February 26, 2015
Categories: Culture, Family, Self

Myths Making Modern Motherhood Miserable

I was seventeen when my eldest daughter was born. This fact, along with the fact that I am now thirty-seven, combined with the fact that my youngest daughter is now seven, in addition to the fact that I was born in 1977 (hello sevens!) all add up to one fairly unique reality:

I’ve raised young children both with and without the internet.

Which means, of course, that my mothering experience has straddled the single most influential shift in human awareness the world has ever seen.

Wow, right? (If anyone wants to pay me to study my brain toward the salvation of the species or anything, we can probably work something out.)

As you might expect, early childhood parenting of my firstborn felt quite different than the experience of raising her sisters. Though my age stands out as the most obvious factor, looking back, it doesn’t feel near as big a determinant as the difference in my access to resources.

Back then, I had approximately four places to turn with my parenting questions:

  1. the library
  2. the pediatrician
  3. the copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting I was given by my pediatrician
  4. my parents

Thing is, the pediatrician knew less about mothering than my own (awesome) mom, my dad, as a family counselor, was a wealth of information, and the library was hard to manage with a wiggling baby, so when it came right down to it, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and MY FOLKS were pretty much it.

That’s right. I raised my firstborn with essentially two sources of information.

Unbelievable as it may seem to today’s search-happy, post-internet parents, this reality felt surprisingly adequate. Despite my circumstances, I felt confident, well-supported, capable and empowered as a mother right from the start, and it sure wasn’t because I knew What to Expect.

My confidence boiled down to this:

  • Loving parents who believed in me.
  • A mother who encouraged me to trust my intuition.
  • The fact that I had virtually no one with whom to compare my mothering experience.

As a single, seventeen-year-old junior in high school, I didn’t question whether or not I was a good mom. I just knew I was.

Fast forward twenty short years (inserting the internet half way through), and few mothers I meet would say the same. Though most are striving, hardly any of us are actually arriving at a level of self-assuredness and satisfaction proportionate to our dedication and investment. In fact, the amount of self-doubt I’ve experienced in my own post-internet parenting has been exponentially more than my pre-internet days, even though I know about a kajillion more things than I did then.

How can this be? How can such a wealth of information be both increasing our understanding AND decreasing our sense of self-worth?

It’s quite simple, really. Our brains aren’t wired for this much intake. We’re suffering from not from actual inadequacy, but from a false sense of ourselves that has reached epidemic proportions.

I call this collective confusion Mythological Motherhood.

A concept I describe at length in Motherwhelmed (my book-in-progress), Mythological Motherhood is the modern phenomenon responsible for the discontent, disillusionment and disconnect plaguing parents of every demographic. It speaks to the enormous gap between what we believe to be possible (based on stories we’re both being told and sold) and the way our current realities look and feel. The greater this gap, the more of these myths a person has likely subscribed to.

The consequence of this mass mythology (presented to us as TRUTH) is an entire generation of mothers who — though more attentive, compassionate, involved, patient, knowledgeable and educated than any other group of mothers since the beginning of time — suffers from so much self-doubt, inadequacy and overwhelm that we barely even benefit from our position of relative privilege.

It’s tragic, but it’s also a trend we’re capable of reversing.

Doing so starts with recognizing the myths being perpetuated, examining their detriment to our lives and digging deeper for our own personal truth beneath them.

As you’re reading, ask yourself where these myths seem to be rooted within our culture, then allow your heart to tell you whether or not they were truly meant for YOU.

17 Modern Myths That Are Making Motherhood Miserable

  1. Empowerment comes through lucrative careers and upward mobility. A truer story: We become empowered when we take full responsibility for our lives, recognize and work through our fears, learn to love ourselves not in spite of but because of our uniqueness and live the lives we know we’re here for. Empowerment and motherhood are only mutually exclusive when we allow others to define success and power for us.
  2. Life as presented in stores and advertising reflects the way life actually is. A truer story: The “reality” presented to us as consumers — that life can or should be perpetually pleasant, tidy, organized, beautiful and blemish-free — is a myth of the most seductive sorts. Because we want our lives to feel less stressful and more abundant, it’s easy to get caught up in retail fairytales, allowing them to increase the size of our gap. We’d be wise, however, to consider the greater implications of allowing any profit-seeker to shape our sense of prioritization, beauty or truth. I find it helpful to keep the word ‘fairytale’ in mind anytime I enter a shopping center or flip through a magazine.
  3. A desire to stay home with your kids signifies a lack of intelligence, motivation, or competency. A truer story: Freedom of choice is still such a new reality for women in our culture that the choice to stay home has been unjustly associated with the very oppression our foremothers fought so hard to escape. It’s essential — for women, children, the integrity of families and the healing of humanity — that we don’t settle for the opposite extreme (stigmatizing stay-home parents) but encourage and support mothers’ intuition, the flourishing of which is a true indicator of freedom.
  4. A desire to work outside the home signifies a lesser degree of love for or attachment to your kids. A truer story: Some women’s intuition leads them to the realization that they need to continue working in order to best care for their children. Stigmatizing mothers who work away from home is just as destructive and divisive as its opposite. Instead, we might choose to focus our attention (as a society, and as individuals) on supporting the parent/child connection, whatever that means for each family. Social shifts such as benefits for part-time employees, (way) longer maternity leave and community building initiatives are a much more empowering place to focus our energy than the “mommy wars” currently weakening our ability to determine and create what we really want.
  5. We can avoid “screwing them up” by doing more of the right things. A truer story: Perfect parenting is an illusion. No matter how hard you try, you are going to impact your children in ways you don’t necessarily want or intend to. Though this has never been any different, mythological motherhood has made perfection or near perfection seem possible. Every human on the planet is here to face, overcome and grow beyond their challenges. It’s not your job to be perfect, nor will striving for this goal necessarily benefit your children. It IS your job to be YOU in the most fully-expressed and supported sense possible. This version of you is what your children need from you most.
  6. Balance is what we’re all seeking. A truer story: Balance is overrated and easy to market. Attempting to hold a balance in your life (for more than a few minutes) is like holding a handstand for any real length of time: it’s not only exhausting, but it requires so much focus that you end up missing out on the richness all around you. I much prefer the concept of centeredness. Once we find our center (which can require some digging through layers of cultural confusion), there’s always the option to return to this powerful place within, no matter the perceived imbalance all around us.
  7. We’re shorting them every time we invest in our own needs, desires and interests. A truer story: It is our #1 responsibility to learn and take care of ourselves. Doing so enables us to mother from a more whole, nurtured and authentic place. Ignoring our own needs leads to resentment and compromises connection with everyone in our lives.
  8. Guilt is the price we must pay for the love we experience. A truer story: Guilt is one of the many prices we pay for unchecked thoughts. The deeper our self-awareness, self-love and self-respect, the less power such draining emotions have over our lives.
  9. We’ll feel joyful about our mothering experience once everything’s lined up and organized. A truer story: We’ll experience more joy in our mothering experience when we let go of the perception that organizing our external environment is the answer to our inner peace. Inner peace requires a deep look into both the light and the shadow aspects of our souls. Healing from a lifetime of pain, limiting beliefs and security-seeking is rarely the easier path, but always the truer path to a joyful existence.
  10. Our children’s questionable choices reflect bad parenting on our part. A truer story: Our children are not really “our children” at all, but people we’re meant to be as affected by as they are affected by us. Their tendencies, personalities, habits and choices, while impacted by our own, compromise their journey toward self-actualization. Supporting their unfolding means seeing them as separate than us, however connected, and not taking their choices personally. When we recognize a negative impact we’ve had, we always have the choice to stay humble, practice self-love and forgiveness, and stay vulnerable to the fact of our imperfect, evolving nature.
  11. There is a right way to parent. A truer story: Among the most destructive of the modern myths, “right way” parenting not only divides us, but deemphasizes and dulls our intuition. The right way for YOU is as unique as the one-of-a-kind connection you share with your child. Though parenting research has come a long way toward helping us understand the needs of children, the thriving of mothers requires a greater emphasis on and respect for our biological instincts and innate wisdom.
  12. We must equip our children with as many resources as possible. A truer story: While providing resources is part of our job, equally important is equipping them with the confidence and understanding that they can draw on their own inner resources. Because we as mothers have become so dependent on external validation (hello internet) for our sense of security, connectedness and confidence, it’s easy to impart the message to our children that all the resources they need exist outside of them. Until we learn to hear and honor the wisdom within, we’re vulnerable to a million different messages that simply aren’t meant for us, and so are they.
  13. More is better. A truer story: More, in many cases, is making us miserable. Between activities, possessions and commitments, we’re being suffocated by the very things we hope will enrich us. At the heart of this phenomenon is a false sense of abundance. We’re biologically wired to want abundance in our lives, but until we define abundance for ourselves, we will continue to accumulate indiscriminately. Ask yourself what you really want more of and measure abundance accordingly. More time to dream, more connection with those you love and more awareness of the present moment often require less of what we’ve been culturally conditioned to accumulate.
  14. Asking for help is a sign of weakness. A truer story: Though more virtually connected than ever, mothers have never been so isolated in the rearing of children. We aren’t meant to raise children alone. The notion of “independence” that so many mothers feel they must maintain is yet another product of a society still working out what freedom actually means. Because oppression is so often associated with dependency, we’ve forgotten our basic human need for interdependency and inadvertently glamorized isolation.
  15. You should be enjoying every moment. A truer story: People who say this to you likely either suffer from a great deal of guilt or selective memories regarding their own parenting experiences. Remember in those moments (when you want to strangle some sappy stranger) that they aren’t meaning to guilt you for not feeling joyful every moment, but attempting to connect with you about the inherent sacredness of the mothering experience. What they’re forgetting is that not all sacred moments are pleasant, and that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.
  16. Science trumps intuition. A truer story: Science supplements intuition. Though it’s clearly increased our quality of life, science cannot account for the individuality of the human spirit. You, as a mother, are better equipped, biologically, than anyone on the planet to understand and adjust for the uniqueness of your child’s needs.
  17. Your inadequacies are the reason for the frustrations you feel. A truer story: The confusion inherent to our culture, your level of self-love and awareness, the social structures keeping you connected yet separate and the degree to which you buy into these modern myths are the real reasons for the frustrations you feel. The way you choose to react to the gap between the life you have and the life you want dictates the quality of your life.

