2.23.2013

Pregnancy Self-Portraits

Today, while Liberty is away at a conference and I am stuck indoors, surrounded by snow, recovering from a cold, I decided to take self-portraits.  

My own personal images of a body that is expanding with new life.

I wanted to be alone while I took them though at the time I wished I had more hands, and eyes, and could jump out of my body quickly to peer through the view finder and press the button at the exact moment when everything stands still.  The same way I do for other pregnant women.

Instead, I balanced the camera on my old wooden treasure box and Liberty's music stand. I balanced it over my head in my right hand while I bent my body far over to the left so that the camera would not be pictured.  

I stood on a stool, on the sofa, in front of the mirror, and a window, and after exhausting myself, I edited what feels to me to be the most beautiful pictures I have ever taken...

     
34 weeks and 3 days... I can't wait to meet you little one.

2.22.2013

The luckiest


It has been nearly a year since I’ve written anything for this blog.  I needed a break.  I needed time to go within, to be alone with my thoughts.  Time to sort it all out.

At first, I appeared to be depressed.  Liberty stood next to the bed, staring at me while I lay still, listless, encouraging me to get up, to make art, to try to feel something before it was too late and I stuffed it all away.  So I listened to my loving husband.  I got out of bed and sat on the floor of my studio.  I painted a watercolor of a mama sea turtle laying her eggs in the sand.  When I finished, I proudly brought it out to the living room, and held it up for Liberty to see.

“I think I will give it to the nurses at the hospital as a thank you for all they did to help us.”

Liberty stared at me with a strange look on his face and then nodded, “Sounds good.”

“What? Don’t you like it?” my face wrinkling at the brow. “It’s a mama turtle leaving her eggs in the sand.  Trusting Nature with the life of her babies.  You know, like I have to trust.”

“Oh, I thought she was pooping.”

And just like that, we were back to normal. 

Of course there were times when I’d see a pregnant woman and feel an ache inside, but honestly, I just felt that I’d be pregnant again.  I trusted my body and I trusted the Divine timing that I’d always relied on.

I did get pregnant again.  4 1/2 months later.  34 weeks and 3 days ago. 

In those 4 months, I made some major changes.  After miscarrying, I felt a new sense of urgency to do only what makes me truly happy.  I said goodbye to obligations that weren’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped they’d be.  Which, in turn, opened up space in my life for new opportunities. 

Along the way, I met a few kindred spirits who I’m now working with, doing most of the things I’d been dreaming of over the last 5 years.

The loss was a gift.  That the soul that came for those months brought me new life before leaving to return to wherever it is we return.

These months have been spent being surrounded by love.  Love from Liberty, love from friends, and love from myself.

It has been almost one year exactly since the miscarriage and I am now more than 8 months pregnant.  So much has changed.  We have a new home and a new car, each with stories of their own.  I am co-founder of a new business with two amazing women.
This year I’ve let go many times, even though sometimes I felt I’d break in two from the pain of it all.  I’ve let go of family members, friendships, work relationships, and old ideas that were no longer good for me or anyone else. 

Most recently I’ve had to let go of what I thought pregnancy would be like.  I’ve had to let go of being the one in control and as hard as it’s been, I’ve had to trust everyone around me for guidance and support.

The most amazing gift that I’ve received this year has been in my partnership with Liberty as it’s grown stronger than I imagined possible.  I am so thankful to be sharing my life with this man.  I can’t imagine a better father to Oliver.  We are the luckiest. 

7.21.2012

Rock Family





Rock family

3.13.2012

A Letter

*Caution: This post gives a detailed account of a miscarriage.


