Reflections of a Shadow – Part I

I have been writing these particular words my whole life. The reality of them come to me in pictures and objects. It is difficult to create definitions of nothingness. Yet, here I am.
My oldest daughter took an art class this year (the girl has mad drawing skills). Her teacher introduced basic fundamentals. One of them was Negative and Positive Space. It is easier to show than explain for a non-artist like me. However, basically, instead of drawing a chair my daughter had to draw the shadows everywhere where the chair was not. So she shaded an entire piece of paper gray and carefully left blank white paper in the shape of a chair, however she never used a line in the shape of a chair. A cheat way would be to color in an entire paper and *erase* in the shape of a chair. That was negative drawing. Here is a good explanation if you wanna get geeky
The concept of negative space blew my mind. I had never thought of it this way but as I mulled it over, it felt familiar, like visiting a place you lived as a toddler. I know what empty space feels like, to be the space where something should be but isn’t.
When my oldest daughter was a toddler, my two best friends also had young children. We would talk about parenting and I saw something in them, I call it, cement. They each have this amazing strength, this ability to stand their ground under any situation. They take on mechanics, salesmen, coworkers. They are fearless. They tell people off and laugh at bullies. I was in awe. I just didn’t have their metal. For years I envied this skill and practiced it but failed over and over. People would take advantage of me, and they would shake their heads, bewildered at my inability to assert myself. We had so many things in common and yet I could not replicate their skills.
Finally, it hit me. Each of them were raised by *both* of their biological parents. For at least 18 years they each had a loving, devoted father who was involved, attentive and caring. Those two fathers poured concrete into two souls for nearly 2 decades and it hardened into a solid sense of self. My mom raised me, she is a lot like my two friends and taught me how to be like her. However, she too was raised by a loving father who poured cement into her soul. I had the knowledge, but no cement. The implication of a child through shadows, but no definitive lines.
Neglect is defined as, “To fail to PROPERLY care for someone or thing.” In order to neglect something one must be given the responsibility of being in charge of it. Therefore, there is a certain expectation of care, a minimum amount of maintenance that is considered “proper” and necessary. Neglect is a LACK of action.
The definitions of abuse (there are quite a few) all describe an *action*. They all describe a wrong action, a *misuse*. Social Workers have evolved to include neglect in the definition of abuse with regards to child services. However, it is still not in the dictionary, difficult to pin down. We often have to remind ourselves that neglect is abuse. It is a nothingness, and nothing is hard to see.
I was in my early 30’s before I realized I was profoundly neglected by my father. My mother had been so incredibly dedicated, I hadn’t felt overtly neglected. I knew my dad had been a cad. I knew he had not been there, a deadbeat. I simply never made the connection, that I was not only my mother’s responsibility. I had been his too. He had had a job with regard to me. He did not only do a poor job, but he left a need completely unmet. There had been an expectation that only he could fulfill, yet he left it unattended. A mother (or father) can do everything ever asked of her (or him). But if the other parent is not there, there is still a full lifetime of neglect. The child needs 100% from both of those parents. For one of those to be neglectful, missing altogether, it is catastrophically stunting. Like a tent with 4 pegs, two on one side, two on the other. If two tent pegs go missing, the tent’s function drastically changes, especially in bad weather…
Apparently my dad owned a store once that he named after me, “Heidi’s Clothes” or something. But it burned down when I was a year old or so. He has never mentioned it to me, but my mom did. Just before I turned 3, mom took my brother and I to stay with family because we had no heat or hot water. After that he rarely visited and when we went to his place, he left me with his mother or girlfriend. He has never once spoken a harsh word to me. On the contrary, he tells me he loves me every time we speak. He has the warmest smile. Growing up, I’d go visit, one weekend in the summer and one weekend at Christmas. He would always give me a big strong hug and a huge smile when he saw me. Then he would (essentially) pat my head and go off to do errands. That’s the word he used every time. It’s the one word in Spanish I will never be able to disassociate from my father, errands. *Diligencias*. Ironically it’s strongly related to the English, diligent.
