We suck. We shine. We rise and do it all over again. Sucking and shining more or less every day.

Woke up this morning to this video in my facebook feed, courtesy of Momastry. YES YES YES THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

And here are the thoughts that came tumbling out after watching this:

I haven’t written much on this blog since Maya was a baby because a) I’ve been busy raising my child and b) my parenting choices are mine alone and are very personal. One of the very first things any parent learns is how many folks are very self-conscious about their parenting, often expressed as being judgmental towards themselves or others. As parents, we are all smart and caring people, so it is easy when we notice something or many things we (either ourselves or another parent) can be doing better to make comparisons and feel somehow inadequate or superior because we are comparing ourselves to another.  We’re all doing the best we can in every moment, and when we fail in small or monumental ways to live up to our own expectations or those of others, it is not the end of the world. It’s a moment in time with lots of moments ahead to succeed or fail again.

Some background: I’m the creator of Dandelion Communitea Cafe, a socially conscious business aimed at fostering community and bring whole organic, vegetarian food to the people. I created this when I was just 25 years old, opened it when I was 26 and had a much publicized home birth experience on the dawn of my 31st year as a happily solo mother. My beautiful daughter Maya just turned five this past weekend. Because of this backdrop, I get a lot of people’s perception of who I am and how I should be projected onto me, including what they presume I think about them and their parenting. Let’s clear the air.

I eat whole foods as much as possible but enjoy the hell out of a bag of Trader Joes cheesy nacho chips. I own a vegetarian cafe but eat and feed my child various animals based on a variety factors including the quality of the meat and how hungry we are for it because she and I tend towards anemia and I know eating beets will help but, you know what? I don’t like beets that much, and neither does she. One of my dearest friends owns Local Roots with the best local meat and vegetables around – I shop there, but I also shop at Whole Foods & Trader Joes because I’m balancing convenience, price and variety as well as seasonality and farmer connection. My friend doesn’t sell grapes and my kid wants grapes. When your kid will only eat a small spectrum of food, you get the things on that list. I’ve been co-sleeping with my beautiful daughter since she was born because she is cuddly and I like to snuggle. If I had a partner who slept with me, I might have kicked the kid to the crib early on though. I had this epic homebirth that was, like, ridiculously awesome, and my best friend has had all her kids in the hospital and, for her situation and circumstances, that is the best choice for her and I haul my ass up to Mississippi to love and support her every time with nothing but love in my heart.

And you know what: you don’t recycle or you shop at WalMart, or your kid loves Chick-fil-A and you can’t properly explain corporate homophobia in reasonable terms to the kid who wants those delicious chicken nuggets so you go through the drive thru hoping no one spots you, but guess what: YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN. I know you are, and I don’t judge you for the choices you are making. We all have different priorities and are balancing and making choices that are not perfect at all, but perfect for this moment with these set of circumstances. This year, I enrolled my child in public school instead of Montessori, even though I am more of a unschool/homeschool/waldorf type. Why? My kid needed a bed, and a vacation and I was having a hard time affording the quality of food that I do make a priority for my family with the cost of tuition. You know what? Montessori is better than public school. You know what? Vacations and good nights sleep every night without gangly five year old feet up in your grill are awesome. I’m trading off. I don’t know which choice is better – the life of a martyr to afford AMAZING private education with all the stress of that, or a more fun time with my child with really less than ideal Kindergarten. Like, really less than ideal.

