Fighting the Urge to Battle Time

Posted on August 15, 2018

The other day we were out shoe shopping, and as I gave Avery back a shoe that the clerk had brought out for her, I said, “Growing up is hard.” She laughed at me and raised an eyebrow, something I’ve never learned to do.

I smiled sheepishly, “Obviously you are old enough and capable of loosening the laces, I just feel like it’s still my job. It isn’t.”

“You can always do that for me if you want,” she said. I smiled back at her. “I know. Sometimes I will, but tomorrow you fly to Italy, and a week after you get back you start 7th grade. I need to grow up some.”

She pulled herself over on the bench and squeezed me.

I find this moment in time, like so many before it, nearly impossible not to lurch and stammer through. It’s my responsibility as the parent to create boundaries and structure, but allow enough freedom for testing and failing. Witness the trying on of different personas and the throwing away of others. I want to, but I’ve loved those Averys, and I’ll love those yet to come. I wish I had more time with her. The clock doesn’t tick so much as it revs like a semi truck in my ear, except of course when she’s hurt. Then time crawls.

Avery isn’t mine. Avery is.

Her strength reminds me of my own, too much for some people, hard to keep in check, and hiding vulnerability and desire to be cared for and protected that no one ever seems to get. Trying to find the sweet spot between letting her go and letting her know how ready to be right-there I am has been tricky. It’s like driving a stick, and I can’t find the right gear and switching gears all but kills me.

Three sisters piled on top of each other and laughing on a couch.

The last 24 hours Avery was in town the girls were in almost constant physical contact. No fights, no dust-ups, and more laughter than I imagined possible. And burping.

This morning she asked me to braid her hair. “How?” I asked. She handed me two ponytail holders, “Dutch braids, please.” I remembered the first time Briar sat still for me to do her hair. She was younger than six, maybe 4 and a half. It shook me at the time. I thought she’d never sit still and then boom, stillness. Ave asking me to do her hair and me having to ask her to sit down so that I could reach made me chuckle. There are no measuring charts for readiness, it happens to each of us at different times.

I was afraid to let Avery leave for Italy without some sort of gesture, an acknowledgment of the tugs I am feeling, but not so harsh a thing that she would feel sorry for going. If all goes well, when she comes home Briar will have had her wisdom teeth extracted and the post-op documented on video by Finley, and we will have bought another house.

“We’re moving while you’re gone,” I had teased her. She thrust her chin out and said, “Good, while I’m eating Italian food you can carry all the boxes.” I watched her quietly whisper goodbye to the house this morning and then turn, her Dutch braids accented by a tie she’d looped around her head, and give herself fully to the adventure ahead.

I picked a few cards from a set I bought on Etsy. They have words associated with different emotions. I added a note inside a small fabric bag that said something like, “See the possibility in the world. I honestly don’t know which of us I really did it for, but it felt like finding the words and the time to slip it into her luggage suggest that I can maneuver this time. I can give her space and hold her tight, recover when she pushes away and be without resentment when she returns.

 

Because Avery is incredible.

A 12 year old girl in glasses makes a goofy face at the camera.

Ave, as captured by Finley.

Nia Wilson, Heartbreak Train

Posted on July 25, 2018

This morning was hard.

Exhale. The mundane and the tragic collided. My whole morning sprawled out before me in a complicated matrix that would get me to the train station. My mind and heart were heavy with thoughts of Nia Wilson and her beautiful, vibrant, just-barely-getting-started life being cut short by a man who didn’t give it a second thought. She was going somewhere and then she was gone.

Nia Wilson smiling in a multi colored t-shirt.

Gorgeous and alive. Nia Wilson

I clenched my teeth and wanted to bite my fist, turn back the clock. Make it fucking stop. How can she be dead? How can a sister have had to helplessly cradle her sister? How can the world keep going?

Black and white photo of flowers left for Nia Wilson at MacArthur Station

Vigil for Nia Wilson at MacArthur Station. Photo: Todd Matthews 

 

A shirt draped on a fence with the writing: rest in power Nia. The workers of BART are heartbroken

Rest in Power Photo: Todd Matthews

 

Justice for Nina written on heart shaped balloon.

A love balloon for Nia. Photo: Todd Matthews

Oh, never mind, this is America. The ink and the buried articles about her will barely dry by the time another black woman is murdered. Her character and family called into question, and the tired, “If she’d only _________, then this wouldn’t have happened.” Others will take to Twitter and use the hashtag #SayHerName , but most people won’t.

