Friday, January 29, 2016

A few creative writing pieces...

Evidence - October 19, 2013 (1+years old)

As I pick up your toys from the day's adventures, and hear you talking yourself to sleep in the other room, I smile as each plaything goes back in the toy box. I live the day in reverse, thinking of all the fun we had. The coffee table, helter-skelter from being pushed aside to make room, the pillows carelessly strewn around your playhouse, perfect for wrestling, and crumbs from a recent snack attack are photographed in my mind, to keep forever. 
Righting the furniture to the original placement, sweeping up the crumbs, and turning the living room back into "public space," it occurs to me that the only evidence of our awesome day is the warm, expansive feeling in my heart and the tiredness in my body from pure play. 

In the beginning, your cries are high pitched and emergent
It's as if you don't think anyone is coming back for you

But y'see, we never leave your side. Even when our bodies are apart
we are always sending out mama and papa waves
telling you we're here

Then you get a little bit older and you learn about us coming back
you hear us in another room and turn to our voice

Your body grows and learns to locomote and you follow us around
always wanting us in your view
Like we always want you in ours.

When you sleep, we sneak peeks and cry about your sweetness

Then all of a sudden it happens...

We are always in the process of holding you close and letting you go
And you are always in the process of trusting our distance and expecting our return.

And when those tiny but strong legs learn to walk, we all know something new

We know this is another beginning of not only a phase, but of a separation.

We'll still always be there and you'll still always look,
and the invisible, but very palatable cords between all of our hearts,
will lengthen, but never weaken.

All of a sudden.

The flipside of letting go

It's been a few months and I've been on vacation and upon my return I bought a book that a friend recommended: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

In a hyphenated word, this book is, well, life-changing. The title is appropriate. In fact, it's life-changing AND magic. I read it quickly, but she has a few key points that turn things on their heads. Rather than de-cluttering and letting go with the idea of what you can part with, why not just keep what SPARKS JOY?
I'm sorry, what? Joy?! What do you mean? Well, to be fair, I know exactly what she means from studying energy, dowsing, and intuition for years, but I'm being dramatic.
Because this idea hadn't really occurred to me with regard to my stuff. Sure, many things I have in my home make me smile or remind me of good times, but sparking joy seems a lot different. She didn't say "Gives you a chuckle" or "Reminds you fondly." She wrote, "sparks joy."
While reading the book, I would put it down and look around my lovely house and think, "Crap, not much of this sparks joy."
I've always had the concept of usefulness and almost everything would stay because it *could* be useful *someday* and well, sometimes that day came, but MOST times it did not.

So what does this mean for me, I kept wondering. Would I need to touch every object in my home and ask if it sparked joy? Could I possibly do that? And would that work? Would it really magically change my life? Well, I'm planning my go-through days soon.

Marie Kondo says to do it all at once, and not over a longer period of time. And she says that you should just do it once, not over and over.

Just those two ideas alone are life-changing. I go through my clothes sort of about twice a year. I go through my books once a year or once every two years. 

Parenting while traveling...AKA extreme letting go

I recently did something that many people warned me about. They told me K was too young, that he wouldn't remember it, and that it will be hard. Don't call it a vacation, they said. Don't try to do too much, they cautioned.

Well, I did it. I took my three year old to Europe (Paris and Barcelona). My mother traveled with me and my younger brother at the same age, to far more dangerous countries, and she said that it was a great idea.

We went because the Universe conspired to arrange for us to go. I had the idea that I wanted to go to the Airbnb Open and it seemed like a pipe dream and yet, moment after moment seemed to clear away ALL the obstacles (include some financial obstacles AND in Paris, a terrorist attack!).

I love Europe. I love it in a way that I can't always explain. And J loves it too. So why not bring K, whom we also both love, to the place we both love?

Because you know this blog is about letting go, and you know by now that I always start out with grand ideas, you can assume that more grand ideas were laid to rest while abroad.

I thought my kid would sleep on the plane. I thought we'd be able to eat gluten free. I thought my kid would eat food other than the SAME food he eats at home. I thought he would be able to handle crazy hours, no naps, and long hours of walking (this was just my fault for not really understanding how much I walk in Europe---6-9 miles a day!).

That all faded as the trip went on. By the time we returned on the plane, I was more than comfortable allowing my kid to zone out for 10 hours (well, eight, because c'mon, he needed one nap!), he ate what he would eat, we carried him a lot more (because 9 miles of walking is a lot for anyone, especially ones with little legs), and the frequent outbursts and tantrums were just par for the course.

