Why I Turned To Writing

 

I lie in bed, turning over again and again, sleep no where in sight. With each physical turn of my body I was breathing new life and energy into the thoughts and questions plaguing my mind, peace and sleep stood no chance. One nagging question was the impetus for this mental storm, refusing to subside until I stare at it in the face, see it and address it. So I rolled out of bed, leaving warmth and comfort, at 1:00am determined to do just that, face my question.

Why? How does a three letter word carry so much power? Despite it’s simplicity in structure, that word has the power to bring even the sturdiest of minds to its’ figurative knees. So here I sit, blinking curser daring me to get it down lest I forget. For yes, I do believe I have the answer.

Bare with me as I take you on a bit of a detour as I eventually answer, why?

I can blame a friend for this latest bout of insomnia. He posed the question while sharing a cup of tea and mulling over my latest writing project. He reminded me that without knowing the “why”, my writing journey would be longer and more arduous than necessary. Why writing?  For years I have enjoyed words. I would play with them for hours. I love learning new ways to string them together, to tell a story, to convey emotion, and using them to capture the thoughts that would keep me awake for hours.  I can still remember toying with rhymes, barely able to write, I would rehearse them for hours until I either fell asleep or give up and succumbed to writing them down. To this day I have a special blue folder filled with random sheets of paper with my scribbles.  Now, not being naturally gifted with words, this is something I have to work at. Yet, loving it as I do, I do just that.

My latest writing project began three years ago,  writing as a means for answering questions that would arise from my profession as a social worker and early childhood educator. My staff loved it and found it helpful, so I kept at it.  I fell into blogging, rather haphazardly, more as a means to an end; a format for meeting a professional need. Yet, I found the process more than moderately satisfying. The challenge lie in answering a question, and doing it in such a way that had my reader nodding their heads and feeling satisfied that they had in fact learned something of value. Even then, I found myself not wholly satisfied after awhile. It was definitely not the writing aspect, though after some tossing and turning and late night writing, I discovered it was the theme of my writing that had me yearning for something more.

As someone who gets an idea and isn’t afraid to literally run with it, I began to write about things that I love. I began mentally writing on my daily walks through my neighborhood.  Thoughts I would have during my walks would turn into ideas for a new writing project.  I began to write about the things dearest to my heart: travel, human connection, urban living and love. Yet, the question still remained, why? Why write about these things in a blog format? I even grappled with scrapping the idea of a blog and just keeping a journal. Yet, it seemed the purpose in my writing was not just for me. I have learned that the greatest gift we can offer the world is to share what we love. Delving deeper into the “why”, I began to wonder why this writing would be important. And in that “wonder” lie the final answer.

One more detour as I round the corner to “the answer”, bare with me just a bit longer.

I was in Paris on Friday the 13th, 2015. I was within close proximity to the horrific acts of that night and I was traveling alone. Yet, before that evening, I had spent three lovely days in” the city of love”, and I wrote about it, in real time. What a gift that turned out to be. For the events of that Friday have since changed me and changed me in a way that just wouldn’t make it possible for  me to capture the flavor of those first three days. For that I am grateful. I am grateful for no amount of fear or chaos can steal from me what those days meant, they are forever captured in my own words for me to relive at anytime, untainted.

In the days following, after cutting my trip short, I struggled emotionally. I struggled like so many impacted directly from the events of that night. I wanted to make sense of something that we can only conjure about. Though in the end we will all have to make sense of it for ourselves. For me it was just another part of this journey. As I wrote about the events of that evening I experienced emotional release, a plethora of emotions that I just did not know what to do with. Though, I discovered it was no different than the emotions I carry around about poverty and homelessness, in short human pain and suffering.  We all, ultimately, want to do something about the things in our world that we find unjust. Yet, so many turn to apathy as coping a mechanism. It seems easier to say “fuck it”, avert our eyes and walk away hands up in the air in resignation. It seems easier than to admit our feelings of helplessness and ultimately inadequacy.

In my own personal journey, the final puzzle piece fell into place when I decided to turn to baking to deal with my crippling feelings of hopelessness. And baking is what I did. My children and I baked over 10 dozen cookies and I packaged them into little baggies to share with strangers and made care packages for the people we cared about. The children shared them with friends and their teachers and I shared them with people I hold dearest to  my heart. I walked the city determined to do what I love, though was having a hard time reconnecting with my gift, smiling and making eye contact with everyone I meet. I found that the events of that Friday had left me disillusioned. So what better way to reconnect with my heart once again than to have in hand something tangible I could share, I didn’t have to worry that I didn’t want to smile, I could just offer folks who asked for money something tangible. And that is what I did. “Do you have some change to spare?”, was answered with “I don’t have any money on me but my children and I just bake some cookies would you like some?” Over 100 cookies later I have yet to be refused. Everyone smiled as I handed them their tiny bundle of homemade love. I smiled and a part of my heart began to heal. A healing made possible through a genuine act of love.

