Thursday, October 30

supporting grassroots with lipstick*

for jeanette, canon 50D

Jeanette reached out to me so lovingly and gently in support of our upcoming adoption and yet also expressed very powerfully her passion towards this grassroots cause in Arizona: Vote No On 102: Take A Picture, Take A Stand!. She kindly asked me if I was interested in supporting them.

Absolutely, I am!

So, I wrote it on my mirror in lipstick, cause I've always wanted to do that. ; ) I love the sign my dear friend Stacy did as well.

This past week, our own Proposition 8 here in California has weighed heavily on my mind. I feel very strongly and always have that love is love...and it is not our place to take rights away from anyone that chooses to commit to the love of their life.

Of course this is indeed very personal for me. I have a dear friend that has been in my life for over twenty years. He found his soul mate, and just recently got married and him and his extraordinary husband adopted a beautiful girl. They've raised her in a remarkable way and she's stellar and well loved and well rounded. She has two of the coolest dads and a high self esteem to boot.

Enough said.

So, I am honored to be part of Jeanette's grassroots cause in Arizona, as well as support our own here in California. This is why I wrote both No on 8, as well as No on 102 on my mirror.

Jeanette is also holding a giveaway for everyone who submits their photo to the Flickr group. I am donating an 8x10 print of choice from my shop.

See you at the polls on Tuesday!

Monday, October 27

fairy godmother*

jen gray, canon digital rebel xti

We have chosen a Fairy Godmother for our son.

Well, perhaps he had chosen her first and then whispered it into our ears.
Or we had all chosen one another when we were angels, before we got here.
One big fairy family coming into being. ; )

When we thought about who we wanted to be the godmother to our son, my dear friend Jen immediately came to mind. It felt like a powerfully spiritual moment. I saw a very vivid image of her laying on her back with our son in the grass, looking up at the stars, while he shared with her some stuff going on in his heart. I saw laughter and teasing and a huge grassy safety net. My heart felt all warm and I felt tingly (although she does that to me every time...). I saw it so clearly and so did Boho Boy.

Then we asked her. Like we were getting down on our knees and asking her to marry us. She got really quiet and took a deep breath and then...she said yes! And she said it with tears and nearly inaudible words. We cried. We all felt it. She felt him too. She knew it was meant to be...this connection.

Jen and I had very similar backgrounds as children and young adults and now we are living such a parallel lifestyle. When we talk, its always full of "me too, me too!" We both have an equally beautiful relationship with the men in our life. She's like my twin sister, although she's much taller and thinner and blonder and has a much better memory for songs. She also likes to dress up in costumes and make videos and paint and can make me laugh so hard that I pee my pants. I think she is amazing at improv and dresses like a rock star. She loves her peeps like a fierce lion and holds them in her arms like a gentle lamb. Everyone who meets Jen falls madly insanely in love with her. She has a billion and more crushes on her all around the world and yet is so humble it makes you crush on her even more.

I could write a book about the beautiful person that she is and perhaps someday I will. Or perhaps my son will. Or perhaps we'll all sit around on that grass and write it together. How she has scooped Boho Boy and I up so many times on this journey to our son and held our hands and stroked our hair and played soothing love songs or made us laugh through our tears. And now she opens up her arms to do that for him too.

Our boy is going to have so many strong, powerful, gentle, wide openly loving, creative women in his life. My tribe is already circling him and lately with all of us going through emotionally shifting times...it is him that we can all talk about with pure joy. He's the connector to happiness for all of us. What a gift he already is.

And what a gift Jen, his outrageously cool Fairy Godmother, will be in his life. She'll bring the concept back into fashion like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty did.

me & jen at squam, taken by jonatha brooke, september 2008

Sunday, October 26

hello boho baby...

16 weeks

19 weeks

Last week when we were visiting, me, Boho Boy and K snuggled on the couch and gazed at a handful of ultrasound photos she has kept for us. This was a pleasant surprise. I didn't expect to be able to see that many and to see him looking so real and tangible, well...you can imagine our hearts swelled.

