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A Journey of Motherhood, Picture Books, and Mindfulness…the Adventure of a Lifetime!

Our children teach us so many life lessons, but to be in the present moment is the greatest gift they have taught me.

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Motherhood…

There is beauty present in every moment if we see it through the freshness and curiosity of a child. I have been fortunate to witness the world through the eyes of my children. As a young mom, whether we were walking through a beautiful park along the lake and my daughter was blowing dandelions, or we were enjoying a mom and tot music class and everyone singing, or we were simply walking into a store and my son stopped to point out the fluffy clouds in the sky, each moment is a precious gift and our children stop us in our tracks and remind us to enjoy the present moment.

I believe these simple moments are the doorway to our greatest potential—if you take the time to truly understand the importance of being present. Our children remind us from moment to moment to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. In my eyes, this is the greatest gift that our children offer us adults and I believe it is the adventure of a lifetime – to be in the moment! In other words, to be mindful. To be focused on what is happening around you with all your senses.

In return, we can offer our children this same gift by joining them in the present moment, to really see them, and love them unconditionally. It sounds so simple yet can be so difficult in our world of many distractions. I’m certain it is the greatest gift of love that we can give ourselves and our children. It can free you from any sadness from the past, worries of the future, and remind you to enjoy this moment right now because it’s truly the only moment you really have. I’m positive that if each of us could live this daily practice of mindfulness, we can change the world for the better together.

I believe our children are brought to us for this very reason—to awaken us in the moment. Once awakened, we can be a mirror for one another and both shine with our greatest potential.

For anyone who has not read Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s books, The Conscious Parent or The Awakened Family, I encourage you to do so as she so clearly outlines this enlightening experience that I myself have experienced with my children.

“The parenting journey holds the potential to be a spiritually regenerative experience for both parent and child, where every moment is a meeting of spirits, and both parent and child appreciate that each dances on a spiritual path that’s unique, holding hands and yet alone.”

~ Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Children offer us so many gifts – love, kindness, laughter, empathy, compassion, curiosity, creativity, and mostly their full-on PRESENCE. They inspire me every day. I am so grateful to be a parent. Becoming a mom has been one of the most rewarding experiences. We do not fully know what to expect in first becoming a mother, but what I have learned is that our children become our greatest spiritual teachers. My children have taught me so much, but here is what they’ve taught me the most – the delight of enjoying the moment in life, that we are born curious and love to learn, and each of us has the gift of creativity.

Children bring a special kind of magic to life. Whether children are making a sandcastle at the beach, playing dress up, using their imaginations to build a spaceship out of a box, or enjoying a cupcake with frosting and sprinkles, or making their latest Tik Tok video for the older kids, they are fully present, in the moment, and their creativity is contagious! And not to mention, a lot of fun!

When given free time to play, kids will create, imagine, invent, explore, and enjoy the moment of the day. Over the years, I have tried to be mindful and allow as much free time as possible in our week. I understand the importance of play and that it is the catapult for creativity, learning, and problem solving. When kids have time to play, they are free and happy of any pressures and can just be.  I believe, they are not caught up in the “doing” of life that can make them tired, irritable, and drain them of their creativity and presence. My children have taught me that no matter what you are doing, to try and be in that very moment and you will experience more joy.

 My biggest fear as a parent is that my children will forget this gift of enjoying the moment, their zest for learning, their creativity, and their passions and motivations for play. I believe these gifts are the keys to a lifetime of peace and happiness as an adult.

One of the most significant and fascinating TED Talks of all time is by Sir Ken Robinson, How Schools Kill Creativity. The Talk focuses on the point that creativity should be as important as literacy and that children have extraordinary talents and we squander them. He references a quote from Pablo Picasso, “All children are born artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” 

We can no longer squander our children. But it’s going to take looking at the world with fresh eyes and having a beginner’s mindset to make positive change in this world, in our children’s lives, and in our own lives. As Jon Kabat-Zin, one of our greatest mindfulness teachers of all time, has eloquently stated in this quote…

The richness of the present-moment experience is the richness of life itself. Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about we “know” prevent us from seeing things as they really are. We tend to take the ordinary for granted and fail to grasp the extra-ordinariness of the ordinary. To see the richness of the present moment, we need to cultivate what has been called the “beginner’s mind,” a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time.

 ~ Jon Kabat-Zin

Being grateful for the present moment and how I became a Children’s Picture Book Author…

Over the years, I found myself so happy in the moment with my children. I am in awe of them – their pure delight and presence in every moment. They have no judgments, are not distracted by yesterday, do not think of tomorrow, and fully engage themselves in whatever they are doing. From games of hide and seek, to making soup in our kitchen, to visiting our favorite museums, I was constantly in gratitude for each experience. And it was wonderfully refreshing to me!