So “why” write? I find value in putting into words and sharing with others my own journey in making a difference. Maybe it is just a smile. Maybe it is just a cookie. Yet connecting with others with a smile and a cookie tells them they are important. It is my way of letting others know that when I look at them in the eye,  I see them and when I see them, in that moment, they belong. Human connection and belonging are the answer, at least to the challenges of world as I see it.  My only hope in writing? Simply to inspire others that they too can find a way to make a difference, for even in the smallest of gestures one can find great love. May you all find the answer to the “why” in your life. For it is in knowing why I write that I feel a deeper connection to my purpose in this life, ever changing, writing allows me to continually understand my evolving sense of purpose.

 Always leave people better than you found them. Hug the hurt. Kiss the broken. Befriend the lost. Love the lonely.” — Unknown Author

Here’s to spreading love and kindness, may love always win.

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger~

 

 


Ode To Motherhood

I sat down to write my yearly Mother’s Day card. It’s not as if I should be short of words for the woman who brought me into this world and,  despite the challenges of life, managed to raise me into a decent human. Yet, every year I wrestle with the words, desperate to find a new way to express my greatest gratitude and perhaps a glimpse of understanding that I had not possessed the year prior. As I sat in that moment, that place between thought and pen meeting paper, I lingered. And in that lingering here is where I landed. Happy Mother’s Day Mom! Thank you for all of your inspiration and wisdom over the years, through all your lessons on life, I offer this.

I had always heard that being a mother is a thankless job. I went into the role with the idea that mom is equated with martyrdom. Mothers do what they do, there is no thanks, you just do it. Yet, this is the year that I came to know and understand, that parenting, that being a mother as I experience the role, is greater than any thanks that could ever be expressed. Being a Mother is in all the little and big experiences that go with the role. It is experienced in every bandaged wound, load of laundry, every sandwich left uneaten, every bed made.  It’s in every sporting event, doctor appointment, birthday party, visit to the principals’ office and yes in every raised voice, every poorly chosen word, every regretful interaction, yes even there. Being a Mother, as I experience the role, is teaching about life, and life is beautiful, raw, and sometimes messy. Yet it’s real. And being a Mother is preparing our children to face this reality with grace, strength, tenacity, compassion and love with patches of tough skin. I’ve come to understand that Motherhood isn’t about being perfect, or providing a perfect childhood. It isn’t about never raising your voice or making mistakes. It’s teaching our children how to be a human being, fallible, beautiful, gracious, humble, proud, brave, and human. It’s about learning to fall, stand up, and sometimes fall again. It’s learning how to surround yourself with a strong caring community. It’s learning to make mistakes, taking responsibility, making amends and moving on. It’s about loving yourself and others in light of our humanness. And what better way to teach all of this than within the framework of our lives as a Mother, as a partner, as a neighbor, as a daughter, and as a friend. This is how I have come to embrace my role as Mother.

And as for gratitude. The real thanks is in all those small things that happen in life. It’s in the tearful thank you when you finish bandaging that wound. It’s in that little hand held out to you reassuring them as the doctor pokes and prods at them. It’s in the rolled eyes when you remind them how important healthy food is for their body. It’s in that lit up face when they slide into home plate. And it’s in the laughter and delight when they blow out the birthday candles a top their favorite cake. It’s also in that moment when you hear your eldest gently reminding your youngest about the importance of being patient and kind to a friend at school who isn’t being so kind in return. It’s that one morning you don’t have to remind them to make their bed. It’s there, in all the little things,  we just have to capture it, take it in, and revel in it’s beauty.

It is also in the big things. Yet we have to be more patient for these.  It’s when they begin to come to you to ask you the hard questions. It’s when they tell you that hard truth knowing that they will face the inevitable consequence.  It’s watching all that you have taught them come to life right before your eyes. It is in the deliberate act of raising amazing human beings. They will grow to love themselves. And through this love they will make loving partners to the partner of their choice. Should they choose parenthood they will make loving parents. They will also be compassionate neighbors, kind strangers, all in all honorable humans. That’s where the real thanks lives. So on this Mother’s Day I honor the work of Motherhood, and to all that embody that role. Your work is the most important work there is, for it is the breath and heart beat of humanity.

So this year, when my children try and figure out the perfect Mothers’ day gift, I won’t tell them what I tell them every year. I won’t tell them that I  don’t want or need a gift, that I only need them. This year I am going to tell them that they are the gift. The most beautiful of all gifts!

Happy Mother’s Day

Remember this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger!



Fostering Mercy

Since May 2010, Escuela Viva, a bilingual early childhood program I began in 2004,  has shared a neighborhood with a church/dining hall where they feed the hungry. Living in Portland Oregon, we are no strangers to the burgeoning houseless population. Our school community has watched the houseless population grow right before our eyes. Our closest neighbors live in lean-tos, tents and run down motor homes. Portland is often cold and wet, making life for those living on the streets arduous.

As the situation for the houseless grows more desperate, everyone feels it. In our own school community parents worry about how the needs of the  houseless might clash with the needs of their children. We all worry about the safety of those living on the streets, some with addictions, many with mental health challenges, all just struggling to make it day by day. We tried for the last 6 years to work with the city to establish no camping zones  around early childhood programs like ours. Our pleas fell upon deaf ears. We found ourselves frustrated, tired and without hope. Then we stopped. We took a collective breath and decided to regroup and change our approach. Why not work with the houseless, listen to their needs,  share our needs and begin from there? And that is what we did.

