Nostalgic

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!

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Politics Screw With Love

Almost everything that pokes at me and sends me out of my comfort zone these days originates from Facebook.  I think this window we’ve created for ourselves into the lives of people we know, but don’t really know forces us pull our heads out of the sand and admit that there are all kinds of other viewpoints out there.  If we can’t embrace each others’ differences, we at least have to learn to accept them because they exist and denying the existence doesn’t change that fact.

For me the button that is most often pressed is the one in charge of my politics.  I know that I am not the only one that could admit this.  Today a friend posted something that was so very true, yet left me feeling a mixture of angry, sad, and fearful.  I’ll try to paraphrase what she said:

Do you ever notice how when you find out someone’s political beliefs your opinion of them instantly changes and you no longer feel the same about them? It’s interesting that that happens.

Reading that made me sad because, after two years of being her Facebook friend, I know her political views and they are not the same as mine.  It was a reminder that the instant I am open about being liberal there are people who will think less of me and perhaps even write me off.  The comment made me angry because it means that all the respect and love that brings us to a relationship in the first place can be torn apart in one moment of categorizing ourselves.  Finally it made me fearful because, like I said before, it was a very true (for probably most people) statement.

I’ve been in both situations before.  I’ve been in the place where you’re hanging out with a new friend, you like them and see the potential for a great relationship and then the subject of politics come up.  They say something that lets you know their on your team and suddenly you feel those warm fuzzies.  In your mind you’re running through a field of daisies with some sweet song playing.  In one instant an alliance has been made, and yes, you like this person more than you did the moment before.  I’ve also been in the moment where the new friend expresses a political opinion opposite yours and the sound of a record scratch resonates in your head.  How could this be?  She/He can’t possibly be one of them!  And just like that, you’re not so sure you could ever find common ground with this right-wing/left-wing crazy (gotta love how our ego exaggerates)!

If there is something I want to transform about myself it is this reaction.  I want to see myself have these snap judgments and be able to take a time-out to pray for God to heal my thoughts and help me see what’s real.  In reality we all just want the same basic things.  We want to feel safe and loved.  It doesn’t matter what your political party affiliation is.  The negative reactions about our differences come from fear and that fear is used so well in politics to divide us, even from those we respect and love.

More and more these days I am finding friends on the other side of the fence whom I have so much in common with.  I am better for having them in my life and hope that in the future my political allegiances never keep me from connecting with people like these smart and loving ones I already know!

*A note to my FB friend if she is reading*

I hope I didn’t offend you by paraphrasing you here.  Thank you for inspiring me to look within at my own reactions.

Happy Birthday Amy…

Dear Amy,

So today is your birthday.  I still can’t believe you’re not here.  It’s been years since I’ve celebrated your birthday with you.  The last time I remember was your 21st.  I’m sure I was around for the 22nd and 23rd, but after that I moved away.  This has been a tough week for me and in a way I’m surprised because like I mentioned it’s been years since I celebrated one of them with you.   Those people who’ve been with you for most of them are having a spaghetti dinner for you tonight.  I wish I could be there.  Actually what I really wish is that I could call you up and say “ha, ha, now you’re 35 too, we’re so old.”  But you’ll never be old, just plastered in my memory forever as a 34-year-old expectant mom.  If I try real hard I can still see you waddling in the bedroom with that piece of cake for me.  Why is it again that you were supposed to be on bedrest but were serving me cake?  I’m sure a few people would have scolded me for letting you do that.

You know I really believe that you are still with me.  A few weeks ago as I was falling asleep I thought of you.  I thought about how I was on vacation and too busy to call you after the babies were born.  I had two days that I could have said congratulations and I loved you but I chose to wait until I got home.  By the time I got home it was too late.  I don’t really have any regrets about our friendship except for that one.  I went to sleep that night thinking about it and then you came to me in a dream.  It had been a long time since I’d dreamed about you and I don’t believe it was coincidental that I saw you on that particular night.

I wonder what you are experiencing these days.  Your mom talks about Heaven a lot.  I try to think of what Heaven is.  I like the way Sylvia Browne describes the other side.  Basically, if I’m remembering correctly, she says it is just layered on top of this side.  That we are totally intertwined and us humans are just too “closed” and stuck in our life drama to see it.  So I’d say that you are floating around seeing and feeling the underlying love in everything.  I’ve also wondered if you’re working some sort of magic out there too.  So many of your friends have gotten pregnant since you left, including friends who had struggled for years (like you did).  Not that you are the stork or anything, but maybe you’re just helping people get the timing right.

I know some people will read this and think I’m crazy.  I’m sure there is a logical explanation for so much of what I experience as you still being here.  On this one I don’t want to be logical, I want to be hopeful and faithful.  I’ll cling to the idea that no one really knows for sure.  I’ll count my frogs, my dreams, and the latest baby epidemic as gifts and messages from my favorite angel.  So keep them coming and let me hold you tightly in my heart until we meet again!!