I had not planned on K pronouncing "croissant" in a French accent, or his playground radar to be so accurate (there are SO many playgrounds in the big European cities!), or his Metro/subway riding to become so adept. Relatively speaking, he was awesome. It was still hard for me to simply focus more on parenting than enjoying Europe, but for the most part, he went out late with us and got up early with us and marveled at the same things we did. We have initiated a world traveler.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Another Mama chimes in...

This is written by a good Mama friend of mine, Kristin Tuttle-Tomaschke. I haven't changed any part of it and other than this small intro, I have not weighed in. Perhaps I will comment down below if others chime in. Feel free!

Why we have to stop calling our sons, “All-boy”
When I first found out I was pregnant, I was immediately sure I was having a girl. My daughter. I remember walking down the street to the grocery store, talking to her in my mind, imagining the afternoons that we would make this walk together. We picked out a name very early on, even before we knew we were pregnant, and I called her by name in those first few weeks.
Months later, I was 30 weeks and very, very pregnant. Everything had changed- we had told everyone, facebook included, our spare room was piled with baby clothes and gear, and our bed was a mountain of extra pillows. We were weeks away from moving and one afternoon I sat on the floor, sorting things into boxes and watching movies. In one movie, I watched two dads adopt a little boy and felt a lurch in my stomach. I think this was the first time it occurred to me that yes, I could actually be the mom of a boy. That it really could happen, and it might. In the coming weeks, I flirted with the idea of having a boy, a son. That I could be that type of mom, that sporty, no-fuss, smart, savvy, mom-of-boys was outlandish to me, and kind of intriguing. In the throes of labor, moments before he was born I asked everyone in the room what they thought the baby would be. Everyone there said girl, including my husband. I said boy.
On September 17th 2012, our son, Julian Rex was born. Two years and three weeks later, our second son Ambrose Aldan slipped quietly into the world to join him. I am the mother of sons. Whatever that means, whatever it says about me and my husband, who we are, who we should try to be- that’s us.
In college and even growing up, I had fantasized about what it would mean to raise a daughter, to teach her to be strong, loud, bold, large. To challenge the status quo, to learn how to sew, to repair things, to move furniture, cook dinner, speak up for herself, use jumper cables, read a manual before calling the plumber. I read hungrily all the articles on avoiding body shaming, silencing, bullying etc. But then I had boys. At first, I told myself, “Just reset.” Okay, so I don’t have to teach those lessons. That’s okay; there are other mountains to conquer. There must be something important I can teach them about being tender and emotional maybe? About being friendly, making eye contact?
If you know my oldest son, you know that it is not untrue to call the way he carries and moves himself through life “barreling.” He was born early, came out like a shot, immediately seemed cool and together in his new world. Even as a baby, I knew him. He made an impression. If he could physically do something, he did it about 100 miles per hour. As a 3 year old, he hasn’t changed. He jumps into things, talks to anyone. He is daring, he is bold, he speaks up. If you get too handsy, he’ll knock you down. If you look at him too hard, he'll walk toward you and not stop until your faces are millimeters apart. He is bossy, he is direct. He pursues what he wants until he gets your answer.
And so it began, even at a tiny age. At the park, walking through the grocery store, at a play gym. “Boys, right?” “Wow, he is just all boy, isn’t he?” “Well, boys will be boys!” I never was quite sure what it meant. If he was hitting/pushing/being bossy was it his birthright? It certainly wasn’t okay. Was this our future, undoubtedly? What of the other boys in the room or at the park or in the shopping carts who weren’t like him, weren’t swiping at the cereal boxes and singing at the top of their lungs? If they weren’t “all boy” were they just “partial boys” or “not boys”? Speaking to that, what of my second son? Born almost two weeks late still in his water bag, Ambrose was cautious from the first. He is also brave, and can be so quick and ornery that I’m truly shocked, but he doesn’t barrel through the day. He watches. When someone takes his toy and runs away, he follows them, moves around the front of them and bends down to look in their eyes. He mimics his brother, loves to run naked, sings from the back seat. He’s hilarious. His sense of humor- even at 16 months- has nuance. When they’re together, people just say it of both of them, “Goodness, they’re all boy, aren’t they?”
Except that they aren’t. To hear my mom tell it, Julian as a toddler is just like me. Youngest of three girls, I recall growing up my two older sisters’ ability to grace a room, to wait, to be shy and interesting. They were both very thin, and very curly haired- a kind of delicacy that could be utilized, and one that I never had. And though we spent countless rowdy, playful imaginative days together, they had a kind of reserved nature that I could never quite get a hold of. They were loud, and funny and full of energy to be sure, but they could turn it off, if and when they wanted. Restraint, a kind of brilliant, sparkling poise. Whereas I was noise, and elbows and round edges, big feet, and LOUD. Ceaseless in conversation and movement. I was Julian, or rather, he is just like me. For a while, when folks would exclaim, “he is all boy!” I might retort, “Actually, I think he’s all Mama!”