Though untangling ourselves from these myths takes time (and can be a painful process), the benefits go well beyond increased confidence. Future generations depend on our investment in ourselves.

The Dalai Lama said, “The world will be saved by the western woman.”

I say mothers must lead the movement.


Ready to dig deeper into your own story? Tired of the pull these and other modern myths have on your life? I work with mothers who, no matter how passionate and invested, can’t seem to do enough to ease their conscience. I’d be honored to connect with you toward the co-creation of an empowered mothering experience within a life you love. 

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January 7, 2015
Categories: Family, Self

Beth Berry

2014 was rough for me. I’d even describe it as my toughest year yet.

If you’ve kept up with my story (the public version) then you’re aware of a few of the challenges I’ve faced: thyroid issues, an international move, another summer of couch surfing, reintegrating the family stateside in a brand new town, living on borrowed money while starting new businesses, and writing my first book amidst the needs and demands of a large, unsettled and estrogen-heavy family.

If, however, you are one of the tiny handful in my innermost circle, you know that the aforementioned struggles comprise a mere fraction of my year’s challenges, and that the behind-the-scenes 70% or so has been too raw and personal to share.

It’s not likely I’ll ever offer that chapter of my story publicly (at least not attached to my name) but I needn’t disclose details in order to share the essence of it, and you needn’t know the details in order to relate on some level.

You see, the theme of my year was heartbreak, a subject which most of us have at least a 101-level understanding of. (I can assure you I’ve now advanced to graduate studies.)

Of course, my heart’s been badly bruised before, but I’d usually managed to shield it from direct blows by building strong walls.

This year was different. This year I had no such “protection.”

As a young girl, I learned to circumvent much of life’s pain by avoiding vulnerability at all cost. This involved a good many years of fortress construction — something I quickly found myself quite skilled at.

Spared of any deeply damaging or traumatic childhood experiences, though nonetheless wired to avoid pain of any kind (as we humans are), mine were reactions to seemingly benign and unavoidable circumstances: my sister was born when I was 18 months old and deferred a good deal of my mom’s attention from me to her (naturally), my other sister developed a serious health condition that required near-constant diligence on the part of my parents, and our Christian faith, while grounding and grace-promoting, confused me to my apparently-wretched core.

Aching to be fully seen and heard but introverted and independent by nature, I quickly learned to meet my needs alone (best I could), which meant that I came to trust my own understanding and perspectives above the counsel and good intentions of others.

My building materials of choice — those I used to protect my secretly tender heart — were ever-available and seemingly strong:

Judgement, avoidance, certainty and perfectionism.

It felt safer to form strong opinions based on astute and constant observation than to live in unending uncertainty. I managed to avoid a great deal of embarrassment by offering only the most polished parts of myself to people. I binged on silence, filled journals with misspelled preadolescent heartache and occasionally shared my dreams with the rare soul who managed to win my trust (I can count these dear people on one hand).

These tinkertoy-grade constructs served me for a good long while — well into my adulthood, in fact. They allowed me to explore the world relatively unscathed and come to learn enough about life to navigate it with relative confidence. But as I matured, and particularly during our recent four year stint abroad, my walls began to show a good bit of wear. It seemed that the price of a broadening perspective was an assault against my once-solid sense of security.

Had my curiosity and wonder not been childlike again in their strength (due to my brightly-woven, awe-inspiring surroundings), I’m quite sure I would have simply played mason — repairing and reinforcing, thicker and stronger.

But I didn’t, because I couldn’t.

My heart no longer fit within those walls.

Perfection pursuit was the first to go. The little my daughters hadn’t yet dissolved was quickly destroyed by the re-prioritization born of a first-hand perspective on poverty.

Perceived certainty suddenly felt laughably arrogant; an illusion born of first-world privilege.

Avoidance meant I’d never learn Spanish, understand the beautiful friends I’d made without words or experience the spellbinding ways of the Maya, none of which I was willing to miss out on.

Judgement, which proved my thickest wall of “protection,” crumbled quickly when I realized that if anyone was worthy of judgement, it was me, for ever having complained about anything given the frequency with which I’d been fed since birth.

At first I thought I could simply deconstruct them in my spare time, when all felt safe and I was good and ready. But staring into the blind eyes of Mayan babies while their mothers begged me for help and breathing the smoke-filled disparity between us made quick and efficient work of it.

When a heart nearly bursts from swelling, thicker walls simply mean more rubble to remove once they fall.

This past year — our last in Mexico — was the first time I’ve faced my demons, unguarded. They were just as fierce as I’d imagined and even more relentless. Many times I wanted to build a new wall, and several times I tried. But whenever my heart would expand again (as unwalled hearts tend to do often), it was obvious that walls were no longer going to work for me.

I’d tasted just enough freedom that entrapment felt like death to my soul.

This time last year, inspired by three and a half years of heart swell, demolition and a few professedly brokenhearted people who stood like lampposts along my path, I wrote myself the following note, taped it above my computer and let it lead me.

willing to be broken

I was willing, and break open, I did. So many times, in fact, that I soon stopped counting. Just about the time I’d endured one wave of pain, another would hit, and not Caribbean-style, but west coast, Oaxacan-grade waves. It was exhausting. I’ve never worked harder.

I told the truth — to myself and to those I love — even when it hurt like hell.

I dug deep within the recesses of nearly-forgotten memories and asked them what they needed from me in order to rest in peace once and for all.

I sent love to those who’d wronged me, finally feeling that their choices were never about me.

I recognized self-abandonment at the core of my insecurities.

I sobbed and prayed and journaled and listened and found beauty where others wouldn’t or simply couldn’t. 

Looking back, still sutured and sore but no longer splayed open, the single most painful year of my life was also the single most transformative.

Here are few things this past year taught me:

  1. A strong heart is a very different thing than strong walls surrounding your heart. The only way to gain heart strength is by allowing it to expand and contract like any other muscle. Keeping it walled and leaning on your walls for strength is like depending on an arm cast for protection long after it’s needed for support in healing. Once it’s served its purpose, it must be removed and the arm rehabbed or the muscles will begin to atrophy.

  2. The ways we come to feel safe as children are not necessarily in our best interests as adults.

  3. We greatly underestimate our hearts’ potential, and they don’t require near the protection we believe they do. All they really needed is to be seen and heard and loved and acknowledged and held (especially by the souls they belong to) while they’re allowed and encouraged to heal.

  4. Broken hearts are the most beautiful ones as they aren’t limited by what we decide they should contain. Joanna Macy said, “The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” I taped that one above my computer as a guide for this year.

  5. Many of us have come to believe that we can’t trust our hearts to lead us. While it’s true that walled hearts are quite obstructed and must rely on windows and doors through which to see possibilities, freed hearts see potential in every direction.

  6. Pain often runs much deeper than we know. It takes time to uncover a mess of entangled roots. Thankfully, between the work of wall deconstruction and root unearthing, our hearts get plenty of practice in expansion and contraction.

  7. We often tell ourselves we’ve already dealt with something, then wonder why we’re still triggered or resentful. It may be that the first time around, we actually just buried it deeper; that we dug up only a portion of it, or that it healed out of alignment. Like a bone, a fresh break may be needed for proper healing.

  8. Once our walls are down, it can take a while to discern whether we’re hearing our own hearts or the voices of others who live within our hearts. Time in silence, however uncomfortable, helps reacquaint us with our long-hushed, inner hostage.

  9. However intentional and thorough we are in their deconstruction, walls want to regrow like weeds. For every situation in which we’ve leaned on one in the past, we can expect to be presented with an opportunity (or 50) in which to make a different choice.

  10. It’s often counterintuitive to stay open, as doing so means welcoming pain. Like any new exercise, it takes a while to trust the rewards to be worth the discomfort.