Our first “Coffee, Cookies and Conversation” was amazing. At first there seem to be some trepidation on their end, and who can blame them? Everyone wants them to move out, yet move where? Until we can offer better, more comprehensive mental health and addiction services, until a family can afford housing making minimum wage, and until a family can afford to be poor, the best answer I can muster is mercy. Mercy is the act of showing compassion and/or grace toward someone with whom it is within our power to punish or harm. As we demonstrated mercy with our neighbors, their guards came down. They expressed concern with the level of camping near the school. They offered to help do some clean up if we could offer the supplies and perhaps warm dry socks.

 Today, March 18th, 2017 we held our first Clean Up Day. We had a small crew available, mostly parents from our school community. As we began to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAshare with our neighbors why we were there, many expressed thanks. Several took plastic bags and began filling them with their own trash. I was particularly struck by one neighbor, who shared that he and several others had moved their tents around the corner after our first “Coffee, Cookies and Conversation”. He was clear that he is not a drug user, yet he knows that by moving he is modeling for others to give the school and the kids some space.

A small group of junior high girls and their group leader brought pastries and coffee. They passed out treats to our houseless neighbors and the clean up crew. Watching the girls smile and share joy with each poured cup of coffee, I couldn’t help but feel that we accomplished much more than a cleaner brighter neighborhood. This was merely one of  many steps we will be taking as we work to build a shared sense of community. Yet, today as the rain gave way to sunshine, as we got dirty and cleared away a dumpster full of trash, we moved closer to a common vision of a neighborhood. A neighborhood where we care for one another. A neighborhood where an early childhood program can share space with the houseless.

Watch for the release of DelightfullyUrban merchandise, where 80% of the profits will go to fund sanitary services for the houseless.

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Beyond Tolerance

I roll over, the sounds of the early birds chirping outside my window, ugh! The clock reads 4:22am. Waking at this hour is not unusual for me, unfortunately. Some mornings I can ease back into sleep, yet, this morning, not so much. One of the first images to fill my head is that of Chyna Gibson, a transgendered black woman murdered in Louisiana. Just one of 7 black transgendered women to be murdered between January and the end of February 2017 in the US. The one question that I fell asleep contemplating, and was still with me at 4:22am, why?

One word kept tumbling around in my lucid brain at this ridiculous hour. Tolerance. Sounds nice, right? If only we lived in a more tolerant world? Yet, I can’t seem to embrace this word as others have. It never quite sat well with me. Though I understand the sentiments, I still long for more. The Christian, the Buddhist, the Universalist in me yearns for more. I want home, school,  community and this world that I spin around on to value human life, all life. Perhaps we don’t fully understand one another, I for one don’t understand a great deal, yet I don’t hate or devalue what I don’t understand. I might wonder about it, marvel at it a bit, yet hate?

I know I won’t ever be Jewish (at least I don’t think so), I can’t ever be Black, or Asian, or transgendered, or a multitude of “others”. Yet, isn’t a beautiful idea that we can look at someone and think and feel in our hearts “You are a human being just like me”. On average, in terms of DNA sequence, all humans are 99.5% similar to all other humans. No two humans are genetically identical. Can ’t we start here? With the 99.5% of us that are absolutely the SAME. Yet that .5% is what makes us 100% unique, like no other. Marvelous. Wonderful. Valuable. Extraordinary. Fabulous. It is what sets us apart. It is what fuels this world. We won’t all be mothers or fathers. We won’t all be engineers, teachers, computer technicians, fire fighters, politicians, garbage men, migrant workers, bartenders, authors, activists, mechanics, linguists, students, etc. The world needs all of us to be exactly who we are, it wouldn’t work otherwise. So what blinds us to the beauty of us? Yep, there’s that word again, hate.

I have quoted Shel Silverstein for years. His work has a way of humanizing the silly in us all. Yet there are a few of his pieces, even as a children’s author, that hits home and nails humanity on the head like none other. One poem that I think embraces this notion of a shared “us” better than I ever could is this one:

No Difference

by Shel Silverstein

Small as a peanut,

Big as a giant,

We’re all the same size

When we turn off the light.

Rich as a sultan,

Poor as a mite,

We’re all worth the same

When we turn off the light.

Red, black or orange,

Yellow or white,

We all look the same

When we turn off the light.

So maybe the way

To make everything right

Is for God to just reach out

And turn off the light!

“No Difference” by Shel Silverstein, from Where the Sidewalk Ends. © Harper Collins, 1974. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

We don’t have to live as others do. We don’t have to look the same, sound the same, dress the same, to understand that beneath it all, we are the same. There is great liberation and beauty in acceptance. We can live in a home, go to a school, be a part of a community that honors the uniqueness and the divinity in us all. We can begin to see diversity as our Deities way of creating beauty, a vast array of loveliness just as was intended. The only way, perhaps, for us to get to this place, is for the God in each of us, to reach over and turn out the light. So I begin with me, and I am turning off the light, the light on hate, and will shine a light instead on what binds us all together, love.


