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Posts from the ‘Mindfulness’ Category

A gift




I went to an art therapy group this weekend for women during this tumultuous political time. A week before the meeting the leader sent out information on the despacho ceremony we would be participating in. A despacho ceremony is a traditional Andean shamanic ritual that aligns personal intent with gratitude offerings to the earth. We were instructed to gather several offerings from our kitchen or yard to contribute. I selected a few things from my kitchen – sprouted pumpkin seeds symbolizing growth, honey to symbolize the glue that holds us all together and four mandarin oranges for health.

I had never participated in anything like this and, honestly, at first it felt a little “out there.” But as I drizzled sparkling honey over the beautiful mound of offerings a group of six passionate women had assembled I felt a surge of hope.

The honey glistened on the feathers of guinea hens, on the pinecones of Durham’s towering pines, on the flowers from my friend’s backyard, on the rocks plucked from the shallows of the Eno River, on the quinoa symbolizing our ancient ancestors, and more. It struck me just how fucking amazing it was that we were all there, in that place, at that time, creating an offering to our earth and praying for peace and guidance.

Think about it. Had one speck of dust landed differently on my drive over I might not have made it there. Had one person’s child caught the ball that another kid with norovirus had tossed, her family might have been struck with illness so she could not be there. So many things had to align perfectly so we could be together, creating amazing art that would later be burned in a fire and offered up to the earth and everyone on it.

That evening I returned to the instructional email and finally found time to read on the history of the despacho, which has its roots in the Andes, primarily in Peru and Ecuador.

“A despacho is created during a celebratory ceremony. In the cosmology of the Andes, all life is perceived as one grand, infinite ceremony. Because physical survival is so hard in the high mountains, life is experienced as a true gift to be lived, not a problem to be solved. ” 

That last line made me stop dead in my tracks. I have been watching a lot of documentaries about the evolution of man recently, fascinated by how we as a species have come so far. In one documentary, they note that as life became safer, we began to have time to start reflecting and creating. For me, we became truly human then, no longer existing solely to find our next meal and reproduce. Suddenly we had a little safety, a little time to start expressing ourselves. We started to create and think deeply.

Today many Americans are, for the first time in their lives, feeling the sharp edge of uncertain survival. Climate change is here, politics are a swirling storm, new and previously eradicated diseases are on the rise, and more. We are watching the physical survival of our species and our planet become increasingly difficult.

With this in mind, perhaps we should take every challenging and frightening moment to reflect on what a gift it is that we get to feel discomfort. Because the alternative is to not feel, and not feeling may not be what is human.

So today, when my child tantrums, when my New York Times app buzzes with another alarming update, when the weather swings wildly once more, I will breathe deeply and remember that this life of uncertainty is one to be lived, not a problem to be solved. I will relish the fact that this uncertainty is letting me feel a moment of discomfort to my fullest human ability.


One Amazing Child




Google “only child” and you get more than 31 million hits.


This strikes me as completely ridiculous. Why is our society so obsessed with only children and the good or bad aspects of being one?

I am often asked if Sabine is an only child and up until recently I would always give my very canned response with downcast eyes.

“Yes. She is, and will continue to be, an only child. It took years and a lot of medical intervention for us to have Sabine. She is very special.”

While this response was not bad in the sense that it brought to light our struggle with infertility, it was not particularly good. You see, I don’t like the negative edge that “only child” has. The word only implies “not enough” and that is not fair when it comes to a human being. We are all enough. We are all amazing creatures with cool thoughts and awesome abilities. Why on earth would we refer to ourselves as an “only.” We might be one, but we are far from only.

It is with this in mind that I have changed my canned response. When someone asks me if Sabine is an only child I now respond with, “Sabine is our one amazing child. It took a long time and a lot of medical intervention to have her. She is very special.”

I want to change the way we speak about families with one child. One is awesome. One is perfect. One is exactly what we all longed for when we were neck deep in injections, transvaginal ultrasounds, pregnancy tests and tears. One is amazing.


A Family




Sabine and her much loved “rainbrella.” 

When I saw those two pink lines at the end of January this year my entire perspective on life shifted. My focus went from my one amazing child to the prospect of another. Then the pregnancy ended. And my husband accepted a permanent job. And we prepared our apartment to sell. And we listed it. And on and on.

Since those two pink lines I have not been the best mother. I’m not being unnecessarily harsh on myself here. Actually I’m doing the opposite. I’m allowing myself to feel all the feels that go along with major life changes and loosing sight of the present.

Now it is time to return my focus to Sabine.


A block from our apartment is the fanciest neighborhood. Sabine and I like to walk in the median, where we don’t get scolded by the security watch for walking in the lawn of a fancy home owner. 

It happened when I picked Sabine up from school on Friday. It was unseasonably cold and drizzling rain. I did not have a coat and my feet ached. I just wanted to go home and veg out.

“I want to take a walk with my rainbrella (Sabine’s term for umbrella).”

This was the LAST thing I wanted to do, but something in her voice told me this was important.

“Yes, let’s park the car at the apartment and we’ll leave all our stuff in it and go for a walk with the umbrella right away,” I said. “Shall we walk into the fancy neighborhood and look for the bee hive?”


Sabine’s eyes lit up and she bounced with joy. So we walked in the drizzling rain and when the rain stopped we folded up the umbrella and kept walking. We walked along the grassy median in the road and stopped to inspect things whenever the mood struck. We laughed, we played. We got a little wet and dirty.

For the first time in a long while I felt like I was fully present and alive with my little person. I was a mother again. A mother to my one perfect child and two more who might have been. And, most importantly, I was perfectly comfortable just where I was. I don’t need more. I don’t need less. I have everything my heart desires right this moment.

On our walk back we noticed some mushrooms. Sabine paused to inspect them and announced they were “a family – Mama, Dada and Baby.”

Yes, my child. Just like us. Just like us.


Sabine inspected these and declared them “A family. Mama, Dada and Sabine.”