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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Grateful for the Book Tour

I knew I’d be writing a post like this.  I knew I’d feel changed and ever-grateful for my time with Lissa last week.  But to tell you the truth I thought it would be for totally different reasons than it is.

You see, Lissa is a Goddess.  She is a Rockstar.  She is a Rockstar Goddess!  She is grace under pressure with enough energy to light up a big city.  I was in awe of the way she moved through each day, accomplishing everything on the agenda, answering her hundreds of emails, and being loving and open enough to sit and talk with individuals after events about their very personal female problems.  She has made her way to the stage and it’s going to be so much fun to watch it all unfold and know I had a small part in it.

When the opportunity to serve as “roadie” was first brought to me I told Mark I needed to do it so I’d know if my career goals were right for me.  Since I started writing again in 2007, I have dreamed of a career like Lissa’s.  I wanted to write books and travel, speaking to crowds and doing book signings.  I’ve thought so much about this dream that in ways it has disrupted my creative writing.  As time passes and I see myself no closer to “the goal” it has really brought me down.  So getting to experience the “Rockstar Author” life vicariously through Lissa was just what I needed.

I assumed that I’d get there and think “YES!! THIS IS THE LIFE FOR ME!”  Instead, it didn’t take long for me to realize I thrive on the simple, quiet life I have.  I reserve the right to change my mind (which is something I am told Charles Fillmore, founder of Unity, used to say), but that high-demand-everybody-wants-a-piece-of-you  life is not for me.  I love that I can sit on the couch and read a book for an hour without feeling like there is something else I need to be doing.  It’s nice knowing I get to pick the girls up from school everyday and schedule playdates for them.  I don’t need to be anyone else’s Rockstar because I am one to the people it matters to the most.

During her presentations, Lissa often mentioned how you can leave your job but you can’t leave your calling.  Her calling as an OBGYN was to take care of women.  As the author of What’s Up Down There? and creator of Owning Pink, she is still answering that call.  This was something that flashed like a red light across my imagination every time she said it.   THE CALLING!  I’m not 100% sure of my calling but the trip definitely gave me some ideas.  Although I’m resisting it like you wouldn’t believe, I think it has something to do with teaching!  Just like Lissa, I left that traditional job yet I still feel called to help educate people (though I’m not exactly sure on the subject).

This Thanksgiving week, I am so grateful for the chance I had to test-drive the car before I plunked down the money to buy it.  Now I’m one step closer to the me I’m meant to be!

In honor of the holiday week the next 4 days on the blog will be low-key!  I am still in need of “click stories” if you have an “aha” moment you’d like to write about!

Goodbye 34

Today I turn 35.  I can’t believe it.  I feel like the year clock stopped around 29 and when I pick Bella up from school in the afternoons I am still surprised when I see that tall and thin girl walking towards me.  It seems like only yesterday she was an infant and Callee just a twinkle in my eye.  But today I am a 35-year-old mother of two girls ages 6 and 4.  I was talking to my mom the other day and she informed me that my dad wants to buy a motorcycle.

“Can you imagine this 69-year-old man on a motorcycle?”  She asked with a laugh.

When did my father turn 69? Oh yeah, that would be the same year that I have turned 35.  In my mind my parents are in their late 50s.  Maybe it’s because that’s how old they were when I got married and moved away.  Somehow time doesn’t pass and things don’t change if you’re not there everyday to see it happen (you know like the tree falling in the forest thing).

Last year was a big year.  I don’t really need to go into all of it.  But I did start this blog just a few weeks after I turned 34.  I started it with the intention to post everyday.  I wasn’t sure I could keep that promise, but wanted to very much.  With the exception of one very sad week and thanks to a little help from my friends and fellow writers, I have posted daily.  I used to think I wanted a third baby.  This blog has become that baby.  I’ve watched it grow and learned a lot about being a good “mother.”  I have big dreams for this baby, especially since I have a lot more control over what this baby becomes than I will the other two.

So today I am 35-years-old.  It feels huge and yet I’ll probably spend it the same way I do every other day, well except for the fact that my parents should be arriving this evening sometime.  A few years ago, I set goals for myself.  35 was the magic number when X and Y would happen.  I am very hopeful of the goal.  There is a voice in my head screaming or whispering “I declare this the year of personal transformation and professional success.”  I have faith in that voice, but also surrender my idea of what that transformation and success should look like.  This year I want most of all to love, listen, feel joy, and peacefully put one foot in front of the other!

Happy Birthday to me and thank you all for being a part of my life!