Hopeful Thoughts Moving Into An Uncertain 2017

I wrote this little gem during my travels abroad in 2015. I wrote this almost exactly 24 hours before the Paris bombing. It is a reminder just how quickly our realities can change, for the better and sometimes not. This event had a profound impact on my life for quite some time. I won’t ever be the same, though different in wonderfully surprising ways. I still don’t live in fear and usually I am all about embracing life. As we move into 2017, we can all stand a little reminder of  just how impetuous and fickle life can be. Welcome 2017 we are ready for all you have to offer us. 

Walking in Paris at the end of a long day, the lights dancing on the canal water, I smile to myself.  Laughter and the soft sounds of French paraded around in my ears. Groups gather at the water’s edge, families, friends and lovers. A smile permanently etched on my face. Oh how this city has surprised me, it just isn’t the same city I experienced 15 years ago. Or is it? Is it I who is not the same?

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Getting carried away by the sights and sounds of Paris at night I suddenly found myself lost. To avoid getting even more lost than I already was I made a stop into a little brasserie, a Parisian brewery, mostly to steal their wifi. While sipping a glass of white wine, soft candle light flickering to the music, downloading my latest photos, I’m gifted a beautiful reminder of home. A reminder that home is always where you are at, never more than a memory away. I began singing along with Van Morrison’s, “Brown Eyed Girl” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfmkgQRmmeE). If I had a glass or two more of wine I might have even danced alone in the middle of this little brasserie. Though, I settle for smiling to myself. Others smile back, likely wondering what secret I might be holding.

Traveling alone has always taught me so much about myself. I have learned that nothing is more scary than the thoughts I have erroneously held as truths; half-truths and downright lies, about being alone. I’ve learned that OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can sit alone in a restaurant and I am ok. I’ve learned that I can walk in a strange city, get lost and suddenly realize I was never lost. For wherever I go I carry home, the memories of family, friends, and of all that is familiar.  I have learned never to be afraid to explore, for in those explorations one finds parts of ourselves that we never knew existed. In those explorations lie opportunities to make new friends, reveal hidden treasures and discover that home is so much larger than we could have ever imagined.  My world has grown, my connections beyond home stretched, and I have my time in Paris to thank and the good people I now call friends. Merci Paris!

Remember this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger~


Finding My Smile Again: Post Friday the Thirteenth 2015

*On the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Paris one year ago I publish this blog post today to remind us that so much can happen in one year. In one year we can heal from great tragedy, we can grow, we can move on and learn that things can change and manifest in ways we would never imagine. So as we face the reality of the 2017 election, we can take heed, we can take a collective deep breath, and know that indeed much can happen in a year. 

I am a walker, among many other things. Walking brings my heart and soul peace and joy. As I walk I rarely am without my smile, for it is the one thing I have that I can share with everyone. It is the one way I reflect back to the world the love and peace I hope for all who walk our planet. So no matter what city or country I may be walking, I offer the same, for there is no language barrier in exchanging a smile.

On my walks I occasionally encounter someone who refuses to smile. Preferring to look down at their feet, avoiding eye contact.  I would think “Avoidance is no way to experience the world.” I would think “Avoidance not only keeps us from experiencing pain, it keeps us from experiencing much of anything.” We all know people who seem to live their lives ruled by fear and avoidance. Well for the first time, I felt I had the experience to help me understand “closed off” and “avoidance”. In the wake of Friday the 13th, 2015 upon returning home from Paris where the whole city was experiencing a kind of pain and violence one can not put to words, I found myself wholly debilitated by sadness and grief. The kind of sadness and grief that left me paralyzed, wishing only to escape and avoid. Feeling a sense of urgency and panic to avoid feeling, escape is what I did.   With my bedroom as my shield from the world and all it’s realities, I wrapped myself in a cocoon of self-pity and there I remained, feeling nothing but a gnawing pit in my stomach.

You wonder what brought me back to reality? Back to my smile? Oh there was no one thing, it was a multitude of experiences, people and love that gave me the courage to return. The breath of my son sleeping next to me, his sweet face reflecting innocence. The memory of the countless people, who like me, just wanted to leave Paris and be home. We pooled our courage and supported one another with our stories of survival. We touched our Parisian friends on the arms and lent them our support as they start on their journey to healing. The knowledge that a familiar face would be waiting for me at the airport. The family and friends who sent their love and support when I needed it most. The words of one of my best friends reminding me time and time again that I would be okay and remained the voice of reason and calm when there was no reason and calm in sight. The knowledge that I am a mom, with two children who desperately need me to be okay. And as I sit here in a place of comfort and familiarity, far from the tragedy of Friday the 13th in Paris, it is here that the whole picture becomes clear. The final puzzle pieces falling into place allowing me to make some sense of my experiences and allow me to begin to understand how one gets to the point of avoidance. It is here, home, where I find myself once again. Though I may not ever be same, though I still experience moments of overwhelming sadness, the events of Friday the 13th forever etched in my heart, I find myself slowly finding my smile once again.

It is here that I remind us that this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.