I love and miss you.  Happy 35th Birthday, Little Mama (maybe that would have been my nickname for you)!

Les

PS:  I just reread this and have to say I soo wouldn’t have nicknamed you Little Mama…it’s pretty dorky. (And quite frankly it’s probably you who brought the dorkiness of that to my attention anyway!)

Living the Questions

Recently someone commented on an old post.  It gave me the opportunity to reread that post and the comments on it.  A friend of mine had left the following quote in her comment.  She’d read it and thought of me.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions”

I remember that when I read it the first time I had thought It sounds very lovely, but I don’t really get it. What does it really mean to live the questions?

So yesterday I had a very emotional day.  I reconnected with two old friends, one in person and one by phone.  I didn’t express everything that was in my heart with either of them.  I knew that if I’d opened my mouth to actually speak what I was feeling I would just turn into a weeping mess.  The gist is that I realized in talking with them that I had unintentionally and unknowingly pushed them both away.  In the past couple of years I have been so busy seeking the answers, that I’ve let important things and people slip away.

At the end of the day I was thinking more about it and this quote popped into my head.  I had lost friendships and connections because I wasn’t “living the questions.”  I don’t need to have the answers and in fact the harder I look for them the less likely they are to come.  The answers will find me when I am ready to receive them.  It’s just like the quote.  I didn’t get it at first because I didn’t need to.  Maybe at that point I was too immersed in my seeking to appreciate the powerful message my friend was presenting me with.    But now, I GET IT!

Living the questions to me is to ask, expect to receive when the timing is right, and LET GO of the need to know.  Get back to living and loving while the Universe gets to work on the how and when.  The answer will arrive and you will just KNOW it’s time to take action.  I am going to stop acting like the kid in the back seat saying “Are we there yet?”  I am going to be present in my life and have confidence that I’ll be led to the right step when I am truly ready to take it.

Four Months

Yesterday, Gavin and Brantley turned four months old and tomorrow will mark four months since Amy passed away.  For those of you who are new to reading this blog, this post explains more.

I still think of Amy everyday.  Most of those days I have at least one misty-eyed moment.  This past week I’ve spent a lot of time on her Facebook page reading all of her “notes” and looking through her pictures.  The other day I was reading one where she’d answered the question “Who do you miss?”  Her answer was “living-Heather and Leslee, not living-Paw Paw.”  Who would have thought that we’d never have the chance to live in the same city again.  And who would have thought she’d be with “Paw Paw” so soon.

I am becoming friends with the woman (K) who is taking care of the babies and I keep up with her too, through Facebook.  She traded in her car a week or so ago and bought a Honda Odyssey so that she could trek the boys and her own son around.  I laughed because Amy HATED mini vans with a passion.  She swore she’d never buy one and I’m pretty sure she made fun of me when we bought ours.  K posts pictures of Gavin and Brantley pretty regularly and she updates her status with comments about diapers and laundry.  I love having the insight into what is going on with Amy’s family and I know K is a loving soul who is giving her all to the boys, but I still can’t believe it’s not Amy.  I forget sometimes, but only for a second and then it rushes over me again.  The boys are absolutely beautiful and I wish I could hear Amy describe them and tell me all about their schedules, quirks, likes, and dislikes.

I don’t really have that much to say.  I just wanted to make note of the significance of today and honor Amy.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot the last week.  One day I was sitting on the couch on my laptop when Callee came over and handed me the thank you card Amy had sent following the baby shower.  The card had been on top of the dresser that Callee is not tall enough to reach and between two books.  She’d done some climbing and searching to get to it.  I like to think it was Amy who put her up to it.  When I went to take it back the books were neat and organized.  She hadn’t disrupted anything in retrieving the card.

In the card Amy writes that she is grateful that her and I are closer than we have been in a long time.  And it was true.

I miss her.  I love her.  And I am so proud that she was my friend….

You’re the Star!

This month at church, Rev. Jean is doing a series on the new book “The Fifth Agreement.” The book and the series include a review of “The Four Agreements,” so that’s what the talks of the last two weeks have been.  Last Sunday she discussed agreement two: Don’t Take Anything Personally.  I particularly enjoyed the way she presented the idea.  She had us all imagine a scene from our life and watch it in our mind like a movie.  Then she pointed out that the way we view the scene is only our perspective and if we watched the same movie through someone else’s eyes it would be totally different.

