Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Community, Redefined.

Community: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

Google has defined what I feel with my mama friends well.  We are a community.  We are parenting with similar principles albeit different styles.  We share love for our own children and the children of our dear friends.  We have a shitty morning and then meet at a park in our yoga pants and suddenly, everything is better.  We teach our children how to share and collaborate with one another.  We push another mama’s toddler on the swing so she can nurse her baby.  We share snacks.  We swaddle and bounce a newborn on an exercise ball so her mama can take a break.  We love.  We give.  We all do it.  No one is exempt, and we ebb and flow into different roles, supporting one another.  We are a community.  One of the best I have ever known.

Sometimes I wish we were a true community.  That we fell into Google’s second definition: “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.”  Sometimes I long to be living in a different time.  One where we women could sit around our fire stirring porridge, sharing stories, and calming the young.  Where we could offer our breast to our best friend’s babe if she wasn’t able to without society calling us crazy.  Where we could birth together, celebrate together, mourn together.  Like really together.  In this place, we could find a kind of support that nowadays we can only dream of. 

But here we are, and it’s 2014, and we’ve created a beautiful community that fits within society’s social norms.  We celebrate birthdays together and actual birth days.  We laugh over our parenting mishaps and the fact that our 3 ½ year old still craps his pants daily.  We cook each other meals: rich Indian curries, tangy gazpachos, buffalo chicken sandwiches on buttery biscuits.  And, we love on each other’s children.  We hug and kiss them and celebrate them.  We correct their wrongs with compassion, and open our homes to each other, learning, growing, doing this together.

But what happens when crisis hits a community like ours?  When it digs its sharp claws into the safe bubble of love we’ve created with each other.  What happens when someone falls, loses, crumbles?  How do we pick up the pieces? 

I don’t know if I have the answer to this question yet, but good heavens, we’ve been tried and will be again.  I know other communities out there fighting a similar battle, and I look to them to find answers.  I know what I went through with my dad and how my community united.  Thoughts, prayer, meals, texts, cards, flowers, gifts, words, moments.  None of it feels like enough, does it?  I find moments where I literally feel like I could reach inside my chest, yank out my heart, and give a piece of it to my friends to sustain them through tragedy.  Here you go, my dear.  You need this more than I do right now.

I love my mama friends and their big hearts.  I love how they care.   They care deeply, and it is steadfast.  I don’t know how a community like ours endures through heartache so raw, but I am finding this out.  And in the end, we will survive and support and share in celebration once again because we must for the sake of the little ones who’ve brought us together.  We will stand by each other and offer the best support we know how to give, no matter how simple it may seem.  And in doing all of this, we will create something we never knew possible.  I promise you, we will dropkick Google’s ass out of the park with our definition of what it is to be a community, and to be a part of something like that – that’s special.

Love you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I'm Too Shy.

What I love about language is its ability to tell a story.  Each of us gets to use language to tell our own unique story.  We might use some of the same words, but despite what Webster says, our definitions vary.  There’s no way they couldn’t.  When we speak, hear, or read certain words, our brain conjures up an image almost immediately.  Most likely, this association is based on a past experience, our perspective molded and shaped by the life we’ve lived.

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally confronted my own story.  The words that make up my story are “sensitive” and “shy” often with the adverb “overly” in front of each.  I am not sure when these words took on a negative connotation in my mind.  Perhaps it was when a teacher said to my parents at conferences, “She’s so shy.  I am worried there’s something wrong with her.”  Maybe it was the million times I felt my face flush in response to sarcasm or an off-the-cuff remark.  Or it could be watching in awe naturally extroverted individuals climb up the social ladder.  It is clear that somewhere along the way, along the path of my story, I got confused.

Interestingly enough, “sensitive” and “shy” are the same words that I have used to describe my 3 ½ year old son to his teachers and new friends.  When he hides behind my leg as we enter his classroom, I have found myself saying, “He’s feeling shy today.”  When he was at a birthday party and burst into tears in the bouncy castle, I explained to a friend, “He’s a super sensitive kid.”  His teachers don’t say this.  They say he’s kind, compassionate, a good friend.  Other kids’ parents say, “I hope my son turns out just like Calvin.  He’s such a great kid.” 

It really hit home when the other day Calvin wouldn’t say hello to a friend we ran into at the store.   When we left the store, I asked, “Buddy, why didn’t you say hi?”

“Because I’m too shy, Mommy,” he said.

Cue heart exploding into a million pieces.

What came next was of course me profusely trying to redefine “shy” so that his impressionable little brain didn’t think he was anything other than perfectly amazing.

