Dark Chocolate Blueberry Waffles

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I made these this morning.
The left over batter didn’t make it to the end of the night.

These are healthy, nutrient dense, vegan, gluten/grain free and best of all, super easy to make!

I love, love, LOVE waffles! When I became vegan, I also gave up gluten. Vegan waffle/pancake recipes were easy to find, but almost all gluten free recipes called for an egg.

Then, after searching for hours online, I stumbled upon buckwheat. Not only is this ancient seed gluten free, it is a complete protein, packed with B vitamins, fiber, magnesium, copper, and is anti- inflammatory!

Add all that up with the anti-oxidants found in blueberries and dark chocolate and you are on your way to the healthiest version of decadence you can find for breakfast.

Using the method of sprouting is essential to unlocking the nutrients found in most grains and seeds, raw buckwheat groats fall in to the same category. Conveniently, you can buy Sprouted Buckwheat flour which saves you on time and is definetly worth the extra couple bucks. My local Whole Foods sells this particular brand but there are a few other brands to choose from as well!

I always keep this flour in the house, my 2 year old daughter and I have some version of waffles for breakfast everyday! We like to switch up the ingredients from time to time but this recipe beats them all.

‘Chocwit’ waffles are her absolute favorite and mine too. 🙂

Ingredients:

2 cups Sprouted Buckwheat Flour
About 1 to 2 cups of water or plant based milk
3/4 cup organic pitted dates
1/2 cup organic frozen blueberries
A dash of cinnamon and sea salt
A HUGE handful of Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips
Earth balance vegan butter
Pure organic maple syrup

(Makes about 3 or 4 waffles)

Pour dry buckwheat flour mix into a bowl. Blend water or milk with dates until smooth. Add liquid mixture to flour and then add the extra milk or water, stirring to reach desired consistency.
Add a pinch of cinnamon and sea salt.
Fold in blueberries and dark chocolate chips.

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Pour batter in waffle maker or fry in coconut oil on a skillet to make pancakes!

Finish off with butter and drizzle with maple syrup! Or serves as is,
these are really delicious and already sweet on their own.

The combination of smooth melt in your mouth dark chocolate with juicy blueberries and the subtle nutty taste of buckwheat is perfection.

Enjoy!

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Comment below if you give this recipe a try! 🙂

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When You Get There, Keep Going

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(Ode to Pac, a true revolutionist)

When there is a true shift in consciousness, in our way of thinking and perceiving the world around us, change becomes a natural and necessary by-product of that shift. Our environment will and must change to match it.

Our world is nothing more than a reflection of our current state of mind, a macro cosmic reflection of our own internal chaos or calm. Change begins in the mind or more precisely, beyond it.

Many of us would agree wanting to change is not enough. So what precedes the shift, what causes it?

Back in college, I took a course in which I was educated on the exploitation of the average consumer, women more specifically, in society, media, the medical field, etc. I learned about the impact of petroleum products in our body and our environment. I discovered the insidious amounts of chemicals being added to makeup, hygiene products, infant formula, clothing, vaccinations, food and water to name a few. I became a witness to factory farming and was baffled at how I never knew this was going on. I learned about the status quo and my own involvement and unconscious participation in the upkeep of it. It was the most eye opening class I have ever taken. As expected, I was absolutely furious about the deception. I couldn’t believe that this was happening in the world. I was so passionate about spreading this information, I told anyone and everyone I knew about what I had learned.

But how does one go from fury to fuel for change?

With all that passion, it would make sense to assume my choices and behaviors would have begun to change as well.
But they didn’t.

A sophomore in college, I continued on in most of my old habits, mainly out of convenience. I still ate fast food, cleaned with the same products, used the same perfume. I drank bottled water, used plastic for almost everything and I surely wasn’t ready to give up my cancer causing make up or my favorite lead filled lipstick. Although I was adamant in telling people about all of this information, there was clear disconnect between the concepts I believed in and the way I actually lived my life. Shortly, after the class ended, so did my passion for the subjects it touched upon.

There was no shift.
There was no full awakening, 
not yet but a seed was planted.

Looking back, I have come to understand, through the highly perceptive lens of hindsight, that much of the information I had learned in that class did not fit into my social setting. At the time, there was no living context for it to grow within.

I genuinely did want to revolt, plant my own garden, purchase organic, stop wearing toxic make up, stop eating animals and begin to recycle the disgusting amounts of plastic I had been throwing away on a daily basis. But at that time the environment I was in was not conducive to the change I desired. At no fault of their own, my friends didn’t really know about the chemicals in their environment either, nor did my family. I had no support system or people from whom I could seek out advice and guidance.

I wondered, as the years had gone by and the course’s impact on me begin to fade, why didn’t I follow through?

Why didn’t I do anything, at all?

Back then, I didn’t recognize my own unwillingness to let go of the very things that were keeping me from being the person I wanted to be and living the way I wanted to. Fast forward several years later, I am a college graduate and expecting my first child. Suddenly, the seed that was planted gets watered a bit as I begin to see my body very differently now. The seed that lay dormant for many years is activated by a change in my environment that is more favorable to its growth, pregnancy and the beginning of entering into the journey of motherhood, shifted things. I wanted, like all parents, to give my child the very best start in life. I knew that I had to revisit my old, stubborn habits and set out with a plan to really change them this time around.

But we can’t expect ourselves to make a radical change in an environment that hasn’t changed at all. We can’t assume that this time will be different if, in reality, nothing is different. Concepts require stimulus.

Inspiration is powerful but flighty.

It needs some form of grounding behavior, repetitive, disciplined action and positive, supportive feedback in order for it to effectively integrate into the cells of our being and materialize into the habits that will shape the structure of the lives we have chosen.

The rose that grew in concrete, ascended from a crack. That crack was the shift the rose needed to finally break through. Without it there would be no light, no sustenance, no chance for it to claim its vitality. The rose was a result of a seed that was planted there somehow, someway. Whether it was the determination of the rose to grow that resulted in the crack or the crack that gave way to the fate of the rose’s ascension out of the concrete is irrelevant.

The foundation was meant to crack, the rose was meant to bloom.

When the environment began to shift,
the foundation that prevented the rose from rising ruptured.
A single ray of light burst through and it blossomed.
We are as much the rose, as we are the concrete it grew from.
We are as much of our potential, as we are our limitations.
We have in us as much determination, as we do complacency.
We have the power to cause the crack,
but often it is not until something breaks us that we change.
We can take control of our own ascension,
as much as we can dig ourselves into the ground.

If you have a desire to change, if you already feel unsettled with the way your life is, or the way the world is, if there is a part of you that wants things to be different, if you have begun to feel the itch of disconnect between your beliefs and your actions, then the crack has already begun.

What does it take to create a harmonious environment that supports the change taking place from within?

What will it take for the rose to bloom to its full potential, for it to rise to light?

Only you know.

Embrace the break.
You may find yourself, like the rose,
in a place where you don’t fit it in.

When you get there, keep going.

-P

‘Spark the brain that will change the world.’ Pac

A Day in the Life of a Nursing Toddler

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“Mama, no. Mama! NO!

She cried and then cried some more, as I pried the tube of lipstick out of her small but unusually strong grip. She threw a bit of a fit on the floor, as I quickly swiped the confiscated red lipstick across my lips. Boundaries had not been clear. Sometimes I let her have some of my chap stick while I get ready. Why would she assume that this time was any different? My sassy, witty 2 year old with her intelligent, analytic reasoning, wanted what I had given her before and was not going to back down without a fight.

But I didn’t give in. Not today, I was already late.
I would be leaving for the day, 8 hours between her and me.

By the time I would be arriving home, I would be also getting her ready for bed. I wanted connection. I know she did, too. It was my second day away from her for an extended period of time. Time that is usually spent, liberally and lazily, in each others arms, playing, laughing, and enjoying whatever else the day brought. I wanted to leave her calmly, patiently, and ideally in my arms nursing from my breast, like we always say goodbye.

“Mama, can we have ‘milky’ on the bed!” she cried out.

By then, there was no time left to nurse. I had to hurry out the door.
I leaned down next to her and whispered in her ear,
“I know you really wanted my lipstick, it’s really fun to wear lipstick, huh?
Maybe we can wear some later and we can have some milk when I get home. I love you so much.
Mama will see you very soon.”

I cried in the car. 7 hours and 45 minutes, between her and me.

And then, later that evening, on my mat during savasana, after my yoga practice I began to cry again. Under the dim lights, vivid in my mind was the image of her little red, lipstick stained fingers draped around my neck, her chubby wet cheeks pressed to mine, and her coconut scented curls against my lips. The weight of intense guilt lingered from the rush of the morning. I wondered if I would come home to my sweet baby greeting me, excited to have her milk. Or— what I really feared most— was that, in my haste to get to work, she felt rejected.

Would today be the day she decides that nursing is over?

Since her second birthday passed, I have wondered this often, when it will be and how it will be, that very last time she nurses from my breast. Will it be abrupt and all at once as many mothers have said or a slow, steady departure from the place she has happily found refuge and comfort in for the past 2 years.

What I will feel? Relief or grief?
I think a little of both, but the latter much more so.

The assertive, independent temperament of a toddler sometimes demands more of me than I can handle and any other mother I imagine nursing their own 1 or 2 year old, who— like myself, most likely is also splitting themselves between their children, work, and well, themselves. Nursing a toddler is hard work. Every second worth it, but knowing that doesn’t always relieve the challenges that, as mothers, we face in the midst of it all. And it also doesn’t mean every moment spent nursing is a happy one.

The first few months of breastfeeding nirvana eventually turn in to a cumulative of countless hours of sleep gone, meals missed, tight shoulders, achy backs, weight gained or some loss, feeling at your best and at your worst— all at the same time. And let’s not forget the magnificent gift and curse of being the only one who has the most effective equipment to ease boo boos, settle tantrums, and put their baby down for a nap or bedtime.

There are nights I revel in the smell of her skin and the peaceful look on her face as she drifts off on my breast before bed but then there are nights where I slip away, almost immediately, after she falls asleep, anxious to finally have a few moments all to myself. Knowing it will end means so many things, the ending of a part of our relationship that will never come again. The ending of a way we have, so easily, reconnected at night after a long day or awakened, sleepily, in the morning before the rush of endless responsibility hits.

The ending of impromptu nursing sessions in cars, grocery stores, at the mall, or on park benches drenched in the sun with her small, clammy, dirt specked hands twirling my long black strands of hair around each of her fingers and those big brown eyes of hers looking up at me, in love and contentment.

What will replace that?

Secretly and maybe a bit unrealistically,
I fear that nothing ever will.

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So much of my identity, in being a mother, is centered on this very special and incredibly, purposeful relationship of nursing my baby. Our connection inextricably rooted in this remarkable, yet convenient exchange of a whole lot of chaos for little bits of stillness, of doing everything, all at once, for just a few rare moments of doing nothing—at all.

“Almost home… I’m almost home…”

I, impatiently, whispered aloud to myself in my car, as I pulled in to the driveway. I turned the key in the lock of our front door and then stopped. I listened behind the door before going in. I could hear her call out, “Mama!” There was excitement in her and still a bit of anxiety in me. I opened the door. She ran to me giggling with joy. I scooped her up into my arms and with great hope and a bit of lasting fear, I told her how very much I had missed her and asked if she wanted to lay down and have some milk now. She eagerly agreed, wiggling out of my arms and dashing over to the bedroom where we typically nurse when I get home.

It was as if the moments before I left, in that hasted filled rush, had never happened.

It is how all children live, isn’t it? In that sacred space, that exists unencumbered by what came before, free of guilt and regret. A space that is filled with second chances and unconditional love. A space I try my best to enter daily and hold her in whenever I can. I don’t know if I will ever be ready for the moment I walk in to the house, after a long and difficult day spent away from her, and she answers no to the question of whether or not she wants to nurse.

Endings are never easy.

But at least for today, we began again, cuddled in each other’s arms in the familiar embrace that reminds me how lucky I am to still have her to love, to hold, to nurse.

-P

Sweet Signs

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Spirits, they say, connect with us through symbols and metaphorical language that, usually, can only be understood and interpreted by those who are on the receiving end of the message while the medium serves as a conduit, an open, clear channel through which the message comes.

Feeling a bit disconnected last week, I decided to speak with a medium for some insight. We began with no history or background disclosed. The first thing she asked me, completely unprompted and unsure of how to even spell the word, was “What does ‘Catch-a-tour-ee’  mean?” as she attempted to phonetically sound out what she was receiving. An unfamiliar word that meant nothing to her but everything to me.

Every year, at this time, since my Grandpa passed in February of 2009, I make the vegan version of an Italian dish called chicken cacciatore (catch-a-tour-ee), minus the chicken. Growing up it was my favorite.

The gravy, as he called it, simmering in the pan always brings me back to my grandpa’s kitchen, his 6 foot frame bent over the stove, the smell and taste of his love bubbling. For him, cooking was connecting. And he taught me so much about eating healthy, whole foods.

Spiritual symbols.
Sweet signs.
Cacciatore. That’s ours.

It was my grandpa’s way of letting me know that he is here, he is with me. And when world feels so heavy and weighted, it is a miracle to be able to connect with the souls of our deceased loved ones and to be reminded that we are light.

We are eternal.

-P

Perfection or Peace?

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Of what purpose these postures and of what use our bodies if we are not breathing into them?

I was just thinking of how I haven’t taken any yoga pictures because my life has been too busy to shoot, angle, and edit anything worth sharing. I felt a bit badly about it like I was not ‘keeping up’ (and even more stress crept in through the back door as I felt shame for why I would even have such a feeling) but then I thought….
who gives a f*** .

My practice is not always post worthy, but it does give me what I need and what others need from me. It gets me through stressful times like these past few weeks. It calls me to seek out my own truth and pushes me to dig deeper. Sometimes my practice is magical, a wind in your hair type flow that I wish I had the opportunity to video or take a picture of, other times I’m slumped on my mat like a slug trying to get going.

When I first entered into the IG world of yoga, I was enamored but like all first loves, the novelty quickly wore off. I was tired of seeing the ‘mastery’ of yoga postures, falsely representing and giving the illusion of the mastery of yoga itself, which by the way has very little to do with how straight your handstand is.

I asked myself one day, as I sat in front of my computer scrolling through a feed of yogi superstars, star struck and envious while stopping to pause at one of the deepest back bends I had ever seen…
What the heck am I practicing for…to have the best asana?
Do I want perfection or peace?
As the asanas crumble, which they will,
the latter endures.

So long as we practice with the intention to go beyond our egoic desires, to evolve not just in a physical sense but spiritually as well, peace comes.

“Reduced to our own body, our first instrument, we learn to play it, drawing from it maximum resonance and harmony.” – Yehudi Menuhin

How do we resonate with others, as teachers and as practitioners, through our practice or our pictures?
What do these pictures embody truth or illusion?Goals within our practice are beautiful and inspiring but the work, the surrender in the poses themselves are where the true inspiration lies. And oh, how they inspire. As a writer, as an artist, these very words and much of what I write come after my practice, whether it be in movement or in stillness. And I know I’m not the only one who uses a daily practice to get the creative juices flowing and pouring into all the desiccated areas of our lives in need of some nourishment.

