Thanksgiving Hope

thanksgiving-hope

As I’ve been closing out childbirth preparation classes ahead of Thanksgiving, I can sense the trepidation my families are feeling around traveling for the holidays.

This might be because they’re feeling pretty big and not looking forward to “traveling while pregnant” – which is definitely a thing. Or it might be a result of the dynamics that usually occur when their family gather together. But this year, because of the recent election, there seems to be even more concern about how everyone is going to act, or rather, react to one another around the Thanksgiving table.

I’m not suggesting that people deny how they’re feeling about the election or the tension that has resulted. And if you have a family that’s willing and able to have a healthy discussion about your different viewpoints on all the hot button topics, then go for it! I’m not a fan of conflict, but I LOVE me some resolution! Sit down with those people who’ve known you since you were born and have that discussion.

But try to listen more than you talk. Try to imagine what the other person might have been considering when they pulled that lever and voted differently from you.  Ask them to get real about why they voted the way they did. 

We’ve made big, sweeping assumptions (on both sides, I might add) about the reasons why people voted the way they did in this election. This makes me remember something that my childhood friend Kristie’s Momma said to us once when we’d had a fight: “To assume only makes an ass out of u and me.” I’ve always remembered that moment – mostly due to my shock that she was saying the “a-word” in the middle of her kitchen to two eight year olds! But, there’s some truth to this statement as well.

If you think about it, most sit-coms are completely based on false assumptions! It fuels the entire 21 minutes of a show. Will they ever actually sit down and communicate with one another directly? Or, are they going to continue to dance around one another and the subject at hand until they figure it out in the last two minutes of the show? In sit-com families, it doesn’t really matter. These situations always get resolved, and families are knitted back together, intact and supporting one another to face another day. But you might not have a sit-com family.

In fact, your family might be really toxic. You might have a family where there’s some perverse delight taken in hurting or belittling one another. Where there’s been some deep and intense level of abuse – physical or emotional, or both. If this is your situation, then I hope you’ve already distanced yourself from this environment and created for yourself a new family, a chosen family, where you’ve been able to give and receive some level of unconditional love. Because, each one of us deserves to feel that sense of caring and love for who we are, no matter what.

But my hope – because dear reader, I am ever hopeful –  is that you’ve actually experienced what a positive family looks and feels like in your life. Where all of the members who make up that circle have your back. Where they respect you and love you. Where they are kind and caring and, ultimately, only want what’s best for you.

A healthy family acknowledges that there might be differences, really big differences, in all those areas that can trigger us to lash out, or become defensive, or to try and “win” in an argument. But despite all of these differences, a healthy family realizes that there’s a stronger and more fundamental bond that allows you to gather this holiday season and be with one another in ways that are real, authentic, healing. And in this way, create connection in a world that feels so disconnected right now.

Maybe your family has decided that to discuss politics, religion, whatever – would threaten to undermine that bond. Some may disagree with me for saying this, but I see this as yet another way to try and love one another despite differences – even the really big ones.

Consider for a moment… You may have children of your own, and if they’re still young you might be thinking to yourself, “My children will grow up to share the same values I have about everything – because I’m teaching them all that I know and believe to be true.” But, in reality, they’re going to grow up and become themselves.

Your teachings, your influence will be in there somewhere for sure – but they may end up saying, wearing, protesting, believing, and voting for things that are very, very different from you. Looking at your own children now or even your gorgeous baby sleeping in your arms – can you believe that you would love them any less because of this?

The world is a hard, cold place at times and having a family that you can continue to come home to matters. We all need to try and cultivate kindness, caring, love and understanding – and then manifest this into the world. 

And it needs to start at home. With our families. This is the only way I know that we can begin to bridge the divide that’s threatening to unravel us all.

May your travels be safe. May you find a multitude of things in your life to be grateful for. And may your family table this Thanksgiving be filled with good food, hospitality, warmth, connection, and love.

This is my Thanksgiving Hope.

PS – This is a love letter of sorts to my own family who I’ll be missing again this year for my most favorite holiday and treasured memory of growing up as a Buckner.

I love you.

Tell Me What You Want – What You Really, Really Want

spice-girls

So for the past two years, I’ve taken part in the Write 31 Days project – in fact, it’s how I really got my start as a blogger. Because, “Go Big or Go Home!” seems to be a personal motto of mine. The deal is that you commit to writing and publishing a blog post every day for the month of October!

It was great way for me to get into a regular, daily writing practice – but it’s a little grueling, I’m not going to lie. There were a few times in year #1 that I hit the publish button at 11:59 pm – just barely making it under the wire to be counted for the day. Year #2 was much more organized and much more specific – I wrote all about the 4th Trimester, those first three months home with a newborn. It was great to have more of a particular focus and I really enjoyed writing about this part of the pregnancy, birth and parenting picture that gets short shrift.

