Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Annual Disorientation

This post is a repeat of last October and then the October before that, but I can't help it.  I cycle through this emotion each year that I live in Arizona.  It's my SAD.  But every fall, I become disoriented in both time and space with the static weather.  I'm still running my air-conditioner even though The Simpson's Halloween specials are running during the 10-o'clock hour.

At no other time of the year does the shimmering heat of this city in the sun bother me.  I soldier through the stickiness of late July and August with the best of them and a smile on my face.  But just as everyone else is thinking of hot apple cider, fall leaves and pumpkin donuts, I'm thinking, "Holy shit, why is the pool closed!?"  I still operate as if it is summer, but it's actually nearly November and autumn is firmly in place.

CEWG saw fall leaves for the first time when we were in Virginia last week for Roommate Barbara's wedding.  We walked outside on a drizzly day and she saw the orange leaves floating along in the gutter.    A beautiful red maple caused her to shout, "Look, Mommy, that tree is on fire!"  Autumn is my favorite time of year.  I love the smells of wet leaves, damp earth, the chill in the air as the sun sets earlier and nights grow longer.  The smell of woodsmoke curling through the trees bringing memories of marshmallows, cold noses and frost on a windowpane.

Every year, the holidays sneak up on me.  I have elaborate plans to decorate, bake, craft and carve, but every year, as I continue to sweat my way through November, I forget because it still feels like August and suddenly, it is too late.  This year, it will be different.  I am going to try to put effort into making the season one to be jolly, to hold those I love close, to find something to celebrate in a big way, to remember to turn my face up to the blinding sun and say a prayer of thanks that despite 90-degree heat through November, at least I don't have to scrape ice off my windshield in the morning.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Inside and Out

A very dear friend has recently introduced me to the idea of inside clothes and I have embraced it wholeheartedly.

The idea of different clothes for different things isn't a completely new idea.  Growing up, we had a strict dress code that required dress clothes--longer skirts or dress pants, nice shoes, blouses...  So every day, coming home, we put on play clothes--standard jeans, t-shirts, tennis shoes.  My parents also changed when they came home.  Ties exchanged in favor of Periodic Table shirts, pantyhose shed for socks and sneakers.  But it was never clothes only meant for inside, not to be seen by others outside your family.

The idea of inside clothes is completely different than simply having dress clothes vs play clothes.  Inside clothes are lounge clothes--soft shirts, knit pants.  Not sleepwear, exactly, but not something you'd wear out in public.  Only those closest to you get to see your inside clothes.  Inside clothes are your private persona, your most intimate wear.

I've dug out some old comfortable clothes (as well as purchasing some new ones).  As soon as I get home, I put on my inside clothes to vacuum, cook, nap, paint, play or write.  If I go out to run an errand, I change--even if it's changing into casual clothes.  When I get return home, I immediately put my inside clothes back on.  I wear inside clothes several days in a row before washing them.  Who cares if they smell like last night's dinner?

I like the idea of inside and outside.  A public me and a private me, a comfortable persona that exists underneath the skirts and high heels of the office.  I do often think of clothes as a form of protection.  I dress a certain way to invoke a certain image, but every so often, it's good to remember just me.  To shed that external skin of appearance and take a deep breath to just exhale.    The inside me in my inside clothes can relax enough to know just where I am at this moment in time, even if it's in lounge pants.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Taking Care

Recently, someone posed the question, "How do you take care of yourself?"

The first thought that popped in my head was "work."

And I realized that it's true. Work is a way for me to take care of myself.  Not every day, of course.  Some days are exhausting and hard, but eight mornings out of ten, I wake up excited and ready to go to work.

I feel privileged that I have a job I love.  I know not everyone does.  I feel so thankful that I do what I do and with whom I do it.  I'm honored to be surrounded by individuals who have dedicated their lives to helping others.  I forget, sometimes, that any one of them could be working a better job, making more money in the private sector and yet, here they are, next to me, striving to help people help themselves.

How fortunate I am.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dirty, Beautiful

I love seeing my daughter dirty.

I love when she has dirty, bare feet and flushed cheeks, slightly damp sweaty hair, smelling like the outside.  The joys of childhood run deep and it is a beautiful thing to watch her unselfconsciously exist in this magical moment of complete freedom.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Vocabulary Lesson

The last few days, I've been caught up in reading a popular YA trilogy about war and revolution in a futuristic time.  It's nothing mind blowing and it's a quick, easy read, but I am absorbed in the story line. When I get focused on a good book, I have a hard time doing anything else but sitting and reading. In fact, even as I sit here, the other part of my mind's eye is pulling me towards my Nook, to rush through whatever I am doing, asking to refocus on the story, to reach the conclusion sooner rather than later. It's a good thing that I'm an incredibly fast reader (my one skill) otherwise, I'd be bogged down for weeks every time I opened a book.

But as I started the third book last night, a word I see every day jumped out at me on the first page.


Staring at me. And for a minute, I was overwhelmed at the meaning of that word.