 

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger~


Who Are We? My Personal Journey with Body Image

*I wrote this blog some time ago, believing there is always a time and place for what’s in our heart. It dawned on me that the time is now. This election has taken a toll on me. I have watched and listened as people I genuinely care about are casting their vote for Trump. Why do I care so much? I think this blog post, a deeply personal account of my life and my struggle to love my physical form, tells a part of that story and why I believe a vote for Trump is a slap in the face of all women. Disagree if you must, yet I am entitled to this, at the very least. 

Just google the words “Body Image” and you won’t find a shortage of interesting articles ranging from eating disorders to images of women in various shapes and sizes. As a woman I find it interesting that so much time has been spent trying to understand this very dynamic topic. For myself, I think I have figured out that the mental image I hold of myself is often, though reluctantly, tied to my physical self. This is a very personal journey every person wanders through, sometimes focused and other times, as I do, quite by accident. I share a part of this journey with you now….

I stood in front of my friends camera, somewhat shy and unsure of what to do with myself. I had a cascade of thoughts running through my mind, “What does my hair look like”, “Am I shiny? Do I need powder?”, “Is this shirt flattering?”…..then I pause. I take in the moment and breath in my surroundings. I am acutely aware of the slippery self deprecating path I am wandering down. I must get off. On this beautiful sunny morning with intention I change my focus. I change my train of thoughts and turn to the beauty surrounding me and this lovely woman holding her camera. I find it interesting that as a woman who loves her body and all that it affords me that I still struggle with how others will and do see my body? My body, the mere shell that houses the real “me”. How did I get here? How does anyone get “here”?

It has taken me a very long time to understand how I got “here” though how I view “myself and my body” has evolved over time. And as I learn, have more experiences in this world, I image it will continually evolve until the moment I am no longer in this form.

The image I hold of my body ebbs and flows much like the currents of the ocean. I equate this ebb and flow with my experience on a surf board. As you stand up on that board, you feel muscles you rarely connect with, you feel each moment of air and water in a way one can not experience on land, and you forget all except that moment, your immediate surroundings and how amazing it is that this form can get up and ride that wave. You don’t even think about how others may be seeing you. You just are, perfectly present in the moment. True you feel exhilaration, then you may feel fear as you struggle to find balance, and in the end you may end up face first in the ocean. Not a failure, yet just a part of the experience. Learning to surf, learning to love your self physical and otherwise, is just part of this journey we call life.

As a woman who lived through 8 years of sexual abuse and a relationship filled with emotional abuse, I have carried with me the messages of those two very painful relationships. Messages that my body is not mine. That I am only as worthy as the people in my life say I am. I have spent years coming to terms with the dynamics of these relationships. I have come to understand the messages both boys and girls receive about their bodies. For the most part I know who I am, I am not my body, my body is a vessel, a vessel that carries me from one place to the next, that can jump, skip, dance in the kitchen and carry and birth two amazing human beings. I remind myself daily that my body is vital, it is strong and will be with me until I draw my last breath. And I will treat it as such. I will nourish it with healthy food, strengthen it and treat it as the amazing gift that it is. I will continually come back to all I have learned about who I really am: a soul, a spirit, both housed in a vessel we call the body. The vessel very much an extension of me, though not the defining part of me. How I view and treat others. How I choose to live my life. How I will live my life and give back to others. These are the real aspects of me that I will connect with, return to and at the same time I will treat my vessel with kindness and respect and will expect nothing less from those in my life.

And in the end, what we all want is for others, anyone, to see us as we truly are. And in my case, how I feel inside: funny, strong, compassionate, smart, silly, kind, tender, serious, creative, energetic, and on most days fearless. I feel all of these things, though it may not always show. Especially in those moments when I let “old” and “new” messages about “me” creep in. Yet, I am so grateful that my voice is strong and almost always wins in the end.

So in the end it is all about knowing who you are and being true to it. Find clothes that represent who you are. For me it is about wearing stylish shoes that allow me to walk for hours, pants that allow me free mobility, and sometimes, reconnecting to that little girl who likes to dress up and where those uncomfortable but fun high heels. Know who you are and let it shine through. And when we momentarily forget who we truly are, because we all do, we can close our eyes, breath and just “feel”, for in that “feeling” we will find our true selves. Remember life is a marathon not a sprint, take it easy on yourself, stay hydrated and….

 

Your DelightfullyUrban Blogger~


Today I Will Go Easy on My Neighbor

Maybe it is because I had 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep, or maybe it’s because Mark (my favorite barista) made me the yummiest 16 oz almond milk latte ever, or perhaps it was sharing the road with a big man on a small bike singing at the top of his lungs; whatever the reason I made a decision this morning to take it easy on all those I come in contact with today.

I won’t scowl at the man who doesn’t stop at the cross walk. I won’t holler “Slow down this is a school zone!” at the young lady speeding well over the posted 20 mph. And I won’t think unkind thoughts about neighbors who refuse to pick up their dog poop in front of our house. No, I won’t do any of these things today. I can’t guarantee how I will hand these inconveniences tomorrow, but today I will be grateful when children get safely home from school, when someone eventually stops for us to cross the street and will, with a smile on my face, pick up the poop in front of our house because I have an extra poop bag. I will be grateful for the squirrel chasing his friend across the power line, I will smile at the neighbors who do pick up their dogs waste and I will happily stroll down the street just because I can. I have way too many blessings in my life to let the everyday struggles generate frustration in me. For when I focus on what is wrong, I fail to notice the beauty in everything else. And today I make the choice to let beauty win.