Toby’s Click (4)

I am sorry to say this is number 4 in our Toby Tuesday series!  The following definitely touched my heart and had me reaching for the tissue box!  Remember you can read Toby’s blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

I visited some friends a few nights ago that sparked the idea for this letter.  My friend and I worked together at a restaurant.  We both lost our jobs over a year ago when the restaurant closed down.  It has been a struggle in this economy for both of us since then.  I was seven months pregnant when I was laid off, and my friend has a felony charge.  It has been difficult, but not impossible to find work.

My friend, on the other hand, has been unemployed for a year.  She is not trying as hard as she could, and unfortunately her situation has plummeted.  She has lost her home, and has been staying with her thirty year old daughter and her two granddaughters.  My friend also has custody of her seventeen year old son and sixteen year old granddaughter.  She is also taking care of her eighty year old father, and all four of them have moved in with my friend’s daughter.

The two teenagers were angry when I went over to visit the other night.  They wore angry, frustrated expressions on their faces, never smiling.  These are not the teenagers I had experienced several months earlier.  I cannot blame them for being angry.  As parents, we are supposed to provide stability for our children.  These two teenagers are being failed, and they are forced into an uncomfortable situation because of their parents own irresponsibility.  I cannot blame them for being angry, and I believe I would feel angry in that situation as well.  I can only hope this adversity helps them strive to be self sufficient as soon as they can.  I can only hope they use this experience to stay driven to succeed beyond this lifestyle.

When I got home from there the other night, I was inspired to write this letter to my own son.  I am at a crossroads in my life, and I have made mistakes in the past.  Since my son was born, my life has changed so much.  I am now striving to make the best life I can for my son.  I know I will make some difficult decisions, but I know that everything I do for the rest of my life will be with my son’s best interest in mind.

Dear Lucien,

You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.  A year or so before you were born; I was drowning in a sea of confusion.  I had made so many bad decisions that my life had become a mess.  As I started to pull myself out of the mess, I got pregnant with you.  I want you to know that you have saved my life.  You have given me hope again.  For the first time in many years, I see a world of possibility.

And all those possibilities lie within you, my son.  It is now my job to make those possibilities a reality.  I want to provide you with everything you will need to be happy and successful in anything you do.

I am starting my life over, going back to school to provide a life for you.  I know that I want to be able to provide for you all by myself if I have to.  I promise you that you will be given every opportunity to be the best you can.  You are so smart and already have so many talents, I promise to nurture those.  I promise to always be a constant in your life.

I promise to keep you from harm.  I will not take you to places that may not be safe for you, such as a house where people smoke inside.  I will not take you to a place where there may be dogs that could bite you, or where you cannot play safely.  I promise to provide you with good company, so that your friends are good influences.  I promise to keep you away from guns and drugs and violence.

I promise to provide you with stability.  You will always live in a place with no danger of being kicked out.  I promise to buy a house as soon as I can, so that you will grow up in a nice neighborhood with good schools nearby.  I promise to keep the water and the electricity on.  And I promise you will always have enough food, and we will sit down to dinner together as much as humanly possible.

I promise to help you with your homework, and nurture the importance of education.  I will teach you to read voraciously, and hopefully you will inherit my love of books.  I will help you to get good grades, and will provide money for college.  I promise to instill in you how important a good education is to one’s future.

I promise to provide enough for you to be able to play sports, go to summer camps, and take whatever kind of lessons you want.  If you are musical, I promise to buy you the instruments you want and the lessons you need.  If you are an athlete, I promise to provide you with uniforms and the chance to play sports competitively.  If you are into science, I will provide you with all the equipment to conduct your own experiments and the chance to attend Space Camp if you want.  I promise to provide for you with the opportunity to explore any interest you have.

I promise to make a big deal of your birthdays, for that is a day to be celebrated…the day my life changed forever…the day I was given the greatest gift…the day your precious life began.  I will save for months to get you the gifts you want.  And I promise we will have parties for you.  You can guarantee your grandparents will be a part of the celebration as long as they are with us.

I promise to give you the opportunity to have your family close.  I want you to be as close with your grandparents as I was with Pop.  I want you to know that you have so many people who love you to pieces.  You will never be denied the opportunity to know our family.  I promise we will visit your grandparents who live farther away as often as we can.  I promise that your grandparents and aunts and uncles will be as much of a constant in your life as I am.  I promise you will be surrounded and supported by a loving family.

I promise to provide a positive atmosphere that a child can flourish in.  I do not want you to grow up around negativity or prejudice.  I want to surround you with people who are constantly learning and growing.  I promise to keep you from people who are stagnant or who may be involved in dangerous situations.  I promise to do my best to help you become a happy, successful young man one day.