I am obviously not as disciplined with my child as I need to be, and it causes us much grief in various ways, but I feel guilty because I’m not as present for her as I would like due to juggling work stress, running a single parent household, being a half-good friend and half-good girlfriend and so I let shit slide that shouldn’t. It’s a problem, but you know what? I’m exhausted. I don’t have the capacity to be on it like I know I should every single time. I’ve opened my house to many people to either help cover rent or let someone in need have a place to rest their heads, and they see this and other ways I can do better and, being non-parents, it is natural to think I’m doing a poor parenting job when they witness those terrible moments that, YES, I am indeed failing as a parent and a person. Do I blame myself for not being able to handle everything or do I blame Maya’s absent father for not pulling his weight in parenting responsibility or do I blame my work situation for being unnecessarily stressful or do I just lay down, judgmental eyes be damned and take a nap while my kid makes a mess because I just need a moment to myself? I’m too exhausted to blame anyone, self included, and I know the folks who are making judgements just don’t know the totality of my situation or the fact that every judgement they have about my parenting will come back on them if they ever have a kid, just like my judgements of other peoples parenting (OPP) prior to having a child has done to me.

Am I sucking as a mom? Sometimes, it’s true, I am. I’m also sucking as a girlfriend, a friend and a boss at times as well.  But you know what? My friends suck sometimes, sometimes my boyfriend sucks, sometimes Maya sucks, sometimes my employees suck, sometimes Whole Foods sucks and sometimes local business owners suck. We all suck. BUT WE ARE ALL DOING THE BEST WE CAN WITH WHAT WE KNOW AND OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. So, stop being such perfectionists y’all. That sucks. Just do your best with what you’ve got, assume others are too. And things will suck much less when we do that. All this time spent overly comparing and judging and criticizing self or others could be channeled into finding commonality, learning new things or supporting one another instead. Or watching netflix and drinking some damn wine.

I love you. I love how much you suck. I love watching you get sick of sucking at some particular thing after awhile and then doing something about it to suck less. I see you sucking, but I don’t think you are bad or evil for it. I’m patient with you and myself. Because for the small ways in which we all suck, nothing is compared to the ways in which we all shine. You are a GREAT mom, dad, kid, employee, boss, friend, lover. And so am I. So am I.

Listen to the Ladies

I decided, with all my talk about the divine feminine in the past year, and asking people in my life why they did not notice and/or heed the wisdom of the feminine or recognize its value or worth….that I would dedicate the next year at least to specifically reading books written by women, and brush up on women’s studies, really hone in on it. I majored in business, for god’s sake, no silly liberal arts crap. Geez, I was an idiot. I’ve come a long way!

The majority of books I’ve read are written by men due to the huge gender disparity in publishing. I like men, I do, but I’m taking my own advice and really sinking into some great books. Here is a short list of the ones I’ve read and love. Many more on my bookshelf waiting to be absorbed, would love your recommendations!

Julie’s bookshelf: female-authored


goodreads.com

Share book reviews and ratings with Julie, and even join a book club on Goodreads.

Outsourcing the Family

So, I stumbled across this very articulate article, which pretty much sums up my thoughts on the subject of daycare/preschool (really, any school). This, as I am researching preschool for Maya:

Here is another take on the lessons our day care center child may absorb: Her learning and play, her growth and development, need to be structured and facilitated by professionals. There are no mentors for her, nor are there any young ones that she can in turn help usher through the months and years. She will not get a sense of her intrinsic worth as a member of a community that has a reason for being and a set of daily tasks that have varying degrees of meaningfulness, and that incorporates her at whatever developmental stage she might be, provides a variety of models for her, and invests her with a sense of the rhythms of everyday life. Instead, she gets the rather profound message that her role is to be entertained (educated, enriched, etc.) until someone picks her up and takes her home for some quality time. The lesson is an early one in consumption: She may be missing out on finding meaning in organic relationships but she can always come into the day care to consume some stimulation and entertainment instead.

Furthermore, she learns about class position and hierarchy. Rather than absorb the needs and values and cultural norms of her community, she integrates herself into an institution—learning to please the caregivers, compete with her peers for attention, divvy her day into structured activities, accept the rules and guidance of the authority figures, and mark time by her movement from the infant room to the toddler room and on to the pre-school room. Just as the U.S. educational system produces young adults schooled to take their place among the powerful, or in the office, the factory, the service sector, or the permanent underclass, so early childhood education will help produce the workers we need. Yes, some day cares promote cognitive development, teach positive social skills, and empower young minds, but you can be sure that class position is a key determinant of who learns what.

