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Education PARENTING

What I Learned at 4:00am Yoga

 

On summer solstice I went to do morning yoga at 4:30am.

I think I’ve already made my point about how I am NOT a morning person. Not even a little bit. But there I was, at 4am, driving down the Eisenhower Expressway toward my bliss.

The yoga and meditating went for two and a half hours and I was tired for the entire time. The. entire. time.

Also, no bliss. I had no real aha moments, except that I am not really good at sitting still for long periods of time. This was not so much an aha moment, but rather a confirmation about what everyone who has ever met me already knows.

Anyway, so one of the poses that we did during early morning yoga was to put our left foot under our butt, bend your right knee in front of our body, and hold our hands in prayer position at our heart. For twenty two minutes.

I’m not exaggerating about the twenty two minutes part. The instructor actually said, “And we will be doing this for twenty two minutes.”

I think it is important to point out here that, being a person of size, it is hard for me to go to yoga without something to prove. One might argue that this is the whole work of yoga for me, and I would probably agree. But if the instructor says that we are holding a boat pose for twenty two minutes, I am holding that pose for the whole damn time.

To prove that I can. To prove that I belong there, with all my glorious rolls and curves.

So I put my left foot under my rear, and I went to bend my right knee and immediately got a charlie horse. I was just about to try again when I looked over at the people around me and saw that several were lying down, covered in blankets, and NAPPING! I didn’t know that napping was an option!

Well, immediately I put my legs down, or rather, my leg flung out in front of me in response to the spasms moving through it, narrowly avoiding my fellow yogis. Then I spent the entire twenty two minutes of the pose thinking about why it is so difficult for me to admit when maybe, just maybe, I am not able to do something perfectly.

One of the things that we love to say in education, especially we who are the innovative/edtech types, is that failure is one of the most important parts of learning.

Wow, do I ever believe that is true.

Until I’m the one who fails.

Then I think that failure totally sucks. Then I think it is the worst. Then I avoid and wail and kick and scream at it. WHY ME?!?!?!

I’m in the middle of working on several projects and overwhelmingly the answer I am getting on all of them is, “No. Not interested.”

And I know that someone once reminded me that J.K. Rowling submitted the manuscript to Harry Potter four hundred and twenty thousand times before someone actually published it. But when it is me who is getting the rejection letters, without any assurance that I will ever become J.K. Rowling, and a fear that I will forever remain just J.K….

Well, I hate it.

Yoga is good for role playing these life moments. You think you’re just getting a charlie horse in a ridiculous position, but you’re actually understanding something fundamental about the way you see the world.

I looked at the two women lying on the ground, taking a rest, and I wondered if it would be so bad to just sit for this one pose. Instead of forcing things into place when they were very unwilling to oblige, to rest for twenty two minutes.

No, I did not lay down. I’m not that evolved yet. But I sat there. I sat there frustrated and sad and angry and rejected. I sat there mad that I have something to prove and meanwhile my fellow yogis are napping. I sat there mad at myself for being unwilling to lay down and nap.

But I sat there.

I wanted to get up and leave. I wanted to decide that two hours of yoga was pretty much as good as two and a half hours of yoga.

But I didn’t leave.

In the words of Brene Brown, I stood my sacred ground.

Or, sat my sacred ground.

This is what it is this week. It isn’t a winning week. I have no trophies to display. I have no accomplishments to report.

Except, that for twenty two minutes at an absurdly early hour of the morning in a yoga studio in the west loop of Chicago, I didn’t do the pose the teacher asked us to do.

And for now, that is good enough.

Rachel

PARENTING

I’ve Decided I’m Not Going To Live My Passion

I have recently become aware of yet another deficit in my life.

I am not living my passion.

I went to the library yesterday and I browsed the new release section. The library is one of my favorite places, because it is like shopping, but free! And since I have about the same chance of reading a book I buy vs. reading a book I check out from the library, it turns out that the library is a better option for my budget and all around mortgage-paying-ability.

Now to talk about my failures.

There were beautiful books, with jackets wrapped in shiny fresh plastic, all bearing the label of their release date. And it seemed that the books were nearly obsessed with explaining the secret of following your passion, unlocking your inner magic, going on retreats in the woods for a year without bug repellant as an exercise in finding out what really matters to you, eating only sap from a specific Cyprus tree to find your true calling.

