18 December 2012

six months of motherhood

There is a near-impossible standard that women should be able to be the kind, nurturing and ever-patient (and always available) mothers while also donning the pants and running corporations-- nay, countries!-- as fierce, inspirational squadron leaders.  And that doesn't even begin to take into consideration the age-old stereotypical conundrum of women as virginal, saintly icons to be revered versus women as sexual, liberated temptresses to be desired and feared.

16 August 2012

a good response to death

Most people curl up and shrink into a dark hole when losing a loved one, and this is certainly necessary, but then, life continues as if nothing happened, and we have to figure out how to go on.

Enter Jim Cotter, an Ohio native who lost his wife and decided to literally paint his town.  Gloucester, Ohio, a once-thriving coal town, had seen better days, and Cotter said he'd always hoped someone would come along and fix the town up.  When his wife passed away, he wanted to do something "to miss her less" and decided to be that someone.  He started painting house after house, storefront after storefront, in the 2000-person town, and people were so inspired, volunteers started helping him.

Supporters who caught wind of Cotter's efforts came from all over, including other states.  One day, 260 people showed up to paint.  Here's a news clip.


11 August 2012

25 rules for mothers of daughters

I came across this lovely list recently and thought it was sweet.  Enjoy!

25 Rules for Mothers of Daughters

1. Paint her nails. Then let her scratch it off and dirty them up. Teach her to care about her appearance, and then quickly remind her that living and having fun is most important.

2. Let her put on your makeup, even if it means bright-red-smudged lips and streaked-blue eyes. Let her experiment in her attempts to be like you…then let her be herself.

3. Let her be wild. She may want to stay home and read books on the couch, or she may want to hop on the back of a motorcycle-gasp. She may be a homebody or a traveler. She may fall in love with the wrong boy, or meet mr. right at age 5. Try to remember that you were her age once. Everyone makes mistakes, let her make her own.

4. Be present. Be there for her at her Kindergarten performances, her dance recitals, her soccer games…her everyday-little-moments. When she looks through the crowds of people, she will be looking for your smile and pride. Show it to her as often as possible.

5. Encourage her to try on your shoes and play dress-up. If she would rather wear her brother’s superman cape with high heals, allow it. If she wants to wear a tutu or dinosaur costume to the grocery store, why stop her? She needs to decide who she is and be confident in her decision.

6. Teach her to be independent. Show her by example that woman can be strong. Find and follow your own passions. Search for outlets of expression and enjoyment for yourself- not just your husband or children.  Define yourself by your own attributes, not by what others expect you to be. Know who you are as a person, and help your daughter find out who she is.

 7. Pick flowers with her. Put them in her hair. There is nothing more beautiful than a girl and a flower.

Source: Pinterest- 500px.com

8. Let her get messy. Get messy with her, no matter how much it makes you cringe inside. Splash in the puddles, throw snowballs, make mud pies, finger paint the walls: just let it happen. The most wonderful of memories are often the messy ones.

9. Give her good role models- you being one of them. Introduce her to successful woman- friends, co-workers, doctors, astronauts, or authors.  Read to her about influential woman- Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie. Read her the words of inspirational woman- Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson. She should know that anything is possible.

 Source: Pinterestgoogle.com

10. Show her affection. Daughters will mimic the compassion of their mother. “I love yous” and Eskimo kisses go a long way.

11. Hold her hand. Whether she is 3 years-old in the parking lot or sixteen years old in the mall, hold on to her always- this will teach her to be confident in herself and proud of her family.

Source: Pinterest- weheartit.com

12. Believe in her. It is the moments that she does not believe in herself that she will need you to believe enough for both of you. Whether it is a spelling test in the first grade, a big game or recital, a first date, or the first day of college…remind her of the independent and capable woman you have taught her to be.

13. Tell her how beautiful she is. Whether it is her first day of Kindergarten, immediately after a soccer game where she is grass-stained and sweaty, or her wedding day. She needs your reminders. She needs your pride. She needs your reassurance. She is only human.

