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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Evolution of time

Blogging over the past year took a back seat for me until today…

Going into this year, 2018, I had to stop myself and reflect on the previous one. I had never thought I would face the next road as a woman without my sister by my side. I had wanted to be a mother since childhood, but I had not allowed myself to truly focus on that desire until something in our brain’s clicked.

Over the past three years I experienced many trials and milestones of strength being built one day at a time. There were countless times I would go to share something with my sister, Debbie, and I was not able to do so. Pregnancy is one of those remarkable and challenging life experiences that really makes a woman lean on her friends and family.

Throughout the nine months I learned something vital, I may not have my beloved sister to speak to directly. However, she helped me form an amazing network, a circle of women who are all sisters in some way. I had formed friendships that were rooted deeply in hope, faith, and love. I leaned into their love and opened myself up to broadening and trusting these amazing women.

They all know who they are. The many colors of our lives formed a beautiful rainbow that I could turn to when clouds began to form. Today marks the second month of my son’s life. I never allowed myself to fully focus on what he might be like, or what it might feel like to hold my child. I knew all too well the feeling of loss, having experienced it twice.

When I finally lay in the delivery room pushing and fully realizing that I would be a mother, I allowed the image to finally form completely. I saw the beach laid out before me. I went to the sand and the surf where I knew Debbie was one with our beloved Earth. I envisioned holding my son’s hand and carrying him along that very shoreline. I saw him laughing and running into the surf. I had not yet looked at our son’s face, but I knew it nonetheless. My heart knew who he was. I had my wonderful husband and beautiful sister-in-law on either side of me helping usher him into the world. Their helpful counting became a lull of waves along with the contractions I felt. I focused on the waves in my mind’s eye. Maybe it was the introvert in me, or maybe it was Debbie also helping pull me through, but honestly all I remember is seeing the waves crashing over and over. Those three and a half hours were worth the wait and the pain.

It has been said that through struggle we learn the true depth of our courage. Thank you to my mom for sacrificing what you did to bring myself and Debbie into this world. I truly believe that souls become intertwined and I know that the three of ours will always be so. I now know what it truly means to be a mother and to cherish the existence of a life that you can carry forth into the world.

Five days after our son was born, I stood in the window cradling him in my arms and I waited for the sun to shine in our window. I turned on John Denver singing, “Sunshine On My Shoulder,” and I cried. The tears just flowed forth as I felt waves of emotion wash through me. I still cannot listen to that song without crying. I knew in that moment that the sunshine, just like the moon, and the sea would continue to rise and fall. Humanity would continue to chart its course, and we, mere specks in time are a part of the greater universe that would move forward. Life has a way of bringing things full circle in your life. The one thing I can count on is that time will always pass by quickly and our lives will continue to evolve and grow.

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Unveiling your thoughts

Some time has passed since I have felt like sharing my heart or thoughts in a blog. There has been too much noise swirling around. My days have been filled with, I should’s…I ought to’s, to do lists and requirements.  I have worked towards completing these on a daily basis in both my work and personal life.

Then I was brought back to the quiet voice of reason which reminded me to pause.

I started re-reading, “The Universe Has Your Back,” by Gabrielle Bernstein. I watched a beautiful session by Iyanla Vanzant about the power of your thoughts and uniting through positive prayer.

To say that what is happening in the world at large is upsetting, unsettling, and raw would be an understatement. Death, destruction, and despair, seem palpable right now. Yet, they do nothing but drag you down spiritually into the depths of muddy fear and darkness.

One of my favorite films is, What Dreams May Come. There is a scene in which R. Williams is desperately searching for his wife in her depths of despair and isolation. He clings to the hope that seeing her, speaking to her, and reliving the positive hope that they shared will bring her back to their union as spiritual partners. He is literally and figuratively clawing towards her all the while being pulled down by the inferno of the hellish imagination that is his partner’s fear and reason for attempted suicides.

This scene came into my mind as an image of desperation while contemplating what continues to boil around me in society, life, and our world.

When I stop and ask myself, “What can I do?” I feel like a small human standing upon a mountain calling into the wind and being pushed by her force.

Yet, something brought me back from the whiplash of society, and it was my learned ability to pause, re-center my focus, and become aware of my thought process again.

There are many things that I can do as a human to help my personal energetic field which in turn will impact those around me, and that in turn have the potential to become ripples in the tide that we are all connected by.

Iyanla Vanzant called upon people who listen to her work to find something to write on consistently, a notebook or something of that sort. She asked that her audience join her and write down every negative thought that comes to mind throughout their conscious day. This act will engage your nerve endings through writing with your hands and also form a realization of just how many thoughts, and ideas you have. It will allow you to fully become aware of which ones are negative and consider the why behind the thought process. Becoming acutely aware of your own participation in the energetic field that is our world helps you take ownership over what you CAN do. This, in turn leads towards what I perceive as action.

Actionable efforts for positive thinking, positive minds, leads to positive, empathetic, and understanding interactions with our fellow beings. It leads us towards asking ourselves, “How can I become involved in my community? Who can I dialogue with in order to bridge an understanding in the discord between our belief systems? When and how can I bring change to the laws in my district? Where can I be an activist for change and how?”