I picked up each one, and I held it in my hand, and for a brief and fleeting moment I imagined what it would feel like to own each book. To have, in my own hands, all of the answers I have been searching for.

Because let’s be honest. A few hours after that trip to the library, it took a herculean effort to get my son’s shoes on so we could go out the door and get to Target. Which is, if you are not already aware, the place I go when I feel sad.

I could use a little bit more finding my passion and a little bit less finding my Cartwheel app.

Unfortunately I don’t think any of those books mentioned trips to Target as one of the steps toward finding your inner wisdom and true destiny.

I have spent the better part of this year reading these books. Because I so desperately want to know more about what it is that I was created to be. Every one of the amazing quotes about “be who you were created to be because what the world needs is you, being you” or variations on that theme make my heart say, “YES!”

Immediately followed by a little bit of panic, because I realize that, while the book was fascinating and the quote inspiring, I still don’t know what that one thing is.

But standing there in the library, holding the fifteenth book that deep down I knew I would never read, I made a decision. I am NOT going to go searching for my one passion.

I am over it.

I’m sick of feeling like I’ve missed the boat to success and that all of the opportunities are passing me by because I didn’t buy (or check out) the right book, didn’t apply for the right program, didn’t shake hands with the right person.

I have been running myself ragged toward a goal that I have not even set, a destination I have not charted.

Enough.

I’ve had enough. I give up.

Trying to live my passion and find my magic has felt more like living my anxiety and finding my inner angst.

I’m giving it a rest. Or I’m going to try to.

And in the meantime, maybe there’s other things I want to do.

I want to live with gratitude. To get up in the morning thankful for another day with my eyes open. Even when some days that morning comes much more quickly than I want.

I want to live with awareness. To notice when I can’t seem to put my cell phone down to enjoy the fact that my son is holding up his art project. To forget the phone at home when we go outside to play.

I want to live with kindness. To take a deep breath when a friend is late for a meeting, knowing that I am far more often making others wait for me. To give without expecting a return.

And those three things alone seem like enough to fill a lifetime, one with or without passion.

Last weekend my family was in town for a visit. It was 90 degrees and our window air conditioners were losing the battle against the heat. In response, the adults sat around the twenty dollar inflatable pool that we’d purchased for the kids, and hung our feet in the water, drinking beer, while our children splashed and screamed and played.

I turned to my brother and said, “I feel like this is the most luxurious thing in the whole world.”

And it was. Family, together. Talking, laughter, play.

In that moment I had no more clarity about my passion than I had the moment before. But somehow it just didn’t matter.

It was enough.

Rachel

 

 

 

mothering PARENTING WRITING

Why I Might Become A Morning Person

I have a new dog.

Every morning around 6am he starts shaking his barrel of a body, whining, and, if neither of those work, licking my face until I get up to take him on a walk.

I am not what you would call a morning person.

Usually I pull on whatever clothes I wore the day before, sliding into my sneakers and stumbling out of the house before my brain has a chance to catch up to my body and say, “No thank you.”

I never regret taking this morning walk, though some days I avoid it anyway, nudging my husband awake. And sometimes my husband wakes before me, returning from the walk before I know he’s gone.

I am not what you would call a morning person. Or even particularly outdoorsy.

But there is something magical about the early morning, before the city is awake. My feet keep moving one in front of the other while my mind uses the drumbeat to sort thoughts. It works while I observe with fuzzy curiosity. Sometimes surprising me with what is unresolved from days, weeks, or years past. Sometimes releasing tears as I remember a friend that I have lost.

I let the tears run. There is no one sitting on their front steps to observe me wipe my eyes.

My dog trots alongside me, leash slack until we turn onto a street that has been previously unexplored. Then he uses his fifty-six pounds of muscle to strain with all his might, desperate to inhale the scents of a single blade of grass that holds the key to this time and space.

My dog is not only a morning person, he’s an all the time person. The world is forever new, forever now. He jumps up with excitement each time I reach for his leash, even though it is a now-familiar dance we play each day, even though my human mind so easily finds it mundane.

I wonder sometimes if this walk is the most important thing I do each day.

