Friday, April 6, 2018

Farewell post...

Years ago, I got all wrapped up in a job that wasn't right for me, in a life that felt deeply out of alignment with my heart. I was commuting three hours a day, caring for a baby, and convincing myself that being a real grown-up and being a writer were two very different things. I abandoned my writing, tucked it away, but the desire never really left me. Then one night, after putting my 7-month-old daughter to bed, I sat in my room and picked up a pen.

I'd neglected my writing for far too long, but there it was, waiting for me. The magic was still there. This blog, as ordinary and outdated as it is, as far as modern blogging goes, restored that rhythm for me. It helped me dust off my creativity and get back on nodding terms with my heart. It nudged me to continue picking up my pen, again and again, it opened those flood gates. I've filled a dozen journals since.

This blog cracked me open and helped me make sense of a time in my life that was all growing pains, questions, uncertainty. It did this job well, and I'm grateful.

I'm still writing. You can find my work here or on my website.

All my love,


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why Kids Are Smarter Than Grown-Ups

“Joy is a divine quality of our true self, which is inherently lighthearted, playful and free. You can see the full expression of this joy in young children, who haven’t learned to worry or take themselves too seriously. They play and laugh freely, finding wonder in the smallest things. They are infinitely creative because they haven’t yet built up the layers of conditioning that create limitations and restrictions. They are in touch with their intuition, which is a form of intelligence that goes beyond the rational mind.” – Deepak Chopra

If you take a few minutes to observe young children just doing their thing, you’ll likely learn a thing or two. I’d actually go as far as to wager that kids are the keepers of life’s best secrets. If you watch them long enough, you'll begin to pick up on the intrinsic wisdom that only a child can bring to the table. The truth is that this wisdom exists in all of us, but it emanates most freely in our little guys.

For one thing, they’re completely uninhibited, at least my kids are. When I quietly watch my 3- and 4-year-old girls interacting with one another, the creative ideas run wild. “Let’s pretend to be kittens. No, wait – let’s be lost kittens that are looking for a family to adopt them. No, no, no – let’s be snow kittens!”

It’s like signing up for a Brainstorming 101 workshop. Or watching a brilliant improv artist who’s found their flow, that creative sweet spot where the ideas just come without any real effort. In simpler terms, they haven’t yet been taught to censor their thinking – to slap down out-of-the-box ideas that might be a little on the weird side. In fact, they love the weird side. They thrive on it, even. If my girls had it their way, they’d leave the house everyday in princess dresses and mismatched shoes. They don’t care, all they know is that they love how these things make them feel.

Unlike us grown-ups, they aren’t afraid to sound stupid, or let it be known that they need help or don’t understand something. They ask questions constantly, hundreds and hundreds of questions – How does the garbage disposal work? How far away is the moon? What happens to a bug when it dies? (Some questions are trickier to answer than others.) But the point here is that they let their curiosity guide them, a habit that many adults have long abandoned. I know that the majority of the questions I ask are preceded by an apology. 

I think that children simply find happiness more easily than the rest of us. They take great pleasure in the little things, enjoying them for what they are. (“Look, rain puddles – let’s jump in them!”) The more I sit back and watch my kids as a quiet observer, the more I can’t help but feel that this is the way we’re all meant to experience life. Untethered, in the present, with joy and ease. Many adults turn to therapy, drugs, meditation or destructive relationships in search of what our children seem to already have – happiness, which I believe is our natural state of being.

So what happens? As we grow older, how/why do we lose this? Few could argue that this doesn’t happen. The whole idea behind spiritual enlightenment is a return to this state, a return to wholeness. To find happiness within, to disidentify with the mind. To radiate love and light on this natural frequency.

Kids just seem to get this, and with no effort whatsoever. Little zen masters, they are. Maybe the rest of us are just overthinking it. Maybe if I can foster this as long as I can in my own children, they can stay in this state of static joy forever. Maybe they’ll hold onto it, instead of letting it wither and die in the act of “growing up.”

Ask any adult what they want out of life. Chances are, they’ll say to be happy. Ask one of my kids, and their answer will be more along the lines of ice cream. This is because, unlike adults, they are very much living in the now. Right now, ice cream sounds delicious. The problem with us grown-ups is that we often look to the future for salvation, for happiness. (“I’ll be happy when…”) Kids are smarter than this. They know that joy can be found right now, in this moment. Ice cream is just a yummy bonus – but their overall happiness is certainly not dependent on it. This is up there as one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from motherhood. I definitely haven’t mastered it. But thanks to my girls, I’m working on it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Gigi No Need Help"

Since recovering from a particularly nasty cold, Giada still has the residual runny nose and lingering sniffle. The general yuckiness that sometimes sticks around after the worst of it has finally shoved off. Yesterday, I held a Kleenex up to her leaky snout and told her to blow. But before I could get the words out, she swiped the tissue from my hands and did the job herself.

“Gigi no need help,” she said, more than offended.