My dearest,

We opened ourselves and readied our lives for your entry into the world.  And you arrived, in my womb, safe and protected.  You chose us.  An honor I felt each morning and night, when my first and last thoughts of the day always rested on your presence within me.  I did everything I could to make sure that nothing would harm you.  I arranged my life, my diet, my thoughts around your needs. 
One night, Liberty came to bed late and I awoke, asking him what was wrong.  He was nervous that something would happen to you.  I told him not to worry.  We are healthy and happy and doing everything we can to stay that way.  The rest is beyond our control.  I fell back to sleep feeling surprised, I've never known him to worry about anything.
I woke one morning and felt less pregnant.  My breasts were no long tender.  I noticed it immediately.  I felt panicked but remembered being told that there would be blood to warn me of something wrong.  So, I continued on, loving the thought of you growing inside of me and watching myself grow with you. 
Twelve weeks and two days went by.  Like the blink of an eye, those days circled around me.  I woke to find bleeding.  Not very much, not much at all.  I felt nothing, in fact.  I kept my panic at bay.  I didn't want to scare Liberty, so I made light of it.  I woke him and mentioned that we should stop at the doctor's on the way to work, not a big deal, it's probably nothing, just being extra safe.  
The nurse did not seem alarmed, spotting is normal.  I mentioned that I'd stopped feeling pregnant a few weeks before.  She looked worried and made an appointment for later that day.  I went to work and thought about you all day.  I worked through emails and meetings and felt disconnected from myself.  I felt powerless to do anything except send you love. 
During the ultra-sound, the doctor showed us images of you, your umbilical cord and placenta.  I knew then that you had no heart-beat, I could see there was no movement.  I felt suddenly scared for Liberty and became focused on protecting him from what I knew was coming.  We were told I was miscarrying.  I immediately sat up, put on my most calm and serious face.  What should I do? Ok, ok.  And what should I expect?  Ok, great.  I kept looking back at Liberty, the color draining his face.  I felt nothing except the need to preserve the life that existed, ours.
I awed at Liberty's ability to find him emotions and express them so freely.  He cried and grieved immediately.  While I sat next to him surrounded by the fog that was rising around me.  We were told that we were the fourth miscarriage that day.  That we'd all come in that morning with spotting and that all of us were miscarrying.  I went home, made dinner, snuggled with Liberty and tried to connect to you still inside of me.  I did not believe that you were not alive.  I felt more certain that the machine was broken, the technology incorrect.  You had to still be alive, otherwise, why would I look the way I do and why would I not be bleeding?  
That night, the pain and contractions began.  Pain and nausea that took over my entire body, leaving me in uncontrollable convulsions, writhing on the bathroom floor.  I felt so afraid.  I couldn't think of who to call.  I began to shake violently and run fever.  We went to the hospital.  They treated me so tenderly.  I cried from their loving care.  I saw myself through their eyes and finally felt sad for all that was happening.
My water broke in the night and I began to bleed.  A relief to me.  A symbol that Nature was at work and not medicine, which I feared.  I trusted Nature with my body and with yours.  The pain was unbelievable and I shook through the night and through the medication.  The next day, I fought to return to normal, I longed to go home and later that day we did.  I bled so heavily that night, I thought certainly something was wrong, but then it subsided and I retreated to bed, where I remained the next four days. 
Numbness and emptiness accompanied me.  Liberty was more loving than I'd ever witnessed another to be.  He said and did everything with gentle care.  I melted into the bed and into myself.  Lost to feel anything, I felt blank inside.
Your leaving brought about days of writing, pouring out of me about the life I have and the love I've found.  Your leaving brought it out of me after months of attempts but no success.  I felt compelled to tell my story, though I did not speak of you.  I just couldn't.
The sun rose Monday and I returned to work.  Tuesday I felt better.  Hope was rising to the top.  I fantasized that our house would feel alive again, no longer filled with gloom.
That night, I suddenly became ill.  A high fever found me achy and terrified.  I could only think fearfully of what might become of me if something was wrong with my uterus.  The next morning they found an infection and decided to perform surgery.  I felt so lost and numb.  I did not want surgery and wanted infection even less.  I succumbed to their suggestion and was off to the operating room.  I no longer cared what they did to me.  I turned myself over to their care.  The nurses treated me like a china doll, like I would break under anything less than the most fragile care.  I felt protected by this gentle attention and so cared for, the thought made me want to cry, but the feelings were jammed in my throat.
I awoke never realizing I'd gone to sleep.  The whole thing was over.  I returned home and found my outline in the bed.  This time I felt full of emotion, though it would not surface.  I felt heavy and exhausted and full of pain that I could not access.  I sat and tried to write but nothing came.  I told Liberty that all of my feelings were stuck right here, and pointed to my chest and throat.  The fullness of them brought about nausea.  I told him I was scared that if I didn't feel them now, I'd suffer later.  No matter what I wished, I could not make them come up.  
As I laid in bed, I began to recognize circumstances that made me feel connected to something greater than myself and all that was happening.  I felt protected and supported by little things.  My schedule at work had been clear, something that never happens, yet there it was, empty and clear just when I need it the most.  People were in the right place at the right time.  Precisely when I needed someone, I'd oddly run into exactly the right person.  I started to feel not loss but gain from your presence.  You didn't leave us, you came to us.  You didn't stay as long as we'd expected, but I began to focus on the fact that you did come.  I felt immense love from your time with us, inside my womb.  I began to feel immense gratitude that you chose to be with me during this time and the joy that your presence brought to me.  I focused on that feeling.  I focused on the feeling that you had come to help me in ways that I have yet to understand.
My heaviest emotions are still waiting to be expressed, but the lightest ones have arrived easily.  Joy, love and gratitude for you have filled me to the brim and begun to spill over.  I've felt more lifted and carried these last weeks than ever before in my life, not only by Liberty and family and friends, but by myself too.  I have been more gentle with myself than I ever thought imaginable.  I have loved and accepted the exact place that I'm in, placing my need to get everything right on the back burner.  Even allowing myself not to force myself to feel.  I've been being, simply because I've had no choice.  I feel that you've given me gifts that I never could have given myself.  
With all the love that we possess, thank you for choosing us for your time here.  