If my work is my feet’s prayerful pattering. If my job is to say yes to my own forever new, forever now life. To be filled with gratitude for a single, delicious blade of grass.

It is almost enough to convert me to the morning.

-Rachel

Education mothering PARENTING

My Guilty Mother’s Day Treat

By way of explanation of how things have been going lately, let me simply say that my son has been introduced to Happy Meals, and that we’ve lost no time in catching him up on what he’s missed.

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Some of this was because we went on a great vacation to Florida, and haven’t totally caught back up to the pace of life. Some of this is because our work schedules have been changing and busy, some of this is because my BFF, Mr. Tired, has been hanging out with me a lot more lately, staying way past his welcome.

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Mother’s Day is always preceded by Teacher Appreciation Week, a week I take pretty seriously on this side of the profession, because as a teacher there were a lot of times when I felt pretty under-appreciated.

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But Mother’s Day–well it’s never been that big of a day to me. I still feel like I’ve just barely started wearing my mother hat, so it doesn’t occur to me to capitalize on such days. When I got flowers from my in-laws (and chocolate covered strawberries that are DELICIOUS!) I felt a little like my teachers, who had genuine surprise and befuddlement on their faces when I showed up in their room with chocolates and candy.

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In other words, I think Mother’s Day is still about MY mom, about the moms who actually know what they’re doing, not the moms who are still deciding whether to pull into the McDonald’s drive-thru again, or go home and scrounge up a meal of pinto-beans and brown rice, the two ingredients I know for certainty are in my cupboard. (I know I’m gonna hear from some of you veteran moms here, telling me that this never changes. Understood.)

If I am sounding harsh, I guess I’m also feeling a little harsh about myself lately, too.

Last Monday was a challenging day at work and I came home and needed a BREAK. I’ve been doing sketch notes, so I spent a lot of the evening practicing my handwriting, and different ways to drawing icons and banners. Our family dinner consisted of all three members of the family plugged into a screen, a situation I promised myself would never happen.

It happened.

As bedtime approached, my son put down his iPad (or rather, the iPad he has decided to call his own) and said, “Should we go upstairs and play, Mama?” And so I set the timer on my phone and promised myself to be fully dedicated to paying attention to my son for the full time we were upstairs.

We ended our time with my son crawling into my lap as I asked him about his day. His face lit up, and he looked like he was sitting in Santa’s lap, telling him what he wanted for Christmas. He was so excited to tell me about his day, or rather, about all the things he loves to do best, which is what usually happens when we ask how his day has gone. “Um…I went to the park, to the library, to Grandma and Baba’s house, talked to Nammy and Papa…”

The joy on his face made me cry. I felt so sad that I hadn’t stopped what I was doing sooner and paid attention to him sooner, and shut our screens down to have a decent family dinner, etc, etc, etc.

The guilt set in.

I’ve been thinking about guilt a lot lately. How many times it feels like being a full time employee makes me feel like a part time Mom, and whether I should feel badly about that, should feel empowered about that, should try harder to “Lean In”, should work harder to protect my time at home.

And mostly I feel all of those things, and then go hang out with Mr. Tired, who understands my woes.

To add insult to injury, there has been this breathtakingly beautiful video going around on the Facebook, written by Nichole Nordeman, a music artist I love. It’s called “Slow Down” and is all about how quickly our children grow up. She sings, “I am your biggest fan, I hope you know I am, but do you think you can somehow slow down?” All the while the video shows photos of children reaching all of their developmental milestones, catching each moment perfectly.

It’s beautiful. Seriously, it’s beautiful.

But it hasn’t helped with the whole guilt thing.

And this is the point where I feel like I should say that you shouldn’t feel guilty. Right? That’s what we do for people we care about, we help them to stop feeling badly, we come alongside and tell them that they are an amazing mom, that they are doing the best they can, that they are beautiful and strong.

All of those things are true.

But that isn’t what my friend said to me when I told her about the guilt I’ve been feeling lately. Here’s what she said:

“Rachel, maybe you can reframe guilt. Guilt is a powerful motivator. It helps us stay connected to one another, it reminds us that our time is limited. Guilt has its place.

But when guilt has done its job, you need to set it down. When you’re going out to hang out with your friends or you’re getting some time for yourself, write the word guilt on a stone, and put it in the garden on your way out the door. Lay it down.”