He lived 15 minutes away and saw me twice a year. When we spoke on the phone once or twice a year he swore he had birthday gifts for me that he was taking to the post office, “tomorrow”. I knew not to expect anything unless I was physically in his house. One can’t remember the space around a shadow. Sometimes we skipped Christmas and went for New Years. I don’t remember holidays much, falling asleep on the couch, staying up to watch the ball drop.  There was one present I remember when I was about 8. It was a huge doll, about 3 feet tall. Loved it. Not that I played with dolls but whatever, I was an empty space. How could he possibly have known a doll didn’t go there? I remember the one shopping trip where he took us to get some clothes. I think it was like a birthday thing, except it was summer. I just followed everyone around, in awe we were together, anywhere. A few years later for Christmas he gave me an old leather jacket from the closet. It was stiff and stale and a weird burnt orange color, from the 70’s. I didn’t know whether it was a treasured hand me down or just something to ease his guilt. A couple years later for a birthday he gave me a lottery ticket, the quintessential promise. When I was 14 he married his pregnant girlfriend and decided to move to Florida. He never mentioned any of it. No phone call. No invite to the wedding. I found out in passing during a visit. Some months later they stopped by on their way driving south to Florida. I was standing in the parking lot of my church, they had driven to where I was, a Wednesday night youth group meeting. We gushed over the baby for a bit, hugged and he made promises as usual while my stepmom gave me a pin with my brother’s picture. It was like when Matilda gets adopted by Mrs. Honey. Danny Davito and Rhea Pearlmen say, “I’m gonna miss you” and then drive away happily. That’s the majority of my childhood with dad.
I was an undrawn child in the room. He did not create anything in me. I was the shadow of his neglect. His lack of action created a vacuum into which my needs were sucked and obliterated, less than ignored. Abuse, overt violence would have at least acknowledged my existence. Anger, physical pain would have been some form of counter-pressure for me to have pushed off from. I’m not diminishing abuse, just speaking on the void of interaction, invisibility. How does one draw oneself into existence? I was not there. He did not see me. He was the gray. I was anything he did not see.
I married Tim at 26 and we had a honeymoon baby. My husband was the stepfather to my oldest and a father to our 2nd daughter. Every day he would casually grab the baby and do stuff. Every morning he would take her in the shower because she had the habit of blowing out her diaper. So there he’d be holding her in the shower. Water would run over her face and I would fuss and he’d say, “she’s ok, she likes it”, and he’d be right. The next day he would do it all over again. The man kept showing up. Every single day. He would put her on his lap at dinner and she’d just be there eating off his plate and he’d talk to her, with eye contact. She existed. She knew she was there because he saw her. Every day. He even knew she liked scallops, before she could talk.
Week after month after year I have watched every tickle, every “can I go too?”, every “go brush your teeth”; as it pours cement into the foundation of my kids. I knew it was happening too because for 5 years before we met Tim, my oldest daughter had very little of this from her own dad. So when she went roller skating with my husband and it wasn’t a major event, it was just, “because here we are existing side by side”; I could suddenly see the void clearly, like seeing night sky after your eyes have adjusted. At first, nothing, but slowly stars start to shine and soon the black forms of the trees appear just below and if it’s only just past sunset, you see the glow on the horizon.
My dad and I talk about once or twice a year. Usually New Year’s and birthdays, mimicking our old visits. I went to Florida a total of 4 times, but haven’t seen him since my wedding. He has been to Philadelphia a few times but hasn’t bothered to come meet his 4 younger grandkids. He also can’t remember their names.
About 5 years ago my brother and father had a falling out. My brother stopped speaking to my dad for that time. A few years into it, my dad called me for an annual chat and started rambling about why he was right regarding my brother. He did that for the next couple years of conversations. I always encouraged him to apologize. My brother lived with my dad for a total of 10 years (me, 3). My dad “sees” my brother, a little more clearly, perhaps less of a mystery. Though he has been equally neglectful of him.
Not long ago my brother and dad reconciled. Dad called me for our annual chat and happily told me all about my brother. Then he proceeded to describe how he was going to visit with my brother since it had been so long. How is he capable of having a conversation with a non-existent person? Does he have short term memory loss? Did he forget that he hasn’t seen me in 10 years? Does he not remember he has 4 grandchildren he hasn’t met?
By asking a question with a double negative, I lose the power of the truth of the statement. Most would say, “Hell yes he remembers and he is a jerk.” That would take cement. That would take certainty. That would take being drawn in positive space. White paper  in the form of a child can not exactly hold her space. A reflection of a shadow isn’t capable of that kind of certainty. How can a person define what the child needs if she isn’t really there?