So as my obsession with IG yoga is coming to end, documenting my practice is not. I do think sharing something learned, something felt, something authentic and real from what these poses reveal to us is ALWAYS worth sharing.
So do less yoga. Live your yoga.
Something, I too am learning along the way.
Share yoga in all its complexity.
Share the months of confusion before the mere moments of clarity. 
Share the path, the detours, the break downs and break throughs.
Share more than a snap shot of poise and grace.
Share the story behind the pose, the person behind the lens.
Share the process. Share it all. Love it all.

-P

Love Whatever Gets in the Way

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Whatever gets in the way of your desires, your expectations, your plans, your peace, your happiness— love it. If it stands there without budging, as strong as you, as stubborn as you— let it. If its defenses come up, kicking and screaming, fighting back at you—
show it kindness. If it stops you, momentarily, from achieving whatever it is you are set out to achieve—forgive it.

If it breaks apart the picture you had of how your life was suppose to turn out—
trust it. If it keeps coming back, revealing itself to you in your life, your dreams, your thoughts, your heart— accept it.

Love whatever gets in the way.

Don’t blame it. Don’t make it responsible. Love it from a place of purity, a place of selflessness that doesn’t expect anything from it in return. Love whatever you feel is stopping you from becoming who you want to become. Love it with all of your heart.

Let it know you are not angry with it,
or jealous of it,
bitter or broken by it.
You are better,
you are stronger,
you are wiser
because of it.

Love it because it shows you,
exactly, where you need to love
the very most.Don’t hold it accountable.
Don’t single it out as a mistake, a problem,
or something that needs to be fixed.
Don’t glorify it. Don’t give it too much power.
Don’t make it your enemy.
Don’t feed it with negative thoughts
and emotions.

Just love it. Love it away, love it back
to where it came from. Love it until it melts
into the cells of your being.
Let it mold the part of you
that it is meant to shape.
Love it through your fear
and judgement,
through your opinions
and perceptions of it.
Love it, despite it feeling,
like it is meant
to hurt you—it isn’t.
Love it, though
it might hurt you—it may.
Love it, until it can’t hurt you—it can’t.

Love it through and through.It is there, she is there,
he is there because they are meant to remind you
to keep moving inward. Everything is created to open you
to your light. So, if it begins to shift or change your direction,
your beliefs, your heart, your purpose— let it. Trust it.
Everything is here to bring us back
to our true nature. Every time we get lost
in the forward momentum,
the insensible pace of life,
all those obstacles
come rolling in, bringing us pain,
dragging us through the dirt,
taking us through the storm,
opening our wounds,
our eyes, reminding us—
be still, be here, be present.

Love it all, until it brings you back to that place where the world
falls away at your feet, where life pushes you out and God pulls you back in,
where nothing else matters but the strength of that love
and the decision you make to choose that love over everything else.
Trust in the process. Do not stand in the way of the process.
It’s perfect. It will always bring you home.

-P

Beyond Fear

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Many people are starting families, businesses, new jobs, pursuing dreams and passions, others are dying of disease, addiction, accidents, lives long lived. Some of us have found love and purpose, are raising children, and are sharing the word and gift of God–
but loss, it seems, spares no one, not the bravest, or the holiest, not the happiest nor the most successful.

At anytime death will happen and it always makes you feel down to your bones, your breath, your heart and it makes you thankful for them no matter how labored, bruised, and broken they are– they are and some are not.

If you are anything like me, you keep waiting for the right moment, the right time, more money, more support from friends and family, or an opportunity that will, finally, change your life situation. We are waiting for the ‘go ahead’ to get on with living out our dreams.

And all the while we are waiting, we are missing a million chances to live.

It will never happen exactly the way we want it to, our lives will never unfold the way we plan. And we must stop believing that they can. We have to stop holding ourselves hostage to those very narrow, unrealistic expectations that prevent us from discovering what is out there beyond the limits of our fear. We are the only ones who can give ourselves the ‘go ahead’ we desire to start living our lives in the way we have always wanted to.

‘The way we want to live our life is the way we are meant to live our life.’

I have felt so stuck, lately. In my life, in my ways. Every step is made with caution, so much so, I’m not moving much at all anymore.

But I know this, there is a gift for me, for all of us. And it waits, to reveal itself in the very moment we come to meet the edge of our darkness.

So, I have to give it all up. I have to start all over again. We all can benefit from moving with less fear and worry, and instead more trust and faith that beyond the darkness there is something that makes going through it, worth it.

And perhaps, there is something truly magnificent rising in me and in you too, that only a bit of darkness can birth.

-P

Balance

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If you trace back the line, follow the heartache home, all the way to where pain begins,
it’s always the same.
The same place.
The same answer.

Childhood.

A basic need not being met there. An absence of love, affection, attention, empathy, communication.

And the trauma we meet there stays with us,
some longer than others.
Some of us find healthy ways to release it but most of repress it,
in not so healthy ways.

It if for this very reason that the practice of yoga resonates with almost everyone who journeys into it.

It frees us.

It brings us face to face with the little girl who never received the validation or attention she needed most, or the little boy who never felt good enough.
It stirs up our competitive nature, our jealously, anger and fear.

It asks that we don’t seek to fix it, at least not right away but to feel it,
to sit with it.
All of it.

And we learn, the more we practice, how to accept and welcome all of ourselves onto our mat, the good and the bad.

And the more we accept, the more we release.

We make space.

Some of the most intelligent beings on this earth have never dared to go into their sadness. Some of the strongest people in the world would never step foot into their anger, nor the bravest into their fear.

But yoga awakens all of us, whether to be awakened is our goal or not.

This practice is as humbling as it is empowering.

As healing as it is painful.

It balances us out.

It knows, exactly, what we need when we need it. It points us in the direction of self love and self acceptance.

Not perfection, not control, or freedom from mistakes or a way out of what makes us human.

But balance.

Balance, is what I’m learning.

-P

The One Thing You Are Doing Way Too Much.

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“As a general guideline, if you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve sat too long.” -Dr. James Levine

Think about how often you sit, at work, eating lunch, driving, watching television, playing video games, at the computer, on your phone?

Even as I write this I can feel the slow ache in my bones build.

I love writing but sitting is something that has always kept me from long hours spent hunched over a keyboard making posts, editing, and revising. I prefer to sit no more than an hour at a time. After that my body is craving some movement. And I bet yours is too.

Most of us suffer with back and neck pain. Being that almost everyone suffers with some form of pain, it has become a normal way of living. So much so that it actually deters people from exercising. Many clients I work with fail to connect their back pain as a symptom of their inactivity. So their well intentioned, self prescribed dosage of more rest and more sitting only worsens their condition. They are, understandably, in so much pain that moving actually has begun to feel counterintuitive.

I rehabilitated a major back and hip injury, through the practice of yoga and core strengthening workouts over the past several years. My broken back and hip have healed completely and I can assure you they only give me problems when…

Yup, you guessed it,

when I sit.

Sitting plays a huge factor in childhood obesity. Most children can’t sit still, which is a great thing, as our bodies are not designed for sedentary lifetsyles, but leave a child in front of the television, or humped over a phone screen or an Ipad long enough and suddenly they don’t want to get up.  Thus, a generation of children with premature back pain, neck pain, health problems, short attention spans etc.

The secondary curves of the spines are formed the moment our children can lift their heads, and further more as they begin crawling and walking. Childhood is a crucial age in which our spines are developing and adjusting to either activity or exessive periods of sitting. It is no surprise which leads to a more healthy, properly aligned, flexible spine, whether it be dancing, baseball, walking, or yoga, children are meant to move and adults are too!

Want to stay and feel younger longer? Want to have more energy and be able to keep up with your kids?

Move! Be the example. Children will not remember hours spent in front of the television but they will remember days spent hanging off the monkey bars, walks on the beach, surfing ocean waves, climbing trees, going to the gym or doing some yoga (which I highly recommend) with their parents.

Part of my love for working in the health field is that I don’t have to sit for long periods of time. Thank god!

Sitting should make up a very small part of an active day, but for most of us it takes up our entire day with small, inconsistent bursts of activity.

It’s simple math, an hour of exercise alone, even everyday, can not counter the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Bring movement into everyday life, dancing around the house, standing instead of sitting to fold laundry, jumping around with your kids. I like to pop into some form of a yoga posture, get upside down, or do a quick Sun Salutation to get my breath moving and my blood circulating. Doesn’t that sound yummy?

Get creative and most importantly, make it fun!

-Paulee McCormack

Crispy Oven Baked Fries with Guasacaca

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I don’t usually post recipes. But when I stumble upon a great one in the kitchen, I must share.

I visited a lovely Venezuelan Cafe last week, complete with traditional dishes like black beans, arepas, and fried plaintains. So delicious. I discovered this amazing green sauce there, pictured above- guasacaca.

Never heard of it?

Well, neither did I but now I am in love! Plus, the name is really fun to say. Anyway, I am whipping it up any chance I get! It’s very much like guacamole, but better and creamier! It super easy to make and tastes good on just about anything. I’ve tried it with success on a a fresh salad, some tortilla chips, a veggie burger and here, where I have paired it when crispy, oven baked french fries.

At the cafe, it was served along side Yucca fries but I wanted to keep it simple and went with some organic red potatoes. Not only is this recipe super easy, it’s delicious, and perfect for kids as a much healthier alternative to traditional french fries. No frying, which means no trans fat involved.

Okay, let’s get to it!

Here is what you will need:
(When possible, use organic!)

Check out this study Continue reading

Make Mistakes. Lots of Them.

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“What do I paint?” I asked, staring at the blank canvas holding a brand new paintbrush in my hand.

“Anything.” he said.

I hesitated. “But I don’t even no where to begin.” I confessed.

I looked around at the other students who seemed to be clear and focused in their work. I was envious of their certainty and desirous of the decisiveness that came with each press of paint on paper they made.

I really don’t want to mess up, I thought to myself.

I let out a sigh and said, “Okay…” unsurely. My teacher kindly smiled back at me and continued making his rounds around the classroom.

I stood there for awhile before I got the nerve to finally rip my paint brush through the white hide of the bare canvas. I dipped my brush in to a bright yellow mixed with a deep blue and scraped the green creation across the canvas. It wasn’t much nor was it very pretty but it felt good to begin.

And isn’t that always the hardest part— beginning?

We have this tendency to wipe out our chance of creating anything of greatness because we are so terrified of getting a little dirty and messing things up.

When my teacher came back around shortly after, I was expecting a critique of my mismatched mess of colors. Instead, he nodded with the same reassuring smile and said, “I really like your choice of colors.” and kept on going. To my own surprise, I felt proud.

“I did it.” I thought. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going but I started. I had faith, for the first time, that maybe I could turn this nothing into something great, if I kept on going.

What if we could all admire the muddle of colors on canvas and not simply the picture they may or may not make? What if we could focus on the composition of things instead of scrutinizing the details or the minor imperfections? What if we chose to see the first touch of brush to canvas as a success in of itself, no matter the mark it makes?

Most of us, when guaranteed with the results of something are much more likely to commit to the process. But what about when the results don’t come, at least not right away?

What keeps us moving when there is no path paved and no guarantee of success?

Recently, I have realized I have never had too many people in my corner cheering me on. I’ve stood alone in many of my dreams in fear of moving forward, aching for someone to push me into action, hoping for someone to assure me it will all work out. I come from a past of people who put aside their dreams for the sake of helping to fulfill the dreams of others. I come from a family of judgment, skepticism, doubt, practicality and fear. I come from a family who value a sense of comfort over the opportunities that come only with taking risks. I come from a family who fastened me down to the conventional system of education, leaving my creative heart to rust like the hub on a wheel of a bicycle, never given the chance to spin.

But we are meant to spin— wildly, madly, and passionately from our heart’s instinctive desires, wholly untamed and entirely free. We are born to move. We are born to fly. We are made to revolve and evolve from our center. We are made to make mistakes. Yet, our center is constantly left jammed from the lack of love, trust, and attention that it needs to keep our wheels in motion and in our lives in balance.

So, where is the desire to keep moving derived from when the results are not coming and our hope is deteriorating?

It must come from our ‘spiritual running buddies’, our creative kinship of supporters that hold us accountable and empower us to keep on moving, to keep on spinning. It must come from people like my art teacher, people who want to see us succeed but more than that, people who want to see us—be free. It must come from the people in our lives who recognize and believe in the greatness in us, even if we have yet to see it in ourselves.

Go after what your heart wants and surround yourself with those who support you in doing so. The worry, skepticism, and judgment from others, does not serve you. It surely has not served me.

Be free.

-Paulee McCormack

 

 

There is a creative spirit in you
destined to be freed.
There is an obedient child in you
anxious to break the rules.
There is a dance in you
begging to be danced.
There is dreamer in you
waiting to dream, again.

Remember her.
Remember him.

There is a song in you
ready to be born.
There is a song in you
hoping to be sung.
There is a song in you
that needs to be heard.
Sing it.
You must sing it.

Were you the parent you wanted to be, today?

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Intimacy is longed for but seldom embraced. The moment we meet it, we turn away. It’s easy and safe to be autonomous and completely independent. Acquaintances, neighbors, or employees don’t ask much of us, emotionally, but those closest to us do. Partnerships, marriages, friendships, or even the act of lending ourselves to our community or a charity ask that we give ourselves, fully. And when we do, our virtues aren’t the only things that we are in control of showing anymore. Every bit of ourselves is exposed. Yes, even those ugly, shameful parts that we wish others didn’t have to be subjected to. Intimacy brings out the best in us but also the worst.

In my case, motherhood has been the intimate relationship I have most longed for. Since a child, pushing a pink carriage around with blue-eyed, blond-haired stuffed toy dolls, I’ve wanted to be a mother. And while it has given me tremendous purpose and confidence in who I am, it has also made me question myself more than any other relationship I have ever been in.

“Mama, milky now.
My almost 2 year old sweetly demands. Now?
I think to myself, where did she get that from?
Later that night, I find myself mid-sentence demanding, not as sweetly, that she, “Give it to Mama, now.

Oh.
‘Now.
My aha moment sets in.

Consciousness creeps in with it. My little walking, talking mirror reflects back to me my own unconscious behavior. I don’t like how ‘now’ feels and I’m guessing she doesn’t either.

It’s wonderful when we catch ourselves like that, in the midst of our unconscious, negative reactivity but it is also painful to be of witness to. It makes you wonder what else is being said without any awareness at all.

As creatures of habit, we often respond similarly in most situations whether it be with our children or the teller at the bank. Our anger and mumbled cursed words at the car that just cut us off doesn’t necessarily just vanish when we have children and we begin trying to discipline them. It spills over. And we must not, mistakenly, assume that we have the ability to control it around our children.

We do not.
It’s bigger than that.
We have to dig deeper.

We have to ask ourselves, why it is we are angry in the first place. And how may this subtle lingering anger that shows up in traffic jams, or in long lines at the grocery store, or when the waitress doesn’t get our order right, or when our neighbors wake us up in the middle of night, creep into and crush our children’s spirit without us even knowing it?

How will we react when our own children don’t meet our expectations?

I am an angry parent. I’ve realized that as I enter toddler years but what’s more important is that I have also realized something else. I am an angry person. Parenting has just magnified that. My daughter is not responsible for my short fused, snappy judgement. I am.

