Controversies and kindergarten

Some of you might have heard of some recent videos and news stories about Zahara’s biological father that are circulating online and in the Pakistani and Indian media.

Maybe you’re wondering if you should reach out to me or my family, out of sympathy or curiosity or a combination of the two.

Let me set the record straight.

The most important piece of news in my life and Zahara’s is that she has been registered for kindergarten this week M’A and will begin there in the fall.

The videos that I’m watching are of Zahara singing a song from “Frozen”, doing a magic trick, watching fireworks and dancing with me on the Disney cruise we took last week, and “what does the fox say” because that song makes us both giggle and dance around like crazy people.

I survived the blizzard and polar vortexing at work and a cancellation of a 500+ passenger plane and returned to work to find people had “heard stories” of my 15-hour shift and thought me a hero.

I don’t pretend my life is perfect or I’m perfect, but my daughter and I are perfectly content pursuing our dreams and living our own lives.

Any other news you’ve heard or will hear is inconsequential.

We are surrounded by our friends and family and most importantly the love and laughter and strength we provide each other.

If you’d like any other exciting updates on our lives, I’ve got tons of stories for you, regarding the kinds of things every normal 4-year-old and parent go through together…because despite the most recent controversy in her father’s life, Zahara and I are quite normal, silly, human people with all of the challenges and triumphs and dysfunctions of every family out there.

This is all I’m going to say on this subject. Thank you for respecting my stance on this matter.

Wanderlust

So I’m a little scared.

I’ve been waiting to reclaim adventure in my life, to get back the freedom to travel that I once had.

One thing the pilot ex-husband made sure of when he began his elaborate deception was that I would no longer be able to access the travel benefits I was entitled to as his wife. He took my name off of the website where we would list ourselves on flights and he never added our daughter to that site even though I let myself believe he eventually would. Why would he break our child’s wings before she ever had a chance to fly, right?

Because that’s what it felt like to me, like my wings were broken and I would never experience that adventure again. I’d never pick a place and just go, pick a flight and just soar…

Maybe he thought I’d run back to him if he made it so I couldn’t fly, but instead, I waited until the day I could say I had gotten that right back on my own terms, for me and my daughter. The right to explore this world, to be the kind of person whose play was worth the work it took to get there. Play that made for amazing stories and memories and the feeling that my life was truly special. Play like let’s spend the weekend wherever we can reach and what’s a place you’ve always wanted to see and a hotel room is just for resting your body in between long days of new experiences.

And that day is here. And I’m a little scared.

It’s terrifying getting what you want. It’s overwhelming when what you’ve always waited for and asked for finally happens.

What ifs and such crowd my mind. Doubts, questions, even the simplest of decisions becoming a complex puzzle of choices and consequences.

Pay for a room that includes breakfast and a car rental and costs a thousand dollars more than paying for a basic room and a car separately…and hoping the morning meal won’t cost too much? Should I even question it? If I want adventure and spontaneity should I even worry about the price difference or go all out??

It’s a lot of pressure, being the mom, the one in charge of the vacations…the one in charge of the money to pay the bills as well.

My daughter deserves a perfect first vacation, and so do I. But is it perfect if I come home broke?

God, and the bigger question is can I really do this alone? The beach and the boats and the meals and the whole of a vacation with only a three-year-old to talk to and reason with and convince to please, pretty please, eat the fish and use a toilet and sleep at night and not run into the ocean when mommy wants to fall asleep to the sound of the waves and the heat on us like a heavy blanket?

It’s exhausting just thinking about it. It didn’t used to be this way.

But I didn’t used to be a mom. I didn’t expect to be a single mom at all, but I’ve done the best I can with that. And some days I rock this role I was thrown into and I know that.

So maybe I don’t have to plan as hard. Maybe I don’t need to think as much. Maybe I just enjoy the moment when my own hard work reveals healed and fully capable wings. Maybe I let those wings unfurl and I try them out before I overanalyze the results. Maybe the act of flying again will be enough to remind me how it’s done…besides, the answer to at least one of my questions is in my own rant. That a hotel room only needs to be good enough to rest in. See self? I can do this. I already know how.

And just like I have the strength and the knowledge within me, the word adventure has within it a guide to how to achieve it: venture.

I must venture out and only then can I live my adventurous, special life once again.

And this time, no one can take that freedom from me. I don’t have to depend on someone else for the passion of exploration. My daughter doesn’t have to be denied her birthright…my made in Puerto Rico, born in Boston, moved to New York little ball of adventure can continue to venture forth throughout her life because I am doing what it takes to give her that right now.

Scary’s got nothing on the satisfaction that comes with that.

So I’m a little scared. I’m also a lot proud of myself, and a whole lot excited for the literal WORLD that’s now open to me again.

Here we go, ready to fly…nothing so far has felt like this.

All the little pieces of the puzzle

I swore I’d never be the kind of mom who sobs every time her child has a “first”. First step, first word, first friend, first anything so far and I’ve been really good with it. Genuinely happy and proud with a smile so big and satisfaction so deep it feels as if my heart grows comfortably bigger and stronger with the size of my joy.

