We had a blessing ceremony instead of a wedding, and it was perfect

My husband and I got engaged in the fall of 2019 and planned our wedding for April 2020. Then Covid struck. Like so many couples during that time, we decided to postpone our wedding but got married in very small ceremony over Zoom with our parents, best man and maid of honor and officiant. We planned to have our wedding the following April, but I was pregnant with our first child and Covid was still a threat, so we postponed again to April 2022. A year rolled around, and April found me pregnant again with our second child. We postponed a third time đŸ™‚

In January 2023, we decided that it was now or never. We contacted our venue, Cavallo Point in Sausalito, CA, to let them know. We looked back at our 2020 wedding plans with the intention of keeping them the same, but so much time had passed and our lives were so different that the former ceremony just didn’t reflect us as a couple.

I spent a lot of time looking online for ideas, but the only alternatives to traditional wedding ceremonies that I found were vow renewals, which also didn’t feel right. In the end, I started from scratch and came up with a new format: a blessing ceremony.

Our ceremony began at 10 am. We had a traditional processional. My parents walked down the aisle with our oldest daughter. My in-laws carried our youngest daughter, followed by our best man and maid of honor. My husband and I walked down the aisle together, arm in arm. (After all, we’ve been married for three years…it really didn’t make sense for my father to “give me away.”)

My husband’s best friend was our officiant. He gave a few opening remarks and recapped how my husband and I met, our courtship and the past few years of building our family. My friend Sarah (who flew from her home in Italy to join us!) read A Lovely Love Story, a beautiful story about two quirky dinosaurs who fall in love. By the last line, everyone was crying.

After the reading, my friend Abbey and our officiant shared blessings that our guests had written down for us ahead of time. I love that we have each blessing written in our loved ones’ handwriting to keep forever.

Rather than exchanging our original vows all over again, we decided to replace them with a “blessing response”:

“Lindsey and Ashkan, will you receive the blessings shared here today and all of the blessings that life has to offer, with openness, gratitude and joy? Will you live mindfully and treasure one another every day? Will you celebrate life’s simple pleasures and appreciate the beauty of the world around you? Will you embrace a mindset of fullness and abundance, and teach your children to do the same?” Our response was: “We will.”

My cousin Amy then read A Cherokee Prayer to continue with the theme of blessings:

“God in heaven above please protect the ones we love. We honor all you created as we pledge our hearts and lives together. We honor Mother Earth and ask for our marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons. We honor fire and ask that our union be warm and glowing with love in our hearts. We honor wind and ask that we sail through life safe and calm as in our father’s arms. We honor water to clean and soothe our relationship—that it may never thirst for love. With all the forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony as we grow forever young together. Amen.”

Then our officiant shared a call-and-response with our guests:

“When you married, you united two families and two sets of friends. I ask them now to promise that they will continue to support your relationship with joy, love and optimism. All those who wish to pledge their support say, “I do!”

I should note that during our planning process, I really struggled with the “ta-da” moment to close the ceremony to replace the traditional “I now pronounce you husband and wife” line. I left it up to the officiant, and he nailed it. He shared his own blessing for us and then closed with:

“It gives me great joy to present, for the first time live and in-person, Lindsey and Ashkan Seyedi!”

During the planning process, I told our wedding planner that my goal was to create a sacred bubble around our family of four during the ceremony, receiving love and blessings from our guests. We achieved that goal 100 times over. Our ceremony felt so loving, warm, joyful and celebratory. At one point during the ceremony, our oldest daughter came to stand with us and hold hands; that wasn’t planned, but it was perfect. Our kids presence was the best blessing I could hope for. The morning light through the trees was glorious. The famous Bay Area fog rolling in over the Golden Gate Bridge was spectacular. I felt present for every second, and I will cherish the memories of our loved ones there with us, smiling and tearful and happy, for as long as I live.

5 ways to shift your energy on a tough day

I’ll spare you a long introduction because, let’s face it, we all know what tough days feel like. I’ve created this list of uplifting practices based on advice from some of my favorite teachers. I do most of them daily. I intentionally created this list to be accessible to anyone, including parents of young children (like me), in that you can do nearly everything on the list with other people/children around in under a couple of minutes. I hope that it helps shift the energy when you need it.