Then there were my girls. Three sisters. Finley rubbing my arm, “Mama, is this right?” Her fingers touched the two clips she’d put on either side of her forehead to hold back her hair. “Will this keep my hair from making my skin have bumps?”

I clutched her face in my hands and kissed the crown of her head. “Perfect!”

I looked over at Avery and Briar waiting for me to help them with their hair for Chicago. “Bri, can you pass me that?”

“Sure, here you go, Ave.” Nia called her sister Letifah’s name over and over again, “Tifah, tifah, tifah.” Her sister could only shush and say she loved her.

She died because a white man decided she didn’t deserve to live. Her sister watched the man wipe the blood from his knife.

White girls maybe get killed if they go out for a jog, but for black women, it’s if they go.

If they go outside.

In a car.

To church.

To school.

To the movies.

Home.

 

I was supposed to get through all the morning stuff so I could take a train to NYC. I’m on that train now. Most likely I won’t die or if I do, it won’t be because I am white. I want to enjoy this trip, the exhilaration of the train and the city, but I can’t separate that from a young woman who should be posing for selfies and laughing with her sister.

So many of us have such privilege and the collision of that reality and anguish shouldn’t be the only time we think about it.

I did my girls’ hair this morning. I kissed them and listened to them tease and joke with each other. Briar texted me about her hair coming loose after the dance rehearsal.

I wish Nia was doing her hair. I wish Nia was texting her sister.

I’ll talk to my daughters about Nia. We’ll talk about privilege. We will #SayHerName and we will speak up.

 

Via Licia Morelli

Violence against black and brown women is disproportionate to white women (and, just in case your were wondering, it’s, of course, NOT new). In a study done from the US Department of Justice during 1979-1987 (https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fvvc.pdf) these were the facts:

Black women experienced violent crime at a rate higher than that of women of other races and at a rate lower than that of men of any race.

Latina women were more Iikely to be victims of violent crime victims than non-Latina women.

Average annual rate of violent victimization per 1,000:

White: 24.6

Black: 35.3

Other: 21.3

Latina: 30.3

Women younger than 35 experienced higher rates of crime than men or women older than 34.

In a study done by the bureaus of justice in 2016 (https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv15.pdf) here were the stats of women as victim of violent crimes by race:

White 17.4

Black 22.6

Hispanic 16.8

Other 25.7
… So while, the number of women experiencing violent crimes went down since 1987, we can still observe that the rates of victims who are BLACK women – experience more crimes against them as opposed to WHITE women and LATINA women.
▫️
Knowing these numbers is very important. It means that we, as women, can really grab hold of how ALL OF US are affected in society and crime.
▫️
So as we work to end the oppressive systems that do not report about these crimes we can be on the look out to raise the voices of these victims, ensuring that they’re not ignored and that we, as a society are PAYING ATTENTION and are AWARE of what’s happening to our black and brown sisters.
▫️
We need to be aware and looking so that we can #sayhername .
▫️

 

 

Share. Be Yourself.

Posted on July 15, 2018

We closed on the house on my birthday. I remember how Sean and I swam in the lake, diving down until our lungs burned and shooting back to the surface laughing. Inside, we ran our hands along the spiral staircase railing and watched the reflection of the sun off the water dancing across the ceiling.

The open living room drenched in morning sun

“It’s ours,” we said in shock.

A wooden swim platform in the middle of a lake with the fading color of sunset in the background.

The house was a place in Vermont with a too dreamy-to-be-believed sleeping loft for the girls, multiple decks, and a waterfront that the girls could swim and kayak in, plus a woodstove and a firepit to feed my love of fire making year round.  It was less than 50 minutes from our house but felt like a world away.

Our world.

A cedar dock with two Adirondack chairs.

We’d been married ten years, the girls were 11, 9, and 7. It felt as if we were suspended in a moment of ripeness, we had a bit of a nest egg, happy marriage, and three daughters who enjoyed being together as a family. It was the moment to reach for the dream.

A mountainous Vermont landscape reflected in Lake St. Catherine.

The sky and surface of the water call and answer.

It has been everything we hoped for and more. I’ve spent countless nights at the bottom of the ladder to the loft listening to Sean and the girls sing. I’ve raced outside with coffee to watch every last second of the sunrise and slipped under a cozy throw to take the sunset like dessert. Sean and I poured ourselves into the house to make it special, but it’s the time we spent there, our focus on each other and on our family that made it the dearest to us. It brought out new sides (and talents) in us all. Finely helped Sean build a deck!

