family

Lean Into The Sore Point and Witness Your Beautiful Unfolding

deeply_completely_accept_myself “Hold your hand over your heart, like you would when you’d say the pledge of allegiance in school,” she said. “Then, gently start to move your finger tips around. There should be a sore spot. It’s an acupressure point.”

“Okay...yes, I feel it,” I replied, wondering why we all had this “sore” spot but figured that question was for another conversation. Rebecca was on a role.

“Good. Now, repeat after me. Are you ready?”

“Just...one...sec,” I said as I reached into my bag to find a pen to write down what she was about to tell me. Furiously using one hand, crashing through pages in my notebook, I finally came to a blank one. Popping the pen top, it was poised and ready.

“Okay, ready.”

“I deeply and completely…”

“I deeply aaaand commm...plete..ly…” I said, drawing out the words to give me a little more time to write them as I said them, one handed, sitting in the car balancing my notebook on my knee while massaging the “sore” point with the other hand. I had our babysitter come over for an hour and a half so I could talk uninterrupted. Turns out, the car is the best place to do that these days.

She continued, “love and accept myself...”

“luh..ve aaandd ac..cept myselffff…”

“exactly the way I am…”

“ex...act...ly the waaaay I aammm…”

“even if I never change.”

“eev...en---wait, what? That’s hard.” I whispered.

“Go on,” she coaxed. “Even if I never change.”

“even. if. I. never. change.”

“Now, repeat it back to me in it’s entirety,” she said.

I took in a deep breath, saying it out loud:

I deeply and completely love and accept myself exactly the way I am even if I never change.

“But the whole point is I want to change. Need to change. SOMETHING needs to change,” I pleaded.

“You are changing. You are in the midst of great change. What this exercise will do for you is help heal and comfort your inner child who needs you even more now as you go through these big changes. She is railing against the change because she’s scared and doesn’t know that you can handle it. You can and all she needs is some firm gentleness and understanding.”

Sigh. Relief flooded through me for being understood but I was also weary. Already tired from the frustration of having “dealt” with my inner teen for a while now, I was ready for a break. She was hard work.

The thing is, I’m in my thirties, and just now going through these unprocessed feelings.

Why?

As a teenager, I was lonely. I didn’t have the normal boundaries or parental guidance to bump up against. “Just be good,” was what I heard mostly. This left me trying to figure it all out by myself, all while trying to be “good.” It was exhausting, frustrating, and put me squarely on the perfectionist track.

And god forbid I didn’t know something. Or tried something and failed. It simply wasn’t allowed.

Our family had other, deeper issues going on. Life at home was reactionary, every one usually high on cortisol and walking on eggshells at the same time.

Those formidable years of feeling firm in a solid foundation that would have allowed me to try, do, make mistakes and try again were instead spent agonizing over how to be “good,” do everything perfectly and quite literally not be seen. If I was seen, it meant I did something very wrong.

Yet, trying new things and failing are all a part of knowing ourselves.

Being allowed to fail in an environment that contains us without judgment, then validates and acknowledges our attempts is one of the greatest gifts we can ever give or receive.

Being shamed over failure or made to believe we are a bad person because we failed, misses the point entirely. Not only is it damaging in the long run (trust me, I know!) but it never teaches someone how to separate their BEHAVIOR from their TRUE SELVES. Then, that person goes on living their lives as if they were bad, terrible, and striving for perfectionism---which will never happen because PERFECT literally DOESN’T EXIST.

My 16 year old self didn’t know that though.

That budding young woman didn’t just eat it and go away, however. She’s here right now and asking for my attention, validation and open heartedness. This is so tough with a teen! They’re angsty and angry. They back talk and sulk. They test, push and test some more JUST to make sure you’re still firm, you still love them and you still have their backs no matter what. It’s like a toddler times one hundred.

“I deeply and completely love and accept myself exactly the way I am even if I never change,” I repeat before bed. Pausing while doing the dishes. On the bike at the gym. Driving. “I deeply and completely love and accept myself exactly the way I am even if I never change.”

She hears it and acknowledges it’s validating powers. And even though I’ve softened into it more and more---maybe even believing it from the sheer amount of times saying it---what’s really helped has been Andrew.