Remember, it’s never too late to reset.

  1. Blow bubbles (mindfully). Take a moment to close your eyes, gather up all of the negativity in your body and blow it out into a bubble. Ask the wind to take it away and transform it into love and light. This practice comes from renowned Shaman Sandra Ingerman. You might feel silly, but I guarantee that you will feel lighter once you try it.
  2. Feel your feet. I talk about this tip a lot because I do it multiple times a day, and it works. I got this advice from my life coach Arda Ozdemir, and it’s so easy because you can do it anytime and anywhere. Take a few slow breaths and concentrate on the bottoms of your feet for about 10 seconds. By directing your energy there, you send your focus from your head to your body and feel more grounded.
  3. Regulate your nervous system with a hug. My friend, yoga instructor, occupational therapist and somatic life coach Hana Raftery says that if your nervous system has fallen out of rhythm and gotten stuck in a distressed state, “‘self-regulation” practices are for sure helpful to shift nervous system states but can have serious limitations. It doesn’t really matter how much or what type of breathwork you do – most bodies will never feel completely safe when they are all alone. Instead of closing your door and doing your breathing exercises solo, this is an invitation to go hug your partner or your friend or your dog or a tree and take some deep breaths with them. Our nervous systems need each other.'” I particularly like to co-regulate with my children, because if I need it, then I know they do, and it’s wonderful for bonding.
  4. Light a candle or incense. Those of you who’ve been following along for a few months know that my new obsession is my morning incense. Light it with intention; a personal favorite when I’m having a tough day is “I’m reentering the day with a higher energy, starting now.”
  5. Play music or sing. Create a playlist of upbeat songs that make you happy and keep it on standby for moments like these. Moana soundtrack, anyone?

Celebrating the individuality of a child (including your inner child)

When I look back on the decisions I made as a young adult — the people I dated, where I lived, the career I chose, recurring patterns in relationships — I’m often shocked that I was that person. After some serious soul searching and personal work in my early 30s, I finally am on the path that’s meant for me. But for most of my life, I struggled to find my place in the world. I felt like I was playing a part and that I had to mask my true identity to fit in and be loved. In the deepest sense, I felt that if anyone really knew me, I would be cast aside as, well, super weird.

The older I get, the more I’m embracing the parts of myself that I’ve tried to hide…my eccentricities, my spiritual gifts and my wisdom.

I used to water them down to make others feel important and to help myself fit in. I was afraid of my gifts and ashamed. I desperately just wanted to feel normal. And then I found other people like me. I found teachers who helped me understand my differences and channel them. At 38, I’m just started to feel at home within myself.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

Institutions (the church, school systems, the patriarchy and society as a whole) tend to squash individuality. The people who raise us tend to want us to take the path of least resistance because they want to protect us. They know that our culture rarely celebrates a unique path.

I’m not angry about how I was raised, but I do want something different for my children.

As a child, no one ever taught me how to be different; they never modeled how to cherish my unique traits and fight like hell to protect them. After all, the traits that make us the most special are the ones we are shamed for and forced to hide to survive.

So instead, I tell my children every day how special they are, and I use specific language that highlights their unique gifts. The ones I never want them to bury. The ones that will make the world a better place.

I’m weird with them in public. I validate their emotions. I try really hard never to shame them or make them feel like they’re not living up to my expectations. Once they’re older, I’ll have difficult conversations with them about generational trauma and the fact that hurt people hurt people so that they have a foundation of emotional intelligence when someone is unkind to them. I will model vulnerability.

I will do everything I possibly can to help protect who they are at their core so that they can fully live life from the very beginning…and not have to wait until they’re 30.

We can do this for ourselves, too. We can dust off those old traits and welcome them back into our lives. We can find ways to celebrate the children we were never allowed to be. We can heal and grow, and in doing so, we’ll make the world a brighter place, too.

Prompts to consider:

What messages did I receive at home as a child about how to please my caregivers? (Get good grades, speak only when spoken to, follow the rules, excel at sports, don’t show emotions)

Were those messages direct or indirect?