But today, as much as there is that joy and pride in me, my heart also feels as if it’s being pulled so wide that it actually hurts. Today, my daughter started preschool. And I am two seconds away from tears.

The only other person on this earth who has known Zahara as long as me and as intimately as me is nowhere to be found. He has nothing to do with this or any other first my daughter has had for the past three years. But he was a part of so many firsts before that:

The moment she was created to the first time we saw her on the ultrasound screen, a tiny speck that was too small to even confirm as a pregnancy because even though I KNEW already that this baby existed, the OB couldn’t be sure at only a few weeks into it.

The first time we heard her heartbeat and every time afterwards that we heard that strange cyclic whooshing noise that meant our child was strong. Our child was alive. This child’s heart was, thank God, pumping steadily as the previous child’s had not, and we waited nervously to hear it every month and breathed easier once we had.

The first time we saw her whole form, her head, her arms and legs, the length of her curved up little body on that black and white and grainy ultrasound tv. And the first time we saw her yawn and turn over and cross her legs, so real and close even though she wasn’t even born yet.

The first breath she took in this world, the first moment she awoke to this life, HE saw those firsts. He saw her before I did. He watched and experienced her first second of living with her and I, her second.

And now…

The heart is so strange. It can be pulled and twisted and grown and broken and repaired and reformed and always, always, that muscle is working harder and harder and keeping survival as its only goal.

My daughter’s heart must be a product of my own heart’s efforts. A piece of my heart became hers. That’s the only way I can explain this feeling, like I was being pulled into that preschool with her, a little scared, a lot excited, anxious, expectant, hopeful, confused.

It’s the only way I can explain how she and I continuously give each other strength and hope and love and our hearts keep growing and beating together. How she became stronger than me and I thank God every single day for it.

It’s also the only way I can explain how the only other person on this earth who knew her since her first firsts doesn’t feel what I feel. I’m not angry about it, though. I just feel sad for him, because he doesn’t have the relationship he could have had with her. He doesn’t know the beautiful pain, the horrible joy of moments like these.

Because that’s a piece of MY heart in there, pumping madly for survival and joy and all her many many firsts to come, God willing.

That’s why it hurts like this. Because that’s a piece of my heart that has gone so far away today- being cared for and fed and watched and changed and hugged by someone other than me or my family for a whole day for the first time…stretching the muscle beating in me more than ever before.

Stretching, not tearing. Expanding to create even more of itself to give us both, my daughter and me, the courage and the capability to face every new first, every adventure, every loss, every moment together…with tears and toughness and tenderness and all that we can possibly need of each other.

So yeah, I want to sob, but it’s a good kind of sob. It’s a mom kind of sob. And I’m okay with that.

Just in time for the holidays, @GaiamTV is bringing happiness back

The holiday season, for all of its jingling bells and ringing in the New Year, can actually be one of the most depressing times.

The Christmas music everywhere reminding me of the people I won’t be seeing this year.

The flurry of gift-grabbing and couples snuggling all around me while I just wish for a few extra minutes of sleep.

Knowing I’ll be at work every day while my daughter tells people she’s mad and asking why I have to go… and knowing also that at midnight on New Year’s Eve I’ll still be working instead of home with her…

Sometimes it’s too much loneliness to bear.

But then something happens to pull me out of my cycle of negativity.

Something that makes me want to rediscover happiness in my life ASAP.

A serendipitous something, like an offer to review GaiamTV’s film Happy arriving just as I begin a mad hunt for my own happiness.

By the way, you’ve heard of GaiamTV, right? Bearer of the first positive, healthy streaming videos for those looking for mental and physical balance?

Well Happy is a documentary which introduces happiness in places and circumstances you’d never expect. Like the poor, thin man who pulls a rickshaw for a living in India in terrible heat and crazy monsoons saying, quite simply, that when he sees his son’s face he is happy- and rich.

Brings back perspective when I’ve said pretty much the same thing about Zahara the last few years.

Happy also dives into some current psychological studies like did you know that about 40% of happiness depends on our intentional activities, while only 10% is based on our circumstances?

So what happens to you isn’t nearly as important as what you do for yourself! Aha 🙂

It got me thinking about what I need to do to be happier as opposed to giving into the holiday humdrums.

1) I can’t explain the pleasure of losing myself in a good book! A device is more convenient but the feel and smell and sound of the pages as I turn them is a doorway to utopia for me. I vow to buy myself these anti-stress treasures and allow myself the time to read on the train to and from work instead of updating my social media sites.

2) While it’s true that my room doesn’t have to be perfect, the lack of organization on my single mom journey has gone from a little laziness to outright pandemonium. Nothing is where I think it is ( I’m too tired to put it away but also, my daughter thinks it’s funny to rearrange and hide things, like putting all my lipsticks into different bags and hiding those around the house!) 

It’s avoidable stress if I just commit to a bit of structure, like one day a week to make sure everything’s where it belongs. I don’t have to worry about time management or missing an opportunity for something fun instead if I’m just doing it once a week.

