Monday, July 26, 2010

Getting on or off the F Train?

So, I guess maybe I should have followed a bit of my own advise. Or maybe not. Maybe it is sometimes better not to say anything.

There have been several occasions when I have read or heard about a friend being in a situation where they just felt uncomfortable and held themselves back because they were trying to be polite. Or it could have been that by saying something in that moment was just too much because it involves disclosing a large part of your personal history that you would rather not get into or share with a stranger or new acquaintance. I am usually encouraging people to speak their minds, especially if it really bothers them or to help someone understand their (hopefully unintended) hurtful words. It is about maybe expanding other people's perspectives and asking for compassion. It upsets me to see or hear about a friend suffering in silence because they do not want to upset the social balance.

But this weekend I sat uncomfortably silent, hoping for the moment to pass.

I was at a friend's for a birthday party for her son who was turning one. It was just a smaller gathering of family and a few last minute invites of friends that morning. I was very happy and honored that my friend thought of me and invited me to share in the special day with her family. This was an important birthday for my friend because this was for her youngest of six children and they are not planning on any more. She said it is always sad for her to see her babies turn one because they are no longer babies. This was a particularly emotional day because he is their last baby. She is so proud of her children and of all of their accomplishments, but they grow up so fast. My heart went out to my friend who was taking in all of the happy and sad feelings of the day.

That was not the moment.

The moment came when we were eating dinner with a conversation that seemed to turn into a runaway train, building in speed and intensity. Her family asked if I had any children. I said no. Then they asked if I was married and I said no. Then they asked if I wanted any children and I said someday. Then (with the train busting loose...) came the flurry of comments that I had better hurry up if I was ever going to catch up with my friend. Six babies is a lot and time is running out. And then they asked how old I was and that I am not getting any younger. And I had better find myself a husband because that is going to take time. And once I do, I had better get cracking. Nope, better not wait because, once again, I am not getting any younger. But then again (with the train jumping the track), there are so many people who have children who are not married these maybe I don't really have to wait.

And on that final uncomfortable note, my friend was fortunately able to divert the conversation in another direction, after quickly interjecting with conviction and compassion that I have time and it will happen someday. I don't entirely remember what we started to talk about next, but it may have been about sweet corn or wondering when would be a good time to start desert.

My friend knows about my struggles with infertility and divorce. She has been an amazing source of support, strength, and love. The conversation all happened so fast and spun completely out of control. As it really got rolling, all I could do was look to my friend for help with my mouth gaping open while politely trying to smile. I felt so lost and as if drowning in a sea of comments coming at me rapid fire. (My train must have landed in a river or lake or something...)

And it didn't stop there, a few of the relatives in separate conversations came right back to how I should really think about having children before it is too late. Seriously? I just tried to evade the topic and politely maneuver around it. I know it was well intended, but I really, really did not feel like getting into my personal history with them because that would have been really awkward. I didn't feel like pointing out what they were saying was actually hurtful. I didn't want to take away from the focus of the party, the birthday boy. And I just didn't want to deal with whatever the reaction would have been and dealing with those comments.

So, I kept my mouth shut. Was it the right thing to do? I don't know. But what I do know is that I have a dear friend who did her best to protect my heart while maintaining that she still has sincere hope for me. She understands that I have to live my life right now and whatever happens is meant to be.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sweet Pickle

Every now and again, I babysit for a couple friend of mine. I enjoy the energy, silliness, and inquisitiveness of their two children. Today, their little princess, Bear, had a play date. So, it was just me and Pickle.

Pickle is not quite two and a half years old and he is just talking up a storm. He also hit a little bit of a growth spurt, so he has gotten noticeably taller. I should also mention he looks like a little man and has such a sweet, serious face. He always seems to be observing and thinking. When I walked in today, Pickle was in the middle of eating his lunch. He jumped down from the kitchen chair and came running over to greet me with a flirty smile and a hug. So sweet!

I was only going to babysit for about two hours. The schedule was lunch, books, and bed for a nap. Pickle is usually a big eater, but today he seemed distracted. Instead, I listened to him talk and it was a happy, slow lunch. He started getting a tired look and I asked him if he was done eating. He said yes and with that I suggested that he pick out some books. Pickle ran off to his room and carefully picked out the books. He brought them out to show me. Such a big boy! We went back to his room and he scurried up into his bed. As we slouched together, I read the books and he helped turn the pages and read along with his favorite parts.