Remember this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.

Here’s to letting beauty win!

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger


Love, What a Beautiful Thing

Love….”to stand emotionally open before the world and give of our hearts without fear of hurt or reciprocity-this is the ultimate act of human courage.” B. Burchard

In honor of unveiling a “fresh new” look for my blog, I decided a blog post I had written several months ago seemed fitting for this exciting time. Love. What better way to honor this new chapter….enjoy!

I sat at a mini sized lunch table. My adult sized body squeezed into a space meant for 36-42 inch bodies. Handing out snack to my mini sized companions for the day I look into the eyes of each as they say “Mas por favor!”, translation “More please!” I pause momentarily as one round cheeked, full lipped friend says “I wub you!” It was in the softest of voices, taking my brain several milliseconds to accurately process “I love you.” As the owner of the preschool, retired from the day to day operations, it is a rare morning that I get to spend with my cherub friends. Although I had only spent one morning with this particular friend, I was still not surprised by his declaration of love. Children have yet to inherit the adult fear that their love won’t be reciprocated.  They do not have the same “love hangups” that we adults do. This is one of the many reasons I LOVE children.

Love has a been a topic long on my mind.  I feel immensely blessed to be surrounded by many for whom I share love, through both actions and mutual personal attachment. For a long time, as a single mom married and divorced twice, I felt perhaps my life was just too full of love to expect romantic love as well. Perhaps one isn’t supposed to have so much love and expect more. Maybe, just maybe, romantic love would not be in my future. I would remain grateful for the declarations of love from my toddler friends and from my community of family and friends. Then I stopped and remembered how I have created everything in my life.  I believe things so strongly I make them happen, a process some refer to as “manifestation”.  Perhaps the same was true here. Perhaps my believing that my life was already so full I quit looking, I quit being open to romantic love. Well wait! Of course I can have it all. It isn’t selfish for me to want a full and complete life, romantic and otherwise. I began to think about this topic differently. And once I did my life changed, and not in ways you probably would immediately guess.

Recently I have taken to walking instead of driving, especially on warmer dry days. On these walks, in my fair city of Portland Oregon, I encounter many types of people. Folks walking to work and from work, exercise enthusiasts, tourists taking in the sights, as well as the homeless and people suffering from mental illness. Love is what motivates eye contact and a smile with EVERY person I encounter. I have found this one action, this one kind of love, changes how you experience the world. More importantly it changes how I view people and I would venture to say how people view their own world. It is the foundation, I have found, for all love.

My journey with love has taken some fun and interesting turns. I found that as soon as I opened up to more love in my life, the more coincidences and examples of synchronicity I experience. On one particular walk up through Washington Park, a man in his late 70’s approached me with a question. Although I had my head phones on I expressed openness with eye contact and a smile. I pardoned myself and removed my head phones. He began to ask me the name of the trail we were mutually hiking. He began to talk about his experience as a novice airbnb host. I smiled and stated I just finished my third year as a host and absolutely loved it. We exchanged a few stories and I shared a few tips, which he welcomed. I walked away feeling more connected to my city, my job and the things I love most, in this case hosting. My step had a renewed bounce and I shared it with all those I encountered that day.

Romantic love is one of my favorite types of love. I like the feeling of falling in love, the excitement and passion associated with romantic love, and of course sexual desire (lust). Though one has to be careful to not confuse the two.  I found myself single in 2009 and have remained single since then. For the first four years I avoided dating at all costs. It has only been in the last couple years that I truly embraced the idea that I could and would experience romantic, reciprocated love. Almost 6 years to the day, I found myself walking (noticing a trend here?) across town to the Bernie Sanders rally. What is interesting is I almost didn’t go. Because I love life so much I find myself battling insomnia on a fairly regular basis because my thoughts have a hard time being contained. I get excited about so many things I just can’t sleep. As it happens my daughter and I were scheduled to volunteer for the rally. As volunteers we would have been handing out information, seating guests or taking tickets. All this would have meant we would NOT have been in general seating. But as it happens, I compromised with myself and decided to forgo volunteering yet still attend the rally, which would allow me to rest up beforehand. When we arrived, there was a frenzy all around us. We were corralled and led in various different directions. Finally, as my daughter began to panic that we would not get a seat, I told her “We will find the right seat at the right time and not a minute before”. We walked calmly upstairs and kept walking until we came upon an entrance that no one else seemed to be entering. As we walked in we noticed a man sitting on the end of an aisle with about 6 empty seats. I gently tapped him on the shoulder and asked if the seats next to him were taken. He smiled the most radiant smile, boy do I love a great smile, and he welcomed us into his aisle. And as we moved past him my inner voice said, “Sit in the seats closest to this man.” So we did.