3) Keeping the face to face alive in my friendships instead of relying on social media and texts for communication. Part of why I’ve barely seen my friends lately is because I feel guilty spending time without Zahara when I’m not working. But I have to keep reminding myself that a little me-time makes a much healthier mommy. A few hours of carefree friendship, two or three times a month isn’t cause for guilt and I miss my friends!

4) Another emotion I need to get over is the fear of taking Zahara on vacation alone. I’ve done so much with her by myself, but I worry about being overwhelmed if I go away without someone to help me. But In a few months I’ll have my flight benefits and I promise to use them to start exploring this Earth again… maybe starting with a Puerto Rican vacation sometime this year since that’s where I was truly happiest.

🙂

5) Last but not least, I have to starting eating healthy again. I don’t mean diet, but just go back to the daily dose of fruits and veggies I was getting since I was pregnant with Zahara. I really like citrus and berries and, surprisingly, a lot of vegetables. And I know I have more energy, better skin, and less rundown when I’m eating those things instead of food court fast food like I have been at work the last four months! Getting back to that regimen of good eats will balance me inside and out, and it’ll help with all those moments of total exhaustion that ultimately lead to depression in the first place.

******

So what about you, dear readers? What 5 things can you do for yourself to make the end of this year and the start of the new one truly about happiness? Leave me your answers in the comments section. While you’re at it, go check out Happy and see why I think it’s a film everyone should see. I’m certainly in a better mood after watching it!

And guess what? Gaiam’s offering you a FREE 10-day trial to their awesomely unlimited, 24/7 streaming content. Plus, when you sign up for the trial you’re automatically entered to win a 3-month subscription and  a cozy, organic fireside blanket. Visit http://bit.ly/GetGaiamHappy for this promotion.

Gaiam TV’s $9.95 per month subscription is no strings attached; there is no commitment, and members can cancel at anytime. So happiness is just a few clicks away! Go find some for yourself.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by GaiamTV. No request to share any particular point of view was made, however I was given access to GaiamTV’s website and subscription content. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own, including the recently unpopular notion that reading an old-fashioned book is still a desirable activity or that I should SEE my friends, not just interact through technology. 😉

The walking wounded

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I’m not the Woman you cheat on your girl with. After being on the receiving end of that heartbreak, I’ll never be the cause of someone else’s.

But a realization I’ve come to lately is that I’m no longer the girl who gets cheated on. I refuse to be so blind ever again.

When I look back on my life, I want these to be the defining moments. The days and years that proved myself to me.

Because the girl that lets a man break her with her eyes wide open, unwilling to see what’s happening to her? That girl ends up a wretched mess on the side of the road.

Begging for scraps of love.

Wrapping her tattered shreds of sanity around her and shooing away both the night,

and the memories.

But the woman who gives love a chance and, upon finding herself bewildered and betrayed, decides to stand up and see clearer anyway? That woman faces the reality head-on. She figures out what must be done and gets the 40 hour a week job.

That woman does whatever it takes, standing for hours on end, accepting any overtime they give her, learning and running and ignoring the lack of sleep.

She makes friends. She makes a plan. She builds a career.

She sacrifices her skin for blisters and rough patches and health insurance.

She even gives up watching her baby grow that one last half of an inch that finally means she’s tall enough to get on the toilet all by herself (a milestone mommy was losing her mind trying to have them reach together just months earlier.)

And through it all, the Woman refuses to change who she is.

A fallen love is no reason to stop believing in falling in love.

Being wrong about the man she chose doesn’t make it wrong for her to have chosen in the first place…no matter what the world might say.

The wounds eventually heal as much as they ever will. What’s left can only remind her of what was, even if once in a while a bit of salt finds its way in and begins the stinging and healing process all over again.

It comes and it goes. And she keeps going.

***

I loved and I was lied to and I can still be happy. I can still love again someday.

My wounds won’t transform me into the type of female who makes men pay for the hurt in my soul.

And my heart can’t be punished for its part in the injuries of my past.

These wounds can’t be allowed to isolate me from laughter and joy.

If they do, then everything this Woman has worked for during the past three years have been for nothing.

But I’m also not the one who flirts with every guy around, engaging in intrigues and trysts, naturally becoming the favorite subject of the gossipmongers and drama queens.

I’ve never been that one. Not because I care what people say about me, but because I’m happy as long as I’m doing what feels right to me.

I’m a nerd. I’m a nice girl. I’m not apologetic about it.

These blisters are nothing more than a sign of my commitment to the future I dreamt of when my little big girl was merely a warm and tiny loveball in my arms.

And part of that commitment was to do things right this time. To live my life the way I want to live it, without excuses or placations to the world around me.

To build myself up, from the ground up, doing whatever it takes to get to a place of stability, and who knows, maybe even some money to spare.

To not be the girl who gives everything up for the guy and then gets cheated on anyway.

To be the Woman who I was meant to be. The Woman my daughter already believes I am.

So while I won’t be dancing on any tables, I won’t be a wallflower on the dancefloor of my existence either. I’ll do what feels right and my soul will be whole- even with the wounds, even with the start all over again.

No waiting to join the party. Just me, who I am. Who I’ll always be.

UPDATE: Glam Me Long Island POSTPONED!

