Spring Tidings

The turning of seasons always brings forth a renewal of the mind, the body, and the spirit. It is in the shadows we reveal our true characters. In the depths of winter’s despair I withered, but in the sunlit corners of spring, I can shake the cobwebs of the ego and step into the light of who I choose to become.

I always find it astonishing how change can truly set me reeling or is it realizing? In a fight, flight or freeze state of being I often choose freeze and breathe, and then internally I would like to flee. However, the ties that bind hold me firm and my heart knows what’s best, but my mind does not always follow.

Wading through the world in pandemonium and in the tides of postpartum has not been an easy task. As insurmountable as the mind may be, there are times when I have to face the truth which is exhaustion and fatigue are ill suited when you’re a parent, but they are none the less the cloaks handed out for free during the care of young children’s daily lives.

I saw a meme recently of parental sleep feeling like the following: baby is down for sleep, parent face plants on bed, an alarm or the baby calls and the parent jumps back up. That pretty much sums up how I felt on some days. Everything is magnified during this time, for every human being on the planet. Be it naysayer, be it believer, be it scientist, be it politician, nurse, teacher, or child care worker, everyone is tired. Tired being a relative term with a thousand layers of meaning. However, there is one thing that remains constant ticking by every moment of the day: time.

Time, that elusive shark, always showing itself on the surface and sliding back down beneath the waves. Just when I feel that sense of, “caught up,” I settle back in for a sure fire wash of reality. Often I find myself watching time slip by when I get caught up with my to do lists, or while playing a game of what if, but one things brings me back to reality and that is: love.

She’s that warm cloud of purple that bubbles up and fills my heart when I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes she helps shed tears that relinquish all of the feelings that have been simmering. Other times she makes me laugh uproariously at the hilarity that is a three year old ‘s mind. Most days I feel a warm kindling deep inside knowing that I am loved, and that I get to love others. Then I settle into the realization that in essence, that is truly everything. As Elton John said…to love and be loved in return.

So, when you find yourself being over or under whelmed, or awash with the current rules, regulations, and regularity of your days, stop and remember what love you get to feel and who you get to share it with.

We are in the midst of Pesach. The holiday that always makes me feel the sense of hope and loss intertwined as one. I cannot help but pause and think of what the past year has brought forth for those fellow humans who have loved and lost. I always go back to the voice of Debbie Friedman with her beautiful song, Mi Shebeirach. I included the lyrics below as a source of inspiration to those in need of healing. Spring is here, and with it a new opportunity for life. I hope it is one filled with love and a garden of possibility.  

I wanna hold your hand dada.
Colorful tulips, my favorite.
Filled with the promise of sunshine.
Beauty in the trees.
Tiny blooms for my babe.

Mi shebeirach avoteinu
M’kor hab’racha l’imoteinu
May the source of strength,
Who blessed the ones before us,
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing,and let us say, Amen.

Mi shebeirach imoteinu
M’kor habrachah l’avotein
u
Bless those in need of healing with r’fuah sh’leimah,
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit, And let us say, Amen.”

-Debbie Friedman.

Sisterhood

Every year as December 21 approaches and passes I am filled with more emotions than I can explain. Most of them leave me with twinges of sadness or longing, but today I feel more than that. I feel fully grateful now.

When my sister died, I felt like an invisible tether was cut and my lifeline floated away with her. 

Then, with time’s passing I realized that the many humans in my life could help me regain my tether and form a new lifeline, if I let them. I’m grateful for all the family and the friends that shed light over the last five years time. I have learned more than I could possibly explain, but most importantly I have come to realize that gratitude is the key component to making my days robust. 

I am grateful for the circle of friends, (thank you to Maeve Binchy for your book to reference, but I digress), specifically the women who have become pieces of a sister puzzle in my life. I have learned that no one can or ever will replace or fill the shoes of my birth sibling. But here’s the thing, perhaps even the secret to understanding my personal loss and grief is this: time heals all wounds, or rather time transforms everything

I can now see that Debbie and I had the fullest relationship and set of experiences that taught me lessons, filled me with joy and hope, and can still make me laugh today. That was the true gift that time bestowed upon us, our memories and the moments that we shared. 

Now, I can clearly look at my other relationships that have blossomed in my garden. I know that each woman knows how grateful I am for them, but sometimes it’s helpful to say it out loud: Thank you. 