Well, here it is September 30th and the Write 31 Days project begins anew tomorrow. And historically (can I use historically when I’m really only going back two years?) this has been the day that I’ve announced: “I’m starting tomorrow and here’s my topic!”

But I’m not doing it this year.

I’m a little bit saddened by this, but also proud of myself for recognizing that this year, with everything that’s going on in my personal and professional life, it just doesn’t make much sense for me to jump on board again. This is not an easy thing for me to say no to… In fact, I have a hard time saying no to lots of things. It’s not in my nature – I tend to not only say yes, but to scream it from the top of my lungs!

This can be both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because some of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life have been a result of me saying yes: Climb a mountain? YES! Go Skydiving? YES! Be the “hood ornament” on the raft in Class 4 rapids? YES! Walk a marathon? YES! Write a book? YES! Be one of the chairs for the school auction? YES!

It’s a curse, because I tend to say yes before I realize fully what I’ve committed myself to!

Climbing a mountain is haaaard work, people! Who knew it would take eight hours and that even my eyelashes would ache the next day? (Everyone else who’s ever actually trained to climb a mountain knows this, that’s who!) How often does the one-way speaker go out on the helmet you’re wearing as you let go of the plane 3,000 feet up in the air for your first solo jump? (Not very often. But it’ll scare the crap out of you, that’s for sure! I can attest to that!) If I sit in the front of the raft as the “hood ornament” for extra weight, I won’t have to paddle. Ohhhhh, I might fall out because of the wall of water that I’ll be the first to encounter – no wonder nobody else raised their hand. How long can it take to train for a marathon? I mean, we’ll be walking it – not running it. Oops – didn’t realize that our training walks would take 4+ hours on the weekend. It doesn’t take that long to write a crappy book. But if you want to write one that’s actually worth reading? Well, that’s a different story. So is the fact that as you get farther into the telling of said story, the focus gets more refined and the 70K words you’ve already written need to be rewritten. Who says that having four kids in four different schools this year and chairing an auction is a dumb idea? (Everyone. Absolutely. Every. Single. Person.)

You see? I’m a “Let’s DO this!” kinda gal and I leap before I look a lot of the time. I don’t have any regrets – for real – but that’s why this decision to not bust out another 31 days of writing is both hard for me, and smart of me. I’m feeling a teensy bit more mature than I was feeling this time last week as I was trying to figure out what the focus was going to be for year #3. Nope. Not going to do it.

Instead, I want to toss this back to you, my readers, and ask if there’s anything that you wish I would write more about or maybe write about for the first time. I’ve published 136 posts (137, if we count this one) and they’ve been all over the map about pregnancy, birth, parenting, couples relationship, sex, the 4th Trimester, partners, and birth stories (the links here are to a few of my personal favorites from each category…) What else would you like me to explore within those subjects, or outside of them?

I’ve kept my posts primarily focused on the experience of pregnancy, birth and parenting of young children, newborns in fact. But I have a 17 year old girl, a 14 year old boy, an 11 year old girl, and a 7 year old boy (hence the four kids in four different schools…). I can talk about what it is to parent older kiddos, the chaos that I asked for and usually embrace as a Momma to so many, the life-work-creativity balance of trying to do all that I’m wanting to do in these three realms and what that messiness looks like (because it is mess-sy, my friends!), maintaining a loving relationship of 20+ years, what is means to be in conflict with the age that my driver’s license says I am vs what I feel like on the inside… Oh, there’s lots of things I could write about!

But I really want to stop and listen to what my readers are wanting. How can I make this blog more useful to you? What can I write more – or less – of that would speak to you and the people you know about this experience of being human? I would love to hear from you about this. I really do want to know what you want, what you really, really want.

And now, for your listening pleasure, an ear worm from the late 90s, Wannabe by The Spice Girls. I guarantee you’ll be singing this one all weekend long. You’re welcome.

Five Minute Friday: LISTEN

5minfriListen…

Sometimes I feel like the brokenness of our world could be fixed through this one little word: listen. It seems like we’re always talking – sometimes screaming – at one another, trying to shout over each other to be heard, to be right.

But what if we all just shut up for a moment and tried extra hard to listen to each other instead? What if we recognized that no one has a monopoly on the truth? What if we took a little time to sit, be still, and listen to one another’s stories? What if we discovered that our differences are minor in comparison to how much alike we really are? What then?

I think much of what is broken in the birth world could also benefit from listening to one another. The “us vs them” shouting matches are divisive and do nothing to reconcile what we all want at the end of the day: happy & healthy Mommas, happy & healthy babies, happy & healthy families.

We cannot achieve this shared goal when we’re too busy. Too busy to show up. Too busy to be still and quiet. Too busy to ask the right questions. Too busy to practice patience and wait for the answers. Too busy to listen to one another for what is being said, and what is not being said.

Listening is a skill that I’m afraid many of us are lacking and it’s in dwindling supply. It’s like a muscle that might atrophy if we don’t exercise it more often. Daily? Maybe even by the hour.

