Tag Archives: Love

Month Three: The End of the Fourth Trimester

The first three months of a baby’s life are often called the fourth trimester. As Eloise approaches three months of age, I now understand why. I knew she would need me close, but I had no idea how much I would also need her. Turns out sharing a body does not end quickly. However, with each passing day, little pieces of her independence (and mine) are beginning to shine through.

I can feel the fourth trimester closing.

Sure, she still needs me and I still need her, but she is beginning to look around, to turn her head and follow other people around the room. The colic has mysteriously disappeared in the last week and now I am able to put her to sleep around 9PM, leaving me with a couple hours untethered. Instead of the sleepy bundle, she is now alert and in search of external stimulation, babbling a mystical language I wish I could understand.

Our newborn has become a baby.

Happy, sleepy girl.

Happy, sleepy girl.

During my pregnancy and the early days of her life, I gobbled up literature on attachment parenting. I envisioned myself floating around the house with my sweet baby in a variety of baby carriers. I imagined harmonious co-sleeping. It all seemed so natural. But Eloise was not like the babies Dr. Sears describes. She demanded to be close but only tolerated her carriers for short stretches at specific times of day. She slept fitfully beside me but peacefully in her bedside bassinet for the majority of the night.

While strategic use of the carriers and a few hours of co-sleeping each morning have been integral to our first few months, they have not dominated our time together in the way I expected. Instead, she has mostly preferred to be directly in my arms, forcing me to get creative about housework and other tasks. At first I fought it, but then I settled into holding her much of the day, acutely aware of the fleeting time this would last.

Month three has heightened my awareness of time. She has transformed from a tiny newborn in premie jammies to a baby who suddenly fits her three-month clothes. There are only two more inches between her feet and the edge of the bassinet. She now throws her body forward and from side to side to show you where she wants to go. Her eyes watch movement with the kind of envy that tells you she cannot wait to run and dance everywhere she goes.

There are just so many little things I don’t want to forget. Like her smelly little hands from shoving them in her milky mouth all the time, or when her grandfather drove her around for thirty minutes so we could watch her auntie’s scene in a play, or how I finally discovered a way to safely sleep while holding her in my big blue chair. I want to tell her someday how her grandmother walked her through the Shasta forest, chanting like a monk because it was the only way to quiet her, and how her dog Odin would sleep with his body pressed up against the base of her basinet, ready to tell us when she stirred.

This month has sealed our bond. I loved her beyond words the moment I first saw her, but now I know her, too. Every time I put her down or let someone else take over, I marvel at her when she is in my arms again. My growing, changing daughter. Month three, while not always easy, has been powerful magic.

I had no idea bliss could be so simple.

Attachment parenting at work during colic hour in Mt. Shasta.

Attachment parenting at work during a bout of colic in Mt. Shasta.

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Thankfulness Thursday: Four Years Married.

So little time, in the grand scheme of things, but still a world away from where we started. In the spirit of Thankfulness Thursday, I am grateful for four years of marriage to my best friend of more than a decade. I know it might be a used term of endearment, but it is true. Without our deep friendship, none of the rest would matter.

And, as excited as I was to walk down the aisle four years ago today, I am even more excited about what lies ahead. Life may be unpredictable, as the last couple weeks have reminded us, but it is also deserving of faith in the future. Tonight, I put my trust in life, love, and gratitude.

Wedding

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Melancholy Lessons on Love & Life

Today I held a weeping child at recess. He said he lost his best friend, his grandmother, a year ago. I seldom let a child hug me like family. This kid needed it, so I allowed him be loved and cry. He held on tight and I held on tighter. Maybe I needed the hug too. When I let go, I asked him if he wanted to talk to our school counselor. He said, “No, that was all I needed.”

Our classroom family talked about loss today. A different child suffered the kind of loss that stabs for a lifetime. He was not at school, so we talked about how to treat him when he returns. The counselor prepped me on what to say, but I was not prepared for the torrent of grief unleashed by so many other memories of sadness. Little boys, so tough, puddles of tears. So much loss for so few years.

One child raised her hand and offered some advice. She said, “This reminds us to go home and love our families because we don’t know how long they’ll be here.” She said it with conviction and without tears. The others nodded. Our day went on, the tears dried, recess lightened the mood. At the end of the afternoon, we signed a card for our missing student.