He sees my struggle and can verbalize back to me what I’m going through.

I’m not alone. I’m not doing this by myself. We’re in this together. A team.

And my inner teen revels in that. She loves that she has a family---strong and loving people (Andrew and myself) who she can rely on even in her darkest moments of fear. She can make mistakes, say things she immediately regrets, and express a full range of emotions. Meanwhile, she won’t be labeled, judged or shamed. The behavior is addressed separately from the person. Through it all, she’s still loved. And she’s growing from it day by day, blossoming into the woman she’s destined to become.

I have an incredibly hard time with slow. As a natural “doer,” I tend to try to find solutions as quickly as possible whenever a problem or frustration arises. And this can be really beneficial in many cases.

But there are many cases where a good, long seasoning needs to happen. A slow progression, so nothing is missed, everything is touched, revealed. This, for me, is where I deeply struggle. It’s so uncomfortable that I WANT IT TO BE DIFFERENT NOW. Enter my inner child.

The past two years of my life have been my immersion in fully understanding this long, slow unfolding process. It’s been painful. It’s hurt. There has been so much I wanted to run from, screaming. But circumstances kept me firmly planted where I was, to face it all head on.

Onward.

I feel it coming to an end though. And while I can’t say I’m sad about that, I can say I’m humbled, relieved. A tiny bit proud, even. I'm making it. I'll survive!

Sometimes, I’ve realized, it’s the simplest things.

Pressing into a sore point.

Reciting a self-compassionate prayer out loud.

One prayer at a time, moving forward.

A slow but beautiful unfolding.

My mission is to leave the world in better condition than how I found it. I’d be grateful if you shared this post with someone for whom it may make even a tiny bit of difference. Let’s start creating that positive ripple effect, together! Big hugs xo

Intentional Everything

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There are so many things I want to tell you! But I'm going to just highlight a few here so I don't write a small novel in one post. Little Mister is onto one nap a day --- which means more "doing" for mama!

When Little Mister was born, my Aunt Laura suggested taking a parent/infant class at a Waldorf School. It was exactly what I needed as I was wading into the murky waters of first-time parenthood. What a scary place to be, as I had no safety net! Realizing this was essential for survival with a new little person, I set out to create one.

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The past year, I've done two parent/infant classes with Waldorf. Both taught by the lovely Liz Hagerman, we were guided to observe our babies, give them space to just be instead of constantly projecting our own worries, doubts, concerns and judgments onto them. How eye opening! Since they obviously can not talk, it can be so easy to conclude something that---with a little space and observation---turns out to be something completely different than what we had expected. Or, it actually was as we thought and was confirmed through observing. It was a wonderful foundation for listening to my gut. Turns out, that's where most decision making comes from as a new mama (and, I'd venture, as humans!).

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We talked a lot about intentional parenting. Mindfulness, trust, boundaries and rhythm as the foundation of "discipline" were explored amongst the group. We were given the gift of space to become comfortable with trusting ourselves--- as their parents, we know what our children ultimately need if we observe and listen. The experience helped shape my approach to parenting and rippled over, touching how I approach life.

Intentional everything. It's something I've been contemplating for a while (and also authentic power, but that's another post!). The past year felt like I was being taken for a ride. The tides of life were sweeping me under like a strong undertow. I was allowing circumstances and situations to run amok, versus creating healthy boundaries and asking for help (from sources who could and would really be there for me) when needed. But since I can't breathe underwater, I intended for things to radically change---and they are bit by bit, day by day, little by little.

The change I'm referring to has been spurred by a compilation of things: the wonderful space the Waldorf experience has given me---to see how I'd like things to be and make the changes to move in that direction; meeting other wonderful people in my life going through similar situations (Megan, Alexis, Laura, Andrea, Carolyn, Jourdan!!); and having friends from all walks of my life holding the space for me (Kiija, Deidre, Chelsea, Martha, Grace, Heidi!!). For it all, I am humbled and grateful.

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A little verse Liz recites for us when we end our snack, so lovely, succinct and wonderfully full:

Blessings on the blossoms Blessings on the roots Blessings on the leaves and stems And blessings for this food.