3.03.2012

Traveling Partner, part 2

This post is a continuation of this post.

It's amazing what happens when we allow ourselves to tell the truth.  It's hard to find the truth when it's buried beneath doubt, fear, and belief in impossibility.  When those things are lost in the passage of life and there is nothing left to lose, truth usually shows up on it's own.  As long as you're willing to acknowledge it and welcome it inside.

In the years that I'd been open to a love that surpassed any I'd personally witnessed, friends were sometimes skeptical of my thinking.  I'd been told that it wasn't possible, what I wanted wasn't out there.  I'd been set up on countless blind dates, double dates, urged to pursue this or that friend.  I even had a friend blatantly explain that what I had was wishful thinking and that the type of guy I was waiting for didn't even exist.  I never knew what to say.  I didn't really know what I was waiting for or if I was waiting at all.  All I knew was that I was ok being alone, I liked who I'd become, I could certainly keep and enjoy my own company and that if I did ever enter into a partnership with someone, it was going to be someone, at minimum, with the qualities I'd listed.

Until I made that list, I felt strongly that I'd continue to travel the world as a volunteer, have short love affairs when I felt the weight of loneliness and when my biological clock ticked it's last tocks, I'd have a child on my own.   I was certainly willing to forgo that path if I did meet someone.  It wasn't until I sat down to write that list, the list of what my heart truly desired in a partner, that I'd ever felt that meeting someone like that was possible for me.  Once I did make the list, I felt the possibility course through me like an energy I'd never before experienced.

Intentions were being set into motion that Life already had plans for.  It was only a matter of it all playing out.

During the months after my return home, I met many new people.  So many that I couldn't remember most of their names or faces.  Life felt like a whirlwind at times and I was sitting in the center while everyone else was swept up into it all.  I just watched it all spinning by and felt dizzy most of the time.  Re-acclimating into the society of your birth is exhausting.  I often felt the weight of this experience and possessed little knowledge of how to process it.

I spent time at my favorite coffee house.  I found a job at a flower shop.  I rented a room from a generous friend that cost very little and allowed me to continue riding my bike to and from work.  I slowly fell into a pace that I could handle.  Life felt livable and even exciting again.

One day, I was sitting at the coffee shop, in a chair by the window, watching people walk by, wondering what their lives were like.  Someone sitting behind me answered a question from the person at the table next to him and when he spoke, something vibrated in my chest.  The vibration was so strong, I felt shaken up after.  I glanced behind me and noted who he was.  I mildly recognized him but couldn't remember if I'd ever met him.  I turned around and hoped he noticed me.  I was quite intrigued.

The next day, during a terrible storm, I waited out the rain at the coffee house after work.  I walked in and immediately noticed the guy from the day before.  I chose the empty seat next to him and when  I sat down, he turned and said, Hello, Erica.   I was a little stunned, embarrassed that I didn't know his name, confused as to how he knew mine.  I said, Hello... and waited.  Finally, he smiled and said, Liberty.

Liberty?  How could I not remember a name like that?  I was sure we'd never met, I would have remembered.  He reminded me that we'd met a few weeks ago, with a girl I barely knew.  I vaguely remembered her approaching me while I was waiting for my coffee one day.  She was with a guy and she introduced us.  She was the kind of girl that was easily jealous and I recalled not wanting to even make eye contact with the guy.  I just nodded and smiled but never looked up at him.   And here he was.  

I commented on meeting him with her and inquired as to how they knew each other.  He said they shared a mutual friend but that he didn't know her well.  I felt hopeful, considering I was about to completely scratch him off the list if he had dated her, simply because I didn't want to even consider what type of volatile turmoil that might bring into my simple and stable life.  

He kept the conversation going and he mentioned that we'd met other times over the last few years and that we shared a few mutual friends.  I had no recollection of him and felt amused that I couldn't remember meeting him before.  We laughed about it.  He bought me a piece of chocolate.  We discovered that he lived across the street from my mom.  We talked about our friends that had recently gotten divorced after only 7 months of marriage.  He shared some simple and beautiful thoughts about growth in relationships.  I remember thinking that this man was one of the most open people I'd ever met and I wanted to know all that I could about him.  I continued asking him questions about himself, so that our conversation wouldn't end.  He was in Louisiana finishing a PhD.  He was originally from Madison, Wisconsin, a place that seemed completely foreign to me and other worldly.  

At one point, he closed his computer and I felt embarrassed that I was taking too much of his time.  He later told me that was to let me know I wasn't.  It was time for me to leave and he tried to ask for my number but I was nervous and left too abruptly.  The next day, during my walk to work, thoughts of him flooded my imagination.  I remember the morning so vividly.  There was a thick fog and all of the surrounding colors seemed vibrant amidst this dense moisture.  I walked past a bright pink crape myrtle tree and felt it's trunk, which was damp to the touch.  I recited a poem to myself and wondered if Liberty knew of it's author.  I wondered if he was already awake and what he might be doing during the day.  I wondered when I'd see him again.

