin'

one thing i love about being a mama is that, through your children, you get a chance to relive your childhood.

on this scorching hot oklahoma summer morning (100 degrees!) arlo and i turned on the sprinkler hose, filled up his inflatable kiddie pool with cold water from the hose, and had our little backyard party. we splashed, kicked, jumped, stomped, skipped, and laughed.

it's the kind of joy you wish you could bottle.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Dad's Day

Kent Nerburn writes that there is one place where perfection of the heart is given to us in all its fullness - parenthood. When you look upon a child you have been given, there are no limitations and reservations. You are looking with a perfect love.
On this Father's Day, I celebrate my two dads - my biological father, the late Rowdy Settles (pictured above, with me at a wedding) and my stepfather (pictured above with my son Arlo during the summer of 2008). I also celebrate my wonderful husband of five years (pictured with me at an Inaugural event in 2009).
Happy Dad's Day to all the fathers in the world who have found perfection in the heart through parenthood.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Snapshots of My Life Then and Now

Last Friday The Hub and I had an offbeat date. We saw an off, off-Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Washington, D.C. If you are not familiar with the plot behind that story, I'll allow you to discover it on your own...Sitting in the theater, recalling the time I saw the movie of Hedwig, I couldn't help but contrast how different my life is now.

Me, then: The movie version of Hedwig came out sometime around the fall of 2001. I was a young twenty-something newbie lawyer living in Seattle, fighting the good fight at a legal services organization, not really making ends meet but having a blast. I hiked, practiced yoga, kayaked, saw lots of live music, and snowboarded. I lived in a one bedroom apartment located above a Safeway and across the street from a chill coffeeshop and took the bus everywhere. I was paid pennies for my work but I was a happy, happy girl.

Me, now: It's June 2009 and I am a wife, mama to two babies, stepmama to a 15 year old, non-practicing attorney, struggling writer, living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The Hub and I go on "dates" a few times a month. I run, practice yoga, try to meditate once a day for 5 minutes (a girl's got to start somewhere), and belong to an awesome book club. Our house is fabulously close to three super toddler parks and I drive a PT Cruser around the mean streets of our suburb. I am now paid in hugs and smiles and I am a happy, happy mama.

My Toddler (2009) / Me (1976)

Concepts that my 2.5 year old son knows that weren't in my vocabulary when I was a toddler in the mid-70s:

1. recycle

2. pad thai takeout

3. hip hop music

4. rental car

5. watching cartoons on the Ipod

6. email

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I Heart the Public Library

Kids Education

I love, love, love the public library. It started when I was a kid. There was one summer growing up where my mom worked outside the home and my Grandma Isabelle watched my brother and me. Some days we would go across the street to the swimming pool or to a local park, but other days she would take us to a cafe for burgers, fries, and a Coke, followed by a trip to the Muskogee Public Library. The cafe/library days were my favorite.

If I close my eyes, I can recall the entire experience: automatic sliding doors; the whoosh! of cold air-conditioning juxtaposed against the hot, humid summer air; the smell of old, musty books; the sound and sight of the water fountain in the library's corner, under the stairs; the children's area with puppets and a puppet stand, old dolls, and thousands of books, all of which were ours for the taking. With our bellies full of cafe food, my brother and I would run to the children's area and spend entire afternoons, playing with the toys and pulling books from the shelves. Some books would be glanced at, considered, and then put back. Ten or so lucky books would make their way into our canvass packs to be checked out and taken home to read and reread until they were due back at the library.

I had my own library card - a source of great pride. I loved standing in line, waiting to check out my newest selection of books. With the librarian's stamping of the due date on the back cover of each of my books, they were mine for two whole weeks!

I'm passing on the love of the library to my entire family. I hooked my husband after clueing him in to the fact that they have books on tape (for free!). My son, who is 2 1/2, loves to go for the toddler storytime and to play in the children's area. (Tip: have an early lunch, around 11 am, then go the library from 11:45 am - 12:30 pm, as that is when it is most deserted because all the other toddlers have gone home to have lunch.) I appreciate that we can check out books and rotate the stories we read to him before bed. While he may never tire of The Pokey Little Puppy, I occasionally need to mix it up with other books the library has in stock.

My favorite sections? The librarian's choice bookshelf, because it contains the real gems, picked by the most book-loving of them all. Now I know I must have been a librarian in a past life.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why Don't You...

why don't you...

get up early and go for a run?

make your own batch of wine?

sign up for a knitting class?

find a hammock and get comfy with a juicy book?

give pole dancing a try?

learn to make jewelry?

see a funky theater production?

Nap, Glorious Nap

How delicious does it sound to burrow under a light blanket of sleep right in the middle of a busy day? Why should young babies be the only ones allowed this wonderful treat?

The babies and I are visiting my family in Oklahoma. Yesterday, after putting them both down for naps in the early afternoon, I paused and thought about what to do next. Not being in my own house, I had no chores staring me in the face - no dishwasher demanding to be emptied, no laundy to fold, no bills to pay. I had roughly two hours of free time, and nothing seemed as glorious as stretching out on the bed and taking a little snooze.