Small steps towards change must start within. Self reflection and complete honesty about your own belief system, our personal thought processes, and our fears is the basis for making strides towards something we cannot predict, which is the future.

Iyanla Vanzant prayer

 

Learned Hate.

Learned hate.

Ever since I can remember I have identified as a human being who was raised as a Jewish American.  The first time I can recall feeling ostracized was in late second grade at my class lunch table:  “Ew, what’s that???? Why are you eating crackers and meat for lunch, weirdo. Is that like a JEWISH thing?” I had never felt so uncomfortable in my life. I didn’t know how to respond, I felt ashamed, I felt confused, I just sat there and stared. I listened to the snickers and laughter around me. I wrapped up my food, threw it away, and went to the bathroom. Later in that same year my teacher announced that I could make a puzzle wreath and paint it blue for the Jewish Christmas. This was in response to when I had just told her, “I don’t celebrate Christmas, is there something else I could make for my parents?”

In high school my sister received a permanent marker swastika drawn on her locker. She felt paralyzed and didn’t know what to do. However, Debbie was blessed with the gift of a remarkable friend and it was her friend who informed teachers, and took it upon herself to back that fellow peer up to a locker and confront his foul decision herself. She is still a heroine in our family’s life today. The student who attacked my sister was given a specific amount of hours of course work, videos, and lesson work all completed at school on the Holocaust. He was provided with the opportunity to learn about the hatred he had been taught, and reflect upon it. 

Later in high school during, “American Studies,” history class work in 2000 I questioned my teacher about why our text book had no reference to the Holocaust. She promptly replied we could discuss that more later. When we moved past 1945 in our course work I asked her again, this time after class and she replied, “If you want to learn more about WWII or the Holocaust than you’re welcome to take the next history course after this required course, but we don’t cover that in depth. We discussed the dates, the events that transpired in American history, but we don’t go in depth about what happened to the Jews.”  I told her that I felt, personally, that it was shocking and greatly concerning that a part of world history was not being covered in a history class.

Indifference.

One of the most memorable teachable experiences I have had with a student was the following:

I used to pass out math designs as enrichment work after an assignment was completed. There were multiple options for students to work through, throughout the course of a math unit. I handed a child a decimal worksheet that was next in the unit and I moved along checking in with other students. The next morning, one of the tasks for morning work I had assigned was to pull out their math design and get started. This particular child refused, the table team members at this child’s desk started talking about the reason why, the child’s neighbor responded with, “Just pull it out and work on it, it’s not a big deal.” I respectfully asked them to focus on their task at hand. I knelt down next to the child and asked if they wanted to talk about it later. I received a nod.

One on one in discussion the child revealed the following, “My mom said that I’m never, EVER, allowed to like that symbol, it’s a bad symbol, that’s what is on the worksheet Mrs. B. That’s why I don’t want to do my work.” I said, “What symbol?” “The star, the Jews, or the Jewish people star, or whatever it’s called is bad!” I looked at the child and took a slow breath. “What do you mean it’s bad?” I inquired. “Well, in my religion, we don’t believe that the Jews should like, I don’t know how to explain it, I just know that I can see that symbol in that worksheet and I feel uncomfortable.” To which I replied with, “Ok, I hear what you’re saying, let’s have you put that worksheet aside for now and we’ll have you think about it. As for Jews being bad, can we talk about that?” “Yeah!” the child replied. She continued, “Well like my people, or my mom told me that they are not nice, they don’t like our religion, we don’t get along, and that it’s a bad group or something, I don’t really know how to explain it.”

Now, I have to pause here, in my head, as Jewish person, I was extremely torn. I really wanted to respond with, “Did you know that you’re teacher is Jewish. Am I a bad person because I’m Jewish?” However, I stopped and I reflected that I did not want this to become a personal battle, I wanted instead for this to be an opportunity for learning and growth in perspective for this child.

Over the next few weeks, into months, the discussion continued. When the opportunity arose to tie in WWII, the Holocaust, and the President Roosevelt leveled reader book together into a literacy study, the opportunity for more teaching evolved. This child became intrigued by the idea that Jewish people had been persecuted. This child and their friend requested literature about WWII and children during the Holocaust. I provided more children’s literature to which they chose to read during independent time.

Later the following transpired, “Mrs. B. I had no idea that the Jewish people had been killed during WWII. I ….did you know that there were 6 million people that were Jewish who were murdered??? Why would that happen?” Staring at me with wide eyes and astonishment, the child continued.  “It’s like in my religion, being a Muslim, I get really upset when people say that all Muslim’s are bad, because, I’m not a bad person! I love Islam.  My family are good people.” I nodded my head and replied, “So then, I guess there was a lesson to be learned, we can’t always judge someone based upon what religion they believe in or practice?” To which the child quietly looked down at the book and whispered, “Yeah,” followed by, “Did you see the books we got at the library?” This child and friend proceeded to pull out multiple books on WWII, the Holocaust and Anne Frank.

The purpose for me sharing these encounters is this:

Through education, through discussion, through reading, through dialogue, bridges can be built in our understanding of one another. Human beings can connect and unlearn the hatred they have been taught.

Hatred is taught.

Hatred is learned.

Hatred is not an innate ability.

Love is an intrinsic response.

Love is a natural desire.

Talk.

Discuss.

Question.

Listen.

Learn.

Love.

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