Thanks to modern technology, when I got home, I had an email message from him containing his phone number. Excitement coursed through me.  I returned his message and said that I hoped to run into him again at the coffee shop.  He responded that he'd really like that and that he'd probably be there the following night.  

The next night, I dressed up, without looking like I'd tried too hard and agreed to meet a few girlfriends for coffee.  I did see him, but he wasn't alone,  he was sitting at a table and a girl was sitting next to him.  I pretended like I didn't see him and walked over to meet my girlfriends.  I observed the distance between them and felt it to be quite close.  I realized that maybe he had a girlfriend.  I also realized that if he did, he obviously wasn't that great of a boyfriend, to email me.  I'd been just about to point him out to my girlfriends but decided not to, since he didn't appear to be solo.  When we got up to leave, I walked over said hello quickly.  I mentioned that I was sorry I hadn't gotten to talk to him but that maybe I'd see him again.  He was extremely friendly and looked disappointed.  I decided that maybe she wasn't his girlfriend, but that she might, in fact, be hoping to be.  I left feeling confused and a little disappointed, but not ready to give up.  Our conversation a few days prior still had an impact on me and I wasn't ready to shut the door.

Christmas was right around the corner, so I decided to make him a holiday card.  I had just bought a new magazine with bright images and fun quotes so I decided to collage the card.  I figured that he'd either love it or hate it and that would determine a lot about our compatibility.   I didn't have scissors, so I had to tear the images, which gave the card a nice effect.  I glued it all together and wrote a few lines.  After I was done, I felt childish.  Even though it was only a card, I felt that he might really think I'm an idiot, especially if the girl I saw him with was his girlfriend, or if he wanted her to be.  I justified to myself that if it turned out badly, it really wasn't that big of a deal, I barely knew him.  But I had to find out, especially after the talk we'd had that night.  He seemed kind and open, plus, I was outrageously attracted to him.  I sent him a message that I had a Christmas card for him and that I'd be over at the coffee shop that evening.  Hopefully, I'd see him there.

I had a Christmas party to go to, so I planned to just stop by, grab a coffee to go and if he was there, I'd give him the card.  When I arrived, I saw him sitting alone, outside on the patio.  I sat down with him and we chatted nervously.  Our conversation deepened quickly and hit the same level that we had a few evenings before.  Two hours rushed by and I realized I was extremely late for the party.  I quickly gave him his card and got ready to leave.  I didn't want to leave, but I didn't want to disappoint my friends either.  I felt so torn.  I asked what he was up to later.  He said that he didn't have plans.  I mentioned that maybe I'd call him later and I hurried off to the party unsure of what to do.

Since this isn't an epic novel and only a blog post, I'll spare the lengthy details.  I did call him that night and we talked until 9 the next morning.  Over the next few weeks, we spent time together every day cooking, talking, walking and just being.  I discovered he liked my cooking.  We preferred books and conversation to television.  After longs days, he was always willing to stop over for a visit.  We'd sit and talk in my tiny studio apartment for hours.  

One day he let me know that he had to go out of town for three weeks.  I remember talking to him from the stove while he sat on my bed, the only place to sit on in the entire apartment.  He suddenly looked very serious.  I stopped what I was doing in the kitchen and sat next to him.  He nervously asked if I would consider not dating anyone else while he was gone. That he'd like the opportunity to continue getting to know me even though he would be away.

I, of course, said I wouldn't date anyone else, not that I'd been planning that anyway.  I sat there dumbfounded that he'd been brave enough to ask such a question.  I'd only ever been asked such questions by men I had no interest in.  I was completely smitten by Liberty and our budding relationship.  I couldn't believe that he was able to communicate so easily, to me, his needs and wants.

While he was away, we spoke everyday on the phone.  When he returned, months flew by in a flash.  One day, my friend returned and needed the apartment back.  I had no where to go and two days to figure it out.  Liberty offered for me to live with him.  Since he lived across the street from my mom and I had very few possessions, we decided that I'd stay with him temporarily and if it didn't work out, I'd move to my mom's.  

It did work out, but his apartment was pretty tiny.  I mentioned to him that I had a house that I'd rented out while I was gone and that I could ask the tenant whether or not he'd be willing to relocate.  Liberty agreed without even seeing the place and we moved two weeks later.  I'm not sure when we fell in love.  I had no idea of where I was going next in life.  I vaguely knew that he'd be moving somewhere, at the end of the summer, but he didn't know where.  As time passed by, each day I fell more in love with him.  Living together was effortless.  We had a large backyard full of trees and I often felt that living in such a magically environment made it even easier for the love between us to grow.  He eventually had a few job offers.  When he traveled for interviews, I researched the towns, knowing I'd go with him anywhere.  