As I read the words after school, I was touched. So much empathy and encouragement. Talk of a classroom family, here for him upon his return, ready to listen, “to be his brother.” There is no changing the grief life brings, but there is our ability to be there for one another, to feel gratitude for each day, and for each other. A melancholy post, perhaps, but it makes me grateful for the lessons my children bring and for the overwhelming goodness inside each of them.

Thank goodness for love and family, blood and otherwise.

So much gratitude for love and family, blood and otherwise.

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To Love Me…

To love me is to love quiet, time spent deep inside of thoughts. I often retreat into myself, thinking, thinking, thinking. As a kid, some days I would disappear, still present but without words. I do the same thing now. When summer comes, I climb inside my laptop and write. My husband is patient for me to come up for air, to talk, to notice, to be. He understands this is part of me.

I made a rule for summer. Night is free from writing, free from technology, save a few minutes here or there if something important arises. Otherwise, I’d be gone for days and nights, but still here, in my chair, trapped in thought.

I’m getting better at balancing introvert with extrovert, but quiet is my natural habitat and summer is my friend.

Is it the same for all writers? Or, are some of you the other way around, more outside than in?

Solitude.

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Thankfulness Thursday: Yoga & Healing

Life is choices. This week I chose yoga and reading over writing.

I finally ordered Anatomy of the Spirit and devoured as much as I could after work. I highly recommend this book. For years I have heard people talk about not wanting to give their energy to this or that… I finally get it. We can learn to control the flow of energy in and out of our bodies. Our health depends on it. This book is a blessing.

So much good stuff in life, so few hours in the day...

So much good stuff in life, so few hours in the day…

I also am grateful for yoga and dusk walks with my husband and dogs. My focus on healing is monopolizing my evenings, but there is a peace and calm that comes with this. I want to write more, but I need balance. Just thirty minutes on the computer a day is liberating. Summer will come soon enough.

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Women: We Could Learn from Our Men

I am sure you have already seen these clips before. The first is the real thing, the second is a parody. Women are asked to describe themselves and focus on their weaknesses. Men are asked to do the same thing and overplay their strengths. While both offer an unbalanced self-image, I think we women have something to learn from our beloved male counterparts. A little self-love could do us some good.

A friend sent me both these clips a couple weeks ago, I watched and laughed (and cried) and then moved on. However, the messages stuck with me. Out at dinner with friends, a girlfriend and I noticed how our husbands like to talk themselves up, “I’m great at… One of my strengths is…” We laughed because we never go around giving lists of our positive qualities to each other.

Maybe we should start.

 

 

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My grandmother and I are connected by books

I always wanted to be closer to my grandmother while I was growing up. She lived far away and we usually saw her on holidays, when the house was full of people competing for her attention. I was the youngest granddaughter. I know she loved me, but there was a lot going on, not to mention the fact that I was always chasing after my older cousins instead of hanging out in the kitchen, where you could find her.

I have this memory of sitting in the back seat of her car, my grandfather driving in LA traffic after we left Disneyland. It was hot and my little brother was in the seat next to me, probably making annoying noises. My grandparents bickered loudly in the front seat– the traffic, Disneyland, the heat, children, each undoubtedly testing their nerves. I think I learned a few new adult words that day. Still, I was somehow comforted by the predictability of their squabbles. Love was never missing. Even then I admired her fire.

As an adult, we finally spent time together, alone. We took a drive to Southern California to visit relatives and she told me all the secrets to our family tree– the Native American blood, the car accident that stopped their Western migration in Bakersfield of all places during the Dust Bowl, the hard work of all the women in our family on farms and in factories to keep the household afloat. She spoke openly about relationships and loss, her three big loves in this life each gone before her.

My mother bought her a book of questions to answer for her granddaughter, me. She filled them out lovingly and gave me the book of her words before I got married. I will always cherish the beautiful arches of her cursive, the unexpected memories from her childhood revealed in her shaky pen. The day of my wedding, she and my mother carefully hand-crafted a beautiful dragonfly out of beads to put on my bouquet. Even if sometimes there was not a sea of words between us, she has always shown her love through actions– cleaning, cooking, painting, sewing, creating. I get that now. As a child I thought closeness required more words.

Now there are more words. Today I returned my grandmother’s phone call, to see if she would ride up to my mom’s with me for Mother’s Day. I sent her Cheryl Strayed’s Wild as an early birthday gift. Just three days since it arrived, she is already halfway done. We spent most of the time on the phone chatting about Cheryl’s journey. We both call her that, Cheryl, as though we know her on a first-name basis. My grandmother cannot get over Cheryl’s courage. We both are haunted by her memories before the Pacific Crest Trail, especially the scene with her mother’s horse, Lady.

