Thursday, July 20, 2017

7 is Going to be Magical

My Darling Emeline,
Do you remember when I used to sing this to you? Changing Clementine to Emeline was a far easier swap than some of the darker, more tragic lines of this American classic. We'd snuggle in tight, arms and legs entwined, and I'd try desperately, to come up with clever and soothing words that would instantly lull you to sleep.
Oh my darling, 
Oh my darling, 
Oh my darlin' Emeline 
You are sleepy, and it's bedtime
Close your eyes Emeline. 

It rarely worked.
Which should come to no surprising to anyone who's ever met you. You, my dear, are hard to convince to do anything you're not already ready and willing to do. And once your mind is made up, you are hard to deter.
Although there are occasions when  you (and I) may think otherwise; I love this fierce stubborn side of you. It gives you a strength and independence that you and I have both relied on many times over the years, and will continue to drive you forward as you age.

We're so close to the age where you don't want Mom & Dad hanging around all the time. You beg to be dropped off at birthday parties and soccer practices, telling us you "need sometime with just my friends." You readily accept sleepover invitations and are diligent in your never-ending negotiation for walking to and from school alone. As you learn to be independent, your dad and I are learning to let go.  Sometimes it's quite easy and we are more than willing to do so. Birthday parties for instance provide an excellent chances for a quick date with your dad, even if it's just grabbing coffee and running a quick errand. Other things, like letting you walk to and from school (1/4 mile each way) alone, I'm just not ready for you to do solo.

Sneaking in a day date after dropping E off for a birthday party
A couple of weeks before school let out, while walking home from school, our beloved crossing-guard told you that you'd remember these small moments - walking to and from school, hand in hand with me, for the rest of your life. He still remembers walking with his mother over 60 years ago. You giggled nervously, something you've been doing more and more frequently, when a conversation gets too sincere and real. You gave an awkward smile and nodded your acknowledgement, too polite to ignore his comments, but too uncertain to respond. I verbalized what you could not, "I hope she does, I certainly will. These are my favorite times of each day."

And they are. Walking you to and from school, talking about the day, observing the sights and sounds of our neighborhood, these are the best moments of my days. It fills my heart to see you skip ahead, singing to yourself, occasionally pausing to say  good morning to a neighbor. My heart bubbles over with love hen you slide your hand into mine, the gentle reminder that while you may not need me as much these days, you still choose, at least for this moment. to be by my side.

We celebrated Summer Vacation by getting pedicures and manicures; your first time having them done in a salon. You were so excited and were dead set on us having matching colors and you picked shiny sparkly blue for our toes and bright iridescent fuchsia for our finger nails. Not necessarily my first choices of color, but I embraced the moment. After all, how much longer will you want to have matching anything with me?

Our toes didn't quite match because Emy got special flowers painted on hers.

 We had the best time that afternoon and I realized how magical of an age 7 is and what a fantastic year we are going to have.

You're so grown-up in so many ways.  You have your own thoughts, interestsm and opinions. You can carry on conversations with ease and are easily able to entertain yourself for hours. You also enjoy doing things your dad and I enjoy doing, like going to town events, or taking yoga in the park with me. It's so fun to experience these activities together.
You're generally an excellent listener. While there are occasions you still require multiple reminders about transitions, expectations, or directions, they're increasingly rare.
You carry and are responsible for your own stuff, needing very few reminders to keep track of it when we are out and about. You  have a far better memory than I do, which comes in handy daily. You are such a solid reader, which helps us navigate buses and environmental print that can be difficult for me to see. You're hilarious and relentlessly optimistic. You keep me laughing and focusing on positive outcomes throughout the day.  Basically, you rock kiddo.
Swimming is so much more enjoyable now that you can swim easily. 

Your dad and I are in awe of the fantastic and interesting human you're growing into. We love you so, so much Emeline. Try to be patient with me as I continue to learn to let you grow and I'll promise to do the same. Learning and growing is hard work my love and I am so thankful to be by your side through it all.

Love always,
Birthday Buddies
Emy & Papa May 27. 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hello 2017!

I'm big on self-improvement and therefore big on making New Year's Resolutions. I'm sure more than a few past therapists would agree that my near constant quest to be BETTER probably stems from my deep-rooted insecurities. Namely, that nagging perfectionist voice inside that occasionally still tries to convince me I'm not good enough. In the past I would have readily agreed with this theory. Especially, considering how I'd get super frustrated and completely give up on all my resolutions if I made one misstep.

Not anymore though. Ever since having Emy, losing my vision, and the million life changes that were consequences of these coinciding events, I've been on a different sort of quest for self-improvement. One that focuses on acceptance, awareness, and discovery. I'm not who I was before May of 2010. I am not who I was in February of 2013 when I left my beloved career. I am not who I was in January of 2016 when we moved to Ann Arbor. I am constantly changing, adapting, evolving and that requires effort to move myself towards goals, but it also requires a good deal of reminding myself that accepting and cherishing where I am, who I am, at any particular moment is a crucial part of the journey.

