Thursday, May 6, 2010


How can I translate my life to you? Which language will I choose? Whice details do I leave in and which do I leave out? What captures the meaning best? Is there really such a thing as a literal translation? Even in the same language, words are packed with so many layers of meaning that no two people completely share the same impact of the letters on a page. I have so many questions my head spins. Many times neither language comes out right. Words no longer capture the swirling thoughts in my mind. Before I've been able to find the right ones, the thought has already changed shape. I am a foreigner in my own country.

Why do I need you to understand me so desperately anyway? Is it because I hardly understand myself? I want you to do the work, the translating. Reflect back an image that makes sense. Somehow capture all that I have been and am becoming at the same time. Be a bridge from the comfort of home to an ever-expanding, barrier-shattering world outside. I will fight my way out of any box you place me in so why do I seek refuge in labels?

I chose this road because it challenges me, forces me to live in between the lines and forge a path not yet marked. But at the same time I resent the work. Yearn for ease. It's been so long since I could rest in the luxury of simple sentences. Ones that don't require translation and interpretation, just a nod of recognition. I get so tired. Just want to be and yet am unsatisfied with the silence. I am driven to find words. They have always been my release. Now they fail me, and I feel betrayed.

Thursday, April 1, 2010



I fall for it every time. That creeping panic that this winter might just have been the one to have finally killed that plant I have my eye on. Checking each morning if any green is peeking through the soil, or if a new leaf has appeared on that bare branch. And each day that I don't find anything, the tension builds.

Well, this has been a particularly hard winter. Sleepless nights with a new baby, the emotional roller coaster of an adjusting four year old brother, and now the terror of losing my ability to walk. First I was afraid of not being able to go for a much needed run, to drive myself to work, to care for my children. Then I found, it was also about not being able to get in the shower alone, to get my boot on and my crutches accommodated quick enough to make it to the potty in time, or just the simple act of carrying a cup of coffee to the couch to sit calmly and listen to KUT in the morning. It became the torture of listening to my baby cry and not being able to soothe her or having to say no to my sweet boy who wants to go fly a kite on a perfectly windy day. "Sorry, honey, you'll have to wait until Papi gets home."

God! Who is this person? Bedridden and dependent. Grumpy and numb. It seems I can't even hear the birds singing through the haze. Just biding my time. Watching Spring through the window as if it is a season for everyone else but me. Time to see everything that needs to be done but no ability to do it. My own personal circle of hell.

At first I fought it, and even ended up flat on my back, head hitting tile, waking both children and Polo who had finally managed to catch a much needed snooze. It took him two hours to get them both back to sleep. Humbled, I resigned myself. Back to bed, ice on foot. Pain pills popped. Earphones on.

Why the need to hibernate? Why must a seed germinate? Why does the caterpillar scrunch up into a tiny cocoon before taking flight as a butterfly? Why do babies spend 9 months in our bellies before springing out into the world?

I gather up all my energy and hold it tight inside. Let Polo take over the house. Watch him lovingly as he cuddles with Tara and plays with Diego. Laughing with them both in the bathtub. Getting them both ready and out the door in the morning. Not a single complaint. Not even a grumble. Just his knowing smile at my more ridiculous requests and a gentle reprimand from my son when I get stuck trying to get out the screen door by myself without asking for help. I turn over the goings on at school knowing I gave it all I had and now just need to let go. Gratefully accept the outpouring of help from family and friends. Make lists of what I will do when I get back on my feet. Remind myself that I am one of the lucky ones for whom this struggle is only temporary.

Surrender to the process of healing...

Then one day I wake up and sense a subtle change. Life is slowly coming back. I feel the energy pushing up against my skin. Eager to get out and stretch to the sky. A fresh new start. A yearning to feel the wind, the sun, the rain. Ready to shed my shell and leap into another cycle.

A tender shoot digs it way through the dirt...

Today I hobbled along outside seeing what plants survived the winter. Greeting each leaf I recognized like an old friend. And so it begins again. Tara turns one tomorrow. I look at my kids and marvel at the little people they are becoming. I sit back in awe at how the days just keep coming. The sun rises and sets whether I have "done" anything or not. And I guess the better question is not what I have accomplished today but who I've become.

What will burst through the soil this year? What flower will unfold from that tight little bud? What fruit will ripen enough to eat? What branches will spread their shady fingers during the scorching summer heat? And I laugh at myself. I fell for it again. My plants were never dead, just patiently waiting their turn.

...a season for everything. Will I ever learn?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ashes to ashes...