In my last post I mentioned that we’re all moms and we all understand that family comes first. Well, those words have never been more appropriate! Jen, mommy in charge of mommyslinks.com has a family emergency and must postpone tonight’s Glam Me event. Don’t worry ladies. If you bought or won a ticket already, it will be honored or refunded, whatever works for you!

Being the glam gal she is, Jen has been running around like crazy to get sponsors, venders, and the venue to all accommodate the change. Even though she’s the one facing an emergency, she’s done the almost impossible and handled all the details to ensure that everyone can still have a great night. The new Long Island Glam Me event will be held on September 22nd and will still be at the Long Island Children’s Museum.

Let’s all be the family Jen obviously thinks we are and offer her all the support we can! Send her your virtual hugs and good juju and don’t forget to thank her for being an incredibly selfless woman who chose to rise to the occasion and take care of everything when she had every right to delegate and disappear.

Stay tuned for more information over the next couple of months. And if you really want to thank Jen, make sure all your deserving mama friends buy tickets for the September event! 🙂

Of fairy tales and furniture

a mostly true story…

                        for Zahara whose name means beautiful flower and intelligence, and

                        whose middle name is Noor, the purest light

There once was a Pakistani girl who very vocally proclaimed herself to be “liberal” and yet, in her heart of hearts, she’d much rather have been a soft-spoken princess of olden times, wrapped in layers of silk and the protection of her hero.

Obviously, modern-day New York was nothing like the kingdoms of fairy tales. Still, she held out hope for her very own Bollywood-esque love story, complete with an honest, sturdy man meant only for her. He would fight for the love of his life while preserving her honor, respecting both of their families and above all believing in the strength of true love. He would defend her against anything that dared to even attempt to harm her. And he would prove that good always won, that the pure of heart were rewarded and lived happily ever after. They would be as sure of each other as they were of the sun in the sky, completing each other, challenging each other. He would, of course, have a stellar sense of humor and love to dance and always fill the gas tank and build everything from cabinets to makeshift computer tables to cribs and carseats one day!

Hollywood had left its mark on the girl, but Bollywood! Oh, Bollywood was glamorous and amorous. Any struggle, any problem could be solved in a triumphant and glorious resolution that left tears in her eyes and a swelling in her heart. THIS was what her life was meant to be: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Her real-life version wouldn’t be as dirty or bloody or violent, but just as romantic and passionate, full of noble, dignified characters who ultimately realize that real love and strong morality are the same, are complementary, are easily reconciled. And, of course, she would be dressed in just such a gorgeous, traditional bridal lengha, all flowing and golden and regal, as her hero clasped her hand and pulled her beside him and they disappeared into the sunset.

Well, the years went by and this early impression of love remained a steady presence in her life. Love was intense and emotional. Love was full of battles and powerful struggles that eventually led to the happily ever after she sought. So she endured the battles and the tug of war and her war-borne scars deepened, but she kept firm. After all, the women who really deserved happiness only achieved it after remaining steadfast in the face of all danger and sadness. They survived, and so they were rewarded. They stuck by their man, no matter what. They were honest, they were true, they were ferociously committed to making it work. That was love, that was life.

Then one fateful day, all that she had been working to preserve fell apart and the facade of her life fell away. Who was she if she wasn’t a wife? What was she if she no longer struggled to become the golden girl who earned and got and kept the guy?

The years of toiling for the love she thought she’d eventually deserve had left her haggard, gasping for understanding and relief and the tenderness she kept imagining would someday be hers. The loyalty she thought would get her to a place of honor in her own life had in actuality left her laying on the ground, waiting, just waiting, for the hero to appear and save her from her self-imposed misery. It was the point in the story when the hero proves his worth by lifting the saintly suffering princess to her feet. It was the part when he carries her into their happy ending. Instead, she was just waiting. But she wasn’t alone.

The pool of love and kindness and strength that she had kept flowing single-handedly all those years had miraculously produced a beautiful flower, a growing, thriving reminder of all of the hopes the girl had nurtured for so long. The flower was vivid and colorful, alive and touched by magic. A light shone from within it, and even when all of the sunshine had leaked away to a dull gray-black darkness, this flower shone brightly and endured and grew strong.

The girl found herself drawn to it, warmed by its internal sun that needed no outside light to survive. She watered it, sometimes with tears, and laughed when the petals danced without wind. She was entranced by it, by this flower that grew by her side and the magic that grew in their midst.

Little by little, gently, slowly, the girl replaced broken shards of the life she had once lived, with the soft, self-replenishing petals of the magical flower. Somehow, the flower was always whole, no matter how many petals the girl needed to fill the holes her former life had left. The flower entwined itself around the girl’s fingers, giving her the power to create her own light, enveloping them in a glowing, constant, visible circle of protection, and filling every crack with its magic.

******

Then came a day when the flower required more and more from the girl. And she found herself surprisingly capable of meeting those needs, singing and dancing, building and transforming their world so the flower had all it wanted.