Finley and her dad work on a deck construction project.

Double duty: firewood storage below + kid hang out above.

The girls created worlds, playing American Ninja Warrior along the rungs beneath the dock, transplanting moss for fairy gardens, and creating rules to live and love by.

The girls handprinted a sign reading: Rules—Have fun, be kind, share, be yourself

Rules: Have Fun, Be Kind, Share, Be Yourself

This summer I feel a bit of autumn in the air. Barely visible tethers begin to pull us in different directions. I can even feel the guilt and confusion as the way it’s always been, becomes less what we all want. Our getaway is happening more at bedtime or on the edges of busy days. Lessons, rehearsals, alone time, meetings, and adventures stretch us ever thinner.

Three girls work on a puzzle in afternoon light.

We’re going to follow the rule and share. We’re putting our idyllic, slice of Vermont on the market. It’s time for someone else to feel the elixir of Vermont air and the embrace of this special place. Meanwhile, we are going to have our forever home be a little bigger. The girls will have more space, collectively we’ll have more room, and we’ll treasure the time having fun and being ourselves.

If you know someone who has always dreamed of a place to retreat or revel, they may find this to be just the thing.

 

Have a look.

Trees explode in colors of gold and crimson as autumn arrives on Lake St. Catherine.

 

Why don’t we take a walk?

Posted on June 14, 2018

The other day I heard a ping on my phone. Sean had texted me a photo of Finley and me from a wedding. I immediately remembered the moment, she’d been invited to be a flower girl, but in the church, she was overwhelmed by the enormity of the event. I don’t mean by the people or even the grandeur of the church, it was her dawning that this was a significant life event.

I held her in my arms and told her how much the bride loved her and how good she would do walking with the flowers. She kept saying, “I’m just a little afraid.” Since then I have carved out times to hold her when she isn’t scared and ways to be ready when she is.

Lately, her favorite thing has been to walk with me. It brings me cascading joy, wave after wave of, “This is amazing. Why don’t I do this more?” I can’t answer it. Runs with Briar, walks with Ave, they refill my cup every time. Yet time and again I defer what is good for us and what expands our joy.

I think the idea of doing things without structure is wonderful, but so often unsustainable. Life can be a blur and then you look up and your husband is saying, “We only have five more summers of Briar at home.” Which is why I love what Marathon Kids is doing. It’s called the FREE summer Walk and Talk challenge.

Marathon Kids is partnering with the TODAY Parenting team to connect as many families as possible with the Walk and Talk Challenge. Teachers in schools across the country are using social-emotional learning tools (SEL) to help raise kinder, more empathetic, more positive kids with fewer instances of depression and stress. SEL can improve achievement, and it also increases positive behaviors such as kindness, sharing, and empathy; and improves attitudes toward school to reach more families, was created with that SEL connection in mind. The program is absolutely FREE and will help keep your kids active and engaged with you all summer!

When you register online, you’ll receive a link to two resources:

  1. A set of conversation topics created by family physician Dr. Deborah Gilboa.    Each topic – 26 in all – matches up with a mile of walking or running.
  2. AND a special mileage log to track your progress.

After 26(.2) miles, you will have completed the equivalent of a full marathon, and have gotten to know each other a little better in the process. The best part is it’s just the right amount of structure to keep you going, but not so much that you can’t just be yourselves.

The topics cover a broad range, from health, education, and friendship, up through knock-knock jokes and dreams of travel. Dr. Gilboa wrote starter questions for each topic, which are appropriate for the youngest child all the way into the college years.

The people at Marathon Kids got me up early for a run back at the conference I attended in May. The energy, purpose, and friendliness is something I can get behind. I am so happy to be partnering with them (and with my girls) on this program. I hope you’ll consider signing up for this. It’s hard to regret taking a walk with your kid.

All are welcome to register for free here: MarathonKids.org/WalkandTalk

Writing For Good and For Myself

Posted on May 23, 2018

On Writing

My writing, like many others things, gets wedged between parenting, working, and trying not to neglect my marriage. It takes a backseat to fretting, battling pet hair, and unsubscribing from email lists. Writing is and has always been, the activity that takes me to my best place. I wish I could understand why it is so routine to postpone what I know I need.