In the spring, I traveled to Germany with friends.  In the two weeks that I was gone, I realized that I couldn't stay behind when he left.  When I returned home, I discovered that he felt the same way.  That May, at his graduation, I met his family.  They laughed more than any family I'd ever met and I remember being in amazement that this is what he grew up surrounded by.  We enjoyed the season, the shade beneath the trees.  Liberty visited me at the flower shop nearly everyday.  We hung out with friends and slowly made plans to move to Minnesota.  

I'd taken on extra design work and one Saturday night, I was frantically working on a set of prints that were due the following week.  Nothing seemed to be going right and I looked pretty pathetic sitting there nearly in tears.  Liberty asked me to join him on the sofa.  He pulled me on his lap and hugged me and asked if I'd be willing to spend the rest of my life with him as his wife.  I was in complete shock as he placed a small box in my hand.  I said, of course I would and then just sat there stunned.  He opened the box and placed the sweet ruby engagement ring on my finger.

We relocated to a tiny town.  I struggled to find work.  I felt sad and depressed for the first few months.  We became even closer, surviving on humor and love.  We got to know the town, we got pummeled beneath feet of snow.  He taught me to shovel, to ski, to understand the culture of the Midwest.  At times I felt like he moved me to another country.  The customs were different from anything I knew.  The rules of engagement that I knew were defunct.  I vowed to myself that I would make it work.  That I am in charge of my own happiness.  I took a temporary job in a factory making seat cushions.  All day, I stood at a machine placing a piece of vinyl on the line every few seconds.  I took this time to meditate.  The entire day became a meditation.  I began to feel the possibility of other jobs.  I began to feel what it would be like to have the job of my dreams.  Two weeks later, I landed a graphic design job with an ample salary.

We made it through the winter.  We planned a long distance wedding.  The seasons changed with us.  I felt balanced and realized the importance of dormancy and rebirth that nature expresses so vividly in this part of the world.  We expressed our love for one another before our family and friends in a loving ceremony that was truly our own creation.  We returned from the wedding and moved to an old cabin tucked away in the trees, facing the river and the setting sun.  

We completed another round of seasons and embarked on a three month long journey across Europe where we fell in love more deeply, though I didn't think it possible.  It was during these travels that I began to ponder what it takes to make good traveling partners.  I had no idea how wonderful it could possibly be.  

We celebrated Liberty's 39 birthday last month.  Sometimes I wish we'd met sooner, so we'd have even more years together.  But, then, I wouldn't have been who I was when we met, and I believe I'd never have attracted such an amazing person before I was able to notice that I, too, am amazing and worthy of someone so special.

Traveling Partner

This post is about transformation.  It contains real experience and raw emotion that comes with truly living.

Finding the right traveling partner takes patience, courage and most of all Love.  I fell in love many times before I met the person that ended up being the right partner for me.  I broke hearts and had mine broken too many times.  I dated people that I didn't even like because they were great at pursuit and I was tired of running away.  I dated people that I didn't connect with because I felt I should give everyone a chance, they might be the one.  I chased one or two long after I knew it would  end in heartache and tears.  All of those experiences led me to the place I found myself in, the afternoon I finally met my resolve.

I was lying on the sofa, reeling with pain from some breakup.  I felt like a house had landed on my chest.  Like the aftermath of a tornado when everything settles and I was stuck beneath something that was crushing me.  I remember feeling like I couldn't breathe.  My lungs just wouldn't stretch far enough.  I felt panic inside.  A thought came to me that I couldn't really grasp onto.  It was more of an idea or a feeling that was in the distance, but making it's way toward me.  I felt the need to stay still with this feeling in my chest.  Just stay there and feel it.  I actually began to imagine that the weight of it was moving through me, into the sofa.  I lay there for several hours and when I stood up, I felt lighter.  

When one drastic thought pattern changes, the others have to follow suit, for they've lost their leader.

In the weeks that followed, I began to notice just how little I'd ever believed in myself.  Friends, family and even counselors had been telling me for years that I needed to be easier on myself, not so rigid and judgmental.  I felt that they were just being nice and that if they really knew me, they'd never think that.  I would even think horribly mean thoughts about myself without ever realizing what I was doing.  I'd walk around replaying conversations in my mind and in the end, I'd always receive harsh criticism and feel it was what I deserved.  This way of thinking affected my entire life.  All of my relationships with friends, families and boyfriends, my grades, my performance at work, even the way I felt about myself when no one else was around.  

I'm not sure what happened in what order but in the next few months, many things in my life began to change.  People came into my life that had important things to share with me.  Books found their way into my life that had valuable and life changing messages that began to shift and shape the way I saw the world and most importantly, the way I felt about myself.  I was 25 years old, recently graduated from college and finally realizing that I'd spent most of my life hating myself and the entire time, I'd been pretty clueless.  
 
I'd love to say that this is when I met my soul mate and fell in love and now we are living happily ever after.  But, that's not even close to what happened next.  I did fall in love, sort of.  I don't know another way of explaining what began to happen except to say that I felt the way one feels when they fall in love.  Everywhere I looked things looked brighter.  It didn't happen over night and it didn't happen without effort on my part.  But I was falling in love with or least falling out of hate, toward myself.