14. Love her father. Teach her to love a good man, like him. One who lets her be herself…she is after all wonderful.

15. Make forts with boxes and blankets. Help her to find magic in the ordinary, to imagine, to create and to believe in fairy tales. Someday she will make her 5 by 5 dorm-room her home with magic touches and inspiration. And she will fall in love with a boy and believe him to be Prince Charming.

16. Read to her. Read her Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle. But also remember the power of Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost. Show her the beauty of words on a page and let her see you enjoy them. Words can be simply written and simply spoken, yet can harvest so much meaning. Help her to find their meaning.

Source: Pinterest-  instagr.am

17. Teach her how to love- with passion and kisses. Love her passionately. Love her father passionately and her siblings passionately. Express your love. Show her how to love with no restraint. Let her get her heart broken and try again. Let her cry, and gush, giggle and scream. She will love like you love or hate like you hate. So, choose love for both you and her.

18. Encourage her to dance and sing. Dance and sing with her- even if it sounds or looks horrible.  Let her wiggle to nursery rhymes. Let her dance on her daddy's feet and spin in your arms. Then later, let her blast noise and headbang in her bedroom with her door shut if she wants. Or karaoke to Tom Petty in the living room if she would rather. Introduce her to the classics- like The Beatles- and listen to her latest favorite- like Taylor Swift. Share the magic of music together, it will bring you closer- or at least create a soundtrack to your life together.

19. Share secrets together. Communicate. Talk. Talk about anything. Let her tell you about boys, friends, school. Listen. Ask questions. Share dreams, hopes, concerns. She is not only your daughter, you are not only her mother. Be her friend too.

20. Teach her manners. Because sometimes you have to be her mother, not just her friend. The world is a happier place when made up of polite words and smiles.

21. Teach her when to stand-up and when to walk away. Whether she has classmates who tease her because of her glasses, or a boyfriend who tells her she is too fat- let her know she does not have to listen. Make sure she knows how to demand respect- she is worthy of it. It does not mean she has to fight back with fists or words, because sometimes you say more with silence. Also make sure she knows which battles are worth fighting. Remind her that some people can be mean and nasty because of jealousy, or other personal reasons. Help her to understand when to shut her mouth and walk-away. Teach her to be the bigger -the better- person.

22. Let her choose who she loves. Even when you see through the charming boy she thinks he is, let her love him without your disapproving words: she will anyway. When he breaks her heart, be there for her with words of support rather than I told-you-so. Let her mess up again and again until she finds the one. And when she finds the one, tell her.

23. Mother her. Being a mother—to her—is undoubtedly one of your greatest accomplishments. Share with her the joys of motherhood, so one day she will want to be a mother too. Remind her over and over again with words and kisses that no one will ever love her like you love her. No one can replace or replicate a mother’s love for their children.
Source: Pinterest- marrabelle.deviantart.com

24. Comfort her. Because sometimes you just need your mommy. When she is sick, rub her back, make her soup and cover her in blankets- no matter how old she is. Someday, if she is giving birth to her own child, push her hair out of her face, encourage her, and tell her how beautiful she is. These are the moments she will remember you for. And someday when her husband rubs her back in attempt to comfort her...she may just whisper, "I need my mommy."

25. Be home. When she is sick with a cold or broken heart, she will come to you: welcome her. When she is engaged or pregnant, she will run to you to share her news: embrace her. When she is lost or confused, she will search for you: find her. When she needs advice on boys, schools, friends or an outfit: tell her. She is your daughter and will always need a safe harbor- where she can turn a key to see comforting eyes and a familiar smile: be home. 

15 July 2012

52 days of motherhood

I've been a mother for fifty-two days now, and I want to remember this time, as every day feels momentous in some small way.  Today, for example, my baby girl started sucking on her hand.  This is both good and bad.  The good: it means I won't have to be her human pacifier anymore.  The bad: well, it isn't particularly attractive, for one.  She hasn't figured out how to suck her thumb or fingers, so she tries to jam her entire fist into her mouth.  But also, I don't get to be her human pacifier anymore.  And because I read this beautifully written piece, I can see how that could be seen as a loss.
I am not a warm human substitute for a cold silicone and plastic doohickey. 