Yesterday, while standing in line to pick up photo prints behind an 80-something-year-old woman who seemed quite uncomfortable in her own skin, my old walls appeared out of nowhere. Bored of silently disapproving of each person in line (evident by her less-than-discrete glares of disgust), she decided to clarify her misery. Jovially, though to the amusement of no one, she ranted about “those Mexicans” whom she was tired of supporting with her tax dollars, how glad she was not to be waiting in line behind one of them and did we all realize how many of them came here to have photos taken for fake passports?

Like loyal soldiers, the very same judgement, disgust, anger and fear SHE depended on ran to my aid, threw up a makeshift fortress around my heart and stockpiled ammo, ready to war.

Boy, did I have a smart bomb (or six) to launch at that lady.

But when you’re not used to carrying them, walls feel heavy and awkward and foreign and constricting. They feel…unnatural. I breathed deeply, encouraged them back down and welcomed heartache in their place. With tears in my eyes and gratitude swelling in my throat, I let go of all I wanted to hurl at her and allowed space for a new story. It grew the whole way home:

This poor woman probably grew up her whole life gripped with fear. At 80-something years old she was still being guided by her wounded inner child. Her generation encouraged fear-based thinking. She was probably taught by those she trusted to judge things she didn’t understand. She may even fear an eternity in hell for her perceived inadequacies. What a weight her walls must be! What a burden she had to bear.

And then it hit me:

It was because of my broken heart that I had room for this woman.

She fit in through deepening cracks of compassion.

I don’t know where my mostly-healed-though-forever-broken heart will lead me, but I don’t need to know. Without walls, I can actually HEAR it again, and somehow that feels even safer than certainty.

Brokenhearted and better for it,





Photo credit goes to Jote Khalsa, who is all kinds of awesome. 

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December 8, 2014
Categories: Self

yoga class 2014 fall LEAF festival

I’m friends with a large number of incredibly brilliant people. The collective talents, skills, knowledge, understanding, passions and creativity between them is enough to sustain a small city (in Utopia, of course).

But I’ve noticed something through the years: even the most incredible minds among us get stuck in thought loops and habit patterns that lead to self-sabotage. In fact, some of the smartest people I know seem to struggle more than most.

Why is this? Here’s my hunch:

Because our brains get in the way of our hearts. {Subtle switch to the first person for the sake of camaraderie.} Because we’ve grown accustomed to thinking as opposed to feeling our way through life. Because from the time we’re young, we build our sense of self (and security) based on the rightness of our thoughts as opposed to the wholeness of our beings.

Brilliance without soul alignment, however, limits our effectiveness. Intelligence without intuition sets us up to struggle. Great minds can only take us so far until we’re willing to endure the fear and vulnerability of showing up fully (smarts AND hearts), offer our unique version of a beautiful mess to the world and celebrate it as sacred.

The first step, of course, is simply noticing how often we stand in our own way:

19 Ways Smart People Self Sabotage

  1. We believe we’re supposed to have the right answers, right now. Our minds are impatient. We’re wired to reason our way to relief. Once we learn to listen deeply, however, and engage our whole awareness, we realize that we have all the answers we need and can effectively utilize in this moment. As we align our minds with our hearts, we become increasingly comfortable NOT knowing the answers and come to trust in life as an inherently supportive process.
  2. We underestimate the value of our uniqueness. When we look around and no one else is like us, we begin to think we’re better off conforming than risking ridicule by showing up in all our quirky uniqueness. It is precisely this uniqueness, however, that attracts the kind of people we WANT in our lives and places us on the path that feels right for us.
  3. We become cynics. Smart people see through bullshit that others buy into. Living among so much seeming ignorance (which is really just misguided understanding) can leave us cynical, which we then mistake for an empowered reaction. Though it’s possible to use cynicism in illuminating ways (Jon Stewart is one of the only people who pulls this off effectively, in my opinion {I have even more respect for him following his reaction to the Eric Garner case}), more often than not, it merely serves to deepen our sense of hopelessness. Avoiding pain and disappointment through clever comebacks is no suitable substitution for honoring and healing our hearts. In the words of Brené Brown, “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
  4. We fall prey to perfectionism. We’ve been taught that being smart means presenting as perfectly as possible. This keeps many of us from putting much of ANYTHING out there (much less our truest selves) for fear of being found out for all our “flaws.” Julia Cameron describes the risk in this type of thinking, “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough.”
  5. We think ourselves out of taking chances. Because we are smart, we can easily talk ourselves out of just about anything. Arguments that keep us within our comfort zone (at the expense of our joy) may be convincing, but rarely lead us to the sense of fulfillment we seek.
  6. We do more than our share because we don’t trust others to do their part. Our gifts quickly become curses when we attempt to control outcomes or increase our sense of purpose by doing other people’s work for them. By instead aligning our purpose with our hearts, we create healthier boundaries, breed less resentment and dependency, free up space for others to show up fully and feel more purposeful in the end.
  7. We buy into someone else’s version of success. Unless we define success for ourselves, no amount of effort in the world will fulfill us on the level we long to be satiated. Success is felt most deeply when we’re living in alignment with our deepest desires.
  8. We assume our joy awaits us in the future. Bright people are often visionaries, which keeps us forward thinking. But because peace, contentment, growth, joy and love are only available to us in the present moment, too much forward thinking serves to rob us of the exact feelings we work so hard to ensure for ourselves.
  9. We try to right the present by overthinking our past. Though reflection and story sorting is essential to growth and healing, many of us get so good at making sense of our past that it detracts from our present. Spending a greater percentage of our time in the present moment through mindful awareness increases the quality of everything we do.
  10. We believe our strengths are the things we are good at. A life-altering distinction I learned from Marcus Buckingham, our strengths and the things we are good at are NOT one and the same. Strengths are things we do that make us feel empowered and ALIVE. By mistaking the things we’re good at for that which makes us feel alive (I’m REALLY good at cleaning my house, for example), we can end up feeling drained without even knowing why.
  11. We attempt to avoid pain. Our culture teaches us that pain is bad and to be avoided at all cost. The truth is that pain is an inevitable part of our experience and essential for growth and healing. By facing painful situations, allowing them to teach us what we’re meant to learn and letting them pass through us, our fears of being hurt have less and less power over us.
  12. We underestimate the value of rest and refueling. Smart people tend to associate self worth with accomplishments, which leads us to work ourselves into the ground. Thinking in terms of quality of life over quantity of accomplishments helps us focus on what matters most in the moment.
  13. We’re vague about what we want in life. Our lives are so full of options that it’s easy to live in a state of constant indecision. By learning to silence the noise around us (and within our busy minds) we become more clear about what it is we really want, which is an essential step toward creating lives we love.
  14. We confuse our thoughts for truth. In the words of Byron Katie, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Though it’s human nature to limit our beliefs to that which we understand, smart people sometimes feel even more justified in doing so. By opening ourselves to greater potential and possibility, however,  judgments, disappointments and disconnection are replaced by a feeling of freedom.
  15. We allow others to leech our energy, thinking we’re helping them. Because we recognize ourselves as more capable than some, we tend to allow those with less clarity than we have to drain our precious energy reserves. Weak boundaries are often remedied when we get clear on what we want our lives to feel like instead of what we think we should be doing.
  16. We apologize or make excuses for our awesomeness. Because every version of brilliance is unique and therefor easily labeled as weird or socially unacceptable, we try to fit in by dumbing ourselves down. Being fully ourselves can even seem like a burden to others, depending on whether we were validated for who we truly are when we were young. To apologize for who we are, however, is to apologize for being a piece of the universe. No gift so invaluable as this needs justification.
  17. We doubt the sufficiency of our impact. Again, because everyone’s brilliance is unique, it’s hard to find validation for that which we wish to offer the world. Until we find that sense of validation from within, we’re limited in our ability to make the kind of impact we know we’re here for.
  18. We take things personally. Nothing anyone does is really about you. People’s reactions to you are based on their limited awareness and emotions. Taking things personally is a way we distort our sense of importance. We are important, just not based on whether or not others approve of us.
  19. We believe the myth of failure. Failure is not a fact, failure is a judgement. When we think we might fail, we hold back our greatest gifts for fear of finding out we’re worth even less than we thought. By thinking of failures, instead, as powerful game changers or essential life lessons, we can choose to gain from them and keep going, better equipped.

Here’s the thing, smart people: no matter how confusing our culture makes it seem, your unique brilliance is exactly what the world needs. In fact, it’s the ONLY thing the world needs from you. The moment you decide to allow you heart to guide your choices, your mind to follow in close second and who you really are to become fully realized, you’ve taken the first step toward the powerfully purposeful life you’ve always dreamed of.

On behalf of humanity, I beg of you: let it be soon.

Looking to gain clarity and/or traction in one or more of these aspects of your life? Starting in January, I will be offering one-on-one, over-the-phone coaching sessions to help you find your OWN way back to center. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in my world! Details soon to come. 

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September 22, 2014
Categories: Family, Self

My life — both inside and out — is awash in adolescence. Seven years of being a teenager, then 28 years of raising them? I clearly signed THAT contract while under the spell of a milky-mouthed, heaven-scented newborn.