My daughter in-between us, we enjoyed casual conversation and pleasantries. Did I mention he had a great smile? The rally wasn’t scheduled to start for some time, so I decided to get my daughter and I some beverages. I asked our neighbor, later learning his name is Paul, if he would watch our seats and my bag. With a warm smile he agreed. My inner voice spoke to me again once I was in line for our drinks. The voice said: “Offer the nice man a drink.” Reluctantly my daughter did as I asked and told Paul that her mom would like to buy him a drink for being so kind…he accepted. Two hours later the rally ended and Paul, my daughter and I walked across the bridge, he to his car and us in the direction of home. In the end we exchanged email addresses so I could send him a video clip of the rally. Later in the week Paul asked me out for a glass of wine.

Paul and I dated for several months, though as we got to know each other we decided that building a friendship was the best course for us. I don’t know what will happen with our friendship in the future, though I am so gratefully that I met this amazing man. In friendship I have learned so much about relationships, who I am in the world of dating, who I want to be, and am reminded that friendship is the foundation of all healthy relationships. And as I continue dating I remember how I met Paul and all the coincidences that lead us together. I keep coming back to the notion that romantic love, friendship, and all levels of love and attachment are possible for everyone who remains open to it. I remind myself to be completely open to loving Paul in our friendship and embrace whatever that means for us, without fear or expectation of reciprocity, as my toddler friends would do. I remember that life has much in store for us, we just have to remember to remain open and receptive to all those around us. One never knows when a political rally, a walk in the park, or eye contact with a stranger will reveal beautiful human connection, connection filled with great love on whatever level you are ready for.

Wishing you all great love!

Remember this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger


Delicious Moment #5

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We all have so many blessings, some are easier to forget than others. As someone who walks a lot, knowing I have a warm dry place to go is at the top of my list of blessings.



Love: The Things I Learned In My Grandma’s Kitchen

Wrinkle and muck free, I find myself anxious (eager not worried) to wipe my dough filled hands for the first time on my pretty new apron. A rights of passage, if you will. With my new uniform on I feel legitimate in my kitchen, a true and “real” cook and baker. Don’t misunderstand me or my skill, for I am not a chef nor a professional baker. Nor are my creations particularly creative or something that would inspire a culinary review. Yet, my kitchen is the one place I turn to (besides a dance floor) when I am feeling introspective or sad.

IMG_5908IMG_5689Sometimes I wonder how things come to be. How did it come to be that the kitchen would prove such a comfort and place of solace? When I close my eyes and image my favorite moments in a kitchen there is one image that comes to mind over and over again. A small girl, maybe 4 years of age, perched upon a metal stool, feet swinging in pure joy in the dead space between her feet and the floor, a smile adorning her face, eyes wide as she watches her grandma, mesmerized by the magic performed by her hands. In awe she watches as her grandma takes flour, water and shortening to create piles and piles of homemade tortillas. Her grandmas face wearing a slight smile, her hands flying in effortless motion turning over the dough, over and over, the sound of the dough pounding the cutting board with each turn, using her weight to push out and spread the dough evenly into perfect round shapes, her skill unmatched by anything this little girl has ever witnessed.

I haven’t the time to describe to you all the amazing meals this little girl had the honor of watching come together in that kitchen. For everyday this dedicated and loving woman created by hand breakfast, lunch and dinner for all those she loved. With 12 children and a growing number of grandchildren, she spent much of her day in the kitchen doing what she loved, feeding all those she loved. Every single grandchild can tell you about that moment, the sweet moment when those two hands would reach over and take one of those freshly made tortillas, still hot, steam rising from its surface as she spread butter round and round as it melted with ease, sprinkling cinnamon and sugar and passing it to you. IMG_5690There are no words for the pure joy that moment would elicit, the way the tortilla sat in your hand, warm and soft, the way it seemed to melt in your mouth,  your eyes would close as you sought to savor the moment. Everyone of us can tell you about that moment, that moment when you felt the love from that warm tortilla, the tortilla she made with intention of sharing all that she had. As a woman who grew up in extreme poverty, making simple foods with great love is what she had to offer. It is one of the greatest gifts she passed on to me and all those she loved. And oh how she loved us!

As a little IMG_5724girl, I sat witness day after day, every morning I could get myself up early enough any way, to learn what she knew about food and love. I learned so much in that kitchen, lessons that I carry with me every day and every time I step into my kitchen and put on my apron. I will do my best to honor all she taught me:

  1. An open door is an open heart: welcoming all into your home with a smile on your face is the ultimate act of love, simple yet profound.
  2. Sometimes the only thing you have to offer is a warm cooked meal, yet with love in your heart, even this simple gesture has the ability to warm the coldest of hearts.
  3. The sounds and smells from the kitchen have the ability to elicit healing. Warm homemade chicken noodle soup really has no healing properties, it is the love and concern that went into the creation that has the real healing power.
  4. Make enough to share. Grandma always cooked as if she was feeding an army, though the number of people who would stop by and be fed sometimes equaled the size of a small army. It is the warmest of feelings to be able to feed those who stop by.
  5. You can make a delicious meal with the simplest of ingredients. I learned to use my intuition when creating a meal, I learned to use what I have on hand, and that I don’t need a recipe. I learned to cook from the heart.

The kitchen is the one place I know I can turn to to reconnect to all that she taught me. I know she looks down on me now, with that smile, that smile that says she approves.