Children are extremely receptive to their environments. They are also not equipped yet to interpret and appropriately respond to the energy that is around them. They absorb it. Sometimes that is a wonderful thing, given the right circumstances, but other times it can cause problems when those circumstances are negative.

A child throwing a temper tantrum may be something we all have to experience as parents at least once in our lives but a child who, repeatedly, lashes out is not.

The older my daughter gets the more I realize that when addressing a problematic behavior in her, I must first address it within myself.

How am feeling? Am I angry, impatient, reactive? Or am I calm, reassuring, and responsive? Asking this question and shifting gears to a more relaxed state, drastically, changes the interaction between my child and I, if not immediately, soon there after.

It’s both terrifying and exciting to realize how incredibly influential we are to our children. It’s no surprise to me that my daughter brings about the part of myself I have had most trouble dealing with my entire life. Her spirit is asking something great of my own, she is awakening me to unresolved issues from my own childhood. And although painful, I am so thrilled and so thankful to be on this journey with her. I am dedicated to the positive change this will bring forth in my life and I know that I will emerge from this a better person and a better parent.

Everyday, I ask myself this,
Was I the mother I wanted to be, today?
Was I the person I wanted to be, today?
And if not, what can I change?

It’s not about fixing or changing our children’s behavior or feelings, it’s about becoming the parent that our children need and can change, naturally, in response to. Accountability is key. Own it, then forgive yourself. It’s not easy but we must try.

Were you the parent you wanted to be today?

Paulee McCormack

To Share or Not to Share?

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A perfect pool day. 80 degrees and sunny. Bathing suits on. Sunscreen slathered all over our bodies. Organic and non toxic, of course. My feet dip into the cool water. The sun beats on my shoulders. A couple of toys lay afloat in the shallow end. My almost 2 year old is next to me, splashing and giggling. ‘Mama wa- wa!’, she yells excitedly, as she stomps her feet up and down making waves in the pool. Her love of the water sweetly reminding me of my own.

A few other children her age are engaged in their own fun around her. Not the peaceful, leisurely pool days I remember pre-mommy life. A whole new kind of joy. Yelling, screaming, hysterical laughter, and an occasional warm current, of what is probably pee, sailing across the bottom of my feet. Pure joy.

Then, as it always happens, a child comes over and grabs the toy my daughter is playing with out of her hand. My daughter, the feisty little independent spirit she is, grabs it right back. And, as it also always happens, the other child’s parent is nowhere near to witness what occurred. But I am. I always am. Call me helicopter mommy, if you must. I’ll proudly wear that title.

So, what did I do?
Nothing.

Okay. I got a bit angry at the little punk who grabbed it from her but I didn’t intervene. Not yet. My daughter continues on playing with her toy and sure enough it’s gets ripped out of her hand, again. She grabs it back with even more tenacity this time. Now, I speak up and politely let the other child know that she is using her toy right now and if he wants to use it then he must ask. He was probably 4 or 5, old enough to understand.

I didn’t tell my daughter to share. And I sure didn’t tell her to let him have it simply because he wanted it. Instead, I ask my little free spirit staring up at me with her big brown eyes and dripping wet curls,

‘Hey babes, can he see your toy?’

And without a second of hesitation, she shakes her head with a sass that fills my days with a little hell but mostly a whole lot of humor, and she replies, ‘No.’

And that was that. The answer was no. I accepted it. She wasn’t done playing with it and I wasn’t going to force it.

There’s this whole Shakespearean debate of ‘to share or not share’ going on in the world of parents and I think it’s a little silly. I see both sides of the coin on this one. I can appreciate how the parents who desire to teach sharing are focused on providing their children with a positive behavioral model of why sharing is important and necessary in the world which, by all means, it is. But I also recognize that those who choose to not teach sharing are in fact not ‘teaching’ anything at all. They are simply leaving their children to their own devices until it becomes a necessity not to and for the most part, it often doesn’t get to that point.
Why?

Children are generous and compassionate by nature.

I’ve never had to ‘teach’ my daughter how to give ‘hugoosh’ (hugs) or how to give ‘kishes’ (kisses). I’ve never had to show her how to share with her sisters who she happily and, more than willingly, hands over her favorite blocks to during playtime.

I think it is important that we allow our children the chance to make the decision to share when they are ready to, instead of insisting that they give up their toy simply because someone else wants it. What exactly does that teach them? In what way does that allow them to be heard, respected, and honored as the highly perceptive, cognitive little people that they are.

Having faith and trust in our children’s capacity to authentically want to share things with others, even if it may take them a little time before they are ready to, is equally as beneficial as is teaching them the age old lesson of ‘sharing is caring’. I think as adults we are a little bit more worried about sharing then they actually are.

If I do begin to see that sharing is becoming problematic then I would surely address it, but not before. If left to her own means, I trust that my daughter will share with others. I’ve seen it. I admire it. I always positively reinforce it.

‘Where are you going?’ I ask.

As she suddenly hops up from my lap. She says nothing. She turns to walk over to the little boy who snatched her toy away from her and with a great big smile on her face, toy in hand, she reaches out and hands it to him.

She looks back at me with her beautiful, infectious grin and says,
‘Mama! Nice!’
I smile back, nodding my head,
‘Yes baby, nice.’

Now, I do teach her that.

To share or not to share? That is the question, what do you think ?

Thank you for reading. 😀

 

Paulee McCormack

The Energy of Purpose

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The energy
of purpose
needs no incentives,
no alarm clock,
no deadlines,
no salary, or bonuses,
or paid time off.
The energy
of purpose
is fueled
and fulfilled
by pursuing
and doing
what it loves to do,
fiercely and passionately,
everyday.
Tired and hungry,
sleep deprived
and at times
ready to give up,
the energy of purpose
doesn’t stop,
it doesn’t get discouraged,
it doesn’t count
on tomorrow’s promise,
it grabs hold
of right now
and it keeps on going.

Follow your heart,
if only for today.

😀

-Paulee McCormack

Unthinking Respect for Authority

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We have ‘left it to the professionals’ for far too long.
And who are these professionals, anyway?

Other than ordinary human beings with access to the very same information we have access to. As a parent, you have the right to choose whatever you wish when it comes to the welfare of your family, but at the very least, let those decisions be informed ones and extremely well researched on your part, before you make them.

Don’t leave these decisions in the hands of over-saturated, under paid, sleep deprived doctors who are going to treat you much like they treat their job itself, as a means to an end. I’m sure there are some amazing doctors out there, but in my experience, the only ones who have actually ‘treated’ me verse ‘medicate’ me have been those who have dared to challenge the very foundation their career was built upon– medicine– and have gone a more holistic route in the treatment of their patients.

So, why don’t we take control, take initiative, do our own research,
why don’t we rebel?

I’m not suggesting in a hostile, combative, guns drawn type of way. I mean in an informed, peaceful, authentic, defenseless way— through the sharing of knowledge and truth, through the exposure of lies and manipulation, through the withdrawal of our passive involvement and participation in government policies and laws that do not serve us as individuals or as human beings anymore but as mere statistics, numbers on paper.

I mean in a ‘shut off our televisions, put away our cell phones and take a few moments to connect with those around us’ way. I mean in a ‘let’s have a conversation on things that matter’ way. Let’s start by becoming informed consumers, citizens, parents, teachers.

I’m urging you to think and to encourage others to do so, as well.

To stop tip toeing around the false sense of security that many of us take refuge in, hesitant to share our truth in fear of questioning exhausted beliefs that have been held for far too long.

Tell it anyway.
Speak it, spread it, live it.

What is holding us back from exercising our right to say no to ‘mandated’ health regimes that deceive and coerce their patients into blind adherence with scare tactics and abuse of authorative power.

Despite being led to believe we don’t, we do have a choice. And when we make that choice, we affirm that we too are capable, as parents and as people, of knowing what is best for our children and for ourselves.

What is stopping us from putting down the fast food, the soda, the donuts, the cigarettes, the prescription pills and choosing to honor our body’s right to be healthy. Its right to be free of unnecessary pain and suffering. Its right to be provided with food that nourishes and heals. Asserting that we are the ones in control of our bodies and our minds and that we will choose the alternative that serves us best, when given one.

What is stopping us from living a life that is in accordance with the truth we keep in our hearts? What keeps us from listening and trusting our own inner voice, the one telling us that something isn’t’ right, the one nudging us to wake up, to change, to be better, to be different, to be the example.

Why don’t we begin in our homes, with our children, by raising thinkers, revolutionaries, game changers. By teaching them (dare I say) to question the ‘professionals’, their teachers, their doctors, their leaders. As parents it is our job to inform them and ourselves on the subjects that are not found in textbooks.

Encourage them to live from the heart and not from a place of fear like so many of us have been taught. Teach them to speak up in their homes, in their classrooms, in their communities in a respectful, honest way– a way that breaks silence and sparks necessary dialogue on the subjects that matter, on words that are not being said, on problems that are not being addressed, on things that hurt, on things that heal, on broken systems of justice that are in desperate need of change.

Why don’t we rebel? Give it a thought.

Consider, if only for this moment, what you have been told in contrast to what you have actually seen and experienced for yourself.

More importantly, ask yourself— why do we obey?

Are we on auto pilot, who is really in control of our lives? Who is calling the shots? Have we been dumb downed by the organizations that value profit over people? Have we been disheartened, dis-empowered by a system with the intentions to convince us that we are incapable of making our own decisions and that we are incompetent in ensuring the welfare of our own lives and the lives our children.

Are we afraid to speak up, to stand apart from the majority, to shake things up a little, to step outside our comfort zone?

There is a whole world out there beyond what the media and clever marketing leads us to believe and when you enter it–at first you may feel a little scared and maybe even a little angry at being deceived for so long but every single aspect of your life will begin to change, for the better.

Healing will happen. True healing. The kind that nourishes the body and mind, the kind that recognizes the body as the whole, living, breathing entity that it is– which is not seperate from the world around it. Our perception shifts when we begin to look at our entire world as a whole, ourselves and our loved ones as whole beings verse symptoms or problems to fix.

This is the meaning of holistic health.

Nature can heal us. Sunshine can heal us. Rain can heal us. Raw food can heal us. Meditation can heal us. Fresh air can heal us. Water can heal us. Breastfeeding our children can heal us. Exercise can heal us. Yoga can heal us. Plants can heal us. Touch can heal us. Breathing, deeply, can heal us. The energy of love can heal us.

Modern day medicine can not.

It’s all in our hands– to empower, to educate, to move towards a new paradigm of health.

Let us begin.

-Paulee McCormack

Busting Myths and Tips on going Vegan

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Transitioning to a fully plant based diet can be intimidating. I know it was for me. Before I eliminated all animals and animal products out of my diet, I was a vegetarian for many years but hesitant to make the plunge into being vegan.

I was frightened by all the myths I heard about what vegans ate, how vegans were, what vegans looked like etc. I was never quite able to make the full transition until I had my daughter. Within only a few months after, I knew I would never go back to eating animals. My body adapted, as did my mind, and the experience is nothing like the negative stories I’ve heard. There is a whole world of delicious, healthy, nourishing, living food beyond the dead bodies of animals we are accustomed to abusing and eating.

As with any diet, turning it into a lifestyle requires a little bit of time, education, and effort before we naturally integrate the changes we have made into our everyday lives. With that said, I wanted to share a few tips to help get you through your moments of weakness on your path to becoming vegan!

Tip 1

Stay away from soy, unless, it is fermented. No soy chicken, soy milk, soy cheese. Nothing. When I became a vegetarian, I had a lot of cravings for the texture and bite that meat has, that often can’t be found in a vegan diet. I went a little crazy with soy products, such a meatless chicken, beef, burgers etc. Most of what you find in the vegan/ vegetarian section of the supermarket unfortunately contains soy. 95 % of soy is genetically modified. It’s super cheap to use hence why it is in almost every product with a shelf life.

I was eating a lot of it but I soon realized I needed to get it out of my diet if I wanted to be a healthy vegetarian/vegan. Soy negatively impacts the function of the thyroid and has been linked to playing a major role in thyroid diseases among those who consume it. It is not a health food, as many think. Avoiding it will require some label reading on your part. Organic fermented soy on the other hand is a health food. It can be very healing to the body especially the digestive system, providing it within an abundance of healthy bacteria. Miso and tempeh are delicious and are a great alternative if you are looking for something savory, as well as something with more of a bite to add to your meal. In short, any soy that is not fermented, avoid it.


Tip 2

Learn how to cook! Many people set themselves up for failure in following a vegan diet, or any diet for that matter, when they resort to trying to find fast vegan food. You are not going to find many quick, healthy vegan meals that you can just pop into the oven, and if you do they probably aren’t all that healthy. Learning how to cook was an essential part of my success in transitioning from vegetarian to vegan.

If you want something quick to eat, stick to raw fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts to snack on. If you are like me and enjoy a cooked meal in the evening then google some recipes, get in the kitchen, and start experimenting! I have a handful of go-to healthy vegan recipes when I’m super hungry that take less than 20 minutes to make. I suggest that you do, too. Ohsheglows.com is an amazing blog for vegan and gluten free recipes. I attribute much of my success in learning how to cook to her blog. Which leads me to my next tip!

Tip 3

Learn how to ‘veganize’ your favorite meals and desserts. Cravings are going to happen; you have to prepare yourself for them. When we feel like we are depriving ourselves we will inevitably resort to reasoning our way into eating animals again. There is a very real psychological connection that we have to our food. I may not miss eating animals but I do miss the smell and taste of some of my favorite meals that my mom made me as a child. So, I scouted out the best vegan alternatives I could find. I veganized my favorite dessert—chocolate chip cookies, as well as a few other of my favorite dishes. So when I’m craving some comfort food I don’t have to feel like I’m missing out.

Tip 4

Don’t worry about protein! Everywhere I go the first question I get asked about my diet is where do I get my protein? Most people who are asking really don’t know much about nutrition, apart from the myths that they have heard, such as you need to eat meat for protein or drink milk for calcium. Both are not true. To address the calcium concern, here is something you may or may not know. Cows are not fed grass anymore, they are given calcium supplements. Therefore, you are getting a fortified amount of calcium in your milk, which is being absorbed by your body in extremely insignificant amounts. You may as well take a calcium supplement instead. As for protein, in comparison to the unhealthy amounts of saturated fat, salt, gmos, along with blood, puss, and the risk of it being diseased —the protein you are getting is negligible.

I don’t take protein shakes or supplements anymore. Instead, I choose to eat a well balanced diet. That’s it. No counting grams of protein, no bringing along shaker cups to the gym, no formulas to determine how much protein I need. It simply isn’t necessary. Protein in plants is much more bioavailable to the body, as well. It is absorbed at greater levels than any protein you may get from an animal. So don’t worry about it. Just eat real food and you will get more than enough.


Tip 5

You are going to need a good milk alternative to keep on hand. Again, avoid soy. Go for a nut milk such almond or brazil nut. Hemp milk is one of the most nutritious and also one of the easiest to make. I highly recommend making your own dairy free milk. It’s super easy and by doing so you avoid all the synthetic preservatives and fortified vitamins and minerals that are found in the store bought kind.