Did I rebel from or adopt people-pleasing tendencies?

How did interactions with kids my own age shape who I became?

What characteristics did I bury?

What parts of myself am I ashamed of? Is that shame coming from someone else that I adopted? Or my own?

How are my career, relationship patterns and habits a reflection of my upbringing vs. my core self?

What limiting beliefs can I let go of? What characteristics can I bring out of hiding to show the world? How can I integrate them into my daily life?

Advice for the holidays: protect your bubble

A couples’ therapist once gave me an incredible piece of advice. She told me that when a romantic couple decides to become a unit, they become their own bubble. No one is automatically allowed into that bubble — not in-laws or siblings or friends; they are allowed into the bubble with permission from the couple, and that permission can be denied if the couple decides to set that boundary at any point.

How empowering.

We often get hung up on the obligation to allow family and friends into our bubble, we put up with bad behavior, negative energy, unhealthy patterns, toxicity, criticism, etc. in the name of being a good friend or family member. We limit the amount of time spent with the person, dread the interactions, feel angry or depleted afterwards and grin and bear it because we’ve been told that’s the right thing to do. It’s particularly difficult to stand up for yourself when the offending party is a parent, because we’ve been conditioned since childhood to survive at whatever cost. As children, we need our parents to provide for us, love us and protect us. As adults, our inner child still thinks it needs parents for survival, and so we often cater to our parents, allowing ourselves to be controlled, bullied, insulted or manipulated.

But we aren’t children anymore. We don’t need our parents for survival. And in most cases, the only person who can fill the void of the mother or father you wish you had is you.

Catering to the person, whether a parent or someone else, might be the right approach if you’re trying to protect the status quo, but it’s likely not healthy for you and in most cases, it’s not healthy for the person or people making you unhappy either; by leaving their behavior unchecked, they continue in their own negative patterns and you help enable their toxicity.

If you’re looking for it, consider this your permission to rethink setting boundaries this holiday season.

In my family, my husband and two children are my bubble, but I’ve also extended our bubble to our entire home. I consider the energy in our home very sacred — it’s a place of safety, joy, positivity and unconditional love. We’re incredibly mindful in protecting it, and anything or anyone that doesn’t match with the energy we’ve created has no place in our home. It’s not personal. It’s simply a boundary we’ve set.

Once you’ve set the boundary to put yourself first, it’s up to the other person to decide how to move forward. You give them the option to adjust, and if they don’t, that’s their choice. Try not to get attached to the outcome. Your role is to protect your bubble.

Examples of boundaries are…

  • Negative language (criticism, racism, sexism, profanity, gossip, etc.) isn’t allowed in our home
  • Our children aren’t allowed to eat dessert before dinner
  • “Just because” gifts or certain kinds of toys (plastic, violent, gender-role based toys, etc.)aren’t allowed in our home
  • Do not direct body-image related comments to our children
  • Do not wear outside shoes in our home
  • Do not smoke in our home

There needs to be clear implications to violating these boundaries, such as “You won’t be invited back to our home,” “I won’t be able to have a relationship with you” or “Our children won’t be able to come visit you.”

If the idea of setting a boundary leaves a pit in your stomach, know that you’re not alone. This type of personal work is incredibly challenging but also completely transformative. Shedding old beliefs about yourself and stepping into your power will have a profound impact on your life, your relationships, your career and your happiness.

When having these difficult conversations, some of the basic pieces of advice that have worked for me are:

  • Prepare (for me, preparing some “talking points” in advance helps me feel empowered)
  • Use clear, simple, direct language
  • Don’t engage in debate; just state the facts
  • Keep the encounter short
  • Embrace grounding techniques to get out of your head and into your body before and after the encounter, particularly breathwork and feeling your feet
  • Visualize what you’re gaining, not what you’re losing
  • Focus on how you feel, not how another person feels

Here are two of my favorite resources on the topic:

  • Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast, episode 399 – Whole30’s Melissa Urban offers practical strategies for establishing healthy boundaries
  • Discovering the Inner Mother by Bethany Webster – This is the best book I’ve read in a very long time. It will change the way you look at the world, help heal old wounds and find a power you didn’t know had been taken from you. Despite the title, this book is not just for women.