OK, so that “friend” is actually my therapist, but wow.

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I look at this week, and there have been some reasons for me to feel guilty, some ways in which I don’t feel like my life has been in balance, some places of disconnection to family and friends. And then there has been some guilt I’ve hung onto, guilt that has kept me from enjoying the moments that were mine to enjoy.

There were definitely some moments when I kept the guilt stone in my pocket, instead of dropping it in the garden.

It’s Mother’s Day, and it’s beautiful and sunny, and I am full of hope for this day. Today I am writing the word guilt down on a stone. And I can hold it during breakfast with my husband and my son to remind me that I don’t need to be checking my cell phone as we eat, that there is nothing so important that can’t wait another hour.

But later, when I leave for work tomorrow, when I go hang out with a friend, the stone stays behind.

It isn’t perfect, it doesn’t solve everything. But my pockets are full right now, and I want to know that their contents are things I actually want. If guilt is gonna be there, then let it be there for a reason.

It’s an unlikely Mother’s Day present, but I’ll take it.

-Rachel

fathering mothering PARENTING

Top Chef Parenting: Pack Up Your Knives and Go

Top Chef is my current favorite TV show. It’s exhilarating to watch incredibly talented people brought to their limits while making really yummy looking food, episode after episode. I’m fascinated by Padma’s outfits and have totally bought into the drama that the editors so deftly create, left to wonder who made the best food and who has to pack their knives and go. And except for the couple of seasons when the contestants are mean, it’s usually good clean fun.

One of the recurring themes on Top Chef is that none of the chefs like to bake. Baking challenges are met with groans and cuts to side interviews with one of the chefs saying something like, “Baking is the WORST. I knew this day would come. I might go home today.”

As best I can tell, the reason so many chefs dislike baking is that it is so hard to get feedback on whether or not your cake or souffle will turn out. At least not until it’s too late. You can taste the batter before you put it in the oven, but until that toothpick is inserted, it’s hard to know if your food will cook through, your bread will rise, and your flan will set.

For example, I once made chocolate chip cookies, a recipe I have pretty much perfected, and they were completely flat, except for the chips. I realized too late that the baking soda was old. How could I have known that by tasting the batter? And if I had tried to pass those cookies in a competition like Top Chef, you better believe I’d be sent packing.

Anyway, what does all of this have to do with anything?

Well, for one thing, I have been baking a decent amount lately, and it has got me thinking to how alike living is to baking. And more specifically the living I’ve been thinking about lately is parenting.

One of the hardest things about parenting is that it’s really hard to tell if you’re doing it well or not. I mean, you reassure yourself over an evening glass of wine that the child is safe and fed, and that counts for something. But you know all the while that there’s a 100% chance that there will be things that you don’t get right, wounds that your child will bring back to you and hold in your face in two decades, quirks that you find endearing that your child finds intolerable.

It’s inevitable and it’s terrifying.

But how in the world are you supposed to know if your parenting baking soda has gotten old-

But how in the world are you supposed to know if your parenting baking soda has gotten old?

I have never been the type to read parenting books. I get overwhelmed as soon as someone introduces me to any multi-step plan guaranteed to give results. Usually the step one assumes a level of proficiency that eludes me (like have a clean home or car, just for example). 

I am always hyper-aware of the Tom Colicchios of the parenting world (or really, of the world) ready to critique and nitpick. Not that I even need a Tom Colicchio. Most times I do a pretty good job of tearing myself apart without any help.

What I guess we’re left with is a whole lot of ambiguity. Gilda Radner has a great quote, “Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”

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Truthfully, I rarely think of ambiguity as delicious. Annoying? Yes. Scary? Absolutely. Delicious? Not so much.

But also, ambiguity is inevitable.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how it would look if I loved myself as much as I loved my son. How would I talk to myself after eating a full chocolate bar? How would I respond to myself when our bedtime routine still sucks after two and a half years? What would I say to encourage myself when I meet yet another person who seems to have arrived at my life goals and is five years younger than me?

What would I say to my son when he says that he just isn’t sure if the cake is going to turn out or if he’s just a bad baker and should pack his knives and go home?

For one thing, I think I would say to stop listening to the Tom Colicchios.

