How not to lose your mind raising children

All of a sudden, there’s space. Glorious empty space for breathing and relaxing into, like a large soft chair with a chenille blanket and a cup of chamomile tea offering cozy reflection time. I’m not sure what prompted the shift in perspective, for that’s exactly what it is… A different way of processing pretty much exactly the same circumstances.
Sweet girl still needs me as much (dare I say “more than”?) as always, asking for my time and attention and dreading separations, but I don’t mind anymore.
I seem to have acquired the ability to distance myself from the emotion that is this three and a half year old spinning ball of energy and moods, yet still observing and responding as need requires, like before. Is this the observer mind that my mindfulness books speak of? I wonder only because I dont feel detached or distant… I love her more fiercely and completely today than yesterday, if that’s possible. All of a sudden, I appreciate who she is in and of herself and love watching her grow and change.
There are some circumstances that prompt an ironic wink or a conspiratorial chuckle from deep within. I can’t seem to find the familiar feelings of frustration and anger when my daughter changes her mind yet again, as she often does. I see myself as part of a motherhood chain that goes back through time. Surely i am the same prehistoric mother who had to run back into the cave for her child’s forgotten security object (perhaps a spoon? A leaf? I don’t know… Were kids allowed childhoods back then or were they put right to work?)
I’ve tried for all these days to get beyond my limitation of exasperation and that sense that too much is being taken from me( time, energy, physical space) with not nearly enough left for myself or anyone else.
When I would carry a magazine article around all day but not getting even a few minutes to read it, or wanting a lazy day when I didn’t have to entertain another person with craft projects, snacks and meals, fun outings or educational teachings.
Sure, I still want those things. But all of a sudden, I see this little person as transient, growing up all too soon and off to live her own life away from me. I have heard from enough empty nesters to realize that the gift of witnessing a childhood should not be wished away. So I am noticing and reveling in all of it … The irrational outbursts, the prideful accomplishments, the firsts and seconds and even the mundane thirds, with a sense of humor and perspective. About time!

I don’t have to solve her “problems” or heal her wounds. She simply needs me to be there. My presence, my attention, my enfolding arms are the most important right now.



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Photo-Heart Connection, journal love, and Weekly Photo Challenge

This is a catch-all post for three different fun projects: the Photo-Heart Connection, some journal photos that a group of friends and I are all posting and sharing, and the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.  I hope it doesn’t get too long!

My choice for the Photo-Heart Connection for July was tough… on the return flight home from Chicago last week, I took many photos of clouds from my little window seat.  There were so many different types and colors all layered together and I thought it looked magical.  The one below looked sort of like a little tunnel from a stormy situation into brightness.  Then I got to my car and was exiting the parking lot and saw the one immediately below, with a lovely rim light giving special contrast to the separation of the grey clouds and the bright blue sky.  And I drove through those storm clouds and rain toward sunshine where I got to reunite with my sweet girl.

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“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” ~ Christina Baldwin

Some friends are doing a party this week of pictures of our journals… we were chatting in our Facebook group about being obsessed with them.  I learned I’m not alone in admiring them, buying them, and then not wanting to sully them with my scribblings.  This could probably be a post in and of itself, but I already have next week’s posts scheduled so we’ll just include it here.  

There’s just a sense of promise, of beginning, of possibility with a brand new and beautifully covered book, don’t you think?

All these pretty covers and yet I began by using boring spiral notebooks…

 I have several travel journals where I pasted ticket stubs, brochures, cards, etc. and wrote about all the inspiration I was seeing around me.  I even found an old Lira note.

I’m sure you all have a journal or two, right? If you like, share how you use them (or not) and what they mean to you.

* * * * *

The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is PURPLE.  Well, by the time you read this, I’ll probably be behind again, but here ya go…

My favorite color!


Whew! Have a lovely weekend, friends.  Come back on Monday for a post I’m excited to share with you about how a tiny shift in persecutive can change absolutely everything!

Mindfulness music – August 1 OLW blog hop

This post is part of the One Little Word Blog Hop where members of Ali Edwards’ OLW class share their monthly assignments or something about their word.  Each month, on the 1st of the month, I’ll participate and then give you a link to the next in line (see the full list of participants at the end of this post).