During this time, I had an acquaintance that began pointing out to me just how often I belittled myself.  I'd say things like, I'm so dumb or that was so stupid of me.  I'd look in the mirror too frequently and think, Of course he doesn't like me, look at me.  These thoughts penetrated my entire being and ran through every part of me.  Once this acquaintance began pointing these negative statements out to me, I began to notice how often I said and thought them.  It was overwhelming.  Over a few weeks, I noticed that almost every thought that I had about myself was critical and demeaning.  So many things were happening at once, new information was coming at me from every direction.  As quickly as I became aware of the problem, solutions began being apparent.  Conversations with friends.  Lines in books.  The answers to my negative thinking began to show up everywhere.  I developed acute awareness of my actions toward myself and with this new knowledge came an intense willingness to change these patterns.  

I began thinking certain thoughts with intention.  The moment my eyes opened each morning, I'd think, What a beautiful day this is, I'm so thankful to be alive to experience it.  While getting dressed for the day, I'd sing songs to myself about being beautiful, inside and out.  When I couldn't think of a statement, I'd repeat meditation chants that I'd learned from a local meditation center.  I'd ride my bicycle and repeat over and over the Heart Sutra, Gate gate para gate, para sam gate, bodi soha. Or I'd repeat the simple prayer, Om mani pad me hum.

At this time, my heart began to open to vast extents.  Also during this time, I began to realize that until I healed, I'd never attract or be attracted to the type of person I truly wanted.  I also began to reconcile that perhaps I'd never meet someone that fit the ideal my heart held onto.  I couldn't predict where my life was headed and having lived in a moderate sized town most of my life and knowing the type of people I had to choose from, I began to consider what life might look like if I never met anyone at all.  

I shed many tears over the prospect of being alone forever, but I continued to work toward eradicating the negative thoughts and feelings I still had about myself.  
For two years I worked toward loving myself.  I began to conquer many fears that had kept me living in unhealthy patterns.  I began spend more time doing things that nourished my body, mind, and soul and less time worrying and thinking negatively from a place of fear.  With every day that came and went, my ideas and aspirations grew larger.  Things that I once thought were impossible began to appear attainable.  I used an exercise that was shown to me by a dear friend and spiritual mentor to find guidance of what I should do next in life.

I wrote out what my life would look like if there were absolutely no obstacles like time or money or necessary experience.  This exercise took several attempts before I wrote out that I'd like to travel to another country, live in that country long enough to learn the language and become immersed in the culture, have the opportunity to help people while I was there and not have to pay a lot of money in order to do it.  Circumstances began to fall into place in the magical way that they do when a person sets foot on the path of their own destiny.  A day or so later, a women I barely knew stopped me in a parking lot and suggested I go and volunteer over sees with this organization.  She'd just flown back to the states the day before and sat next to someone on the airplane who was volunteering and the entire time they spoke, she thought of me.  Next day, there we were, meeting on the sidewalk in front of a grocery store.  After a sleepless night, I applied the next day.  

A year passed before I actually stepped onto the airplane that was to take me to distant places.  In that year, I practiced love and kindness meditation several times a day.  I spent each day practicing awareness of my thoughts, awareness of the judgment I placed on myself, always returning to the solutions that I'd been shown.  Each time I met these thoughts and judgments with loving statements.  Each time the thoughts were neutralized. 

In that year, I packed up the house I'd lived in for 7 years and gave away almost everything I owned.  I read anything that was suggested to me and I found answers to questions that I barely knew I'd asked.   I became so open to possibility that my heart seemed to extend far beyond the reaches of my physical body.  I met men that I found attractive and often felt confusion about whether or not I should date them.  I never could quite let go though.  The path that I was on was a powerful one and I felt that anything that might compromise that would have to wait.  I needed to travel and leave everything that was familiar, though I couldn't explain why.  I just knew I wanted it more than anything.

During that year, I grew closer to my best friend.  I became a better friend to her and knew that our friendship would surpass any distance and time that lie between us.  I grew closer to my sister and to my mother and further from my father.  I ended friendships that had existed long before I knew anything about friendship.  I grieved and felt deep sadness and loss over these changes.  

In that year, my friends became certain that I'd go away and meet my soul mate.  They felt that perhaps the person for me didn't exist where we lived.  They thought that I'd surely meet someone, how could I not?  I'd go away and fall in love and this journey would take me right to him.  On some level I began to believe them, though I took the idea with skepticism and held both in my hands.

A few months before leaving, I met a young man that pursued me with unstopping intensity, most likely due to the fact that I was due to leave town.  Some people are most comfortable in situations like those.  It was innocent and never became romantic, but in many ways, meeting him just months before I left reminded me of the impermanence of everything.  It brought me back down to Earth and helped to plant my feet firmly on the ground.  I'd been floating for a few years and I hit the ground with a thud.  A thud that woke me up, just before embarking on one of the most painful and eye opening journeys of my life.

