Category: Inspiration

Book Club: The Power of NOW

Books Inspiration Spiritual Exploration Yoga/Mindfulness

Book Club: The Power of NOW

Becoming Finders, my book club, met last night. There were laughs and wine and cheese and chocolate…all the staples you’d probably imagine. But there was also insight and listening and sharing and connection – which can feel like a real treat when you find it.

We chose The Power of NOW – A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle. A dense read with some very simple advice on how to stay in the “Now” as well as some lengthy mind-bending takes on the mind and the ego.

Tolle is described as a “contemporary spiritual teacher who is not aligned with any particular religion or tradition,” and I like that description because it feels welcoming to me.

I’m not even going to try to summarize the book for you, because honestly, I can’t. It’s engaging, challenged me in a good way and I definitely recommend it if you’re curious to learn more about how time is an illusion, how pms can deepen your spiritual practice or how spending too much time thinking about the past ages you faster than you may like. He pulls on teachings from various traditions. There’s a lot to take in.

I liked how the whole book was basically about mindfulness but I don’t think he used the word mindfulness once.* It seemed creative that he was able to describe mindfulness in 229 pages without using the actual word, however, the book was first written in 1999 and I don’t know that “mindfulness” was a trendy buzzword back then. *Please correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t recall the use of the word.

One of our group’s discussion questions asked if there was a single point or an “ah-ha!” moment for you in the book. For me, that came in chapter 9 which is titled, “Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There is Peace.” He talks about cycles of life and the section was about success, failure, doing and sickness. Page 183 explains,

“Growth is usually considered positive, but nothing can grow forever. If growth, of whatever kind, were to go on and on, it would eventually become monstrous and destructive. Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other.”

Wowza. That slapped me in the face. I shared it with the group because we are a group of 6 women, and it often comes up how much we do and how busy we all are. Not in a competitive way, but it’s just our collective nature it seems. So I thought they could relate. I find myself growing a family, growing a soap business, growing and deepening all of the important relationships in my life through continuous work and dedication and lastly, growing fresh herbs in little pots on my porch. All of these things bring me joy, but they all simply cannot continue to grow at all times. I find myself feeling somewhat lost in the down cycle or the wake of a period of extreme growth.

“Your physical energy is also subject to cycles. It cannot always be at a peak…Many illnesses are created through fighting against the cycles of low energy, which are vital for regeneration.”  page 184

I actually love to do nothing, but I often feel like I’m forgetting something important that I should be doing. That makes me think: even though I love to relax, I’m not super comfortable with the idea of it quite yet. I’m so conditioned to do. A great opportunity that I get many times a day is through play with my kids. I actually enjoy playing babies or making up silly games and dances. When I can be in the flow of it, I’m allowing myself to relax. When I feel distracted, I realize that I’m trying to “do” my way out of something and try to refocus.

This book helped me be a watcher of my thoughts and observer of my self. I’m curious to see how the ideas are expanded on in A New Earth. I’ve already checked it out of the library…

Next week I’ll be taking a brief pause from writing as I soak up some sun.

Happy June!

A Game Changer

Family Identity Inspiration Motherhood Simplicity

A Game Changer

Every once in a while, you meet someone or read something that touches you so deeply that it literally changes your life.

In the summer of 2012, when I was only a mother for about 6 months, I was walking through Suburban Station in Philadelphia as I had every day for years. Breastpump and work bag in hand, I hurried to my platform but out of the corner of my eye a magazine cover pulled me immediately towards it. The cover is the one you see above. You may have seen it, read it or read about it. It started a large conversation.

Written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a top woman in government at that time, this op-ed article shook me to the core – in a good way. Her main message was that the infrastructure of “work” in America is incompatible at times with a woman’s need/desire/want to be available to her family while still maintaining a serious and escalating career.

Anne-Marie found that by the time her sons were in their teen years, she needed to be with them more and stepped down from a major career role to switch gears back to academia to be more available and closer to home. She lived in Princeton, but only on the weekends. At that time, Slaughter was commuting to Washington, D.C. Monday through Friday and was with her family on the weekends only.