Remembering to Laugh & Pray


Around age 15 I began to discover who I wanted to be. I had gone to something called “Life 95”, a youth conference that forever changed me. It taught me to be intentional with my thought life and gave me real tools with which to approach prayer. This moved me to leverage my love for mornings. Sunshine and birds chirping are glorious. I would spend a couple hours each day journaling and chronicling my reflections, prayers and plans for the future. I couldn’t get enough. I would actually run a little late because I couldn’t tear away from this magical morning time. This went on for most of 10 years until I was 26 (minus a 2 year detour when I bailed on God after some scary stuff).

At 26 I married a strange and wonderful man named Tim. He could not be more suited and yet more different from me. He moved in the weekend of our wedding and shortly after our honeymoon we both went back to work, except now we shared a bedroom. A few weeks or months into it (I don’t remember exactly) Tim casually but resolutely stated that my alarm clock bothered him because it caused him to wake up before he needed to. He asked me to simply use his. As a young, eager bride I easily acquiesced. Of course his sleep mattered. Not only that but he was in the process of being diagnosed with a sleep disorder and there was no question that I would help any way I could.

Little did I know! Little did I know that I was obliterating the foundation of my entire thought life! I had no idea what had just happened. Without my alarm clock, I lost my ability to wake up with ample time. Without ample time, my journal entries shrank to mere phrases, interrupted and incomplete notions that didn’t untangle anything. Without my morning routine to remind me of my life’s priorities, I became blurry, scattered and anxious.

Of course it took years to realize this. By the time I understood the magnitude of this, the damage was done. Three years later I had lost the discipline, the “muscle” that it took to hear an alarm and will myself out of bed. I rationalized that a young mother with now 3 children couldn’t be expected to wake up any earlier than necessary. I rationalized that sleep would keep me physically capable of managing my days. A few more years went by and when I tried to write, it was dry, empty, passionless; because the processing of unlocking inner thoughts is a muscle that atrophies just like any other.

By now, perhaps 7 or 8 years had gone by. My old routine was a ghost. To be clear I never understood what I had done. There was no argument over this. Tim had no idea the importance of my morning routines. I couldn’t figure out why I was so ineffective, why my decision making process was fraught with anxiety when I had never ever ever been an anxious person before. I also began to realize that I wasn’t laughing like I used to. The kids would tell me a joke and I’d give them a half hearted smile. When things went wrong in ridiculous ways I couldn’t laugh them off. I had lost my sense of humor! I had a rich life and no ability to taste it.

Slowly it dawned on me. I was so parched. I had not steeped in my soul-filling quiet mornings and I was completely dry. At first it was so awkward to journal or pray. My hands seemed rusty and my thoughts were jumbled and unsure. By this time I was 8, 9, 10 years into our marriage. I had my 4th and 5th child during this time. Finding time to write was impossible. I have averaged 2-4 night wakings per night for the better part of 10 years. It is not easy to re-establish a 5 a.m. alarm clock when I’ve woken up at 12, 2 and 4 a.m. So I didn’t.

At first I reprimanded myself for my laziness and battled with the guilt of not getting up in the mornings. I wondered if being physically rested but spiritually dry was worse than the reverse. So I started talking to God all day, every day and letting him know that I needed help, either motivation, relief of guilt or resources to get back to my old routine.

Parallel to all this I had been wondering for some time whether I really believed God. I realized that along with becoming dry, I also became cynical and skeptical of good things. Along with the inability to enjoy good things, I suppose we also lose the ability to anticipate good things. I realized that I didn’t believe good things ever really happened. Some might consider this ungratefulness. In fact this was around the time that Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, was gaining popularity. I wondered if I had become an ungrateful person. Arguably I had. It was all wrapped up in this shriveled up version of myself that was trying so very hard to live a good life, all the while completely disconnected from all that was Good.

Finally, I told Tim. It got a little (ok a lot) “blamey” for a minute there. It’s just so tempting to blame a husband for blocking my goals, rather than to take ownership in my own choices over the years, no matter how naive. I told him that I needed to find time to journal, even if it killed me. I was going to trust that being spiritually nourished was at least equally important as being physically rested.

Tim did what he does best. He researched. He found me a Hermitage. A Catholic hermitage just 8 minutes down the road where he sent me to stay overnight. I was completely and totally alone. I brought along 6 journals. One for me and 1 for each of my children. They were painfully empty with such sparse entries over the years.

However, that evening and following day were a rebirth for me. I had time to soak and literally wait until the words found their way out of the cobwebbed corners of my mind. God reminded me that He was very much alive and eager to be a part of every detail of the day. I knew that He wanted me to trust that a *living, dynamic* God was going to supernaturally involve Himself in my day to day life, if I allowed it.