There is a part in the book where Cheryl reaches Kennedy Meadows, and that is the point where I knew I had to send my grandmother the book. It is a place she has told me about many times, but I could not place when or why. The first thing she told me on the phone, “You know, we used to go up to Kennedy Meadows all the time– your Grandpa Don and I lived near there, you know.” I did not even tell her that was why I sent the book.

My grandmother, 81 on Monday, and I are connected by books. Every time I finish one I especially love, I send it to her. She has read Middlesex and A Thousand Splendid Suns, never off-put by the complexities of life, but intrigued in very much the same way I am. I thought about this today, how much I love that we share our secret world of written words, how even fifty-one years apart, we both devour good books ravenously.

The first time I decided to send her a book, I hesitated, uncertain she would like the same things I do, worried I might somehow offend her with the brashness of my taste in literature. To my great relief, she loves my favorite stories too. I should have known. She still has a lot of fire.

Our grandmother on her 80th birthday last year in Bodega Bay. I'm proud to say I made the birthday crown!

My cousin and I with our grandmother, on her 80th birthday last year in Bodega Bay. I am proud to say I made her birthday crown in very much the same fashion she has made so many things for me over the years.

I look forward to our drive in May. She requested we talk more about Wild. I cannot wait. I am grateful we found a way to exchange more words than can ever be spoken aloud, that our shared love of books has helped us know one another more deeply than I ever expected.

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Thankfulness Thursday: To be here.

The past few weeks have been strange. School has consumed me. Writing has taken a back seat, too mentally drained to do anything after work other than walk the dogs, eat, read, sleep. Life feels slow and fast at once, wonderful and exhausting, tragic and beautiful, meaningful but at moments empty, too.

Today I woke up happy. I went to school happy. I kept calm through hissing, cursing, an impossible phone wait time for mandatory reporters. I laughed as the school gate refused to open, all I wanted was to be home, escape the heavy cloud that sometimes tries to settle over my classroom. Ignore the cloud and it evaporates, I remind myself with a smile.

Last night I finished Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which cemented her place on my author crush list. Tiny Beautiful Things moved me to tears. Wild made me want to sleep under the stars, left me in awe of her courage, honesty, heart. Tonight, there is an emptiness where the book existed in my evenings. Those last words stuck to me, pushing me to imagine my past, present, and future selves all sitting on this couch, connected but strangers.

Ever since I was a little girl, one question has permeated my thoughts.

What’s the point of all this?

Yesterday and today, three words have rung through my being more strongly than anything before.

To be here.

That’s enough. I feel it, I know it, I just need to always remember it. Goes pretty nicely with the three words my husband just taped to our refrigerator.

No more someday.

I am grateful, I am alive. Nothing is perfect but everything is still somehow beautiful. I leave you with a clip I enjoyed tonight (that coincidentally features one of my favorite songs) and a picture that reminds me to be here, because even as I type, I am overwhelmed with love.

I'm surprised the Photo Booth flash doesn't wake him...

Not even the Photo Booth flash or my typing will disturb him… He’s present and a constant source of love.

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Week 30: Mrs. M, do you think love sucks?

He used to hide under his desk when I would call on him, afraid to feel the eyes of his neighbors. It would take a few minutes to get a response. He would crawl out, head down, first whisper, mumble, then pause, then try again and again, protesting all the way. Finally, he would accept I was not giving up. We would wait for him. We were a classroom family, a safe place to speak. No opt out.

Now he raises his hand, speaks clearly, participates. Still, I remember those first weeks, months, maybe even that first entire year, so when I see his hand, I almost always stop and let him speak. This week we dissected pop songs to make generalizations about life and determine themes. Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” had them singing in unison as they took notes on their whiteboards, ready to defend their generalizations about life from the song.

A debate broke out, was she generalizing that love was bad? We decided songs fell into two camps, either love was grand or it sucked. I used that dreadful suck word for effect. Generally it is not allowed in our classroom, but artistic expression prevailed and it was the word that fit best. One quiet hand in the back row emerged, the boy who finally had a voice.

I nodded, he began timidly. “Mrs. M, do you think love sucks?”

A shy smile spread across his face. He earnestly wanted to know what I thought.

I paused, not sure what to tell him.

“No, I’m married, I think love is great, but I’m sure if I were ever divorced, I may think differently for awhile. I think it just depends on your life experiences.”

He looked a little relieved. I wanted to know what he thought, so I asked.