The author suggests the alternative of home-based care, not exclusively by mom’s: but dad, extended family and friends too. You know, COMMUNITY care. Until now, I’ve been blessed with home based care for Maya between myself, her grandma, and a friend with a four-year old boy. Now, I am called to return to more hands on work at Dandelion and other special projects while my friend heads off on a year-long adventure in November. Grandma is out of town indefinitely.

I can’t do it by myself, and I don’t beat myself up for that. Yet I do worry about outsourcing Maya’s care away from the home while also recognizing that bringing Maya to work with me as a three year old is not the best solution either. At least not in this paradigm where she is the only kid being brought to work (and I am lucky to have a business that is very vibrant and diverse and a great example of the kind of place I would be proud of her to work someday, unlike, say in an office on Wall Street or god forbid a BigAg lobbyist or something twisted like that). If most people brought their kids to work in our community, and children were more integrated into the workplace, that might work better as we would create space for them. While she would have many chances to interact with adults at the cafe, she needs and desires relationships with babies, kids, teens and elders too. You know, the VILLAGE, the one it takes to raise a kid, the one that has been dismantled, right along with families and tribes in this long slide from a creative existence (by that I mean, each person creates/produces food, clothing, household goods, equipment, art, music) to a consumer existence where all those things are “outsourced” to other people, like childcare.

But it’s not about just mom staying at home in isolation from the rest of society either in order to raise my child. Where’s dad? At the office. Where’s grandma? In the nursing home. Where are all the people, for goodness sake? Everybody is busy earning money to afford someone else to take care of each other.

First, men were enticed to leave their homes for war, then jobs “in town.”

Then, women said, “Hey you can’t leave me here, I want in on that too!”

For a time grandparents took over the role of parents, but now everyone has scattered across the country in pursuit of a better opportunity and grandma is no longer next door.  Now that mom and dad are at work, and grandma is in a nursing home, children as early as six weeks are forced to leave their homes and families as well.

Okay, it’s past two in the morning and I must end rant which is only half thought through. Sigh.

The Story I Haven’t Told

Don’t let that smile fool you, I’m totally exhausted and overwhelmed.

There was a time when I was in serious need of rescuing. Holy smokes, did I. Drowning in a sea of overwhelm from being a new business owner, I was collapsing from burnout and paralyzed with indecision. To say I felt crushed under the burden of responsibility and demands for my time and attention is an understatement. In the first few months of opening the cafe, I lost nearly one third of my body weight, falling below 100 pounds and going-going-going so fast and furious that my entire body was locked in pain from all the stress. I had zero appetite, even as I made some of the best organic food around for patrons. I remember sitting on the front porch with my business partner on our one year anniversary and recognizing it was the first time I had sat deliberately with the intention of savoring the moment in more than a year. In this moment, I recognized that I had never worked harder for anything in my entire life and could see no end in sight. Facing the second year of business, I knew I was on the precipice of totally and completely losing my shit.

And lose it, I did. The entire ethos of our cafe was to weave community and foster authentic relationships by inviting folks to slow down their lives and bring it into balance. Our business philosophy was underlined by Gandhi’s wisdom: “Be the change you wish to see.” I strongly believe in this sage advice, and as I took stock of the condition opening a business had rendered me, I knew this was NOT anything I would wish on another human being. Of course, I could see the massive amount of positive impact our little teahouse did have on our community and was grateful for the many people who supported me personally and the cafe itself in countless big and little ways. Our cafe stood for sustainability though and I realized how intimately my sanity and health were tied to the cafe’s long-term viability. I needed to PULL IT TOGETHER, but knew not how.

