I just finished reading The Red Tent.  It was a wonderful novel that illustrated the sacred nature of relationships between women.  What I found over the days I read it was I felt so nostalgic for the days when I was a new mother and I had a tribe of my own.

Bella was born in Texas, a place where I felt utterly alone.  When we made the move to Florida, I vowed to connect with others and find friends for myself and my baby girl.  Bella was 5-months-old when we began our new life and I went about finding those friends I longed for.  I started at a group for breastfeeding mothers and met the first three women who would join my circle.  My neighbor rang my doorbell with her 5 month old in tow and at the community pool I introduced myself to another new mother who was also new to town.  From that point we gathered at Wemoon Spirit, a women’s community center, where we were joined by three more moms.  There we circled up, sang songs, nursed our babies, and joked about the vagina chair that sat in the corner.

In the end there were ten of us and we met like this again and again at different places for three more years.    We shared our birth stories, tales of sleepless nights, and offered each other advice on all that we were learning in this new role in our lives.  Over time there were new pregnancies and new babies joined the group.  Our nursing toddlers finally weened and baby brothers and sisters took their places at our breasts.

Soon enough our little ones were beginning preschool.  The hours in our weeks were becoming filled up with new activities and tasks.  Life was leading us out of the red tent we had created for ourselves.  I busied myself with meditation workshops, self-help books, and the resurrection of my writing life.  When the fourth year was over my friends, the women who’d held my hand through the early days of motherhood, were farther away than I had realized.

As I read the book last week, I was reminded of how blessed I was to have had those women in my life.  (They did so much for me, including stepping in and being the family that took care of me through a difficult c-section recovery.)  Though most of us are still connected in some way, whether through church, school, or our neighborhoods, we will never again be the tribe we were in those first three years.  Wherever my life takes me I will always remember them and those wonderful Oxytocin filled hours we spent together learning what it meant to be mothers.

My advice to new mother’s is to go find yourself a tribe and build your own red tent.  The love and warmth of those days will stay with you forever.

I’ll leave you with a deep bow of gratitude to my Tally Toddler Tamers!


Allison’s Click

I have connected with Allison through Twitter.  I was grateful to receive the following story in my inbox  over a month ago.  I read it and sobbed.  It is a story of love and grief and a reminder to live life to the fullest.  You can read Allison’s blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

I Can’t Think of a Title

My last memory of them was the day my beautiful boy came into this world.

My husband and my mom left the hospital to grab a bite to eat. I was alone in the room with my new baby, trying to figure out the whole feeding him with my boobs thing, when I heard a soft knock coming from the other side of the door. In walked the four most beautiful people I have ever had the pleasure of loving.

Susie floated in the room, her three musketeers in tow, her smile and presence lighting up the room, as it always did. As they always did.

Scooping Luca out of my arms, she quickly swaddled him and held him to her chest.

“I’m your Tia Susie, Luca”, she whispered to him in her soft voice.

Luca was then passed down the Jacomini receiving line, each of them holding him, welcoming him into our family. Our new, tiniest member.

Still way loopy from my c-section meds, I slurred, “Sue, how the fuck am I supposed to be feeding this kid.?”

She shooed the two boys behind the curtain and handed Luca back to me.

“Do you mind, Ali?”

Before I had time to answer, she whipped my right boob out, grabbed hold of it, and shoved it in Luca’s mouth. That was just like her. Never shy.

Vivi watched from the foot of the bed, so ADORABLY curious.

Is that how you used to feed me mommy?”

How could I have known how special this moment would turn out to be? How could I have know this would be the last time I would see them?

Oh sweet, sweet, beautiful Susie-Q. My cousin. My mother’s sister’s, oldest daughter. The cousin who had always been more of a mother figure to me. You see, there was a big enough age difference between the two of us that she did not consider me annoying, much like my other cousins and sister did at the time. She always made me feel more special than anyone I had ever met. I worshiped her. I wanted to be her.  I always thought that she was the coolest person I’d ever met. I still feel this way. She was.

One day, after kissing a few frogs not worthy of her, Susie met her Tommy. Soon after, they had their Vivi and Thomas, tiny replicas of each of them. The family was complete.

This is where I get stuck when I try and write about them. In my heart, I can go on and on about how wonderful they were, but when it comes time to articulate this,  I am never able to find words that do them justice. How can I possibly express how amazing and special they were as individuals, and as a family, with stupid fucking words?

True beauty, inside and out. No words are worthy of them.

So, I’ve stopped trying.

I will never forget where I was when I got the frantic phone call from my mother. Luca had been in this world for exactly 10 days. It was a peaceful morning. Just the three of us Zapata’s hanging out, getting to know each other as a family.