Here's my favorite way to take a nap: First, my belly must be full of a good lunch. I can't stand sleeping on a hungry stomache. The room must be cool and dark, and I love to stretch out across the bed sideways, and on top of the bedsheets. A ceiling fan provides just enough air movement to keep me interested in a quilt blanket, which makes sleeping nice and cozy.

The lovely Veronique Vienne writes in The Art of Doing Nothing a wonderful section she titled "Recipe for a Gourmet Nap" in which she suggests:

* draw the blinds or curtains to bathe the room in a soft, restful glow

* kick of your shoes

* decide what time to wake up and trust your subconscious

* lie down under covers but not beneath the sheets

* close your eyes and imagine that you are a small boat drifting on the waves

* opening awakening, drag yourself out of bed slowly

* throw water on your face, stretch, open a window, don't rush

Ms. Vienne also writes that John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Napolean Bonaparte, and Leonardo da Vinci took a mid-day slumber. Knowing that I'm in great company, I think I'll make a 10 minute, glorious nap a part of my everyday.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


While stopped at a red light at an intersection, I saw a woman on the concrete slab between the lanes, holding out a cup and asking for money. The woman was disabled, with skin worn from the sun, and covered in torn, raggedy clothes. She could only hobble on her makeshift crutches when
a person in a car would reach out an arm with a couple of dollars for her.

I handed the woman a dollar and she whispered "God bless you."

My son asked, "What is she?" This is his catch-all question he uses to figure out his world. It can mean "how old are you?" or "are you a superhero like me?" depending on the situation.

I paused before answering, because I wanted to give him a truthful answer, but one that was appropriate for a two year old. I'm not sure I succeeded. "She is a woman who does not have a family or a place to live. She can't work at a job that pays money like Daddy does, so she asks people to help her by giving her money. So we shared some of our money with her."

"Oh. OK."

Having children has made me think about people differently. I feel the suffering of other human beings on a different level. The woman begging for money is somebody's child, and might be somebody's mother. What happened to her? How'd she get where she is now? Does she really not have family? Also, why are some people part of the "have's" while others are part of the "have-nots"? I know that it goes beyond how hard or motivated a person is, because I see the advantages a child has when his or her parents have resources and invest time and love into the child.

I always come back to the thought that there but by the Grace of God go I.

I was lucky enough to be raised by a loving mother and father and stepfather who cared about my well-being and did the best they could to give me every advantage. Neither I nor someone in my family has suffered a major health problem, leading to major, crippling debt. So far, none of us have lost a job or a house.

I see a person begging on the streets and feel fortunate, and somewhat guilty, that I get to live my life, which is a really, really good life.

While lost in my thoughts, my son had also been doing some thinking.

"Does that person need money, too?" He was pointing to the man in the Mercedes ahead of us.

"No, probably not." I told him, smiling. "Probably not."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Five Minute Daily Practice

The other day I was feeling overwhelmed by duties and a bit in the dumps over my lack of movement toward the achievement of my goals. I mentioned this to my friend Ana, who runs Creatuitive Coaching, a fabulous company dedicated to assisting young women in the search for living authentic and creative lives. She had the best piece of advice, which she captured in her June 1, 2009 blog:

Make the goal small and manageable by transforming it into a daily practice. Five minutes a day spent in furtherance of your goals means that each and every day you are dedicating time toward the achievement of your dreams.

Don't you just love this?

Here are my goals:

1. get the stories in my head into files on the laptop. not sure if the end result will be two fiction books or one, or multiple short stories, or a book of short stories. we'll see when we get there.

2. finish the nonfiction book i've begun. it's about mamahood and i think about it all the time.

3. design the line of clothing for breastfeeding mamas who want functional clothes that are soft and luxe feeling. function + fashion for the breastfeeding mama.

These goals feel OVERWHELMING because the time to work on them is few and far between. But I can find five minutes, no sweat.

Yesterday I interviewed a fabulous babysitter who is available all summer long. Tonight my five minutes will be spent in furtherance of my dreams by emailing this babysitter with the two mornings a week I wish for her to come over to babysit, allowing me to escape with laptop to a nearby cafe to do my writing and design sketching. Tomorrow I'll find another five minutes to organize all the notecards of chapter ideas I jotted down, and then the next day I'll find another creative and dedicated five minutes to move myself forward.

I'm ready to seize my five minutes. Are you?

Monday, June 1, 2009

What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?

What do you want to do before you die?

This question was posed in the blog on June 1, 2009.

Here's my answer:

I want to travel more, have lots of beautiful moments, instill in my children compassion, responsibility, and a love for learning, to create writings that live long after I'm gone, to love, smile and laugh every day, and to leave the world a better place.

What do you want to do before you die?

What I'm Loving About Today

What I'm Loving About Today

Sunny, 67 degree morning weather and playing outside with the babies all morning long

Spontaneously dancing on our deck with my toddler son to the Doobie Brothers' "Listen to the Music"

Feeling refreshed from a great book club meeting yesterday

Feeling excited about a creativity workshop I'm taking next week

The mixture of silence (sleeping babies during naptime) and birds outside chirping

The growth of my wisteria tree and the beauty of the plants I potted

Sun tea, like my Grandma Deana used to make it