I do admit, I have been a bit lazy myself and have just not had the time to make my fresh nut milk these past few months. I have been buying it at the store. If you do choose to buy it, look for brands such a Silk which do not contain carrageenan. Carageenan is used as an emulsifier in many vegan ‘dairy’ alternatives such as milk, yogurt, and ice cream. It has been linked to cancer and is not safe to consume. Nothing really compares to fresh made nut milk in a smoothie or over a bowl of oatmeal, anyway. So, skip the store and make it fresh!


Tip 6

My final tip and probably my most important tip—Find your ‘WHY?’. Why are have you chosen this lifestyle? Do you simply want to be healthier, are you currently suffering from an illness, or maybe it is because you love animals?  Whatever it is, write it down, hang it on your wall, reflect on it in your journal. Remind yourself of it everyday, every chance you get. I suggest you get your inspiration from fellow vegans, whether it be from a blog, a podcast, or a book. Let their path illuminate yours. Hang with them, work out with them, eat with them, share and build with them.
Let’s face it, its hard to stay fit if you work at a pizza shop. Create an environment that sustains and supports your goal and helps you to stick with it. Seek out like minded individuals to provide you with some support on your journey.

Also, it’s very important that you take the time to do your research. When I became a vegetarian, I was not a very healthy one or an educated one. After many years of doing my own research on nutrition, I finally feel like I have a strong sense of what I should and shouldn’t be eating, while creating a balance that works well for my body. And since we are all a little different, it’s important to find what is going to work well for you and your body’s needs.

Best of luck!

Are you vegan/ vegetarian following a plant based diet, please share your experience and maybe some things that have helped you!

Is Your Mattress Toxic?

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Sometimes, I like to write in spiritual and philosophical tones and other times I like to write about healthy stuff–like the importance of getting rid of the toxins hiding in your home, more specifically–your mattress.

When I began my journey into ‘greening’ my home I was a bit overwhelmed, as many of us are. I wouldn’t say I am completely there, yet. There are still some changes that need to be made but for the most part I feel comfortable that my living environment is as healthy as it can be, within my own means of what I can afford to change and not change, right now.

Changing my mattresses were on the top of my list, being that they are one of the worst offenders in the exposure to toxic chemicals in the average home. Most people don’t consider what is in there mattress or how it is made. I know I didn’t. I went for comfort and affordability over health concerns. Before I became a mother, I had no idea how toxic my mattress truly was until the birth of my daughter pushed me to do some serious research and begin to clean up the hidden chemicals lurking everywhere in my home.

Conventional mattresses are made with extremely harmful chemicals, flame retardants being the most dangerous. Exposure to these chemicals, over time, can lead to many health problems affecting the skin, the respiratory system, and have even been linked to SIDS in children.

The chemicals found in most mattresses do not only affect the person sleeping on them, they also pollute the air through off gassing that can last many years after the mattress was purchased. Off gassing is more likely to occur in children’s mattresses, which tend to be soiled more often and are often passed down to younger siblings. Any type of moisture can result in not only excessive mold growth on the mattress but a chemical reaction that releases an odorless toxin into the air that can be potentially fatal to a small child.

I won’t get into all the health problems that commercial mattresses contribute to since you can easily Google that for yourself. Instead, I want to share my experience in my search for a new, safe, and healthy mattress.

I had been scouting out an organic, cotton mattress, free of flame retardants for sometime. However, they can be quite pricey. Shortly after my daughter was born, I did not have the money to purchase a new bed. Being that we co-sleep, I wanted to do something to make her sleeping environment safer and to alleviate my worries of her breathing in any unwanted chemicals.

For my queen mattress, since I couldn’t afford a brand new one, I went with a wonderful company called No-Chem Bed Solutions that makes mattress wraps which serve as a barrier to protect against chemical off- gassing. The wraps are much like a bigger version of Babesafe mattress covers. They are made in the USA of food grade polyethylene and do not off-gas themselves. You can find out more information or order one for your self if you also don’t have the financial means to purchase a new mattress but want to prevent your current one from off gassing like I did.

The mattress covers can be noisy and also cause sweating. So, I also purchased an organic cotton mattress topper from another made in the USA company called White Lotus. The topper helps to reduce the noise of the plastic, as well as keep my daughter and I from being in direct contact with it which prevents sweating. One day, I do hope to get rid of this quick fix and purchase a completely organic cotton, flame retardant free mattress from White Lotus…(my dream mattress)…one day. For now, I am content with the protection this solution provides.

In my research for a twin mattress, I stumbled upon a company called Sopora Sleep. They were among the most affordable that I could find at the time. They make all of their products and source all of their materials in the USA. They didn’t fully meet all my criteria but were very close enough to it for my price range. The most amazing part about their wonderful company is the customer service that they provided me with.

When I was finally able to go ahead and make my purchase for two twin mattresses, I called them in hopes that they could answer a few additional questions on their products, as well as provide me with a possible discount. I was more than surprised to promptly receive a call back from the woman who directly runs the Sopora Sleep division of mattresses, or as she refers to herself the ‘Mompreneur’ of Sopora Sleep. She is a mom herself and started her own line of mattresses during her pursuit of a healthy and safe mattress for her children.

She was so informative, so transparent, and so very kind enough to answer all of my questions. After talking with her for quite some time, assuring me that I was making the right purchase by going with her company, she told me she would give me a call back after she spoke with some of her distributors to get me the best deal possible on the mattresses. And what a deal she gave me. She told me that she would be sending me not one, but two mattresses—completely free—with one condition– that I give and share my honest opinion on the mattresses.

That was back in December and since then, I have been nothing but pleased with and so extremely grateful for the quality of the mattresses she has given my family. They are super comfortable, have no scent of off-gassing, and I feel very confident that they provide a safe and healthy sleeping surface for my family.

Although mattresses can off-gas without emitting any actual detectable odor, all Sopora products are Greenguard Certified. While foam is not my ideal choice for a mattress, the foam used in every mattress and mattress pad is CertiPUR-US certified. Also, absolutely no brominated flame retardants or boric acid are used in or sprayed on the mattresses. Instead, as informed by Terri, the Mompreneur herself, she told me, “We use a stocking like material called “fire blocker” that goes over the foam. It is the same material used by NASCAR racer under there helmets and used in all health care mattresses. It is made from all fire inherent materials, such as sand and baking soda etc. so that we do not have to use fire retardant chemicals to meet fire safety regulations. The fire blocker makes the mattresses open flame resistant. We use flame retardant free foam and use the fire blacker fabric to keep the foam cleaner.”

The mattresses are also hypo allergenic and are made from ‘medical grade, plush stretch knit cloth cover’ as stated on their website. The stretch knit is a ‘polyester and nylon stretch fabric used on the mattresses’ which are all completely free of vinyl, PVC, lead and phthalates. No plastics are used in the mattresses and all glue and adhesives are water based and contain no formaldehyde.

For those on a bit of a budget, looking for a more affordable crib, twin, or full mattress for your children I highly recommend checking out Sopora Sleep and if you have any questions at all I’m sure Terri would be happy to answer them! Also, if you can afford a little bit more, I highly recommend checking out White Lotus or My Green Mattress for safe mattresses and bedding for you and your family!

-Paulee McCormack

 

I am Not Always the Person that Writes this Blog

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Unshowered, bags under my eyes, and feeling angry at the world and maybe even a little sorry for myself—that is what my past week looked like and to be a little more candid about it, that is what most of my days have looked like, lately. But I like to take my pictures and write blogs posts when I am happy, inspired, and with a little bit of make up on, just for good measure. That way, you see what I want you to see.
No mess involved.

But today, I thought… let me write from this unhappy space and see what happens.

One of the reasons I started this blog is because it serves as a life support. It nourishes and sustains the good in me. It keeps the person I want to be and that I try to be, alive. The person who forgives and accepts. The person who is grounded and thankful, prays and gives praise. The person who loves deeply and honors her own light, as well as the light of others.

But God knows, I do not always have a smile on my face. These past few years have been filled with a whole lot of the unexpected. They have been my most challenging and have called forth a deep and necessary process of transformation in my life that I haven’t been able to fully step up to the plate and serve, yet. I have kind of been running from it all. It seems as if one thing after the other has left me with a little less everyday— less money, less friends, less time, less love, less hope. It’s been a constant stripping away of who I thought I was going to be and how I thought my life was going to turn out. I’m almost down to the bone. I feel it and I don’t love what I see.

Not, yet. But I am getting there.

Someone, who knows me well, said to me that I am not always the person who writes this blog. And I can admit to you that, at times, I am not that person. I am not every word, every insight, every piece of advice, every honorable thing written on this page. There are some days, I am not at all. There are some days I want to lock myself in my room and sleep until I can’t sleep anymore. And before I had my daughter, there were days in which I did just that. Many of my days were spent alone, curled up on the couch with a good book and maybe a cup of tea and I enjoyed that very much. But as a mother now, those days don’t exist. I can’t close myself off from the world whenever I feel like things are getting too much for me, instead I am met with the challenge to be my best self on days I don’t even have the energy to get out of bed.

So, no. I am not always the person who writes this blog— in case you, too had been wondering.  I am not always optimistic and positive. I am not always healthy. I do not practice yoga everyday, nor am I able to practice forgiveness, acceptance, or being kind all the time—but that person is there. She is in me. And I’d like to think we all have as much good in us as we do bad, it’s what we feed that grows and what we don’t that dies.

And how else does one keep the good in them alive without having someone or something to inspire them to be their best selves?

Well, for me, my daughter is that someone and this blog is that something. I started it because I hope to share my light, as dim as it may be at times, with others. And in sharing it, I hope for it to grow within in me and within you, too. I hope for this blog to be a real space where I can honor, love, and accept who I am on both my good and bad days and a space where you can, too.

I want this space to be filled with things that bring about healing and sometimes that means paying a bit of attention to the parts of ourselves we don’t like to look at, so that we can give them the chance to be seen and released. Kind of like the way our children wish to be seen and when we take the time to look at them they often need our attention less and less.

Well, I have a hurt child within me that needs quite a bit of love and attention lately. She has been pestering me, everyday, to look at her– and more than ever since becoming a parent. So, today I sat with her a bit, my inner child that is, and this is where she brought me— a little more in tune with myself and a little less angry with her and where I am in life, although not exactly where I expected to be.

 

 

Blessings to you and thank you for reading. 😀

-Paulee McCormack

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/great-expectations/

I am the Ocean

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There I was, at my local studio, in a candlelit room. On my mat. In savasana, during a guided meditation. My heart beat heavy from a challenging practice. The sting of sweat still upon my nose. I peeled away the hair stuck to the back of my neck letting it fall beneath my shoulders, allowing the warmth of the room to melt me deeper into my mat. Incense were burning. My arms and legs were spread out, as we laid, body to body, mat to mat in quiet stillness. Breathing, together.

I was caught up in the planning of what I needed to do after class when the teacher’s voice dropped into the silence of the room, like a whisper in the dark, breaking the noise in my head. She began, ‘Now take your thought and put it on a wave.’ And so, I envisioned placing my plans atop the wave. ‘Now watch the wave crash and then recede, crash and then recede, back into the ocean.’ She continued. ‘Over and over again—watch, as it becomes one with the ocean.’ But then, I hesitated. I felt my stomach jump in fear. I wanted to reach out and grab my thought back. It surprised me— the sudden fear and grasping. The unexpected unease I felt to do something so, simple as the letting go of a meaninglessness thought. But it was my own mind that had me clinging on, for dear life, in attempts to avoid letting go of something it needed to sustain itself. But it was no more than a wave in the ocean, a passing thought, a breath ending— in the illusion of fear— that it may not begin, again.

But it does.

In fact, the more we let go the greater the space we have in our life for new things to be born. The physical practice of yoga is merely an access point into the beginning of the union of spirit and body, of the heart and mind. We move to find stillness. We strengthen to soften. We work to surrender.

My practice has reminded me, for many years now, that savasana is and continues to be the hardest of all poses. It is there, after all movement has ceased, that we come to face to face with everything we try to avoid. Every thought. Every emotion. Right there, asking not for our involvement with it or our reaction to it but for our awareness and acceptance of it. And the more we accept, the more we release. The moment we give in, amazing things happen, unbelievably, amazing things like finding happiness and peace in the midst of our chaotic, problematic lives. But this seemingly passive act of letting go isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds, especially to a mind and body that has built its entire life around clinging. The act of letting go threatens the very structure of our existence.

The ocean. Such a poignant metaphor and teacher of the way life moves, in and out, cleansing and renewing itself, all on its own— when we let it. The ocean. Its captivating, overwhelming nature, has always both inspired and terrified me, deeply. And I have loved it as much, as I have feared it. As a child, I was fascinated by how its incomprehensible depth could swallow anything and everything that dared to enter it, even me. The ocean. Beautiful, yet dangerous. Fluid, yet permanent. Solid, yet completely formless.

The ocean— is who I am.

Each wave a thought. My thought. Each thought crashing a small death. My death.
And each small death burns and births a new wave, a new light. My light— that serves to guide and awaken me, little by little, to who I really am. And sometimes that is the hardest part, to disidentify from who we think we are, so that we may evolve into who we are meant to be.

And it is only when, I take the time to be with my self, sometimes through movement but mostly in stillness, that I am able to see that I am not my thoughts, I am not the waves.
I am the ocean.
I can not die.
I am the ocean.
I am the ocean.

Remind yourself today, of this simple truth.
You are not your thoughts, you are not the waves.
You are the ocean.
You are the ocean.

As always, thank you for reading.

-Paulee McCormack

Vegan Caramel Apples

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Try these amazing 
Vegan Caramel Apples
for a healthy cruelty free snack for you or your kids!

Ingredients for Recipe

1 organic green apple
1 or 2 organic dates
(medjool dates are my favorite)
soak them overnight (or at least for a few hours)
Organic coconut sugar

Blend soaked dates with a tiny bit of water until a paste forms.

Slice apples and coat with date paste,
then sprinkle with coconut sugar, it’s that easy and so good!

You can also sprinkle some organic shredded coconut on top too!

Enjoy!

-Paulee McCormack

April is Autism Awareness Month

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I’m guessing that when many of my friends and family were vaccinated as children, being that it was quite some time ago, there were probably around less than 10 vaccinations that we received.
Now, children receive close to 40 vaccinations including boosters before the age of 5 containing toxic levels of mercury, aluminum, among other neurotoxins and unnatural substances that the body can not and is not meant to get rid of.

Add that to the excessive consumption of genetically modified overly processed food, formula feeding beginning in infancy as the new age norm, vaccinations being given during pregnancy, antibiotics being introduced to immature immune and digestive systems, hazardous environmental pollution, radiation exposure from cell phones and computers, and modern day prescription drugs being given to anyone and everyone and what you get is a cocktail for moderate to severe developmental problems in children of all ages. The mandation of scheduled vaccinations are setting our children up for a future of illness and disease.

I hope for anyone reading this to not simply discredit or ignore it but, at the very least, consider the validity of it, if only for a moment. Consider the possibility that there is something else going on in this autism epidemic.

April is Autism Awareness Month.

But I will NOT light it up blue.

I will NOT support studies carried out by organizations funded by the CDC, publishing biased data that claims vaccines do not cause autism. I will NOT support organizations that focus on the problem and not the solution.