Angela Amman, a friend and a writer whose work I admire, wrote this piece about choosing a word of the year rather than making a list of resolutions.  I was inspired and did some soul-searching to find the word that best represented my goals for 2017.

I'm in a pretty good place mentally, physically, figuratively, and literally. I made some big changes in the past couple years that are impacting my life positively and I want to keep that momentum going and maybe ramp it up a little.
So the word I chose for 2017 is ...
photo used with permission

MORE. As in love more, do more yoga, write more, eat more fruits and veggies, more exercise. Nebe more patient with my family and myself. I want more of all the good stuff I've already been focusing on. More time with friends and family who make my soul happy, more reading, more music, more one on one time with Josh, more self-care, more experiences that help me be more present.

I could go on and on. But you get the idea. I want to hold the word MORE front and center and make conscious decisions throughout the year. If something adds to my goals, enhances them in a positive way then it's the MORE I'm searching for. If not, then there will be more days and more chances to try again. I firmly believe that by allowing for more forgiveness and acceptance - starting with myself - will directly lead to more peace and joy.

What word best describes your goals for 2017?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Searching for Hope

 Ever since waking up Wednesday morning to a world that feels like we've slipped through the veil of reality into the terrifying depths of  the Upside Down, I've been a mess. I am angry and confused and fearful of a seemingly insurmountable divide in my country. While those feelings are valid and very real, I know that I need to simultaneously allow myself to feel them and prevent them from consuming me. Like oxygen, food, water, shelter, and LOVE, Hope is one of my basic need. I need to feel hopeful to be a functioning human so that I can show up and fulfill the roles of my everyday life - mother, wife, friend, volunteer, neighbor, daughter, sister, etc....  

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

So I began my search - for hope, for the helpers, for acts of love and kindness, evidence that the beliefs I hold true are shared by many. I've been sifting through music, quotes, essays, poems, blogs, images and trying desperately to only linger on the ones that provide comfort.  It's been REALLY HARD because I also believe in being knowledgeable and informed of the world's events, but for sanity's sake I have to find a way to balance the negative emotions that come along with that knowledge.
Here is a small sample of what has brought my comfort and refilled my heart and soul with hope, love, and even glimmers of joy. 

1. Elizabeth Gilbert Facebook post about taking control over our emotions. She discussed the idea that the only thing we really can control is our actions and our reactions. By asking yourself, "Who do I want to be in this situation?" you are returning that control to yourself. This concept is something I've personally been working on and struggling to do consistently for YEARS. Reading her reminder to herself, helped me feel less alone and more in control. I encourage you to read the piece. It really helped shift my perspective and mood.   You can read her full post here
Dallas Clayton is one of my favorite artists. His words never fail to fill me with hope and wonder and I followed his frequent advice to get outside.

2. Getting outside. The weather Wednesday and Thursday was unseasonably warm and sunny for November in Michigan. Harper the Humongous and I went for long walks, appreciating the beauty of our neighborhood in fall and soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible before winter sets in. 
Harper loves the pond even more than I do. 

3. Music. Loud music. Music that releases the negative emotions and comforts. The song Holy War by Alicia Keys has been particularly helpful the last few days. I first heard this song last week and have been a little obsessed with it ever since. Keys'  lyrics have been echoing through my head, like a mantra repeating: 

So we can heal each other and feel each other
We can break these walls between each otherBaby, blow by blow and brick by brickKeep yourself open, yourself openYeah we can heal each other and feel each otherWe can break these walls between each otherBaby, blow by blow and brick by brickKeep yourself open, you openMaybe we should love somebodyMaybe we could care a little more
Maybe we should love somebody
Instead of polishing the bombs of holy war

A reminder that the forward is through LOVE. 

4. Children. Not only my child, but her classmates and schoolmates. Wednesday afternoon I went to Emy's elementary school to help her Art teacher take down student art work and be a second set of hands during Em's art time. I arrived a bit early, just as the other first grade class was preparing to leave. I was greeted by enthusiastic cries of delight, "It's Emy's MOM!!!" One of our neighbor friends came running to me and gave me a gigantic hug. A hug I desperately needed at the moment. And a couple other little friends followed suit. 

I love our school community here. We haven't even lived in Ann Arbor a year, but our neighborhood school is a small, diverse, close-knit community. Many of the students and their families are from all over the world, living in Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan, work at the UofM hospital, or one of the many international companies around town. I am so grateful that my daughter attends a school that embraces the philosophy "We include, not exclude" and she has the opportunity to learn with and from so many varied backgrounds and experiences. And I get to participate in such a vibrant community as a volunteer. We are very lucky. 

