Embrace the Closeness

This morning I awoke before dawn to my dog yelping in her sleep.  Sometimes she gets excited in her dreams. Inevitably, however, my nearly 9 month old daughter awoke as well. “Mamama” she called as she rustled in her crib.  I slid out of bed and walked the 3 feet to her crib. I picked her up, gently bounced and rocked her. She made playful airy noises through her lips, flipped her head back and forth trying to find the right position on my shoulder, looked up at me, then started to settle back into rest.

I returned her to her crib.

Immediately she rolled around.  “Mama” she called out again. I picked her up, told her it was “sleepy time” and this time offered to nurse.  She gladly latched on as we made our way to bed. She tried to convince me it was time to rise and make sweet googly eyes at each other.  I again encouraged “sleepy time” as I closed my eyes and eventually she dozed off again, unlatched and started to flail in a way that indicates “give me some space.”

Once again I returned her to her crib.  Once again she flipped over to her tummy, inch wormed forward to the edge of her crib, pulled up to stand and called out: “Muuuuuu.”20180614_063106(9)

Again I slid out of bed, picked up my precious baby girl and began to snuggle and swing her.  Her eyes closed, her body went sleepily soft, and as far as she was concerned, all was right in the world again.

One could say “that baby has got you wrapped around her fingers” and to some extent that is true.  But usually she does sleep well on her own. And on the sweet occasion when she just wants to be held, I turn to gratitude: for a child who trusts me, for someone who feels safe in my arms, and a loved one who requests a warm embrace.  In the grand scheme, these tender moments of closeness are rare.

20180307_074621I embrace the closeness and just smile.

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This Too Shall Pass

On a recent evening, as I was 4 minutes from finishing a choir rehearsal, I peeked down at my phone and noticed a text had come from my husband: “Please come home soon.  Thank u.”  I knew that meant something was awry with our baby girl.  So I scooped up my belongings and ran out, calling home the moment I left the building.

In a soft, near-whisper, my husband explained that our daughter had wailed at a volume, pitch and length he’d never heard.  Of course, just before I called, she finally fell asleep in his arms.  After a long day of work, he had spent his evening trying to soothe our daughter.  Dinner had been ordered, but when it arrived, he was concerned that if he moved the baby might wake and return to her previous state of distress, so he never answered the door.  I returned to my sweet, exhausted, hungry husband.

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It got me thinking of countless times in life when I felt worn to my wits end when relief finally arrived.  Sometimes I brought on the shift myself, sometimes I had no control over the situation, but the ancient Sufi wisdom seems pertinent in life so often: “this too shall pass away.” 

This weekend the 2nd Women’s March takes place all over the United States and the world.  After countless years of women being treated as second class citizens, a giant wave is rising that has united people to feel empowered to finally bring a new shift.  Voting rights were a start.  Laws about equal employment opportunities brought another new start.  #MeToo and the culture shift coming from it is not just visible, but tangible.  Even those with intellectual disabilities are getting to  tell their stories and finally be heard and believed.  All the world’s ills are not going to be fixed in one big sweep, but on a huge scale, it seems long-held cultural norms are  changing. womens-marcha-2018

With this in mind, I look down at my precious baby every day and feel optimistic about the world she will grow up in.  I remind myself to not worry about a hundred other good things I could, but choose to not do right now.  There have been and in the future will be plenty of opportunities to focus more heavily on my career and have a cleaner house.  The stage to nourish my baby from my own body, snuggle her for hours and cover her in hundreds of kisses is short lived, so I am taking full advantage.

I remind myself the time for countless hugs and kisses is limited, so too is the length of every melt down and other trying stage we encounter.  Each moment passes, the painful and the precious.  So I embrace the joy and take deep breaths with a mind focused on movement when times seem harder than I have the strength to get through.  And life goes on.

What is hard right now?  

How can you create movement through it?

What experiences do you want to truly embrace in your life right now?

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Sharing Stories

Who doesn’t love a good story?  We read, watch, tell, sometimes even write them down.  Our tale-telling spans from the personal experience to the farthest fetched imaginings.  I have yet to find someone who has no interest in stories of any kind.  But for some reason, it was not until recently that I came to appreciate the need we all have to share our stories.  