The girl was more woman than girl now, but that young hopeless romantic was still inside her somewhere. She looked around at the life her and the flower had together, and she was shocked at how bright that life was. The circle of light they had created together was immense now, the ends barely even visible. The flower was more a strong plant now yet its magic was still unlimited.

The woman asked herself what else she could do for the flower, what it needed from her now, and then it came to her. She needed to find someplace new to accommodate the size of their joyful cocoon, which was now too big to remain in the same place where they had first found each other. The woman vowed she would find such a place, but in the meantime, she could at least build the flower a pretty promise of that new home.

When the woman was done, she stepped back and surveyed her work. Not bad for a princess-wannabe waiting for a hero to construct everything it took to make a life. She had done it all herself, with the magic powers the flower had infused into her, and now it looked perfect. Well, perfect except for the two screws somehow left over… the woman worried for just a moment that the whole thing would come crashing down, but after checking and inspecting every inch, she realized she had made it stable and secure and safe for her little glowing flower.

She saw where the screws were meant to go and realized she had somehow fused the pieces together so tightly that they weren’t necessary anymore. Sometimes, all the pieces didn’t fit and sometimes what was meant to be didn’t have to be. And she had used her own judgment and her own hands and made something sturdier than any man and safer than any layers of fabric and forced compliance.

In fact, she thought as she sat back and watched her little flower shine even brighter, in fact, a hero had come and fought for her and saved her and lifted her into the clouds of happily ever after. A hero, who very vocally proclaimed herself to be liberal, and who was the queen of her realm, wrapped in layers of protection and magic she herself had helped sew. A hero, who was meant to hold the hand of a tiny flower princess and stand tall and regal and golden and whole, as they walked off into the sunset together.

THE BEGINNING…



Why I’m not a fixer-upper OR single is my lifestyle of choice

Damaged

You know how when you go to someone’s home for the first time, you always see exactly what you LOVE (read, covet) about the place, and almost as an afterthought, what you would change to make it perfect? Like, wow this living room is huge, but that painting is so overbearing. I would have put up a nice photo collage on that wall to make this giant space more homey and personalized. Or something like, hmm, so cozy but a mirror right there would have brought so much light into this room. We tell ourselves we love the place and we’re only thinking about what would make it better, but better for whom? The person living there has made it his or her own, but we human beings just can’t help fixing things…even if nothing’s broken in the first place.

This inability to accept that something is right as it is, that there is nothing to fix or improve or that it isn’t OUR place to improve it even if there is, is the reason I think so many people feel the need to tell singles “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone.” Or a variation, “You’re better off, honey, he (she) was all wrong for you. Here’s what you need to do…” followed by all of the things you have to change about yourself, the reasons why YOU, not the ex, are to blame for your relationship status. And, of course, how to get a new mate because the status of singledom is one that just HAS to be fixed. Don’t get me wrong, these people are generally well-meaning individuals, family, friends, and coworkers, who just want to make your life better. But it’s that word, better. Who’s to say that being in a relationship is better? Who says singles are damaged?

Whether they mean it or not, these redesigners of a single person’s life are in essence saying that there is something wrong with that life. There must be something to change, to fix, to improve upon, to get you where you need to be: in the arms of a new lover, or multiple lovers, or a spouse. And if that single person is a parent? Suddenly the good-intentioned tell you that your kid is missing something invaluable, that you are not enough. “You’re a great mom (or dad) but,” they’ll add with all the certainty that their personal inexperience in the matter can afford, “John and/or Jane Doe really need a father/mother and you need to hurry up and find the right person to marry who will take on that role.” Single parents are told that the only way they can do what every good parent wants to do (raise their kids right and give them everything they deserve) is to be married, a part of a team, one half of a whole that their kids must have. Well, I beg to differ.

I am not incomplete… and neither is my daughter. Sure, I tried to make the ex be a responsible, caring father who showed up, whether physically or by phone call, skype video chat, IPhone facetime, etc. I tried anything and everything, swallowing my own sadness and betrayal and anger to give my child the opportunity to have the relationship she should have had with her father. He will argue he did enough, I will argue he didn’t. The end result is that Zahara barely knows him, has never experienced him as “a father figure” and he went on television and denied he had ever been married or fathered any kids. I had plenty of reason to stop before then, but that was the point when I realized I was trying to fix him and make him be the father I believe Zahara deserves. Instead, I chose to focus on our lives, mine and my daughter’s, and stop wasting my time and energy on making someone into something they’re not.

So. As some say when they try to identify and fix the problem of my singleness, do I need to find a new “father” for Zahara?

How about this. Zahara has a biological father, whose status in her life I won’t spend any more time obsessing over. She also has a father in our home, my father, her Nana, who she calls Papa like my sisters and I do. Papa is the man she waves goodbye to from the door every morning when he goes to work. Papa is the man she cries for and wants me to call for her so she can talk to him on speaker when she isn’t feeling good, is mad at me, or just misses when he works late. Papa is who she runs to the door for, screeching and shrieking and a blur of arms and giggles, entangling herself in his legs when he comes home and whose back she rides around on like he’s a horse. Papa is whose hand she holds, leading him to the basement to play, or outside to walk or “supervise” the gardeners, or to get away from mommy who wants to feed/bathe/clothe her. Papa is her day-to-day, fall asleep in his lap, gang up against mommy, see you every day father figure.