Imagine the bedroom of a stereotypical teenager and you’ll have a perfect picture of my inner world as of late, only if you were to risk entrance, instead of books and garbage and underwear and electronic devices, you’d trip over messy love, imperfect solutions, deep heartache, shallow arguments, glowing pride and dust bunnies of fear that — no matter how many times I sweep them out — reproduce in the corners of my consciousness whenever I’m not watching.

Thing is, about the time the prefrontal cortex of my firstborn resumes growth (re-capacitating her with the self preservation skills that came to a screeching halt around age 13), daughter #4 will take her place in line beside my other two gray matter-deficient offspring.

In other words, I’ll be treading these muddy waters for a very long time.

Raising teens, in my experience, has proven equally intense as raising littles, just a different kind of intense. While the physical load has lightened a bit, an emotional load quickly replaced the squirming toddlers, nursing newborns and pounds of pregnancy. And very much like raising littles, I can’t afford to think too much about it because while I’m sitting here trying to get everything just right, one’s likely to slip out the front door and take off down the road to God Knows Where.

I do have an advantage over some parents in that I tried just about everything you can imagine as a teenager, myself. Not exactly naive, I’m able to draw from personal, first-hand experience when the question, “what the HELL are they thinking!!??” hits me time and again.

Me, hating everything, age 16.

Unfortunately, teenage rebellion as a part of my own story does not make watching them struggle any easier, and it certainly doesn’t ensure that they’ll be spared hard knocks of their own. In fact, secondhand heartache is as much a part of the adolescent rearing experience as diapering in the early years: it may vary a little from child to child, but it always stinks and there’s no opting out.

Lately, while digging for empathy and understanding, I’ve been reflecting more than usual on my own rather wild adolescence. What was I thinking? What would have helped? What factors contributed to my angst and discontentment? Who and what made a real difference for me and why?

What I’m realizing is that, of all the risks I took and decisions I made (that rightfully scared my fantastic, loving, involved and still-married parents half to death), I’d really only change one thing if I had it to do over.  

Which means that of all the choices my daughters have made and will continue to make, and all the battles I can either engage in or attempt to diffuse, there’s really only one matter that truly concerns me, and one overarching battle I know for sure to be worthy of my engagement.

But first, here are a few others that, while concerning to many parents, I don’t actually see as problematic in and of themselves:

6 “Rebellious” Behaviors That I Don’t Regret, Nor Discourage in My Daughters  

  1. Questioning the status quo — Though my tact and tone have changed a bit since the days when etching “F*ck the Establishment!” in bathroom stalls seemed like the least I could do toward the betterment of humanity, at 36, I still question social norms and believe this to be an essential component of living an authentic, centered and ever-evolving life. And though I’m often warning them to be careful about making assumptions and judgements, whenever one of my girls spots an injustice and makes some defiant, blanket-statement proclamation, I still grin with pride, at least on the inside.
  2. Questioning the religion I was raised in — Never one to swallow “truth” that didn’t actually FEEL true to me, yet always seeking and connected to a sacred something, I’m glad I didn’t let the fear built into my childhood faith drown out the curiosity and intuition driving my quest for spiritual authenticity. Now on a path that finally feels right for me (following years of confusion and cynicism) I see the importance of having rebelled from the family faith. It wasn’t defiance for the sake of defiance, it was defiance for the sake of discovering MY TRUTH.
  3. Self-expression — Thinking back to the skater pants that two of me would have fit into, the blackened eyes and greasy hair (shampoo was SO superficial), the harsh music and dark poetry, and the brief period of (harmless) pyromania, I don’t believe I was simply attention-seeking. I think I was identifying myself as distinctly different than the mainstream and expressing that in ways that helped me FEEL. Still unconventional by many measures (if less extreme in my choice of apparel), I see self expression as brave and beautiful, no matter the age or manifestation.
  4. Taking risks — Though terrifying to parents at times, there’s simply no way for a young person to explore her world, inside or out, without a certain amount of risk taking. Given the number of thirty, forty and fifty-somethings I know who are only just now discovering or rediscovering the power and potential born of bravery, I think it’s essential that we encourage calculated risk taking among our teens. They need the practice while still in the nest (if no longer under our wings).
  5. Raging against injustice — It still makes me laugh when I think about the subjects I took a stance on (music censoring, modesty and mari…oh, never mind), but the fact is that when I saw injustice, I felt RAGE. By failing to honor our teens’ brand new, gut-level acknowledgment of the world’s many inequities or belittling their arguments as too extreme or narrowly-focused, we are essentially saying, “What you see and feel is not legitimate or important” which decreases their sense of connection, causes them to doubt their intuition and often leads to either increased angst or (worse yet!)…conformity.
  6. Challenging boundaries — Teens who seem to need to test every boundary they come up against are not always rebelling to ruffle feathers or punish parents. I think just as often, they are seeking authenticity through exploration, and that by testing the boundaries around them, they learn to navigate their inner landscape that much more quickly.

Now, let me be clear: I’m not saying that any one of these factors can’t lead to a whole host of problems. They absolutely can, and for me, they often did. What I AM saying is that they aren’t necessarily problems in and of themselves. In fact, many are actually indicators that you’ve got a particularly smart kid on your hands, or a leader in the making or a creative type for whom self expression feels as essential as air and water.

So, what WOULD I change if I had my adolescence to live over? Daughter #2 did some guessing:

“Your anger toward your parents?”

“Going to a ‘crappy’ college?”

“Having a kid so young?”

“Making all that…macrame?” 

Nope (but sorry again Mom, Dad).  The one and only thing I would change is this:

My level of self love. 

Think about it: throw self love into any one of the aforementioned rebellious behaviors and suddenly, you’ve got a built-in ruler for calculating risks, a safety on all the triggers life hands you and a way to explore the world without getting completely lost. Better yet, it’s a not a measure that requires experts or parental supervision or a fear of hell to give it legitimacy.

Had self love been my one and only anchor, I might have:

  • questioned the status quo without viewing everything through a lens of anger
  • questioned my religious roots without insults, disrespect and cynicism
  • expressed myself without dwelling on pain and darkness
  • taken risks without putting myself so squarely in harm’s way
  • raged against injustice but tapped more quickly into my capacity to contribute to change
  • challenged boundaries but not so much that they compromised people’s respect for me or more importantly, my respect for myself

“Great!” You’re thinking. “But how in the world do you encourage an already-angsty adolescent to love themselves more?”

This, like most interpersonal dilemmas, is as gray a matter as the tissue missing in our teens. I honestly can’t tell you what my parents might have done differently, and it doesn’t matter, because I know they did their best, and that’s enough. Truth is, I rebelled against order and stability and organic gardening and therapist-grade understanding. I wanted WILD and UNCERTAIN and THRILLING and FORBIDDEN. I craved darkness and pain for contrast. I had to figure things out myself. I still do. 

This is not the fault of anyone. It’s simply who I am.

But from this end of things — now that I’m the one holding the lantern lest my babies get lost —  I see something kind of essential that’s hardly even mentioned in The Manual (that none of us ever received to begin with), and it has nothing to do with how well we’re parenting.

As a whole, we’re doing beautifully in this regard: 

We love them to death, even when they’re intolerable and we’re totally spent.

We see their strengths and point them out often.

We support their interests, encourage their passions and celebrate even the smallest successes.

We mind their sleep, their food, their screen time, their friends and their mood swings.

We find ways to connect, relate, understand, empathize and forgive, over and over.

We love our children deeply and they know it. At this, parents, WE ARE DOING AN INCREDIBLE JOB. 

But many of us are a little less skilled when it comes to the rest of the rarely-mentioned reality:

Instilling SELF love in our children requires leading by example: 

  • When we, as parents, identify our OWN unmet needs and learn healthy ways to honor them, we demonstrate personal responsibility on the deepest level.
  • When we learn to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ according to our best interests as opposed to the desires of others, our teens are taught the validity and worth of their own inner knowing.
  • When we let go of perfectionism, we teach them to see beauty and joy as inherent to and available in every moment, instead of goals they may never reach.
  • When we define success for ourselves and celebrate micro-achievements, we show them that despite the deception all around them, they are, have and do ENOUGH.
  • When we forgive ourselves and openly learn from our downfalls, we demonstrate a whole new level of kindness and compassion.
  • When we dare to live the lives we know we’re here for, we give our children permission to do the same.

These acts of self love are not encouraged in our culture. In fact, given that many of us were taught that loving ourselves is selfish, it’s no wonder that we spend so little time considering our own needs and deepest desires.

Ultimately, it’s not our job as parents to shape our teens into who they are meant to be. Our job is to love them, care for them and model healthy adult reactions to the world, both around and within us. Despite our society’s outward focus — on appearance and achievements and tangible measures of “success” — our children are receiving but a partial picture of love when we focus on the external, including THEM, at the expense of our own inner wellbeing.

In keeping with my rebellious tendencies, I’d like to suggest that our generation of guilt-stricken and perfection-pursuing parents amend the all-popular biblical teaching when it crosses our paths and minds:

Yes, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is good advice.

But first, love yourself as you do your children. 

Learning alongside you,





Ready to take self love up a notch or twenty? Check out Inner Bonding. Margaret Paul’s free 7-day e-course is a beautiful place to start (and no, I have no affiliation with her, only respect and gratitude for her work).