In honor of Valentines Day I challenge us all to think of love beyond romantic love, encouraging us all to spread a little extra love to those in need, even if it is just a smile. It is in sharing love with others that we find the secret to happiness, as I learned from my grandmother. For real love, in it’s purest form, is giving what you have. Sometimes the best kind of love is in the smallest and simplest of gestures.

Here’s to love dear friends.

Remember this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.

Your DelightfullyUrban Blogger~


Confronting What Terrifies Us: Fear Is Only As Real As You Make It

Once I had children a real set of phobias kicked in, aeroacrophobia (heights), claustrophobia (small spaces) and thalassophobia (fear of large bodies of water). Maybe it’s the awesome responsibility of being a parent, perhaps the new understanding of just how fragile life is, I don’t quite know. Yet, the fears became so debilitating that I knew I needed to do something before my fears consumed my life. In my usual fashion I decided the only way to confront my fears would be head on. And that is exactly what I did.

On a recent trip to Honolulu Hawaii, I arranged a two hour surf lesson with the wonderful staff at The Ty Gurney Surf School. Despite a restless night sleep I woke up early and found myself making the short walk to the surf school, Danielle’s directions were impeccable. As  I walked in the front door, the quaint door chimed alerting my arrival. I was greeted by three friendly faces all quite reassuring for this very nervous mama. We made our way down to the beach where Kenui (K-New-E), my surf instructor for the morning, did all the work initially. He carried the boards and eventually paddled us out a quarter mile out where we would catch many a GNARLY wave.

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Easy….easy….steady….

 

You got this Angie!
You got this Angie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kenui and I chillin', waiting eagerly for that next wave.
Kenui and I chillin’, waiting eagerly for that next wave.

The moment I caught that first wave my fear dissipated and I couldn’t remember ever being afraid to begin with. What this experience reminded me about fear is that fear is something we create in our brains, usually from some real experience in our life, an experience that our brains build upon. We allow that fear to grow and multiply until it is much larger than the original experience. So what to do? Confront it, look it straight in the eye and give it a big ol’ wink. Wink at it, smile your grandest smile and tell it that it can not reside in you any longer. That is what I did on that wonderful morning. I looked my fear square on and winked at it….and it vanished!

Here is to all of us taking small steps to confront the fears that keep us from those experiences we might never have otherwise. I will never forget the moment I stood up on that board, the force of the wave propelling me forward in one glorious exhilarating motion. One experience that I plan on living and reliving as often as possible. When you find yourself on Waikiki Beach, Honolulu Hawaii, take a surf lesson at an amazing surf school with some of the best in the business: http://www.tygurneysurfschool.com

Here is to all of us living the most fulling lives possible.

Remember this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.

Your DelightfullyUrban Blogger~

 


New Year Visions: Putting Ourselves First

I put a great deal of thought into my debut DelightfullyUrban blog post. It seemed only fitting with a New Years Day launch date to share a little about how I move into each new year. So many have the tradition of New Years Resolutions. I too have a similar tradition, though much less specific and more about how I want to see my new year unfold. Moving into 2016 I spend time thinking about, first, what I need to let go of. How can we learn and grow if we don’t first let go of what causes us pain or keeps us from moving forward? So moving into each new year I choose the hardest thing in my life to let go of. For the last few years I have chosen very difficult things, and I am so glad I did. In letting go I’ve learned to how to move foward fully and live the life I can hope for myself in the new year.

Secondly, I spend many a reflective moment thinking about what it is that I currently love about my life. Highlighting what we love helps us to be conscientious about carrying forward those aspects into the new year. For me that includes:

  • Financial freedom that allows me to be home with my children
  • Traveling: both independently and with my children
  • Writing about the things I love
  • Volunteering for organizations and causes that mean something to me
  • Cooking/baking and sharing it with as many people as possible
  • Moving my body as much as possible, mostly through small dance parties in my kitchen and walking 5-10 miles a day

These are all the highlights of what I focused on in my life in 2015 and that I hope to carry forward into 2016. Yet, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t stretch myself to do a bit more in the upcoming year. In 2016 I imagine myself:

  • Focusing more time on my writing endeavors
  • Putting more time into projects aimed at easing the challenges facing the homeless
  • Finding more opportunities to dance: maybe finding a dance class?
  • And remembering that I have more than I need: I will build a bigger dinner table in 2016,  mine isn’t big enough! My hope is to fill our table more often in 2016. Will you join us?

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This last one is one I have thought about a lot over the last 10 years. My community has grown immensely in the last 10 years and many amazing people have come into our lives. We hope you will join us for more dinner, dancing, and baking parties. Our home and our hearts are more than big enough to invite all of you to share in 2016 with us!

In 2016, I will dance, travel and host more parties. All of us have more to offer when we put ourselves first from time to time and when we cultivate things that bring us joy and fulfillment. For me that is dance, travel and hosting. I am ready to make time for just me, filling up my own cup, for when my cup is full I have more to give.

Here is to a new year, one where we all put ourselves first from time to time and where we find time to bring into our lives those practices that bring us a sense of delight and fulfillment. What brings you joy? What will you let go of in 2016?

As I often like to say “Remember life is a marathon not a sprint. Take it slow and steady, stay hydrated and keep your eye on the finish line.”

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger~