Combating Holiday Chaos with Magic.

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Holiday stress can get pretty chaotic for a lot of folks. I try to stay out of the crazy and still find myself getting pulled into busyness and unrealistic expectations. So as a reminder to myself and anyone else out there who might need it, here are a few ways to add more magic and less chaos to the holiday season.

  1. Dance Party. Always with the dance party. Whether it is waiting in the line that goes to the back of the store to purchase the milk your ran out of. Or in the traffic that is building before you very eyes as you rush to wherever you need to be, the dance party is the solution. Turn up the tunes and dance like no one is watching!
  2. Lower all the expectations. Take some folks off your gift buying list not because you don’t love them but because you would rather sit at home and watch a movie with your family. Instead maybe grab a pen and put together a Love List for those folks. It’s the sort of gift that gives all year round. My friend Sherry of Simply Celebrate has amazing resources to kick off your love list making. Drop a few things off your “to bake” list or make the meals a tad less homemade. Costco sells some pretty nice mashed potatoes that simply need to be re-heated.
  3. See your CHILD not their behavior. I have talked about this before but I think it is so worth repeating. There is a lot going on for children at this time of year. There is anticipation, waiting, changes to routines etc etc that can lead to behaviors that might also seem out of the ordinary. Instead of reacting to the behavior react to the child, you know is right there, struggling as we all are, to keep their cool during this intense time of year.
  4. Involve your children in the planning. I know at first glance this might seem as something that could potentially add to the chaos but I promise is does add to the magic. At the start of each holiday season, I ask the family “what are the things we have to make sure we do this year?” This gives us a concrete list to go off of of the things that make the holidays special for US. It’s a list made by us and not some outside forces. It also kicks a whole bunch of things off of my over achiever mom to do list which is awesome.
  5. Change of scenery. When emotions are getting high and the world is promising to fall down on everyone in the next minute if something doesn’t change, be the social director who steps in right away with a scene change. Around here that usually means getting outside. I can’t just force folks outside, I have to have a game plan. Lately that can sound like “who wants to go for a Pokemon walk?” Or “Let’s go for hot chocolate at Starbucks.” In the past we have done scavenger hunts, geocaching adventures, leaf collecting and puddle jumping. Alternatively, a scene change could be throwing on a favorite movie, dusting off a board game or singing favorite Christmas carols. The idea is to jump in before the mood hits the fan and bring a little happy back into the mix.
  6. Stop. Drop. And connect. This is kind of a mix of everything with a little flare for the dramatic. Stop whatever is happening. Drop whatever you are holding (figuratively and literally). Find a way to connect with the child in front of you. For me this usually looks like a big ole awkwardly long hug. Or a joke. Or simply picking up a hand and holding on to it. Whatever it takes to turn the moment around and back to what we want as a family a peaceful, connected holiday season.

Perhaps you have some magic that is built into your holiday awesome. I would LOVE to hear from you to grow the list longer to combat this holiday chaos with a WHOLE lot of loving moments. You can leave a comment, send an email (shannon@breakingdaylight.org) or tweet your idea to rumomma and I will build the list as the ideas roll in.

Parenting is who I am

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On a recent road trip I fired up Shonda Rhymes book the Year of Yes on the stereo. Part way through the book she said something that made me start talking into my own recording device as a jumping off point for an idea that needed a little more of my attention. Her words “parenting is not a job it’s who we are.”  I had referred to parenting as my job on more than on occasion. Her assertion gave me pause for some serious reflection.

For many people a job is something that one regularly wants a break from. It’s laborious. It can suck from time to time. There is compensation for time and effort. Often their are complaints about hours, there can be overtime and maybe even sleepless nights. Co-workers can point out issues, you would rather not deal with. There is a chance for bonuses. There is a certain level of knowledge that is required to succeed in most cases. Writing these examples down I can most certainly drawn some parallels between parenting and the work force. I can understand how we as a world have come to consider parenting a job. However, jobs are often something we have to get through, struggle with, do when we’d rather not.

Alternatively, if I start to ask questions about who I am, the worlds that flow forward have a much more positive spin on them. I am kind, I am thoughtful, I am hard working, I am considerate, I am loving and the list goes on. The energy I bring to considering who I am as opposed to what job I do comes from a place much more grounded in the impact I hope to have in the world around me. It strips me back to my fundamental character and considers the values I hold dear..