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August 9, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family
Crocodiles in Barton Springs?

“Are you SURE there are no crocodiles in Barton Springs?” A totally legitimate concern, all things considered.

So much has happened since we crossed the border two months ago that I’m not even going to try to recount the details sequentially. Though I’ve paid in crowded thoughts and congested perspectives, stepping away (virtually) for a minute was exactly what I needed and about the only way I could manage the (primarily emotional and secondarily physical) load of this move. When The Here and Now demands my presence that loudly, I’m learning to pay attention and let it lead.

Texas river crossing

Texas river crossing, early summer.

We’re home now!! and though I hardly know what that means anymore, these mountains ARE home for me. I can feel it. Our boxes broken down and the neighborhood full of kids, today is the first day in months that processing has taken priority over packing, unpacking, soaking in our friends and family or staring blankly in disbelief and sensory overload. (Remember the mess last summer made of my mind? Yeah, that had nothing on this season.)

The most common question asked of us is, “So, what’s it like to be back?”

In the same category as “How’s the fam?” or “Tell me about the girls!” this question requires that I…

  1. assess the actual interest vs. cordiality of the inquirer
  2. consider the amount of time I have to respond and
  3. decide what degree of honesty I currently have emotional space to offer.

And though I’m capable of the generally-expected reaction of, “Everyone’s great, thanks for asking!” it’s never easy for me, as it cues each family member to parade through my heart and remind me how complicated the truth really is.

Summer sweethearts plus a sister. There’s always a sister.

So, because a simple, “Our move has been…great!” is not necessary here (yet the whole thing still feels like a giant fuster cluck), I’ll just throw out thoughts at random, pair them with pertinent photos and trust that you understand my kind of crazy.

Feels good to be back. I’ve sorely missed writing you.

Random Thoughts Upon Reentry

Reverse culture shock is even more intense. Though moving abroad was big, returning to the U.S. feels a good deal more shocking. While this could easily be attributed to the pace alone, I think it has even more to do with having re-sensitized. After four years of living with minimal possessions, consuming less than ever and with little (and laughable) exposure to advertising, I no longer have many filters in place with which to handle the overstimulation inherent to stateside living. Even the most seemingly-benign activities (such as grocery shopping) feel overwhelming and likely will until I relearn how and what to ignore again (or lose my mind). I wonder if this is true of anyone who returns to their native soil, or if it’s a phenomenon unique to hyper-stimulating cultures such as our own. Thing is, I don’t particularly want a new set of filters just to function. Is desensitization really necessary? Or could it be, given a fresh perspective on what’s essential, non-essential and worthy of my attention, that discernment might prove sufficient to keep me sane? We shall see!

flour options galore

The flour selection I contemplated for nearly ten minutes.

There are seasons for adventuring, and seasons for rooting. Many have asked why we decided to move back, as much as we loved living in Mexico. The answer has less to do with which culture we prefer than it does what best suits our family during this season. Our girls — now street smart, bilingual and savvy travelers — also deserve the gifts of constancy, rhythm and friends they won’t soon be leaving. The heartbreak of that; of repeatedly saying goodbye to places and people we adore, was wearing on us all. Our need for community suddenly trumped any wanderlust whims.

Fortunately (and apparently), prior inhabitance is not always a prerequisite for feeling at home. My roots are eager to grow here, and conditions seem quite conducive.

at home

I think about my appearance more in the states. Most everywhere I go here (though less in Asheville than in Austin), I’m reminded of what I “should” look like, want and be striving for (as a woman, mother and “privileged” human). There are also more mirrors, more images created to elicit certain feelings and WAY more people clearly invested in what’s trending. And while I’m pretty secure in my minimal making-ready routines (throwing on secondhand standbys and tying my hair in a knot, for example), it does occur to me that without makeup, hair dye or any clue (or care) about fashion “rules,” I’m often the least put-together person in the bunch. This doesn’t bother me so much as it intrigues me. How fascinating to feel more self conscious here at home than as a gringa among latinos.

If only I had a nickel for every time I defended my clothing choices to my daughters, "But I LIKE this shirt. Why else would I wear it every other day?" and "I'm not wearing black on black. These MOM shorts, as you call them, happen to be charcoal gray."

If only I had a dollar for every time I defended my clothing choices to my daughters.”But I LIKE this shirt. Why else would I wear it every day?” and “I’m not wearing black on black. These MOM shorts, as you call them, happen to be charcoal gray.” {Here, we’re standing in front of the garden at my folks’ new home(stead), which is every bit as lovely as it looks.}

Smartphones are crazy cool and kind of concerning. Between the distraction, potential for instant connection, easy access to information and sense of obligation to respond immediately, I’m both infatuated with and a little sketched out by my new iPhone. The fact that I’ve been totally bummed a couple of times when I accidentally left it somewhere and then “needed” it (when I’ve never before enjoyed the luxury in my life) really speaks to its addictiveness. On the other hand, I rather love the accessibility of my people, camera, music and…meditation chimes (oh, the irony). But then again, am I obligated to respond every time the darn thing dings? I suppose it’s like anything else and once the newness wears off, I’ll settle into a reasonable balance. Gosh, but will our teens? How do we guide them through a world they know more about than we do?

texting teens

It’s always better to rent a bigger moving truck than seems necessary. You might be surprised by how much stuff you actually have, and mattresses generally win in wrestling matches.

moving day

There are definite dos and don’ts when it comes to leaving the country for extended stretches. For example: DO store your things somewhere you don’t have to pay, such as the corner of your garage in the house you rent out…

opening the time capsule

Here it is, for those of you who’ve anticipated the cracking into of our time capsule!!…

the wall comes down

Anticlimactic, I know, but storage can only be so exciting.

Also, DO rent your house to awesome people with common interests, if at all possible…

Our new renters (and dear friends!) are the first to restore our long-neglected garden. This makes me so happy.

Our new renters (and dear friends) are the first to restore our long-neglected garden. This makes me so. incredibly. happy.

DON’T, on the other hand, store your things in outbuildings prone to rodent invasion…

rat infested tool shed

Near-total ruin. At least you can’t smell it.


Yeah, it was like that. Absolute filth and teeth marks. Fun.

I was happier without my stuff, but that doesn’t mean stuff necessarily hinders happiness. This one has been a really big deal for me since we’ve been back. As we began rounding up our things and I realized how many more of them we had than I’d remembered, I began to panic a little. WAIT! But I don’t even remember what’s IN all those boxes! Do we HAVE to open them?! I’m not sure I want ANY of it!! By the time we’d packed it all in the moving truck, driven it across the country and unloaded it into our (rather small) house, I was in a bit of a funk. Fearfully equating things with our pre-adventure stress level, it took a good deal of thought checking, deep breathing and letting go of stories to realize that though minimalism suits me, the change that matters most happened within. Now that I’ve lived without my things, I no longer feel an attachment to them. Now that I realize how much happier I am without many attachments, I’m less likely to accumulate needlessly. AND, now that the boxes are all unpacked and their contents proving more useful than scary, I’m actually quite pleased about the reunion. All that STUFF represents not a life of stress and hoarding, but years and years of good finds, careful craftsmanship, thoughtful gifts and artists supported. The lesson I was meant to learn? Possessions can’t cause us stress nor free us from it. Our thoughts about our possessions determine our reactions to them.

office in progress

As a maker and fiber arts teacher, I’d accumulated quite a hefty stock of supplies (the bulk of our boxes, truth be told). Though I’ve changed gears quite completely in my professional pursuits, I’m excited to be making again, if only for the pleasure. (Pictured is my office, pre-organization.)

The real riches are in the process, not the end product. I’m learning that noticing the beauty in moments such as THESE is much easier when I first slow down and then zoom in or out. By zooming in, I’m able to focus on one thing at a time, appreciating its unique role within my story. Zooming OUT allows me to see chaos as natural, necessary and relative, and peace as an INNER state of being. I can’t claim that I held true to these perspectives throughout the whole move, but I DID notice a heck of a lot of beauty amidst the madness.


unpacking 2

insanity (taos bearded).jpg

Unpacking is apparently WAY more fun while bearded and skating.

The coupling of pre and post-Mexico adornments and housewares feels quite symbolic. The best part about unpacking our things (for me) has been the melding of our two seemingly distinct lives. It’s served as a reminder that I am not the woman I once was but neither am I exclusively the woman I’ve become. Loving and honoring myself means loving and honoring every stage of my story and celebrating the continuum; the compilation.

coral and jadite and quilt scraps

Coral, jadite and quilt scraps. Treasures symbolic (to me) of growth and change.

I set up the girls’ toys for myself as much as I did for them. They’re all a little old for their kitchen, play stands and many of the toys we’ve made and collected through the years, but I kinda needed to set them up anyway. Judging from the fun being had, they kind of needed it, too.

"cosy homes make happy childhood"

My kid needs pop culture. I never thought I’d say it, but plugging into “what all the other kids are doing” seems to be exactly what Eli needs right now. Starry-eyed over all she’s been “missing,” she’s beside herself over the chance to develop friendships in English within a culture she identifies with. My hope is that she’ll also soon realize that Mexico was a gift, not a four-year punishment. Oh, the irony. One of our kids swears she’ll never leave the U.S. again.

they wanna be

It is possible to adventure while rooting. Given the fact that we’re both now self-employed (doing things neither of us have ever attempted), our adventure has really only just begun. (What’s that? You sense fear and trembling? Nah, must be the chilly mountain air.)

are you my restaurant?