25 June 2012

creative class projects = awesome

I'm honored that Trevor, who is clearly talented and going to make beautiful films, decided to choose our cafe for his class project.  Here is his 30-second commercial of our shop.  Enjoy!

07 June 2012

welcome to the world, aria!

I've been a mom for twelve days now, and I can finally understand what all of the hullaballoo is about.  My partner and I are deliriously in love with our newborn, and we love being parents.  For someone who really values using my time productively, I now just want to stare at my little one all day long.  She grows so quickly that she looks a little different every day, and while babies can't actually smile on purpose until they're about six weeks old, my little Aria has these involuntary little smiles that completely melt my heart.

You know those annoying people who keep sending you photos of their babies?  Now I can see why. As the parent, you think your kid is the cutest thing EVER to land on this planet.  Never mind that newborns are usually not that attractive and make me think of Benjamin Button.  I even said to my partner when I was still pregnant that I didn't want to share any photos of our baby until he or she was at least three months old so s/he could be sort of cute.  Ha!  I've shared photos of our little one from the day she was born and thought she was beautiful from the moment I saw her.

Also, as promised, and largely so I'll remember it, I wanted to share my birth story.  It isn't for everyone, so don't feel obligated if you aren't interested. :-)

21 May 2012

ha ha ha

That's nature laughing at me.  I was CERTAIN I'd have my baby early, and here I am, five days late, with absolutely no signs of labor at all.  I was told if you were working hard and on your feet all day, you would go early.  Well, I guess I wasn't working quite as hard as I thought.

They say parenting is the most humbling challenge one can undertake.  You have all of these noble and lofty ideals, and your little one, with their own personality and ideas, just laughs at you as you fumble your way through parenthood.  So, even in utero, my little one laughs at me.  To think I thought I'd be a mom by the end of April-- and now, we're approaching June.

So, we learn a little more humility and patience.  Good practice for what's to come. 

10 May 2012

everyday miracles

Hello!  I'm six days away from my estimated due date, but I'm still as pregnant as ever and wanted to share some pretty awesome stories with you.

So, this first one comes from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), typically associated these days with "civil war, child soldiers and worst of all the systematic rape of women as a weapon of war." 

Not exactly puppies and rainbows.  So, when I heard about this orchestra, I was pretty floored.  I'll let the 60 Minutes clip speak for itself.  Enjoy.

If you're inspired and feel like donating, you can go here.

The next video is about a boy named Caine and his DIY cardboard arcade.  A filmmaker in LA was so taken with Caine's creation, he created an instant mob and a short to capture the "best day of Caine's life."  You can read about how the filmmaker found Caine here, and again, I'll let the short speak for itself.  Enjoy.

And in case all of this is too feel-good for you, you can read about the benefits of swearing, gossiping and being a slob here. :-)

19 April 2012

what a dad/son/photographer

These girls are adorable, and the story is pretty touching (from boredpanda):

If you are tired of posed, stiff and cheesy family portraits, then take a look at these incredibly creative pictures taken by Jason Lee.
Jason who is a wedding photographer started taking photos of his two little daughters back in 2006 when his mom was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The girls were constantly sick, with colds and coughs so he couldn’t always bring them to visit their grandmother. Jason wanted her to be able to see her granddaughters without catching their kid germs so he started a blog where his mom could see what was going on in their lives.
Most of the ideas come from his daughters – eight-year-old Kristin and five-year-old Kayla. Jason says that they are never-ending source of ideas.

Lee is a really talented photographer in his own right (you can see his photography website here), but it's really the spirit of fun and whimsy of this collection that I love.  Here are some of my favorites.  Enjoy!

10 April 2012

music and maternity photos

My favorite video of all time is still the happy dance around the world (here), but this one (above) of musicians around the world all shot on 10/10/10 is also pretty awesome.  Enjoy!