I know what it means. Every day, I say the word refugee, see it written a thousand times. At least once a week, I'm explaining to a stranger the nature of my work, the individuals whose lives I am privileged to be a part of, even for a brief moment. The weight of that word is so heavy. War. Pain. Loss. Grief. Dehumanized.  Fear.  Desperation.  Flight. I live in a world of privilege where I am allowed to look how I want, speak the language I know, practice my religion how I see fit. I've seen poverty, sadness but truly, I don't know what it means to lose everything.

The individuals I have met have endured the most horrific things imaginable. Wars, sometimes continuous over decades, wars that never end, just a different group in power. Persecution because of their ethnic group, their language, their religious beliefs. Watching people die.  Rape.  Tortured for what they know, or don't know. Aggressors stripping them of what makes them human. Fleeing what they knew, leaving behind homes, towns, family members and friends, knowing they will never ever go back. Illness in camps.  Deaths of children from diseases that no longer exist in other parts of the world.  Discrimination in their nation of asylum because they look different--their skin is darker, their accent is odd. Arrests, interrogations simply because they don't quite fit into the norm.  Always on the run, the defensive, waiting for the next blow.  Never quite being safe.

Every story unique, every story different, but somehow, every story the same.  Heartbreaking.


The weight of that word is so heavy. Strength. Resilience. Safety. Forward. Ahead. Future.  Hope.  People come here, sometimes with one bag, holding the only belongings that anchor them to this world. They come here with only the family they have left.  Or, they come here alone, leaving their families behind. They pick up the pieces of their lives as best they can and keep walking forward because it's all they can do. Sometimes, they do it for themselves. Sometimes they do it for their children. And sometimes, once they get here, they can't do it at all.  They are finally safe and that's when they give up, go under and just let go.

I know most of my clients would think I'm ridiculous for having these overwrought thoughts about them and their experiences. "I'm just here. I do what I have to do.  You would, too." I am certain that several of my colleagues who were refugees themselves, if they ever read this, would outright laugh at my wonderment at their experience. "You just have no idea how the rest of the world is.  This is how it is."

But truly, the meaning of the word refugee is so far beyond my comprehension of reality, that when I really stop to think about it, really dwell on what that would mean for me, now, to become that word, to put myself in their shoes, I don't know that I would be one who made it.  I mean, I white whine when I'm told the restaurant I'm dining in is out of ranch dressing.  How could I possibly deal with the reality of fleeing for my life?

I'm humbled to know these individuals, my clients, my coworkers, my friends.  Their lives are a testament to the sheer will of humans to survive.  Their lives are a reminder to give thanks for what I have and continue to give back to those who have not.

"You are forgiven for your happiness and your successes only if you generously consent to share them."
--Albert Camus

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Before CEWG was born and during the time I stayed home with her, I wrote. A lot. Short stories, novellas, full novels, tiny memoirs.  In ABQ, I had a fantastic group of writer friends and each week, we came together to read each other's stories, share ideas and laugh about bad plot points.

But after moving to the Valley of the Sun, leaving my writing group, rejoining the workforce and juggling mothering and working meant all that writing went by the wayside.

Except it shouldn't have.

I have no other creative outlet.  In fact, I would argue that I'm not a creative person at all.  I can't paint, draw, sketch, play an instrument, read music, or sew.  I blame my private school upbringing where there was no art class or opportunity to stretch oneself creatively.  However, I can write.  But even in my writing, I find that I'm not particularly creative.  I've reconciled myself to the idea that I lack an artist's soul.

Even so, it's nice sometimes to sit down and have actually done something with my time.  Not just worked to produce education, knowledge or behavior change as in my day-to-day work, but actually have a product, something I can hold, wave about as proof of my existence.  See world, here I am, I am real.  

I have no excuse for not sitting myself down at least once a week and just doing it.  The Doctor's nighttime work schedule means I have ample evening time to write after CEWG is in bed.  It's just a matter of choosing to put words on paper.  So one night a week, I am going to start choosing to write instead of reading celebrity gossip websites, lingering on Facebook and doing work.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Secret Fulfillment

I love being domesticated. Leisurely weekends, cleaning, cooking and making my house a home are my favorite weekends.  It is my secret fulfillment to center myself around my home, even for just one day a week.

Busy weekends are enjoyable, of course--catching up with old friends, dinners out, nights out, play dates and pools.  But I love Sundays when I wake up slowly, drink coffee around the house in my pajamas, catch up on reading.  I sort the mail in my bare feet, plan out my menu, make lists of what I need to do.

I love to do the wash, make the bed with clean white sheets, put out fresh towels for the week.

I wear my inside clothes all day, put on my apron and cook meals for both tonight and later in the week.

There is something sacred about a day of creating order in preparation for the chaos of the week, knowing that as the busy days march forward, I have groceries stocked in the refrigerator, my counters are clean and I am ready to start the week.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Forever Friends

Every so often, we meet people in this world who change our lives in a real way. Or maybe, it's that you have friends who are with you during life-changing periods of your life and they forever remain tied to that person you were as you were becoming who you are.