Are you my restaurant?

I don’t have to miss and yearn for Mexico in order to fully appreciate our time there. It’s easy to get lost in sadness. It’s easy to let it convince us of life’s injustice, pain’s relentlessness and the fleeting nature of joy. But when rooted in a mindset of sufficiency, it seems, sadness has a greater purpose: it points us toward the abundance we’re overlooking. This summer it also occurred to me (much to my relief) that either way — whether steeped in scarcity or in-tune with abundance — life is still heavy. The difference is that we either fear or love the loads we shoulder.

Our last breakfast in Mexico.

Our last breakfast in Mexico.

Having all my girls together, no matter how complex and chaotic, will never again be a gift I take for granted. There’s a satisfaction I feel when this happens that rivals no other sensation I’ve known. And anytime I’m looking to practice my new sadness-within-the-context-of-sufficiency theory, I’ve always got my girls for skill refinement.

girls 2

Living in the flow is simply slower goingPutting my book (and blog) on the back burner this summer has not been easy, but in my experience, resisting reality never yields a better outcome (and kids don’t really allow it anyway). That said, school starts in less than two weeks!!!!!! which means more rhythm, writing and serenity soon to come.

For this and so much more, I’m immensely grateful.

organized office

My windowed, treetop alcove-office, organized! I’ve never loved a creating space more.

May late summer bring you joy and a nap in a shaded hammock,

More soon! and more often,





Make a commitment to follow the path of no resistance. This is the path through which nature’s intelligence unfolds spontaneously, without friction or effort. When you remain open to all points of view — not rigidly attached to only one — your dreams and desires will flow with nature’s desires. Then you can release your intentions, without attachment, and just wait for the appropriate season for your desires to blossom into reality. You can be sure that when the season is right, your desires will manifest.

–Deepak Chopra

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June 7, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family

motorcycle tulum mexico

It’s so surreal I almost don’t believe it:

Our adventure in Mexico has come to an end.

We left Tuesday. Just. Like. That.


Actually, we prepared for weeks (and months, emotionally).

We had a moving sale (our second in Mexico)…

We set up at the girls’ school and sold nearly everything we’d accumulated south of the border.

Mexico Moving Sale

The girls were TOTALLY into it and made bank while charming the locals with their unexpectedly-good Spanish.


It was really sweet knowing that our things were going to such appreciative people who actually had need for them. One teenage boy was BEAMING to score a nearly-new pair of Nikes for 50 pesos.

goodbye grill

Hunter shaking hands with the guy who bought his grill.

beach cruiser

My bike was the only thing I had a hard time parting with. She was nothing fancy, but took me to some really beautiful places, both within and around me.

post-sale hanging out

Post-sale hanging out.

We wandered around daily in a daze of denial, enjoying our favorite things, places and people for the last time

Street food Mexico

Our fruit lady down the street.

Cucumber, green mango and oranges, with lime and chili, of course

Cucumber, green mango and oranges. Served with lime and chili, of course.

laundry line Mexico

The neighbor’s laundry line.

Taos Berry

Beth Berry Tulum

Tulum beach

Heartbroken to be leaving certain folks. Sigh.

Then we packed our remaining possessions…

leaving Mexico

Said many a difficult goodbye…

Estella became quite close to the Maya groundskeeper at their school. "I'm his best friend," she proudly professed. A wealth of knowledge about the plants and animals of the area, she is a man after her own heart (and vice versa).

Estella became quite close to the Mayan groundskeeper at their school. “I’m his best friend,” she proudly professed. A wealth of knowledge about the plants and animals of the area, he is a man after her own heart (and vice versa).

Their belly dancing class was incredible.

Their belly dancing class. So simple, beautiful and empowering.

Their teacher (and my dear friend) with her daughter (MY daughters' dear friend). This is not going to be easy.

Their teacher (and my dear friend) with her daughter (MY daughters’ dear friend). This is not going to be easy.

…did a bunch of dental work (cause we could – for cheap), and THEN we left.

Just. Like. That.

We were so THAT family in the airport.

We were so THAT family in the airport.

Hopping on that plane (ok not hopping, exactly, considering the fifteen suitcases we were wrangling) concluded the single most transformative, eye-opening, humbling, expanding and soul-revealing four years of my life. Not an easy chapter to put behind us. Not an easy gift to speak of in the past tense. Ugh, here come the tears again.

Ariel silks in the schoolyard

Ariel silks in their schoolyard

Falling in love with a place and its people; allowing an experience to change you quite completely; watching your kids grow in exotic and mind-boggling ways  —  then up and leaving – is heartbreaking. The fact that we’re pros at it by now doesn’t make it any easier, it just means we now know it’s possible to scatter bits of your heart all over the globe and still survive, if forever scabby and scarred and likely to share stories with anyone who’ll listen.

sweet friends in Tulum

Now what? Well, the crazy-making has only just begun, truth be told. We’re officially homeless and will spend the next month couch surfing in Austin (of all places that feel nothing like small town Mexico), rounding up all our things we loaned to and stored with friends and family (first call for Berry junk! {Don’t worry, we don’t even remember what we own, much less who we loaned it to.}), house/neighborhood/school searching in Asheville (our soon-to-be new home), wandering, dazed and confused over ALL THE OPTIONS in this country and trying to sort sadness from love from disbelief from utter elation. Never mind my book or the business Hunter’s about to start because, well…I can’t even go there right now (soon! but yeah, not now). It could be a while before our lives feel “normal” again (not that we’d know such a thing if it landed in our laps).

We’re happy, though. Happy and full and slightly insane and overwhelmed with gratitude.

It’s all still too raw and recent and present tense to write much about just yet, and doing so would just cue the tears again (assuming there are any left in me), so I’ll just wrap it up with a little visual perspective on four years of growth…

Our first week in Mexico.

Estella, our first week in Mexico

Estella, our last week in Mexico

…encouragement to move abroad!!! don’t hold back!!! live your dreams!!! and a choked and tear-streaked THANK YOU MEXICO, for so many things, but especially for stealing, softening and reshaping my heart into something I hardly recognize from the one that led me south to begin with.

We love you, dear country, dear people. Hasta pronto, friends!! We’ll be back as often and soon as we can.

belly dancers Tulum


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May 3, 2014
Categories: Family, Self

In front of our house in San Cristobal de Las Casas

To say that this book writing process has challenged and expanded me would be understatement. Thrown me in a rapid stream of consciousness full of hidden obstructions and undercurrents without so much as a pool noodle is more like it.

Slow-going as the journey has been, it’s not been for lack of effort. I’m invested and determined as ever — it’s just that I’m ALSO allowing space for the fullness of life and (plentiful) lessons being offered.

One of these lessons strikes me as valuable and important enough to break from my blogging break and explore (truth is, I’ve been looking for an excuse anyway). It started with this thought:

Success is a hugely confused concept within our culture. 

And here’s where that’s taken me:

From the time we are young, we’re taught that success is the reward of earnest effort, lucky breaks, practice practice practice and the ability to outwork those around us. We’re encouraged to reach for success somewhere in the future; to set goals and anticipate greatness.

And while I recognize these attributes to be a part of what it means to “be successful,” it seems we’re missing something kind of huge with this purely achievement-based definition. Success also includes present-minded awareness; an attentiveness to and acceptance of the goodness we’re currently living

Looking back on our experiences, success often looks nothing like we thought it would. We expect fireworks!, grand rewards and a deep sense of completion. We’re disappointed when we don’t “get there,” and almost immediately seek the next challenge once our end goal is met.

I’m beginning to think that our job as heart-led humans is not to seek success, but to examine the stories we’ve been told about it (and about ourselves in relation to it) and tune in to the ways we’re already accomplished.

By defining success for ourselves, we connect with its potential as an ever-present gift. Until then, it remains an elusive treasure; a thing we hope for but never fully enjoy.

For me, redefining success has everything to do with deciphering my ego from my truer self.

My ego would have me believe I am “behind” on this book. It encourages choices based on what people might think, a longing to be published already!! and an insatiable lust for the feeling of completion. When I’m able to quiet that voice and listen instead with my heart — my truer self — I recognize that I am actually not behind at all, but that these past few months have been deliciously fruitful and I, quite successful.

Anytime we allow someone else to define our success for us (including our own egos) we are also allowing them to define our worth.

When, on the other hand, we lead with our hearts, checking our actions with our inner wisdom, we can begin to see success as inherent to being human and available to us all at the shift of a perspective.

Consider the seasons of your life when you’ve not been particularly successful by conventional measure:

While home with your babies,

While healing physical or emotional wounds, 

While uncertain and searching for answers,

While braving a major transition,

While laying foundation for the growth of a dream,

While putting one foot in front of the other when doing so was almost more than you had in you. 

None of these seasons equates to “successful” by societal standards. We invest in them anyway because deep down, we KNOW them to be worthy, which means that they are as much a part of our success story as the end reward we think we’re waiting for. 