It’s been a couple of years since that stay at the Hermitage (I definitely want to go again). I still don’t have all the quiet time I would like. Though I can say that I laugh a lot harder and more easily than I used to. Joy has managed to find it’s way back into this old rusty soul.

Why’s it gotta be like that?

Like Babe Ruth’s 1932 World Series Home Run, I pointed my bat out to Center Field and swung with all my might.
The Field was the Aldi’s on Roosevelt Blvd. The Players were 4 of my children and myself. The fans in the stands were the unimpressed shoppers. The Game? Homeschooling.

It’s May, we’re tired. Now and then though I still get an inspiration. This week was one such week. On Thursday I gave the kids 7 pieces of paper representing the days of the week. Each day was labeled “Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner”. The 9 & 7 year old each took 3 days and decided the menu the family would eat (the 4 year old did the menu for Saturday). Today I handed them their menus and 7 envelopes. Each envelope had $10 in singles representing their budget for their meals.

Lately they have been begging for “take out” food every day. They were not understanding how I could “have” money in general but not “have” money to go out to eat. So, we made it into an object lesson.

For what it’s worth, the kids did great. They each read their items from their papers and went to find the food they needed. They understood that each meal could only cost roughly $3 or else they needed to work together to buy in bulk (ground beef) or borrow from another day.

They did it!! They spent $71 for 7 days of groceries. Are the meals perfect? Not really, but each day had all the necessary food groups and the lesson was accomplished.

The hard part? The part where it felt like I fell flat on my face? The 23 month old yelled his siblings names at the top of his lungs anytime they walked away. The store echoes. The 4 year old ran around the store like a giddy chimpanzee hopped up on slurpee (1 lollipop from the bank can do that?). The running part wasn’t horrible and I eventually corralled her. About 20 minutes into it, though the 23 month old decided the shopping cart was no fun and began screaming, “I WANT TO GET DOWN” at the top of his lungs continuously. Eventually, I got him down (you would have too, don’t judge me). Soon he was trying to run away so I picked him back up and put him back in the car which caused him to now scream bloody murder for the remaining 25 minutes of shopping. It felt like 2 hours. He screamed while I counted out $100 singles. He screamed while the kids unloaded the shopping cart onto the conveyor belt. By this time the 4 year old was also sobbing over some cookie detail. Both children were sobbing and screaming while I held the younger and dictated to the cashier that I needed him to let me purchase my groceries in 3 separate transactions.
Let me just take a minute to give a shout out to the cashier working today around 12:45pm at Aldi’s on the Blvd. You ROCK!!! He didn’t even flinch AND he smiled to each of my kids as they each nervously handed him their $4, $25 and $42.

I never bothered to make eye contact with anyone at the store. I knew what they were thinking. “She doesn’t have control of those kids”. “Why doesn’t she calm her baby down”. “Her little girl needs to be reigned in”. “Is school out?” “My kid isn’t loud like that.” I shut my proverbial eyes to the world and repeated my mommy mantra, “I’m a good mom. I’m rocking it. I’m doing my best. It wasn’t meant to be like this. This isn’t going to kill any of us. It’s ok if people aren’t happy.”

It’s the best a mom has. I taught my kids a really good lesson today. $21 in Wawa sandwiches directly effects meals on other days and you have to choose, but if you budget well, yes you have enough left over for vanilla wafers.

I wish I could feel more successful than I do. I wish moms in general understood that their efforts are seen by the One who matters. I wish I had timed my trip better. I wish the kids weren’t still fighting and I wasn’t hiding in my bedroom typing this up. I’m glad that typing this is cathartic and helps me be more patient in about 7 minutes when I go reengage. Maybe the 4 year old is done fussing about who knows what.


Why the heck did I name the blog My Luminous Birth?

It’s just a blog. Why is it called My Luminous Birth?
Great question. Thanks for asking.
The long and short of it is that I was a doula and I’m pathetically sentimental.
Roughly 6 years ago I started doula work and created a website. I needed to decide on a Business name and web address. Some names worked great. Some addresses worked great. Not all of them did both.
I knew learning all about birth, being “illuminated” was so crucial in reaching for a healthy and satisfying birth.
Likewise, when one was informed and supported through their birth, it inevitably became a very beautiful process, hence the birth itself being Luminous.
So, my business was called Luminous Birth Services. However, that web address already existed, so after a couple hours of playing with spelling and placement of words I added the word “My”… in the era of “I”phones…
It stuck. It made so much sense. Each mom and dad that came to me was concerned about their unique birth process.