I offer my most heartfelt support for you in this journey!

A simple, 3-minute gratitude practice

Over the past couple of years, I’ve thought a lot about how to maintain a consistent spiritual practice as I transitioned from a single working professional to a stay-at-home parent. Whether you have children or not, making the time and space for spirituality is no small feat in today’s busy world. In this instance, the old adage of “every little bit helps” absolutely rings true though. Even taking 5 minutes in the morning to feel grounding and gratitude has a remarkable impact on my entire day.

One practice that I’ve been doing with my children for the past year is greeting nature first thing in the morning. Our living room windows overlook our backyard, and we have lots of trees, plants and often wildlife in view. We sit on the sofa looking out the window and greet the day. My children are only 1 and 2 years old, so they mostly look with wonder out of the window and point out what they see. I really try to approach those few minutes mindfully, connecting with nature and expressing gratitude for its abundance.

Although the words I use are mostly the same day to day, I will add in new things to greet according to the situation; for instance, a new season, “rain” if it’s raining or different aspects of the landscape if we’re traveling and in a different location. Sometimes we say this greeting outside in our backyard, which feels even more experiential and grounding.

Mother Nature gratitude practice

Good morning, sun.

Good morning, trees.

Good morning, plants.

Good morning, flowers.

Good morning, mushrooms.

Good morning, microorganisms.

Good morning, bugs.

Good morning, birds.

Good morning, owl.

Good morning, squirrels.

Good morning, chipmunks.

Good morning to all nature spirits. We honor you and thank you for your protection and love.

Thank you, Mother Nature for your beauty and protection.

How we’re celebrating autumn & reconnecting with nature

In a recent post, I introduced the idea that we’re looking for ways to inject more substance into how we celebrate the holidays and acknowledge seasonal changes within our family.

For many cultures, autumn has historically been a time of harvest, of giving thanks for earth’s bounty and a slowing down as days shortened and nights lengthened. Many cultures also acknowledge the days around All Hallows’ Eve as a time to remember and honor the dead.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with trick-or-treating. In fact, many of the iconic Halloween symbols and traditions of today date back to the Celtics and beyond; however, I am frustrated that our culture is focused almost exclusively on candy and horror movies and has lost its earth-based reverence.

My point is, I believe there’s room for both. Our family has approached Halloween and autumn overall with the intention of bringing our family closer to nature. Here are a few of my favorite activities that we introduced this year:

  1. We visited a nearby farm, White Oak Pastures, and it was one of my favorite experiences of the year. We attended its fall festival, rode horses, stayed in a cabin on the property, saw newborn lambs, watched employees feed their animals as the sun rose, and so much more. It was such a fun way to support a local farm, an incredible way to recharge and a hands-on way for our children to interact with nature and understand where food comes from. I realize we’re incredibly privileged to have access to farms and the experience we had. Alternatively, you could plant your own fall garden which typically includes root vegetables, leafy greens and herbs, depending on your location.
  2. We built a fall altar. I should say, we’re building a fall alter because it’s a work in progress that began about a month ago. We began by collecting acorns, fallen leaves, pieces of bark and anything else that caught our eye during our time outside. We also added a couple of small pumpkins, mementos that remind us of loved ones who have passed, a jar of nuts and a candle. It’s a simple, tangible way to bring the outdoors in and to pay reverence to the changing seasons.
  3. We made a meal to honor an ancestor. I’m lucky enough to have a handwritten recipe for chicken pie from my great grandmother. Making a loved one’s favorite meal is a lovely way to pay tribute to their memory and keep their legacy alive. If you don’t have a specific recipe, you could try one that reflects your heritage instead.

Blessings to you and yours this fall season!

P.S. My children have been reading Strega Nona’s Harvest this season, and the themes of honoring the earth’s rhythms, planting and harvesting, and sharing in the bounty with neighbors have all reinforced our other fall activities.