For the golden corn, and the apples on the trees For the golden butter and the honey from the bees For fruits and nuts and berries, that grow beside the way We bless your loving kindness, earth And thank you every day.

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Pumpkins and reflection

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The pumpkin tradition continues with our little family. There's a great pumpkin patch down the road held by a church. Every year they get the most beautiful crop of pumpkins from New Mexico. Definitely not local, but I can't help but imagine the beautiful Big Blue Sky they grew under and came from. A pumpkin patch nestled in the desert somewhere, pops of orange against red and brown hues and that stunning sapphire sky above -- I'm surprised Georgia O'Keefe didn't paint something similar.

As it's All Hallows Eve, the shadow or darker side of things tends to be more in the lime light than usual. Which, for many, is a wonderful thing. All too often, that shadowy "stuff" that scares the crap out of us gets relegated to dark, deep recesses of our mind and bodies. "No! I don't want to think about that! Go away! I will deal with you later! (maybe)." Yeah, all those things. But, in celebration of bringing a more holistic approach to our selves and our lives, I'll leave off with a few quotes to ponder. When I read them, they spoke kindly to me.

Happy Halloween!

"Work on your stuff," says Steven Forrest, "or your stuff will work on you." He means that it will sabotage you if you're not aggressive about identifying, negotiating with, and transforming it.

The shadow is not inherently evil. If it is ignored or denied, it may become monstrous to compensate. Only then is it likely to "possess" its owner, leading to compulsive, exaggerated, "evil" behavior.

"Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event," said Jung. If you disown a part of your personality, it'll materialize as an unexpected detour.

Novelist J.G. Ballard placed his faith in the human imagination. "I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world," he wrote, "to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen." -- via Rob Brezny

A Fall Photoshoot & Gratitude

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This weekend, I had the pleasure of photographing the beautiful Laurent family.  Their warm and loving personalities shine right through these images -- it was thrilling to be able to capture the true essence of this wonderful family.  Cameron and I met while studying to become holistic health counselors.  I lived in Portland and she here in Washington D.C.  Every week, we would have our check in call to support and spur each other on through lessons and life.  She's always felt like the sister I never had.

Now, many years later, we both are married with kids and still checking in.  Her (and Chris's!) insights are always insightful and grounding, helping me see other perspectives in order to move forward in life better equipped.  Everyone needs friend's like them -- non-judgmental containers who work hard at seeing the truth and gently nudge you in that direction.  They are invaluable friends whom I'm ever so grateful for.

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Hello, Vermont

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Last weekend, we took a wonderful family trip up to Vermont. Leaf peeping, dairy farms, craft breweries, and lots of fresh air -- as the first Martin-Owen family vacation, it was exactly what we needed. As parents, it was empowering; as humans, it was rejuvenating; and as a couple, it was refreshing.

Our favorite part of the trip -- other than the overall idyllic scenery, no crowds or traffic, and fantastic, homemade food -- was Shelburne Farms. It's a 1,400 acre working farm, forest, and national historic landmark on the lake shores of Lake Champlain. They are also a non-profit who's mission is to educate via their working farm for a sustainable future. Little Mister pet a cow named Elsa and a rooster named Jerry. We ate at the Farm Cart, played on a tractor, hiked to a gorgeous overlook and ate fresh cheese from Shelburne Farm's Dairy.

We also made a stop to Shelburne Museum. A landmark in and of itself, (and only connected to Shelburne Farms via marriage -- it's a complicated web of familial ties but they are not the same organization) it is a collection of historic buildings from all over Vermont. Taken apart, shipped and put back together on the Shelburne Museum property, it's like a tiny, very random town with homes, barns, schools, churches, and other buildings built from the early 1800's through the 1960's. The old printing press is still working and they create new prints today.

Oh Vermont, I miss you already!

IMG_5398Even a reconstructed Ferry that used to run across Lake Champlain is part of the "buildings" collection at Shelburne Museum.

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Part of the old school house, original lessons hung from the wall.