"What are you giving up for Lent?" my students banter amongst themselves. "Coke." "Mineral water." "Chocolate." And me? I've decided to give up my pride. I mean, do I really have a choice? I'm clunking around with a big ol' hunk of imperfection on my leg for all to see. A sign of my mortality, my limitation, my terrifying dependence on others around me. The ash on my forehead wears away in a matter of hours, but this leg? It will be reminding me every moment of every day for a long, long time.

It is so easy to get caught up in accomplishments, driven by goals, go to bed exhausted each night to wake up early and begin again the next day. Running an endless race. Proud when things go well, crushed when they don't. But a phrase keeps coming to mind. "It's not about me."

I'm not the one doing all this! Sometimes I fool myself into believing I have some modicum of control in the matter, but that usually doesn't last long. Life has a way of reminding me. And if I'm honest, I'd tell you, it's actually a relief. After weathering the customary panic attack, I enjoy falling again into the realization that I'm just an instrument on this earth. My only job to play the song given to me to the best of my ability. I enjoy stepping outside myself for a second and marveling at the masterpiece being played through me, through each one of us. Each of us playing a riff off the other. One day it might sound a little country, another kind of folksy, and maybe another with a touch of merengue... I just try to be true to the rhythm of the moment. Let it flow through me without going too far off key. Hold on to the spirit within that carries me through the ever changing melodies of each day. Sometimes I forge through, sometimes I dance, and sometimes I hobble. But it's not really about me.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Upside down flowers

When I was little there was a tapestry that hung on our wall that drove me crazy. It was huge. A lighthearted meadow scene with trees, woodland creatures, and an upside down flower... Sounds innocent enough, but there it was day in and day out. My eyes drawn to it every time I passed by with nothing I could do to fix it. It just taunted me. Almost perfect.

The story goes that Grandmom had left her needle in too long without working on it and it rusted. But instead of just giving up on it, or even covering it up skillfully, she memorialized the stain forever with an upside down flower.

Will I ever be so nonchalant about imperfection? Weave it seamlessly into the tapestry of my life as if it were part of the original design? I talk about it all the time. Hell, I have books on it, read whole theologies based on it. But here I am a month and a half into the new year and I'm already flat on my face with two of my three new year's resolutions and I can't help but feel the air knocked out of me. January completely slipped by without me writing my monthly gesture to this blog and I only played one soccer game before finding out I have a split tendon and am looking at three months of immobilization.

So I roll with the punches. Have a good laugh. But there's that upside down flower just staring at me every time I turn around. Why does it bother me so much?

I am blessed with an utterly amazing son, a stunning and strong young daughter, a gentle and understanding husband, and endlessly supportive family and friends. Why do I choose instead to see the unwashed dishes, the disorganized kitchen table, and unfolded laundry? Why do I focus on the unattained and possibly unattainable instead of wrapping myself up in the miracles all around me? Polo's going to be a US citizen for god sake! After 9 years of fighting...holding our breath, wondering, hoping, and pushing through. We'll never be forced apart again! My health has been given back to me. We have jobs and insurance. A cozy home to return to each night. Food in the fridge.

But it's never enough. There's always more. Things to tweak, things to dream of, things to improve. An ever elusive mirage like that infuriating line approaching infinity. You can't touch it or it would no longer be that which you seek. But it's immensity is overwhelming. Sometimes standing on the cliff's edge staring into the expanse comes in the form of a little flower...and mine just happens to be upside down.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Mother of God. You wrapped me in your arms before I ever knew your name. When I cry out for help, you are the phoenix that rises within me. You fill my lungs with air and give me song.

You are the mystery that my life's poem seeks to unfold. You were there all the time, but I overlooked you. Dismissed you. You gave birth to God! Yet I recognized you only as a supporting actress in the play, and I wanted more. Forgive me. I mistook your simplicity for triteness. Swallowed the neatly packaged version of your story. Rejected it as propaganda instead of defining it for myself.

Then I found you in the dust of Mexico. Sacred spirit descended and embodied by someone so humble. You are not bound by the mirage of perfection. You accept your destiny without knowing the ending. The call is enough. You plead and grieve but manage to keep your feet moving along the road despite your fear. You surrender your entire being on the altar of transformation and know the pain of loss. You need no recognition. You move from the heart.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Día de los muertos

You were conceived during the celebrations in Oaxaca. Zócolo full of marigold altars, sand sculptures, music, and an undulating parade through the street. I was just beginning to relax into the rhythm of my new home. A dream growing in my belly, transforming me. I called you Aurora because you were the dawn of a new day for me. A new cycle. A new beginning. You made the loss of my old life worth while. Gave it all meaning. A new role to play in the world. A new husband. A new country. A new language.

Yet you were gone before February set in.

