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My little stars. There is a feeling that a mother has while pregnant, a knowing. Months and months of carrying a life inside of her, getting to know a little human in the most indescribable way. Six years into motherhood and I still can’t get over the knowing, how I knew my babies before they ever left my body.

Lately I have undergone a huge energy shift. For the first time in my life, I have slowed down. I’ve been aiming to do this for over a decade–to be more mindful, more present, more deliberate. But it is one thing to recognize the importance of taking time to smell the roses; and it is another thing to actually be able to do it.

A few years ago, I reconnected with an old classmate from elementary school. A couple of years before we connected, she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and told she had only a short time to live. She wanted to hire me to take photographs and help her write a book that would chronicle her journey. Maybe I’ll share more of her beautiful, heartbreaking story one day, but today I just want to repeat something that she said to me that changed my life forever.

On the morning that we first met, I arrived at her home and felt the most serene energy. When we sat down to talk, I rambled out something about how life is always so busy and crazy and I was grateful for her taking the time to meet with me. She stopped me very resolutely and said, “No. My life is not crazy or busy. My life is calm and peaceful. I make healthy food. I meditate. I relax. I enjoy life.” She said this with the most wonderful calmness I have ever encountered in my life. This was a woman, my age, about 34 or 35 at the time, who had walked the line of life and death. Most women I meet are frenzied. We apologize for our lateness, our messiness, our tiredness. We fuss over unimportant details. We say that there is never enough time. But here was another woman, a woman who knew something different. She knew that life is too precious for frenzy, for worry, for rushing.

She died shortly after that meeting. We never got to take the photographs or write the book. But her energy and her words changed something in me permanently, woke me up to a knowledge that I had long ago forgotten. I see that knowledge in my children. They don’t rush. They take their time. They stop to appreciate the beauty and the magic in the littlest details.

The other afternoon, the January twilight was calling to us. Most days Roman asks me if we can go visit a “Poké Stop” (so that he can play his Pokémon Go game). But most days, I say that I am “too busy”–busy with work, with cooking, with cleaning up, with simply being overwhelmed. But on this day, I remembered. I remembered how much all of does not matter, and how much my little stars do matter.

And so we walked over to the park and I watched their sweet little cheeks turn bright pink in the January air and we watched the sun disappear behind the mountain and we watched the sky turn every shade of watercolor golden orange and soft rose petal and dusty periwinkle blue. And my babies jumped and played and laughed and ran and fell down and got hurt and looked up at the sky with wonder in their eyes. And I had all I could do to stop my heart from beating with joy and gratitude right out of my chest.

Because this is life and it is terrible and it is wonderful. And I’ll spend all of my days doing my best to cherish these moments as they pass.

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