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The Owl house (above two photos) was an old cabin redone so the inside was a children's play room (Shelburne Museum). Filled with wooden toys, play silks and dress ups, art supplies and make believe everywhere, it was impressive. Little Mister had a great time!

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The original printing press at Shelburn Museum, still in use today.

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The view point overlooking the original house of Shelburne Farms, now an inn. It was breathtaking!

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The Farm Cart at Shelburne Farms in the courtyard of the Farm Barn. Amazing food!

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Little Mister petting Jerry the Rooster.  We both had a close eye on Jerry in case he had any funny business in mind, but all he wanted to was to be pet -- like a puppy!

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A view of the Farm Barm at Shelburne Farms on the mile hike in from the entrance. The Farm Barn hosts Shelburne Cheese makers, O Bread Bakery, the Farm Cart and the farm's animals.

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Of course we made a stop to Ben & Jerry's factory for ice cream!

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Present moment, future glimpse

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This weekend, I had the pleasure of photographing the Zabel brothers and their girlfriends. Wanting to do something unique and special for their mom who is battling cancer, they came to me with the idea of capturing them while gathering together and sharing a homemade brunch in her honor. It as a way to share with her a slice of their daily lives while keeping true to their roots and upbringing. I'm going to make a bit of a leap here, but the way both Andrew and Robbie were well versed in the language of food makes me think that gathering around the dinner table with good food and open conversation were priorities in their household growing up. Their easiness and respect of one another seemed to hint at a history of coming together at meal times, exposing a true generosity of spirit.

As a new mother myself, it was the first time I really took note of a sibling friendship. The respect, hilarity, and overall easiness these brothers have with each other is really moving -- and noteworthy. So often sibling relationships can be fraught with tension, that ease is the last thing that comes to mind. Watching them, I imagined Mrs. Zabel's warm, courageous, strong and real mothering speaking through her adult sons loud and clear. If I was her, I'd be so proud -- of both her sons and herself.

This was by far the best brunch I've had in a long, long time. Fresh and seasonal, everything was hand made right down to the tomato juice in the Bloody Mary's. It was inspiring to see how this food was made not only to eat, but to express a heartfelt affection and nourish the soul of everyone involved, near and far.

Blueberries

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Blueberries get a lot of attention around our house. As a favorite food of both my husband and Little Mister, they find their way into a lot of meals. Our Saturday morning ritual is making homemade, freshly ground buckwheat pancakes loaded with blueberries (a lot easier than it sounds!). We all look forward to waking up that first weekend morning and sitting down to a warm, gooey plate of sheer blueberry bliss.

Recently, I've been going through my trove of cookbooks and came across a lovely recipe for Blueberry Scones from Rose Bakery in Paris. They did not disappoint and are probably the best scones I've ever made to date. It was also nice to mix up the super healthy cooking/baking I normally do with a bit of decadence. And these were all decadence.

Bike rides, grilling, friends, pool time, naps, and snacks -- a nice weekend indeed!

Fall renewal

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Resetting has been a theme lately. Starting fresh. Wiping the slate clean. Forgiveness. Let's reset.

May this fall bring renewal and deep healing. May our heart's burst wide open, allowing us and our most cherished ones to warm themselves at our inner hearth. May we find peace amidst the busyness of daily life. Joy appears in the little things.

One of my favorite yoga teachers, Elena Brower said it so well:

Stay close to your soul family. Give your attention to a child. Listen to music. Dance. Write. Say I love you. Support someone unconditionally. Listen when you don't feel like it; listen really well. Move your body thoughtfully. Give affection and mean it. This prayer has no beginning and no end. May this transition into fall reveal to you what you already know, and may this season be nourishing and revitalizing for you. --Elena Brower

True, Kind & Necessary

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Is it true, kind and necessary? This question was posed in the book Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, pertaining to simple, kind speech. It's a filter meant to help us to speak less, but more consciously. It allows the true meaning of our words to come forth -- without any spin and counter-spin, noise or drama, they mean more.

The author jots down true.kind.necessary on his calendars or notebooks so he can carry them throughout the day. He notes "like everything worthwhile, it takes practice to consciously erect these filters somewhere between our minds and our mouths."

Like everything worthwhile...

Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?