I lost more than a baby back then. More than my hopes for the future. I lost who I might have become and who I had been. I stopped believing in signs. Stopped inhabiting the world beneath the surface that made everything rich and plump, dripping with meaning and symbolism. Everything became flat and two dimensional. All my road posts were gone.

I was alone when you were "born." Sent unceremoniously from my womb turned tomb with a cough. I'm the only one who saw your body fully formed, chest round and proud but painfully still. Sometimes I wonder if I might numb myself from feeling the intensity of joy in the details of living because of the fear of its reflection. Terrified to ever feel the way I did then staring into the emptiness, the excruciating pain of you ripped from my world before we ever shared the same air. It was then that you became my "Angelito."

Now I stand eight years later tears flowing fresh and cold down my cheeks before a simple alter whispering a prayer to you huddled with my arms around my family who give me strength but also stir up a faint sense that I am betraying you by loving them. My heart is heavy, my stomach constricts, and the questions explode. Where are you? Why did you leave me? I don't think I'll ever shake the sense of being an abandoned mother. Staring alone at my unborn child. The insecurity of that. The sense of rejection and helplessness. The hole remains no matter how much happiness wraps layer upon layer on top. Pain hides beneath the skin. The slightest scratch can release it like a bomb. And I am blindsided.

Angelito, are you watching us? Do you see your little brother and sister growing up in our arms and miss us like we do you? I wonder sometimes what wisdom you would have passed down to them. What kind of mother you would have molded me into. I feel less of a person for not knowing you. And the world seems less real without you here. But this is the real betrayal.

The words of Kahlil Gibran reveal the deception in these waves upon waves of feelings and doubts: "Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that it's heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain." I know that it is precisely this pain that has fertilized the soil and made me the mother I am today. So you are molding me even as I write, and I know that I must honor your sacrifice, celebrate the role you played on earth to create the masterpiece that I am living today. This is the wisdom that will be passed down to your brother and sister. If I don't acknowledge your loss, I will never be able to fully enjoy the wealth that surrounds me allowing the love to penetrate the pain and make it more bearable.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My son bit me today and my world crumbled

My son bit me today.

It was like a demon possessed him in his complete frustration with me telling him NO. Why then and not the thousands of other times I say no throughout the day, I don't know. But for whatever reason this particular NO set him off and I watched an alien energy fill him like a balloon. He floated a million miles away. I was a stranger to him. All he saw was some outer force trying to limit him, and he lashed out. I can see that now, but then I was in shock. Awash in anger, fear, and a deep feeling of betrayal.

All this time I've felt a secret pride for raising an energetically independent but considerate child. He is kind and compassionate, wonderful to his new sister. Tells me he loves me regularly and that he misses me when I go on a run. He holds my hand so consciously. Curls up in my lap in the morning. Throws his little arm around me when he climbs in bed with us in the middle of the night. He even shuffled into the bathroom last week and patted me on the back whispering "It'll be ok mommy" while I was hugging the porcelain bowl during a particularly nasty bout with the stomach flu. This sweet, gentle soul bit me, and bit me hard. Broke the skin through my jeans. Now every time I look down at my leg I remember and suddenly I don't feel so sure.

Is this what raising children does to you? Leaves your heart dangling on your sleeve, a ridiculously easy target for the whims of life to knock it off and smash it on the ground. Just when you think you are catching on, letting yourself feel the slightest comfort that you can dance to this crazy rhythm. There's an earthquake. All the pieces shift. The familiar suddenly doesn't feel so familiar; everything's just slightly off. Guess I should know it's coming by now but it still catches me off guard. The thousand balls I have carefully timed to throw then catch and throw again start to fall one by one and the air is so knocked out of me that I just watch them fall.

Then he just goes on. Forgets and forges ahead and I'm left still picking up the pieces. Wondering if I've done it all wrong. I marvel at his happy disposition, confidence, and self awareness. But have I given him too much freedom? Have I not drawn clear enough boundaries? Do I need to assert my authority more? I pride myself in finding ways for him to participate in the many decisions that fill his day. But might I be misguiding him and setting a dangerous precedent that makes him think he is in charge and therefore not able to respect the decision of others when necessary? Handle disappointment? Or scariest, won't listen to me when his well-being and safety might most require it?

Raising a child is a dance. Sometimes we step on each others toes. Through my fear I have to remember that he's a complete person inside that little body. There's no going back once the music starts. As he grows, I have to allow him space to lash out, test his limits, and hit the wall. And I have to be that wall sometimes. But then I also get to be the arms that wrap him up when the demon has passed. As long as we don't let go of each other, it's still a dance, no matter how awkward and out of rhythm we may be sometimes. And when I think of it, that's the best preparation for life I can ever give him.