Thank you to the friends and family who have helped shape a new meaning of sisterhood for me. Thank you for sharing your little people when loss filled my life. Thank you for sharing a momento as a reminder of love I can wear every day.  Thank you for reading my blog and holding my hand from afar. Thank you for covering me with prayers and kindness when waves crashed down. Thank you for sharing humor and holidays when I missed that sense of knowing someone else’s thoughts on familiar days. Thank you for dropping off food, letters and care packages when I had tiny humans to hold and feed. Thank you for writing, texting, and calling me when fear and judgement clouded my mind and I sought refuge in your council.  Thank you for reaching out and sharing your gifts of time. Thank you for filling tea and coffee cups and holding my hand. Thank you for passing the cupcakes and saying eat up without judgement. Thank you for welcoming me to your city and showing me new adventures. Thank you for shedding advice on love, loss, and motherhood when the going got rough. Thank you for answering my texts, calls, and keeping a connection going, even with distance and time. Thank you for allowing new bridges to be built and time to heal. Thank you for holding me in hugs and allowing tears to flow without explanation. Thank you for sharing your weekend days and time to meet and chat. Thank you for holding my tiny baby boys and filling their hearts with love.  But most of all, thank you for allowing me the space, holding space and time and loving me just the way I am. 

You know that if you read this and connected in some way, I’m giving you a virtual hug and that I love you. 

Thank you.

Gratitude exemplified through joy and laughter.

Perspective

How would your perspective change if I told you that you were picked for this life specifically. This moment, this time, this year, these people, your surroundings? How would that make you feel? Would you be startled? Would you shift or change? 

When I began to shift my mindset about the seeming, “hardships,” I experienced, my heart opened up. I’m not here to cast a stone and say that whatever it is that each of us is facing doesn’t feel how it feels. That’s not what I’m saying, but what I am trying to articulate is this: if you can take ownership of your feeling and harness it, then you can drive your ship.

Every moment is made up of these micro experiences. These experiences become your vision and a part of your memory. Which in turn, becomes the story that you tell yourself about your life. What if you paused and considered that you can harness those emotions and shift your perspective. 

In my current moment I am sitting on a bed, with a pillow table, earplugs in my ears, smoke covering my neighborhood, poor air quality, and thirty minutes of time to write. I asked for the time. I asked for this plate, this life, these people. When I look around me I could see: all of the things I think I should see, but if I stop skimming over the surface and look deeper I can see: all of the ways I affect those around me in turn. 

Outside of my house the smoke is so thick that I can barely see the trees in the neighborhood park. The beloved home state I live is literally burning and the world feels like it is upending upon itself. I realized when I woke up today, day three of smoke filled lungs that I had the opportunity to pause and truly ground myself. If I feel my head spinning, if I feel my heart wrenching, how is that in turn affecting those around me? My responses are powerful and they are directly driven by the effects of a mood. There is little else that I feel like I have control over right now. But I do have control over my mind, which, if I admit it: is everything. Your mind is the epicenter of everything you are capable of doing and have done. 

As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

As I say to my two year old, “Feelings come and feelings go, feelings show, it’s alright to cry, it might make you feel better,” a mish-mash of quotes from, Free To Be You And Me. With all of this being said, I encourage myself, and you to to think about your perspective. Health is wealth, if I have that and my family, I have everything. That’s my perspective and I know that with endurance of mind and spirit I can lean into perseverance, which is key. 

Bionic

Body.

It’s the image that you, “see” when you look into the mirror. However, what are you really seeing? Is it a true reflection or a perception of what you think you see?

After carrying and delivering two nine plus pound babies, my, “body,” has been fully transformed. It’s a work in progress. Truly. It always has been. The first time I can recall comparing myself to another human, I was eight years old. Second time I was lost in comparison was when I was twelve years old. Life’s too short for comparison, that’s what I would tell my eight year old self. That’s what I’m telling my thirty six year old self as well, to who I thought I was a year, two years, or even three years ago. 

The word bionic came to me during my yoga practice today. 

They say to shut off technology, shut out the negative self talk, shut out the doubt and fear, and the fluidity of your true self comes forth. Genius right? Easy to do? No. Especially for a left brained perfectionist tendency driven human. 

I am constantly redefining the way I perceive and “see” things in life. I redefined my day to day purpose last September when I switched from full time teacher mode to mom/teacher at home mode. I have to constantly shift and change my perspective throughout the day in order to keep up with the tides of a toddler and newborn. My attitude is everything. I love the saying, “An attitude of gratitude.” I repeat this over and over until I shift my mindset, it always brings me back to the core of what is essential: love, appreciation, and dedication for care.

I am not perfect. I am not my body. I am not my perceptions. Say that or read it again, now say that to yourself in the mirror. What flows forth? Feelings? Tears? Smiles? Gratitude to release yourself from what you previously perceived?

I think that Christina Aguilera had something right when she aptly named her album after giving birth to her son, “Bionic.” 

