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.”

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?

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Spring Thoughts for 2020.

Fall Thoughts

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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.

READING:

~We re-read, “Roller Girl,” by Victoria Jamieson, I say, “we,” because Leo helped me read it throughout morning snuggles and diaper changes.

http://www.victoriajamieson.com/books/

~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.

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/592377/burnout-by-emily-nagoski-phd-and-amelia-nagoski-dma/9781984817068/

~Leo absolutely loves, Gyo Fujikawa’s children’s book work:

*A Child’s Book of Poems

*Oh, What a Busy day!

*Baby Animals

*A to Z: picture book

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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.

https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/how-gyo-fujikawa-drew-freedom-in-childrens-books

LISTENING TO:

*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.

Watching:

*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!

Exercise:

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.

Challenge:

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.

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7:04

Time has a way of bringing significance to something that you never really considered in the moment. Seven hours and four minutes into the evening in 2018, our son was born. On July fourth, 7-04-2017 we found out we were expecting a child. Up until this moment, on our baby’s birthday, I had not realized the significance.

Life has a funny way of bringing things full circle. Here we are, numbers, moments and life at play later. These events roll past, the day moves by, and we look back over our shoulder at the impact these events have made in the tapestry of our lives.

I had not paid much attention to all of our little one’s numerology, but the idea behind the moment of his birth and the date we learned of his existence, is purely beshert.

Nothing can quite explain the feeling of hearing your child’s cry for the first time, and holding them close. I waited years for him to come. In the first moment he looked at me, and I at him, it felt as though time stood still, and spun around all at once. There are very few things in life that I am sure of, but one of those is the fact that I was always meant to be LDB’s mama. Thank you for choosing us as your parents little one.

L’Chaim!

First times in a year

This past year I learned many a lesson as most of us do. I was propelled forward in a new pathway towards becoming a mother. I taught students, I learned what may come, and I healed, by releasing my fears.

Life is what you make of it, and in this year especially, I have learned what this truly means. It boils down to one word: Time.

Time is of the essence when you give birth to a little one. It seemingly ticks by slowly at first, but then suddenly two seasons have passed and your little one is literally crawling through life. It flashes, like bursts of light.

Flash, flash, my thoughts land on a memory…crystalized in my mind’s eye. Two eye lids, fluttering lashes, one tiny nose, and two small fists slowly uncurling along his mouth.

This memory helps me slide into the vault of best kept experiences this year. Most of them firsts, naturally, with the introduction of our first child. I sift through the pictures and suddenly these, “firsts,” come into view…

The first time I felt a complete baby roll in my tummy, the first time I could not get out of bed until I rolled sideways, the first time I identify with turtles, completely but in reverse shell to tummy placement, the first time I felt contractions hit and knew that life would never be the same again, the first time I heard my baby cry, the first time I held him close, the first time he nursed with me, the first diapers, the first daddy hugs, the first cries where panic set in but I did not relinquish to the fear in my tummy, the first time I saw my parents as grandparents to our child, the first time he looked at me, the first time he smiled, the first time he sat up, the first time he reached for me, the first giggles, the first time I left our babe for work, the first separation feels of mommy baby heart tugs, the first time he laughed with us, the first time he crowed for his fur sisters, the first time he clapped, the list is a long endless one of beauty and gifts from life.

There was never a time that I truly felt as raw, as out of control, and as completely content as I did this year. Surrendering to the unknown is utterly frightening and also comforting. The realized I did not have to feel in control any longer, and that there was no room for manipulation of choices with the time I am allotted. I learned to withdraw from the desire to control completely, focus on my breath, and see the scene with fresh eyes.

The gift of tomorrow sheds new light upon today. The sky has opened up, blueness poured forth and the light crept in whilst I typed. The babe stirred, and the dog yawned, time began to click again, slowly but surely, a steady rhythm always balancing out the the days and the light. Renewed opportunity lies ahead. Go forth and obtain your firsts. A bouquet full of them awaits.

 

Butterfly Heart

Sometimes someone who knows you well says just what your heart needs to hear. “Don’t let yourself be hardened by the world Rachel. Don’t close yourself off from those feelings. Enjoy those times and keep your heart open.”

(Insert tears that spring forward.)

Something about this time of year is challenging for me, for a number of reasons. So I reflected and realized a few things.

Each school year I am reminded of the fresh opportunity I have to work with the next generation. I am so reminded and reminisce on how I would share with my sister our plans for the next school year. To say that miss her is an understatement, it is a yearning I feel in my soul and always will.

Everything changes in an instant, in a moment. The only constant is change, this I know. I have watched my baby boy growing like a weed over the last five months and it feels like just yesterday he was in the womb kicking me to let me know he was there. I look at him and I wonder who this little person will be. I watch him in wonderment as he observes the world.

Whenever I read a new book or see a, back to school book list, I stop and think about Debbie. Occasionally I still have a mind slip and think of telling her something. It’s like a small heart tug when that happens. A little pull each time I long for communication.