When I turn this all around back to parenting I find myself nodding enthusiastically alongside Shonda. Yes, parenting is who I am. It is not what I do. It is who I am because it is wrapped up in my heart. It’s an action and response that comes from my core values. It is how I tend to the most fragile parts of who I am. This is not to say it isn’t challenging or exhausting or frustrating at many moments. It instead defines what I hold onto in those most desperate moments to pick me up again to meet myself with compassion in order to bring my best self forward.

Turning toward parenting as who I am and not a job I do affords me the freedom to be my best self at each turn of the journey. Responding to struggle with love because I want to be known as someone who can do hard things in the face of challenges. Choosing kindness because I want to be a trusted resource to those who are vulnerable. Providing compassion because I know at the heart of who I am that I want to be a hand up not a push down. Applying curiosity to all the situations that arrive because I want to be known as someone who could think way outside of the box to uncover the solution no one else considered that lifts each person to their highest potential. Persevering in the face of adversity over and over again to rise a stronger human being. Honestly, connecting with the humans in front of me to find the space between us that is our shared humanity. This, this list of who I am, is the parent I become when I see this one piece of my journey, as an extension of who I am and not a job I must do.

I didn’t know

I feel like the post reads well out loud. I’ve provide both a read aloud and the audio. 

Before becoming a mother I was keenly aware that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  My husband and I talked about what if’s and maybes without committing to much since we had never been parents before and no one was selling a blueprint. We listened to other people’s advice with the sort of glazed over eyes one gets when there are no hooks upon which to hang the well meaning advice. And though I walked in eyes wide open to the fact that I had no idea what was about to unfold, I am certain I was clueless to how wide spread and long lasting my wobbly legs of inexperience would last.

Of all the advice I was handed no one warned me that these human beings charged to my care would break my heart in ways I never knew existed before our eyes met  for the first time. Or that I would sit behind bathroom doors weeping over spilled milk in order to gather the strength to clean it up while keeping their fragile sense of well being well constructed. Because, especially in the beginning, their wide innocent eyes would always be looking into me for their own sense of self worth. And that while I was sleepless, unshowered and floundering in this new role, I would have to deconstruct everything I knew about myself to rise a better human being so that I might pass a piece of that on to this new person I’d give my own life for. Or that my insides would be a constant demolition site of building after building destroyed in the search of solid ground.

I wasn’t prepared for my heart to beat in the outside world with the most delicate protection pretending to guard it. As monsters and disasters formed around each corner proving my own inability to every keep it safe from what promised to hurt it. In the beginning I though this courage would grow alongside their own independence. That some how my heart might find it’s way back inside the walls of my chest where the sturdy ribs would once again protect it. This was untrue. My courage is just as wobbly today though my delivery of belief in them has gotten better at masking the quiver in the words I share to support their wild adventuring.

I mistakenly thought my competence would grow alongside the years of practice being a parent. It might be the most humbling lesson of them all to realize just when I chomp down on my own sense of confidence life saddles up with a slap to the face that reminds me just how temporary it all truly is. Falling to my knees in near despair I see the sliver of hope that pulls me back. The temporariness of it all is the true beauty. It promises me a chance to choose over and over again just how I will show up. One moment does not guarantee the next and that is where I can pick up my own misplaced pieces and set them right in the eyes of these tender human beings.

I didn’t know I was capable of a love more fierce than exploding volcanos and tsunamis. Or that I would be able to use that love to send messages of worth deep into another human being simply by sitting side by side in the hard places of being a human being. Also that that love would be the reassurance we each fell back on over and over again when we misstepped along the mine field of living a fully emotional life with one another. And that this love would be loud, quiet, unpredictable, ever growing but most importantly always constant. Before their arrival I was under the impression that love was conditional. But this fierce love is mine to give them over and over again no matter what falls in the space between,  how deep the divide becomes or high the mountain, the love always arrives.

 

 

 

Gather the love

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As we sat watching hockey last night and discussing family travel plans, I said to my first born son “Oh that will fall on your birthday.” To which he responded “and then I’ll be 15.” It took the breath clear out of me.  I know how old he is right now. I know how old he will be on his next birthday. But the speed of time and what it all means just winded me. Here is this human being who I have focussed the majority of my time and energy on reaching the sorts of ages and milestones where launching out in the the world is a very really before I know it thing.

The panic spread quickly from the pit of my stomach, to my throat and into my brain. That magical machine that does it’s best to send me into a whirlwind of self doubt. The dialogue sounded something like this “Have I done enough? Will he ever call when he leaves? did I break him? Of course you broke him. Should he have gone to school? Will he be able to do al the things he wants? Did I screw it all up?” And on and on and on.

Breath in. Breath out. Connect to something right now. Looking out from my panic stricken mind, I saw my fourteen year old son bouncing on a yoga ball while encouraging his favorite hockey team to put the puck in the net. His dad sat behind him and I to his side watching hockey together. This was all that was true. This which I could see. The rest was story old old story threatening to pull me into an imaginary world with a viewing audience of one. In the true right now all is awesome.

I can easily slip into a world of worry. It’s hard wired in my DNA. What I am working to remind myself each day, is that I can just as easily slip into the right now moment. The skill that works well for me is to take a breath and look around for something concrete in the environment. To really see it. Replacing future fears with a description of what is happening before my eyes. It’s not always pretty but it is tangible and full of choice. Choice about how I will react. Choice about what I will say. Choice about how I will remember. Choice between fear and love. This ability to drop into what I can describe in front of my eyes kicks in the unconditional love that has always flowed from me and pushes fear to the sidelines. Even if the fear stays, it’s on the sidelines and not running the show.

It’s true that no matter what I do my children will be a moment closer to launching in to the world with each click of the clock, whether I am paying attention or not. The holding on, the pausing of time, comes with the ability to see it all happen. To take that extra breath that pulls me out of fear and into the presence of love. Because as I have said before it is the love that matters most of all. The love that will be our forever bond. The love that will last beyond our years together. It’s up to me in each moment to choose love over fear in order to gather the most of this journey as a mother.

It’s time to lead

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When Barak Obama was elected President in 2008 I stood in my living room with the boys and watched history being made. And I made the dangerous assumption that this was a signal that clearly racism was no longer a part of the world at all.  It’s also true that in the moment because of where I had lived for my entire lifetime I had no idea about racism to begin with. It’s likely what helped me to make the sort of ignorant leap that I did that day, that things were over with. It was what let me with all my white skin not have to worry about that anymore.

Now after living in California for six years, I have had the wool pulled clear off of my eyes. Through the people I have met, the stories I have heard and what I have witnessed myself I have come to understand a completely different story. Please don’t get me wrong, I am quite juvenile in my understanding at this point. I am still undoing my own misunderstandings, seeing how ignorance has wound it’s way into my own thinking, my own actions and reactions and how privilege can put on some serious blinders. I am no where near expert on this topic, no where near, I have much work to do to learn and grown and understand. I do feel like I am awake now. And I can’t be that woman who stood in her living room that night and believed race issues where behind us. Because I have two human beings watching me closely, for some guidance in how to be in the world.

Two nights ago when a whole different kind of election result rolled in, these two human beings were still watching me.  I had said from the comfort of my privilege more than once that if Donald Trump was elected I would flee the country and head back to my homeland. I said it with the kind of certainty that comes from knowing I would never have to follow through on that action. The media, my husband, all my FB friends convinced me into believing that this would NEVER happen. And so I could toss about threats like that. I could sit back in my comfort zone of “I’m not allowed to vote here,” and hide out waiting for the election to be over already.  But then it began to happen. And while I drove with my youngest son having an anxiety attack in the back seat about Donald Trump becoming president something broke inside of me. I don’t even know if broke is the right word. Something inside of me shattered. And my own ignorance poured out in front of me.  I knew I had to do better by my children. I had to step up and be a leader for them.

My journey as a mother has been committed to being the parent they need me to be. Looking to them for guidance as to what stories I need to rewrite so I can continue to show up with love and connection. For building them up so that they have the tools to go out into the world and make it a better place. I have used a lot of words along the way and some action for sure but in this moment of election results that shook a nation to it’s core, I realized I had a lot more work to do. It was time for my actions to speak louder than my words. So when my son asked me “are we moving back to Canada mom?” with both worry and confusion in his voice I explained, “I never should have said that. It was a selfish thing to say. I think the best thing we can do is stay here and work hard to help our friends who have ever right to be afraid. We are safe. We will continue to be safe under this new leadership. But I’m not confidant that is true for all the people we live alongside. So let’s find out how we can help.” I will be honest, I was surprised by how relieved he was with this answer.