Okay, so that is completely unlike most of our lives, I know. Her message wasn’t even to leave the workforce altogether and be with you children, but somehow that planted the seed for me that it was OK for me to do so. And that has become one of the most OK moves I’ve ever made.

Shocked by the desire to be a stay at home parent, I literally didn’t recognize the emotion at first. The incessant pull to move away from a career that I had been working towards and in the direction of my life at home felt alien to me. A life of singing and dancing, pajamas and walks in the park. Literally. Let’s remember this was a day when I had one child and I was so elated to be home that every single day felt like vacation. Like all honeymoons, that wore off, and I write about that love its evolution here and here. Nonetheless, I still love my life at home parenting with all the new challenges it presents to me each season.

So when I saw this smart, career driven woman identify a flaw in the system and see that it is literally at odds (yet possible) to have a career and a growing family, I felt connected to her. Even though our lives could not be more different, even though she was not telling me to go and be with my family and throw my career to the wind. I saw a deeper message in her story which was one I’ve chosen to live by – you have to follow your heart and do what feels right for your family and your inner compass.

I’d like to clarify that I see having a career and a growing family as an amazing choice for many women, just that it was not for me when my children were babies. I could not handle the mental challenge, the constant switching of roles between work and home. I felt constantly interrupted and that broke me down. I literally fell apart inside. I was physically ill all the time. I also still feel like a piece of me is a failure because of this. Why couldn’t I just make it work like so many others? Why couldn’t I hold it together?

I admire the women that can handle the juggle and I know that is a weakness of mine. But I’ve chosen to turn it into a strength by making my life at home as rich and fulfilling as I choose. And now that my kids are growing and they are both older than 3, I’m starting to feel the pull to be away a bit more. So I’m turning towards developing a work life that makes me feel alive and lets me create. Creative small business is where I’ve found a new home in the work world and although it’s light years different than a political career in Washington, D.C., the work makes me come alive.

Were it not for Slaughter and this piece, I’m not sure I’d have come to the realization that it was time for me to leave the paid workforce for some years, find my center at home, refuel and move on in the new direction I find myself.

What Sustains Me

Inspiration Simplicity

What Sustains Me

A few months ago, I planned a Financial Summit for me and my husband, Sean. He thought the idea was ridiculous but went along with it. (I have been known to call various meetings, give them big names and declare it mandatory to wear suits. All of which he despises.)

We met at my favorite cafe late on a Sunday. We had Sean’s parents babysit. I guess it was a DATE! I was excited, and prepared. I’d given some assignments to Sean and one of them was to list the three things he cannot live without.

After we covered how we were were going to dig ourselves out of student debt and got sobered up by how little equity we have in our house, we got to the good stuff…how are we going to spend the money we do have to work with?!?! Being cloaked in the millennial uniform of school debt isn’t enjoyable but we find it so important to continue doing the things that nourish our lives in wholesome ways alongside paying increasing amounts on our school debt each month. So I showed him my list of the three things I can’t live without and he laughed at me.

My list was:
1. Yoga
2. Vegetables
3. Books

I’m never without a grateful heart for the privileges we have, which are many, and the choices we are afforded in our lives as Marjorie & Sean. So that had me thinking about what sustains me each and every day – when things are wild, chill, chaotic, mundane, crazy, lovely or sleepy these are and always will be my go to pick me ups, things that I fall back on no matter what.

LOVE
Chats with my mom & sister
Trader Joe’s coffee (French Roast)
eggs, eggs, eggs
Trader Joe’s coffee (French Roast)
Yoga
Books
Journaling/writing/creating anything
Dinner (many roasted veggies)
Water
Kombucha
Books
Chocoalate
Togetherness with food and friends and love
My tiny plants on my porch
Music – John Mayer, Zac Brown Band, Kenny Chesney, Nina Lee

Feel free to borrow my pick-me-ups or add your own.