I will NOT ignore the undeniable link between austism and vaccines,
between scheduled vaccinations and severe developmental regression days later, between the ever increasing number of vaccines we are giving to our children and the steady rise in autism amongst them.

I will NOT ignore the Mothers and Fathers and families with children who have been poisoned by vaccines, and unnecessarily so.

I will NOT support a lie.

I will, however, share my truth– what I have seen versus what I have been told.
And I hope for you to do the same.
I hope for you to dig a little bit deeper in your search for answers.
Autism is not the true epidemic, the ignorance around it is far more infectious and dangerous.

My child does not have autism but this is for every parent with a child that does.

I support you in this fight.

I pray for you and your children in their recovery.
And most importantly,
I will speak the truth
for those who can not.

Paulee McCormack

Moving on from Mumma’s Arms

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Honoring the Light Paulee McCormack growing up too fast

I couldn’t believe how the stillness of her tiny body could instantly calm and still my own. I couldn’t believe how much joy could be felt in being—in doing, or rather not doing anything at all.

I couldn’t believe how the touch of a child could change you, just like that, forever.

Or how the pain of her cries could invoke my own and then, in the very next second, how my presence could relieve them. Or how her laughter could ignite my entire being into bliss. Or how her hugs and her kisses have come to be the greatest accomplishments of my entire life.

I have tried to figure out how I can love and live this fully in every moment with her, without having to let go of the ones that have already came and went, too quickly.

But, I can’t

As she begins to move on from Mumma’s milk and being held in Mumma’s arms and being bathed by Mumma’s hands to needing me less and less, I cling to every single moment. Taking pictures every chance I get, squeezing her a little tighter—whenever she will let me—holding her a little more, letting her need me just a little bit longer.

And then, just like that, she’s off.

Playing with toys, dressing her self, telling me what she wants, what she likes and doesn’t like. Less time spent in my arms and on my chest. No more burping, rocking, or cradling.
Growing, separating, acquiring her own sense of self, asserting her independence every chance she gets, despite my own secret longing to keep her this small, this close — forever.

I struggle with the idea that my baby won’t always be a baby.

But I also rejoice in the way each moment or her life has shown me something that I never knew. Love, I have come to see, doesn’t accumulate or deepen by way of adding up past memories or keeping alive a history that is no longer.

Love—in its greatest, deepest, abiding form resides in our ability to be open to it, in the only moment in which we truly have it, right now.There is no other time to love her. No better time, than at this moment, at this stage and at every stage to come.

We live. We love. Then, we let go.

Again and again.
That is the dance.
While one moment is ending,
another begins.
Again and again.
And I follow behind her
and I will follow beside her,
again and again.
Until, we dance together,
no more.
Until, her own dance begins,
without me.

-Paulee McCormack

My Daughter Reminded Me that—I Am Alive

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My daughter reminded me— that I am alive,
that there is still life
within me.

Before I became pregnant, I didn’t take care of or love myself very much—and on some days, not at all. I didn’t give too much thought to what I put in or on my body. I didn’t care about my attitude or my health, not in the way I do now. I didn’t care about the integrity of the people I surrounded myself with or the type of work that I invested so much of myself in. I thought about these things, very often, but there was nothing in me that was truly inspired, motivated, and willing to change them and other than a few attempts at such, I didn’t.

Then, suddenly, I found out I was carrying a life, a child—my daughter.
And that changed— everything.

I was overwhelmed by the realization that the very existence and vitality of the life growing within in me depended upon the way I treated the body in which it inhabited.

And slowly, I transitioned from kind of caring about myself to loving myself a whole damn lot.

And the truth is—the thing that we aren’t reminded of nearly enough, is that—we all are carriers of life.  We all have within us the formless dwelling within the form, the being within the body. And we all are responsible for the way in which we care for the vessel that sustains and supports that extraordinary force of life running through us.

My daughter taught me
how to love myself.

The miracle of her life taught me how to give credence to the beauty and miracle of my own. She taught me how to take care of my body. She showed me that my body was sacred and that the life within in me was as important as the life without.

We all have the capacity to treat ourselves the way we would if we were carrying a life within us because we are—we are carrying our own.

We don’t hear that very often, do we?

We don’t have people telling us how sacred our bodies truly are or how important it is to cherish the place in which our souls dwell.
But the purity and grace of a woman carrying a child inspires that in us.
It inspires us to say things like—
‘Relax. Don’t stress. Eat healthy. Don’t work too hard. Don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t drink alcohol. Be gentle with your body, get a massage, listen to soft music, make love. Speak kind and loving words to the life growing within in you.
Accept it.
Honor it.
Love it.
Listen to it.
Worship it.’

And yet, all of these special ways of honoring the bodies of women that are carrying life hold true for the life that we carry too, the life that is constantly transforming, growing in, and rising out of each and everyone of us.

My daughter reminded me— that I am alive,
that there is still life
within me.
Although, forgotten long ago.
The birth of her
didn’t take that life
out of me.
It gave me more,
it gives me more,
everyday.

And everyday, I honor and celebrate myself a little bit more.
Everyday, I remind myself to treat this glorious vessel that carries the greatest, most powerful, most magnificent energy with deep reverence.

My daughter reminded me—
that God exists
within me.

I am the very thing in the way of my own light.
I am the reason I stand amongst shadows and darkness.
I am the reason for my own unhappiness, my own problems.

My daughter reminded me—
how to move out of
my own way
and let my light
shine through.

I carried her for nine months with so much love,
so much care and compassion.
Now, I carry myself with the same.
And I will never stop
bowing in gratitude
for that gift,
for her light,
for her love.

-Paulee McCormack

The Only ‘Diet’ You Will Ever Need

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The problem is we are not eating food anymore, we are eating food like products.
– Dr Alejandro Junger

Do you want to be healthy, do you want to lose weight, do you want to feel energized and alive again?

The most important thing you can do– Eat real food!

Eating real food is a way of life. It is a sacred practice of feeding the body with food that nourishes, heals, and prevents the onset of sickness and disease.

I have done quite a few diets myself. Like many of you, not only did I feel deprived but I also failed within the first few weeks. Eating healthy has come to take on a different meaning to me over the years. I have realized you can still have french fries and cookies or even a big bowl of pasta if you want to, so long as you skip the frozen or packaged pre-made junk and make it yourself with real, unprocessed ingredients.

Eating healthy does not mean that you have to give up your favorite foods, but rather that you make the choice to stop buying food-like substitutes. Food substitutes are highly processed, loaded with chemicals, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, pesticides, fungicides, trans fat, msg etc. (You get the point.)

These types of foods, along with most animal products which are also highly processed, not only slow down digestion but also contain extremely high amounts of unhealthy fat and sodium. This is not food. Your body will not respond to it as food, hence why food substitutes regardless of their low fat, healthy, natural claims will cause you to gain weight, deplete your energy, and lead to many health problems.

Make the choice, whenever you can, to buy organic fresh food found in nature, grown in the soil or on trees, not packaged in cans and boxes.

Get rid of the convenient, overly processed food substitutes that fill your cabinets and make better use of your fresh produce drawers. Take the extra money that is typically spent on stop dining/ordering out and put it towards purchasing and preparing your own food— in your own kitchen— with fresh, real ingredients. Yes, it takes more time. Yes, it takes more effort. No, you won’t be able to open you freezer and pop something in to the oven. Yes, you will have to cook. But your health is the last place you should be cutting corners. If you stay true to these very simple principles, from my experience, this is the only ‘diet’ you will ever need.

Since adopting a plant based, gluten free lifestyle, I really have learned to enjoy cooking. I love the satisfaction that comes with preparing my own meals and knowing every single ingredient that is in my food and in the food I feed my one year old daughter.

It can be a simple yet beautiful, spiritual commitment of practicing presence, alone or with your loved ones, while preparing and eating meals at home. By taking the time to breathe and eat in silence, awareness, and love we are much less likely to over eat or indulge in eating habits in an unconscious manner.

So make a leap of faith. Go to the grocery, head over to the organic produce aisle and load up your cart with food that is still alive– fresh fruit, greens, vegetables, nuts, and sprouted grains. When you feed your body nutritionally dense whole foods you don’t need to worry about empty calories, fat, carbohydrates, sodium, hidden chemicals or any other nasty ingredients. Real food improves digestion, increases metabolism, boosts the immune system, enhances energy, heals the body, can prevent illness, and helps you to shed excess weight naturally.

Food substitutes, diet food, meal replacements and bars do the exact opposite. Not only do they cause you to gain weight but they inhibit the body’s natural function of eliminating excess fat and waste. They decrease the metabolism, weaken the immune system causing disease and illness and obstruct the body’s ability to heal itself in the way it is designed to.

And lastly, the second most important thing you can do, is get off your butt!

Turn off the television, get off the computer, put down your phone and go for a walk! Or take a yoga class, go to the gym, explore nature, run and play around outside with your kids. Take the time to appreciate, honor, and enjoy the beautiful body that you inhabit. Don’t take it for granted, not for one second, for the more you take care of it, the better it takes care of you and the people you love.

-Paulee McCormack

Is Motherhood More Rewarding Than Having a Successful Career?

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There is always so much to do but there is only so much that can be done with a one year old in the house. Some days she goes with the flow, playing with me on my mat, helping with the laundry, hanging out in the ergo while I make dinner. Other days, she won’t let me get two minutes of alone time on the toilet.

Being a stay at mom isn’t always easy nor is it the luxurious life I pictured long before I had any idea what it was really like to become a parent. However, it is without a doubt the most gratifying job I have ever had the privilege and blessing to work.

Since becoming a mother, I entertain the feministic opinions I hear of women who devalue the ever so valuable role of motherhood in society, more precisely those who bash and belittle the responsibilities and the tremendous work it takes to be a stay at home mom.

I will admit, before I became a mother, many of my friends can attest to the fact that never ever did I imagine or proclaim that I would be this type of mother. In fact, I was a bit of a feminist myself. I always believed that I would be more of the career mom. You know the mom who balances a full time job, always in control of her life and finances, the disciplinary, put-her-foot-down mom. The undomesticated, bring home the bacon, business type of mom. What I didn’t imagine is that I would be this earthy, organic, co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, never-want-to-go-back-to -work mom. The bit of a push over, have no social life anymore, goo- goo ga-ga come- look-at-how-cute-my-god-damn- child is when she laughs…or sneezes…or poops type of mom.

And if it were not for my daughter, I might have started a whole other blog in a similar fashion to those childless women who bash the sensitive, sappy, smothering moms like me. The women who advocate for other women to venture away from their preconditioned roles as mothers in society. But although I am a stay at home mom, passionately and proudly, I also remember a time when I had no children and the opinions that I held about those who did, so I get it.

There is really no way of even beginning to understand the way becoming a parent changes you until you actually become one. The way it takes every single priority and plan you had in life and, one by one, knocks them all the way down to the bottom of your to do list and yet— you don’t even blink an eye at that type of sacrifice. You smile because of it. It may appear to be a great loss to some, but to parents— we know different.

We know how little hands feel against our face in the morning, we know how little arms feel around our neck at night, we know how little hearts love— so big, so deeply, so unconditionally.

So, are 4 am diaper changes or around the clock breastfeeding more important than a late night of partying or a 9 am conference call or meeting an important deadline?
Is getting up and getting dressed for work everyday harder than staying in sweats all day, unshowered, with a baby hanging off your breast?
Maybe–maybe not.

Is motherhood more rewarding than having a career and a social life?
Maybe–maybe not.

But for me?
Absolutely.

And those who manage both,
I salute you.

😀

Breastfeeding is Beautiful

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Cover up my breasts to make you more comfortable?
Sorry… not going to happen.

I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed. There was never a doubt in my mind. The bond, the benefits of mother’s milk, along with the fact that formula was in no way an option for me. And when the time finally came and my daughter was born that intention manifested into one of the most beautiful parts of my life and my relationship with my daughter—nursing.

We nurse every morning, for every nap, and at every bedtime. We nurse in the car, at the park, at the library or in the grocery store, at the beach or at the mall. We have nursed in front of children, mothers, fathers, doctors, cashiers…we nurse whenever and wherever my baby is hungry—or needs comfort—or is tired or just wants her Mumma’s milk.

And I have yet to come across anybody that has a problem with it. However, I hear quite often from other mothers that they have been met with some harsh criticism, many times, while breastfeeding their children in public.

Why is this?

Why are their so many rules and regulations around when and where a mother can feed her child, because that is what she is doing—feeding her child. She is not flashing her breasts for mere shock value or to make those around her uncomfortable or to traumatize children in the school yard. She is responding to her child’s needs and sometimes those needs come up at inconvenient times like in line at the grocery store.

The issue here is not breastfeeding.

The issue here is what we think of breasts and the purpose they are meant to serve and even more importantly what we are teaching our children about breasts.

And what are we teaching our children about breasts when we, as the influential role models that we are, publicly condemn or humiliate a woman for showing hers while feeding her child. Or when we express a concern that men might be looking at them or tell our children to cover their eyes.

What are we protecting them from, apart from our own deeply entrenched fears, insecurities, and judgements around breastfeeding.

Children do not find breasts sexual. However, they will if we teach them that they are, or if we allow them to watch programs on television that convey them to be, or if their own fathers, brothers, uncles etc. degrade and depreciate them as such.

Breasts are not simply sexual objects to be squished into a bikini top at the beach. And if we continue to confine them to such an ignorant and narrow minded classification than breastfeeding will remain to be flat out uncomfortable and borderline disgusting to the majority of society. And it is not the women who are breastfeeding their child on the subway that people are so uncomfortable with, it is with themselves.

Let us be honest for a moment, as women and this equally applies to men, in our whole lives what have we been taught about breasts?

What do we know about their functions apart from getting a man aroused and how to make them look good in a shirt or a dress or at the gym?

I was completely clueless about the capabilities of my breasts. It wasn’t up until my early twenty’s, after a course taken in college, that I even began to understand the miracle that my body is. Breastfeeding is not taught in elementary or high school, it’s not shown on television, it’s not talked about in the majority of homes across America, it’s not even recommended by most doctors and here in lies the problem.

So, if I happen to flash a little boob while breastfeeding at the library it’s not to annoy you, or to turn on the male population, it’s because I am exercising my right to feed my daughter the best way I know how. And to those who may say ‘She is just trying to make a statement by choosing not to cover up.’

Yes, you are right, I am.

And my statement is this…

Here I am, an attractive looking woman, with not so bad looking mammary glands,
feeding my daughter, using my breasts for a purpose other 
than to get a man’s attention—
get over it.

Breastfeeding is Beautiful.

Do you breastfeed or are planning on breastfeeding?

Check out my favorite breastfeeding support Facebook page for amazing photos and member shares with support, knowledge, and encouragement for mummas and mummas to be!

What They Don’t tell You About Becoming a Parent

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After a long day yesterday with my energetic, mommy crazed one year old, I had found myself very anxiously laying in bed, after putting her to sleep, going over all the things that had been left undone from the day.

I criticized myself for not getting my yoga practice in, for not having control over my anxiety, for being so tired, for eating all that chocolate, for not knowing, at times, how to balance it all.

I imagined all the other Mothers out there whose children slept through the night, who worked long days but still managed to clean the house, who were more in control, who had it more together— or so it seemed– than I.