In this unthinkable moment, I knew I had to step up and be a leader for my children.  At a time when a country was electing someone who had, in the kindest description, been a bully and rewarded for it, I needed to show them a different sort of leadership.  If my hope was for them to stand up for their friends in the face of adversity I was going to have to give them some examples of what that looked like. If I was going to hope that they would use their privilege to help others in life, I was going to have give them some concrete examples of what that looked like. Because it is true that my sons see what is wrong with the election results. They understand how woman have to work harder in this world. They have a solid knowledge base but I’m not sure they know what to do with all of that.

This was my lesson. To see that my words to date have served well but they are no longer enough. My sons are getting older. They need me to show them how to stand strong in the face of adversity. They need to know what action looks like when you stand up and use your voice to help those who have lost their’s. And that doesn’t come from packing up all your belongings and running  away to keep your own self righteousness intact. It means standing boots on the ground and saying “I will fight for your rights, with all the privilege I have.” I don’t think there has been a moment in my life where I have felt so called to action, to be the leader for my children, in how to make the world a safe place for all the people. I know things now that I can’t un-know. And turning away feels like the action of a coward. I want courage for my children, for all the life ahead of them. So I put that courage in my own hands right now and lead them.

I am far from having all the answers of what that will look like in the coming weeks, months and years. I do know it starts now with small acts, each day, that they can witness in me. Yesterday, it looked like walking to neighbors homes who we had not spoken to in the three years of living here, with a bag of cookies and saying “Hi, I’m your neighbor and today felt like a good day to share a little kindness.” And you know what. My son who says “I don’t talk to strangers ever mom.” stood by my side at each of those houses, by choice. Today and for all the tomorrows, it will look like similar acts of small kindness, eye to eye contact, a smile, holding the door open, buying a stranger a cup of coffee. As well, I will continue to learn what is broken in a system that does not support all the people and use what I know to lead these young men forward. I will examine my own privilege and the shelter it has given me and how best to use that to insist on shelter for everyone.  To show in actions, these young men, that courage beats fear every time and that LOVE aways wins over hate.

Holding on and letting go

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My oldest son is away from home again. I would like to say I am handling it will all the grace and composure I imagined I would back when he was here with me all the time. I was certain I would fill my time up with all those activities I dreamed of doing back when he was younger and my days were filled up primarily with meeting his needs. I visualized myself sending him off with a hearty hug and a “have fun out there”.  Rejoicing in the fact that his roots were solid enough in us that he had the courage to fly away confidently exploring the person he is outside of us. That’s not what’s really happening. Evidenced by the stranger knocking on my van window yesterday to see if I was okay since she had witnessed me sobbing alone in my car for the past few minutes. It wasn’t the first time that day that feelings of grief had crippled me to the point of uncontrollable tears.

I made a decision back when I first met this human being to do all the work necessary to show up as my best self as often as I possibly could for him and his brother. I put on my mom hat and wore it with pride and commitment every single day. There were other hats I  put on throughout this time of mothering but always to the side of or underneath my mom hat. It was my priority. And now things are shifting. I thought way back when that these would be the days that were full of me chasing down my own desires and passions. The ones I imagined in the beginning of mothering that I was missing out on. I thought this would feel exciting.

Truthfully though, this may possibly be scarier then becoming a mother. And that transition took me out at the knees. That place where I lost who I had been in order to become a mother was scary. I had wobbly feet underneath my unstable legs and I was so very uncertain as to how I would ever know what to do with this human being who’s life I had been entrusted with. But there was some guidance. This tiny bundle of love looking up at me wanting to be filled with love. Guiding me to the things he would need in order to thrive. I had an blank map for sure but it came with the most adorable tour guide. It also felt like a beginning.

Here now I stand before a map that is blank indeed and my tour guides appear to be heading off in opposite directions. Leaving me behind to find my own way. It also feels, in this right now moment, more like an ending than a beginning. Though I know it is both because I know that is how life works. Somehow though this knowledge feels much farther away from truth than it has to me before. Cause it’s on me now. I mean it really has been on me all along. But for some reason I found it much easier to step up to the plate and come up with a plan when these four adorable eyes were looking at my for confidence, patience and a sense of direction. Now that I am looking with just my own eyes, I can’t see much through the tears.