 

Image: Arno Smit

Treasure Hunting

Adventures & Travel Community Family Inspiration Simplicity

Treasure Hunting

I wrote this a few months ago and forgot about it. My memory lost all these details already, so happy I saved them here. Enjoy and let me know what treasures you find if you go hunting!

 

“Now I know why you said this would be a treasure hunt,” said my five year old son, Brady, as we made our way through the Bryn Athyn Thrift Store on a Thursday afternoon.

We went for pajamas and left with treasures (and one pair of pajama pants for the little man). A win all around. For some reason, Meadow insisted on taking her shoes off multiple times while we were shopping in the big old barn. I’ll never know why. There are feasts for the eyes everywhere you turn. The decor was so fun to look at with old tools hanging on the walls and historic photos of the area and barn nearly everywhere. The kid/toys area was the most fun.

The Barn Thrift Shop
The Barn Thrift Shop

Anyone who knows me, most likely knows that Brady is quite arguably the most dedicated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan. Our neighbor across the street kindly gave Brady some old TMNT action figures that were her son’s when she was cleaning out the basement. These are the best kind of toys! They hold stories and memories and he still plays with them more than a year later.

Whoa!

Recently he expressed that he wanted to complete his “old school classic” turtle collection. I talked about how they don’t make those guys anymore but perhaps we could go on a treasure hunt to different thrift stores and see what we might find. He was intrigued. But I could tell he didn’t really know what I was alluding to.

So today at the thrift shop we found the toy area and there was a full bin of action figures (!). Although we did not find the “old school classic” Leonardo that was first on his list, we did find some more recent happy meal TMNT toys and his face LIT UP! For $.50 each, he got Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael happy meal toys without the meal! It was so exciting!

TMNT Treasure: FOUND

Meadow found two new babies for $1 each and I got a new shirt! Walking through all the dishes and books and replacement coffee pots was so much fun. The craziest thing is that I never even saw or heard of the happy meal toys Brady scored today but when we got home he told me, “You know mommy it’s a funny thing. I thought of those happy meal turtles this morning and was hoping I would get them.”

The Barn Thrift Shop
Outside the thrift shop, how pretty
A Recovering Perfectionist

Inspiration

A Recovering Perfectionist

Most people I know confess that they are “Type A.” Are we all just trying to control something? Are we all Type A to an extent?

I used to think I’ve let go of controlling everything, a recovering Type A, if you will. Type B, I suppose? But now I just filter this perfectionism to organic eating and parenting, so who am I kidding?

Life has been difficult for me recently, internally, and I can’t understand why. I’ve broken down in tears more than once in the middle of the day, a puddle on the kitchen floor. I rarely hide my emotions from my kids (intentionally because I want them to see we all have ups and downs) but I’m pretty certain they are so confused by me lately. I keep trying to write how I feel but I don’t have words. I can’t explain why I’m so emotional lately or how these feelings surface like a summer storm and drift away.

I read that 4 planets are in retrograde and shifting the earth’s energy. It made me feel better about my storms. I’ve been creating so much that there hasn’t been much time for consumption. I’ve been making space for more reading and listening of things and people that inspire me. The effects are medicinal for me.

We all have those “things” that are our strengths, our anchors, what carries us and what carries others at times. And we all have those traits or “things” that continuously, painstakingly, FEROCIOUSLY at times visit us again and again presenting yet another opportunity to work on ourselves.

“The best predictor of a child’s well-being is a parent’s self-understanding,” is a quote I respect from Dr. Dan Siegel and the motto of Zen Parenting Radio. They used to say it every podcast episode. Sometimes it sounded so mundane because I’ve heard it so many times, but most times it really feels amazing, so simple yet complex.

So when I know and feel that my awareness is basically unawareness or foggy or I’m reacting more frequently than thoughtfully living with intention, all the red flags go up. It’s when my journal pages get scribbled on intensely and feelings literally move out of me through a pen and once I’ve said or written them – sometimes to no one other than my secret journal – life feels manageable again.