This school year I am excited for the new group of students to work with, the new and old book friends that I will get to share with them are inspirations from Debbie. I can’t wait to share with my students and continue to tell our son how this amazing librarian auntie of his still touches lives today.

We always read one of her favorite books to LDB each day, The Very Hungry Caterpillar 🐛. Much like in the book, I felt enveloped in a cocoon these past five months. I am ready to spread my wings and fly, but unfurling the wings and jumping off is always the hardest part. 🦋

Notes of gratitude

Before LDB was born he knew about music. I would sing to him every day in the womb. We had a morning playlist we listened to. Sometimes he would kick or boob me in response to what music we sang or listened to.

I have found a surreal sense of gratitude in sharing music with him each day. Today, on his fourth month birthday celebration we sat down at the piano and he listened, touched, kicked his feet, and observed his mama’s music time.

We sang through three songs and there were no tears or cries, just curiosity and joy. Music can always find a way to touch someone’s heart even when words are not known. 🎹 🎶

Mommy of a new Bebe thoughts

My current thoughts include but are not limited to…new mommy funnies:

-When you go to turn the pump machine off and turn the dial up to the next level at 1am with less than functionable fingers… unexpected surprises await!

-Walking in the dark to the kitchen and back becomes your new stealth mode ability.

-Deciphering breathing patterns and the rate to which they dispell how much time you have before a cry is heard.

-You’re used to hearing, “You look good for…” from other adult humans when not asking for said feedback.

-You take pleasure in pottying alone and unaccompanied!

-A trip to the mailbox is delightful!

-You make friends withe late night creatures crawling along your walls and consider how much effort it would be to remove them… and then… you let it be.

-The rapid joy to which you feel when the first few ounces of milk are pumped more quickly than expected.

-You watch for the rapid fire eye movements under the eye lids and know that REM sleep has finally been achieved. Huzzah!

-When you can finally lay down on a yoga mat and not think of labor.

-Discovering spit up down your back after you’ve left the house.

-Considering how many sheets of tissue equate to a baby wipe when desperation sets in.

-When you lie awake and cannot fall asleep because the babe is sleeping. 🤦🏻‍♀️

-When you find yourself swaying, shushing, or rocking, when alone.

-Talking body functions and minutes asleep is critical conversation between yourself and your partner.

-Your high fives with your partner feel like gold medals of success.

-Making up songs about everything you’re doing.

-Describing aloud your actions so your babe can learn what is what and why.

-Releasing my introverted tendencies for verbal processing techniques.

-When you close your eyes and see your babe’s smile and the flashes of contentment set in.

Surrealism come to life

When I was a little girl I would play a wide variety of imagination games. I grew up bouncing around the house, creating games with my friends, and pretending I was most often times Laura Ingalls Wilder.  My closest friend from Kindergarten through middle school and I would often argue about who would play Mary Wilder and who would be Laura. I vividly recall arguing amongst the vegetable boxes in our backyard while popping raspberries into our mouths. “You were Laura LAST time!” definitely came out of my mouth.

Growing up I never envisioned my wedding day, or marriage for that matter. I always felt like I knew that I would find a partner one day who would be the person I would love for life. One thing I did envision was a child. I grew into a full fledged babysitter when I was in sixth grade. I worked a full summer between eighth and ninth grade caring for three families children. I absolutely loved it. I would pretend what I would do if they were my child, I gave them their supper, helped with the jammies, read stories, and tucked them into bed. All the while I would wonder, one day, what a child of my own would be like.

Watching my nephew and nieces grow over the last twelve to fifteen years has been a remarkable experience. Being an aunt is hands down, the best role I was given in life. I had the benefit of loving, participating, and giggling with three adorable and loving children, but not having to do any of the tough parenting business.

Now, holding our three month old son, life seems completely surreal at times. Perhaps it is the lack of sleep and the settling hormones, but my feelings have shifted. At first mamma and baby hold there was an instant connection of, “I know you, but not your face yet…” and those moments turned to minutes, to hours, and then days of care for the tiny human. Now watching him develop and grow out of infant stages I find myself feeling more connected to our tiny babe. Is that possible? To feel more receptive, loved, and dare I say possessive of? I sit and rock him to sleep and don’t want to put him down. If I just hold him he’ll stay little forever right?!

The answer is yes. Just yes. Yes to all of it. A remarkable friend of mine said, “You’re in the middle of the emotion ocean of motherhood.” Hands down, this woman knows, and gets my current state.

Emotion ocean waves are strong. The fierce feels of concern, love, fear, and the balance of it all is mind boggling at times. Then there’s the surrealism aspect. Those breaths in between the shushing, the nursing, the burping and the rocking when I catch myself in the act of mothering and realize, “Wow. I really am a momma after all.” It makes me cry tears of gratitude for the little life in our hands, and also tears for each small milestone he accomplishes and realizing just how much he has grown, and how fast it all seems to go.

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