I’ll be honest some days I don’t know who I am outside of being their mother. The task of figuring that out is some seriously scary shit. It is way easier to scurry back in to a place of mothering, finding a spare sock who’s partner desperately needs to be located RIGHT NOW, or preparing for future meals seems easier then untangling the dreams that have been waiting their turn and deciding how to take a minuscule step toward one of them. Won’t I loose my kick ass mom status if I look at something else for a moment? Do I really have what it takes to be more than that? These questions make me tremble with fear. Because once again, my son being away, like this entire parenting journey, is way more about me than it is about him. It’s on me again. I still haven’t got used to swallowing that pill.

There are tiny comforts are making their way in though. I suspect they will be the lifeboats in my personal storm. I am still mom. No matter how far away they drift, I get to wear the mom hat for the rest of my life. Even if I decide to put another hat over top of it to chase down something my heart desires, I can easily remove it to show up as I always have. The love, we have been banking up for all these years, is right there with the touch of a button to rush in and remind me that everything is exactly how it should be. The date on the calendar that reminds me when my son will arrive home is in the grand scheme  a short distance away and then the balance will reshuffle. Our days together still do out number our days apart. The truth, that we have held on to all these years, that together we can do hard things, is underlying all of this. The place where we are connected doesn’t disappear with distance, or new roles, or the chasing of any dreams, it is the foundation that has been lovingly tended to year after year that will stretch into our forevers.

So as I said to the lady at my window yesterday, who asked if there was anything she could do to help, “thank you for noticing me in my sadness.” It is the releasing of it that I have to trust is the way through to embracing all the many more moments of joy that are waiting to unfold.This parenting journey is one of simultaneous joy and grief, the feeling of both is what allows us to show up with all the love we have for these human beings.

Ordinary Magic

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This past weekend was an amazing whirlwind of awesome for our family. Being able to take both of the boys to do things that were on their dream lists was epic. Seeing both of them stretch beyond their comfort zones to do these things was pure magic. Being able to witness it all is what this journey is made of. It was all super duper happy making, life affirming awesome all over the place. One of the biggest lesson that came out of it was a text exchange with a friend.

I was sending the sorts of snapchats a mom likes to share with her friends. The sort where you show your kids being all brave and awesome in the world. My dear friend Helen was replying back with huge enthusiasm for what we were up to. She was reminding me how life affirming this all was (this was the weekend of my Father’s Death day nine years earlier and it all seemed so fitting). And then she was sharing her own feelings as big as mine while simply being at home present will her own family.

It can be easy for me to feel the gratitude for the big out in the world moments that have all my senses on high alert. I remember we are alive and being in the world. It can be harder with dishes in the sink and the other sorts of everyday business that threaten to pull me away from gratitude. Yet, it’s still always there, the magic I mean. It’s not just there when we are at Harry Potter world (pun intended) it’s with me all of the days with these human beings who are my children. It’s all about choosing to notice.

It’s that little everyday reminder that parenting is not my job, it is at the heart of who I am. When I live that story I see what is before me as an opportunity to be my fullest most complete self and not as task that needs to be checked off a to do list. I have the opportunity to ground into my value system and interact and react from that place. When being a mother is who I am and not what I do, I operate from words like kind, loving, attentive. I show up for them with an attitude of gratitude for the chance to be who they need me to be.  Which has got to be the key to taking the big magic and winding it’s way through the fibers of the everyday living together. What magic will you uncover in this ordinary day.

For the love of the band

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This ride of being my children’s mother never stops blowing my mind. It was never my job to teach them only to show up and witness what they had in store for me.

Standing on the floor of the Hollywood Palladium squished on all sides by people I had never met, my neighbo’rs beer pouring down my leg, my left foot stuck to something on the floor, my nasal passage assaulted by other people’s body odor, sweat in all the places, I was farther outside of my comfort zone than I would ever choose for myself. My mind looked for exit routes. I could flee and find a better place, with less people and meet up with him once the show was over. I could suggest, gently that maybe we had seen enough and step away to the fresh air of the outside world. Somewhere in me though I heard this tiny voice reminding me “this worry is not his” and “this fear is not his” mostly, “this discomfort is not his.” I focussed my attention on what was truthfully in front of me. My son. Fully present to the moment, experiencing a dream come true. Yes, he would bend in the way that indicates the fatigue of standing on a concrete floor for hours but only for a second before he was swept up in the music again, bouncing off the floor, singing out the lyrics.