Instead of feeling like I’ve failed at life for eating a candy bar, I might say something about how delicious candy is, and how sometimes it’s good to let ourselves have a treat. Instead of hiding my shame about bedtime, I might comment about how nice it can be to get in the extra snuggle time.

And when the toothpick comes back gooey, I might just say the cake needs a little more time to bake. The story isn’t finished yet. That we don’t know what will happen.

I might say something obnoxious about delicious ambiguity.

The truth as best as I can tell is that parenting is a lot like baking. There’s a lot of waiting and hoping that we’re using the right recipe along the way. And there’s no real set bake time, or guarantee that we won’t have really bad baking soda.

But baking is also fun. There’s the smell of the melting chocolate, the calm of kneading bread, the peeks into the oven to see if the top of the cake is brown, the sneaky spoonfuls of raw cookie dough. And there’s the promise, the hope, of a beautiful warm baked good at the end.

If this whole life thing were up to me, I’m not sure there would be a lot of ambiguity. I’m a little like the Top Chef contestants, preferring the immediacy of cooking to the chemistry of baking, not wanting to have to wait and see, preferring instead to get instant results.

But maybe it’s good it isn’t up to me. I imagine we’d miss the chocolate cake.

-Rachel

 

 

mothering PARENTING READING

Where are the angels? A letter to my son

To My Darling Son,

The other night I was putting you to bed. We were reading The Jesus Storybook Bible, and we opened the book to the picture of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary and telling her that she was pregnant with a baby who would be named Jesus.

You sat with fascination, staring at the pages, eager to listen. I read about the angel and you pointed at its form, surrounded in light.

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Turning the page, you protested, “Where the angel go? Want to find the angel!”

I know you were telling me that you wanted to see the picture of the angel again, and we turned back a page so you could see the artist’s rendition of the celestial being once more. But I’ve been hearing your little voice saying those words ever since.

One of my biggest sadnesses is knowing that you are born into a world that will, sooner or later, disappoint you.

From the time I knew you were in my womb, I’ve been a mama bear, working fiercely to protect you. When we heard your heartbeat, I turned to your daddy with tears in my eyes and told him it was the bravest sound I have ever heard.

Every day you continue to bravely explore the world. And it breaks my heart to know that as you discover the world’s beauty, you will also discover the world’s pain. You will hear the stories of when hatred or bitterness or jealousy win over love and forgiveness and charity. You will have your own stories of these sadnesses.

I cannot protect you from this.

And so my hope for you is this: that you will never stop asking the question, “Where are the angels?”

When the pages turn, when the darkness comes, when the loneliness or the despair is close, and you cannot see the angels anymore, my prayer is that you never forget that not seeing them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. That the beauty is in every moment, even the most painful ones, if you keep on looking.

That day, reading the story, we kept turning the pages, and you saw the picture of a baby. And I told you the story of a baby named Jesus. A baby whose heart beat bravely like yours. A baby whose mother must have, like me, held him in wonder and awe. A baby whose life was also filled with joy and sorrow. A baby who shows us that love still wins in the end.

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Today I picked you up from daycare and you ran out into the cold April weather. You laughed when we stepped in a puddle. Looking up you pointed, and said, “Look, Mama, it’s RAINING!”

You are a constant reminder of what is beautiful in this world.  

I am so thankful I have a lifetime of looking for the angels with you.

I love you,

Mama

PARENTING READING

Fat Girl Yoga

I have always hated yoga.

Yoga is for other people. Thin people. People who get jazzed about things like smoothies with kale, who have candles for reasons other than covering the bad odors in their homes. Do an image search for yoga and it seems that yoga is best done in silhouette on the edge of cliff, a dock on the lake, or in the middle of a field.

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And, well, I’m not one of those people. And also I live in a crowded city, nowhere near a cliff or open field.

Also yoga is about centering and mindfulness and releasing your body, and I have always had a really complicated relationship with my body. I’m not sure exactly when it started, but I still remember the shame I felt in gym class when I was weighed in front of my peers and my weight was a three digit number compared to their two digit numbers.

But the worst part about yoga is that no matter what class I attend, it is almost a guarantee that I will be the fattest person in the room.