I haven't yet had the opportunity I have always dreamed of. To lay on a table with my swelling belly and my hand holding Boho Boy's and us viewing the screen to say hello to our baby for the first time. Tears and smiles and laughter all at once. Those are moments you imagine over and over in your mind while trying to conceive.

Well, this was our moment...sitting on the couch, snuggled up to K's swelling belly and going through photo after photo. It wasn't what I had imagined would happen but to me, it felt so perfect. Because truly, looking back on my life, I have never been one to do things in a traditional manner. Neither has Boho Boy. So it is all very fitting for us.

Hello boho baby in there all snuggly and warm. I've been longing to hold you in my arms for so very long. We are grateful for this wee glimpse of you. It helps ease the ache.

Saturday, October 25

new toy*

boho boy, canon 50D

When I found out that K really enjoys photography and has always wanted to get into it, I just felt like I was supposed to give her a camera and lens. The passion to capture the world as we see it was something beautiful to have in common and share. The Canon Digital Rebel XT that I first used was broken but I thought it would be easy to fix, so when we went out to meet T & K for the first time, I brought it along so we could take it to a local camera shop. Then I could give it to her and that would just make my heart burst.

Our first morning there, while I was getting ready for the big day, Boho Boy left to take the camera to the shop. He was told that it wasn't an easy fix. We'd have to send it away and it might take a while and be too costly to fix. He came back to the hotel to tell me and we were so bummed. I wanted so badly to give her this gift.

Then Boho Boy said..."I'll be right back, I have an idea...". Twenty minutes later, he arrived with a brand new Canon box. He said "this is your Christmas gift" and there it was...my dream camera...a Canon 50D!!! So how cool is it that I could give K an even better camera than I had imagined? She got my precious XTi and Tamron Zoom lens.

I pretty much squealed with joy. Later that night, we played with it a bit. Above is a photo of him reading the manual. That's just so him. I play with all the gadgets and learn as I go and he actually READS the manual. ; )

Giving K my camera was one of my favorites parts of the weekend. Especially when I saw her face light up so beautifully. Knowing that when the baby is born, she will have somewhere to wander and explore and heal with her new toy. I am also hoping she will discover parts of herself through this medium that she never realized lived inside of her. I know that is what photography has done for me. It means so much that she will carry with her something that changed my life in such a miraculous way. Becoming a photographer was like a rebirth for me and my XTi was the camera I used when the path to photographing artists opened up for me.

It all comes full circle in that we both continue to bless one another with parts of ourselves.

Wednesday, October 22

a beautiful bizarre*

me talking to and kissing boho baby, photo by boho boy

boho boy talking to boho baby

k and her beautiful swelling belly

We arrived home late last night and slept more peaceful than we have in so long. Today I've been walking around sort of on a puffy cloud. We both have. We keep looking at one another smiling and saying "we're having a baby soon".

The path to our baby is SO different than I imagined but as each minute goes by, it couldn't feel more right...and I cannot believe I am saying these things.

When she opened the door and I saw our birth mom for the first time (going forward, we will call her "K" on this blog), I was mesmerized by her beautiful big clear blue eyes. I didn't even look at her belly. Just her face and how lovely she was. She had a warm smile. I felt a lump in my throat and all I could do was embrace her. She smelled sweet like a baby. Why was I not feeling strange or awkward or fearful or jealous? All I was feeling was joy and excitement and a serious urge to know her more as a person. Boho Boy hugged her and touched her belly and said hello to boho baby inside. I didn't go there yet. I hugged the birth father (we are calling him "T" on this blog going forward). They warmly and gently welcomed us in to sit on the couch and chat. So we did. I nestled next to K and Boho Boy next to T and we started having our separate conversations.

My dear friend Stacy had made me and K matching necklaces that had the word "Brave" engraved on the pendant. I had K open the gift and she immediately lit up all over and put hers on. So did I. I felt like the spirit of my tribe were surrounding me, giggling like girly girls and dancing around us in complete joy. It gave me comfort and energized me. I think K picked up on it. Our moods were harmonious.

I looked over at the guys and they were already laughing and being dudes. Is this for real? Yes, it is folks. It was totally surreal and amazing. Every moment.