I am choosing that word as the new descriptor for my perception of my body. I’m tired of my frustrated attitude and ungratefulness in the throws of postpartum with how I perceive this vessel. I grew two human beings eyelashes, fingers, hearts, and bodies. My body literally pushed those beings out of me, one, without any medicinal support. So. I am now calling myself: bionic. I am ever changing. Ever growing, and ever shifting. 

The next time you look at yourself in the mirror, think about what you’re seeing. Are you seeing your spirit, your core, or are you zooming in with the ego’s eye? Try bionic as a descriptor. You’re capable of so much more than what your perception of self, “sees.” 

Morning Glory

If you had asked me ten years ago if I would be a morning person someday, I probably would have scoffed at you. I have always, and by nature will be a night owl. However, with small children, the early, wee hours of the morning have become my sacred space. I am an introvert and as such, crave and need alone time. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely grateful for my family and companionship, as human beings we all require this for healthy development, but I fill my tank sans other humans, aka solo. 

When you care for small, young human beings, it takes patience, consistency, and care. When I am depleted, one of those tasks does not function at full capacity and the deficit shows in my child’s behavior in response to mine. In turn, I have learned that if I power through and think about how I will feel, later on, I will get moving sooner. I will skip the extra hour of snooze time which, invariably may lead to grogginess or a headache, for my quiet, hooded, writing/reading/meditation time in the sunrise hours. 

The first person I can think of that was a morning person was my grandpa. Grandpa Woody would get moving at dawn, I could smell his aftershave and coffee in the hallway as I padded down our carpeted stairs to the kitchen. He would greet me with a hug and a whiskered kiss. I can still feel his scruff, see his lips, and sense the texture of his short sleeved button down shirt. One early morning together, on his visit to the land up north, I looked at his forearm and said, “What’s that?” What, I was unaware of, was my grandfather’s tattoo he had chosen during his time in the CCC camps, working as a cook. “That,” he replied, “Is a mistake of my youth,” and he promptly unrolled his dress shirt sleeve and buttoned the white button around his wrist. This interaction became a story that I have gone back to in my head from time to time. I thought of it when I was younger and contemplating large, permanent decisions for myself. Those early mornings with Grandpa are still as vivid to me as my first home of childhood. It’s funny how something can stick with you like gum, glued to my brain, forever a part of my minds eye. The Hipsher side of my heart is a morning glory, and the Cohen side is a night owl. Two birds of a different feather, so to speak. 

As I write these words, I can see the light from the sunshine streaming through my Ikea curtains. The tree branches in the wetland behind our home forming a backdrop for the sun’s rays. The early hours provide for me, a semblance of solitude, a feeling of ‘what if,’ time to reflect and create with the fluidity of thought. I think that, in essence, is what I find challenging as a parent, as well as, when I was teaching.

I need quiet to think clearly, I have to pause and reflect. It’s just part of my core, and I communicate it, most of the time, to my family. If I am in the midst of one task, I need to pause, physically and mentally before moving to the next one. I function at a high level, don’t get me wrong, I am the queen of multi-tasking, but, when an idea needs thorough consideration, I have to set aside the distractors before truly considering and communicating. 

I taught my son how to, “Take a break,” and he will verbalize this in his own play time that he narrates so articulately, all. day. long. <Insert laugh and heart bubbles here.> He often says mid play, “Take a break mommy, take a break,” and he will pause, sit, or stop his motion for a few seconds before resuming full speed and charge ahead.

If a little person can realize the power of this and put it into practice, I wonder if more adults could? Perhaps that is the secret silver lining of the quarantine time we find ourselves still living in. Take time to reflect before: acting, saying, and doing. Consider what is in front of you before you decide to do, say, be, or go somewhere. If we all better understood what our tanks or hearts are desiring, perhaps there would be less reaction and better action. So the next time you find yourself at the cross roads of a decision, take a break. STOP your body, your mind, your tongue and: Think, about the option, reflect about the choice, and then move forward. No one else can make a decision for you about how you feel and if you feel better, positive, hopeful, grateful, loving, then your feelings will melt into your interactions which shed light or darkness in our world. 

Blooms

Spring came upon us in the midst of the crisis that lingers world wide today. Our world is blooming while we seemingly are distancing. What can all of this mean? Perhaps an analogy of spring itself is one way to consider the current situation human beings find themselves in.

A small bud rises forth from the growth of leaves that surround it. It is this bud that brings color, hope, and joy to the viewer. Mother nature herself has been flourishing while we wait and give space to ourselves and others. Consider the following: Color has now returned in waters unseen for decades, foliage is beginning to grow where earth was once scorched, wildlife is returning to waters uncharted by creatures for years, because of human activity being ceased. Perhaps all of this brings forth a deeper meaning: when we are able to still our minds, still our activities, and focus inwards growth does transpire. I ask myself, what truly can grow with a bit of nurture each day?