Our assignment for July was to create a personal playlist for our word.  I’ve thought about “mindful” all month when in the car listening to music or even tuning in more when shopping since some stores play music.  Some of these songs are about paying attention to the present moment and some are simply inspiring to me right now.  Sometimes thinking about why a song is meaningful to you can lead to interesting revelations.  Ali told us it’s more about feeling and emotion than finding the perfect song.

1) Each and every time I hear this song, actually written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, I appreciate the physical world around me and how remarkable nature can be.

2) I’ve always loved the melody, but the words remind me, at least this month, to keep pursuing dreams and keep the faith that small wrinkles will get ironed out.

3) Simply true of me.  I think this came up in one of the Inner Excavation chapters and I decided to embrace this aspect of myself rather than try to change it.

4) A friend reminded me recently of a biblical teaching.  Each of us has two pockets, each containing a slip of paper.  On one should be written: I am but dust and ashes, and on the other: The world was created for me.  The secret of living comes from knowing when to reach into each.  The first phrase is spoken by Abraham when he realizes that he’s bargaining with God over Sodom and Gomorrah.  The second phrase is from the Talmud, illustrating that we are all unique individuals, though we are formed from the same mould.  We have worth as individuals and yet we are no more special than the next person.  I also love the that nothing in creation is an accident.  Did Chris Martin mean all this? Who knows.  See #3.

5) Hearing the peppy beat of this song simplifies my day.

6) The Shema is the most important prayer of the Jewish worship service and is also recited in the morning upon rising and in the evening before sleep.  Two reasons it’s related to mindfulness for me… First, my parents taught us to say it before bed every night as kids, and they would listen patiently afterward as we would spout off blessings for practically everyone we knew (“God bless Mommy and Daddy and grandma and grandpa and the grocery store clerk and my teacher and Kenny and Kenny’s mommy and …”).  Also, in the worship service, no matter who is following along in the prayer book and who is not paying attention, it seems that everyone pauses when it’s time to recite the Shema.  I close my eyes and hear the entire congregation singing the words together.  I picture Jews all the world over saying the same prayer and I feel solidarity and calmness.

7) I like the idea of “she’ll make her way” by pursuing these qualities.

8) A great reminder that if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that it’ll be ok, it often will.

9) This goes back to the idea that there are no coincidences.  Love that!

I’m so glad to be part of this blog hop!  Some of the artwork these ladies do is just incredible! Now, hop along to visit Veronica for the next OLW post.  She (and each thereafter) will send you on down the list from there until you’ve seen them all.  The rest of the participants are listed below.  I encourage you to visit every blog for more creative fun.

You can read other posts related to my OLW here.

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August 1 OLW Blog Hop Participant List






Mrs. Wookie

Monica B


Naomi <— You are here.

Veronica <— Go here next!









Paris in July

For some reason over the past few months, I have been thinking about my trips to Paris.  I’ve also been seeing Paris images absolutely everywhere… on clothing, decorative trays, clocks, napkins, boxes.  So when I noticed that a couple of book bloggers were having a Paris in July blog party, I wanted to play along too! (See that post for the specific guidelines.)

They have been posting weekly Paris/French-related fun and reading the comments has been amazing too… seeing what everyone else has been reading and cooking and crafting.  I encourage you to check out this post for all the info about it.  I believe I’m the 80th participant.  WOWZERS!

For the challenge, I created a Paris-themed canvas just for fun, read two books, and gathered my Paris books for a photo.

I have been having some crafty fun over here… I included three actual photos from our Paris trips on the canvas.  Shakespeare and Company is my absolute favorite store in the entire world, so I had to include one of those from our 2007 trip.  And two from 2010: the building where we had our wine course and a pic of me sitting in Le Quartier Latin to check our guidebook for an address.  The rest of it is a collage of paint, tapes, buttons, stickers, and papers with some textured gel medium on top.