 

It was a sunny Tuesday morning in late September, I was 41 weeks pregnant and noticed clear liquid dripping from my body….my water had broken.  waterbrokeThere was something else though.  A dark stain let me know that meconium was in my water, a sign that my baby might not be okay.  I texted my husband, who was in a meeting (with his remote job) just downstairs, that I thought my water had broken.  He was ecstatic.  I was in shock.

 

My preparation and hopes for a fully natural, peaceful, hypno-waterbirth did NOT come to fruition.  As most women will tell you, labor is no picnic…hahaha….. to say the least.  Due to the signs of fetal distress, I was constantly monitored, induced with medication, and unable to move nearly as freely as I had hoped.  epidural-is-magicalAll that being said, after feeling like a ravenous beast was devouring my internal organs for 9 hours, the midwife checked and found I was only 2-3 centimeters dilated (i.e. this state could have potentially continued for days).   Immediately and shamelessly I requested an epidural and 8 hours later had the most beautiful, peaceful birthing experience I could have imagined.

For a couple of weeks after my daughter’s birth, I felt an overwhelming sense that I needed to share the experience in great detail with people.  It mattered.  Not to everyone I talked with, but it mattered to me and with each telling, I seemed able to process my experience a little more fully and feel more settled and comfortably distant from it.

 

About six weeks after becoming a mother, I finally got to visit a friend who had given birth just a day after I had, and in the same hospital no less!  I had been so eager to hear her birth story, and originally really wanting to share mine as well.  By the time we finally got together, the details of my own experience seemed far less significant.  My friend, however, was still in a place in which she grew lively recalling her own birthing time.  birthing-reality

 

It was in this moment that I fully realized how important it is that we give people the space to share their stories, and truly listen with care and curiosity.  

 

I was reminded of experiences with my beloved Grandma Laurie and “Bumpa”, my step-grandfather.  They were both storytellers: my grandma loved to share family history.  She was an avid genealogist who travelled the world to meet distant relatives she discovered.  I’m talking across oceans to meet 3rd cousins twice removed.  The woman was one of a kind!  Bumpa, on the other hand, shared stories of his dust bowl era upbringing on a farm in Kansas.  Their stories were so different, but the common factor was their love to recount these tales.  

dust-bowl

Whether you are a lover of sci-fi films, news junkie, or any other type of story-telling, I hope the next time you have a story on your mind, you will share it.  And when you sit by a stranger on a bus or come home to your family after an exhausting day, I wonder if you will make space to truly listen to those who are ready to share.

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We all have a story to tell.

 

Pregnancy’s Butterfly Effect

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“Let everything go.  Allow your worries, your thoughts, your anxieties to float away and for a few moments, just be here in this moment.”  How many times do we hear this yoga jargon in classes, especially the opening and while lying in Savasana?  I remember listening to similar cues in a class about a month ago and thinking, “I have a baby growing inside of me.  I am a mother now and no longer have the luxury of completely releasing because this little person is a part of me and my actions impact another now.

Long ago my mother started to teach me about how my actions had consequences that impacted other people, but growing a human inside and realizing -this body is not just attached on the outside of me with skin around it that attaches us, but truly growing in the center of my being- did my perspective take a huge shift in what parenting will entail.

As I began to think more and more about this idea that what I do can have significant impacts on another is certainly not a new concept, but it just brought up this idea with greater magnitude.

A few examples:

The substances I put in my body (food, drinks, and if I were to choose, other substances…you know, like gum) impacts my energy level, my moods, clarity of thought, lifespan, self-image and even health.  This can impact my productivity, relationships with others, and availability to work or engage.  How often do we think about these things as the fork covered with salad or the wonderful smelling donut is going in?  

colorful-salad

As you get dressed and prepped for your day, how often do you look in the mirror and ask: what do I want my appearance to say about the type of person I am and does this appearance communicate who I really am: be it confident, professional, warm and gentle, a lover of the earth, etc?

Do you set plans or goals for years, months, weeks, or each day that help you spend time being and becoming ever more who you really want to be in the grand scheme: whether this includes the types of relationships you invest in, service, professional, physical or educational pursuits?  Are you living in a way that truly makes you happy?