This is my little one’s mantra these days – Gigi no need help. When putting her pants on (which has become a ten-minute ordeal), when brushing her teeth, when shoveling mushy mounds of Raisin Bran into her mouth (and, subsequently, onto the floor)… Gigi no need help. And although she says this about 3,000 times a day, it still surprises me every time, this proclamation of independence. This assertion of will. Her anything-but-subtle way of telling me to back off, Gigi’s got this.

Hearing this from your baby can be disarming. But then I remember that she’s not a baby, a fact that continues to elude me on a regular basis. Not so long ago, I came home and asked Mike if he’d fed the baby. “What baby? Giada’s almost three.” My husband is right, what baby? Or, perhaps more accurately, where did my baby go? I could have sworn she was here just a minute ago, a swaddled little bug asleep on my chest.

Now she’s all, “Gigi no need help,” taking off on her own without me. 

But I suppose that’s simply the nature of growing up, the innate, frenzied desire for independence. Discovering the deliciousness of solitude. Experiencing the unexpected pride that comes with blowing your own nose without a hand from Mom. I get it.

But still, watching time pass as it tends to do can be an oddly unsettling reality. Like the youth of your children (along with your own youth) are slipping behind you, becoming woven into the story of your past, buried in memory. I worry there will come a day where it’s hard to remember the girls as they are now. I imagine, years from now, that I’ll struggle to conjure the collective sound of their voices echoing from the playroom together. I’ll forget which girl loved Elsa and which one rooted for Anna.

I often have to remind myself to get out of my own head, to be more present. To resist the urge to escape the now. Then Gigi calls me to help her on the potty and the fact that she still needs me is enough to bring me back.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Life On The Other Side

After much talk and loads of debate, we finally went ahead and did it. We moved our brood out to Los Angeles. It's been about two months since we made the jump, which feels like the proper amount of time it takes to really begin settling in to life in a new place. And after spending the last eight years in New York, I'd all but forgotten what it was like to feel the energy of a different town. To put on the skin of another city and walk around in it for a while. For a not-so-well traveled person like myself, getting acquainted with my new home has been pretty dang cool (and also kind of scary, but LA and I are still just getting to know each other.)

So far, my view of southern California ain't so bad. The people are friendly enough and the mountains are so divine and jarringly surreal, they almost look as if they've been painted on the skyline as part of some elaborate movie set. As you'd expect, the film industry dominates this corner of the country, with everyone from the dog walker to the dry cleaner trying to sell you his screenplay. While Manhattan is filled with dancers and dreamers and artists of all stripes, you can't swing a stick in LA without knocking over ten screenwriters. At this very moment, I'm at a restaurant eavesdropping on two men sitting at the next table who are genuinely surprised that some guy named Chip liked a new storyboard. 

"I mean, I just didn't think he'd go for taking the project in that direction, you know?" 

Truly, this guy can't believe it.

These are the snippets of conversation I hear everywhere here in LA. (I'm a chronic eavesdropper, always have been. The natural storyteller in me can't help but pine for all the details. Who's Chip?! Is he an asshole? And what's so terrible about the new storyboard?!)

It's a funny place, Los Angeles. One I'm still introducing myself to. On the surface, we may very well be unlikely pals. But then I spend five quiet minutes on the Pacific, with the mountains stretching out into the ocean until they almost disappear completely. My hand shading my eyes as they struggle to make out where the hills begin to fall away, wondering about all that might lie on the other side.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Kids Are All Right

I'm not sure when it happened, exactly, but Lina is a full-blown kid now. She's ditching the sippy cup and getting dressed on her own and cracking jokes and everything. She tells me she wants to be a taxi driver when she grows up, which I'm not one hundred percent sold on. But when she offers to drive me "to the airport and everywhere" I soften to the idea and nod my approval (the same doesn't apply when she says she wants to be a garbage lady, which I think means sanitation worker).

The point I'm making here is that she's becoming her own person, with her own ideas and questions and logic. I feel like she's beginning the journey of figuring out who she is and how that idea fits in with the rest of the world, a quest that for most of us endures long into adulthood. For now, I'm just watching her at the starting line.

As parents, we're tasked with this monumental responsibility – to shape our little ones into happy, well-balanced adults. To teach them the importance of being kind. To help them uncover their calling in this life, and then nurture the crap out of it so that they'll never know the bitter taste of dreams that go unfulfilled. Basically to steer them away from becoming garbage ladies, I guess.

It's a lot of pressure for me as I watch my oldest daughter gradually grow into the person she will become. Mike seems to take it more in stride, which isn't all that surprising. Instead, I find myself drilling my dad for all the answers. I feel like he and my mom did a pretty bang-up job in the parenting department. Surely, he must know some secrets, right? But leave it to my father to oversimplify the complex business of raising kids. "You have to just trust them," I remember him telling me once. "You know your kids. If you love them and set a good example, they'll make good choices."

The idea here, according to Lou Hayes, comes down to trust. And all trust is, really, is an offshoot of love. Could it really all be that simple?