I'd love to say that I flew away to this village and that the love of my life found me or that I found him, but it did not happen that way either.  I did fly far away and soon found myself in a village where I felt like an outsider.  I looked different from everyone and I certainly didn't have the skills to survive there.  Because of this, I first went to live with a family that provided all of my needs.  This experience was one of the most difficult to live through.  I could not provide my own food, my own water for bathing or drinking, I could not speak the language, or clean my own clothes.  Everything had to be graciously accepted with thanks.  But all I felt was guilt.  I felt so extremely guilty for needed so much from these generous people.  I had no choice.  I either accepted with gratitude or I went without.  I felt like a small child, recently born to this new family, more dependent on them than their youngest, age 4.  Each day, I smiled and accepted their gifts of survival.  I was aware of how uncomfortable I felt and how my entire life, I felt most comfortable if I was giving, therefore, I owed no one.  I could not remember a time that I received without guilt or even self loathing for having to need in the first place.  I began to repeat the mantra that this year, I'd learn to lovingly receive.  I said it over and over.
  
Many challenges and new experiences awaited me while living far from home.  With them came every emotion the imagination can summon.  I became broken open and then pieced back together by the loving Forces behind the gift of Life.  I remembered feeling for the first time, that I was truly an adult.  On my 28th birthday, I felt that I'd truly become a woman and that I could trust my own instinct and inner voice.  A voice that by now was stronger than ever before, yet more loving than I ever imagined possible.  By the end, I returned home a truer version of myself.  More defined than I'd ever been before.  I'd been carved and etched by the sharp edge of experience.  I'd been purified and transformed by the fire of the Alchemist that created us all. 

I'd spent more than a year away with ample time to think about everything I'd ever wanted to think about.  I lived in a world that moved in different time.  I became still so that I could truly feel the rhythm of the flow of Life.  I watched and listened until it became too painful.  In the end, I left filled with experiences that can never be erased, though they often feel like a dream I awoke from, fuzzy and distant.

After returning home, I spent two months traveling around and visiting friends in different places.  I had no plans and no real idea of what I wanted next.  I remained open to where Life was taking me.  With each passing day, I felt the culmination of my experiences beginning to dull.  I felt over whelmed by choice.  I had been living in a world where choice was rare.  The gluttony that surrounded me once returning home was suffocating.  I retreated into writing.  I returned to the exercise that I'd used before embarking on my last journey.  I wasn't sure that I wanted a relationship, but something in me seemed open to the possibility.  Once I allowed this idea to penetrate my thoughts, every cell became alive with the idea.  I sat outside one day and wrote the following:

I am at one with my perfect partner who is loving, kind, honorable, spiritual, intellegent, considerate of people, animals, the planet, and himself; 
who honors my mind, body, and spirit;
who stimulates my mind, body, and spirit;
who shares in similar interests as me; 
who shares mutual attraction on all levels;
who is in awe of me in my truest essence;
who I am in awe of in his truest essence;
who has a full and interesting life of his own;
who shares a mutual respect and honor for our relationship;
who is my partner and equal; 
who I can learn from and teach to;
who sees me as beautiful, inside and out;
who can honor and respect each aspect of me;
who cares about being healthy and honoring his body;
who is comfortable in nature and in a city;
who is moderately clean and accepting and understanding of my clutter;
who enjoys socializing and travel;
who has dreams and aspirations of his own;
who is open to trying new things together;
who I will recognize as my perfect partner and who will recognize me;
who mutually desires as partnership with one person;
who can communicate these hopes and desires easily and openly;
who is a believer and seeker and open to all spiritual walks.
To be continued...

2.28.2012

Outside & Inside

Outside, there's a winter storm heading this way...







Inside, flowers are blooming...





Several months ago my dear friend, Mary Lee, gave Liberty and I a beautiful bougainvillea tree.  These trees are particularly dear to me because I grew up surrounded by them in south Louisiana.  When I brought it home, I placed it in front of the brightest window, added new soil and watered it regularly.  Each time I entered the room, I acknowledged it and imagined it filled with Love.  
One night, the thought came to place the humidifier beneath the tree.  Two days later, a tiny bloom appeared.  Three days later, that bloom grew and two more appeared.  Now we have seven enormous blooms and the tree is thriving. 

In the Kitchen: Homemade Lara Bars


I don't know about you, but I love Lara bars.  What's not to love?  They're gooey, chewy, sweet, natural and full of nutrients.  A few weeks ago, I made homemade granola bars for Liberty, which I never got around to photographing.  While I was searching for recipes, I felt inspired to try my own version of Lara bars.  The recipe is so easy, you'll never want to buy them again.  Except that when you make an entire batch, there's that many more to munch on at home.  Warning: Serious self-discipline may be required!  