For this little window of pregnancy, I have the opportunity to be pulled into a vacuum of reminders that if I don’t eat frequently enough (or the right foods), it makes a more significant impact than  I realized – i.e. nausea, waking up in the middle of the night, random impulses to cry, etc.  This is preparation for remembering the importance of regularly feeding the little person who is about to come out and be a very significant part of my world for the rest of my life.

We don’t always have such blunt reminders in front of us that say: “Your actions directly and indirectly impact others!” But they do.  The words we speak and how we express them can be a pivot point in another’s day- and how many others can a grumpy or very cheerful person impact: from how they drive, to glances, to words they share with the people around them? dadreadtochild

Do you sit down to watch a tv show (that will inevitably suck you into at least 2 more) after work tonight or walk your dog who is already harassing you to get outside?  Do you tell your kids to go play so you can catch up on emails after dinner or spend a few minutes reading and maybe singing with them before the bedtime routine begins?  Do you check another gossip column online or call an old friend who has been on your mind lately?

We have so many choices every day and while we can’t see most of the consequences, we can remind ourselves that each choice makes a difference.  So even if your most recent decision wasn’t one of your best, you always have the next one to make more of the impact you want to share with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Want to Be a Mother

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Did you grow up wanting to be a mother?  I used to think that deep down, every woman felt most fulfilled through motherhood, but I now realize it is some people’s callings and many of us do not feel that way.  I respect every woman who is honest with herself, and even more so, those who find joy in the journey, whether it is what you hoped for or not.

I grew up in a home with a mother who started very young- only 20 years old when she welcomed me into the world.  She was married and had a husband who tried to be supportive, but it was a constant struggle.  They did the best they could, raised our family with lots of love, laughter and tears, and yet for some reason I wanted to grow up and follow in my mother’s footsteps.

My twenties came and went with a 7+ year marriage I thought meant parenthood was joyfully imminent.  Instead it was painfully placed at bay, but looking back, I could not be more grateful.  I matured, studied child development and parenting for over a decade and had countless opportunities to help parents and children form happier, communicative, calmer homes.

As the next decade of life rolled in, I made a huge shift- let go of the marriage that wasn’t serving either of us, moved across country, switched jobs, made new friends, reconnected with family and passed up the Ph.D. path to find something equally fulfilling and hopefully less stressful.  I met my wonderful husband, we went through a lot together in only 2 years, but what gave me peace was seeing that every transition and rough patch, and we’ve been through some doozies, didn’t ruffle our feathers much.  We laugh things off, take naps when we need them, give each other space to develop uniquely, and love and make lots of time to be together.  I found and invest each day in the relationship I always dreamed of, so naturally, my long-held dream of parenting rekindled.

It seems this earth sign (Taurus) gal just needed a solid foundation for all the ducks to line up in a row.  In early December I finished yoga training, then 2 weeks later my husband and I bought a house.  Quicker than ever before, I nested into the new haven to welcome guests, host holiday parties, and bring light and love into a space one friend said felt like “a big, warm hug.”

Well, the holiday treats came- and stayed in superfluous left-overs until I had to throw out some of the pie I kept eating for breakfast and thought was making me feel less than great.  But feeling “off” continued and was accompanied by waking regularly in the middle of the night-not regular for me, emotional waves of feeling weepy for no reason, and just overall lethargy.  My husband didn’t notice the time for my period came and went, without coming.  After the roller coaster of last year, I was far from eager to take a pregnancy test.  I waited until 40 days without flowing to take it. Lo and behold-it was positive.  I had debated for weeks: do I tell my husband if it comes out positive?  When?  How?  With all the cool finesse of Anne Hathaway’s gawky Princess Diaries character, I just left the test on the bathroom sink, knowing it could be 8 hours before my hubby saw it.

30 minutes later he happened to roam in that direction. I just kept folding laundry, nervous, with no idea what he’d say.  “So this is a thing?” came wafting from the loo.  “I guess so” awkwardly replied.  We slowly, cautiously talked, celebrated, and have enjoyed the ever-changing adventure of baby-growing unfold over the past mont and a half.

After telling one of my brothers “the news”, he and I met at a local diner to catch up.  It was a heartwarming and dynamic conversation, as I always find our interactions to be, but particularly interesting on this occasion as we discussed parenting.  About a year and a half ago, he and his partner became parents- as I see it, very nobly, through first fostering, then eventually adopting a child.