The whole day felt like we were hanging out with new friends. Conversation flowed so smoothly and our curiosity about one another was satisfied by question after question about our lives, interests, hobbies, history. I mean, it all happened so naturally. The way it does with friends. Nothing felt contrived or forced or like either of us were being interviewed. We mostly learned about one another by telling stories.

I was surprised that I wasn't feeling as emotional as I thought. Emotional in the sense where I imagined I would break down in tears the minute I saw her belly. I think the idea that she was carrying my child was too grand for me to grasp. I just wanted to get to know her and T. I questioned myself whether or not that was okay. Why was I not feeling emotionally connected to the baby in her belly? Why did it seem detached from the baby boy I have had in my mind? I set those worries aside and just marinated in the joy I was feeling getting to know two really cool people.

Then towards the end of the day, after breaking bread together and shopping together, K and I got in the back seat of the car and I just decided to be brave and lift up her shirt and touch her belly. That's when it happened. That's when it hit me. That is when for the first time all day, I felt like a mother about to have a baby. My hand on her skin got really warm and then all of a sudden I felt a hard kick on my palm and then another flutter. My jaw dropped and so did hers. I stared at her belly in shock and all the visions I have had of my son came rushing into my head. He is in there. Right there. This is the closest I have ever been to his physical body. My eyes filled with tears and K said "he's trying to tell you that he knows you're here."..and I said "I'm going to cry", almost as if to ask for permission and she said..."please, do...go ahead, cry." So we both laughed and I wiped my tears and took a deep breath. It all came together for me and I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest.

From that moment on I have felt a deep and true happiness that I haven't ever felt before. A burning of joy that began swirling around inside of me and it hasn't gone away.

Today I wrote to a dear friend "I am so happy honey, totally happy..."to which that statement made my friend fall apart with tears. So many of my loved ones have written and left voicemails or text messages or blog comments that they are weepy with joy for us. Now I understand what they feel.

The following day before we headed home, we spent a few hours with K & T again. We shared more stories. We snuggled on the couch to gaze at ultrasound photos. We laughed. Talked about favorite films and books. Discovered we all have a lot in common and have lived in the same town at different times. I was utterly floored at how connected our lives seemed to be.

K on several occasions has referred to the baby in her belly as "your baby"...which, we find so very selfless and brave and are forever grateful for. She has been so generous in her reassurance that her and T have made the most perfect choice for them and this child by choosing us as the adoptive parents. I never once felt like it was wrong for me to be happy about this in her presence. She makes it very clear that our happiness is her comfort in that this baby will be so truly loved and taken good care of.

Honestly, I cannot believe I am saying the things I am saying. Boho Boy and I fully realize how unique and amazing this situation is and how truly blessed we are. We walked into this with so many fears and so many preconceived ideas of what felt comfortable to us. Many of those fears have fallen away and a trust and faith and an unfolding has taken place.

We are now just taking one day at a time and not putting any worry into what will come. What has transpired has proven to us that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

We are humbled by all the positive, gentle, non-judgmental and wide open support we are receiving from family and friends. I'd like to say we don't need that but that couldn't be further from the truth. What we are doing is so vulnerable and huge and unfamiliar that we feel we are being carried by all these amazing love-warriors in our life. Thank you...each and every one of you. Yes, that means you.

K is still having contractions, so it could be any day now where we get the call and fly back out and try our best to get there for the birth and be with her in the room to coach, help her breathe, rub her back, hold our baby and then well...to be continued. ; )

It's all so bizarre...but a beautiful bizarre.

Thursday, October 16

boho baby*

me on our dock at Squam, photo by Thea Coughlin

Our lives are about to take a huge, wild, awe-inspiring shift.

We're adopting a newborn baby in a few weeks.

There, I said it. Can you believe it? Did I just totally rock your worlds?!?!?

I know, I know...I am still walking around in a daze wondering if this is all a dream and if I'll wake up. Well, it is a dream. A dream that has taken over our lives over the past few months but a dream that is real and present and overwhelmingly emotional in a beautiful way.

