Saturday, February 28, 2015


Posted by Melissa Baumgart
Leaf, at around 3 months, UWMC NICU.

Today is the 16th anniversary of the death of my first child.  Leaf was born at 25 weeks old and his lungs were always sick.  I just spent the morning rereading my journal of letters to him while he was alive.  All the ups and down of the oxygen saturations levels and O2% being raised and lowered, morphine levels increased and decreased, heart surgery, blood transfusions.  Disappointments and hope beyond hope.  I’ve always been someone that believes in the best outcome, no matter how big or small the stakes are.  I stand and cheer when the stadium is empty and it’s the 14th inning.  I keep clapping and hollering for an encore, even when the lights have come on.  And I never gave up hope that he would pull through…every day of his life.  I really got to feel that again in reading over my letters to him.

Through the years, some people have told me that I didn’t grieve his death properly.  That I still had a “lot of work to do” to get past the pain.  The thing is, I have always, since the beautiful and sunny day that he died, been incredibly grateful.  If this tiny, perfect soul had only a short time to spend here on earth, how lucky am I that he chose me to be his Mama?  I got to spend every day, hours upon hours in the NICU surrounded by his pure love.  I treasured being there with him.  I miss it, every single bit of it.  Sure, there is pain, but it’s the kind of pain that you don’t “get past”, but instead, through gratitude for the time you had with that person, transforms into the most beautiful love.   Like a rare diamond grows out of a lump of coal.  Or a pearl from a grain of sand.

On this last day of gratitude month, I wanted to share one of the things I am most grateful for in my life, Leaf Haddon Terry, born October 15th, 1998.  It’s not something I talk about a lot, because honestly, I find that it makes others uncomfortable.  I’m done taking care of the assumed feelings or reactions that others might have by editing myself.   I’m going to be me, speak my truth, and keep cheering for the best outcome.  And trusting that just because it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, doesn’t mean that I can’t be grateful for the experience. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Whole Gratitude

Posted by Melissa Baumgart

Gratitude month was rolling along, heartsplosions (that feeling of joy and love that swells into your chest and feels like your heart is connecting with the entire universe) were a regular occurrence and I was feeling grateful for simply being alive with every step of my day.  Even though life was not without struggle, I was able to maintain and firm grasp on gratitude, and I felt the rewards of my effort.  I was eating healthy, going to yoga, keeping my house clean, tidy and organized.  I had even let go of the fear that it would all come crumbling down, that darkness would ooze in, and I would once again be overwhelmed and burdened by life's everyday stresses. 

Three days ago, I had a particularly stressful chain of events fall into my life.  I reacted hastily, and angrily.  I cried.  I was emotional.  I wasn't grateful.  I wanted to hole up with a burger and fries and a bottle of wine.  By yesterday, I was so overwhelmed I didn't even want to see anyone, let alone go to work and pretend to be happy.  I wasn't even trying to be grateful.  The concept of being thankful to be alive was replaced by visions of driving off the I-5 bridge.  I'd never do it, but my mind can be dramatic.  And besides, the barrier is too high and sturdy. 

That afternoon, I looked down and my feet were walking along the same sidewalk I was on when just Monday I had been feeling incredibly grateful, just to be alive with all the possibility each breath brings.  I was muttering to myself about how much my life sucked, when that reminder of gratitude interrupted me.  I remembered the feeling, it was so pure and organic and it felt like it would always be with me.  As I allowed that memory to take up more space in my inner dialogue, I realized that I was being a bit one sided.  Not whole.  Not myself.  I am someone that chooses to be grateful for all of my life.  The days glittered with heartsplosions AND the days of overwhelm and breakdown. 

Life isn't perfect, and neither are we.  Take it easy on yourself.  Be open to what is, be grateful for what life brings you, no matter what.  I truly believe there is always a silver lining, even in life's shitty situations.  It's OK to be upset, to be pissed and yell and cry, and lay in your bed all afternoon if you need to.  This too shall pass (this holds true for the ups and the downs!).  And when we are carried through the struggle on a foundation of gratitude, I want more than anything to believe that we are better off.  Because we have chosen to remain whole, to not deny any emotions or part of life's rich experiences.  And then we can emerge from whatever life brings as an authentic human being.  Less afraid, and more open for what is next to come.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

10 Things

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
10 things I am grateful for this morning: (in no particular order)
  1. Coffee
  2. My apartment
  3. Friends
  4. My children
  5. My parents and brother
  6. My creativity
  7. Love
  8. My strength and my vulnerability
  9. Ability to pay my bills
  10. Yoga
My first thought is....what a boring list.  It's always the same things.  Everyone is thankful for this stuff.  But seriously?  Could there be a better list?  Children?  Friends?  Family?  Being thankful for who I am?  These are things that make life worth living.  I pray that everyone would have these things on their list every single day. 