I’ve spent the good part of my son’s two and a half years avoiding cameras, eating in secret, wearing layer after layer of clothing, and fantasizing about the someday when I will become one of those yoga women who can wear all white by the lake and hold a tree pose for as long as I want in the sand.

But I had been hiding a long time before that.

There have been a lot of diets. Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, The Weigh Down Diet, the Geneen Roth Diet, and the Luna Bars and Seltzer water diet (my personal method of dropping the freshman 15). There’s also been a lot of binging. More binging than dieting, if I’m being honest. There have been times when I am sort of okay with how I look, and times when it is hard to leave the house, especially when meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in some time, who will certainly notice my thirty pound weight gain.

I’ve also done a lot of therapy. I mean, A LOT of therapy.

It was in therapy, talking about all my attempts to stop eating so much food, when my therapist asked me, “Rachel, what else is as big as your hunger?”

Immediately images came rushing to my mind.

I could see my heart, my love for my family, my ambition, my joy, my passion for God, my passion for life.

And I saw my fear of being big. Of being loud and strong and beautiful and powerful.

After my session with my therapist I sat down and made a list of all the things that I want to be able to do without shame, especially without shame about my body. It included things like wearing lipstick, getting a tattoo, running as long as I want, wearing tight clothes, and eating as much as I want in front of anyone. Anything that popped into my head and was immediately met with “maybe when you lose some weight” went on the list.

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Fifth on the list was, “Do yoga”.

I sat with the list for some time. I read through it again and again. I read through it enough times to confirm my realization that not one item on the list required me to lose a single pound or change my body in any way.

But a lot of them require me to be seen. A lot of them required me to let myself be big.

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So I bought lipstick. I bought two shades one week, and went back for two shades the next. Lipstick was the gateway to makeup, which was the gateway to wearing clothes without additional layers. I sat and planned my tattoo, discussing it with friends to gather ideas. But I kept coming back to #5 on the list.

Finally, I called up my trusted friend and scheduled a time to go to yoga. We went.

And I was the fattest girl in the room.

There were moves I could not do, like grabbing both my ankles behind me in a reverse boat pose. I took full advantage of the teacher’s offer to return to child’s pose whenever a position was too challenging. An hour passed by, and I didn’t die. No one said a single thing about my weight or my lack of yoga skills. I did not fall on my face and break my nose, as I had worried I might. No one pointed and laughed at me.

In the last few minutes of class, tears rolled down my face. Tears of gratitude for a body that is strong and flexible. Tears of pride for finishing the workout. And tears for my body. A body that has served me and protected me. A body that has made me ashamed. A body that has kept me safe. A body I have blamed for so many struggles. A body that is mine.

Of all the dieting strategies I have tried, one I haven’t tried yet is to get bigger. To be as strong and beautiful and loud and powerful as I am.

Two weeks ago I walked past one of the assistant principals I work with, and she stopped in her tracks, looked me up and down with her eyes and her finger and said, “I see you, Rachel. I see you.”

It was terrifying. And it was exhilarating.

The next day she asked me what has been going on, why I’ve been “jazzing it up.”

So I told her the truth. I told her that I’ve decided to finally show up for my life.

And though I didn’t tell her about it, I’ve also continued to show up for yoga class. Maybe just to prove that yoga is for people like me, too.

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P.S. I’m reading a great book by Jes Baker called Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls. It’s all about body love, for people of all shapes and sizes and it’s nice to keep in my purse for moments when I’m feeling like maybe shrinking, and all the baggage that comes with it, is actually a good idea after all.

 

 

 

 

 

friendship PARENTING

Sometimes I don’t want to be your friend

True confessions: Facebook rants fascinate me. Like, I definitely get why they are problematic, but sometimes I just want to pull out the popcorn and read some comments. Kardashians step aside, my friends have your drama BEAT!

So a few months ago I was joyfully scrolling when I landed on a rant from one of my FB friends. I’m not close enough with him that I knew the context of his frustrations, only that he was annoyed with his friends for exclusionary behavior.

Here was his comment:

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And ever since, I’ve had a hard time getting his words out of my head. “You should never make anyone work hard to be your friend.”

Being a parent is a pretty great free pass. A get out of jail card I’ve used endlessly. For example, I haven’t been on time to anything in the past two years. When I give you an ETA, it’s really more of a window, a casual suggestion.