We've been preparing for this in every way that is possible the last few weeks but also learning to let go of the parts we truly cannot prepare for. It's been hard to keep it from you. I thought I should/could hold out a little longer but there are just so many emotions I need to work through right now and my blog has always been one of the places I felt safe to do this. Perhaps because of the very non judgmental and gentle support I receive from all of you.

Everyone knows that adopting a newborn has that risk. That risk that the birth mom will choose to keep the baby after birth and because of this, I wanted to protect us, protect you from getting too invested and attached. But then again, I realized that if I surprised you with a photo of our baby, that there would be so many questions and I would have missed that opportunity to share the journey leading up to this precious new person in our life.

Love is risky. Totally absolutely risky. So, in the name of love, I am taking this risk, knowing that it is worth it. Worth it to us, worth it to you and worth it to the little bean to ride this roller coaster that adoption can be.

A few months ago, my husband and I were on the trying to conceive train. We had considered adoption a while ago and when it fell through, we went back to what felt comfortable to us. We knew we would dip our toes back into adoption again. Perhaps for our second child but didn't feel quite ready.

Then we got an email. Our superhero adoption consultant had a birth mom in mind for us. She knew we weren't considering it but she had a gut feeling and she took the risk and put it out there for us, knowing our reaction might be full of fear and uncertainty. And it was. I was frightened. Frightened to put my heart out on the line again. But Boho Boy and I talked and both felt in our guts that we were supposed to hear her out and we did and then I must say...it felt like our hearts grew wide, wide open. We wanted to hear more and surprised ourselves. The birth mom sounded amazing and safe and intriguing.

She was due in November with a "presumed" girl. We had always imagined a girl in our life. I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps it is that we are both so very sensitive and soft and I am so feminine. Most people in my life and on my blog said "girl, girl, girl". Our adoption consultant knew we had a girl in mind.

The birth mom received our profile book. A book of photos and the story of our life. While she was reading and gazing and marinating on our book, we were learning more and more bits about her that we were attracted to.

So, we fell in love with this birth mom and she has fallen in love with us. We're like a dream team for this baby, pulling together to figure this all out. Sometimes awkwardly. Sometimes with utter and complete flow.

While I was at Squam, I got a call from my husband that she went in for an ultrasound and they found out it was really not a girl. It was a boy.


To be honest, at first it was an adjustment. I had a closet full of beautiful girl clothes given to me by a friend. What was he going to wear? Isn't it hilarious that in my shocked state of mind, I went to something so superficial? That's what shock does, I suppose.

It was so divinely perfect that I was surrounded by some of my tribe at that time. They gathered around me while at Squam and when I needed to break down and work through all the weird emotions that came up, they were there. Then there was one night in front of the fire in our cabin when I could literally feel my heart release and all this clarity came rushing in. The photo above was taken the next day. Can you see the peace?

What helped was that I remembered a few things that I had shoved away to protect my heart.

I saw a psychic a few years back that told me in a past life I was considered a Queen. I had many children and concubines that suckled them. There was one particular baby that missed that intimate connection with me and wanted to come back into my life for a new relationship. It was a boy, she said.

Then I remember about 6 months ago, I had a dream about a boy calling out my name. I woke up and missed him down deep.

I had another psychic session on the phone where she told me she saw a boy spirit around me.

Then I started reading this book called Spirit Babies and there was this chapter when the author of the book was counseling a couple. He has the gift to see spirit babies around people and has since he was little. This couple had tried to conceive for many years. He told them that he sees a spirit near them but that it is a boy and all these years, they have wanted a girl. For some reason, this really got to me and I started balling, tears flowed freely for a long while. I couldn't figure out why that hit me down in my gut.

Of course in retrospect, the messages I was getting from God and the Universe were so very clear. Funny how I consider myself so in touch, empathic and intuitive but yet I couldn't see any of this until now.

Now I cannot imagine it any other way. My heart is so very open and in love with this little boy and it all makes so much sense to me now. Everything. Everything leading up to this and all that we've gone through.

Some of the pain of our journey and longing to be pregnant is so fresh but so much of this joy is lifting those wounds. The connection we feel with our child goes beyond the womb and that is something I cannot really explain yet.