I answered the phone and my mom told me to sit down.

I sat.

The words came through the phone and punched me in the gut.

Susie, Tommy and the kids are missing.

Missing? I had no idea what she meant. Someone took them?

Panic started rising inside me and I asked her over and over, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN MISSING? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY ARE MISSING?!!!!”

They had taken a final summer trip to Steamboat Springs, before the kids went back to school.

They flew up in their airplane, with Tommy in the flier’s seat, as they often had. The four of them together, in their small plane, loving every second of it.

They were expected back in Houston on August 15, 2008, as school started the following week.

That horrific call from my mom came early in the morning, on the 16th.

They had not come in. No one had heard from them. They were missing. All four of them.

The next 24 hours are a blur. So many feelings.

Hope, that Tommy had to land the plane somewhere and that they were all okay, waiting to be found.

Dread, that the worst had happened.

And it had. The worst thing in the world had happened.

The wreckage of the plane was found on the side of a mountain, not too far from where they took off.

No survivors. No survivors. No survivors.

To this day I cannot stop hearing those two words. They changed our world forever.

Left behind to try and make sense of something, that will never make sense, are two mothers, two fathers, a brother, sisters,  aunts, uncles, cousins, best friends, tiny classmates, and strangers who loved them, if only from their pictures  splashed all over the news.

I. Am. Mad.

A year and a half later, this still makes no sense.

This was God’s plan, is what most people say.

If this is true, then I don’t like this God.

Can God feel the hurt in Susie’s only sister’s, heart? Can he comprehend how wrecked he has left my aunt and my uncle and the rest of us that were left behind?

Because, if so, that doesn’t seem very kind or loving to me.

My beautiful and brave cousin said to me, “I can choose to be angry or I can choose to be grateful for the time we had with them.”

Some of what I feel when she says this is anger that she has to be saying this at all. Angry that she has to go through this and so sad that I can do nothing to make it better.

I am so pissed that the world keeps turning without them in it. I am furious that someone else is living in their house. I am pissed off that this story cannot have a happy ending. That there is nothing or no way to fix this, makes me panic.

So, yes, I am so grateful for the time we were privileged to have with them.

But, less angry? Not really.

I want them back.

Advice For My Daughters

I stopped using an alarm clock the day I became a mother.  My daughters became my alarm clock.  They woke me up at all hours of the night and still do sometimes.  I am so tuned into them that they’ve rarely had to wail or scream.  If I heard a slight moan or whisper from down the hall, I ‘d be up.  When they were babies and we co-slept they’d wiggle and kick ever so slightly and I just knew to give them my milk.

These days, for the most part, they sleep through the night, from 7:30pm to around 7am.  Bella usually comes out first in the morning.  Most of the time I hear her door open and the footsteps in the hall.  Then she goes into the living room and turns on PBS.  I officially get out of bed when I know it is 7:00.  I know it is 7:00 when I hear this:

Arthur has been coming on at the same time for as long as we’ve been watching PBS Kids, I hear the song everyday, but today I listened with my heart for the first time.  It truly is a beautiful message to share with our children.  It is the most important advice I would give my daughters, packaged into a song that makes you want to smile and dance!  Here are the lyrics in case you didn’t catch them or couldn’t listen.

Everyday when you’re walking down the street, everybody that you meet
Has an original point of view
And I say HEY! (HEY!) what a wonderful kind of day.
Where you can learn to work and play
And get along with each other

You got to listen to your heart
Listen to the beat
Listen to the rhythm, the rhythm of the street
Open up your eyes, open up your ears
Get together and make things better
By working together!
It’s a simple message and it comes from the heart
Believe in yourself
Well that’s the place to start

And I say HEY! (HEY!)what a wonderful kind of day
Where you learn to work and play
And get along with each other
hey what a wonderful time of day hey!

I want my daughters to believe in themselves.  And I love that this song tells them each time they hear it that that is the place to start.  Because really if they don’t believe in themselves, who else will?  If they do not listen to their hearts they will simply become cogs in the wheel.  I want them to trust their instincts, so that they can recognize trustworthy people.  If they live from a place of love and trust within, they will not be threatened by others.  They can feel love, compassion, and understanding for those who are different.  They will be able to work with others and make thing better.

Breastfeeding in Public

I am a little late with a breastfeeding post, seeing as “World Breastfeeding Week” was like two weeks ago.  I had wanted to write something during that week but apparently the issue just isn’t on my radar anymore because I completely missed it.  A trip to the museum last week inspired me to write the post now.