Frustration, self-doubt and a sense of failure are often the byproducts of subscribing to someone else’s definitions. Doing so leaves us feeling disempowered because our truest SELF is not being honored.

By MY definition:

I am successful every time I tune in to abundance.

I am successful every time I make a connection, whether with one of my daughters, my muse or the taco guy down the street.

I am successful every time I choose compassion over efficiency, truth over assumptions and curiosity over judgement.

I am successful when I live at a speed dictated by the stillness of my heart and not the busyness of my mind.

I am successful when I continue in the direction of my dreams, even when they make no sense to anyone but me.

In this light, feeling successful does not require accomplishment so much as acknowledgment. It often means DOING LESS in order that I might be more perceptive to the success I’m already living.

Your version of success is for YOU to define. 

A beautiful bonus of this shift in thinking is that celebrating our present-moment successes doesn’t just enhance our present moment, it also cues The Greater Good to send more of the same.

“As soon as you start to feel differently about what you already have, you will start to attract more of the good things, more of the things you can be grateful for.” — Joe Vitale

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” — Gandhi

“Making a dream into reality begins with what you have, not with what you are waiting on.” ― T.F. Hodge

And so, in the spirit of gratitude, celebration and clearing space for what’s to come, here are a few recent successes I proudly recognize:

1. The strengths and capabilities of my daughters are becoming obvious, and years of investment are paying off in wonderful ways…

My girls, making dinner.

2. Three of my favorite friends ever recently came to visit (one at a time). I’m still glowing from the fullness of connection…

3. Hunter and I continue to examine our relationship and move through the difficult parts, instead of skirting around them…

4. I’m learning what it is to love deeply, give plentifully and respond with compassion while both holding boundaries AND remaining flexible (talk about success without completion!)…

5. I’m balancing the needs of many ages and still managing to increase my sense of self…

6. I decided not to work during their two-week spring break and instead bus it to San Cristobal (best decision ever)…

7. I slow down for every wonder I can — like this fungus I found growing in the gravel of our yard. It popped up over night, smelled of death, seduced dozens of flies, then died within 24 hours…

8. I’m spending as much time as I can with dear friends whom I’ll soon be missing very much…

Valeria and Franco.jpg

9. I stopped blaming my heart palpitations, fatigue, sleeplessness and brain fog on parasites and hauled my skinner-than-usual self back to a doctor. Turns out, I have hyperthyroidism, which I’m now taking meds for until I get moved and have more access to holistic treatments. (Wow, what a trip THIS has been. Would love to hear from those of you with experience)…

success 14.jpg

10. But perhaps my greatest present-moment success is learning to make peace with the going and coming and going again of my firstborn. They leave holes in you, did you know that? Deep friendship, self-love and trust in that Greater Good are my soul salves of choice…

success 15.jpg

Though the lesson is simple, its implications are pretty profound:

We feel successful based not on what we accomplish, but whether our hearts are fully engaged along the journey. 

None of this is to say that I don’t look forward to the sense of accomplishment I will feel when I finally finish this book (because I most certainly do), just that there’s no less to be proud of or celebrated right now.

Love and gratitude,





“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” — David Frost

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March 27, 2014
Categories: Family, Home, Self

Boundary setting has taken on a whole new meaning in my life as of late. From left to right: me, daughter #1, her boyfriend and daughter #2

First of all, a sweaty-warm welcome to those of you who found me this week via A Mighty Girl or Rebelle Society. (I live in the latin american tropics. ALL welcomes here are sweaty-warm.)

A few things you might like to know as a newbie:

1. I’m writing my first book at the moment (details below) and thus uncharacteristically quiet around these parts. I’ll be back in full swing just as soon as it’s finished. (Oh wait, THEN I’m moving the family back to the states while launching my book. Ok, so you found me at a crazy time. Still, stick around and I’ll do my best to make it worth your while.)

2. In the meantime, there’s plenty to explore and discover in past posts. Here are a few favorites to get you started:

A post about your beautiful body. 

A post about your superpowers. 

A post about pollution that won’t leave you feeling hopeless. 

3. This is a kick-ass community of big minds and even bigger hearts. If you’re a change maker, rule breaker or risk taker who follows your passions and sees beauty all around you, you’ll fit right in. If you’re none of those things but kinda want to be, by all means, make yourself at home. We’re a friendly bunch, with hardly a hater among us.

Second, a huge hug (look out) to those who’ve contributed to, read and gained from the past three community-wide conversations.

It’s taken a good deal of will power on my part not to comment to your comments (which would defeat the point of a blogging break) because WOW, what a beautiful glimpse into your lovely selves!

Here are the first three conversations for those who missed them:

Feel free to chime in with your unique perspective, and definitely have a look if you’re ever in need of a little inspiration and/or empathy.

And third…about this book!

Two years and four full notebooks later...

Two years and four full notebooks later…

The first draft of Motherwhelmed is finished!

Lest this proclamation conjure up any far-fetched notions of actual completion or finality, allow me to explain what this means:

1. It means I have yet another beautiful mess on my hands.

As if my children, marriage, home, body and mind weren’t enough, there are now approximately 25,000 words crammed into 12 (or 14?) chapters, a ton of subchapters and a shit ton of chicken scratches that I will now attempt to sort, make sense of, organize, do away with, beautify and bring sensibility to. (Yes, actually, it IS a lot like motherhood!)

Here’s what this point in the process feels like:

Imagine you’ve been living abroad for four years and are now moving back to the states, only to a different location than the one you first fled from. You show up to your hometown, find all the stuff you’d stashed in people’s barns and garages, load it into a moving van amidst tearful goodbyes and hit the road. You drive for what feels like forever while the kids fight and beg, requiring that you pull over about every half an hour. Though the scenery is beautiful and you love road trips, you find yourself battling a growing desire to jump out of the car and run for the woods when half your kids start singing Wrecking Ball loudly enough to be heard over the other half who are apparently marking the midline of the backseat with each other’s blood. Arriving at long last, you pull into the driveway of your new rental, announce yourselves HOME!!! and hope to God that the mattresses are easily accessible. The difference between stepping into your empty house (the point I’m at in this book) and actually feeling at home is the equivalent of what lies ahead of me, writing-wise. Unpacking, hoping for no major surprises, tossing whatever the rats ate, meeting the neighbors, settling the kids into new schools, finding the DMV office and thrifting my way back to a functioning household? THESE are the metaphorical tasks at hand.

Good thing I’m getting a trial run first, ’cause we’ll be doing all of that FOR REAL in about three months. (All prayers and peaceful projections welcomed.)

We rent this upstairs apartment (across the street from our house) to tourists by the week.  Since daughter #1 moved back home and #2 started homeschooling,  I escape to its corner porch (aka, my perch) to write whenever it's not occupied.

We rent this upstairs apartment (across the street from our house) to tourists by the week. Since daughter #1 moved back home and #2 started (temporarily) homeschooling, I escape to its corner porch (aka, my perch) to write whenever possible.

2. It means I am eating my words.

This book looks almost nothing like it did two months ago. Different subtitle, different focus and ehem, it’s no longer going to be part of a series. (Go ahead, unsubscribe. I’ll understand.)

What happened? Well, I got 14,000 words in and found myself totally uninspired. I didn’t want to write about Why Modern-Day Motherhood Feels So Frustrating (the old subtitle). I wanted to write about creative solutions and shifting personal perspectives and why today’s mothers are so totally badass and important. As soon as I rethought the whole thing and gave myself permission to change gears completely, writing it became way more fun and I no longer needed three books to cover what I wanted to say. I am now quite fond of what it’s becoming, and assuming you still want to read it (even though I’m admittedly kinda crazy), I think you’re going to dig it, too. (And no, I’m not telling you the new subtitle yet. I’ve done my share of word eating for the time being.)

My perch and writing haven. The trees in the background are in our yard.

My perch. The trees in the background are in our yard.

3. It means that our family Way is undergoing complete metamorphosis.

Because I’ve always been available and the first to drop my plans to meet the kids’ needs, this recent shift into MOM IS WORKING FOR REAL has taken some getting used to. I’m learning that it’s OKAY to say things like, “No, I can’t help you find your i-thingy/favorite pencil/earring back right now. Just keep looking. You’re a good finder!” and “I’d be happy to do that for you…this weekend,” and “Who’s making dinner tonight? Awesome. Here are the car keys and 200 pesos for groceries.”

It’s not been easy, but everyone’s slowly adjusting, and I am quite enjoying the fruits of concentrated and less-frequently interrupted effort.

The view from the other side of the apartment, into our neighbor's "kitchen."

The view from the back side of our apartment, into our neighbors’ outdoor kitchen/living area.

4. It means that SLEEP is my new best friend.

Getting enough sleep is BY FAR the most important factor in my ability to write feeling clear and creative vs. foggy-headed and frustrated. Marie Forleo (from Marie TV, which is pretty great) just did an interview with Arianna Huffington (founder of and editor in chief at Huffington Post) in which they talk about this very thing. I encourage you to check it out, AND TO SLEEP MORE, for your sake and everyone else’s. I, personally, am becoming a big fan of the thirty-minute mid-day nap. Works wonders for the ol’ writer’s block.