Last Saturday, the girls and I took our weekly trip to our neighborhood library. While waiting for storybook hour to start, we passed the idle minutes by reading Dr. Seuss's Star-Bellied Sneetch book. You know the story. It's the one where all the sneetches without stars on their bellies are cast off, passed over for being different. None of the elite star-bellied ones will associate with these lower class Seussical outcasts (who are cruelly left out of everything from frankfurter roasts to marshmallow toasts, just because they don't look like everyone else). We were still in the earliest pages when Lina cut me off, genuinely appalled by the treatment of these poor sneetches.

"That's not very nice," she said. "You should ask everyone to play, even if they have no stars on their bellies."

With that, my heart swells with pride as I pull her close and kiss her head. “That’s right,” I tell her. Reassured, at least for the moment, that my girls are growing up just as they should.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us." -Marianne Williamson

We've come upon the time of year when many of us feel compelled to make resolutions. Eat more fresh, local food. Do some volunteer work. Finally go to Paris. Start working on that manuscript. We step back from our lives and examine the areas that so glaringly disappoint us, convinced that others are no doubt blinded by them as well.

We resolve to change these things. This will be the year where I seize my moments and manifest all the things I feel are destined to be. This will be the year I become the best version of myself.

And then February comes around and I'm back to chasing my tail around the demands of teaching while raising my girls, hopelessly trying to carve out time to be the "serious writer" I swear is in me somewhere. Inevitably I admit defeat, sulking back into the routines that have come to shape the rut I always find myself in. I'm beginning to think it's simply human nature, this compulsion to repeat our past mistakes again and again, banging our heads into the same walls without a lesson learned.

For me, it's that I feel trapped by my job as a teacher. Suffocated. Deflated. Resentful of the fact that I spend all day with other people's children while my own are passing their days without me, waiting till 5:00 when Mommy unfolds in a tired heap on the living room floor. Conversely, I find myself worrying about my special needs students constantly. Am I letting them down? Am I doing enough for them? Can they understand that I love them till I could burst but feel like a failure because I cannot help them?

There is a place in my heart where my mind likes to drift to. I have all the time in the world for my girls. I write on my own schedule, school doesn't hijack my time here. Staying at a job only for the health insurance feels irrational in this place, I realize, because it is.

Then I come back to my present reality with a kind of unfinished understanding, like I'm on the cusp of something I can't quite put my finger on. Living that life feels like an impossible dream, the silly imaginings of someone who longs for something preposterous. Like to live on the moon. Or to have universal healthcare. But then I remember that old folk tale of the poor man sitting on the rock. He's crippled by circumstance - starving, desolate and impoverished, begging God for a pot of gold only for God to tell him that he already has it, silly man. The rock that plants him to the spot isn't a rock at all. It's the pot of gold the man so desperately wants, the exact thing he seeks. He's been sitting on it the whole time if only he'd bothered to look. Why else would God have put it there?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

(in)Frequent Flier

Photo credit: Ryan Carver
Having never been to the Pacific Northwest, I was psyched when Mike's best pal announced that his wedding would be in Seattle - one of those faraway places for which the only image I can muster up in my mind is the generic one planted by Grey's Anatomy and Kurt Cobain.  According to the map lighting up the seat back in front of me, I'm somewhere over North Dakota at the moment, about two hours outside Seattle. For Kevin's wedding, we decided to leave the girls with family for a couple of days to free us up for a weekend away together. Mike headed west yesterday, leaving me to fly solo for the first time in over three years. And I must say that I'd all but forgotten what it was like to fly without an infant (or two) wrapped around my hip.

It turns out that when you're not lugging car seats, strollers, and a diaper bag packed to the seams with snacks and toys to occupy the kids, navigating security is a breeze. I floated through JFK as if I were out for a Sunday stroll with not a care in the world. While leaving the bookstore excited for the quiet reading time awaiting me on the flight, I nearly bumped into Sarah Jessica Parker in the Jet Blue terminal (I know!), a sighting I would have surely missed had I been tending to the kids.


As is procedure for me when I fly, I mentally prepared myself for the expected internal freak-out upon boarding (airplanes make me insanely nervous). Ordinarily, I quietly swallow this anxiety in front of the girls, muttering my rosary under my breath and acting as if all is fine so that they don't inherit their mother's fear of flying. But today, I could just be myself. Right before boarding, I stood at the gate staring down into the long jetway as if it were a plank leading to shark-infested waters. With no kids to worry about, I made a quick detour to a nearby bar where I spiked my morning coffee with some Jameson to calm my nerves (oh, don't be so appalled). 

Once airborne, and admittedly more calm, I watched a movie of my choice, uninterrupted. I finally got to read through a collection of essays I'd been eying for months but never had the time to get to. For once, it isn't me who's shuffling up and down the aisle, shushing a screaming toddler and fending off dirty looks from other passengers. And the only potty breaks I've been worrying about are my own. 
I'd been reveling in my solitude when a flight attendant placed a snack box on my empty tray table and, instinctively, I picked up the flimsy plastic utensils and began slicing the brick of cheddar cheese into thin pieces for the girls, knowing they'd welcome the treat on such a long flight. Only then did I remember I was by myself, a quick pang of longing for my girls leaving my chest just as fast as it had come, my mind drifting to what they were up to in New York, and wondering if they were thinking of Mommy.