The birth mom is at 33 weeks and is having early contractions. We've been told that everything is fine with him and it could be any day now. She has had children before and each of them have been born quite early. So pre-term labor is common for her. They are all healthy and thriving.

We are not allowing worry to come into our life about the fact that he may be a preemie. We are not projecting anyone else's story onto ours. We will have our own story.

We've spent the last two weeks preparing our home, our hearts and our minds for what is to come. I can't really think about anything else but the health and comfort of our sweet birth mom, whether or not the baby is okay and the fact that I'll be a mommy very very soon.

Please keep the birth mom and this baby boy in your thoughts and prayers. We are flying out to meet her face to face this weekend. I am a bundle of nerves and excitement. In fact, I don't quite know what to do with myself until then. Will I totally lose it when I see her? Will I hold it together and be strong for her? Will it feel strange that our baby is in her belly? Will it feel beautiful? Will she like me? Will she like Boho Boy? Will our conversation flow? Will it be awkward? Will it be blissful?

Even though she has chosen us. Even though we've heard those words whispered to us, from her over the phone with absolute certainty. These vulnerabilities and insecurities surface.

Tune in to find out how it all went... ; )

Wednesday, October 15

vendor night*

me setting up for vendor night at Squam, photo by Jinny Sagorin
(click image for larger view)

What a lot of people that haven't met me yet don't know is that I can be a wee bit shy. Not at all times but definitely shy in new crowds or standing in front of a class or, ummm...displaying my art on a vendor table. ; )

I'm not really a *look at me* kind of person. I'm much better one on one and in intimate conversations. Unless I have alcohol running through my blood. Then I might be more inclined to be a bit animated. My girls know that.

I've always pondered the idea of setting up a vendor table. We have something called ArtWalk once a year where I live when they close off Little Italy and artists set up camp for three days selling their art. Each year I think about doing it and each year I chicken out. I think a huge part of that is the anxiety I can feel in crowds. The idea of having five or more people in my tent overwhelms me. How could I connect with each of them when there is so much going on? I know I would have to let go of the need to connect so deeply with each person and that it is okay if someone walks in and out and just says hello.

Vendor night at Squam Art Workshops was wonderful practice for me. Little did everyone know that as I was sitting and smiling quietly behind my table watching passers by, I was full of anxiety. Although, each and every person that came to my table was so very caring and gentle and loving and supportive. They were sensitive to the fact that what we were doing is a bit vulnerable; Putting our heart and soul out there for others to comment on and share opinions about. It was a really cool venue at the tail end of a total love fest camp and I think the locals that came picked up on that energy. So, lucky me, right? It won't always be this love-festy...but it was a good way to get my feet wet for these sorts of things.

My favorite visitor to my table was an older woman about in her late 80's. She had long gray hair in a braid, smooth milky skin, big blue eyes and layers of adorable clothing. Very eclectic looking. She looked at each of my prints carefully, quietly, not really striking up a conversation for a while. I watched her totally mesmerized by her presence. She then put a print down, looked me in the eyes and said..."I'm an artist too. I paint nudes. I've always loved naked bodies. Especially men." Then she winked at me and gracefully walked to the next table.

That pretty much made my night.

Saturday, October 11

how sweet are you...

boho boy & elvis, canon digital rebel xti

How sweet were you this morning...

This is the first thing I opened my eyes to as the sun came up. You with your arm around Elvis and sleeping so peacefully. I sat there and stared for a while. Thinking you are so absolutely beautiful and I am madly in love with you. I stroked your cheek, ran my fingers through your hair. My heart welled up. I had to capture this moment. I quietly slipped out of bed to get my camera. I wanted this moment to last. Something I can go back to and remember how I felt this morning with the cool crisp air softly blowing through the window. Your curls flowing back and forth with the wind. Elvis purring, nestled into your arm...and me, your wife, feeling like a giddy girl totally crushed out by her man.

Thursday, October 9

jonatha is in the house!

jonatha brooke and me, photo by thea coughlin

girls will be girls. ; )

My dear friend Jonatha is on tour and if she is in your city, I do encourage you to go see her because if you do, well...your life will be changed...forever.