I have two friends that I hang out with that have nursing infants and are not the least bit hesitant about feeding them when they need to be fed.  One of these friends was like some sort of nursing super hero at a birthday party last year, breastfeeding the baby while she walked around the food table preparing a plate for her 5-year-old.  The other one sat calmly at our table in the museum cafe the other day feeding her baby without any concern of whether anything was showing or not.  On our way out of the cafe we saw another mom nursing her baby under one of those tent-like cover ups.  I love that those have been invented so that mom’s who would normally retreat to a bathroom stall or a hot/cold car can now comfortably feed their babies in public just like everyone who bottle feeds does.

When Bella was born, I was determined to make breastfeeding work.  I wanted to do it for all of the health and bonding reasons, but I have to admit the number one reason was because I’m cheap and I figured out how much formula cost and did not want to have that extra expense.  It took Bella a while to catch on and once she did it took me a while to be willing to do it in public.  In the beginning I would go to the car and I even recall a nursing session in the bathroom stall in a public restroom (gross).  One of my first real attempts at breastfeeding in public was at a baby shower with women only.  Surprisingly, I was still a nervous wreck about the idea, but Bella was fretful and I needed to calm her.  When I started nursing her a woman came over and said it was great that I was nursing and she loved that I was doing it there publicly.  We ended up having a long conversation and that was the turning point for me.  From then on I was willing to nurse my daughter when she needed it, in spite of where we were at the moment.

I was lucky enough to align myself with a group of “whip it out” moms and almost every time I nursed in public one of them was with me.  Except for a woman with a wicked stare in a restaurant once, it was never really a problem for me.  But I did spend a lot of time on the babycenter message boards back then and heard a lot of unpleasant stories.  It makes me a bit sad that people can get so offended by seeing a woman breastfeeding.  It is a beautiful and necessary thing.

Here’s a picture of Bella and me taken in 2005.  This is what nursing looks like.  I can think of thousands of things that are more offensive.


Seasonal Friends

My friend, Kasey, over at Midnitemonologues wrote a post about friendship a while back and included the phrase “a reason, a season, and a lifetime friend.”  The post made me start to think about my friends and particularly my seasonal friends.  When I started learning about the Law of Attraction, I quickly realized that relationships may just be the most obvious indicator of this law at work.  It seems that your attitude, thoughts, and interest determine the people you will attract into your life.  And all of the people who arrive in your life are there to help you.  If you are extremely down, it might take spending a year hanging out with Eeyore for you to realize he is a mirror of yourself and looking in that mirror pushes you towards change.

When I moved to Florida as a new mom, I wanted to connect with other moms like me.  Breastfeeding was one of the most important parenting issues to me so I attended a support group for nursing moms.  I met two friends during my first meeting and gradually our little group grew to 10 moms.  Of that group, 6 of us had had c-sections and 6 of us nursed our “babies” until they were between 2-3 years old.  We were definitely not the norm, but we all found each other and stayed connected for years.  But gradually the seasons started to change, schedules got busy, kids started preschool, misunderstandings took place, and our interests changed.  The group began to scatter as I morphed from a floundering new mom to an aspiring writer and spiritual seeker.  Old friends were less available and new friends began to arrive.

One day a neighbor knocked on our door and asked if Mark would run for our Home Owner’s Association board.  For whatever reason I said “well, I don’t think Mark could do it, but what about me?”  Next thing I know I’m on the HOA board and I’m at a meeting showing off my first published article about the Law of Attraction to my neighbor.  From that we figured out we had the same interests.  I have been introduced to so many new ideas through this friend.  She is so important to my journey. I only stayed on the HOA board for one year, but she and I have now been friends for two.

Recently I’ve watched new friends appear in my life.  I’ve also had some long lost friends reappear.  Almost all of them represent something within me that I want to bring forth.  There is Stacia who is so strong, passionate, and independent; Kasey who is loving, embracing, and supportive; Stephanie (Stacia’s sister) who is so attentive, interested, and connected with others.  It had been 20 years since I’d seen Stephanie and Stacia, and about 15 for Kasey…but it is obvious to me why they are back now.  What I observe in them is what I want to manifest in myself.  Then there are the new friends that I am watching follow their dreams and use their creativity to lead them to careers they love.  Lissa is waiting to hear about a book deal, Megan just got a job with Owning Pink, Lisa (at One Hip Mom) has started creating these beautiful dresses and other items for her own Etsy shop, and Cheryl is consciously creating a life of JOY!

So even though it is sad sometimes when the seasons change, there is always something that arrives with the new!  I’ve learned from and loved so many friends!  I can easily see the lessons from some of you and am still waiting to see what will unfold with those who’ve just arrived.  Whether it’s a season or a lifetime…you are all truly VITAL!