“I think love sucks.”

My heart twisted a bit, uncertain what experiences brought him to that opinion, the innocence of fifth grade love or something much, much deeper. Still I could not help but feel pride in his voice, his comfort of expression in front of us. It has been a long journey for him, for us, since that first day of fourth grade.

Week 30 is fifth grade 3/4 done. Three weeks until star testing. Two days of Doug Lemov training in Oakland, my heart remembering another life in the bay with Gregory Alan Isakov’s “San Francisco” playing from my car stereo. Inspiration from a room full of 200 educators all dead-set on closing the achievement gap for low-income kids. Role-playing and practice, practice, practice of the smallest teaching techniques, as I fought my own desire to crawl under the table and hide. The deep need to get back to my students, to perfect my practice, to help all students find their voice.

Last night as I drove past my old work on my way to meet a friend, I thought about how much my life has changed in the nearly three years since I quit. A friend from that job resigned yesterday, her excited email pushed my thoughts even further into that past life. It’s almost like a ghost of me still sits up in that shiny building, making a bit more money, but chained to a desk. I could see myself on the crosswalk headed home to our tiny Berkeley apartment. A piece of me is still there. I smiled though, as I drove by– excited by my two days of training, the person I have become since then, stronger and with a much louder voice.

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If You Need A Reminder

If you need a reminder of how precious life is today, click on these photographs. Not only do they tell the tragic story of a young woman’s fight against breast cancer, but they also show the love and compassion her husband felt for her. These are among the most touching photographs I have ever seen in my life. They capture the smallest details of pain, love, and courage. Each one tells a story.

I feel lucky to be alive, healthy, and ready to spend the day with family. I hope you do, too.

Life

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Thankfulness Thursday: Girl on Fire.

I am part of a generation often accused of being too self-entitled. While I agree hard work and gratitude should be part of the equation, I also stand firm in my opinion that each and every one of us deserves greatness. The definition of greatness may vary from one to another, but whatever that greatness is, we deserve it.

Lessons always seem to converge at once. This weekend, while I was in a particularly grumpy mood, the women in my family reminded me we deserve the moon. Then another woman I deeply admire posted an article about an adoptive mother who decided to teach her timid toddler to physically fight back against her brothers. This article permeated my being, (read it!).

I always thought I believed in myself. Then I realized this belief is contradicted by the guilt I feel in whatever I have, achieve, desire. Since I was a little girl, I have confused guilt, humility, and gratitude. I finally get it, if only for a moment. Guilt should not accompany success won through hard work and thankfulness. You can lovingly serve others without losing sight of your own worth.

For the first time in years, I allowed myself to seethe in all the parts of my life I want to change, and, to my shock, the seething felt amazing. I let anger I never knew existed escape my soul. I realized my worth and felt no guilt in my desire for greatness. What a concept, self-worth and desire without guilt. I was a girl on fire, ferocious and proud. So much gratitude. I hope it lasts.

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The Secret to Forgiveness is Love.

The March Bloggers for Peace challenge is to write about forgiveness. Instead of writing about any one instance of forgiveness, I offer a simple idea. The secret to forgiveness is love, and love is a choice. If you decide to love, then you can also decide to forgive.

The beauty of this secret is that it does not apply to just lovers, or family, or friends. It applies to anyone. Strangers even. Have you ever imagined love for a person who is pissing you off? I swear, it changes the mood. Suddenly you start to see the person a little differently, to imagine what brought him or her to this moment where your paths have crossed so tumultuously. If there is an opportunity to hold a grudge or judge another person, there is also an opportunity to love.

I kid you not. In the most basic expression of this, I forgive my students all the time. In the middle of a really good tantrum, they often say terrible things. I am hated, threatened, you name it. Children or not, it is often tempting to feel angry. When I force myself to focus on my love for them, any inkling of anger is diffused, (in fact, these thoughts usually make me smile, which in turn just confuses the hell out of them and sometimes results in smiles on their faces too). Love conquers all.

Of course, some things in life may feel too terrible to forgive, but I still believe this is a choice. You choose whether to hold on or let go. It’s funny. As I sit here and type now, I realize that the hardest person to forgive very well may be yourself. So, for tonight at least, I’ll forgive myself for my own imperfections. Thanks Bloggers for Peace for helping to spread the love (and forgiveness).

For more great Peace Cats, check out:

And, thanks for sharing your peace cats, Rarasaur! (Check out other hilarious/inspiring/poignant ones here…)

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