Author Archives: celeste

doing vs being

So much time has passed, and so much has happened. In the months since I’ve written, we have taken trips to Mexico, Massachusetts, Seattle, and the Oregon Coast. Seasons have passed, and major parenting hurdles have been cleard. The boys have learned so much, and my role has shifted from being a constant mediator and distractor to a more comfortable one of facilitator and guide – age three was great, but now that they are four, I feel a real groove coming on. Ted and I got married. We are coming through a ridiculous lawsuit. S had surgery, I have had some health scares, and we are climbing up the thorny cliff of building a thriving business with limited resources.


All this major work has felt burdensome, and mostly not suffused with joy, interest, or gratitude. It has been a very hard year for all five of us, and frankly, I haven’t wanted to write it down in blog, facebook, text, or on paper. Have you ever had such a long time when the lessons you were learning in life just seemed so impossibly hard, and even humiliating, that you couldn’t bear the thought of putting it out there? I’m pretty good at finding the silver lining, but sometimes being real means that there is only darkness visible. In the past two years, I have really isolated myself within the burden of my own challenge, convincing myself that no one really wants to hear yet another stress or challenge we are facing.

Now, though, I find myself wanting to record our days again, but it feels strangely selfish to record it publically. I am doing a lot of work with the boys, as we have had to reduce their school hours pretty dramatically. I’ve been reading all kinds of blogs about learning at home with preschoolers. I have been posting pictures for the grandparents to enjoy, but haven’t really wanted to flood my facebook page with photo after photo of our projects. It just seems self-congratulatory or something. Plus, does the world really need another blog posting the same playdough recipe as the other 550 that come up in a search? Sometimes it all seems banal to write out my own life this way.

This has sparked a thought… many of us encounter some pretty loud inner voices when we see these catalogues of the myriad amazing, creative, highly-educated, talented writer and photographer mamas who generously share their time, ideas and endeavors with the world… that moment of thinking WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE and HOW DO THEY DO IT WHEN I STRUGGLE TO JUST GET THE DISHES WASHED? The story I want my boys to hear from me isn’t only a record of cool projects we tried. It’s not just about that special thrill I get as a mama when I see them dive headlong into their latest interest – be it sitting in a corner with headphones, listening to a single song for an hour as he tries to absorb every note and word, or sit at the table using page after page of paper to draw that figure to his satisfaction – it’s easy to simplify the moment in a snapshot and have them understand later that my pride in them is about what they are DOing.

Instead, the reason I am taking our family’s precious resources of attention, strained financial resources, and time away from the housework, is that they give us (me) the opportunity to focus on being.

When Ted and I got married just a couple of months ago, we decided to choose a surname for our family that would stand for our values as a couple. Sarvata is a Sanskrit word that means integrity, and it is the name we have chosen as our mission. It’s a standard by which to test my daily decisions and actions when I remember to do so, and it reminds me that I am, and our family is, whole just where we are. Our messes, our trying, our straining and striving, our cracking and our laughter, our choice to let go of what we want with our animal brains and choose something higher… all of it is perfect and whole. Certitude and integrity are about not trying to convince ourselves that there is a higher standard of perfection – it’s the knowing that we are, in the moment, all we can possibly be. Strive, yes. Reach, and use the resources that we can access for our growth. But it is the being in life that matters (to me), not the doing.


So, i’ll try to be in this story. This story is of a new family, evolving through change, love, hard decisions, and work. This is my story of figuring out (still) how to be my best mama-self, my best wife, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor, and in-my-own-skin self. What does educating my children mean to me? Where do my deepest values lie?

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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in purpose



Often finding meaning is not about doing things differently; it is about seeing familiar things in new ways.

~Rachel Naomi Remen

Tonight the three of us sat down to talk about how to tell our twin boys about the death of their uncle, our brother. It has been five months, and we have not spoken the words to them that he is no longer living. Simon is a real presence. We see him in photos, we talk about him in conversation. We tell stories about his childhood at the dinner table. My sister and I are also still stumbling through this boggy terrain of grief, completely new in our life experience. Our shock at his death is renewed every time a photo of his countenance pops up on Facebook or our photo steam, unexpected, true to life.

In just a few days, t and I will fly the 3,000 miles to my parents’ house. We haven’t been there since the summer. How has it changed by their son’s death? Are there new pictures of him? Will their grief be palpable to more than just me?

The question tonight was: do we need to tell the boys about their uncle before going back east?

We talked about this in some depth, the pros, the risks, what the boys might say to my parents or grandparents, what questions they might ask with the direct, tactless innocence that three-year olds summon so easily. But what was most interesting, most beautiful and unexpected, was that our conversation turned to remembrance. How will we guide these precious, tender children to connection and remembrance, to a gentle experience of the truths of this life (which includes death) where Simon’s passing is not a traumatic memory of something they couldn’t grasp as children, but a knowledge of him and of our perspective on life that was deepened over the years.