My magic wand was missing and I did not believe I could do it anymore. There were many successes, but those were hard to see through daily cash flow crises and I allowed the small failures inevitable in any endeavor to cast too much of a shadow on my confidence. Our staff watched me falter, hide my head in the computer, and make erratic decisions in efforts to do something, anything! to keep paying their paychecks while the economy tanked. My business partner didn’t have context for what I was going through and couldn’t know how to support me along with his own responsibilities at his own very busy job. There was more than a lot of static in our exchanges that served to exasperate us both.

The majority of my friendships skimmed the surface, and there was no space for going deeper beyond “business” related functions and strategy sessions. I dated several men, and my heart was broken open in the process. I realized there wasn’t enough of me to even be present for the authentic connection required for a healthy relationship. This was not okay. This is not the life I wanted for myself. If I had known the toll it would take, I don’t think I ever would have gone through with it. Thankfully, I was a fool because the impact the cafe has had on people’s lives is magical. My own included – the countless positive contributions to my life are well documented and deeply felt – the good parts shine as bright as the challenging parts were dark.

My broken heart and a mishandled termination of one of our staff were big time wakeup calls that significant changes had to be made. I started with chiropractic care at Simply Well to unlock my body and bartered organic food for massage and energy work on a regular basis. I started painting, something I was never trained in or imagined myself doing. There was a strange experience with the spirit world where my heart was worked on by ethereal hands and I started to have super interesting dreams that were direct communication from beyond. Many intuitive / psychic folk patronize the cafe and I was told by three of them (unsolicited) that I had a little baby spirit wanting to come in and join me. The series of paintings were all vaginas, eggs and womb like images, singing a song of babies to come.

And I dreamed of him. This future lover of mine, Maya’s father. With the spiritual awakening I was experiencing, I started to “just know” the future and something significant was about to happen. So when I walked into the cafe and ran right into the man in my dreams, I recognized him immediately.  As I got his story, he was in the middle of moving to Pennsylvania when something made him switch mid-course and he decided to move to Orlando, even as all of his possessions were already en route to Pennsylvania. The timing of this switch lined up exactly with one of my declarations to the universe that I had enough of going it alone and demanded it send my husband, now, complete with a list of qualities and characteristics this guy should have. Ahh, well, be careful what you ask for…or what you leave off the list….

After a brief conversation, I left the cafe and called my best friend and told her, for the record, I just met my husband. I had dreamed of him multiple times and the story he told about growing food, intentional communities and wanting to live near his three children from a previous marriage sounded good to me. We exchanged numbers about him working on the garden for the cafe and not even a week later we were having an initial meeting about the garden. I took my glasses off for a minute and when I looked up at him, he looked like he was struck and exclaimed: “There you are! I’ve been looking for you my entire life! Get over here!” I wrote at the time: “It was like being reunited with you very bestest friend after millennia apart and we were both so excited to see each other again and we had so much to talk about and catch up on and all that excitement.” That was the first full moon, and the beginning of the craziest experience of my life.

If you’ve ever heard of a twin flame, he was mine, close as I can figure. Our spirits were madly in love with one another and we both were radiantly luminous. In photos, we are glowing in the shade. We both flung our hearts open wide and next thing you know faces were morphing, minds were being read, everything else in the universe just melted away as we discussed marriage and talked about the baby we knew we were meant to create together. On the second full moon we went into a spontaneous sacred ceremony without words and woke up knowing we had just been spiritual joined. Yet, that afternoon I was overcome with a knowing that I was going to raise our child alone and expressed my concern that he was going to die or leave me. Bothersome little things started to crop up in the course of getting to know the human being attached to this spirit I was in love with over the next month.

This is me on the second full moon. Smack in the middle of crazy.

On the third full moon, Maya was conceived. I felt something come from the stars and enter my body but woke forgetting that. Instead, I looked at this human being asleep next to me and wondered who the hell this guy was and what the hell I was doing. In retrospect, it was like I had been under a spell and as soon as Maya was created, it was lifted. It took a few weeks to untangle the relationship, as I could now clearly see that his integrity was off with regard to being responsible for his existing children, amongst other things. By the next full moon, I had broken it off a week before I discovered I was to be a mama, an occasion on which I giggled and felt nothing but joy, which made no rational sense.