Since I read both to learn something new and to enjoy a little escape to a new place, the two books I read this month were right up my alley.  (Where does that expression even come from? I could say they were right on my nightstand and be more accurate.  Ahem.)

Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James is a lighthearted memoir about her year-long sabbatical in Paris with her family.  She was free to do whatever she liked and I enjoyed hearing about it all: her children’s experiences in school, her culinary adventures, her fashion observations.  It’s a quick read and quite touching at times.  I could definitely see some of her short observations being entertaining Facebook status updates.  I must say, I love reading travel narratives and this one does not disappoint.  It’s an excellent depiction of an American’s daily life in Paris, with lots of laugh-out-loud passages.

Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis by Alice Kaplan tells the stories of three American women who spent a year studying abroad in Paris.  I am amazed at how transformative their Paris year(s) were for these women and how different their experiences were.  Three different generations… a debutante, an intellectual and a political activist.  What strikes me is that for each of them, it was leaving home and experiencing a foreign city that helped mold them into the famous individuals they each became.

See all the other Paris in July posts here.

Photo Friday: Chicago – Paris on the prairie

How had I never been to Chicago before? There was definitely more to do than my three days there allowed for, but I got a great sense of the city and life in the burbs too.  Here are some shots of the beautiful United terminal at O’hare, our hotel and a sunset view from our room, and some architecture…  Selecting which pictures to showcase here was difficult.  In next week’s Photo Friday post, I’ll highlight two fun shops because I had to take pictures for you.

The docent of our architectural boat tour described Chicago as a “Paris on the Prairie” and a gateway to the West.  Learning more about the city’s history and development was fascinating.

Above: Grant Park

Above: Millennium Park

Above: The bean.  We went back at night and took a picture of our reflection.

Below: Sheffield Garden Walk and a new little friend.  We enjoyed some great conversations with the neighborhood residents.



Above: That’s Navy Pier in the background.

Inner Excavate-along: finding community

On to the last two chapters of Liz Lamoreux’s Inner Excavation: Exploring Your Self Through Photography, Poetry and Mixed Media.

Liz is leading a couple hundred of her friends through seven weeks of inner excavation on Flickr, on her blog, and through subscribed posts.

The first sentence Liz writes in chapter 6 (titled “I open my heart…”) is “You are not on your journey inward alone.” How refreshing and encouraging! She encourages us to look at how we open our heart to other people in our life and how we might want to invite some people to be part of our creative travels.  WELL…

This is perfect timing because I just had the pleasure of meeting one of you in person! The community that has formed here on Poetic Aperture has been a welcome surprise and it’s been heartwarming to find and connect with so many fellow creative souls through your comments and your own blogs.  I feel solid friendships with so many of you and definitely do not feel alone in anything anymore, knowing there is someone out there who understands the need for creative expression, or the difficulties of being a stay-at-home parent, or the obsession with capturing life through the lens.

Most rewarding is that I have been authentic and wholely myself during this entire blogging adventure and have been blessed with that resounding YES you feel when you find real connections.

I accompanied my hubby to Chicago on a business trip and got to meet Eydie for a long lunch and some art store shopping.  I must admit that before meeting, even though I felt sure we would get along well, I was nervous.  Our afternoon far surpassed any expectations I had and by the time we hugged goodbye I was soaked in feel-good encouragement and support for my artistic journey and so much more.

Eydie and I talked about why we are holding back, waiting for just the right conditions before we move forward, whether it be starting an Etsy shop for her AMAZING jewelry creations or trying to do more with my photography on cards or in print.  I think each of us needed to hear from someone who believes strongly that we have talent and something original to express and that we should move forward.

We also talked about reaching out to artists we admire, how the community of bloggers and artists that we follow is small… and that it’s not too lofty that we couldn’t participate.  Eydie kept saying, “What am I waiting for?” and I got goosebumps each time, excited for her and for myself.  We listened to each other talk about how hard it is to let go in raising our girls, about various classes we have taken, about blogging, about energy healing, about our creative endeavors, and so much more.  We didn’t want to say goodbye and ended up in a bookstore poring over magazines with mixed-media art, altered clothing, and gorgeous photography.