I know that there will be times you will not be happy with some of the decisions I make.  But, I want you to know that I make all of them with your best interest at heart.  We may not always agree on things, but I will always love you and want what is best for you.  There will be times when you will just have to trust me, and I know a time will come when I will just have to trust you.  I pray that you and I will always be as close as we are right now.

I also know that you will grow up, and soon you will not be reliant on me for everything.  As your first birthday approaches, you are becoming more and more independent.  As much as I sometimes wish you could stay this little and precious, I am excited for you to start growing up.  I cannot wait until you can talk or to read.  I cannot wait to see you play in your first soccer game, or ride a bike.  I am excited for the days when you may win the science fair or start your first band.  There are so many things we have to look forward to, and I want you to know I will be right here cheering you on.  I will always be your biggest fan.

My mother, your Maman, has always given me unconditional love.  There were many times we did not get along and I was sure her intentions were just selfish.  As I have finally grown up, I look back and see that she always had my best interest at heart.  I was just too young and stupid to understand or listen.  I pray we do not go through that, but I know every parent and child goes through this on some level.  I promise to love you unconditionally, and to always be there for you.  I promise that no matter how big you become, you will always be my son.  I promise to always love you.

Son, you are so beautiful as you lie next to me right now, peacefully sleeping.  You have so much potential, and you have renewed my life.  I promise, my dear son, your momma will always do right by you.  Your momma will always be here for you, and I will provide everything you need.  I promise, my son, you will be kept from harm as long as I can.  You will be raised in a safe and nurturing environment.  Son, I promise to be the best mother I can possibly be.  The lord has blessed me with such a beautiful gift, I promise to cherish you always.

Love, Your Mother


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.

A Message on Loneliness and Retreat

I go through phases where I am super social and phases where I am super anti-social.  For a lot of years, after leaving my hometown in NC, I was anti-social out of necessity.  It was hard to make new friends b/c I’d had the same amazing friends for so long and had always been in situations where making them was easy.  When we moved to Florida I was determined to make friends and I did.  I became a part of the most wonderful group of fellow stay-at-home-moms I could imagine.  And then, as I’ve written about before, life began to get busy and schedules started to change.  I also found myself going inward more, reading books, and writing.  For over a year, I was very hermit-ish.  I’m not sure that I’ve fully emerged from that phase.  In ways I have through online relationships.  I’ve reunited with a lot of friends from way back and I’ve made a lot of new friends through Twitter and blogs.  But at times I feel lonely.  I used to talk on the phone regularly with a couple of my mommy friends, my sister, and my mom.  When schedules got busy and I went into hermit mode, those mostly stopped.  I feel this weird mix of guilty, sad, and peaceful about it.  I feel guilt because maybe I pushed people away, maybe shifting my priorities hurt people.  I feel sad because sometimes I think that Mark is the only person I have in this world.  And I feel peaceful because my life is pretty simple right now, and simple is good.

Anyway, lately I’ve felt the urge to retreat again and go inward.  That urge scares me though, because as much as I want to learn about myself and connect with spirit, I don’t want to lose or weaken anymore of my connections to people.  I tried something new tonight, looking for an answer to this dilemma.  I asked a question on paper and wrote down an answer as it popped into my head.  The following came to me in less than 5 minutes and what you’ve read up until this point took me about 45 minutes to get down. My question was:

I am seeking guidance about loneliness and a desire to retreat.  Do you have any insight on this matter for me?

You are never alone.  Surrounding yourself with people often makes you lonelier.  Your energy is merged with theirs and it is possible to lose sight of who you are.  Their wishes interact with your own.  The vision for your life can be left clouded.  What you want may not jive with what those around you want.  There is a desire to hold tightly and keep the river from flowing, dam it up if you will.  You must keep moving.  In moments of stuckness it is good to find your own space for quiet questioning of the soul.  The need to retreat can grab you and you can fight it.  Fight it with guilt and empty movements.  Avoidance.  Going inward signals the call to the energies waiting to assist.  Do it as often as you can.  Allow yourself to open and be a channel for the light that will illuminate the darkness, bring you to where you need to go and allow you to see who you can be.  Loneliness is a hypnotic suggestion.  It is the ego falsely demanding you to fill your time and life with more and more until it is so crowded that you’ve gotten lost.  People will arrive when they need you or you them.  You cannot call forth sadness by measuring the bodies in your life.  You have all you need in this now moment.  If you are feeling called to retreat than do just that.