Morning basket for adults: Autumn edition

I’m a big believer in simple, every day joys, particularly ones that offer rich sensory experiences. Warm tea with honey. A cozy blanket. Freshly baked bread. I try to create morning rituals with the five senses in mind. I find that I feel more alert, happier and more grounded.

I’ve written a lot about morning baskets for children — a collection of activities, books, toys, etc. intended for first thing in the morning to help begin the day in a peaceful, engaging way. I’ve recently started introducing themed baskets for my kids, including Spring and Autumn baskets, and they’re absolute magic.

A few days ago, it occurred to me that I should build my own morning basket. How have I never thought of this??!? I have enough self awareness to know that, although I rebel from structure (especially in the mornings), I actually feel better when I have a bit of a container for my fluidity. I saw this tendency in action when I started working from home during the pandemic; I think I stayed in my pajamas for the first week, but eventually found my rhythm. A year later, I had my first child and became a stay-at-home mom. Without a traditional job as a catalyst, I found myself getting lost in my mornings and feeling off-balance for the rest of my day. Over the past couple of years, I’ve found tools that help me feel connected to nature, grounded in my body and introspective rather than overstimulated. Having some of those tools collected in a basket is exactly what I need to stay on track.

Delicious seasonal tea. There’s really nothing that says autumn more than a hot cup of Little Women-inspired apple tea. If apple isn’t your thing, this Hot Cinnamon Spice is another blend and bestseller. Update: I bought the Hot Cinnamon Spice tea and have been drinking it daily; it’s incredible. The flavor reminds me of red hot candy and tastes like those cinnamon brooms smell. Highly recommend.

Notebook that sparks joy. Fall always makes me yearn for Harry Potter. I love this quirky notebook and use it regularly to journal and make notes.

Seasonal scents. I’ve been burning incense every morning for the past couple of months, and it’s by far my new favorite ritual. I’ve really enjoyed the cinnamon/root chakra scent. It’s incredibly soothing and grounding. I’ve recently ordered Samhain Incense: with Frankincense, Spiced Herbs and Mulled Cider and can’t wait to try it.

Activity to tap into your creativity. I’ve loved handicrafts since I was a child, and as an adult, I find them so therapeutic. I’m currently teaching myself embroidery, and this “sweet as pie” kit is so cozy and from-the-hearth.

A controversial take on the holidays

I’ll begin this essay with the disclaimer that it might be a polarizing topic and that I fully support everyone’s right to believe and celebrate whatever they wish. I also support the decision to question beliefs and let go of what’s no longer serving us.

After becoming a parent, I started noticing more and more aspects of holiday traditions in the U.S. that I hadn’t given much thought to before. At first, I became increasingly aware of the overwhelming commercialism. It feels like we’ve lost so much of the substance and connection to these holidays and replaced it with things. I’m by no means a minimalist, but I do believe that material things should support the holiday, not the other way around.

The second and more complicated concern that kept coming up in my quest to find meaning is that actually, I don’t fundamentally agree with most of the holidays I’ve always celebrated.

Thanksgiving is so closely tied to colonialism and white supremacy.

I’m very spiritual, but not religious, calling into question my celebration of Christmas and Easter.

I also have struggled with Halloween, because it’s so much more than dressing up and begging for candy. The origins are rich and fascinating, but you’d never know it based on how we celebrate today. I also don’t see what’s so scary about black cats and witches, but that’s a rant for another day đŸ™‚

I’ve thought a lot about what I want from traditions for our family that I’m not getting under the traditional holiday system:

  • Celebration of seasonal changes and what’s happening in nature
  • Gratitude for the abundance in our lives
  • Acknowledgement of our privilege as a white family living in America
  • A focus on experiences, not things

Most of the Christian holidays we celebrate today are modifications of pagan celebrations and customs, so my research began there. After all, I don’t want to completely throw out our traditions…I want to understand their roots so that I can better honor them and perhaps even bring back some of the original intentions that have been lost.

My goal, beginning with this year’s holiday season, is to try new things to determine what sparks joy for our family and to retire what no longer feels authentic. I’ll cover the autumn equinox/Mabon, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Halloween/Samhain, Thanksgiving, the winter solstice and Christmas.

I hope you’ll join me as I document our experiences along the way!