Pausing to get comfortable with my own discomfort brought me clear into the moment. Yes, all my senses were alive standing at full attention. There was music literally pulsing through my entire body. The band just started playing their new title “Still Breathing” and I felt as though it was the first time I had really heard the lyrics. I was doing just that I was still breathing through the wreckage of my own fears, I was standing their still breathing and it was a small miracle. Tears stung my eyes as the lyrics carried on. Without pause the music moved into the song “Minority” upending any sense of control I had been holding onto. With snot and tears joining the sweat pouring out of me,  my mind  saw it all in a flash. The four year old him in his one piece blue pajamas with a badminton jacket in his hands singing this very song everywhere he went. My brother arriving with a bass in hand on his fifth birthday because being Mike Dirnt was the most important thing for my son that year. The bands that were formed over and over again to showcase his talents. His first attempts at making music on his own. His now skill at listening to and recreating all the songs the band put out. Each moment that had lead up until now to make this a possibility. I knew then, that it will always be the depths of my gratitude at being his mother that will carry me through the places that threaten to break me.

 

 

The art of feeding

When I was growing up my mom would get up early every morning to make my dad his breakfast and his lunch for the day. She would also make our lunches and dinner for everyone. She took on the roll of being the feeder of us all. This is how I learned it was my “job” to feed my family. It was what good moms and wives did to ensure the health of their family. So this is how I started out with my own family. But overtime I needed to step back and take a look at a few things to make sure I was feeding the people in front of me and not the stories running behind the scenes.

I did not get up to make my husband breakfast because I was feeding babies all night long and if they were sleeping I was sleeping. Plus this was not an expectation he had come into our marriage having of me, it was a arbitrary rule I had placed upon myself.

When my husband worked outside of the home, I did make his lunch for him on a pretty regular basis. Then I would have fights with him when he didn’t eat it. “What do you mean you went out for lunch? I took time out of my day to make this for you and you didn’t even eat it.” We had that fight many many times before I caught up and realized he didn’t expect me to make his lunch. He was fully capable of feeding himself. So I stopped making his lunch in the name of peace and a viable marriage.

My husband is great at many things. Cooking is not one of them. He has tried a number of times to prepare meals for the family. The tirade of frustration,cursing and declaration that dinner was inedible, stopped us from trying to strike the sort of balance where we take turns with that job. Because the truth is, most of the time, I love to cook for my family.  I didn’t always know this about myself because I had been stuck under a rock of obligation for while.

I was at a conference once and I believe the speaker was Sandra Dodd. There was a mom in the audience who was adamant that she had things she had to do that meant her child had to be otherwise entertained so she the mom could be left to do what had to be done.  “I have to make dinner,” she said. Sandra turned to her and said “No you don’t. Order a pizza or put a frozen one in the oven.” That was a cold hard truth there that lead me to uncover my own feelings of obligation and shine a new light on my role of feeder of the family. To see if it was true I had to or if there was room for a shift to find a place of want to in all of that.

It is super easy for me as a mom to get all caught up in “have tos” and the even nastier “should”. When I can take a wider look at things I can see, that in fact, it is a story I am telling myself and not a truth. I find my choice in being able to rewrite the story from “I have to make dinner” to “I look forward to making dinner,”  or “there are other ways to feed my family tonight.”

It is with this re-writing and a little bit of out of the box thinking that I have a beautiful opportunity to help feed my youngest son. We are sleeping at quite different times right now which can be challenging. He has from as young as I can remember asked for what he calls “surprise snacks” which means a collection of foods he likes showing up on a plate without him knowing what it will be. This is pretty hard to pull off when you are the only guy awake. When you are the one feeding yourself. He was sharing with me how he misses his surprise snacks when he is awake alone.

He also remembers loving lunchables back when he was still eating gluten. There are not a lot of gluten free nut free pre-made lunch kits out in the world that meet his specific needs. With these two nuggets of information and his pleas for food that was not just chips for him to grab and eat, I found the perfect containers. Added a little creativity cause likely service is my love language. And filled the fridge with these grab and go individual surprise snacks. I tell you the joy the boy has over all of this pays me for every last second I spend making them with a little extra for the love bank. I mean look at these beauties.