“Sensitive” and “shy” are two of many adjectives that describe my son.  Wrapped up in them is so much goodness.  Calvin is sensitive to others’ feelings.  He pats the back of an injured pal, shares his toys beautifully, and hugs and kisses his brother incessantly.  He’s sensitive to situations.  “It’s OK Mommy.  No biggie,” he tells me when I spill pancake batter all over the countertop.  “You’re hair looks beautiful today, Mommy,” he says on the once-in-a-blue-moon days I manage to wash, dry, and straighten it.  "Daddy, you need to take turns with Mommy.  Tonight it's her turn to read me books."  In Calvin’s shyness is his ability to assess a situation before he jumps in – discernment, a skill our world could use more of.  He’s rarely loud and unruly and focuses well.  He takes it all in.

What I don’t want him taking in is the language of my story – the definitions twisted by my past associations.  That’s my problem to fix.  It’s my job to embrace my own adjectives and see all of their good.  That teacher who told my parents there was something wrong with me – she has her own story.  Those kids who called me “big eyes” on the bus and laughed as my face grew red – they have theirs.  And even those seemingly confident extroverts whose rise appears effortless – of course they have theirs. 

I encourage you, dear reader, to think about the words you use to tell your story and the story of wee ones who are learning to formulate their own.  What adjectives can you redefine?  In places society has defined as weak, where can you find strength?  Language is our gift to pass on.  Let’s work on telling a story that is positive and empowering.  One that will eventually become a past association that moves us toward a place within that feels like home. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

200th post.

In honor of my 200th post, I've given my blog a mini-makeover which is always fun.  I've been meaning to do it, been meaning to get back to regular blogging.  Auditioning and making the cast of Boulder's Listen to Your Mother show was a boost I am so grateful for.  My novel has pretty much been taking over any time I have to write, but I'm in need of a break - a sit-back and stew over what should happen in the end kind of break.  It's the kind of break that I think will be hugely telling of whether I should finish or start something new.  I guess it's an intimidating break because the idea of starting something new and putting aside the 50,000 words already written kind of makes me want to hide away in the mountains Thoreau-style.  The writer's life.  How glamorous it is.  As much as it stresses me out, I love it.  I love Wednesday mornings when my boys are taken care of by lovely people and I get to sit at a coffee shop furiously writing down all of my latest thoughts.  I store them up over the week, dozens of iPhone notes and Post-It scrawls waiting for me to assemble and weave into my story.  It's really exhilarating, especially when it just works.  I am excited to get back to this space, to write from my heart about this place in life.  

Along with the makeover, I have some new ideas for the blog.  I'm not sure how they'll take shape yet, but I am hoping to publish here some of my shorter fiction pieces.  I am excited to do this but also nervous.  Writing fiction is way more vulnerable for me, so sharing it will be an interesting process.  I will also be writing more articles about living in "the middle place" and of course bringing up issues that strike me.

Back in 2009, with some hesitation, I started this blog.  My intention then was to keep record of my (mostly random) thoughts about life.  In honor of "200," I went back and read through my blog archives.  There were posts I didn't even remember writing - some that made me flush with the realization that I knew basically nothing about life.  I see a girl with a rosy view (not that that's horrible) and zero responsibility besides herself.   Garsh, I kind of find her annoying!

I thought about deleting some of the early posts and starting fresh, but then I realized that there's something really beautiful about seeing my changes and growth through written word over the past five years.  In 200 posts, I have grown from a child to a woman.

I've started my dream job, left my dream job and created a new dream job.  I'm not a teacher in the traditional sense, but when I write with young adults, my heart soars.  I've almost written a novel.
I'm fulfilling my dream to be a stay-at-home mom, business owner, writer.  

I've lost my dad and gained two boys who have my heart.  

I've had two natural childbirths and still have a husband who is over-the-moon excited about sleepless nights and early mornings because he gets to do it with me. 

I've distanced from some friends and grown closer to a few I couldn't live without.  My sister lives here and is my best friend, and I am going to be an aunt.  I have mama friends who get what this is all about.  

My boobs have migrated, but I've nourished two humans.  I feel wrung out in a good way after yoga, and I've rediscovered swimming.  I actually took a dance class...many dance classes.  (HA!)  

My weaknesses are wine and chocolate (whose aren't?), but I've added green smoothies.  I'm gluten free now and miss dumplings the most.  My Crohn's has been in remission for eight years, and I'm not on any meds.  

I have learned that spirituality for me comes in the shape of a yoga pose or a trail and to let others find their own.

There's more.  Of course there's more.  But for now, I'm looking ahead, thankful for the past 200, but excited for what's to come.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Holy Guacamole!

I just found out that I have been chosen for Boulder's Listen to your Mother show.  I am SO honored and excited to be a part of this amazing tribute to motherhood.  Check out a show in your city on Mother's Day.  More to come on this.  I swear.