Saturday, March 25, 2017

Seat Beans

The second child often doesn't get the same kind of baby book the first does. My husband took pictures of me pregnant every week with both pregnancies, but only one got an album made. I also kept a great pregnancy journal with the first. The second's is sporadically filled in. When my daughter was born I brought the brand new baby journal with me to the hospital to begin filling in her details. With my son I never even bought one. My friend who is a third child jokes that her parents filled in her sister's baby books but she stubbled on hers and it never made it out of the wrapper.

Now my son is four and a half, and my daughter is eight.  Before I forget all the first things they have done, I want to also remember the last time they do them. We ride our bike to school and my son still fits in the toddler seat on my bike. His head is right in front of mine.This is one of my favorite times of the day because we are so close to each other and that I get to see things the way he does. Along with my daughter we pass a block that has a lot of snails, and everyday we count them on the way to school. I made a decision that no matter how rushed we were, I will always slow down to count the snails. I love listening to them find them and count them out loud.

Every night we cuddle up to read books. My son gets two books before bed and we read them together with my husband in our bedroom. My daughter is into her own chapter books now, so she usually reads in her bed until I am done putting her brother to sleep. After I read him his books, I put him in his bed, say goodnight and then he will ask me to check on him in one minute. I come back in one minutelater and say sweet dreams. His reply has been "Seat Beans" until this week. He said it correctly "sweet dreams.” There goes another last.

Bedtime reading has changed with my daughter too. We can no longer read her books. That last happened when she discovered her love of reading in first grade. Now we cozy up on her bed at night, each of us reading our own books. It is one of may favorite parts of the day and I hope it stays forever.  Today is the first day back to school after holiday break. As parents said goodbye to all the slow moving kids, who were out of the routine, a parent said,"Here is to the second half of third grade!" This is the fastest moving slow time I have ever experienced. 

I remember the day I came home from the hospital with my newborn son. My husband was carrying him up the stairs to show my daughter. I walked behind them and as he called to her to look at her baby brother, she called out, "Is mama home?" Up until the moment I had left to deliver her brother, her mommy was all hers. We were so bonded and when we brought a new little person into the mix, we were all a bit thrown. We now move as foursome quite well. Sure, there are days where we get on each others nerves, but more often than not we are stopping to smell the roses together. We just have to remember to hold those inhales a bit longer, since the blooming happens rather quickly and we don't want to miss anything.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


There are many things that I am, but shy is not one of them. I am usually pretty friendly, and on a typical day I smile at most people I walk by. This wasn't always the case. Growing up in NYC, rarely did you smile at anyone while you walked down the street.If we did our face would hurt from smiling because there are too many people to smile at, and anyway no one is really looking at each other. Everyone is too busy trying to get somewhere.  It would be like people in LA trying to smile at every driver they drive by in a car. It just doesn't happen. When I pass by people now though, I smile. You never know whose soul it might warm that day.

This has been an interesting time of year for friendliness. A lot of people are on edge with the state of our country. There has been so much division, haters and an uneasiness has fallen upon many of us. If nothing else, I think a smile might be the smallest gesture of "we are in this together" that is needed right now. I have been teaching mindfulness to the classes in my daughter's school. I teach the kids about eye contact, about noticing themselves and the people around them. As I left the school today I was thinking of my own lesson, and I took it to heart.

My husband and I both have aging parents, and we got some not so great news yesterday about one of them. I was in the middle of a lunch with someone when I got the call, and I was too shocked to finish my lunch. There is a time and a place fore faking it, and then there is a time to be real. Tears filled my eyes as I told her what I had just heard. I processed out loud as much as I could before losing all words. I excused myself and told her I was too distracted and needed to leave. There might not be the "right" words to say, but people understand.

Our heads have been occupied by confusion, sadness, worst case scenarios and prayers. We have been putting up our best stiff upper lips, going on about our days as best as we can. As I came home from taking the kids to school, I ran into a friend on his way to work. We went through the regular chit chat, and then I asked him how he was. He confessed that he is suffering. His mom is really sick and he is depressed. He battles between gratitude and "whats the point?”. For a quick moment, judgmentally I was taken aback. Why was he telling me all this? Then I realized he was being honest, and it was helpful for us both to hear each other.

Life is hard. One moment you see rainbows and shooting stars, and the next you could get hurt, or lose someone you love. It's not always fair, but no one is alone. As my father said yesterday when I complained about illness and aging, "No one leaves this planet alive." We need to make the best of the time here and when it sucks, we need to be gentle on ourselves. I passed by a total stranger after walking away from my friend, and she smiled at me. As I smiled back, and felt grateful. Her smile was a little gift and I needed it. It warmed my soul.

Friday, March 3, 2017

What Breaks Your Heart?

My kids and I went to the park after school recently, and I started talking to some of the other parents hanging at the park. A mom with whom I'm friendly was talking about an event that she had been to the night before. It wasn't quite a motivational seminar as there were no major plans for life changes that came from it, rather thought provoking ideas to take home and ponder. She was explaining a bit of what they did, and who spoke. I was trying to understand what it was, and she told me some of the questions they asked. One of the questions was, "What breaks your heart?". I haven't stopped thinking about this question.

I thought about mental illness, homelessness, war, but my quick answer was the elderly. Personally I have aging parents and so this subject is on my mind a lot lately. I have always been sensitive to the aging though. When I see a senior citizen at the end of their life I get sad because the way people slow down, and fade away is done with so little respect from younger generations. There is very little dignity in getting old. I was discussing this at a dinner recently and a friend joked that her heart doesn't break for the elderly because they can be so annoying. It is true that when we stop being capable of taking care of ourselves and suddenly have to cared for like babies again, it is understandable that crotchety behavior rears its head. I've also watched so many people have to live in pain when they get older. There is a point where doctors often say, "there is not much left we can do to help you." That would put me in a bad mood.

There are so many things that I wish I could change. After a week thinking about it, I became acutely aware of the injustice, racism, hatred and inequality that fills me with rage. I think about the social change that I wanted to see happen in college that is sadly more in need of happening than even then. With time, I understood that there are so many things that break my heart. Depending on the day, week, month, or minute my quick answer will be different. When I think about ageism though I do feel that people generations ahead of me, are wise, and although they may not always be in the most friendly mood, they have a lot more experience living life than the rest of us. Each and everyone of them have lived through more history than I have and have pretty fantastic stories about how freedom and opportunities have changed since they were young. So when thinking about what breaks my heart, I can answer it quickly but it is a complicated answer. I didn't even go to this workshop and I have gotten so much out of that question. I have begun to open my eyes to what my part is in working towards change. If there is something I feel is unjust, I want to do more than simply identify my feelings. 

What breaks your heart?