It also works really well as an excuse why I can’t participate in activities and events. For good or bad, a sick kid is the perfect answer to how to avoid the social event I’ve been dreading.

In addition, since I have been sick over the last year, I have had an even better excuse. I am a sick mom of a toddler boy (and I work full time). Sometimes I want to just tattoo that sentence to my forehead by way of explanation.

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And it gets really easy to operate out of this sense of scarcity. Because I truly don’t have a lot of free time. And saying yes to one thing usually means saying no to something else and if I’m not careful I can over commit and the whole assembly line shuts down completely.

Not to mention that right now it is tax season and my husband is a tax accountant, so we’re busy.

Which is why when my husband and I got an email recently from the pastor at our church, asking if anyone in the church would be willing to make treats for the time between our two church services, I deleted it.

But over dinner that night my husband said he was thinking we should sign up to bring brownies. So I said, “Why, we already do a lot for church. Let someone who isn’t doing anything sign up.”

My husband baked brownies anyway, and I was grumpy about it all weekend.

brownies

(Though maybe a little less grumpy once I actually got to eat the brownies.)

But it gives me pause. Because I think there are seasons of scarcity. But I can’t help but look around, at the incredible life I have full of friends and community, and see not scarcity, but abundance.

And I wonder if maybe, just maybe, there are times when I keep everyone around me at the fringe and margin of my life because, well, it’s just easier. I wonder if there are times when I hold all that abundance closely to myself, hoping that none of it gets away.

I wonder if there are times when I make it hard for people to be my friend.

So I’ve been reflecting on what it looks like to say yes. To live with a little less fear. To trust there is going to be enough for me, even if I share a little with my neighbor. To take a moment to stop dwelling on my own forehead tattoo, and glance up to read the tattoos of the people around me.

To bake a few extra brownies, just in case.

A few weeks ago I met a woman at the library. She was there with her husband and two sons. While watching our boys play together at the train table, with occasional commiseration about the typical mom challenges, she asked if I knew of anyone who was a good babysitter. I asked if she knew about the local mom group in the area. I found out that she didn’t, that in fact, she just moved to the United States six months ago and is still learning the ins and outs of our shared neighborhood.

And I almost left it right there.

But before scooting out of the room to chase my son, we exchanged numbers.

When I got home later that night, I sent a text:

text for blog

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure if the playdate is going to happen. And there’s still a part of me that worries I don’t have time for another friend, or that saying yes to her would mean saying no to someone else.

And I think that’s probably true.

But then again, why not? It would be a good excuse to bake some more brownies.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

fathering mothering PARENTING

Pomegranates and Really Bad Bedtime Routines

My one piece of advice to parents? Get your kids into a good bedtime routine.

Just don’t ask me how to do it.

If the books are to be believed, I think there’s something about “consistency” and “same time each night”, two areas on the life report card that leave me hovering right around a C-.

Our motto for parenting is “do what works, until it doesn’t, then do what works.” And that’s true of the bedtime routine, too. We’ve done what works, which has sometimes included a swing, a crib, a crib mattress on the floor, a queen-sized mattress on the floor, a night light in the wall, co-sleeping, sleeping alone, a bath, a song, and always, of course, a book.

It has also included parent tears and children tears, vomit, tantrums that end in dirty diapers, and, well, you get the point.

I’m going to be honest, I work under the assumption that we are the only parents that have this problem. But I remind myself that, at least as far as I know, most kids don’t co-sleep when they’re in High School.

salad recipes

On the topic of things we’re trying to do better, my husband and I are working, or rather, eating our way through cookbook of salads. (Is it still called a cookbook if you don’t cook?) I bring it up not as a humble brag, but to both give the book a shout out, and to explain why a pomegranate was sitting opened, a fourth of its seeds taken out, on our kitchen counter.