Amid our many conversations topics, he asked me about a desire I’ve always to which he could not relate:

“Why do you want to have a baby?”  

I was a little surprised- having considered, but never been asked before.  My initial thought was, I just always have.  It could be engendered through strong cultural messages I’ve received since birth, or perhaps it is part of my dharma, but motherhood, including growing, birthing and raising children has always been something I’ve desired, with the support of a loving partner- found!    

I find it absolutely amazing that my body has the potential to grow another human- if you want a wonderful comedic break to get a mini lecture on the miracle of birthing, check out Jim Gaffigan’s stand up sketch on 4 kids.   As I’ve studied over the years about the significance diet, emotions, thoughts, and activity level of a mother can have in the first few months of a yet-to-be-born child’s life, I find it the ultimate, beautiful opportunity to give a human the best possible start to life.  Then raising a child- the ultimate social experiment- in challenge, learning about love and selfless giving.  I spent 15 years refining my diet, lifestyle, and even relationships to create the best possible incubator for a little one.  I’m far from perfect and my activity level since pregnancy commenced has significantly declined (I don’t have the energy, let alone feel well enough to do 10-15 hours of yoga and jog/walk 6-10 miles a week right now).  I do the best I can, even when that is just drinking water, eating crackers, and walking my dog halfway down the block daily.  I think every parent does the best they can.  So today I honor parents, mothers, and every woman – for doing your best, owning who you are, and hopefully finding the love for yourself you absolutely deserve.

And if you, like me, have a little “Snowflake” on the way, I wish you peace, comfort, and joy in the journey as well!

 

Simple Ways to Spread Love -S.O. not required

This time of year has always been special to me- whether I was a twitter-pated teen, a lonely “Single-Awareness-Day” celebrator, or deeply in love, Valentine’s Day has always called to me.  In the years of early adulthood, it finally occurred to me that it need not be a time to mourn the freedom of being single or be a day of pressure for men.  I realized, that like childhood when I spent hours creating the most beautiful box and valentines to take to school, it can be a celebration of creativity and sharing kind feelings for anyone in your life (self-included).  So whether you are 15 or 55, single or partnered, here are some ideas to get your creativity going to enjoy a day of love.

 

Bake and Share Cookies      cookies

Have you been meaning to meet your neighbors and haven’t found the right ice-breaker?  Or maybe you have a couple of kids you know would love to be reminded how sweet they are.  Give a plate of treats to someone and just let them know you are thinking of them or want to be their friend.

 

Write a Note of Appreciation

When was the last time you emailed your sister just to tell how awesome she is?  Have you recently told your dad how you appreciate something special he did with you growing up?  Take 5 minutes to send a card, email, or even hand-written letter to someone who has touched your life.

dogwalkingWalk Your Dog

This may sound like an odd one.  However, speaking from experience, for those of us pooch-loving pet owners who sometimes get so busy that by mid-week that we short-change our furry friends with extra short outdoor visits, especially in the middle of winter, this can be great.  Give your pet an extra-long walk to show him or her some love, while gifting yourself with some exercise, fresh air, and if you get out while the sun is still up, a healthy dose of immune-boosting Vitamin D.  

Take Someone a Meal or a Cup of Tea

Do you know anyone who is sick, has a new baby, or is going through a really stressful time at work?  Make an extra portion, grab an extra coffee when you order one, or hand the homeless person on the corner a $5 gift card to a nearby cafe.  

Heart Attack Someone (the paper kind)

paper_heart_attackI remember going out with friends on a few occasions to cut out paper hearts, then tape them all over someone’s door with little notes of how the person was appreciated and loved. Years later, while leaving for work one day, I saw a beautiful display of hearts attached to skewers that sprawled the lawn of my apartment complex.  I was shocked and touched when I curiously went to see who they were for and found my name written on one of the hearts.  Trust me, this one is both fun to create and touching to receive.

There are so many ways to experience and express love.  It may, but doesn’t necessarily need to be romantic.  Just showing love for humanity can be simple AND make someone’s day.  So go ahead and fill someone’s heart with joy -you may notice that a certain “someone” will end up including you!