 

She also lights up for another man in our lives. Her teacher Mr. Brendan, who makes funny faces, and amazing sound effects and voices, and who reads stories in such a captivating manner that even I’m enthralled. Mr. Brendan likes to get messy and creative with artwork, and run around and climb and jump and imagine we’re airplanes or bakers or dogs. Mr. Brendan has big curly hair that is hard to tame like Zahara and a huge smile and tons of energy for her every minute and a hand she expects to hold on one side (and mommy’s on the other) when she’s crossing the air log and jumping into an imaginary pile of leaves. Mr. Brendan is the playful, young, funny father figure Zahara has in her life.

Since Zahara is so ultra-observant and smarter than the average bear, she has classified men into 4 distinct categories. The Papas, men who are generally my father’s age, grandfathers, heads of families. The Friends, younger men, who are husbands or fiances or boyfriends and may even be dads of some of her playmates or my uncles who let her play with their IPhones even though she’ll probably destroy them or who love hanging out with her at a family event while I run to grab some food. The Mamoos, which translates to maternal uncles, but is a term she uses to refer to my male cousins and ANY Desi-looking teenagery guys who want to lift her in the air or tickle her or play catch with her or take her to Chuck-e-Cheese as long as mommy says all of the above are okay. And finally, just Man, the strangers, gardeners, neighbors, workers she sees around her when we go out into the world.

This Zahara name and this Mommy name...and this Zahara and Mommy.

And guess what Zahara says I have? A friend…and mommy’s friend is Zahara.

Cue pulling of the heartstrings and tears in the eyes…

My heart swells with love and pride for her that she knows that SHE is my partner, she’s my other half. This is all she’s ever known and she understands it perfectly, without hesitation or questions. It isn’t weird for her, this is OUR normal. So why, oh dear supporters and do-gooders, do you think we need to be fixed? We are each other’s best friends, and even a 2 and a half year old knows it.

I am not a fixer-upper. And single IS my lifestyle of choice.

The day without a cell phone

This post could also be titled, “How technology ruined me” or “Technology dumbed me down to nearly helpless. What should I do?!” Do you know what happens when you leave your cell phone charging at home and leave for the day? I do. It isn’t pretty.

On Thursday, I went through my normal hectic morning routine getting myself and Zahara fed, dressed, and in the car with coffee in hand (me) and empty bladder (the kid) and ON TIME! I was feeling mighty impressed with myself, pointing out Mr. Sun to my baby and driving us to her Gymboree class. (Yes, I am a Gymboree mom. But don’t judge me. You know me. I’m not evil. I’m not uptight or uppity. I’m just one of the many normal ones who week after week, for the sake of our kids, must face the evil, $125 velour tracksuit-wearing, thin as a rail because their kids have nannies and they have trainers, nose permanently stuck in the air, your kid’s wearing THAT?!, stereotypical Gymboree mothers. And honestly, there are more of US than THEM so I think we can take ’em!)

Anyway, so I get to Gymboree, go through the songs and slides and activities, get us back to the car with empty coffee cup (me) and empty bladder again (Zahara, of course. Potty training is sooo much fun!) and reach into the diaper bag where I usually keep my IPhone, still feeling pretty good about myself. Nothing, nada, oh no, picture of my phone connected to its charger and nestled in the covers of my unmade bed pops into my mind (priorities, people. It was either make the bed or be ON TIME. On time is a big draw for always semi-late me.)

Now, the past six weeks had seen me chugging coffee while performing awe-worthy mom feats of skill getting Zahara from Gymboree to swimming class 20 minutes away within a half hour time span. If you’re a parent, you know that this deserves at least a standing ovation. Preparing two different bags of baby stuff, one for each activity, switching swimsuit for onesie and swim diapers for Pull-ups, AND having enough time for toddler to pee in toilet AND get Gymbo the clown stamped on her hand AND getting coats, shoes, and outer layers of clothing off and on at Gymboree and off again at swimming AND driving within the speed limit to get 20 minutes away within 20 minutes……hell, just stand up and cheer for me already. :~)

I was doing all this because my baby girl went through two terrible individual swimming classes in which she screamed and cried for me the whole time. So I freaked out, had a moment of intense mommy guilt and then came up with a solution: Mommy and me swimming lessons. Only, those classes were only available right after Zahara’s Gymboree so off we went for six exhausting weeks.

But this past Thursday, thank God, was the first of a new schedule for swimming so I could finally relax. I even planned to go to a showing of Hunger Games at a local mall that offers bring-your-own-baby viewing experiences every few weeks. That may be why I was so proud of myself. Until I reached in that diaper bag…

The drive from Gymboree to the movie went something like this:

I could go home and get the phone, but then I’ll miss the movie. Or I’ll get a speeding ticket if I try to get home, up the stairs to my phone, back to the car and to the movies on time.

Somebody’s probably trying to call me…or text me…or panicking because I’m not answering. They’re sending out a search party and I’m just la-de-da on my way to a movie!