So, in keeping with the spirit of this (rather insane) season of my life, let’s talk boundaries!

Community-Wide Conversation #4

Q: Do you struggle with creating and maintaining personal boundaries? Have you improved in this area of your life and if so, how? Have your needs for boundary setting changed over the years? Any words of wisdom for the rest of us? 

Nice checking in with you all, I look forward to hearing from you again, and wish me luck on this second half of the journey!

Love and sweat band,





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March 15, 2014
Categories: Self

solitude 2.jpg

Today marks day one of my *first ever* writing retreat. That’s three days alone, by myself, with NO ONE, in the off-grid jungle development Hunter manages. Did I mention that I am alone, by myself, with NO ONE!!!? I can’t even begin to tell you how good this feels. Can’t. Even.

Before you begin that all-popular thought process of, “Oh yeah, lucky her. SHE gets jungle retreat but not poor little ol’ me,” allow me to clarify something:

I am super introverted. I LOVE to be alone. In my 19 years of motherhood (starting at age 17), I have never, ever, not once allowed myself the “luxury” of time away alone, by myself, with NO ONE.

And why?

Well, why does any of us deprive ourselves of the things we love? Because we can’t afford them? (This place and others have been available to me for free since we moved here.) Our babies need us? (That USED to be true for me.) We feel undeserving of them? We feel guilty when we go away? We think we owe it to those we love to slave away day after noise-filled day? 

Amazing, isn’t it? All the goodness we easily afford others but not ourselves?

Seems like the perfect time for:

Community-Wide Conversation #3

Q: What would you give yourself more of if you felt totally worthy and deserving of it? What gifts do you hold back from yourself and why?

Los Arboles Tulum

This morning, while waking up ALONE…

Los Arboles Tulum

Making breakfast ALONE…


And breathing in the soul-stirring stillness, ALONE…

Los Arboles Tulum

…it occurred to me:

I would never in a million years question my super-extroverted husband’s need for people, parties and social interaction. My need for solitude is no less legitimate or important. 

Los Arboles Tulum

Self-love has so many layers, doesn’t it? REALLY glad to have peeled away this one.

Back to the book! (which I think you’re gonna love). I sure am having fun writing it!

All kinds of peaceful and filled with gratitude (for my man, especially — what a GLORIOUS surprise),





P.S. There are still a handful of 5-acre lots for sale out here if you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of (fully titled) preserved Mayan jungle. Make sure and tell them I sent you! (And yes, hilariously, that is me in the video.)

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March 7, 2014
Categories: Culture, Self

my friend in her kitchen

Over the next several weeks while I’m focusing on my book, I’ll be offering questions meant to cultivate community-wide discussion. You can check out Conversation #1 (which was awesome) here. Your voice is valuable, much appreciate and a gift to many!

Community-Wide Conversation #2

Q: What do you wish you had known before you _____? (Got married, became a mother, pursued your profession, went to college, got into debt, bought chickens, whatever you’re feeling.)

The purpose of this question is to honor the wisdom born not of expertise but experience, and emphasize the value of shared reflection and retrospection.

Staying focused and sending love,





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February 28, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family

Over the next several weeks while I’m focusing on my book, I’ll be offering questions meant to cultivate community-wide discussion. My hope is to weave some of your responses into Motherwhelmed, as testimonials straight from the trenches. Every contribution to this conversation is valuable, much appreciated and of benefit to others. 

Community-Wide Conversation #1

Q: At this point in your parenting journey, what are your greatest sources of frustration? If you are a seasoned mother (grandmothers, your voices are of particular value!), what do you remember of your frustrations from when your children were younger and how do you see them as different from those of young mothers today?

*Please include your age and the ages of your children.

Feel free to respond to each other’s offerings, share this with your friends and check back throughout the week to read what other mothers have to say!

Can’t wait to hear from you. Back to the book!





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February 18, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family, Self

book cover

I’ve been trying to write a book now for the better part of a year.

Seems 2013 had a few prerequisites for me first. Apparently, before I could gain true traction, I had to:

  • Get clear on the fact that motherhood was never going ease up on my heart (sorry to break it to you, new mamas)
  • Take self care and self-love to a whole new level
  • Reopen deep wounds acquired along my spiritual walk and tend them lovingly this time
  • Meet a human or three essential to my journey
  • Quit apologizing for the pace of life my intuition tells me is best for me and my family
  • Embrace my hopeless idealism as a gift
  • Bust down walls I’d always leaned on in my marriage
  • Learn to lose, and then find my (truer) self in silence and stillness
  • Let go of my “need” for certainty and answers
  • Believe myself worthy and capable of conveying this book’s message

I know, ruthless requirements, right?

Had you told me last February that by this time I’d still not have finished it, I’d have cried, moped about the house and probably sold my soul to a cubicle right then and there (okay, probably not).

Looking back on just how much I DID accomplish this year though — however intangible — I cringe to think of what it (or I) might be had I not waited.

I needed that time. It taught me some pretty huge lessons: 

  1. Seasons of discomfort and deep growth and intense introspection are essential to our humility, our expansion and the refining of our capacities.
  2. A willingness to be broken and a slow mend steeped in the sweetness of the sacred is sometimes the truest way through our toughest of tumults.
  3. Wisdom requires both struggle and surrender.

Check, check and…check.

My first book is now well underway.

Let me try that again.

MY FIRST BOOK IS NOW WELL UNDERWAY!!!!, and I know I did the right thing by waiting because what last year seemed a tiresome burden is now waking me up at 4 a.m. begging for attention (as do all my favorite creative endeavors), requiring I bring a notebook with me everywhere I go (okay, so this is nothing new), bringing out the kinds of self-doubt demons that only bother showing up when they know I really mean business, and urging me emphatically to settle in and start pushing. (Trust me, I know the feeling well. It’s time.)

Thing is, until recently I’d kinda been freaking out, as this book seemed impossibly (and impassably) BIG. Little did I know that all along I’ve been carrying…triplets!

Ok, enough with the birth analogy. I’m writing a series, it’s gonna be awesome and its name sums it up:


Why Modern-Day Motherhood Feels So Frustrating


Though I dare not divulge too many details just yet (as this project CLEARLY has a mind of its own), I can tell you that the books will be divided more or less as follows:

  • part I: that which is beyond us
  • part II: that which is around us
  • part III: that which is within us

Giving myself permission to break it up this way feels way more fun, entirely more consistent with the life I want to live and yeah, considering that title…

So, for the next several weeks? month? month and a half? I’m entering a phase of SUPER FOCUS. My plan is to rent a beach hut with a full-time cook and no internet write as much as I can while still keeping the children alive, until the first book is out.

Meanwhile — because a. the longer I live abroad and more I learn to love myself, the less allured by (and capable of) multitasking I become and b. I now have a looming deadline (keep reading!) — I’ll be saving my voice for the book (mostly) and opening the conversation up to YOU.

Every week, I’ll throw out a question that I think merits community-wide discussion. You all can then comment away, mingle amongst yourselves and solve planetary/humanitary dilemmas as you see fit.

A couple of the questions I pose will be “anthropological research” for the book. With your permission, I may then quote some of your responses, according to their relevance and deliciousness.  

By the time I return, I will have sent Part I to my editor (are you my editor?), found a kick-ass cover illustrator (are you my cover artist?) and learned everything there is to know about self-publishing and marketing ebooks to as many people as possible.

Motherwhelmed? Who me?

Now, about this deadline: 

This summer will make four years since we moved the family to Mexico. Our goal of “one year abroad to slow our pace and learn a little Spanish” has turned into the single most influential and transformative time of our lives to-date. Mexico is in us forever and for good, I’m not the same person I was when we left, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

AND, our family’s needs are changing quickly. The girls are growing up ridiculously fast, my professional path is taking shape (and Hunter’s is changing course completely) and considering where we’re headed (hello, houseful of teenage girls!?) we need a tribe of families again, like yesterday.

So, this summer, we’re moving back to the states. Not to Austin (I know {sniff}, I’m sorry to break it you this way, sweet-friends-who’d-not-yet-heard-the-news) but to a much smaller town in western North Carolina where time spent on superhighways is the exception, not the daily norm. (Truly, Austin Tribe — it’s not you, it’s the car time.)

We’re really excited, kinda sad and a little intimidated about yet another enormous transition, but mostly…we’re ready.

(Ok, not quite, but we will be come June.)

Taking a little blogging break is gonna sting a little, given that I’m all fired up and ready to write about so many topics, but alas, I’ll just have to wait until I’ve earned the floor again, so to speak — ’cause floors in the states are way more expensive.

With so much love and gratitude for your encouragement along this journey,

I’ll be back soon!





P.S. I truly am looking to assemble a team of talent for this and future projects and would love to support friends and friends of friends. Any recommendations for amazing (professional, affordable) editors, illustrators, cover artists and graphic designers would be much appreciated. And to those of you with experience related to any of the aforementioned, consider your advice hereby solicited!

P.P.S. I’ll still be active on my Facebook page while breaking from the blogging. Hope to see you there!

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