I bought the book “Writing Down Your Soul” and hope to start a regular practice of soul-writing.  I may share it here regularly or maybe just once in a while.  This was my first attempt in a long time and as my friend Mildred would say, what you just read there in italics I am quite certain was written through me not by me.

Elizabeth’s Click

Elizabeth found my blog and responded to my “writer’s wanted” request by sending me this great click!  After you have enjoyed the story below you can visit her blog here.

I’ve never been able to run. I can remember sixth grade PE, sprinting the 50-yard dash and hating it. My arms and legs didn’t talk to each other, didn’t move in sync. I looked like a circus act, the girl spinning all the plates in different directions. My plates were my limbs.

I’ve always pitied “runners,” how they have to have their fix, whether on vacation, or down with the flu, despite flash flood warnings and lightening strikes. I despised their complaints about missing a run, how they were “off” that day because they didn’t get their six or nine miles in. Poor me, I’m a runner and couldn’t run today. Pull out the violin.

I’ve thought runners were running away from something, like people become newborn Christians after a tough divorce or alcoholics start hitting meetings after waking up one too many times in the gutter. I didn’t see the benefit of escapism, didn’t think I was hostage to any bonds that needed breaking.

Running was the last thing in life I wanted to do, right after swimming with sharks and joining the Marines.

Last summer, through a series of small and unrelated events, I discovered the true path of a runner: A runner isn’t sprinting away from anything, she’s running to something, or someone or somewhere so important to her that she simply cannot make it through the day if she doesn’t at least try to get there.

I get it now.

I’ve run three half marathons and pair of 10ks in the last several months. It’s only 13.1 miles a pop, but I’m proud of myself, proud of the hundreds of miles I’ve put into training. My confidence is at its peak; my body stronger than it’s ever been in my life. I’ve become an athlete at the age of 43. Unbelievable.

I am a leaner, lustier version of myself. I am the no-nonsense me everyone used to know, love and sometimes fear. I celebrate the return of the me who took bullshit from no one; the me who vowed never to become complacent or lose her way in life, but sadly did.

I no longer shun mirrors, and actually pause now and then to smile at myself. I seek, rather than refuse, confrontation, and as a result have enjoyed some thrilling showdowns. Modesty is out the window; bad news for my kids and the dressing room boy at the Gap, but good news for my creepy neighbor. My closet is a fun place to be again, especially because everything in it is new and smaller and sleeker. The bitch is back with a purse full of spark and sass.

I refuse to step on a scale for fear of getting lost in the numbers game. Pound for pound, I have no idea how much of me is gone. I used to joke that is doesn’t matter how you feel on the inside, but how good you look on the outside. I was so wrong. They’re intertwined: you can’t be beautiful on the outside if your insides are hurting. And if you’re beautiful on the inside, you’ll shine like a penny.

More benefits of my transformation? For the first time, my body is a fuel-burning machine. Thanks to its hum, I can eat whatever and whenever I want. I used to eat nothing and keep my weight. Now my taste buds dance and my body continues to carve what I think is becoming a delicious figure.

One of my brothers was inspired to walk after viewing my improved physique in running clothes. At 40, he’s seeing what a lot of guys his age are: that little fluff of dough that hangs over the belt. Chicks call theirs “muffin tops.” If I can galvanize him to better his health, my job as a big sister is complete.

Who are those I am running to? I run to my friend and soul mate, Chris, who I lost last summer without a goodbye but who cheers me on from above with a bunch of obnoxious claps. I run to my family, and to the promises of lifetime love and laughter I’ve made to my children. I run to their smiles and the smell of their skin, to their complete understanding why running is so important to Mommy. I run to my father, who I miss desperately, despite seeing him daily in the faces of my kids. I run to my mother, once so vital and strong, who I’m afraid can’t take care of herself anymore, and who finally seeks care from me. I run to three brothers who each need a big sister for different reasons; I want to be all of their reasons, every single one of their answers.

I run to my cousins (who invited me to my first half marathon) and their daughters, to the bond of four women united by the love of their mothers and the laughter that causes them to wet their pants. I run to friendships and decades, to intimacy without judgment or prompt, to those that love and respect the old me as much as the new one encourages them. I run to those that challenge and inspire me to be a better person, inside and out. I run to those I write to, to those who read between my lines, whether succinct or sauntering. I run to those who need me. I run to those that run to me.

Most of all, and this is the truly spectacular part, the concept I still can’t wrap my head entirely around. For the first time in my life, I see myself as something worth running to. I am running to myself. Away is no longer an option. Bring on the mileage.