The other day we were at the park together, Julian, Ambrose and myself. We found a magical little hut there in the forested area of the park, intricately woven of fallen limbs and Julian immediately climbed inside. He played Star Wars (though he doesn’t really know what that is). He had me come inside, then kicked me out again. He wanted Ambrose to come in, beckoned him, wanted him out. He found a stick, it was a sword, he hit his brother; it turned into a wand, and I turned into a unicorn. “Now DING, Ambrose is a unicorn, and DING, I am a unicorn, and DING you are a unicorn. Mama, we’re all UNICORNS!” As he spoke he leaped from a stump onto the ground, his hand-me-down pink sparkly high tops glinting in the sun.
What do we mean when we say, “all-boy”? I don’t know for sure (and perhaps this is the most worrisome part), but I have some suspicions of what the average person means, and I don’t think I’m wrong: Loud. Aggressive. Bold. Dauntless. Confident. Risk-taking. Messy. Energetic. Self-reliant.
When I look at my son, I can understand why you might say that about him. He is, in moments, all of those things. But, you see, I don’t want to miss him, and of all my mom fears, this is, perhaps, the greatest one. The more I tell myself who my son is or even who I want him to be, the more I fear I will miss the reality, the more complicated, more messy, more beautiful truth. His favorite colors are pink and purple. He loves fairies, ponies, mermaids, ballerinas, princesses. He uses a stick more often as a magic wand than as a gun. His favorite animals are the babies. He loves his toy trucks- and one day I caught him cuddling one in bed, and telling it, it’s birth story. Sometimes things scare him. When the train fell over the edge in Inside Out, he sobbed. If we have to leave a beloved toy behind, usually some kind of car/train/truck, he says he doesn’t want to because, “He’s my best friend!” A few weeks ago he pretended he had a baby. He carried it in his belly, it was born, it was a girl, named Frisbee, and it went to bed with him every night to nurse.
As I watch my second son, still a baby, grow, I don’t want to miss him, either. He is cautious, but watch out, that kid can go from clingy to 3 blocks away in a half second. He is reserved and watchful, but he can be breath-takingly loud when he wants. And sometimes, he does. And here’s the real danger, and the reality that came crashing down on me that day in the park watching Julian go from storm trooper to purple unicorn faster than you can say “Twilight Sparkle”:
I don’t really get to teach my sons what it means to be a girl. They don’t have a sister, their niece is thousands of miles away. They play with plenty of girls, but I’m not those girls’ parents. The closest I come to teaching them what a girl is, and the best I can do at shaping the way they interact with women in the future, is by teaching them about themselves. If being a boy means being loud, aggressive, bold, dauntless, confident, risk-taking, messy, energetic, and self-reliant than what am I teaching them about girls? That girls are quiet, passive, meek, shy, insecure, risk-averse, tidy, reserved, needy.
I LOVE the number of articles I’ve seen passed around lately about how to teach your daughter, and to support all the young girls you know. About how to talk loudly and assertively in meetings as an adult woman. About how to carefully examine the way we hear our female leaders. But I keep waiting for the article that says that how we talk to and about our boys matters just as much, and for the same reason. I haven’t seen it yet, so I thought I would write it myself: Parents, grand-parents, friends: we *have* to stop telling our sons that they are “all-boy” unless we radically clarify and redefine the term. At best, we miss out on the complexity of what it does mean to be a boy; at worst, on what it means to be a human.
If you know my son, you know he doesn’t hesitate to tell you what he’s thinking. As I watch him fly around the room- he’s a bat, he’s Stella Luna, he’s hunting, now he’s sleeping- I know and I love this about him: He is, without a doubt, all-Julian. This is the most I could ever want for him. This is the most I could ever hope for our children.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Letting go allows me to do more...

I go to regular therapy, every other week. I go like people go to the gym (only, every other week works better for mental health than phys health, right?). I need to keep my mental and emotional health fit.
Last night I was sharing that yesterday's "bad day" didn't make me feel like a piece of s**t, like it usually does. I usually take myself "out back" and flog myself when I make too many mistakes. It can be pretty emotionally violent up in my head. :(
But I messed up several things and low and behold, no one fired me, yelled at me, gave me a demerit (no, people don't do this anymore, I guess), or told me I was a horrible person. And I guess, for once, I followed suit. I didn't do that to myself, either. I worked out a plan to fix the mistakes, I mea culpa'd where necessary, and finished the day.