This led us to talking about ceremony, developing frameworks for rituals to hold us when we pass through traumatic and confusing times, practices that allow for growth and depth and creativity. It occurred to me as we spoke that this is one of Williams we will put down strong and enduring roots: developing practices that we all love and nurture and turn to for meaning, comfort, and identity.

We have bedtime rituals now, and they will change as our sons grow and mature. We have a little seedling of a ritual of saying a mealtime blessing that came out of the boys memorization of the blessing their teacher recites before lunch at school. This ritual sprang to mind, and I was quickly inspired to think of new variations on blessing our meal, our unity, our shared lives. What about putting a photo of someone we love as the centerpiece, focusing our stories and love on that special person during our meal? Or beginning with a love note for each family member? What about blessing our meal by showing photos or another artistic representation the leaves, blossoms, and fruit of one of the plants that added to our meal, and sharing in the beauty of that plant? So many ideas for the simple opening of our daily family meal.

My sister and I were raised in a home in transition away from their Christian roots, and we find ourselves without many customs or rituals from childhood to turn to in remembrance of our brother. We experience our love for him under the sky, amongst trees, in the wind and the air of nature. Remembering him with the boys in a practiced form will give us scaffolding, though, that we will be able to turn to when others we love depart from this life. Learning how to honor his spirit together will teach the boys reverence, depth of love, the sacredness of family and sibling relationships. More personally still, it will give me a safe way to express in front of my children a little of the sadness this loss evokes in me.

What rituals do you observe, religious or otherwise? Which ones have you carried from your childhood into adulthood, which have evolved, and which have you created to fit your life experience? I would love to learn about this idea from a larger pool as we contemplate this new structure for our children and ourselves.




Three years old. So emotional for the children and the parents. I’m sitting outside the bedroom while T does bedtime, listening to one tearful reaction after another. His voice is tense, wanting to guide the child through, showing him the straightest path, offering the solution he perceives to be best… The boy, though, just wants to work with things as he sees them, to try it his way. The adult who doesn’t want to spill medicine or clean up a mess is beside the little one who is making sense out of the whole thing, his instincts pushing him to do it himself.

All day long we have these encounters: parent to parent, parent with children, children with each other. The screaming anger from M, the tears from S. Slamming doors, walking away in anger, pushing, grabbing, shouting… the parents struggle to slow down, to let go, to allow them space to work out their frustration, satisfy curiosity. Our voices strain, our hands grab things away from them when we tire of guiding. We end up acting in ways we discourage sternly in the children. It’s a constant paradox of wanting a certain kind of home culture and experience of peace for the children, but churning in our own dissatisfaction, impatience, exhaustion, and really, sometimes boredom.

Each adult (there are three, with me, my sister, and my fiancé) has their own experience. Right now, I sit outside the door, my child cries for me, wails that he wants time with his mama. The door won’t be opened, though… We have all agreed that he needs to learn to be comforted by each of us. Except that I am not comforted, the child isn’t appeased, and the other parent is stressed. We feel the pull, my child and I. I feel his longing, and even though I know that he might be just as tearful and whiny with me in the room, I want to answer. I sit, I wait, my stomach in knots, my shoulders tight, my breath shallow and fast. I am resisting the urge to protect my child from the frustration that may or may not be bubbling in my partner. Then the parent begins to read, the tears somehow subside. The child is quiet, leaning his stressed, tired body on the solid body of his new father… a chord emerges from the dissonance between them, without me.

This is our path, to push, to question, to wait through our discomfort, to go through the thorny underbrush and persist in our determination to serve our children for where they are. We give each other space to grow, both through their childhoods and through our parenting. Sometimes the way is clear, and other times we all come through bruised and hurting. The gift is, that either way, we seem to find our way back to each other, embracing and finding delight through fault and perfection, through chaos and ease.


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should vs be

yesterday (monday) i found my mind racing around what i wanted for myself by the end of soul*full. peace… happiness… a sense of having re-discovered these things within…. that felt like what i should aim for. after all, spending this time every day on myself seems so indulgent right now… so frivolous in that first-world sense of unnecessary ways to spend my time…

but there was a discomfort… a knowing that this was forcing an agenda of what i think my family needs for me to be now – what they might expect after i take this time for introspection… a knowing that i was tuning in to what i think i should do and be.

what i discovered as the day wore on, as i went to therapy and sat in mindfulness, experienced my tension, my sorrow, my fear, my directionlessness…

is that what i long for is shelter, for solace. i long for rest, and quiet, and a time when the perceived and real demands of my life are somehow suspended, and i can just dream – just sleep – surrounded by the protective forces of the Universe – the angels of the Divine – the shelter of the Mighty and Powerful.

in talking with the community of friends sharing this deliberate journey, i keep writing alter instead of altar, and i can’t help notice the slip. by stepping away from should and into embodying my own voice, there is a definite alteration in my own perception, and i welcome it.