The hardest thing in all of this is it makes no sense, it can’t be understood with the mind, there’s no physical result to finally feel “done” with my latest emotional roller coaster…I just need to let it go and move on. And that’s where the Type A comes back into play. For me at least, I see it creep up.

So I try again to look at what is mine, how I’m living, what I’m choosing to do each and every hour of my days with a beginner’s mind and a curious heart. It gets me through to the next season of ease and joy and blinding love – because they always come back around. I know that for sure.

Grad School Dropout

Community Creating Creative Small Business Identity Inspiration Spiritual Exploration

Grad School Dropout

When I worked in Membership Services for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, I was surprised by the part of that role that I found to be the most interesting, which was interacting with the small business owners. I think about it and didn’t realize that I was so attracted to their work and their stories because they were small business owners.

The thing about meeting an entrepreneur that is absolutely my favorite is learning the story behind what they are doing. A real and interesting story that someone can share with me. Those conversations are so juicy. When I worked in the Membership Services role, I met with owners and creators of all sorts – restaurants, tour companies, event planners and shop owners. It was the couple that started their unique walking tour, City Food Tours, that made me smile with their passion and excitement when they talked about what they were up to. Or the college kids that started a free Philadelphia walking tour because they just loved it. I remember meeting owners in their welcoming tiny restaurants sitting and asking each of them the story of how it all began. That’s all I was ever interested in…how’d you birth this idea and give it life? What was your motivation? How is it going?

Those are my favorite memories of a career path that is now far in my rear view. I even remember writing my “Tourism” college papers on peoples’ motivation to travel. I always want to know the story.

So as I continue to grow a small business while nurturing a growing family, I think back to all those stories that I’ve collected and learn so much from them. Johnathan Fields likened being an entrepreneur to a spiritual journey and it resonated with me because all that is unnecessary must fall away to create space for what needs to grow in both business and life. They both feel like solo trips, where we find and connect with like-minded people, but ultimately I feel that we are all alone, together.

I used to think I needed a business degree to have a business. I’m a grad school dropout who felt a heck of a lot better about it after listening to this episode of freakonomics radio. There were pieces of grad school that I LOVED and the 1/2 of an MBA (which for the record = no MBA, but still) that I have has served me well because I met one particular professor who blasted a whole area of the universe wide open for me that I didn’t even know existed.

So my story of my little startup is still forming, and evolving and changing every day. Like everyone’s. But basically, I was really, really lost and then I stood still, and then I found this activity that makes me really happy and I turned it into a “thing” with the encouragement and support of some amazing people I get to surround myself with pretty often. Things have been rocky lately and last night I called my mom crying. It’s frustrating when you invest your time and energy in things that are supposed to make you stress less…and you still get stress. And then someone shows you love and you remember, yet again, where the path is. It’s a funny thing how everything comes to be.

 

Just for fun, here is some excellent advice, whether or not you consider yourself a “Young writer.” Warning, these words are amazing.

 

Old City Philadelphia With Small Children

Adventures & Travel Family Inspiration

Old City Philadelphia With Small Children

I mapped out this itinerary for our family when we had an unusually warm Saturday in February. It’s a bit aggressive yet can easily be modified. We did 1, 5, 6 and 7 on our list and it was perfect! It’s a walking tour concentrated in the Old City section of Philadelphia. We found street parking on N. 3rd street, which was ideal!

 

(1) Start at the Betsy Ross House (on Arch Street between 2nd & 3rd). Sometimes they’ll have demonstrations or storytelling in the courtyard. On the day we went they were demonstrating the making of drinking chocolate and selling/sampling it! They were showing how they broke down the cocoa beans and I was super interested since cocoa butter is my favorite ingredient to work with in my products. It was amazing. I was way more interested than the kids.