The reality is we are the stars of our own movies, but for everyone else we are merely supporting characters in theirs.  As I write blog posts, I often wonder what people are going to think.  Thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with a lot of people who knew me at different phases of my life.  Everybody has a different version of me in their minds.  I question how my version…the real me…measures up to theirs.  Are they disappointed, pleased, shocked, or attracted?  Sometimes when I am retelling events as I remember them I worry.  I worry because A.)I have a terrible memory and B.)what if my memory doesn’t match up with those involved.  I’ve read a couple of comments on other blogs where the writers have more or less been accused of lying.  The thing is, I don’t believe they were lying at all, but rather recording the memory how it played out in their movie.  When I was in 6th grade I was best friends with a girl named, Brandi.  I remember so much about our friendship.  I remember listening to Bon Jovi, playing with my hamster, jumping on the trampoline, interviewing each other on cassette tape, and climbing out her bedroom window late one night at the end of the summer (don’t worry we didn’t go any further than the driveway).  When we got back in touch on Facebook she sent me a message saying that whenever she drives by my old neighborhood she remembers swimming at my house and eating frozen Milky Ways.  We had carried with us completely different memories of the same exact friendship.

There are a lot of things that people hide or change about themselves depending on who they are in the company of.  We do this because we are afraid of what others will think of us.  We are afraid of rejection.  A positive thing we can learn to do for our own peace of mind is to not take anything personally.  Everyone is the center of their own Universe.  Whatever statements they may make to you or about you doesn’t really have anything to do with you.  It’s just a role you’re playing in their movie and that role most certainly does not define you.  For me, I am learning not to let the criticism or praise from others become a master over me.  I have an array of ideas in my head and people of all walks of life could read my blog and find stuff they love and hate about me. If I tried to please them all (which I have spent a lot of energy in my life wanting to), I would not be living my own truth.

Lessons From Benjamin Button

We watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button the other night.  I was very moved by it, on the edge of my seat despite it’s 2 hour and 45 minute duration.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I should probably say *spoiler alert*.

The main character, Benjamin, is born a decrepit (harsh, but probably the best word for it), little old man.  His mother dies in childbirth and his father, horrified by his appearance, abandons him on the steps of the local Nursing Home.   Queenie, takes him in and raises him amongst the residents, assuming he has a very short time to live.  Over the years he, of course, grows younger instead of older (at least on the outside).  In his old man’s body he strikes up a friendship with a young girl named Daisy.  He and Daisy connect because they are actually nearly the same age.  It is this relationship that is the foundation of the movie.  Their outer appearances place each of them in categories that keep them separate.  It is only when they’ve each faced tremendous loss that they are brought back together again.  These years together are the ones in which their “ages” match.  But the different directions they are traveling loom over them and eventually Benjamin leaves so that Daisy will not have to care for him as a child.  As fate would have it a little boy, in the beginning stages of dementia, ends up back at the Nursing Home and Daisy is called.  She cares for him as he returns to infancy.

Throughout the movie you love Benjamin.  He is different and faces challenges, but has a beautiful soul.  You want him to be accepted and understood.  Then there is Daisy and she is just so very human.  I got angry at her, but probably because I could relate to her in ways.  She loved him but chose to move on without him.  It took a tragedy that ruined her career to bring her home to him.  Once with him, she redeemed herself and unselfishly chose to let him go and eventually take care of him at the end of his life.

The main theme in this movie was Death…but not just death as death, but death as change.  Benjamin grows up in a world filled with death (a nursing home where residents go at the end of their lives), and because of his uniqueness always has the threat of death in the shadows.  He learns early on that nothing is constant, everything is in motion and you can’t stop time.  One of my favorite quotes from the movie that speaks to the theme is from the character who teaches him to play the piano.  She says: “Benjamin, we’re meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?” Death teaches us to stop taking life for granted.  In the death of a relationship we learn the gifts that were given us by the person we lost.

There was so much more to this movie.  It was thick,  full of layers and life lessons.  It showed the reality of people…that sometimes they are exactly who they say they are and sometimes what we think we know is very far from the truth of them.  It put a spotlight on relationships and the fact that none of them last forever.  It illustrated fate and the great production we’re all a part of, every action and line matters.  It reminded me of the opportunities that life provides and how it is up to each of us to take them or leave them.

I’ll leave you with a few memorable quotes:

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” -Benjamin Button

“You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You could swear, curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go.” -Captain Mike

“Your life is defined by its opportunities… even the ones you miss.” -Benjamin Button

“Sometimes we’re on a collision course, and we just don’t know it. Whether it’s by accident or by design, there’s not a thing we can do about it.” -BB

“I promise you, I’ll never lose myself to self-pity again.” -Daisy

“You’ll see little man, plenty of times you be alone. You different like us, it’s gonna be that way. But I tell you a little secret I find out. We know we alone. Fat people, skinny people, tall people, white people… they just as alone as us… but they scared shitless.” -Ngunda Oti