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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in spirit


a new start

I wish there were such a thing as a new start. What would it be like, to suddenly be rid of all the former challenges, to really be able to lay aside the things that hindered us, obscured our way, thwarted our progress? Instead, for me at least, a new start is just an attempt at doing it again, acknowledging my vulnerability and the need to try anew. 

I’m using some structure this time… an e-course that began today, a local women’s self-nurturing group, and on the physical side an ass-kicking dvd that I’ll be attempting with my man. Not to mention that he and I spent a good two days last week coming up with a very ambitious plan for our business for 2012. There is a LOT going on.

Meanwhile, though, I am struggling. I am throwing all of these things in my path, summoning my historical Finnish sisu, and determining that I will not always feel this way (angry, depressed, purposeless). I know – ok maybe it is that I trust (in what, anymore?) – that they will guide me, that these activities, along with the work of daily life: my beautiful boys, my family, my chosen love, our amazing family therapist, will lead me back to my Self. 

Here I am: on Day 1 of Soul*Full. 

You know what happened today that was truly beautiful? I sat in front of my son and watched him button his fleecy monkey pajama shirt. I laughed as my twins ran circles around each other, giggling and singing their way around. Our therapist Jo guided us into a deeper level on our path(s): finding that each of the three of us is searching for a home – longing to feel rooted. It was such a Truth Moment – something we all knew, but that when spoken by her took on such a deep significance that we each know it truly is our next goal, both individually and as a team. I know in myself that if she can really guide me out of this place and help me reach down and plant myself here, in this life that I have, in the beauty and pain, the questions and the searching, that I may feel rooted and secure, my life – my self – will be transformed. 

So, here we go. To trust, to try, to celebrate and fume and show up again and again and again… a new start. Image




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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Uncategorized



you don’t know what you really think until you write it.

~karen karbo

silence. i’m a back-and-forth blog-keep; i know this of myself. my proclivity for generating hardship seems boring and impossible to continuously frame in a positive light, and who wants to read that there’s yet another problem surfacing in my life? you’d worry, you’d call – and then i would have to explain that really, everything is ok. i can handle it. nevertheless, you’d be concerned, and the weight of that would in turn cause me to think harshly of myself and my inability to create for myself a “successful” life. better, then, to simply keep quiet about the whole thing and let it blow over.

and so i stop writing, waiting for something to come to mind that seems less complicated – more interesting.

i’ve heard some thought-provoking radio in the past week. in fact, i think i’ve only listened to npr three or four times, but at least half of those times have led to significant thoughts. first there was talk of the nation a week ago – the lead topic was Meeting Child Victims’ Needs After Sexual Abuse.

if you’ve known me for any length of time, you probably know that my own childhood was tainted by years of abuse, and that my quest – especially from about 1991-2005 – was to heal from that trauma. i haven’t even touched on the issue for probably four years: i felt freed.

so it came as a surprise to listen to these professionals, armed with new research about healing from abuse, that there would be something in there that would cause a shift in my own thinking…. but it happened. it was quick. my hands were on the steering wheel – i was heading north on nw 14th to get on 405 and head home. the sky was cloudy, gray.  something was said, i don’t even remember what, and suddenly my whole perspective on myself-in-the-world shifted, and i knew something different – something that everyone who knows me intimately probably knows about me, that i didn’t know about myself: my trust mechanism is broken. i’d always thought that i got off easy – that i was lucky because the trauma i suffered didn’t cause me to withdraw and look at the world through a lens of distrust — but instead it went the other way. maybe the intimacy of being a victim of a family member instead made it so that i just automatically let people in – too quickly, and too far. it explains a lot. it has shaken me, this new insight. put me back to a place of injury and disempowerment.

then came this morning. again in the car. alone. on the radio, one of my least favorite shows: think out loud. but i was instantly captured by karen karbo, talking about her new book “how georgia became o’keefe”. in talking about being a writer, she spoke the line i quoted at the top of this post. i pulled over to record it: “you don’t know what you really think until you write it down.”

in the next five minutes of listening, i changed course to the nearest bookstore.

as has happened so often in the past year, i was linked to an earlier time in my adulthood – this time to my first marriage to meng luding. i spent my years with him immersed in the art world, and this new taste of o’keefe propelled me back. the way karbo framed o’keefe’s life gave me kinship with her… words like “failure to launch,” and her discussion of how o’keefe channeled her discontent into her work – i believe she used the words “the lost art of sublimation” – was so thought-provoking.

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in loss



Today was a day of oceans of words. I talked in depth with way too many practitioners and thought with intensity about my life, my beautiful family, and my health for too many hours. You’ll forgive me, I trust, for closing this day with just this simple but apt poem:

There are different wells within your heart.
Some fill with each good rain.
Others are far too deep for that.




Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Uncategorized