Adults are $5 and kids are $4. We didn’t do the audio tour. It’s super tiny in there and very narrow, but beautiful and worth seeing. It’s said to be haunted upstairs. While in the basement, I learned that Ben Franklin’s sister was a soapmaker, awwww, yay! Me too. : ) The historical actor explained that they used to put liquid lye in the laundry as well as urine. Hmmm, made me feel much more grateful for my trader joe’s lavender liquid laundry soap.

Betsy Ross House
Betsy Ross House

(2) Head East on Arch, left on 2nd and you’ll see Elfreth’s Alley on your right. Here you can walk our nation’s oldest residential street. It’s FREE to wander and there are beautiful pictures to be taken here.

(3) Go back the way you came, past Betsy Ross’ House and between 4th &  5th Streets (on Arch) you’ll see Christ Church Burial Ground where you can see Ben Franklin’s grave. You can view from the street for FREE or pay the admission to walk around inside the burial ground.

(4) Continue down Arch and turn left on 5th, walk one block and you’ll be at 5th and Market to visit the National Museum of American Jewish History. I was lucky enough to see this museum as it was being built and again soon after. This page is helpful for families.

(5) From there, head East on Market (away from 5th) towards 4th Street. Here you’ll find Franklin Court – museum and printing office . This is actually my favorite historical attraction in Philadelphia! I discovered it when I had to give a historic tour as a student in college and fell in love. You can stroll through the courtyard and see the “ghost houses” which represent where Franklin’s house stood. You can look through the glass below the ground and see different parts of the basement. There’s also a museum that has a fee but the printing office is FREE. When they are open you can see people demonstrating the printing press and it’s fun to see inside. There’s also a working post office on the Market Street side where you can mail your letter with a B FREE FRANKLIN ink stamp! A friend mailed her wedding invitations from here, I thought that was such a cool idea.

Carpenters' Hall
Carpenters’ Hall

(6) When you exit Franklin Court, exit on the Chestnut Street side (opposite from where you entered on Market Street). Head across the street to Carpenters’ Hall (it’s FREE). A historical building which held the First Continental Congress and Franklin’s Library. I LOOOOVE anything that has to do with a library. I know. Apparently there’s a “treasure hunt” in there – you can tell the kids to find all the Carpenters’ Co. Emblems. Apparently there’s 5. I found 2.

Greenspace Old City Philadelphia
Greenspace Old City Philadelphia

One of my favorite things about Carpenters’ Hall is the path leading up to it and the grounds around it. There’s green space and we just walked down and parked the stroller and let the kids run around in the huge lawn. It’s so perfect. Once that’s done, head across the street to…

(7) The Little Lion– it’s on the corner of 3rd and Market Streets. Super cute, great food and beer and I love the decor. Reservations recommended. I’ve been here 3 times and every time the service was outstanding, as well as the food. All I’ll say is sweet potato fries.

On our walk back to our car this little shop caught my eye and now they are carrying my lip balm! I love it in there and it’s very fun to poke around. I picked up a soap when I dropped off my lip balm to them, I love to support other local makers.

Philadelphia Independents
Philadelphia Independents

So that was our Old City adventure in a nutshell. The Kids loved it and Brady asked for days when we were going back. If you go, enjoy!!

Betsy Ross House Courtyard
Betsy Ross House Courtyard
Yoga Made Me Write This Poem

Identity Inspiration Spiritual Exploration Yoga/Mindfulness

Yoga Made Me Write This Poem

Post yoga red wine bliss
Where is Sean, where are the kids?
Dinner is done, still on the stove
Listening to the latest John Mayer downloads.

The deeper we go
The higher we climb
Am I losing
Or finding my mind?

You see the path unfold
“It will,”
We’re told
But to see it, feels shocking, still.

What am I afraid of?
Nothing really
I know
Sounds silly

Well, wait, I’ve lied
Wrapping my head around certain things
I’ve tried
It’s tricky and sticky and it really stings.