The last book was a bit wordy, but I think he just liked listening to the rhythm of me reading the passage aloud. Then he reached up with his tiny hand, ever so gently, and patted my hair. He looked at me with his deep, big eyes and said in his high, little boy voice, "Jamie, I love your hair." He seemed fascinated by the curly waves as he brushed away a few of the stray wisps that came free from the bobby pin holding back my bangs. I teared up a little, but they were soft, happy tears from the tenderness of the moment.

Someone told me there are other ways to experience motherhood. And within, I know that is true, as I have felt it with the children in my classroom or some of the children I have met through volunteering at the hospital. While motherhood is frequently defined as the state of being a mother, which references having a child. Motherhood can also be defined as the qualities or spirit of a mother. I'm just glad that I could experience the second definition of motherhood today and for it not to be something sad. So often these kinds of moments have felt bittersweet, leaving me wonder if it will always hurt. But today, there was no heavy sadness. Instead, I was able to embrace the moment.

Thank you, Pickle. I told my friends about it when they got home and they thought it was sweet.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I received this award from Katie, who can be found at Once Upon a Time. Katie is a mother of twins who are absolutely adorable. She is a fellow teacher and the first person who I became close friends with on the BBC. She introduced me to a group there for which I am eternally grateful. Thank you, Katie, for honoring me with my first blogging award!

Award Rule # 1 Share 7 things about myself
  1. I can wiggle my ears. I can wiggle them independently or together at once. I discovered this talent while I was bored one day during my ninth grade English class. Sorry, Mr. Bascone!
  2. I LOVE doughnuts. They are my ultimate weakness. I love the ones filled with cream and covered in powdered sugar...or the cream filled ones covered in chocolate...or the chocolate covered ones with sprinkles. A jelly filled one, especially raspberry, can hit the spot every now and then. You can't go wrong with a traditional glaze, either. But a rare find are the buttery, glazed crescent shaped ones. Seriously, I know I have a problem which is why I must quickly walk past the bakery in any grocery store.
  3. I really enjoy being active, whether it is playing sports or doing stuff outside. I like to run and swim and walk around in the woods (which I didn't realize was hiking...hiking just sounds so official). Yoga is fantastic! And I am so glad that a friend told me about the PSL! Every city should have something like this.
  4. When I was seventeen, I had received a Silver Key Award in photography in Ohio's state wide art competition for high school students. It is the equivalent of winning second place at state in sports, but for art.
  5. I enjoy baking. Cookies are my favorite to make. My pumpkin-chip cookies are the best! Although, I do make some mean zucchini bread, courtesy of my Aunt Kim's recipe.
  6. Halloween kind of freaks me out. I think it is the masks or the dramatic face make-up. There is something about hearing someone's voice that I know, but not really being able to see their face that gives me the creeps. And the person doesn't have to be all gruesome either. I just don't understand why some adults really get into dressing up, but I will play along. I could easily skip the holiday and it would not bother me in the least.
  7. If I wasn't a teacher or studying applied developmental psychology, I think I would want to be pilot. Part of me really wishes I would have taken the twelve credits to learn how to fly in college...but I decided on the extra classes to get my kindergarten endorsement.
Award Rule #2 Nominate 15 others for this award

I don't know fifteen other bloggers, so I will nominate the lovely ladies that I do follow (and have not gotten the award yet). The list is in ABC order because I am a teacher and I don't want to play favorites.

Babies or Not

Banking On It

It's Only Life

Melissa's Thoughts and Realizations

Party of Five

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Reclaiming Summer

It has been HOT! We have had a spell of temperatures in the nineties and I could not be enjoying it more. Call me crazy, but I have been enjoying feeling the heat of the summer. I have not felt more alive in a long time!

To give some insight into my thought process, I should take you back to my summer experiences growing up. When I was a child, I grew up in a town on the west side of Cleveland. It was on Lake Erie, so summers were hot and humid. Granted, it is not as humid as many places in the South where you can feel like you are swimming in the air, but there is a certain amount of humidity that comes with living along one of the Great Lakes. It can easily get into the eighties and nineties in the Cleveland area during the summer. I say this because I've had many people express surprise in this who have not been to the northern part of Ohio.