Years later, I’m still attached to the name and can’t bear to delete it. While I’m not writing about births per say, each birth has taught me more and more about what it is to be human, *illuminating* the amazing beauty in the human experience, psyche, soul. The “me” I was designed to be is continuously born anew. So, this continues to be My Luminous Birth, and I hope it edifies your becoming as well.

Much Love,


P.S. That, and I believe in Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  ;o)

Friendships and Foot Bridges

A friend forgave me once. It was about 3 years ago. I married her husband’s best friend and so by default we became friends. We visited a couple times a year and started sharing minor life experiences. We had instant connection, instant friendship chemistry. I considered myself so lucky to genuinely like my husband’s friend’s wife. There was a recognition that we could be real with each other. The honeymoon phase.

A couple years into this newfound friendship I had my 2nd daughter, it was a vbac (vaginal birth after cesarean). I’d done a ton of research and spent countless hours and tears changing my paradigm on what the birth experience was intended to be. I won! Vindication happened at 7:36 a.m. when I pushed a human little girl into existence and knelt over her. That high lasted for months, years.
Less than a year later my friend was pregnant as well. She too had suffered the injustices I had. So I called her in a panic, having heard through the husbands that she was considering a repeat surgery. Our friendship was still a shaky footbridge connecting two unexplored mountaintops. It was rarely traversed and only in good weather. It was uninformed, undefined. I reached through the phone and diplomatically made every case why my friend should follow in my footsteps. She agreed! She saw my logic. She saw the injustice. I passionately encouraged her, rattled off the numbers to boost her confidence; informed every misconception she knew she was being fed. Exhausted, she thanked me and we finished the call.

Months later she had her sweet son. Through the husbands, I heard it was a repeat cesarean. Completely confused I went to visit and celebrate her little babe and perhaps understand better what had happened. It must have been a necessary surgery because she knew better. That conversation didn’t really happen. Two moms and 5 kids running around can’t have a heart to heart. We hugged, I left, never to speak of it again. The footbridge lost a few planks. I was unsure about this perceived rejection of my advice. I was unsure what exactly was being rejected, an experience, or me.

Four children later, and perhaps 3 years ago, we went for one of our annual visits. The topic was long since forgotten. The foot bridge friendship handled holidays beautifully, a welcome high point in contrast to many perfunctory visits. Laughing at the craziness of life with someone who sees it from a similar angle relaxes you and lasts longer than the finest wine.

During the evening the mood shifted and we mentioned heart aches, things we were learning about ourselves, our marriages. We dared to speak ill of the husbands in hushed voices in case they came in from the deck. Then she said it. She brought up the births of her youngest two children, (the cesarean and a vbac) and talked about how healing they were. I stepped onto the foot bridge, shakily. I told her I was sorry for having been so overly zealous during that phone call so many years before.

And she forgave me. She told me it was ok, that she knew I didn’t mean to stress her. She knew I’d only tried to help. She said she knew now that she simply didn’t know what she didn’t know. I had grown some too. Having become a doula I’d learned that we all have a journey to walk and we can’t dictate another person’s learning path. I told her so. I told her that if I could do it over I would never have taxed her with my passion in that way.

She smiled. She laughed. She accepted my clumsiness and loved me anyway. She knew my intent and allowed that to be enough. She had never held a grudge. She opened up and let me see what her journey had looked like. She trusted me. She made it safe to err and therefore give me the freedom to be myself and never wonder if a misstep would lose her. She didn’t hesitate to state her case. She did not negate her own views. She found the connecting points of our different choices and didn’t allow the details to injure our friendship. She taught me that friendship meant talking through the awkward moments, not ignoring them.

The foot bridge was not only mended, it now had trusses, arches, and posts. This one is going to withstand whatever weight we cross with.


written: 1/23/16


Something hit me yesterday while driving and talking with my 16-year-old. We do our best talking in the car. Often we’ll get home but decide to pass the house and drive randomly until our conversation is spent. She’s 32 weeks pregnant. Needless to say, there is a lot of extra driving going on these days. We all have hurts, (thank you, R.E.M.) Hearing your kid articulate her hurts though, is a disembowelment in slow motion.