But as I was going through my long list of complaints– I stopped to look at down at my daughter— asleep in my arms, still latched, comforted, content. And I caught a glimpse of how meaningless and unnecessary all of my complaining really was.

It didn’t change anything.

It did nothing other than diminish the present moment and in that moment, despite my tiring day, I had so much to be grateful for.

As parents, we are often faced with the challenge of finding ways to accept the little people we love so very much despite the many things they do that, sometimes, drive us crazy.

And this situation, like many other situations that have arised upon becoming parent, serves to illuminate an aspect of myself that I often prefer to avoid looking at and that is…. my need to control.

I have the tendency to fixate on fixing–
or changing, everything,
even the things that need
more accepting
than fixing—
like people,
like children.

And like many of us, the more dissatisfied I become, the more I seek to change things. And the more that I imagine another’s life to be better or easier, the more unhappy I become with my own.

And after a day like yesterday,
there I was again…
feeling dissatisfied,
trying to fix
rather than accept.

And when I really think about it, it seems that I have always made changes in my life from a place of dissatisfaction. I’ve picked jobs that way, gone on diets, entered into relationships that way. I have bought beauty products and clothes that way. I even enrolled in college that way. Not surprisingly, most of those things didn’t last nor did they fulfill me in the way I had imagined them to.

Since my own childhood, being wrong simply meant yet another thing to add to my list of things I need to improve or change in order to be right. And after years spent in trying to be right all the time, I realize the ‘to do’ list never ends. In fact, it gets longer.

But the amazing and sometimes very painful thing about becoming a parent (that no one told/warned me about) is that all your old, conditioned, and usually dysfunctional patterns of thought and behavior are often resurfaced, along with emotions, insecurities, fears, and a whole bunch of other crap that you thought you had left behind a long time ago.

And it is painful because sometimes it not easy to let go of the things that we have grown accustomed to like coping mechanisms that, although dysfunctional, have served to give us a sense of security, comfort, and familiarity in our lives. And a lot of times we aren’t even conscious of our attachment to these sources of comfort until it is time to let them go.
But it is amazing because it challenges you…
to dig deeper, to be better, to grow more,
to love more.

Since becoming a mother, I have learned that my ability to accept my circumstances is far more important than my ability to change them. I can’t always fix a temper tantrum or a defiant child, and in fact by trying to it usually makes the situation worse, but I can control my reaction. I’m learning the power of making peace with the present moment, rather than resisting it, regardless of the challenge it may pose.

Raising a child, who needs me to be able to love her through every moment, every failure, every mistake and every accident from pee on the floor, to spit up on my clothes has been the exact experience I needed to recognize that the real tool of transformation is acceptance not resistance, love not condemnation.

When we teach our children to change in a state of unhappiness and resistance, we miss the much greater and more valuable lesson of teaching them how to love and accept things, people, and most importantly–
themselves,
as they are.

I had no understanding of what acceptance or what self- love meant as a child. Now, as an adult and a mother, my wounds have been exacerbated by the demand my daughter makes on my ability or rather inability, at times, to love and accept her in a way that I, quite honestly, have never been able to love anyone.

Becoming a parent opens wounds we may have thought healed long ago.
And if we don’t heal our wounds we, inevitably,
bleed on to our children.

So, I pray, that I will learn to be there fully present, to the moment, to watch as my mind attempts to avoid what is being asked of it.

I will let go. I will release the negative,
I will release the need to fix, change, and control.

I will learn to accept,
to love, to love, to keep on–
loving.

Because love is a choice,
that we have to make
everyday, over and over,
again.

Choose love.

“Since no other journey
is able to evoke
more emotional reactivity in us
than parenting,
to be a parent invites us
to treat the reactions
our children trigger in us
as opportunities
for spiritual growth.” – Shefali Tsabary

Thank you for reading 😀

In what ways has becoming a parent challenged you to grow?

I Used To Be An Atheist

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I used to be
an atheist.

Then a tree taught me
the most valuable of lessons.
It stood there with me one day
in stillness and magnificence,
as I wept about loss and life.
And it didn’t budge,
except for a slight sway
in the breeze.
And I went on like that
in tears and in hopelessness
for hours.
And the tree remained a tree.
It rained and it snowed,
its leaves wilted and died,
the sun rose and it set
and the tree remained a tree.
And I would leave and come back,
every so often,
to check up on it
to be sure it hadn’t left.
And it never did.

And occasionally,
I would go just to touch it
to be sure it was still alive
and it always was. And once,
I dug a little hole around it
to be sure it had roots
and it did.
And one afternoon,
before it was time for me to go,
I carved my name on a branch
so that it would remember
that I was there.

And then I moved.

And as I thought of that tree
soon after, I knew that it didn’t
think of me.
It was– just a tree, after all.
But without thoughts nor words
in those moments I spent with it,
sometimes talking but mostly listening,
more than books, more than people,
more than any other experience,
that tree taught me
the nature of God.

It showed me that
the source of life
that ran through the rain
and pulsed into the soil
that passed to its roots
and grew into leaves
that reached to the heavens
—ran through me.

All that peace, all that patience,
all that beauty, all that love,
all that acceptance and resilience
that lived within it—
lived within me.

And when I feel disconnected,
when I feel like my mind
has become so loud and chaotic
that is has completely
detached me from my ability
to feel or sense
the quiet stillness,
the subtle aliveness
in my body and my being
anymore—
I go to that tree.
or a flower,
or the water,
or I go out in the rain
or the wind.

Or on a day like today,
before the sun—
I wake and I sit by the window
and I listen
to the silence
of the snow
and I hold my daughter
in my arms
and I remember
who I am.

What brings you back to God?

Paulee McCormack

The Addiction Most of Us Don’t Know We Have

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‘Every addiction arises
from an unconscious refusal to face
and move through your own pain”

It’s a place, I think, that many of us avoid going to. It’s a place that we hide from, we resist the moment our mind tries to make sense of how someone—anyone— my cousin, your sister, my father, your son— could get there.

But in some way or another, we all are there or have been there, addicted— to something or someone—a relationship, a destructive behavior, compulsive thoughts, food, things, habits—anything that has left us subservient to our own mind.

And I have had to ask myself, too many times, this question:

Why is it that, as a human being, our compassion can extend to people we don’t even know, to children we see on television, to stories we read on Facebook, to families we watch on the news but stop—at those fighting with an addiction?

I have loved an addict.

I wanted and tried my hardest
to save an addict.
I gave advice to
and went to meetings with
an addict.
I believed in addict.
I fought for an addict.
I stayed up all night crying,
pleading, praying
with an addict.

But–
I have also walked away
from an addict.
I gave up on an addict.
I lost hope in an addict.
I became painfully cold
to an addict.
I judged, belittled,
and blamed an addict
for what I thought
they were doing purposefully
to themselves and me.

And none of it changed anything
and all of it
changed nothing.

Because how could I have expected the mind— that is afflicted with the disease of addiction, the disease of fear, grasping, clinging, self-sabotaging, self-medicating, the disease of all human kind, the disease of the ego—to fix the problem that itself has created?

And we all
are afflicted.

And if we can’t look in the mirror and see that— then we are not yet able to see the true fragile nature of ourselves as human beings that are capable of anything that another human being is capable of.  We are blind to the places in ourselves that are also so very difficult to love, the places that are also battered and broken and cling to our own suffering and problems, our own forms of addiction that fill our voids with things and people. We look past the places in ourselves that are selfish, unkind, and destruct relationships, friendships, careers, and use alcohol or food or sex or television to numb the pain we don’t want to feel—  the same way an addict does.

If we can’t see it in ourselves, if we can’t see that we are all, every single one of us, in the grip of a destructive diseased mind that most of the time we have very little control over and most of the time is poisonous to our own self and others, it is for the same reason we can’t see the humanness of an addict. It is because we don’t like the way it makes us feel— as vulnerable, as out of control, and as so shockingly similar to the very people we alienate—the addicts, the perpetrators, the abusers, the unlovable–so we avoid it.

We have taught ourselves
the art of looking away
from the things
that cause us pain.

Your addiction may not be to a drug and mine may not be to alcohol but we all have one and most of us function with it everyday. Many of us hide it from others and ourselves so well that we don’t even know it is there.

Can you recall a time in your life when you experienced a lucid moment of complete clarity? Usually occurring after a period of deep depression or trauma in which you felt as if you had awakened from the dream of this world we live in and every role played, every problem perpetuated, all the hate, the anger, the jealousy, the suffering, the problems— meant nothing— in the grand scheme of things.

You were able to look into the eyes of another and see them as the absolute divine being that they are beyond their imperfections, their problems, their addictions. You saw their light and you connected with that light. And because you saw it, it shined brighter in them—and in you. You felt it at the core of your being and you realized you were not any different from them. And all those things, those labels, those beliefs that separate you from them, me from you, were just that—things, meaningless things.

I’ve been there holding someone in those delicate moments of clarity, praying that they would last. I’ve held myself in those moments, praying that they would last. But they don’t always last and we aren’t always freed from our minds, our pain, or our addictions.

Some of us do change, some don’t. Some die, some withdraw, some wither away, some go on blindly functioning in society as ‘normal human beings’ never having enough  pain in their lives to push them to see their own dysfunction.

But I have felt the power that lies in those ethereal moments of absolute surrender and I recognize and know that power to be, above all else in my life who I truly am, who we all truly are.

And those whom are blessed to have people in their lives that have the courage to look at their suffering as separate from who they are, reminding them of their light, reminding them that they are not their mind, they are not their pain, they are not their disease, they are not their problems, they are not their addiction– have a much a greater chance of evolving to their true potential than those who don’t.

And it hasn’t been easy for me to love others in their most intense suffering nor has it been easy to love myself but it I know it is what is being asked of me, of us—to accept and to love,
even though we don’t understand,
even when we don’t know how.

‘I am a human being,
nothing human
can be alien to me.
If a human being did it,
you have to say
that I have in me all the components
that are in him or in her.
I intend to use my energies constructively
as opposed to destructively,
if you can do that with the negative
just think what you can do
with the positive.’

-Maya Angelou

Thank you for reading.

-Paulee McCormack

Oh—She’s a Vegan?

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As a child, every night at dinner time, I would sit at the table, plate full of animal flesh, my cat cuddled under my feet while I ate my dinner. Moving on into adulthood, my cat passed away but animals still filled my plate. I never even gave a thought as to why I ate some animals but not others and for years I continued on doing so.

The majority of us have been ‘protected’ from an accurate picture of what the slaughtering of animals looks like. Aside from road kill, we don’t see dead animals often and I doubt many of us would feel hungry at the site of one. The funny thing about my meat-eating days is that I was often repulsed by the sight of animal flesh before being cooked. When I look back, I question why I had ignored my emotional reaction to it for such a long time.

I encourage you to consider this, have you ever actually seen the 10 billion animals we eat, every year? Yes, 10 billion animals, every year.
Or have you ever caught as much of a glimpse of a slaughterhouse? Do you know where the ‘meat’ you have consumed today (assuming that you do eat meat) came from?
What state, what farm, or even what animal?
Are you sure the chicken on your plate was in fact….a chicken? How would you know?
If it was a dog, would you be repulsed?

The language used in the identification of the animals we consume, cleverly, supports our denial of what it is we are really eating. This naming system allows us to detach from the inhumane process of how ‘pork’, ‘veil’, ‘hot dogs’, and ‘cheese’ end up in our local grocery stores and on our plates.
This is no accident or coincidence, there is great purpose and intent in the meat and dairy industry’s attempts to keep it this way in order to cover up the cruel and unjust holocaust of animals that is happening, right now.

A little over 3 years ago, I became a vegetarian. 10/10/10, to be exact.
However, at that time in my life, the choice to become vegan wasn’t much of a consideration.
I wasn’t quite there,
yet…

Why not?

Well, I was addicted to cheese…
really I was.

And it wasn’t all in my head. I had withdrawal symptoms when I gave it up. Mammalian milk actually contains casomorphins which when digested produce opiate effects. Casomorphins ensure offspring strongly bond with and attach to their mothers, it is the case with children and their mother’s also.
In cheese these casomorphins are very concentrated making it more addicting than just drinking milk. But in my case, I was far past the weaning age and it wasn’t my mother’s milk nor was it my mother that I was strongly attached to,
it was a cow.

Like many of us, I thought that dairy was essential in the human diet. So, I continued throughout my vegetarian years to eat it. I went back and forth with myself about it, at times I wanted to give it up, but I was inundated with thoughts such as,
What can I possibly eat that doesn’t contain dairy? (Vegan cookbooks changed all that.) What would my friends think of my new philosophy? (None are vegan.) What would my Italian-meatball-loving-put-cheese-on-everything family say?

Becoming a vegan felt too extreme and isolating from social and societal norms. And for many years, I convinced myself that being a vegetarian was enough to at least partially honor how I truly felt about animals and to free myself of the tremendous guilt I felt for consuming them. Because I did also love animals, in the not-want-to-eat-you-way.

My choice to not consume animal flesh, but to continue to consume their secretions, allowed me to feel like I was doing my part morally and at the same time, I did not have to inconvenience myself too much. And there is no denying that, in today’s world of overly processed, genetically modified, chemical laden fast food, being vegan is an inconvenience, a huge one.

So, how did I finally make the transition to a completely plant based diet?
Well, I was forced–
by a very cute baby.

Shortly after my daughter was born, she began having digestive issues and developed eczema. I came to learn that she was intolerant to the animal proteins found in the dairy and eggs I was consuming that had been passing to her through my milk. She was suffering from an auto-immune reaction which resulted in the rashes and digestive problems.

So, I made the choice to cut out all animal products from my diet. Truthfully, I did not want to. I reconciled I would go back. The moment she was done breastfeeding, me and cheese would reunite.

Then came the story of Colleen Patrick Goudreau that I had stumbled upon, shortly after becoming vegan. Along with documentaries such as EarthlingsFood MattersForks over Knives and authors like Melanie Joy, among others, that fully awakened me, as author Goudreau puts it, to being vegan.

I lay in bed one night, after my milk drunk baby drifted off to sleep, inspired by the stories I read and moved by the quiet courage God had given me to make the change– if not for myself for my daughter, and I did.
My daughter is now 18 months. There is no end to breastfeeding in sight, and I have been vegan for over 10 months and will raise her as such. Her skin has cleared, her digestive issues are gone, and we are both happier and healthier because of it.

It is not easy being vegan in a meat eating world. It is especially difficult in a society that not only doesn’t support it but out right rejects it in many ways. Vegans represent a very small community and traditional supermarkets, schools, restaurants do not accommodate to the lifestyle very much, if at all.

It is a struggle for anyone to make an unconventional decision, to be different among society, among our friends and family, among the ones we love most. However, becoming vegan has changed me, in a beautiful way. It has given me a necessary incentive to reevaluate, not just my diet, but my beliefs and values as a human being, as a mother, as a friend. Becoming vegan is not only about making the choice to not eat animals, it is also about making the choice to live in a more conscious and compassionate way.

I believe we bargain with ourselves, in many ways,
when it comes to changing any part of ourselves
that we are not fully ready to embrace or to change.
We make excuses. We list reasons.
We justify those reasons with our own self-fulfilling prophecies.
We do just enough to feel like we have made a change.
We resist the urge.
We resist the calling to move beyond our comfort zone because deep down
we fear what is there.