My husband had commented that he didn’t think he was going to finish the pomegranate and, because we do have a tendency to get distracted and let fruit go bad, asked if we should keep it or throw it away. Playing my role in what has become a familiar scene, I insisted I would finish peeling it, or whatever it is that you call removing the fruit from a pomegranate. Shucking?

pom skin

I did end up peel-shucking that pomegranate, mostly because I enjoy any kitchen task that gives me an excuse to watch Gilmore Girls and still feel productive. As I watched Rory have her heart broken by Jess for the hundredth time, I pulled the skin away from the pomegranate seeds. And I realized for third time (since we don’t really eat that many pomegranates in our home) how beautiful those perfect red beads are, like jewels hidden inside their rhinoceros-skin exteriors.

pom seeds

So last night, while I was rocking my baby boy to sleep, or rather, rocking him, since there was no sleep going on, I looked down at his beautiful, perfect face and his tiny, George W. Bush ears, his long eye-lashes, and his dimple, and kissed his forehead.

“Sing, Mama?” he asked.

I sang. And then, we sang. First, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” and then “Give Yourself to Love”, and “Jesus Loves Me”.  And I listened as my two year old started, for the first time, to sing along with every word to the songs that I have sung him each night. He grinned as his tiny, high-pitched voice matched mine, recognizing my delight in his newly revealed ability.

And it was like peeling away the ugly rhinoceros skin of our lack of bedtime routine, and seeing the little gem of it stuck inside, just waiting for me to find it.

I imagine we’ll keep tweaking our bedtime routine, continuing to make it work. But even when it doesn’t, I guess it’s not always so bad after all.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

 

 

 

PARENTING

My wishy-washy goals for 2016

I made it into the new year, fingernails torn from clawing my way out of 2015. To quote Dickens, “It was the worst of times.”

But two days before the end of the year, after a visit to the ER for my son, shelling out several thousand dollars for a new transmission, and another damn death in the family, I went to the doctor and got a clean bill of health.

I cried most of the way home from the doctor, it seemed such an incredible, desperate relief.

I had a plan to make formal resolutions for this new year. I love ritual, and New Years is full of it. I had a plan to write a liturgy to share with my friends, complete with lighting a fire to burn away the past and welcome in the future.

candles lasalle(photo credit: Mary Rodriguez)

But I haven’t made my resolutions yet. Not in any formalized way. I’ve read enough soft psychology and business books to know that goals and resolutions should be actionable, quantifiable, audacious, yet achievable.

And what I have been thinking about is how to heal.

Healing from the absolute typhoon that was the past year.

Because the clean bill of health seems to be the first, not the last, step toward healing. And it has left me carrying a lot of baggage.

I was at Target several weeks ago, to grab just a few things, and slowly I found my arms filling up with more and more items. I had foolishly walked past the carts and the little red plastic baskets, thinking it would be only a quick trip, and surely I could grab everything and be on my way.

At the point when my third item hit the floor, I circled back to the entrance of the Super Target, getting in the lion’s share of my 5,000 steps for the day, and sighed with relief while dumping the contents of my arms into the shopping cart.

target shopping cart

I think I do that in life, too. I grab on to items as I walk past. Clean eating? Yep, I’ll take some of that. New solution for a perfectly tidy home? Make mine a double. Look sexy in less than 30 minutes a day? If I shift this around, I can squeeze that here. Take on another project for work? Well, I can’t say no to that. Squeeze in some time for friends? Check. Oh, yes, and let’s not forget the strategies for becoming a perfect mother.

None of those things are bad. They’re just, well, heavy.

My typical response is to throw up my hands, dropping the items, and exclaiming that I never really wanted this shopping trip anyway.

But that’s not true, and more often than not leaves me sheepishly scrambling for those items later, when people have stopped staring at the scene I’ve created. Because the truth is, I do want all those items.

So anyway, I’ve been thinking about what it might look like to put the items in the cart this year. To acknowledge that there are so many things that I want to be and to do, but they don’t all have to be held frantically right now. To give myself a little grace and celebrate getting to the gym even though it means eating takeout for dinner. To acknowledge that I can either do my hair or do my make-up, but not both. To go on walks and get some sleep. To ask if I really want to eat that second half of the chocolate cake, and if I do, to eat it, and if I don’t, to save it for another day.

To live with a little less panic and worry. To live with a little more kindness and grace. To let go of some of the baggage.

Because I’m healing, but I imagine I will always be healing.

So maybe my resolution this year is to always get a shopping cart at the front of the store. It’s seems like a good idea to let grace carry some of the load.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

 

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