I was an old soul from a young age. At 6 years old I found where my grandmother hid some of her grocery money. It was in the lid of a small porcelain jewelry container on her bedroom dresser. No one would have ever found it there if she were being robbed. I found it because I liked to play with the little bit of makeup she kept. From that time on, anytime I had money with me from Christmas or birthdays I’d sneak into her bedroom and add my money to her stash. My grandparents are extremely generous souls, always donating large percentages to church and those in need. They have very, very little and they are totally content. (As of this writing they are 99 and 93 and still giving). So something in me wanted to take care of them in a way I knew they couldn’t refuse. I kept that up for years, until there was never money there anymore. She must have moved it.

The month I turned three, we left my dad. He hadn’t bothered to maintain any heat or electricity in the house, and it was autumn. Decades later he admitted that he regretted letting us go, kinda late. We went to live a few blocks away from my maternal grandparents. They became my full time daycare, and eventually, my before and after school care while my mom was at work. They are wonderful grandparents and we became very close. When I was 8 years old we moved an hour away and would visit at least twice a month. Even as an 8 year old, though, I would cry every time we drove away from their apartment. It wasn’t an emotional separation anxiety at the door. It was pulling away from the parking space, waving frantically from our car to the shadowy figures in their window, until we couldn’t even see the building anymore, truly grieving the thought that we might never see each other again. I knew they were old and anything could happen and I was going to hold on to every second of time I had with them. If they passed before we could see each other again I would know I had done my best. No regrets.

At age 10, my step-grandmother took me along on her weekly visits to a nursing home to play her guitar and sing for the residents. I made real friends.  One was a man named John who had had a stroke and become paralyzed on one side. He was “young,” only in his 70’s, but since he had no family able or willing to care for him in their home, he had moved to the nursing home a decade earlier. He was such a kind man and everyone liked him instantly. I’d listen to residents tell stories, laugh, whine, complain, cry. I practically took notes.  Perhaps spending so much time with my so many grandparents made me an old soul. Either way, by the time I was 15, I was ancient. I made resolutions to “never do this, never that”. It was easy to see how foolish choices caused so much regret.  I made a powerful resolution to live my life in such a way that I would never make regrets. Notice I said, “make” regrets.

“I’ll never have regrets” is a common promise, but people say it preemptively so they can be reckless and not apologize afterward. College students binge drink and party then solemnly defend their experimentations and vow to “never have regrets”. Twenty somethings travel the world and quit their jobs, racking up debt, and defiantly declare that they have no regrets about pursuing their dreams. In the end though, most people are just afraid of feeling sorry for their stupid choices. So they either declare it in advance or later over a beer, “no regrets” as if the phrase itself absolves them from responsibility. At 15 I would specifically differentiate *my* commitment from the common one. I was never going to make the choices my dad (or others) made that clearly had been selfish or unwise and had later caused them grief. It wasn’t about being a good girl (though I got that reputation). It was about being scared spit-less of following in my dad’s footsteps or being as miserable as some of those nursing home residents were. The combination of an old soul who witnessed a decent amount of “didn’t live up to potential” at a young age will create a very “safe,” “walk the line” approach to Life.

So to hear my daughter talk about our home life of the last ten years – to hear her tell me how alone she felt – how left out, brought me to that old promise I made. I revisited my promise to never make regrets like an old dusty sign that once hung in a doorway but is now being lifted from the clutter of an attic. I realized that honest mistakes, “tried my best,” “didn’t know what I didn’t know” mistakes can cause just as much agonizing regret as anything volitional.

I wind up telling her exactly that and asking her to “please know that nothing I did was ever malicious.” “Do you believe that I never intended for you to feel that way? I thought I was being responsible.” She’s able to make eye contact which is about as close to a confirmation as we can muster.

The large intestine is complete, outside and removed from the body. There is no fixing this. We drive home quietly and calmly.


written: 1/23/16

Irreducible Complexity of Being a Mom

I homeschool 5 kids and my husband now travels for work nearly 75% of the time. My oldest is 16 and pregnant. Days are way too full and perfectionism is threatening to kill me. I’m not obsessed with having a spotless floor or perfect nails. I’m a relational perfectionist. If I don’t have harmony, I’m a failure. The problem is, Harmony and Chaos don’t exactly play well together.

Anyone who has been a server in a restaurant knows what it means to be in the weeds. It’s usually the peak of the dinner or lunch rush. More than that though, it’s when there are so many tables being seated that you don’t have time to greet and bring beverages to one table before the next is already waiting too long. When the hostess brings guests to one of your tables, you’ve been “sat”. So you could be “double sat” (totally recoverable); but getting into “triple sat,” or quad sat” – you’re talking temporary brain malfunctions.