Not only have I fallen in love with each of her songs, her lyrics, the way she gracefully moves her body while she plays her guitar and flirts with her audience and charms each and every person that is under her spell...but I have fallen in love with her as a friend in my life. A support. A person that makes me laugh so hard my gut hurts. A friend that sends me a loving text message while running onto her plane to tell me all is going to be okay. A talented woman that has so much on her plate but yet always thinks of others in the midst of it all. A friend that is basically a true blue rock star but is so very humble and grounded and just wants to play her songs.

So, if you're in the mood to be totally charmed...find her and you'll see what I mean.

Here is Jonatha talking about the making of her latest album "The Works"...which is getting so much attention. This story touches my soul:

Wednesday, October 8

closer than your nose*

penny, canon digital rebel xti

Today a friend of mine reminded me to find a space of quiet and listen to my inner guide. I was feeling conflicted about something. She said "you always know what you need and what feels right for you...just find some quiet and listen."

So I found some quiet. Then I listened. Through the tears. When the sobs fell silent and all I could hear was my breathing and I closed my eyes, it felt more clear. Then I knew what I needed to do and I did it and it was the right decision for me. I know this because as soon as I made that choice, my whole day shifted from feeling tied up in knots to feeling a complete peace wash over me.

Now I lay my head down tonight remembering that the answer is always within.

A kind and wise Zen Buddhist Priest friend of mine once told me this funny conversation between Zen folk:

"The answer is as close as your nose"

"Really, is it that far?"

Monday, October 6

proud friend*

swirly girl prepping for the show

stacy love watching swirly do a reading from her book

stacy, alex, me, swirly & anne

stacy, me, mccabe, alex & swirly

A week from yesterday, I drove north to Los Angeles early in the morning to go help support two of my closest friends for their gallery event. Morning is my favorite time to take a long drive; windows down, crisp, cool air, music softly playing, coffee in hand. I had many thoughts whirling around in my head but most of them were about my girlfriends and how blessed I am to have the tribe surrounding me that I do.

I was arriving early to help my dear soul sister Stacy set up for her first show. She had this brilliant idea to use vintage bottles to showcase her gorgeous jewelry. I have lots of vintage bottles!! I'm in!! So, I boxed them all up and took them on their first trip to West Los Angeles!

I didn't expect to get the treat of spending the morning with both of my girly rockstars before the big show. While Stacy and I were fitting pendants to bottles and she was filling out cards, Swirly was hanging huge hand written signs and stringing vintage papers, photos and book pages along the walls. Music was playing. We were twirling. The gallery owner brought out the cider to cheers these two goddesses. It was such a treat to love on them and settle their nerves before the big day began.

So many times I sat back and observed them and felt an awe inspiring sense of pride for all the very hard work they have put their energy into to arrive at this place. Swirly with her amazing book and gorgeous pieces of art. Stacy with her soulful, intuitive gems (how magical is it that each of them find their way to whomever is supposed to receive the affirmation carved into the metal?). I have watched both of them unfold and blossom over the past year in a way that they are empowering themselves to live an authentic life...true to who they are and what they are passionate about.

All day, as dear friends came to support, to laugh, to lift them up, to cry, to hug, to share, to gather and circle, I witnessed all of it with a lump in my throat. It's strange to grasp that all the pain I have been through the last four years, has in a way led me to this point, with these friends that have circled me during this time and have allowed me to walk with them on their own journeys. How we've all taken the muck, the lessons, the trials, as well as the joys, the bliss, the triumphs and transformed all of it into our own unique pieces of art.

If you want to feel like you're walking through Swirly's book and hanging out on a vintage bottle with Stacy's gems...do check out the online gallery I put together for them (Make sure your speakers are on to hear Heavenly Day by Patty Griffin and wait for the gallery to load, then click once on the page with your mouse to activate the arrow keys on your keyboard to move from image to image).

Swirly did a video of the day...which brought me to huge tears:

(song in video is "Serpentine" by Kate Havenevik)

You'll totally feel the love and support felt throughout the day.