Seasonal baskets for kids: Autumn edition

The autumn equinox is just a few days away, and I’m starting to prepare for the shift to a new season. I have a list of fall crafts to do with our toddlers, several new recipes to try and a plan to visit a local farm for its fall festival. With the coming of each new season, my goal is to honor the transformation and energetic shifts happening in nature and acknowledge what each season brings. I love apple picking and pumpkin spice as much as — okay probably more than — the average person, but we can look to Mother Nature for valuable lessons in slowing down, reaping what we sow, nurturing the land and following the natural rhythms around us.

In our family, we are constantly looking for ways to get back to nature, to reconnect with the land, to show our children where food comes from and to encourage them to feel the changing seasons with their bodies.

Below, you’ll find a few ideas for a fall-themed morning basket for toddlers. You can read more about how we use morning baskets here.

The changing seasons are such a sensory experience, and I hope you get to treasure them all!

Fall sensory bins. Busy Toddler introduced me to sensory bins, and I’m so glad I discovered them. With a little practice, they can be perfect for independent play, and I particularly love the seasonally themed options. You can make your own at home by collecting things like leaves, acorns and pinecones or check online retailers like Etsy for creative, ready made kits. This pumpkin sensory kit is fairly basic and looks like it would be good for a younger child who is new to sensory bins. It’s also a great price! This pumpkin patch-themed bin is intricate and more appropriate for an older child.

Fall playdough stamps. How sweet are these woodland creature playdough stamps? They’re handmade with love and so beautifully detailed. My two year old will love them.

Fall stickers. My oldest daughter turned two a few months ago and has been on a major sticker kick ever since. These leaf and mushroom stickers would be perfect for decorating pumpkins or making fall tree crafts. This set of whimsical autumn stickers is so cozy and unique….also perfect for a young baker!

Fall flashcards. I hesitate to use the term “flashcard” because it sounds so…studious. And institutional. But actually, we have a set of touch and feel cards, and my two year old and one year old both adore them. I love this fresh take on flashcards: autumn themed movement cards. They say “stretch like a scarecrow,” “drop like an acorn,” “sway like a tree,” and other movement-related phrases. The designs are beautiful, and the set is only $3! (You print at home.)

Fall books. Of all of the fall books that we own, my favorite by far is I Am Thankful by Sonali Fry. The book is written in rhyme, and each page offers a different set of (seasonal) things to be thankful for, like “crunchy leaves,” “bees that buzz,” “apples we pick,” “grandma’s pies,” etc. The illustrations are so sweet, and the book ends with the question, “What are YOU thankful for?” (There’s no reference to the Thanksgiving holiday for those of you who don’t celebrate it.)

Time anxiety and how I’m addressing it

I don’t consider myself a particularly anxious person, but if there’s one area I struggle with, it’s feeling overwhelmed about time. I was introduced to the concept of time anxiety through Laura Tremaine’s 10 Things to Tell You podcast. Before this episode, I never considered classifying those nagging little worries, but as with most things, naming it has given me so much more awareness and understanding.

In a nutshell, Laura describes two types of time-related anxiety: 1) the short-term, how-will-I-ever-get-everything-done-today type of panic, and 2) the long-term, I’m already-40-how-will-I-have-time-to-fullfill-all-of-my-dreams type of dread.

My concerns fall mostly into the first category, and when I notice them creeping in, I try not to pass judgement. I use it as a reminder to focus on whatever I’m doing, because I’ve found that when I’m feeling time anxiety, I tend to flutter between tasks repeatedly rather than finishing one and moving to the next.

I’ve also taken Laura’s advice about adopting a time-related mantra, which I use repeatedly throughout the day: “I have enough time.” It does feel a little empty at first — more like a wish than reality — but over time, it’s started to sink in. I feel much less frantic and more in control of my time, like I’m deliberately choosing how to spend it versus letting the clock run all over me.

P.S. If you’re looking for a deeper dive on time anxiety, I highly recommend listening to Laura Tremaine’s podcast, episode 145.

P.P.S. Read more thoughts on how we spend our time. Will we choose guilt, shaming or joy?