Ingredients
  • 4 cups whole, pitted dates
  • 2 cups walnuts or almonds
  • 1 cup dried berries (I used blueberries)
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter or nut butter of your choice
  • Water (optional)

Directions

Line baking pan with a piece of parchment paper and set aside.
Use a food processor to chop dates.  Add nuts and nut butter.  Add dried berries last.  Use a small amount of water if necessary.
If the ingredients are too much to fit into the processor at one time, use half of each ingredient, place in bowl and set aside and chop remaining ingredients.
Scrape into the prepared pan.
Once the ingredients have been processed and placed into the pan, cover with a second sheet of parchment paper and press evenly into the shape of the pan.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before slicing.
 Enjoy!

*The reason they are sliced so small, is because Liberty and I could barely stop ourselves from eating them until I had enough day light to take pictures!


1.26.2012

DIY: Homemade Toothpaste


Making my own toothpaste has been an intention that I've held onto for several years.  I feel frustrated by the high cost of healthy tooth pastes and how much packaging I waste each time we finish a tube.  I searched through my body care books and tried several recipes using things like peppermint oil, baking soda, glycerin,  and food-grade hydrogen peroxide.  These tasted alright but the biggest obstacle has been finding a method to contain the paste that isn't messy and can be easily used with one hand when I'm half asleep.  

During my search, I found this video.  Curious and hopeful, I tried his suggestion.  Much to my delight, my teeth and gums felt like I'd just left a cleaning with the dentist.  Somehow, Liberty agreed to try it too and after three weeks, we're never going back.  
I suggest watching the short video explanation because he explains why using this method will whiten your teeth in no time.  I have to say, my teeth are not only whiter, but they are glossy and shiny.  

After years of coffee and tea consumption, I can not believe what this method has done for the health of my teeth and gums.  When I floss, there is nothing remaining between my teeth and gums.  It is truly remarkable.  I only wish you could see the faces that Liberty make at one another when we are showing off our new pearly whites. 

Ingredients

Baking soda
1 drop (really only one drop*, watch the video) Grape Seed Extract

Directions

Wet your toothbrush, dip into baking soda, add one drop only of GSE and brush.  It's simple and amazing.  I put the baking soda in a small metal creamer container left over from our wedding.  You can open it with one hand, which I love and it's small enough to sit atop our pedestal sink.  I leave the GSE in the medicine cabinet with no top on, since the opening is minscule and again, need only one hand.  Try it, it's so absolutely worth it!

*Warning: Out of curiosity and stubbornness, I attempted to use more than one drop thinking if one is good, more is better.  I badly cut my gums which bled pretty harshly.  Follow the directions offered in the video for best results.  

1.25.2012

In the Kitchen: Nori Wraps + Sauteed Sweet Potatoes


Last week I prepared a delicious and nutritious combo that I must share.  This quick and inexpensive meal is packed with nutrients and makes a great lunch on the go.  Four ingredients + seasoning.  How simple is that?  Nori seaweed, sweet potatoes, kale and olive oil + sea salt and chili powder.  I love combining sweet and savory flavors into one simple dish, especially one that is good for me.  

Ingredients

2 Nori seaweed sheets
1 C chopped organic Sweet Potatoes
2 Kale leaves
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
Sea Salt 
Chili powder

Directions

Wash and chop sweet potatoes and saute in olive oil.  I like to use a large skillet and cover it to trap steam and soften the potatoes.  Wash and chop kale leaves, discard and compost the large inner stem.  Add kale leaves to the potatoes and continue to cook until both are tender.  Season with sea salt and chili powder to your liking.  Fill nori sheet, roll up and enjoy!




1.24.2012

DIY: Citrus Body Scrub + Simple Gift Wrap


During the holiday season, I made a batch of small handmade gifts for people that I work with and friends that I see regularly.  My intention was to let them know that I appreciate their presence in my life.  One of the gifts that I made were jars of citrus scented body scrub.  It took more time to find the right sized jars, than it did to make and wrap these adorable little gifts.  This recipe is perfect for exfoliating and moisturizing winter skin and revitalizing the senses with uplifting citrus scents.   I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

1 C Sea Salt (coarse)
1/2 Raw Sugar
1/2 C Coconut oil
10 drops grapefruit essential oil
10 drops sweet orange essential oil
5 drops lemon essential oil
Small jar for storing

Directions

Mix sea salt and sugar together and fill your storage container, making sure to leave room at the top for the coconut oil.  In a metal pot or large metal measuring cup, heat coconut oil on low heat until it becomes liquid.  Remove from heat and add essential oils.  Pour the oil mixture over the dry ingredients.  Allow the oils to slowly seep through the dry ingredients, do not stir.  Close and store in a dry place when not in use.

Gift Wrap

Cut large, oblong shapes of colored tulle and fold in half.  Place jar in center and gather edges together.  Tie with string or raffia.  Cut small gift tags or use a large circular punch.  Attach gift tag to raffia.  Give to someone you love.