Stop every day and take a moment to be grateful for the broad strokes of what makes your life beautiful, and the small moments along the way.  All of them are precious.  All of them a gift. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gratitude vs. Ambition

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
I was having a particularly difficult evening with my son and as things were beginning to calm down a conversation started, mostly around things that he was unhappy about.
I suppose my son would rather live here.  Geez.
"Don't you wish we lived in a big house.  Maybe even in LA.  A big, nice house like lots of my friends live in.  Not like this apartment.  A real house.  A nice, big house." His words spat across to room at me.
Of course, I would love to live in a nice house!!! (internal voice)
 "I am choosing to be grateful to live in this apartment.  We have everything we need and we have a great community." I replied, in that calm parent voice, that is likely not hiding how frustrated you actually are.
This basic conversation went back and forth for a few rounds, when he turned it into me saying he shouldn't have dreams.  He began to complain that I was suggesting he shouldn't even try to be a major league ball player when he grows up, that he should just give up now since we already have everything we need.

This is a tough one for me, in life, and as a parent.  Yes, I try to choose to be grateful for what I have, but I also have dreams.  Does having dreams for more inherently disregard your gratitude for what is?  Does drive, ambition and striving for the best mean that you aren't grateful for what you have in the moments before you achieve those goals?

I was looking around the internet for opinions on the matter and a couple ideas stood out to me:
---Gratitude is a feeling of being full, while ambition is a feeling of hunger.  They compliment each other but do not exist at the same time.
---Ambition for gratitude can propel you forward.  And you can feel gratitude for your ambitions and passions and desires.

I started thinking of how I could bring the two close enough to exist in the same moment.  What if the link between gratitude and ambition/dreams is service?  When you are blending the two seemingly opposing ideals of gratitude and ambition, what if the result is that you automatically have a desire to be of service to others?  I've always loved the quote by Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."  If we are working towards our goals through avenues that also help build everyone else up at the same time, won't we, at the end of each day, feel incredibly grateful?  Won't we then, have found our true selves, because we are living in a way that is satisfying? Full, and yet hungry for more?

This dichotomy is brought together, and no longer felt as opposing forces, on my yoga mat.  Everyday.  Every pose.  I want to do the poses better, I want to learn the proper form, I want to build endurance to not fall out of standing bow every single time.  And then, as I lay in savasana in between postures, I work to turn of my mind and just bask in the gratitude of being right where I am.  No judgements about how long I held a pose, or how deep I went into it, just breathing in and breathing out.  When I walk out of yoga, I am better equipped to help others...even when it means standing in my son's doorway at midnight, contemplating life, desperately wishing I were in bed myself, but having to be a mom and help him through life and bedtime.

I asked my son if he had thought much about our conversation that night, to which he replied, "No." I asked him what he thought about being grateful and still wanting more, still working to be a ball player, now that he wasn't as angry.  He just shook his head and said, "Well, of course I'm still gonna try."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Too beautiful to bear

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
by Hafiz.  Posted on Instagram by of yoga.

Holding my black coffee and standing in my front window, the world outside had that familiar feeling of being what I call "too beautiful to bear."  Those are the words that floated into my mind as I was looking at what was otherwise a dull, gray, Seattle morning.  The filtered morning light held a touch of Spring, the squirrel pouncing over the neighbor's driveway and the tiny gardens on our lawn felt Spring-like too.  My upstairs neighbors drove by, father taking daughter to school, and I imagined them chatting about their day or the books they were currently reading.  Across the street, another neighbor opened their curtain and was also looking out their window, but just hidden enough by the birch trees to guard from exposing my moment. 

I've heard those words before, "too beautiful to bear".  I always hear them when I am clear minded, paying attention, and observing nature or humanity.  It's the most beautiful feeling that I struggle with not pushing away.  It's as if I know it can't last, but the beauty makes me want to hold onto it forever.  The two cannot coexist and it's immediately bittersweet as soon as I hear those words repeating in my head.  The only time I can say I truly felt that beauty and had no desire to push it away was right after each of my babies were born.  Everything made sense and I could bear that beauty over and over again, for eternity.

Maybe it's that I am on day 2 of the Whole30 and I haven't drank wine or had anything to toxify my system, maybe it's that I've been focusing on gratitude for 11 days now, or maybe it's the calm after the storm that was getting my 13 year old to go to bed last night.  Whatever it was, I basked in that inner glow until I couldn't bear it any longer and my brain shut it all off.  The mud became ugly, the birds chirping became dull, the light held less magic all of a sudden, I wondered if my neighbor across the street thought I was weird for standing in my window for so long, and I felt impatient.  The big, yellow school bus I had been waiting for finally drove by, and I smiled the biggest smile I could possibly get into my face, the kind that shows you're feeling so much joy that you don't care how your face looks, and waved to my youngest as she rode by. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thanks, it's what's for dinner everybodeee!

Posted by Amy Baranski

Sometime in the past year in my house during dinner we started taking turns sharing one thing for which we are thankful. I grew up saying prayer before breaking bread and wanted to have a ritual before eating with my son that felt authentic to me. We also try to share one thing that went awry to model the idea that mistakes are positive and lead to new ways of thinking and doing AND that feeling sad or grumpy about something is okay too. It's a part of our day that should be honored and not discarded as unsavory.