That’s where I’m at. You know when people say, “Plan ahead the night before by packing meals and such”? You think I didn’t think of that? You know what I’m doing the night before? Catching up from the morning. If I had time that was entirely discretionary, there would not be the reason for panic. Instead I’ve got to cut into real activities. I can work from midnight until 2 a.m. and still manage to function the next day, but I can only sustain that for a couple nights and then I’m spent. I can get my shower down to 3 minutes, but there’s an irreducible complexity to the shower that requires 3 minutes, otherwise it’s no longer a shower.

I can get the kids “dressed” and not worry about whether they match, or are sparkly clean or detangled. Eventually though, it still takes 20 whole minutes to physically leave the house and get them all strapped into car seats without leaving my keys on the kitchen counter. There is always a minimum amount of time everything takes. I’ve cut so many corners, my days are entirely round.

So when mini-implosions happen – I’m trying to have a few minutes alone at dawn, and get a call from the teenager (in her bedroom) to help take her boyfriend to school because he missed the bus (I didn’t), and the 3-year-old tries to help by letting the dogs out but now they have run away and woken up the baby, who is now crying because of the slammed door, and I’m getting a text from a loved one in a different time zone who is cutting into her sleep just to tell me she loves us and I manage to shorten my shower to 3 minutes and throw in a ponytail for our doctor appointment at 10am, yeah, I’m quad-sat, don’t talk to me about planning ahead. The only way to prevent that kind of chaos is to hire people, but we all know that’s not an option.

That sounded angry. Did it? I didn’t mean to sound angry per se. Just a bit tired of the same old advice. No one wants to constantly feel like they’re screwing up. Servers know they are going to get crazy busy at the peak of the dinner rush on Friday and Saturday. They also know that it’ll be over, just hang in there and the tips will be worth it. The rest of the time they practically dance through the restaurant to the rhythm of the guests flowing to and from tables. There is pride in seamlessly meeting each need. As a mom, in the never-ending dinner rush, it’s a constant barrage of perceived failure. Broken dishes, disgruntled children, and burned lunch add up to a message from the Universe telling me I can’t hack it and my incompetence causes discord. I am my own boss and maybe deserve to be fired. Once in a while, though, when I’ve had a minute to pee alone and think about real solutions, I double down my efforts to problem solve this logistical nightmare. Except, instead of planning the night before, I’ve got to do it a month before because that’s how freaking backed up I am! It literally takes a week of forecasting everyone’s basic needs to guarantee that we’ll make it out the door in time for each appointment every day and actually eat as well.

Planning ahead is not even close to a perfect fix, remember, “The best laid plans”? Eventually there is just too much going on. Something has to give. It might be sleep, it might be sanity, but hopefully it’s the perfectionism. This toxic misbelief that I am only as worthwhile as my successes must be purged and replaced with the truth about why I matter. Perhaps the Chaos is my teacher, placing this load on my unsure shoulders, allowing me to break open and release that lie that hides inside. My worth is not found in the sum of meals I cook, bodies I bathe, or schedules I maintain. The goal has not been to prove myself masterful at these tasks. It’s tempting to move on to loftier misbeliefs. Perhaps my worth lies in successfully modeling for my children how to love well, and to fail gracefully but continue on in the good work of raising them. Even that falls short, my worth lies not in whether I have loved them well. Blasphemy, in this age of Child Worship. Instead my worth comes from the One who inspired the love in the first place. Just as my children do not earn my love, but are freely washed in it, day in and day out; I too, am loved unconditionally by the One who formed me and instilled in me this inherent, irreducible worth.

written: 1/20/16

Changing Spaces

It’s 12:35 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Kids are asleep (and will hopefully stay that way), husband is traveling for work until Friday. I’ve toyed with the idea of blogging for years now but never could justify it, considering how much internet “noise” there is. Then I slowly accepted that the world is big enough for a few more blogs. With the population in the billions, someone is bound to read my blog while sitting on some bidet in a Belgium hotel room, practicing English.

I am a 1st-generation Spanish girl from New Jersey. My mom moved here from the Dominican Republic when she was 16. She is the oldest of five kids. Her parents were supposed to go on furlough back to Cuba, but it was 1966, too dangerous, so their governing organization, World Team, brought them to the U.S. instead. Needless to say, they stayed. My dad moved here from Ecuador with his parents when he was 21. He had an accounting degree and a young first wife (my mom came along 11 years later when dad was 32 and divorced). My parents eventually met while working for Merrill Lynch in New York.