If you have taken the time to read this post today, or have read or watched any of the informational resources I mentioned, or maybe you have a dog or a cat curled up next to you as you scroll through these words, I believe that what ever has brought you here did so for a reason.
There may be a part of you that desires to make a change, to reconcile the way you feel with the way you live, your beliefs with your actions.
There may also be a part of you that is not quite ready–honor both.

When the time is right, in my heart, I feel that the not so common path that I have chosen will become a familiar place, for much of world,
even all you die hard meat eaters.

Have you thought about becoming vegan or simply eating more of a plant based diet?

What is holding you back from making the change?

Share your story 😀

 

Night Time Parenting

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My daughter will be 18 months in about one week, which also marks 18 months from the last time I got a good night sleep. Actually, I haven’t really slept since I was about 7 months pregnant, getting up to pee every 15 minutes kind of makes that impossible. So make that 20 months since the last time I got any sleep.

Yes, that is correct, my 18 month old exclusively breastfed daughter has never, not once, slept through the night. As a matter of fact, she has never slept more than 3 hours at any one given time. Okay, to be fair there was one completely rare occasion that she slept for 4 hours. Woohoo.

I am not even sure how I have survived this long. By the time she turned a year old and was still waking up anywhere from one to three hours every single night, I threw in the towel. I gave up all hope of ever getting a full night of sleep anytime soon. I am actually functioning a lot better these days, I think— either that or I am completely delirious and somewhat crazy, that sounds a little more accurate.

I don’t believe in sleep training or any kind of ‘child training’ for that matter, for all those reading this that may be thinking “Why the hell have you put up with that for this long?” or “She is definitely old enough to go to sleep on her own now” or “You need to put your foot down”.

Yup, because putting your foot down with a screaming one year old at 2 am really works out great. Or my favorite of all, “You know she is only comfort feeding and is using you as a pacifier”.

Yes, I do know and personally I chose to be the pacifier, since I have never given her one. And to all the parents that do give their kids one I can almost bet they can not go to sleep without it. So, why does it seem there is more ridicule directed at mothers who breastfeed their children to sleep but much less directed at those parents whose child is attached to a pacifier? Beats me, but one thing is for sure here, every child needs something to go to sleep.

I have tried everything from— rocking, walking, singing, baby carrying, switching off with her Dad.

But she has made it very clear and by this age she can now straight up tell me what she wants, “Boob, Mumma, BOOB!
Give me the boob, now.
Oh, and every two hours, for the rest of the night.

Yes, that is my life right now. I admit, it can be very stressful at times, but the sigh of contentment she lets out upon settling into my arms, as she plays with my hair and nuzzles into my breast, makes every bit of it worth it .

I think we expect our children to be independent a little too soon. Many people have told me that I am spoiling her because I co-sleep, and continue to breastfeed, and continue to baby wear, and continue to respond to my daughter’s needs, which by the way– are needs and not mere desires.

But guess what?

At 18 months she rarely needs me to carry her anymore, nor do I wear her all day as I once did, and I can guarantee she is not going to need to breastfeed to go to sleep when she is older, despite how much I have spoiled her.

So, when will she sleep on her own?

When we will we stop breastfeeding?

It could be in 6 months, it could be in 3 years. I am okay with either.

Child led weaning and nighttime nursing are actually very normal among breastfed children but since we live in society where breastfeeding has been taken out of the picture of what is considered normal, day to day, I am met with criticism and unsolicited advice from parents who seem to be uncomfortable with the fact that my child is still breastfeeding.

These same parents are also uncomfortable with many of my unconventional parenting decisions, such as my choice to not vaccinate, or let her watch tv, or play with an Ipad and other electronics or consume animal products or, to stay on topic here, my decision to parent— not just during the day but throughout the night as well. Because parenting does happen at night. It happens 24 hours a day and usually at the most inconvenient times. Children don’t follow schedules, nor should they have to at such a young age.

Many new breastfeeding mothers may also not know that ‘night weaning’, as her doctor suggested of course, is still a form of weaning in itself and can cause a child to prematurely wean from the breast.

I would have been extremely upset if that were to have happened and would have had yet another reason why I want to punch her pediatrician in the face.

Luckily, I don’t follow my pediatrician’s advice and here is a tip, neither should you.
Most don’t have a clue about breastfeeding and their solution to almost every problem is to switch to formula.
No, thank you.

You see, breastfeeding is not just about her. It is about us. It is a relationship, a sacred connection that is shared between a mother and her baby that no other form of intimacy can replicate.

I am confident our nursing relationship will end exactly when we are both ready to call it quits. She still enjoys it and so do I. That may sound weird to those who have never experienced the very normal and very natural progression of a breastfeeding relationship. I don’t see my child getting older. I barely even notice the fact that her legs hang off the side of me now, all I see is my baby. All I feel is the same connection that I have felt since the moment she was born.

And I respond to that need the same way I have always responded because let’s be real here what does “You are getting too old now, baby” mean to a child?—nothing. It means absolutely nothing and if anything, it means rejection, an unfortunate miscommunication between a parent and child who clearly still desires to breastfeed.

At this busy age of exploration and curiosity through out the day, I find it to be an absolute blessing to be able to share in a few moments of quiet stillness with her as she nurses. We look into each other eyes, she plays with my hair, I play with hers, we laugh, we bond—we love.

And every night before bed we do the same. And her last moments before she goes to sleep are spent in my arms knowing that I will be there throughout the night, and in the morning when she wakes. I will be there to respond to her night time needs the same way I respond to her needs throughout the day–promptly, willingly, and with compassion.

A mother and her baby never forget the nine months they spent together as one. Breastfeeding is simply an extension of that union, that connection, that harmony of a mother and her child.
She will not always need that
but she does now
and so do I.

I remember the first flutters in my belly,
the first kicks, the first hiccups,
the indescribable feeling of your little soul
being born in me,
your heart and body
growing in me.

I keep you close cause I know
it is the rhythm of my heart that soothes you,
the pace of my breathe that calms you
the warmth of my chest that reminds you,
even though separate,
we are still one.

Yes we are.

Do you ‘sleep train’ or are you a sleep deprived night time parent like myself?

How do you make it work?

Photocredit: Josue Fevrier

I Am Not Perfect, but I Want to be a Perfect Mother

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When she feels love,
she expresses it,
spontaneously and genuinely.
She is so, fiercly, present.
Utterly open
to this very moment.

But inevitably so,
years will pass
and through the way
of the world,
through fear and distrust,
both taught and learned,
I’m afraid that she will be conditioned
out of that love.

We all, in some way,
have been conditioned
out of that love, our true essence,
our God- nature, our divine sense
of being.

And all the while, I am years older,
years more experienced, years wiser,
as I like to believe,
than her.
Yet, in every day, she has more
to teach me than I could ever
teach her.

And I often wonder,
how will I teach her?
–what it is that God asks of us
to be in this world,
but not of it,
to give love inclusively
and abundantly,
to accept and forgive.

How will I teach her to have faith
in such a faithless world,
to have hope though at times
it feels like nothing will change.
How will I teacher her to stay
just as she is, as pure, as innocent,
and as full of love and light.

How will I keep her
from all the things I fear,
the things that I have become,
that I hate, that I hide,
and that despite my best efforts to change,
sometimes she sees.

I am not perfect, but I want to be
a perfect mother.
I do not want to fuck her up.
There’s no way to dress that up.

And yet, we all do,
we infect our children with the very things
our parents gave to us.
The emotional wounds that
are ripped open the moment our children
begin to assert themselves in this world
as the intelligent, unique, strong-willed
little people that they are.

So what do we do with that?

Well, someone once said something along the lines of–
‘Either you grow or you die.’

It’s a day to day choice.
And although at times in my life,
long before motherhood,
I’ve felt like dying, today
I choose to grow.

All the blood, sweat, and tears put into raising a child,
the hours spent in frustration, in love and in fear, the insecurities, the complete madness mixed with
moments of clarity, all while having no real idea of what the hell I am doing…
all that desperation gives way
to the most miraculous faith.
It makes us who we are,
and our children too.

Despite the struggle, the unavoidable struggle, Motherhood has been the most beautiful, emotional, and transformative experience that I have ever gone through.
It changed my heart.
And I thank God for it,
every day.

Paulee McCormack

When Yoga and I First Met

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I came to yoga, hopeless.

There was no off switch to my brain, my body felt tired and heavy. I dragged my weight around like it was a burden to be alive. I’d lost all my energy, buried by time and age, fears and doubts, work and heartache.

At only 22, my childhood felt so very far away.
I longed to feel that child like sense of freedom and grace.
I longed to be fearless, again.
Something took it from me or someone—  or maybe I took it, from myself.
It was gone though and I missed it, deeply, especially when I saw it in someone else.
Yoga was my attempt at finding some kind of healing through all of that.

I rolled my mat out, hesitantly, in that first class, having no idea what to expect.
My first downward dog felt like my head was going to pop off from the tightness in my shoulders and neck.
I lifted my –what felt like a hundred pounds- leg, off the ground, as instructed.
Now take a long, deep breath and open up your hip, the teacher said.
I tried. It didn’t open.
I took a breath but it wasn’t long or deep.
It hurt.
It hit, somewhere, my breath that is,
that felt like a wall, it didn’t move.
There was no space for it to move.
It was shallow and labored and surprisingly, painful.

The heat in the room began increasing. Upward dog, downward dog, take it through chaturanga, upward dog, downward dog, warrior one and again and again the instructor called out. By the time I got to warrior two, I felt panic. My thighs burned like hell. My breath was heavy. With sweat and envy in my eyes, I looked around at the other, more accomplished yogis, they had their game faces on, they were working their poses,
showing off their deep ujjayi breath, strong and balanced.
I was shaking, sweat pouring, praying I wouldn’t pass out.

I wanted to run but I stayed.

Asana by asana, breath by breath, I tried my best to resist the urge to flee. And after each asana, my breath began to move just a little bit more, slowly navigating its way into parts of my body I had never felt or had not felt, in a really long time.
By the time the instructor finally uttered those sweet words of shavasana pose, my body was begging for it.

With the sound of the thump of my heart in my head, I laid down feeling defeated but accomplished. I felt the tingling pulse of energy under my skin. I felt exhausted but alive, more alive
than I had felt in a really long time.
I closed my eyes, my body stilled and I went in to a deep meditative state.

Yeaaaa… right…(How I wish. )

My fingers and toes wiggled anxiously as I wondered how much longer I had to stay that still.
I had skipped my morning coffee and all I could think about was Starbucks.

Years have gone by now and sometimes I think back to when yoga and I first met. I remember it as the day that I changed my mind. The day I decided to get up and do something about the unhappiness I felt in my life.
The day I honored what my body was asking of me and began to take care of it.

Since then, me and my caffeine addiction have split ways.
Meditation still doesn’t come easy or much at all.
But now when I get on my mat,
I don’t worry as much about a particular pose I can’t get into—
or a relationship I can’t fix, or money I can’t seem to make, or any of the things that steal my joy, that taint the sacred time I take to honor myself.

Practice changes, day to day.
There are always new places to go with breath and movement, new feelings to work through, fears to let go of.
But each time, I move through my fears, each time I honor my light, and listen to my intuitive self, each time I choose to take care of my mind and body through practice, I am building trust in myself, on my mat, and in my life.

Those feelings of doubt and fear still make their way
into in my head and onto my mat
but I know now,
it is okay,
to feel them.

In fact, it is necessary—
it is energy,
it is fire,
it is what moves me,
you, the world
to change.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

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Flu season is still in session, or at least in New England it is. And as the temperature drops, along with our intake of the sunshine vitamin, so do our immune systems.

It is that warm, fuzzy time of year when the snow falls and being curled up under the covers with a cup of vegan hot chocolate and some fresh baked gluten free chocolate chip cookies sounds perfect, just about every night. But all that yummy sugar is yet another blow to our already defenseless immune system.

So, what can we do about it, naturally of course?

This is a blog on Holistic Living, so while many people may have received their annual flu shot this year and are suggesting you do too, I’d politely decline.

I don’t do flu shots, nor any vaccine for that matter. Not only is the flu shot filled with a bunch of icky ingredients that I wouldn’t eat, never mind inject in to my body, it also sheds. Essentially, those who receive the shot are capable of shedding the virus, and may infect those they come in contact with.

So, besides getting out of our comfy, cozy beds and getting some exercise and fresh air, loading up on dark leafy greens and a little vitamin D, elderberry syrup is a safe, natural, and effective way to give our immune systems a healthy kick in the butt!

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Through out the winter in my home, homemade elderberry syrup is in stock for me and my babes.
This recipe is simple, easy, and much healthier than the store bought kind that most likely contains not so healthy preservatives.
It is also much cheaper to make it yourself!

Here is what you will need:
Ingredients (Organic if possible )

1 cup Dried Elderberries
2 Tablespoons Rose Hips
2 Ceylon Sticks/ or Cinnamon Sticks
A pinch of Cloves
1 Teaspoon of Dried Ginger or about 1 inch of fresh
4 cups of Water
1 1/2 – 2 Cups of Coconut Nectar ( or Honey for my non-vegans)

Bring water to a boil, add all ingredients except for the sweetener that you will be using.
Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until liquid has reduced by about half.
Strain out the herbs and add to glass bowl, once cooled, add sweetener.
Allowing it to cool is a must, since you will cook off any of the nutrients in the honey or nectar if you do not.

Pour into a mason jar or any glass jar, seal it tight and keep it in the refrigerator.

It should store well for a few months.

The typical recommended dose, from what I have researched, is a tablespoon a day for adults and a teaspoon a day for children. (Sidenote) Honey should not be given to children under one year of age. If you do come down with the flu, take the recommended dose every few hours through out the day.
It is also really delicious to add a couple spoonfuls to a nice hot cup of tea to sip on through out the day !

Have your own version of this recipe? Please share!

Yoga a Day will Keep your Demons at Bay

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Happy New Year!

Many years spent working as a personal trainer, has led me to the conclusion that, despite me never actually setting any new year’s resolutions for myself, many people do and weight loss goals tend to be among the most common. Along with other goals to become more healthy, such as kicking a caffeine habit or making some necessary changes in your diet. Many of you, I am guessing, may be thinking of taking up a yoga practice. So, I thought what better time than now to share with you a few tips, from one yogi to another, on what to expect in your first  yoga class.

Now, I’m not going to list the most common advice typically given, such as:
bring a towel, don’t eat before class, shut off your cell phone, bring some water, etc.
You know that already, I’m sure. Instead, I’d like to share a few, not so common, tips for your first yoga class, that I’ve come to learn over the years of practicing in many studios with many wonderful teachers.

First Time Getting on the Mat

So, here you are, new year, new you—or so we like to imagine.
You have just stepped foot into your first yoga class, scoped out the scene, laid out your mat. Class starts and next thing you know, the room is becoming uncomfortably hot and so are the pants you wore. ( It happens, it took me a long time to realize the importance of investing in some proper yoga gear.)
You move into your first downward dog, your shoulders are burning like hell, your wrists hurt, you need a water break already, but you are not quite sure if or when you should take one, and you begin to wonder if you are going to survive this class.
Don’t worry, you will.