My son consistently contributes to the former.
Some dinner guests at my house.
I'm just thankful we've encouraged him to sit with us for ten minutes plus at the dinner table. Whether he chooses to eat the food in front of him is another story. But dinner-time is shaping up to be a nice family gathering centered around food, conversation, and connection. We are sometimes graced with the presence of Super Grover, Pony or the Diver. And, at one time or another our beloved Vitamix.

Growing up I had a structured dinner time. I'm thankful for that. It taught me some good habits. Each night was the same. Our chairs were the same. We always prayed before each meal and watched the nightly news during dinner. We asked to be excused and were responsible for clearing the plates. When we all got a little older with after-school activities and such dinner was usually an anchor to the day. Sometimes if play rehearsal or practice was late a plate would be kept warm for us in the oven.

In hindsight I think more conversation would have been good--watching the news was serious business. But I am also thankful to have been exposed to the news--to see the wrath and good in the world. To see the world (I would not leave the country until I was 16). It also grew in me a love of journalism and storytelling. I don't like watching television much anymore consequently there's no TV in my house. I don't pray formally unless I'm visiting my folks. But I do value the togetherness of dinner and being thankful and open about the realness of the day.

It's this kind of modeling and structure that I value so much as a parent of a toddler. He values everything we give him--our words, actions, feelings, mistakes and so on. So I've decided to bring him in on the gratitude journal journey. He has his own book and I'm making a point of asking him what's something he's grateful for. I keep our journals on my dresser along with a pen. I record his thoughts and mine too. Having my journal in one place is helping me to develop the habit of writing in it. I use my dresser every day so the journal is easy to access to quickly jot something down.

Last night my son shared: "I'm thankful for going to bed! For nursing--that's what I'm thankful for; bedtime nursing." Such honesty and sweetness in his moment of grace.

I wrote: "Beeswax candles and moonlight on a foggy night" two things that had lifted my mood recently.

I've never kept a gratitude journal, so this month is a first for me. Maybe it could be a first for you and your kid. My sister keeps track of fun memories that she and her boys make throughout the year. They keep the memories in a jar and read them at the end of the year. I LOVE that idea. What a fun way to reflect on the blessings of life and to remember the good. Don't forget about the bad but remember the good. Remember the good.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Riding the Tiger of Success

Posted by Melissa Baumgart

When 2015 came around, I got together with a couple girlfriends to set intentions for the new year.  We each shared our progress for the past year, shared where we were emotionally and spiritually, and then stated what we wanted for ourselves in the year to come.  I am so grateful to have friends like this in my life and, in fact, a day does not go past where I do not get to have a conversation with a girlfriend about these very things.  Eternally, I am grateful for my friends. They love me unconditionally, no matter what, and walking through life with that love makes all the difference.
At the end of our evening, we did a tarot card reading with the Osho Zen Tarot deck.  The card I drew that night that stood out to me was "Success".  On the card is a man riding a tiger.  He is high on life.  The card interpretation reads, "Because of your willingness to accept the recent challenges of your life, you are now -or soon will be- enjoying a wonderful ride of the tiger of success.  Welcome it, enjoy it, and share your joy with others - and remember that all bright parades have a beginning and and end.  If you keep this in mind, and squeeze every drop of juice out of the happiness you are experiencing now, you will be able to take the future as it comes without regrets.  But don't be tempted to try and try to hold onto this abundant moment, or coat it in plastic so that it lasts forever.  The greatest wisdom to keep in mind with all the phenomena in the parade of your life, whether they be valleys or peaks, is that 'this too shall pass'.  Celebrate, yes, and keep on riding that tiger."

Since that day, the tiger has been a very important symbol in my life.  I often think of Bikram's words, "Bengal tiger strength" and I picture my tiger protecting me and imbuing me with his power, confidence and courage.  I also try to to remember that I won't always be riding the tiger.  Sometimes  a tiger sits and waits for the most opportune time to pounce.  That quiet time doesn't need to be interpreted as low and depressed, it is what it is, simple and still.  It has purpose.  Every moment of your life has purpose, whether it feels like you're riding the tiger or waiting in quiet stillness.  Every moment is worthy and valuable. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Thank You

Posted by Amy Baranski and Melissa Baumgart

It's February and we are keeping gratitude journals.

Make an attitude to be in gratitude, you will find the whole Universe will come to you. 

Yogi Bhajan

'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.
Alice Walker

Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.
Zig Ziglar

At the age of 18, I made up my mind to never have another bad day in my life. I dove into a endless sea of gratitude from which I've never emerged.
Patch Adams

I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude.
Brene Brown
Silent gratitude isn't very much to anyone.
Gertrude Stein
Let's get our gratitude out there.  Write it down.  Speak it.  Live it.
Who wants to join us in February to see what a month of living with gratitude can do in our lives?