Technically, I was born in Brooklyn because that’s where the hospital was, (apparently it burned down) but my parents lived in Jersey City. I spent 3 years there until Mom took my brother and I away, to a place where the utilities were actually paid for, because electricity and hot water are things wives and kids typically need. So we got to live in a 5th-floor apartment in Hoboken for the next 5 years. Those years were the best. Our grandparents lived nearby and we saw them all the time. It was a cozy. My mother, brother and I all shared 1 bedroom. For a while, we all slept in my mom’s bed. Eventually, she got us twin beds. Remarkably, 2 twins and a double all fit in that bedroom along with one dresser. Still, though, the best home we’ve ever had. Downstairs was “Benitez’ Bodega” where we’d get a buttered roll and a Huggie for breakfast if there was time. Other days I’d wear my footy pajamas down the 5 flights of steps, all the way to the car, and up 6 blocks to my Abuelos’ apartment because my mom was running late for work. She had an hour commute by then, so she’d drop us off at our grandparents’ most days. From there I’d spend the day watching my Abuela sew, sell catalog items, balance her checkbook, and cook. Of course, it’s also where I watched the latest shows like Little House, Woody Woodpecker and The Dukes of Hazard. My brother was already in school, so Abuelo walked him there and back every day. A couple years later, I joined them. Still we would return every afternoon and do homework and have dinner, waiting for Mom to get home from work. Between the commute and the fast-paced office, she was a classic 1980’s working woman, getting home around 7 each night. She’d try to make it back in time to eat dinner with my Grandparents. Afterwards, we would head home to cuddle in bed and stay up late to watch Dallas because she missed us and wanted to be together. Like I said, good times.

When I was 8, my mom’s company had already moved its headquarters from Manhattan to Princeton, so they paid for us to move as well. That’s how we ended up in Plainsboro, NJ. Sure, it was a two bedroom and I had to share my room with my mom, but I learned how to fall asleep to crickets outside my window instead of public buses’ air brakes. There was grass, a lot of it. Our apartment complex had a playground that wasn’t cemented over! I could count on 2 hands the number of times I’d been to the playground in Hoboken, maybe not even. I could not remember running in a field of grass, except on a camping trip to Sleepy Hollow. It was like finally coming up for air but not knowing I’d been suffocating. I played outdoors unsupervised for the first time in my life at age 8. Heaven. Since Mom was at work and the Abuelos were now an hour away, I was a latch-key kid. I didn’t know it wasn’t ideal. It seemed great to me! I actually rode my bike outdoors (not just in the hallway of our 5th floor apartment) and with other children! When you’re a compliant child, you don’t fight for things that you don’t know are o.k. to want. You just accept reality. You don’t know there are alternatives.

We lived in that glorious place, Quail Ridge Apartments, for 2 years. My mom then met a decent man and remarried. We moved to, get this, a single-family home, another opportunity to blow my mind. I had my own bedroom and it was everything. Not only did we now have our own driveway, we even had our own yard, a garden, and a playground right across the street that had a huge field connecting it to a canal and, in my eyes, The Woods.

The expansion of my world from a 1 bedroom apartment to the “Woods”, roaming freely, is a journey I am very grateful for. Nature will always be a healing balm. Yet there will always be a yearning for the security of that little apartment on Park Ave.

written: 1/20/16

Prequel Post

Hello and thank you for clicking on my blog! I promise to make good use of your time. Plain and simple I’m here to share stories of my life.  At age 28 I had my 3rd child and began working as a doula. Watching a baby emerge from his mother, watching parents be born, watching families survive brought a whole new layer to introspection and how our experiences shape us. The complexity of our biology speaks to the soul’s journey. Every moment feels like a crumb trail leading to wisdom.

I hope my stories will make you smile or cry but always help you learn and be encouraged. There is a lot going on in my life. Writing is how I process. So that’s my disclaimer; just because it gets written doesn’t mean it is my conclusion on the subject. It’s just a way to figure out what I think or feel about things that are slowly being revealed.

Some of my posts were written months ago when the words were just bubbling out of me. Now that I’ve finally gotten the technical side set up, I’ll upload my old entries. That’ll explain the slightly out of sequence dates.

Anyway, I hope to hear from you philosophers, encouragers, warriors, as you interact with the tedious or the terrifying!