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I share these stories as a reminder, that food is meant to nourish. It is what we all need to sustain life. I as the self assigned feeder of the family, have a lot of choice around how I do that. I can drop the parts that don’t resonate with me. I can re-write the stories I have been telling for years. I can feed my family fast food meals as regularly as needed to keep the peace. I can think outside of the box to find unique solutions to the feeding of all the belies and hearts in the family, mine included.

When I create food from a place of choice and serve it with that same attitude, it tastes a lot better than the bitter taste of obligation with a side of resentment. Because for me, the important ingredients in nourishing my family are connection, joy, choice and buckets full of unconditional love. All of that is at my finger tips when I am rooted in my own truth, telling stories I have written and mothering from a place of intention.

Love Must Win

For as long as I can remember I have been genuinely confused by how any one person can think another is worth less then they themselves are. As I child I wanted to know what it was the grown ups had that I didn’t, that gave them power over me. I think I see it now and it has to do with all the people who held power over them when they were younger. And I did try it out when I reached that imaginary age that gave me power to use against those younger than me but it never felt right in my heart of hearts. I could recognize in them that same feeling I felt of being powerless.

I am a white girl so I never experienced having the color of my skin held against. Except for the brief moments in Japan when locals would point at me and exclaim “gaijin” which some believed to mean foreigner with some negativity. Also there were the humbling moments of standing in the street as the only one with white skin who couldn’t understand a lick of the langue around me. It gave me a much deeper understanding of the line some folks like to toss to those struggling with a new language “if you’re gonna live her learn the language.” Trust me, it’s not that easy to learn a language even when you are living immersed in it. Sometimes you find yourself moved somewhere quickly just trying to find a way to get a loaf of bread without the language skills to communicate that.

Growing up my dad would always say, “I’m not a racist, expect when it comes to those damn Indians.” Which confused me. I didn’t know what they had done wrong. My dad did come around in his later years to the error of his thinking with new found wisdom, an opening of his heart. He understand one uncomfortable feeling can not be used to explain or judge or treat differently an entire race of people. That his uncomfortable feelings were his to figure out and not something to be used against another human being.

I am also heterosexual so haven’t ever had to explain or combat my right to love who I wanted to because it tucked nicely into the mainstream idea of who I as a woman “should” love. Growing up I had an Uncle who’s lack of wife was explained away by a story of being left at the alter. Though there were quiet whispers and hushed conversations about his potential relationship with a man. I never understood why I we couldn’t just ask him and talk about it all out in the open.

My dad stood up in his newly adopted church against marriage equality. His argument was taken out at the knees. And I will never forget that Sunday when he called tears in his throat and said “Shan, it’s about love. How could I have ever been against something that was about love. He gave me hope, at 60 years old, for a world where closed minds could be cracked open when infused with the reality of loves power.

I am also a woman. And have carried some scars from being a gender that in our history has been seen both less than and weaker. I have had to speak louder. I’ve been propositioned at work by a person of power. Encouraged to where mini skirts even though shorts were not allowed. Been touched against my will. Hooted and hollered at. All because I was born with a vagina. I still don’t understand how that makes me less than.

None of what I have written here is evidence of anything horrific to overcome. Yet, still there were these moment when fear could have turned a piece of my heart cold. I think of the people, in my community, who have faced, on a daily basis, hatred for being who they are that still wake up every morning and choose love. Who have all the reasons in the world to walk around hurting others for the pain that has been their’s to carry for a lifetime, but still choose love. And I see how easy my work is.

Because now I am a mother. In a position of power, some could say,  over two young minds and the only thing I can think to do is to keep them as wide open, curious and accepting as they were the day they arrived in my arms, knowing nothing but unconditional love. It’s that raw beauty, pure freshness that I am in charge of protecting against fear and the confused messages that a hurting world might want them to believe. To carry forward their grandfather’s words “It’s about the love.” This whole entire business of living is about love. Choosing love. Letting love win. Showing up with love even when hate and fear threatens to beat you down. Rising up again on the strength of love when you would rather curl up in despair. Giving love to the wounded souls around you who need it the most. Being the helpers on the sidelines that rush in with love when the rest of the bystanders can’t find the courage to do so. Because I’ve promised to do better by these precious souls and handing them a world broken by fear and hatred breaks that promise.