I shared that in therapy because it was strange. I usually come in and try to dig deep into why I made all those mistakes...and many times I blame myself (inappropriately) for not knowing, not paying attention, not being good enough, etc.
Recently, I've been taking SMALL steps (this book helped me start doing that) to commit to my creative endeavors. Prior to taking small steps, I have been paralyzed with fear about wasting time and not creating something worthwhile.
Listening to the part of me that liked the smart, small steps plan from the book, Just Start, I actually ended up starting a podcast AND deciding on a direction for my next book. Aha! Progress! Movement! Concrete steps!

And then my therapist brilliantly reflected, "It seems that letting go is allowing you to do more..." I've been trying to get to THAT (doing more, releasing more of my creative talents into the world) for a long time. And letting go was the KEY. In order to commit, I needed to LET GO. Normally, I am not about creative commitment because I am afraid of making a mistake in the commitment (bad idea, bad direction, no one cares about it, I'm nothing unique/original, on and on...).

This time, with the commitment, I just told myself that smart, small steps would allow me to commit incrementally and then if I must change directions, I would do so when it made the most sense. If it didn't make sense, then I wouldn't have to change directions. I was trying to see the end before I started. Ack.

Anyway, I have a lot more to say on this, that I have recently discovered about myself and I encourage you to get the book, to think about small, smart steps in the direction of your desires, and how letting go can help you do more.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

"Dear Mom of the Difficult Kid"

From Stuff Moms Say..."Dear Mom of the Difficult Kid"

This was nice to read. I am learning with Every.Single.Thing. regarding my kid that I am always taking the road less traveled. He's intense. He's talkative (like non-stop, from waking til passing out..and sometimes IN HIS SLEEP). He smacks me hard in the face when he's angry. Calls me names. I had to use my corporate assessment test to remind myself that I am creative, strategic, his world is no more complicated than mine, and I am still alive. So we can do this. Sloppily at times. Horribly at times. Wonderfully brilliant at times. I do not have a heart of steel. I have a part of the Divine Heart, that must bear witness to the craziness of the world, that my son picks up so easily, as an empath. I am not alone. My kid is not alone. You are not alone.

Now, I know my kid might read all this that I write about my life with him. And I want to be clear that I don't think of him with the label "Difficult Kid." That was the author of the article, linked above. My kid is simply my kid. He looks difficult at times, but he's all I know, really. And it is difficult for me, but that doesn't make HIM difficult. I know, it might be semantics, but it's important. He's himself. This is all he knows too!

He feels deeply. His curiosity is unparalleled (I do not know another child like him in that regard). His language, not just his vocabulary, but the way he forms thoughts, sentences, ideas, analogies, is complicated. He stumps me often. His reasoning is beyond my comprehension sometimes. The only way to prepare for a kid like him is to HAVE a kid like him. So me raising him is my bootcamp, my immersion, my intensive. 

The cliche that parenting is the hardest work you'll ever love is appropriate. I have suffered more acutely, for shorter amounts of time. My heart has broken prior to this kid entering my life. More than ever, a more appropriate cliche is that Life is Suffering. To be in my life, the way I am now, is to experience the suffering of being separated from the Divine. My kid brings me back to that Divine everyday. Whether directly through my experience with and of him or indirectly through my reflection of who I am and who I want to be. Parenting this beautiful child reminds me how hard things can be. And also, how simple they are, too. He goes from 30-60 in 3 seconds. I GET that. I am able to control the impulse (sometimes) to scream at the top of my lungs, to froth at the mouth from something not going the way I planned, and to smack the closest person to me, regardless of how much they love me, but that took a while. I just get it.

So K came to me to remind me. We're complicated. We're intense (ask anyone who knows me...). We developed ways of being in the world to deal with that. I'm just witnessing K's learning about how to cope. It WILL change, I know it will. Because it already has.

So dear parents of kids living in the world, being present, suffering what it is to be human, keep going. Your kids may not tell you right now, but they are internalizing your compassion, your willingness, your growth. Even if they see how hard it is for you, that helps, too. They learn how to handle themselves from watching you. Even when K sees me fly off the handle (and boy, does he ever sometimes...), he ALSO sees me acting calm when he flips out. He sees me take breaks. He sees me set boundaries about what I can handle. He sees me lean on my friends. He sees me laugh, he sees me care for myself. I gotta believe that sticks too.


My favorite baby

My inspiration

My inspiration