Check your Ego at the Door

The practice of yoga, you will soon learn, is very different from most forms of exercise and can serve up a healthy dose of humility to even the strongest of the strong. So, stay in your lane, or in this case on your mat. Respect what your body can and can not do. It is important to accept where you are as beginner. Don’t try doing anything too crazy, your ego is going to be in full force. Keep it in check.

I once heard a hamstring pop in a yoga class, the last place you would think of having that happen. I cringe a little, every time I think of it. But it humbled me to the core. During that period in my life, I had been pushing myself a little too hard in my practice, wanting to be somewhere I was not. That class, and that poor young man, taught me that having patience in my practice is essential to ensuring the longevity of a healthy practice, free of injury.

Listen to your Body

Let your breath guide you, it is the best indicator of whether or not you have gone past your limit. If you have started to pant like a dog, you may want to take a child’s pose or grab some water. If it hurts, simply back off. If a teacher suggests something you know you can not do, don’t do it. No amount of force will open up a body that is not ready to be opened.

Practice begins and ends with the breath, keep your focus there and everything else will come naturally. We all have to start from somewhere. Don’t let a few hiccups in your first class discourage you.

Pose Envy

Unless you are a dancer or gymnast or something that requires a lot of strength and flexibility, you are going to get pose envy,
like a mother—

What is pose envy?

Well basically, it will go something like this, you are there on your mat, up dogging it, down dogging it, sweating, shaking, practically dying…
Next thing you know, you find yourself trying to comprehend what the instructor meant when she offered a twist, along with a bind, in a pose by itself, you didn’t even think was possible.
Finally, you get it, kind of, sort of, barely…
You are in pain, a lot of pain, which can’t be good and then you look over to your left
and the girl next to you,
is levitating…

Okay, she isn’t really levitating, but she is doing some crazy shit, you have never in your life seen before and all you want, in that very moment,
more than anything else, is to be her.
I can’t count the number of times I have felt this way. (Please, tell me I’m not the only one.)
If this happens to you, like it does to me, close your eyes and try to focus on your breath. It’s a great way to still the mind and get that damn ego back in check.

Ujjayi Breath

There might come a moment during class, where you ask yourself,
why is everyone breathing so…
sexually?

There is going to be alot of weird sounding breathing, commonly referred to as ujjayi breath or lion’s breath, going on. However, it will all depend on the studio you go to. I have been to some studios where nobody has made a sound and then others where, quite honestly, it has sounded like a group orgy was going on.
A whole lot of moaning, groaning, and sighing, minus the sex part.

Over the years, I admit, I’ve become a bit of loud breather. So, if you happen to end up next to me or someone like me, have no fear, we’re not possessed. As time goes on, one day you will arrive to class, after an extremely long and stressful day and you may find yourself letting out one of those great big lion’s breath, completely uninhibited. I assure you, it is going to feel AMAZING.

I once had a lady tell me to shut up, (because of the way I was breathing) being that I was in a yoga class, I politely asked her to worry about what she was doing on her mat and not what I was doing on mine. Although, I admit, she kind of ruined my practice that day.
For the rest of the class, I could not stay present for more than a minute without imagining, stepping off my mat and punching her in the face. I didn’t though, that would have been very ‘unyoga’ of me.

Yoga a Day will Keep your Demons at Bay

Be prepared to leave class a little bit more, enlightened, elated, noticeably more positive, happy, almost high. The physical practice of yoga intersects with the spiritual practice of yoga. It is by going into the physical body, through breath and movement, that we gain the ability to tap into our higher self. Many of us take up yoga, mainly, for the physical results but soon begin to see subtle changes in our mental and emotional state.
After a class, you may even want to call your mom and tell her you love her, just for the hell of it. Even if you don’t really like your mom, like me. Or maybe you decide, you do not want to consume any animals that day because you realize that well, they’re just like you, living, breathing, sentient beings. Or maybe, instead of flipping off the car that cuts you off, you smile, you let go, maybe…that is still a very tough one for me to let go of.

What if I Pass Gas?

You might fart, completely accidentally. Hopefully, no one will hear it but if someone does, don’t worry you are not the first person to fart in a yoga class. Just stay strong in that warrior pose and pretend like it wasn’t you. Unless you are the only one in the class that day, then well, just admit it. Say excuse me and try not to turn too red from the embarrassment.

The Art of a Great Assist

The instructor may come over and assist you in a pose. If they are good at it, you are going to feel like God has just placed his (or her) hands on you and you are going to open up in ways you didn’t think were possible.
A good assist, can shift your entire practice. Gaining proper alignment, through an adjustment from an experienced teacher, can greatly increase your range of motion allowing you to go deeper into a pose.
I have had it happen to me, many times, and it still leaves me in awe .

Teacher Worship

You might feel like your teacher is a God. Similar to that pose envy I mentioned, you kind of want to be like him or her. That damn ego never goes away. They might have an unbelievably strong and graceful practice.
Or during Shavasana, they may share with you some ridiculously, profoundly, brilliant insight into life that you needed to hear, at that exact moment. Or, they may break down a pose in such a way that allows you to access it for the very first time in your practice. You might want to hug them and thank them. You might even cry. All completely normal.

Which leads me to…

The Emotional Body

Your first class may not bring up much of any emotion at all, but if you continue practicing, be prepared to have some deep rooted issues be brought up to the surface, usually involuntary so. Embrace them, even the unexpected ones.

Our breath serves to soften and open up both our tight physical bodies, as well as our rigid minds. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the physical practice. As we get deeper in to our physical bodies through the practice of each pose, we also get deeper into our emotional bodies. Accept it, appreciate it, honor it.
This is where healing begins, on and off the mat.

Lastly,

Yoga Changes Lives

It changed mine. You’ll never be quite the same after your first yoga class.
The benefits of yoga are endless. I recommend it to almost everyone I meet.
So much so, my friends kind of steer clear of even mentioning the word ‘yoga‘ around me, in attempts to avoid getting into an hour long discussion on why yoga is the absolute greatest thing in the world. (Which, it is.)

I’ve yet to meet anyone who is not deeply affected by their first yoga class. If you’re anything like me, after you wrap up your first class, you’re going to be telling everyone about how amazing yoga is!

Best of luck, on and off your mat this New Year! 

Namaste.

Do my fellow yogis have any other tips or advice for someone new to yoga?

Please share! 😀

 

Finding Safe, Non Toxic Toys

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Christmas has passed and I’m sure many of us parents are now sorting through piles of toys for our little ones, or maybe not so little ones. As we are unwrapping, reading directions, putting things together, one thing we don’t typically consider is what those toys are made out of.

This Christmas, I spent a little extra money and a little more time seeking out safe, non-toxic toys, as well as some safe mattresses, but I’ll stick to the importance of toxin free toys for this post.

My quest to find safe toys began shortly after my, now one year old, daughter was born. The moment she put her first toy in her mouth, a bell went off in my head, and I immediately began to worry(obsess) over, what exactly that cute little teething ring was made out of. I was not at all aware of the harmful chemicals present in the materials used in most commercialized toys.
After much research, hours glued to a 3 x 3 screen, baby on boob, (as I also, out weighed the newly discovered risk of radiation from my cell phone harming her, to the potential harm her shiny little toys may cause), I finally came upon a few toy companies that I love and trust.

And her plastic teething ring, that went straight in the trash.

With the help of an amazing resource and inspiring blog like this super Mom’s, http://ecofriendlyusa.wordpress.com/, who dedicates her time to finding and sharing healthy products with fellow parents I began to get an idea of what companies I could trust. Check out her website, for a much more comprehensive list of safe toys, as well as hundreds of other products. It is a resource that, as a parent, I am so very grateful to have access to, especially when I don’t always have the time to spend hours researching.
I also decided I would save my cell phone time for when I am away from my baby girl. Radiation is not something I want to expose my little baby’s developing brain too, but again that is a whole other post.

Back to the non toxic toys.

Children, especially infants and toddlers, are exposed to chemicals everyday in their own homes that many parents are completely unaware of. The toys that they eat, play, bathe and sleep with being one of the biggest culprits.

So, what should be avoided when purchasing toys?

Plastic is the most widely used material in all of toys, and also the most toxic and not so friendly to our planet. All types of plastic, bpa free or not, are loaded with chemicals and ideally should be avoided, most importantly for infants, or at the very least until they are no longer interested in putting their toys in their mouth.
We may not see it but the plastic they are gnawing on or the plate and spoon they are using to eat with, is getting ingested, in very small amounts. This is even more likely if the plastic is in contact with heat, which with children is almost all the time, i.e. a child’s mouth.

PVC, a commonly used plastic and well known carcinogen, is the one of the most toxic of plastics. It not only leeches chemicals when exposed to heat or moisture, but it also off gasses toxic chemicals into the air. (Ever notice the toxic smell of a new shower curtain, if so, it was most likely made out of PVC)

While it may be cheap and affordable, it is at a high cost to our health and our planet. Today, plastic is in everything we buy, even in the things we may not consider to contain it such as make-up and hygiene products. Getting rid of the plastic in my home has been my mission. While it is next to impossible to completely avoid, it is well worth it to minimize our purchasing and usage of it, especially when it comes to the products our children will be using. I avoid plastic in mostly all of my daughter’s toys, with one exception, a few of her bath toys.

I purchase her bath toys from a company called Green Toys, based out of California. All toys are manufactured in California, made from recycled milk bottles and other recycled materials. The plastic used is high-density polyethylene, a hard plastic free of phthalates, which does not off gas.  However, it is still plastic and not the company I would go to for a teething toy or any toy that your baby will be using mainly to suck and chew on which, before one year old, is usually everything.

Another great company I purchase toys from is Plan Toys. They offer fun, colorful, imaginative, and affordable toys. They are based out of Thailand. They offer a sustainable approach to toy manufacturing using recycled and recyclable materials. Their toys are made out of organic rubber wood using formaldehyde free glue. They have recently started using composite wood but it is clearly stated on the toys whether or not it is being used. Reassuringly, the composite wood is scrapped from the rubber wood and uses very little of their glue to hold it together. (However, I still prefer the solid wood toys.)
Their dyes are water based and do not contain any lead or heavy metals. The majority of dyes used in commercial toys often contain toxic solvents and considerable amounts of heavy metals. Heavy metals have no way of leaving our bodies once ingested, they accumulate, and overtime can impair with a child’s neurological development. Always check what kinds of dyes are used on toys, again, especially if they are going in your child’s mouth.

While Plan toys are not made in the USA, they strictly adhere to the international toy safety standards both in the USA and Europe. The best thing about plan toys is many of their toys are third party verified through www.healthystuff.org.  They rate very well, and the results show their toys to be clean and true to Plan toy’s promise of providing safe, quality toys.

pauleemccormack.jpgSmiling Tree Toys, currently my favorite toy company, is a small family based business right out of Minnesota. A growing business that makes beautiful, creative wooden toys right from home. While they may be a bit higher in price range, each and every toy is well worth it. These toys will last you forever, think of your grandchildren’s grandchildren one day playing with them. The use completely natural materials, locally sourced wood that is free of chemicals and ‘naturally antibacterial’ which contains no dyes or additives. All of their teething toys are unfinished. While they do use a finish on some of their other toys, it is a homegrown, organic, food grade blend of oil and beeswax. (All stated on their website.) They also, have a wonderful little shop on Etsy. 
They respond promptly to any questions you may have and shipping is fast. The quality in their craftsmanship shows, plus I love knowing that I am supporting a local business that is dedicated to making healthy, safe products for our children.

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My daughter doesn’t have a ton of toys, but rather a few great ones, that will grow with her as she gets older. There is a reason children will play with a cardboard box for hours, it encourages them to be creative, and there are endless possibilities to what a cardboard box can be made into. It is best to keep it simple, in my opinion. Over stimulating children with buttons, gadgets, lights, etc. can result in shortening a child’s, already short, attention span.

Think of how many plastic toys are laying around your house right now, that have probably not been looked at in weeks. I enjoy purchasing toys that cultivate creativity and inspire imagination. I prefer a more open ended toy that my daughter can’t quickly ‘figure out’, sort of like a piece of abstract art, but functional, you can sit there for hours coming up with new possibilities of how to use it. Wooden toys, I feel accomplish that best and are the safest for children.

One thing I learned early on in my research of safe toys for my daughter is that greenwashing is everywhere. Most people want safe alternatives and it is very easy to be mislead by companies that play on the vulnerabilities of the most vulnerable of all, new parents. I encourage every parent to do their own research. Don’t take my word for it or anyone else’s for that matter.

Read labels, ask questions.

Safe toys are not cheap to make or manufacture. Businesses today, are much less about people and more about profit. As parents and as consumers, it is in our best interest to take responsibility for the things that we buy. Despite, our very best intentions, we can no longer blindly trust labels such as ‘non toxic’ or ‘natural’ or ‘safe‘. There are no real standards to which these types of labels adhere to and are often abused by companies with the intent to mislead and persuade their average consumer into buying their product. What we don’t know can hurt us or our children. I find comfort in knowing that the toys my daughter are putting in her mouth, do not contain lead, arsenic, or any other harmful substance.

There is great power in being educated. 

The information is out there and we are so very fortunate to have access to it. The less that we know, the more susceptible we are to false advertising. Becoming informed increases our ability to make healthier decisions for ourselves and our families.

If you are interested in checking out the safety of some of the toys you already own, or a toy that you plan on purchasing, visit www.healthystuff.org another great resource for more information. 

 

The Importance of Forgiveness

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(Late night thoughts of a tired Mumma…)

On the many nights you have awakened, reaching out for me, settling your little body next to mine, nursing back to sleep, milk drunk in my arms, it has felt like you would need me, that much, forever.
I rejoice in that attachment, the dependence you have on me but admittingly so, there have been times, days when I am absolutely exhausted from nights I have not slept, when I have taken it for granted and I have wished sometimes, you weren’t so needy.

But in what has seemed like minutes,
a year has passed,
and you do in fact need me,
much less.

You remind me to cherish each moment, as trying and difficult as it may be, it does pass, sooner than I could have ever imagined.
As you grow, I understand more, it is not the pace of the world you keep,
or the clock, or a schedule, or an appointment or a bed time,
it your own beautiful, gentle, thoughtful, timeless pace.
And rather than rush you along, what is needed most is that I slow down, that I take a deep breath and practice being present to the amazing life in front of me.
The little girl asking me
to drop everything
and be here
with her,
right now.

And the more I do, the closer I feel
to her, to the Mother I want to be,
and to the voice I hear within myself,
assuring me that everything else… can wait.
And I promise, it can.

So, for forgiveness is what I ask,
for those times I’ve lost sight of the glory and gift
that lies in being needed, by anyone,
that much,
especially our children.

Guilt isn’t necessary, its a cruel, wasted emotion.
But forgiveness heals.
Forgiveness allows us to move on and let go.
It is the work of God to be able to show ourselves love and compassion,
in our darkest moments.

Through forgiveness, on those days we are too tired, or overwhelmed, or short on patience, we are able to meet those feelings with acceptance,
and forgive ourselves for having them.
As Mothers, the strong, selfless, loving, almost-never-get-a-break,
god damn warrior Mothers that we are,
we often feel we are not even allowed to be tired,
to be fed up, to be human—
but we are.