When I write I become more than I am, stretching how I think and how I love, leaving me with what I can only describe as increased power. It can be like hand-to-hand combat as my fingers move across the keyboard and my mind halts them. I’ve gotten better at fighting my weaker self, overcoming doubt and climbing out of word ruts.

Getting There

It’s been a few weeks now since the Mom2.0 Summit. This was the third year I attended. It’s a sublime experience with show-stopping keynotes, generous sponsors, roll-up-your-sleeves sessions, and permission to bring to center all that goes along with writing. The girls and Sean rally to make it easier for me to leave and sweet to come home, the same is true for the team at Trampoline.

A welcome home banner and my daughter after a writing conference

Another parent told me early on that kids learn how to feel safe by being reminded that we come back.

I spend time with other women who are working within a similar wedge—multiple jobs, the division of labor (physical and emotional), writer’s block, and wondering about the what and how of what comes next. There is time and license to stare off into space or working out to the point of collapse for a total reset. It’s a boldly selfish act and I threaten not to do it each year because of the shame associated with wanting something for myself.

Standing with three other bloggers on the red carpet dressed up for the Iris Awards for writing

Mom 2 Summit 2018 Red Carpet

Move Into Yourself

This year’s conference was particularly significant to me because it represented a shift. Last year I wrote a post for Planned Parenthood. It followed conversations I have had at home with the girls about what it means to be cisgender, white girls and women—what we cannot take for granted, the divide between what is fair and what men get away with, and also how much power we can wield by using our voices. The post was nominated for Best Sponsored Content at the Iris Awards. I’d won the previous year in the category of Best Writing, so it seemed unlikely to me that lighting would strike twice. Still, I hoped it would.

A packed ballroom at the Iris Awards at #Mom2Summit

The view from the stage at the Iris Awards

The Iris Awards were held in a beautiful ballroom in the Langham Pasadena on a gorgeous Friday as the sun began to set. The event began after dinner; the lights came down and Laura Harrison Mayes and Carrie Pacini took the stage to kick things off in a wave of sparkle and euphoria. They introduced the MC, Taye Diggs, to great applause and fanfare. I waited backstage to present the first award of the night with Jennifer Borget.

 

Standing backstage with Taye Diggs after presenting the Best Writing Award

An added perk of being a presenter was hanging out with Taye Diggs backstage

Later I hooked my arm around the back of the chair. The metal was cold against my underarm, which felt good. The fabric of my dress settled around my legs as I leaned toward the stage and took a breath. The awards ceremony was halfway through and my category was coming soon. I wanted to be ready to not hear my name and to be able to clap and cheer for the other name that would be called.

Don’t Kill Your Joy

Brené Brown talks about foreboding joy, which is the idea that in moments of profound happiness or contentment we dress rehearse the tragedy or event, which will eventually squelch our joy. I was still buzzing with the adrenaline of having presented, the funny sensation of reading from a teleprompter, the people in the room jumping in and out of focus, and the vicarious elation with each winner’s joy. It felt good and yet, I was picking away at the joy.

A part of me felt like I should be ashamed to want to win, I’m not sure why. I tried to lie to convince myself that it didn’t matter, but it did. Then as I turned and let the metal press into my sternum I decided to give myself to the feelings. Does denying them or being ashamed make them any less real?

I thought back to how it felt to write the post. I worried as I wrote about not being clinical enough or driven by statistics or backed up by familiarity with legislation. I took my own story, cased as it is in privilege, and wrote in the way I always have—unselfconsciously and passionately.

 

Three images, a toddle, a teenager, and a mother with three daughters

The time between baby girl and mom is so short.

The familiar photos from the Planned Parenthood post flashed on the screen as award show orchestral music played—me as a toddler, as a middle schooler, and then with the girls. My mouth turned upward in a smile. It was time, whatever happened, I was going to keep writing.

Believe in What You Do

I watched Wendi Aarons open the envelope on stage and smile. Then I heard her say my name and I sat up, pushing away from the cool chair and standing up to walk to the microphone. I was in the company of all the parts of me—mom, wife, daughter, writer, employer, teenager, college student, little girl.

 

Standing at the mic under spotlights with goosebumps on my arms at Mom2 Summit accepting an award for sponsored writing

There were no tears as I accepted the award. I wanted to be deliberate with my words and with my consciousness at the moment.

 

Feel this.
Build on it.
Remember it.
Believe it.

 

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