Finding kindred spirits, and I have found so many in the classes I’ve taken over the past couple of years, is such an affirmation.  Meeting one in person makes me feel very brave and confident… like I reached inward and took a huge leap instead of sitting back on the sidelines as usual.

Chapter 7 of Inner Excavation is about creating something (like artwork or a journal) with the photos and poetry we have written over the past few weeks.  Right now, I don’t feel the need to do this, but I know that I will be taking what I have learned from Liz and the other contributors and incorporating it into future canvases and projects.  I am writing more now (poetry even!) and even if it’s just a phrase that comes to me, a word to add to my word list, or a quick thought, I’m recording it in my journal.  Overall, I feel good with what has come forth from within.  I know it is a life-long journey to know oneself and I have more tools now with which to explore.

In case you missed the other Inner Excavation posts, here you go:

Update: Linking up with the July 2012 edition of the Post of the Month Club.

6 months of books: 6 categories

Oh how I love lists! Inspired by Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza, a beautiful book blog, (here is her 6/6 post), here are some lists about my reading from the first half of this year:

Six books I read most recently:

Six books I enjoyed the most:

Six books that led me into the past:

Six books that led me far away from home:

Six books I started in the first six months of the year and am still reading in July:

Six parenting books:

Picture Black and White: Storytelling

Let’s finish this black and white exhibition, shall we? The power of black and white is perhaps most evident in documentary photography.  The important part of this type of work is telling an entire story in a single shot. Theme six for Picture Black & White was storytelling.  I have again included some of the lovely compliments my classmates left for me on my photos.

Shoot a Documentary: Documenting a moment in a single shot is one thing, telling the whole story is another. The trademark of the most widely recognized documentary shots is using a wide angle lens and including a lot of what’s going on around your subject.

I come back to this image from Italy last summer again and again. I don’t know them, but I feel as if I do!

  • So cute!
  • This looks like it should be in a travel brochure! Wonderful!
  • What a great capture! Love your processing!
  • Great capture of a great moment!
  • I just love their expression.  So happy it’s contagious.
  • I like the soft B&W! They look so happy and you captured that.
  • Great slice of life moment!
  • So fun! I love the reflections in their sunglasses.
  • This shows the great time this couple is having – and you were right there enjoying it too.


A Detailed Study: Storytelling truly lives in the details.  Find a way to capture a shot that might communicate something you may have never thought of.

My daughter giving her doll “a bath.”

In Context: Including the big picture in your image can help you tell a larger story than you could tell by zooming in on your subject. Be sure to include the context that you feel makes your shot today so that we know exactly how you want us to feel today when we “see” your story.

When in doubt, pull out the Italy photos. We came upon this street performance in Rome, and I have many photos of the musicians and singers but only this one of the entire scene.

Expression: Today, your job is to capture someone or something as they express themselves.

“I am so not amused.”

  • classic.  great perspective.
  • Great expression! Nice light and angle.
  • Fun!
  • Oh yeah, the expressions a cat can give… 🙂
  • oh this kitty is not happy  🙂
  • Priceless!
  • This is the best! Love how huge his feet look in this shot! No, he doesn’t look pleased, that’s for sure!
  • love this – cats certainly do give us some great expressions!

See previous Picture Black & White posts: graphic elements and lighttexturemessages, and nature.

Behind the Scenes link party

Today I am linking up here with some friends in my BTS class.  I can’t wait to see how everyone answers these questions:

1. What makes you happy?….. in 5 words or less….? giggles, growth, soft textures, hugs

2. Which talent would you most like to have? I would trade my organizational skills for some extra patience.

3. Which words or phrases do you overuse most? “literally,” “awesome,” “no problem,” “recently,” “good job,” and “would you please clean the kitty litter?”

4. What is your favourite movie, book or both?  movie: “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour; book: it’s a tie between Leonore Fleischer’s Shadowlands (based on Nicholson’s screenplay) and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

5. If you could go anywhere in the world for a creative retreat where might it be? Banff.  Or maybe a fluffy cloud out of this world…

Somewhat related to this post: my life list and my favorite reading