On a more personal note, life is often funniest when it isn't trying to be.  I'm 34 weeks pregnant this week and 34 years old.  Tomorrow, I'll be 35 weeks pregnant and will be turning 35 years old this coming weekend.  Planned?  Nope.  Kind of a fun coincidence?  Yup. :-)

I really feel the older you get, the more quickly life zooms by.  Here's a time lapse video that I thought was neat, demonstrating just that:

I also just discovered these photo series and think they're a great idea.  Life as art, and art as life.  We've been taking weekly photos, too, to document the growing belly, but we have yet to do anything with them.  

Here are some shots from the original series.  I love the descriptions.  You can see the full blog/series here.

And here are some from the series I came across first (inspired by the above series).  It reflects the different personality of the mom, and I have to admit I cried at the end of this one.  You can see the whole series here.

20 March 2012

unexpected art (from the diverse arts project)

This is reposted from the diverse arts project, and I hope you'll enjoy it:
Part of the appeal and magic of art is that it can appear (and disappear) at any time and any place.
I was recently reminded of a documentary by Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy that I enjoyed, entitled "Rivers and Tides," and how often beauty and artwork can truly vanish in a moment. Here is the trailer:
Accompanied by sappier music (possibly from "Somewhere in Time"), here is more of his work: 
Simon Beck is creating snow shoe art near Mont Blanc in France in a similar way.  For a sense of scale, note the tiny two skiers in the top right corner:
You can read more about his work here, but the short version is that this man walks around for hours and hours (nine sounds average), creating these amazing snow "crop circles" with the knowledge that as soon as it snows again, his art will be gone.
Another heart-warming story about the unexpected outcomes of art is about Joshua Johnson, a 20-year-old man from Harlem, who has been tap dancing in New York City subways to pay for college.  You can see him in action here: 
And you can read more about him in both the New York Times and on the Good News Network site, which shares the story of how he was tap dancing to pay for his college tuition and help his mother, who lives in a shelter-- and how he ended up on the Ellen show and receiving a generous check (and a pair of fancy tap shoes).
Yay, art.  And they say art doesn't pay... :-)

17 January 2012

5 regrets of the dying

I recently came across this post and thought it was a good reminder for those of us who still (hopefully) have a lot of life ahead of us.  This was written by an Australian caregiver named Bonnie Ware who found recurring regrets as she worked with people whose lives were coming to an end.

I hope you will find something of use to you, too.  May we all live lives without too many regrets. :-)

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

14 January 2012

happy 2012

Happy new year!  Holy cow, I can't believe I haven't posted anything since November.  Just goes to show that time can truly slip away quickly!

I'm still going through travel photos and will post soon with the rest of South America and start the Asia segment, but in the meantime, here's a CNN video and New York Times article about a cell phone that stopped the New York Philharmonic.  The offending party sat in the front row and didn't realize it was his phone-- his apologetic response is in the NYT article.  I thought it was a fascinating juxtaposition of new and old colliding.

And here's an email I got recently.  I know, it's yet another forwarded, lengthy and maybe even untrue story, but I thought it was pretty touching.  Enjoy. :-)

Two Choices 

What would you do?....you make the choice.

Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice? 

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: 
'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.  Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.  Where is the natural order of things in my son?' 
The audience was stilled by the query. 
The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.' 
Then he told the following story: 
Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps. 
I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning..' 
Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt.. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted. 
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. 
In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands. 
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. 
Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat. 
At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? 
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. 
However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. 
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. 
The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. 
As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. 
The game would now be over. 
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. 
Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. 
Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. 
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first!  Run to first!' 
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. 
He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. 
Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!' 
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. 
By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. 
He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. 
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home. 
All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, all the Way!' 
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third!  Shay, run to third!' 
As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!' 
Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.
'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'. 
Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day! 

We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate. 
The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces. 
If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren't the 'appropriate' ones to receive this type of message.  Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. 

We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the 'natural order of things.'  
A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate. 
So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: 
Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?