Oh, God what time is it?! I sometimes wear a watch but it’s just for show. None of my watches even work because I didn’t bother to change the batteries because I always check my IPhone, but now I don’t have it and how am I supposed to tell ti- oh, okay, wait there’s a CLOCK in the car. Was that always there?

But wait, oh, God, what is the date?! It doesn’t say that in the car. Isn’t this car supposed to have an internal computer thingie? My IPhone gives me a whole calendar! How the hell am I going to go through my day not knowing what DATE it is?!!

Somebody is definitely calling me. My sister, probably. Or my mom. They’re going to worry and then they’re going to start crying and then they’ll start driving around back and forth from Gymboree because I didn’t tell anybody I was taking Zahara to a movie afterwards because I was going to call them after her class but I can’t because I DON’T HAVE A CELL PHONE!!!

Okay, okay I NEED a pay phone. Where the heck did all the pay phones go? No one uses a pay phone anymore, dammit because everyone’s got their own phone…but oh, I know, there are some pay phones right by the entrance to the movie theater. Okay! Yes, I am brilliant. I have a plan! I will get there fast, call my sister who can text or call everyone who needs to know that I am the loser who forgot my cell phone at home and I’m alive, I’m okay, I’m just going to go catch a movie- yeah, if I have enough time to get there, make the call, buy tickets, buy snacks, and get to my seat- whatever, I am amazing. I can do this!

I can’t do this. I don’t have change! I HATE change. The coins are so noisy and they get stuck in my wallet pocket and I can never find the amount I want at the time I need it and so I always take it out- oh oh, wait, I do have change! Thank God Zahara wanted to go on that whirring, beeping, going nowhere fast kiddie ride that annoys the hell out of me!

Okay, wait. Question: The Baby Pictures program IS actually today at noon, right? I’m not heading to a showtime with old couples who are going to get royally pissed because I dared to bring a baby, no even worse, a TODDLER to a movie, am I?! I don’t have my schedule. It would tell me if today is the right day. I write everything in that handy reminders app, but-

Dammit I need my phone. Maybe I can get another driver’s attention and ask to please, pretty please, borrow their smart phone for just a second while I check the date- and time, because did I actually “spring forward” on the car clock when I didn’t even know the car had a clock?- and if they let me have another second with their technological lifeline I could text my sister and Google the movie and- hell, who’s going to give me their cell phone? They need it as much as I do.

Speaking of driving, am I going the right way? I have a navigation app on my IPhone that works really well, better than this damn car’s navigation, and I could’ve checked it at the next red light if I’d remembered to grab my phone from my bed this morning.

Why, why, why didn’t I charge it overnight? I could’ve slept two minutes less and gotten up to plug it into the wall, but I was lazy! I HAD to wait until morning and now look at me!

Okay, yes this is the right way. Look at me, I can actually navigate by myself! Who knew?

Thank God, the theater. Let me get there quick and count my change and- what do you mean it now costs 50 cents for a local call? Last time I used a pay phone it was 25 cents!

Okay, a quarter, a dime, some nickels…come out of that tiny, zippered pocket coins and serve your purpose.

Come to think of it, the last time I used a pay phone it DID cost less so maybe I’m not interpreting this sign correctly? I could put the coins in after I dial, right? That used to work, didn’t it? Then the little automated lady will tell me how much it cos- what do you mean I have to deposit coins FIRST? Just tell me how many?!

Okay, no time. 50 cents it is.

Damn coins, why do you keep coming back?!

Okay, hurry, second of only two pay phones anywhere near me. This better wor- oh, you have got to be kidding me.

Collect call or no collect call? My sister will accept the call, right? And she won’t hate me, she can’t hate me, for the cost to her because this is an emergency! I forgot my cell phone!!

She didn’t pick up. Voicemail. Talk over the automated voice lady asking her if she accepts the call, and hope little sister can hear me and listens to this message soon and people aren’t worrying and out searching and talk louder, dammit, that automated lady is so annoying- beeeeeep.

Did the message go through? What time is it? Forget it, I’m going to the movie and hopefully that voicemail is audible and maybe they didn’t notice I’m not home yet and did the movie already begin?

Movie. Breathe. Relax. I don’t need to know who’s tweeting what and if there’s email or what my Words with Friends move is going to be. Just Enjoy The Movie.

OH MY GOD! How am I going to enjoy the movie? In addition to everything I’m trying NOT to think about, what in God’s name is going to do the job of the YouTube favorites kiddie videos that were going to entertain Zahara so I could feed her lunch and get her to sit still and so I could actually watch the movie?!!

Zahara fell asleep on the car ride home. I got to my IPhone and I held it to my chest and I swore I would never let it out of my sight again and I was so, so sorry for having forgotten it and would it ever forgive me. And as I rolled it over and over in my hand, feeling every angle and button with my fingertips and caressing the touch screen longingly, an odd feeling came over me and my skin withered and I hunched over and I rasped out in a scary, high-pitched voice “My precioussssss!”

Okay, no, that didn’t really happen. But it could have. The day I had without my cell phone? Oh, it certainly could have.