Friday, October 3

meeting momma zen*

karen maezen miller (author of Momma Zen), canon digital rebel, xti

I wasn't sure what to expect when meeting Karen for our photo shoot. I read her book last year and gifted it to my close friends that were pregnant or new mothers because I was so in love with this woman and the effect her words had over me. I wanted my friends to feel that same peace and acceptance about their new journey into motherhood.

I had Karen's book on my nightstand and right before bed I would pick it up for a dose of wisdom. I found myself talking to my husband about it, reading him bits of chapters here and there. I couldn't read much at a time. I would have to put it down to soak in every morsel and marinate in it for a while. I noticed the lessons throughout her pages didn't just apply to motherhood. Being that I wasn't a mother yet, I applied it to my life as a wife, friend, daughter, sister, photographer.

Karen had left a comment on my blog and it was then that this author became even more real to me. We sent one another a few exchanges and with each exchange, I learned something pretty deep. Her wisdom has a lot of depth to it...so much so that most of the time, I wouldn't understand it right away and I had to step aside and think. Exactly what she wanted me to do.

So, with all of this said, I was slightly intimidated about going to her home and spending a few hours with her. All of this created in my own head, of course. That this Zen Buddhist Priest might be a bit untouchable and up on this pedestal I had created for her in my life.

When driving up the hill to her house, under a canopy of trees I found myself taking a deep, cleansing breath. The few weeks prior to this had been full of a lot of tight stress in my belly. A lot is going on in and around our world that is causing me to spin and that stress was tightly wound in my head, chest and stomach. That on top of visitors and responsibilities and travel non-stop. I didn't realize how very exhausted I was until I pulled up to her House of Zen and sat there in the car for a while. It was so quiet. I just stared through her gates and the bit of Zen garden I could see and could already feel stress falling off of me.

Walking through the gates and up to her house, I could see Karen leaning against her glass sliding door looking out for me. When we first locked eyes, her face lit up so brightly and she clapped her hands together with a joy that was contagious. I realized then she was just as thrilled to meet me as I was her. The pedestal I had created for her was no longer there to keep me from feeling equal. As we giddily strode towards one another and embraced, she pulled apart from me and stroked my shoulders while looking into my eyes. I melted even more. Her voice was a whisper...soft, gentle, sincere, loving. She basically had me at hello.

She led me around her house gently touching my arm. The way she walked was a gentle glide across the room. I felt like at any moment, she would whirl me around and start waltzing. How does she walk so softly, as if her feet are barely touching the ground? I marveled. Her phone had rang, so it gave me time to sit and be alone with what I had just experienced. While she was chatting on the phone, I was looking out to her 100 year old Zen garden in the back of her house (which is all windows so you can see it wherever you are). I closed my eyes and took some more breaths. I felt a peaceful, quiet, warm, welcoming, light space all around me. Suddenly, the past few weeks of stress didn't matter any longer. Nothing did but that moment. When she returned to the chair next to me, it was her whisper again that kept me present. I sat more softly into the couch and let her tell me stories that had me enraptured. I knew I was supposed to be there for her but I felt like she was there for me. Isn't it this balance between people and their love, respect and admiration for one another that keeps the two fulfilled simultaneously?

The photo shoot was more playful than I had imagined. So much laughter and giggling and friendship. Her home was a space that no matter what we were doing, it felt like meditating to me. Hearing her laugh and seeing her smile made me feel close to a side to her that I wasn't expecting to explore. Laying on my belly with her on the grass, seeing each blade as important and with meaning is an example of how easy it was to stay present with her in each moment.

Towards the end of our shoot, it was getting dark and she brought me into her house to share soup with her and her wonderful family. How did she know what I needed? For the first time in days I let someone take care of me. With each tasty spoonful her and her husband shared their intimate stories of parenthood in the early days. What I loved most was how Karen would gently stop and put her had on my arm and tell me that I will have my own story and my own way of doing things. One of the huge lessons I received from her book, she was again reassuring me in person. Being careful not to project her story onto mine. Encouraging me to explore my own intuition and inner guide.

She has a way of sharing her wisdom and empowering those that she is with. Being with her is like standing under a warm water fall. I felt cleansed and filled up all at once.