Any who, I grew up without air conditioning and surprisingly survived with fans! My family did not install air conditioning until after I had finished college and I had moved out. Upon getting married, my ex loved air conditioning and would crank it up during the summer. I also lived in Hotlanta for four years and everywhere I went was blasting with cool air--so much so, that I wore more pants and carried sweatshirts with me everywhere because I would be freezing. It actually made me more uncomfortable going from the extreme heat to extreme, unnaturally cool air inside the buildings. Sorry, but I'd rather deal with one steady temperature instead of the influx and the absurdity of packing layers--in the summer. It just feels wrong to me.

So, this year I have been trying not to turn on my air conditioning in my apartment. I was more motivated in trying to save some money, but as the days passed I realized I liked having the air conditioning off. I love having the windows open and breathing fresh air. I love the feel of a summer breeze and the sounds of the birds in the tree by my balcony. It makes me feel so much more alive and connected to the world. I realize how quiet and isolating closing up your home can be when using the air conditioning. By closing everything up, I miss hearing the soft sounds of life, the smells of flowers or barbecues, and the certainty that what you feel and see are in sync with each other. And as odd as this may sound, I missed feeling the hot summer sweat--not the kind that makes me feel completely uncomfortable and slimy gross--the kind that is lightly sticky, but reminds me of the warmth that it is truly summer.

I haven't experienced summer my way, the way that I had for most of my life in a really long time. And it is completely awesome to be able to to return to living and experiencing summer my way. Swimming in the cool of the pool is that much more satisfying. Watermelon dripping off my chin tastes that much more sweet. And going for a walk on a warm summer night with my man is that much more intoxicating. I love, LOVE summer!

Friday, July 9, 2010

From a Tiny Seed, Come Big Dreams

I have some big news, some really big news! After volunteering at the hospital and steadily having conversations with a few people here and there, something big for me has evolved. My proposal for a pilot summer reading program has been accepted!!! It will be an eight week project and it is related to my graduate studies. It will be a great experience and falls right in line with what I will need to do for my final project to complete my program. If all goes well, this could be really fantastic for me!

And thinking on it, the whole progression puts me back to when I was in some of my darkest moments in my life, both on the heels of facing infertility and soon after in coping with my divorce. I had volunteered at other hospitals and I was looking forward to continuing it once I settled in Pennsylvania. I have heard from several sources that when you are feeling down and at your worst, sometimes that is the best time to give back. It helped to take the focus off of myself and allowed me to put my energy towards making someone's life better. It was a much needed break from outside of my own head and to feel purposeful. I did not realize it until I was able to step back. As the old hospital was closing and the new one was opening, everyone was invited to write on the walls in the hospital--patients, families, nurses, doctors, staff, and volunteers. My message reflecting my experience was deeply personal and at that moment I felt forever grateful for having an outlet from my pain. And I continue to feel grateful.

It was also around the time when I was reading Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential. One thing that was mentioned in the book is the importance of planting little seeds. It is when you start doing good in whatever form and continue to cultivate it, good and unexpected things can happen. And that is exactly how this whole proposal came to be. About two and a half years ago I started volunteering at the hospital. I felt very motivated to speak up and share from my heart in promoting education for children receiving long-term care. I formed some wonderful relationships with people with genuine energy, passion, and vision. My time at the hospital also lead me to my current professional development path in working towards my Master's. And now I am blessed with an opportunity to promote my passions in literacy, tie it into my studies in applied developmental psychology, and expand my experiences at the hospital.

Two and a half years ago I felt so lost and broken. My identity continued to tumble and crash. As I was trying to figure out how I was going to put my life back together and move forward, I was blessed that my ex was flexible to allow me to continue my volunteer work and backhandedly supported my thoughts on going back to school. I say this because I don't think he thought I could really get into graduate school. His words were the right thing to say, but they were empty and hollow. He told me with a quiet sigh, "Jamie, you don't have to climb mountains." He thought my efforts to try to improve the school program and to promote educational rights of hospitalized children was too big for me. Glad to say he was wrong!

So now the real work begins! I am excited and nervous and in awe. It will be a lot to do, but so worth it. I want to make every moment count. I have a post-it from my adviser, who is ridiculously awesome, and it has become my new mantra.

GET TO WORK--You aren't being paid to believe in the power of your dreams.

It is awesome to have dreams. It is even better when you can make them happen.