Picture of perfection

“A photograph can take you back in time to places and embraces that you thought you’d left behind.” – The Tigger Movie

“Life is too deep for words, so don’t try to describe it, just live it.” – C.S. Lewis

Pictures. Pictures to capture a moment; pictures to freeze time. Pictures that define us and pictures that reveal some truth we may have hidden even from ourselves. Pictures are worth a thousand words, according to the saying. And for someone like me who cannot for the life of me use less words, a picture could very well be the solution to my feelings that sometimes, even thousands of words are not enough to adequately express what’s inside me.

Pictures and videos of my daughter are what got me through the final blind curve of the end of my marriage and got me off my butt and out into the world, finally accepting what was and letting it go so I could be FREE.

So this past week I’ve been thinking. There are days when I just want to crawl into bed and shut my eyes and sleep, no dreams, no baby cries in the middle of the night, no thoughts of sadness or solitude or just plain desperation creeping up on me randomly every once in a while even when things are going well. Because that’s the thing. Everything can be great but still there is doubt in my mind that keeps me awake for a couple of nights at a time every few weeks. Life can be good but still, I’ll lay in my bed frustrated, lonely, wondering if this is all there is to my life. And it takes so much to find it inside myself to get through those moments and push on, to sift through the pain or the exhaustion and see the moments worth getting back up for in the morning.

Some days I feel like all I do is fight, from the moment I wake up until sleep finally overtakes me. I fight for pee and poop in the toilet and brushing teeth. I fight to get every single bite of breakfast in a surprisingly vice-like closed mouth that tests my aim and patience as it is shaken in a defiant no from side to side to side, and then I do it again at lunch and dinner. I fight for no dropping socks or shoes or hair clips or iPhones in the toilet and I fight to keep toilet paper from being ripped into little unusable scraps. I fight to keep tiny but strong hands from pinching or scratching cousins, playmates, and myself and I fight to keep tantrums to a minimum. I fight against throwing food and toys and books and utensils and I fight for sharing and and holding mommy’s hand as we walk.

I fight to keep my room as clean as possible, giving up once it’s a cluttered, but organized mess. And I fight to wash and fold laundry when all my bras are dirty and I have to wear one from college when my chest was still pre-breastfeeding firm and small. I fight against emotional eating and I fight to stick to a running routine. I fight against my insecurities and some days I fight to get out of bed. Because I want to be a good mother and I want to be good to myself, too.

Saying “everything’s okay, I’m fine” all the time is a lie. I am honest about my emotions and I say what I need to say. But somehow I do go on. I do feel happy. I laugh. I relax and I breathe. I make plans and I let my daughter pick her own outfits and I push the toys into a corner and I just let it be. I used to wonder where that strength came from, but now I know that it’s in me. I choose to see the good moments and just live them for however long they last. And that is what gets me through.

When those nights come around when my brain won’t stop and I’m anxious or restless or afraid or depressed, I need something to help me remember the moments worth all that damn fighting. I look back on my first year as a mom and there are so many holes in my memory. I remember, but it’s like I’m trying to remember a dream. I can’t quite access all of it. And that’s because I was so grief-stricken and so shocked that my system went into survival mode and I simply existed. I smiled and played for my daughter’s sake but I was cut off from my life in a way that left me hollow.

I’ve already written about the real turning point in my grief and how I found myself again. Now, more than a year after that event, I’ve got something new planned. I’ve been knocking an idea around my head for the past week. It’s inspired by things like Wordless Wednesday posts and the whole “febphotoaday” thing I’ve been seeing on Twitter. What if I use the iPhone I’ve got to capture moments in my day that inspire me, make me laugh, move me? Beauty is in the smallest details sometimes. Happiness can be found in a mere second in an otherwise hectic day. I fight all day every day sometimes, but there are moments. There is good.

So what I came up with is this. I am going to click away with my cellphone camera whenever the moment is good, whether it’s something I’m doing or my daughter or a pretty sky or whatever. And just that act, remembering to take a picture when I feel happy, will help me appreciate the feeling. Then at the end of the day when I drag myself to bed and feel the tension and tiredness threatening to make it a sleepless night, I can look through those pics and choose the one that makes me happiest and tweet it as my pic of the day. In fact, I want to make that my nightly routine. Instead of catching up on social media sites I’ll catch up on my own life. It’s hard to focus on the good when you’re fighting parenting, so this will be a way to force myself to see what was right with my day.

So now, instead of one wordy post a week I’m going to post twice. One full of my talk too much self, and one where I simply put up the pics of the day from the whole week, no words, no explanations. If I keep at it, at the end of the year I’ll even have a photo diary of my best memories to look at when my will is not enough to keep me going. We all need help to feel strong and present and excited about our lives. This is my way of helping myself achieve a happier, more peaceful state of being. It’ll make me a better mother, knowing that there are reasons to smile. And it’ll be something to look back on to fill in the holes in my memory as my fights go from eat this, poop there to don’t you dare wear that, smoke that, drink that, or go there. From toddler to teenager, it’ll pass so quickly, but at least now I’ll have a way to help myself get through it…and a way to help myself fight for the smiles and through the tears.