How can you show up today and listen? Who will benefit from your gift of focused time and attention? What might you discover if you will only truly listen?

*This was my reflection for Five Minute Friday. There is a word prompt, and you write for 5 minutes – that is all. You can find out more about this right here. I visit their Facebook page from time to time just to see the prompt. I was unable to resist the word for today. I guess you could say that “listen” spoke loudly enough for me to hear it – and then write about it.

What do you think about the value of listening in the world of pregnancy, birth and parenting (or any other work that you do)? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this word today, or to hear how you exercise this particular muscle in your own particular worlds. Share your comments here. Thanks!

Between Hope and Despair, I Choose Hope

Hope:Darkness

I’ve been away from my blog for almost two weeks. I could claim that my absence from writing is a result of being on a family vacation. I could claim that even though I’ve been home for five days, I’m still struggling with a serious case of jet lag. I could also claim that I had to work all weekend, empty the luggage, wash mounds of laundry, and pack two kids off to sleep-away camp. And all of these claims would be true.

But I think my real resistance to writing is that in the wake of all of the shootings this past week (An aside: is anyone else terrified by the thought that we, as a country, will begin to regard these events as regular, ordinary, life as usual in these not-so-United States of America?) I found myself moving between two emotional states: either numb, in a state of shock, tears  ever at the ready or enraged and dumbfounded that almost 50 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. we seem to have made such little progress. I just couldn’t think of anything worth writing about as I found myself frozen in despair about the state of our country.

But, the work I am honored to do with expectant parents over the weekend coupled with reading this post from the wonderful Suzi Banks Baum, helped me to shake off a little bit of this feeling and rediscover what my heart usually gravitates toward: hope.

I have a deep and abiding hope that love is bigger and stronger than hate. That compassion can be cultivated to combat indifference. That injustice can be rooted out at its core as long as enough people are shaken out of their complacency and moved to act. And it saddens me that it takes horrific events like those that have happened recently to move us (hopefully) from talk to action.

I taught a class this weekend that was a little bit of a nightmare from and educator’s standpoint. There were 30 couples expected at 9:00 am and at 8:45 I was still trying to rig the AV system in the auditorium so that we would have audio! But when it was time to introduce myself, I looked out into our assembled audience and saw something really beautiful: a wonderfully diverse group of families.

Families of all ethnicities were represented and there were many families whose babies would be like my own: of mixed descent. (Although, to look at my own children you can’t tell that they’re half-Puerto Rican. Based on their skin color alone – such a limited and simplistic way of labeling a person – no one would guess that they were Hispanic or Latino. They’re labeled as White.)

I’m well aware that if my children had darker skin they would be treated differently in this country. If they looked “more Hispanic” (whatever that means) and with their last name being Suárez, my children could expect to be treated more like their brown-skinned brothers and sisters of Hispanic descent.

If they had more melanocytes, the skin cells located in the basal layer of their epidermis that produce melanin, a brown pigmentation of the skin that’s responsible for skin coloration and acts as a protectant against the harmful effect of UV light – because that’s all that our skin color is based on, how many melanocytes we have – I might have to parent them differently.

I might have to talk to them about how to avoid being the target of violence. How to avoid eye contact, how to speak with a certain level of deference to teachers, police officers and others in authority, how to always be on their guard because their beautiful brown skin is seen as a threat.

I am well aware that my children, half-Hispanic though they are, are able to walk through this world with all of the privilege that their white skin affords them. And I am equal parts grateful and angry. I am grateful that I don’t have to fear for my children’s safety. But I’m also angered by the injustice of all of this. It makes absolutely no sense to me!

We talk to our kids all the time about what it means to have the skin color that we do. How this gives us a level of power and protection that is as unfair and unearned as the powerlessness and lack of protection is for the brown and black members of our communities. We try to raise our children to be aware of the level of injustice that exists in this world and encourage them to see this injustice and work against it – not just through talk but action.

My deep, abiding hope lies in the fact that I know I’m not the only Momma out there talking to her children about the state of our world and how we must all work harder and together toward a better future for our children and for our children’s children.

Sometimes it feels like we should already be there, that this is taking too long, that we’re never going to see the day when children will be not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. But as I stood in front of this group of families that seemed to represent so many different ethnicities – the beauty and strength that is our country – I saw in all of them the common desire to be the best parents they could be. And I realized anew how more alike than different we are in our humanity.

We all want our children to grow up in a world where they can expect to be treated fairly; a world where healthy nutrition and safe drinking water sources are the norm; a world where a public school education is a great education – no matter what city or county you live in; a world where injustice is a thing of the past, and where the dreams of children, no matter their skin color, can be realized.

It’s sometimes a scary thing to find yourself pregnant and bringing a baby into a world that can seem so dark and broken. But, when faced with the choice between hope and despair, I will always choose hope. Hope that each one of us charged with parenting the next generation is working to heal what is broken and to shine a light on the darkness.

That is my hope.