I have several of these friends, women who stood by me, walked with me and held my hands during critical points of my life. They have my secrets in their hearts, they know my soul. Some of them are still my friends, some still flit at the edge of my friendship circle, while others have wandered out of my life entirely.

But every so often, one of them returns. This past weekend, one of these women came back to me. From the moment I met LC, I knew we would be friends of the truest kind. But on Saturday, when I saw her name flash up on my phone for the first time in years, for a split-second, I worried that her voice would be different, that I somehow wouldn't recognize her, that the years which have passed would have altered us so much we would have nothing to share.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Her laugh was the same. Her smile. We were seven years older, but there she was, standing in front of me, seemingly unchanged. Wiser, perhaps by another degree or two. But still the same girl who I trekked across a foreign country to visit, who shared whispered hopes and understood darkest fears. We couldn't keep our arms by our sides, hiking side-by-side, arms around each other, making our gait awkward, but still we moved forward.

Moments like these makes me remember how fortunate I am in the realm of friendship. How lucky I am to have a host of women who touch me, who love me tenderly and toughly, who simply know me. Thank you, my friends, far and wide, for loving me and all of my numerous imperfections.

Thank you for standing by me, for holding my hand, listening to my words, hearing me. It has been a privilege walking this journey of life, sharing my joys.

 Thank you.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mother's Day the World Over

I marvel at the love a mother has for her child. When she puts her sticky hand in mine to walk across the street, I get a catch in my throat. When she snuggles herself up against my chest and puts her head under my chin, the smell of her hair brings a wave of joy and sorrow surging through my chest.

Motherloving is letting go, slowly, surely. I don't want to keep my daughter from growing up. I want to see her experience climbing a tree, riding a bike, reading, the joy of girlhood friends, the awkward braces/glasses years, and eventually, I want her to experience the love of a man and to know how to cherish someone in return.

And, yes, I want her to be a mother someday because only then can she ever truly understand how much I love her, truly understand what I would do for her. It's selfish, of course, but I think all mothers must feel that way--to have our daughters understand why we do what we do and to know that it's always meant out of love.

But sometimes--no, all the time--I want her to do her growing up a little more slowly.

Why is childhood the shortest time of our lives? Why must we power through these magical toddler years of "Why" and "How" and "I love yous" whispered into my ears before bed. I want her to stay three for two more years to soak up all that being three means. And I'm fairly positive I'll feel the same way about four, five, six, ten, fourteen and beyond.

But this day always makes me think of mothers around the world, too. Until I became a mother and had a taste of motherlove, I had no concept of how much love is in the world. When we hear of current events and news around the the world, it's tragedies--bombs, war, stealth, killing. What we don't hear enough of is the day-to-day love that exists around the world because we are all humans and, when it comes right down to it, motherlove is the same the world over. Every Mother's Day, newpapers run human interest pieces about motherhood around the world to remind us that love does exist everywhere and is in everything--even the places (and the people) seemingly most forsaken by both God and man.

Many of the women I work with have lost babies and children during the course of their lives. We all know the statistics of neonatal, infant and child mortality rates. We know that it is a dangerous occupation around the world to be a child. But nothing is like hearing a story from the mouth of the mother. Then it becomes real. There is suddenly a name on the tongue to one of those 105.56 per 1000 live births that died last year in Somali.

Tragic stories of broken children and broken mothers who healed, but only partially, whose hearts are still raw, even all these years and miles passed. Children shouldn't die before mothers. Mothers' hearts are already exposed to the world at large. We should never have to feel that unnatural pain, that loss that rips a woman's already-exposed heart out of her chest.

Today is the day that I think of all mothers and rejoice that we are blessed enough to feel this motherlove and I hope for the day that will never come that mothers around the world need not fear the pain of losing a child.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sun-Baked Wood

Today, I was sitting outside on the picnic tables at work with (soon-to-be) NewYorkRachel and I kept smelling this familiar scent. I couldn't put my finger on what it was, but I definitely associated the smell with summer. And then it dawned on me. It was the smell of sun-baked wood, a scent I strongly associate with the beach.

Growing up, we used to spend weeks at the Outer Banks. I am unable to even remember a summer that I didn't go to the beach. My earliest summer memory is when I was four, my mother was pregnant and we spent a good portion of the summer at the beach. I remember my mother's red and white maternity bathing suit, the tang of the salt water and the grainy sand between my toes.

The sounds and smells of summer stick with me. Beach houses in the Outer Banks are made of wood, weathered over time and in the middle of summer day, smell exactly like the picnic table, this indescribable smell of wood and sunshine.

I've been living out West, away from home, for almost 7 years. It's a long time to be away from the smells I grew up with. But sometimes, I still wake up in the morning, sun streaming through the shades, the call of a morning bird piercing the air and for a split-second, I'm 11-years old again, waking up to the indescribable joy of a summer day yawning before me.