The following month, I explored returning to a relationship with him, but every fiber of my being was saying hell no. A friend of mine who knew the situation well counseled me to follow my instincts and wisely said that he would prove himself as a man of integrity or not in short order. That’s where crazy ends and I started to rescue myself. Babies do that – they either make you rise to the occasion or send you running the other way. He ran, I rose. Everything came into such sharp focus after that…when you are pregnant, you are literally ONE with your child. What you do to yourself, you do to your baby. It’s cut and dry, as simple as it gets.

What followed was a pregnancy where I put myself back together. My cultural conditioning was revealed. I had met my other half – no one told me he was going to show up poorly in this lifetime, and I would chose not to be with him. Happily ever after? Not with him, thank you very much. In fact, I didn’t even need him to rescue me on a white horse like the fairy tales all told me I would need. Nope, the only person who could save me from all the drama and chaos was myself. On behalf of my child and the next seven generations, at least.

Strange to be telling this story now. I haven’t written about, or even spoken about that period to many people. It’s embarrassing, and I don’t get embarrassed. Plus, it’s more than a lot far out for most people. Faces morphing? Seriously? Yeah, I don’t get it either.

I got this. No damsel in distress here.

What I am realizing is that I am no longer a damsel in distress. I don’t need to be rescued. I cancelled that program and deleted it when I chose to be a single parent and take responsibility for the delightful human being that calls me mommy. I got this. It’s handled. It’s not always easy, and my community pitches in a great deal, but at the end of the day, it’s me making this life for us. I know what is best for me now, and I am much better at listening when my intuition speaks. That goes for business, romance, community and family.

There it is. The story I haven’t told.

We.

WE
ARE
ALL
IN
THIS
TOGETHER.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Not you. Not me. We.
All of us. Together.
At once.
There is you. And me. And they.
Those people.
Whoever, THEY are!
Mirrors. Reflections. Shadows.
Children. Hurt. Yearning.
All of us. Broken. Wounded.
Lost and sleeping, some.
Curious and seeking, some.
Laughing and carefree, some.
Serious and thinking, some.
Scared and angry, some.
Awake and creating, some.
Wild and passionate, some.
You. And Me. And They.
Sometimes, I am this.
Sometimes, you are that.
Then we switch.
Other times, we merge.
Sometimes we drift apart.
Sometimes we stick together.
Often we want:
Happiness.
Joy.
Love.
Appreciation.
Affection.
Food.
Understanding.
Community.
Without that, separation:
You – over there.
Me – over here.
Sadness.
Loneliness.
Fear.
Blame.
Confusion.
Hunger.
Pain.
Guilt.
Darkness.
We are, all, in this, together.
Notice the darkness.
Yours, mine, ours.
Lighten up.
Laugh.
Sing.
Dance.
Make love.
And music.
PLAY.
Radiate. Glow. Dissolve.
Notice it spreading.
Growing.
Reaching.
Soaring.
Transforming you, and I, and them.
Connected. Laughing. Enjoying.
Noticing. Communicating. Buzzing.
We. Are all in. THIS! Together.

(written for Velocity Magazine)

Happy Halloween

Photos by Julie Norris, Oct 31, 2011

Halloween, posted with vodpod


Talked to my mom tonight and told her how much I appreciated all the effort she put into the holidays. Feels good to have pulled off a (partly) homemade costume (thanks Yuki for the inspiration!) and have a sweetly glowing jack o’lantern on the porch (oh, Leah, your pancakes and pumpkin carving on the porch are delightful!). Can’t tell you the joy in my heart watching Maya realize how trick or treating works. She ran with such glee from house to house, I just about cried all over myself. She was so cute saying trick or treat and thank you. Her little sing song voice. Her little last minute “owl” princess costume. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years. As she fell asleep in my arms last night, I had one of those intensely grateful moments for her being in my life. How lucky, how very lucky I am.