A magnetic force field for love & goodness
Spins out of control
Did I ask for all of this?
Is that all?

Be careful what you wish for
It will come true and you will be you
Happiness holds mystery and love at it’s core
Keep your truth, never the score.

Zen Parenting Radio Conference & Why I Went

Adventures & Travel Community Family Inspiration Motherhood Self-care Simplicity

Zen Parenting Radio Conference & Why I Went

On February 24, 2017, Zen Parenting Radio, a podcast on self-awareness and how it relates to parenting, held their second annual conference just outside Chicago. Last year, I decided to fly half-way across the country and be away from my family for a night to be a part of this amazing event.

Todd & Cathy Adams are the hosts of the weekly podcast as well as the conference. I stumbled across their work when my back spazzed out and I literally could not carry my baby a while back. I called in my best friend, Emily, who happened to be off for a couple of days came and stayed with us to help out. A true friend. During this visit, she explained podcasts to me and told me what they were all about.

Having my back “out” for a week and not being able to care for my kids alone felt horrible, after all, it’s my full-time job. After I was better and life was getting back to normal, I wondered why the heck that happened to me. Stress and shallow breathing are the physical answers I came up with but the behind the scenes reason is what I was looking for.

Fast forward a few months and I was a HUGE fan of Zen Parenting Radio. I never would have found them (or possibly would not have found them til much later) if it weren’t for those unplanned days of chatting and hanging out with Emily.

I consider Todd and Cathy to be incredibly powerful teachers in my life. I learn SO MUCH from their shows and found in a short time that we have much in common. I felt connected to something by being a fan of their show. So much so that I decided to fly from Philadelphia to Chicago to hear them speak.

 

I also traveled to the meeting location of the first La Leche League gathering while I was at the conference. An organization that is dear to my heart started just outside Chicago. I wanted to see where it all began.

 

Some of my notes while at the show can serve as a testament to the feeling and the vibe that they created.

  • Something to practice: If we are going to shift the dynamic in our home, we have to make the change.
  • Dr. Shefali Tsbary was the keynote speaker at the conference last year and her talk was as good as her book, The Conscious Parent. I was not disappointed. Something she made me think about is “Guilt is another form of ego.” Hmmm, that was so interesting. I’m a big guilt partaker. I also learned a lot about energy and how engaging with certain energies grows them and how to redirect your focus to dissipate certain things.
    • Her new book at the time, The Awakened Family, was what she was pitching and I was drawn in by her premise to make an “Internal commitment not to walk the mainstream’s ways of parenting.”
    • She asked us to ask ourselves if we could see our children for who they really are. Not who we want or who others want them to be. Makes me also ask myself, can I do that for myself? For all the people in my life?
  • Jennifer Weigel had me on the edge of my seat in her breakout session where she talked mainly about ituition and developing it. I had NO IDEA that is what the session would be about and I was riveted. I’d felt incredibly grateful to be there by accident because I learned so much and her talk gave me tools to explore our innate intuitive nature. Two tools in particular were energy cleansing and how to become grounded and “turn on your heart light” as she said to diffuse certain energies. I found this particularly helpful for screaming toddlers. Mind blown.

At a time when uninterrupted sleep was a foreign concept and connecting with like-minded people interested in bringing awareness to their parenting felt like a dream – I found this event. Or it found me. Either way, the energy that radiated from the experience was at such a high vibration, so fun and positive. I learned so much about how to be open and to be me and be aware and available so that I can be the best me to be the best parent (I can be). Not saying perfect, that doesn’t exist. Or everything is already perfect. Depends on which lens you’re viewing this whole thing called life through.

I wasn’t there there this time around but enjoyed hearing the updates on their 2017 event. I’m hopeful that I will make my way another one of their gatherings in the future.

Zen Parenting Radio Conference
Conference Sign – LOVE IT!

 

 

*top image photo credit: Pyramid From The Stones ID: 16383273
© Nataliya Lukhanina | Dreamstime Stock Photos