Ask yourself, when was the last time you watched a plant grow? I formed the habit with my son to stop and talk to our plants and flowers every day. As silly as it sounds, after a year of doing this he will now go up to plants and say hello on his own. I chose to make this a priority in our home and environment because what better way to foster an appreciation for what helps you as a to human bloom? Our plants are the providers of  oxygen, beauty, and food. Here are some recent photographs of nature in our midst from our morning and a song of beauty to inspire your inner and outer day.

Photographs taken by, Rachel A. Becker.

Link to youtube of Yo Yo Ma and Mr. Rogers playing and singing, “Tree, Tree, Tree.”

Flourish

“Flourish, even in the hard places.”

I watch a variety of content delivered online and one woman’s channel has moved me a lot over the years. Her name is: Michele Ana.

Our faiths are different, but our abiding love for the journey in life is the same. I always find inspiration and joy whenever I read her blog or watch her videos. She recently talked about the importance of remaining faithful even through grief, adversity, and question. In our current world, everything is spinning. Seemingly perplexing and filled with fear. Yet, if you can numb your ears to the fear, lean into faith, in your beliefs, in whatever divine or otherwise spiritual elements that bring you peace, a sense of calm will settle. I learned this sense of peace after the passing of my sister, which I have written a lot about. It helps me to know that I don’t need to know all of the answers. I don’t need to lean into fear. I do not give pause to the constant bombardment of seeming information that is readily available to my eyes and ears. I really take caution in what I am feeding my mind and my heart. I use my breath as a meditation to reset when I become frustrated and less than loving in my responses. I know that I always have a choice in life, and that is in how I respond. So, with that being said: Flourish, even in the hard places life provides us.

Bloom
and you shall grow.

The Art of Letter Writing

What do letters mean to you? They’ve always been the connection that I had to friends and family who lived far away. And, let’s face it, when you live in Anchorage, Alaska, everyone and everything feels quite far away.  My first pen pal was my Grandpa Woody. He was my cowboy grandpa who would come up for a visit every November to spend Thanksgiving with us, most years. I would look forward to my monthly and holiday letters. I loved his spring time letters too. He would write to me in his fashionable cursive handwriting that I would decipher slowly, being the emerging reader that I was. I can vividly remember opening a letter one spring, probably in late March or early April and tucked inside was a furry gray pussy willow bud that he had gathered from a tree outside of his house. The opening of that letter has stuck with me to this day. His letters are now bundled together with a ribbon alongside my sister’s letters for safe keeping.

My second pen pal was my sister. She was ten years older than me and left home for college shortly before her eighteenth birthday. I vividly remember the day she left.  The leaves clung to the branches with a foreboding coldness, brilliant maroon, yellow, and brown hanging by thin invisible threads, similar to how my heart felt when she drove away in dad’s pickup.

She would write to me weekly, send me updates on all the happenings in the lower forty eight, the seasons, the sounds, and the adventures she took. Some of my favorite letters were enclosed with photographs of her adventures or cartoon drawings she created to entertain her tiny sibling. I loved it all. I would mail her cards and drawings, long letters that mom and dad helped me spell out letter by letter. When you’re a dyslexic writer of seven, things take a little bit longer to complete. One Hannukah I received a tape recorder box with a giant speaker and microphone. I recorded a sung letter to Debbie that ended with a rousing rendition of, “Puff The Magic Dragon.” I’m sure the tape is long gone, but I know she remembered that particular letter/package and the enclosed demo. Ha! Who knew that all these years later I would pull out the letters of the past and read her words to hear her voice again. Her letters bring me comfort and make me laugh aloud even now.

The most indelible thing about a letter is that you know the person who wrote it for you, held it, cared enough to write it, and mailed it with love. It always felt like such a gift to receive a letter from someone in the mail.  I want my son to know what that feels like as both the sender and the receiver. So, letters we write together, each season and each holiday. I think it’s important to take time to think about those in your life that you care about and pause enough to reflect upon that and give them a token of your heart.

I had the idea to begin a blog this past fall, to mark the passing of time in a daily way, that perhaps our son could look back upon one day. I decided to use the voice of our beloved dog Kimmy to narrate our daily adventures together. In a way I feel like I am giving him a small piece of what I have in the letters I have kept and cherished throughout the years from family members.

What else can we draw from as humans except knowing that the passage of time is marked in human history through the written word. So I leave you with this thought: think about the last time you wrote a letter, and why. Now, who could you write to today and thank, make laugh, or draw a smile from when they open their mail box and see it waiting for them?

pic

Spring Thoughts for 2020.