 

Allowing Time to Grieve

 

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Disclaimer: today’s post is unfiltered.  I try to keep things tactful, upbeat and relatable to as many people as possible.  But today I just want to be open.  Today I’m experiencing my third miscarriage- and it sucks -to say the least.

Apparently about 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, which means a lot of people can relate: women who have wanted a baby, women who were terrified to learn they were pregnant (me the first time around 10 year ago), perhaps you had an abortion and felt great pain, fear or loss through that. Then there are you men who may have been in similar boats in terms of facing fatherhood.  It is definitely different -not experiencing all these changes in your body- but losing a child pre-term is something a lot of us have experienced, so today I am speaking to loss, and for me it is in this way, unapologetically indiscreet.

For those of you who know this pain, my heart is with you: broken, open, raw and wrapped around you.  In the past month I have been touched by the connection I’ve experienced and witnessed with my classmates who have shared very real heartbreak of various kinds.  In the process I realized I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep things looking pristine and perfect- exactly what I loathed as an adolescent and preteen.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to stay positive and keep things upbeat.  Generally I am really happy, but that’s not the case in this moment.

Today I’m grateful for a blue sunny sky out my window, for my cuddly dog, Naya, who patiently waited for me to finish cleaning my yoga mat with my salty tears before comforting me with her compassionate kisses and cuddles.  I’m grateful for the surprise love note my husband left for me on our laptop, for salad, dark chocolate and fruit.  For the chance to be self aware enough that I notice the subtle changes in my body.  pinkroseAnd I’m grateful to know that although today is hard and I feel pretty shitty, there are many days behind and hopefully ahead full of joy and feeling better -physically and emotionally.

So when you have a day, a week, a month or season of life that you feel shitty, I’m sorry.  It’s okay to own it.  I hope you’ll still find some things to be grateful for and remember not every day is just like today.

Today I send you my love and hope for a happier tomorrow.

Grit: The Beauty of Overcoming

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

Maya Angelou

While heading home late on Christmas Eve, I asked my driver: “What inspires you?”  He thought for a moment, then answered: “Stories of overcoming.”  That was it! I thought to myself.  That is what makes this holiday so significant.  That is what  draws people to reality shows like Biggest Loser, or even the title of Survivor speaks to what is accomplished, and the dramas are all about skilled people who overcome one challenge after another.  We find hope for humanity in witnessing success after a difficulty.

Consider the story of Rudy, the classic tale of a young man who has a dream, a love, a great flaw, but he perseveres unflinchingly until his dream of playing football at Notre Dame comes true.

To be honest, I always questioned how this story was so loved because it focused on supporting someone’s dream that seemed (to me) pointless because, let’s face it, Rudy never became a great player.  But maybe that’s the whole point I’ve been missing.  Maybe pursuing a dream isn’t just inspiring because someone becomes great.  I wouldn’t want children to only try in classes that they are going to earn A’s.  Growth and strength tend to develop through the experience, the practice, the journey, not the ending point.  These trying moments along life’s path are what increase what is being called “grit.”  Author Paul Tough points out that psychologists list grit as one of the most important characteristics of successful individuals.  They may not be highly successful at everything they try, but those failures and challenges that are part of the human experience are what develop happier people, individuals who have learned how to overcome difficulties (http://ideas.time.com/2012/09/05/why-grit-is-more-important-than-grades/).

Today’s helicopter parenting techniques prevent this development.  Parents trying to sway a teacher or even college professor’s grade selection for their child doesn’t exactly help a child learn about his or her own merit.  I once learned that the mother of a job candidate (who had no connection to anyone at the school) called the office to encourage the director to hire her daughter.  Talk about an effort leading to the opposite result that parent desired!  If a parent picks up her child every time he falls, how are his legs ever going to be strong enough to get up and walk independently?

How will such a generation solve challenging problems at work or overcome difficulties in relationships?  How will it handle deep questions like: Do I truly make a difference in the world?” or “Am I doing enough?”  

A little piece of advice from the educator Dr. Maria Montessori :“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”  And for adults- may we try harder, stretch higher, and attempt to walk a few more difficult trails than ever before.

Here’s to a year of developing greater inner beauty and strength!