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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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?
You know what the funny thing about death is? Nothing. (Cue the sound effects please. I’m completely aware of the first line’s seriousness.)
What is funny however, is how death can make everything illuminated after the fog has lifted. By fog I mean, your initial emotions, the pain, the constant reminders, it’s the sense that comes after a storm has ceased. I would liken the passing of a loved one to experiencing a fierce storm in your own body that takes time to progress and then begin to calm.
It has been four years, to the day, since Debbie passed away. If I stop and mediate on that day, what transpired, how I felt in those moments, I am taken back to those emotions quite rapidly. Even with the passage of time, nothing can erase how an experience made you feel. I remember saying to my husband, “Now I know why people drink and do drugs. The numbness is a medication to what they’re experiencing in life. This hurts.”
Everything in life is a lesson. Once I understood this, fully, I became more present and open to facing the choices I had every day, and really, in every moment. Learning how to grieve, face pain, and move through life with it, was and still is a journey. There are times, days, and moments when I am hit severely with a wave of grief that washes over me. I try to recognize my triggers, sometimes it’s just something as simple as a word, or a song. I find it helpful to create a visual of a wave and allow it to wash over me and provide a salve of tears. Nothing and no one can replace a loss because it is an experience that is now a part of your very core. The loss becomes woven into your story. It becomes a part of the framework that trails along with you every day.
I guess what I am trying to say is this: I have learned that I am not my grief, it is a part of me. I lean heavily on the truthful, beautiful, harsh, and comical memories I shared with the amazing person that Debbie was. Carving out an allowance of grace for my emotions and journey is essential. Continuing to learn about how the human brain processes trauma, loss, and growth has helped me tremendously be more empathetic towards myself and others.
If I could tell my sister anything it would be this:
Thank you for always loving me, even when I was hard to love. Even though you’re not here physically, you’re always near to me and in my heart, as cheesy as that sounds. I’m using my elephant memory that you said you’d rely on. You’re still teaching me so many things, thank you. You’d be so proud of your son. He’s grown tall, and handsome and he is still really sweet. He knows how to be kind and he can be humbled by life which is key. He’s so loved and he’s doing fine. He loves his cousin Leo, who holds your initials. You’d love your nephew too. He’s a spunky, book loving toddler who is obsessed, with your Declan. He calls him, “Yea-Yea,” and tries to talk to him with every phone call that comes in. We’re all ok. I love you more every day.
The end of August is always an incredibly busy time for many people. It is especially so for educators that start their new year of teaching. For the past eleven years I was one of those teachers who would plan, prep, sweat, and build my classroom for the coming school year. Not so this year. My husband and I decided to switch roles after he interviewed and was offered a job. We traded spaces as teachers to be with our son. The largest gift in life is time. No one can buy it or give you more of it. With this being said, the shift of how a person spends their time greatly impacts them as an individual.
Thus, my time and priorities have shifted this fall. There is one thing that remains constant for me and that is the inner teacher, the guide, and the desire to share. So, with all of this being said, I decided to share more regularly, what I am: reading, what I am reading, cooking, doing, watching or inspired by.
~We re-read, “Roller Girl,” by Victoria Jamieson, I say, “we,” because Leo helped me read it throughout morning snuggles and diaper changes.
~Currenly I am reading, “burnout the secret to unlocking the stress cycle,” by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA. I have a hard time putting this book down, I talk about it with everyone I know, thank you to my beloved friend for sharing this work with me.
~Leo absolutely loves, Gyo Fujikawa’s children’s book work:
*A Child’s Book of Poems
*Oh, What a Busy day!
*A to Z: picture book
There is something timeless about her illustrations. He is transported to the world of the babies in the pictures and he’ll pull her books off of the shelf to read again and again. He loves recognizing other babies, animals he knows, and saying the sounds they make.
There are a couple of interesting youtube videos about her work with Disney and the ethics in the theater available for perusing, as well as a great Newyorker article linked below.
*Podcast: Levar Burton Reads. This evokes the childhood reader in me. I am transported back to reading rainbow days with Levar’s voice and I absolutely LOVE. IT.
*BlacKkKlansman: Spike Lee’s film is hands down, the best movie I have watched in the last year. Do yourself a favor and watch it, read about Ron Stallworth’s life and work in Colorado. It is chilling how true to form the ideology of his experience is still true today.
*Nikkivegan: This woman’s youtube channel has really impacted my cooking life. I became inspired over summer to make a new recipe each week. Here was one of our favorites linked below! Easy potato taquitos and bean salad. Tasty!
Something that is a daily activity for me is some sort of physical exercise. We take two walks on average with our dog and baby. I have been trying to wake up and do yoga most week day mornings and it has great impacted my mood, outlook, and mobility for the day. A friend recommended: Yoga with Adrienne on Youtube and I love her work. One of my happy places in town is Diva Den Studio, and it is a place where I can exercise, connect, laugh, dance, and sweat to recharge my batteries.
I have been challenging myself to use my time more mindfully. There is nothing quite like having a young child to put your view of time into focus. This is a daily challenge for me because I can be easily side tracked, interested, or fall down the rabbit hole of scrolling. Sometimes I put myself on a fast from social media in order to refocus on the priorities I have for myself. This often times helps me to be more cognizant and truly appreciate the season, my personal goals, and the quiet times I spend with family.