I often found myself with my kids in bookstores in the children’s section. It was cozy and calming to all of us. I was in awe of these beautiful children’s books, the messages, morals, and lessons they told, and the enthusiasm my children had for reading together and story time. I realized that the joy I was experiencing was being fully present and engaged in something that I love. 

It inspired me to begin a journal of my daily adventures with my children. I had not kept a journal since my childhood. I would read my journal at night and begin to think of rhymes that put a smile on my face as they captured our day.  And before I knew it, I had written my first children’s books, What Should We Do Today, Mommy? and Love You to Pieces. I didn’t intend to keep a gratitude journal nor write a children’s picture book or two for that matter, but the joy of being in the moment unleashed my creativity. It felt exciting! Over time, I started to feel happier and more myself than I had in years. It was a true awakening.

At first, I thought to share my books with only my family as a special keepsake, but I then realized it would be important to share the messages of what I had learned with others. And mostly, I wanted my books to remind children everywhere of their special gift of enjoying the present moment and hopefully take this message with them throughout their lifetime.

A mentor of mine and Editor of the Illinois Association of Gifted Children Journal, Joan Franklin Smutny, once said to me, “If we cannot help one another, then what good are we?”  And this is exactly how I felt about my book experience.  It makes me think of another famous quote by Maya Angelou, “If you get, give. If you learn, teach.”

I am blessed to be reminded of this valuable life lesson and experience of being in the present moment.  Not only did this experience of being in the moment bring genuine joy to my life and a great connection with my children but opened me up again to my true passions in life. My passions of writing, inspiring others, helping others, and the joy I feel when I’m doing anything that’s creative and from the heart. When you have passions, you feel happy. And when you are happy, you make better choices and make this world a better place for everyone to live.

I am thankful to Joan Franklin Smutny, who encouraged me and gave me insight into publishing. I was then lucky to meet my sweet friend, Valentina Belloni, an amazing illustrator that accepted my book project and brought my stories to life with her beautiful illustrations. 

I hope my children’s picture books will inspire you and bring you, your families, and friends many moments of joy!

Mindfulness…the Adventure of a Lifetime!

When my books were first published, the buzz word of mindfulness didn’t seem as well-known as it is today. What’s fascinating to me is that my experience of being in the moment with my children was the act of mindfulness. Only at the time, I didn’t know it. I just knew I was experiencing more joy, creativity, a sense of calm, and many of my anxieties of life were lessening. I felt more centered, creative, and more myself than I had in years! It literally opened a new doorway for me into many new hobbies and passions. My passion for writing children’s books (I’m now working on a third book), my passion for yoga and meditation, and a new passion of learning about the benefits of mindfulness. It is truly remarkable to me in how this experience of being in the moment has changed my life for the better. I’m forever grateful to my children and happy to share this experience publicly as it makes me happy to know that this information may be helpful to someone else. There is so much suffering in this world and if my personal story or books help even one person, it is a success!

There is no one more mindful than young children—they are the experts of living in the moment. My wish is that by sharing my personal experience as a parent and my children’s picture books, What Should We Do Today Mommy? and Love You to Pieces, created through the journey of motherhood, adults and children will be inspired to embrace the present moment and begin their own mindful practice.

There are so many ways to bring yourself into the present moment–whether it’s with your children, meditation, yoga, or simply reading picture books together. I hope you find a practice that best fits your life and personality. It may be walking your dog, gardening, cooking, enjoying nature, or just being more aware of everyday actions and reactions.

I promise whatever practice you begin it will center you, slow you down, and help you to be more grateful for the simple moments. You will enjoy a greater sense of wonder, curiosity, creativity, and appreciation for the day. When we start to pay attention to the ordinary moments in our life, it starts to slowly transform your day, your life, and brings new opportunities and definitely more JOY.

It is a practice that only improves with time from moment to moment. It is not something you can check off your to-do list or ever do perfectly.

It is a journey.

It is an awakening.

It is a new way of life.

 In my eyes—it is the adventure of a lifetime!

With love, gratitude, and awe of the little moments. Happy 2020!

Michele Foote

Connect with Author Michele Foote:

Michele’s children’s picture books, What Should We Do Today, Mommy? and Love You to Pieces, are available from her personal website, www.michelefoote.com, or through your favorite bookseller or preferred on-line retailer such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Please contact Michele Foote at [email protected] for author visits or speaking engagements at your local school, business, or library. Michele’s talks focus on the JOY of being in the present moment, the MAGIC of ordinary moments, and the POWER of unconditional love.

Please follow Michele Foote on her author Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/byMicheleFoote for weekly inspiration, book events, and the announcement of her next children’s picture book that focuses on the importance of PLAY! 

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