5. Smiling Bulldogs. Seriously? Look at Ruby's face. No explanation needed.

6. People. It may seem a little odd given how horrid some people have chosen to behave this week, but the people who are choosing to speak out of love, do good, spread kindness, show up, be an ally, work to support positive change - THESE PEOPLE are filling me with so much hope. I truly believe the path forward is through love and requires the incredibly challenging work of choosing LOVE over hate, OVER and OVER again.

7. The Book With No Pictures. This book is a favorite in our house and my perceptive little girl busted it out Thursday evening knowing we were all need of some laughs. She made us all read it out loud, laughing hysterically with every reading. Here is a snippet of her version. Warning, it gets a little off the rails but she is ridiculously adorable. 

In the days and weeks to come I will continue searching. I know there will be moments that I want to give up and give in to the anger and despair. I'm a pretty optimistic person but I also struggle with depression and anxiety. I pledge to be kind to myself and all those I come in contact with. I will push through the dark to find the light. I am committed to attempting to find a balance between being informed and staying sane. I will take breaks. I will surround myself with people who are committed to spreading love, kindness, and hope and engage in activities that do the same.

Sending you love.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Happy 6!

Today you are 6. I am unclear as to how this is possible as I am fairly certain just last week, you were 2 and singing the Swing Song at the top of your lungs, squealing with delight at the sensation of flying through the air. That was 4 years ago you say? Sigh. It's so cliche, but it does really go by in a blink of an eye.  

6 though? SIX? Losing teeth, riding a two-wheeler, skipping monkey bars, tall enough to go on water slides, reading, writing, SIX? You're a for real big kid now. In a couple of weeks you'll be done with kindergarten and you're already talking about how, when you are in first grade, you won't need me to walk to school with you anymore, because you'll be 6 and in first grade, and you know the way, and can do it all by yourself. I have zero doubts that you can, my fierce independent girl. But I can tell you, without a doubt, that there is no way Mommy will be ready for that kind of separation come fall,. Nope. So we'll just continue with the illusion that you need me for at least another year, okay? Great, thanks.

This year has been a year full of change and transition. Starting kindergarten, new town, new house new neighborhood. new school, new friends there has been SO MUCH NEW in the last year. Yet you honed your ability to adapt very early on and you've handled all the topsy-turvy chaos change brings with so much grace. I'm constantly in awe of you. "Don't worry Mom. It'll be fine Mom. I've got this Mom." You sure do kiddo.

Daddy and I are so proud to be your parents. Proud and profoundly lucky. You bring us so much joy and we will never stop being grateful that the three of us get to be a family. We love you. Forever and Always.

Happy 6 Emeline Joy!

May 27, 2016

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ann Arbor = Accessibility

Two words can describe how my visually-impaired self feels about our upcoming move to Ann Arbor.

Pubic transportation.

No wait. This call for all CAPS.


It is no secret that living in suburban Metro Detroit is incredibly difficult as a non-driver. Detroit's moniker as the Motor City never rang truer or felt more alienating as when I realized my vision loss would prevent me from driving.

I've written about this struggle time and time again and in several ways. While the hassle and challenge of my daily transportation needs are a giant pain in the ass, I am forever thankful for opportunities these have provided. I met my dearest friend because I needed a ride. I've gotten really good at forging friendships, building networks, and asking for help. When Uber expanded to Northern Oakland county, I got a taste of the independence I was missing.

But public transportation. Dude. I am not even sure I can wrap my head around this. Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority or "AAATA" or "TheRide" is going to change everything. There 3 bus stops within a quarter mile from our new house. The entire city is accessible to me for less than $60 a month.

Total. Game. Changer.

I don't expect this to be an easy transition. It's been almost 5 years since I've been on a bus and I'm still going to need to plan routes, timing, and transfers ahead of time. But within time, I fully expect, both Emy and I, to be as comfortable riding buses as we are calling Uber or my dear "chauffeurs."

Public Transportation. Can you imagine the stories I'll have to share?!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Big Changes are a Coming

It seems as if our house is always in a state of fluctuation and change. Perhaps this is the way that most couples feel, but I honestly believe there has never been a time where Josh and I looked at one another, sighed in boredom, and expressed a need to shake things up.  Big, earth-shattering, life-altering changes that come out of nowhere and tilt our world upside-down are kind of our norm.

We've become so accustomed to this periodic upheaval that we barely make an effort to fight the inevitable outcome beyond our control. At least we try not to. And, I dare say that while we may have even reached a place where we can generally roll with just about anything.

What we are not used to is slow, gradual, thought-out deliberate change. Change that is thought out, decided on, pursued, but involves a lot of patience. At least I am not good at this. I shouldn't speak for my husband on this matter, because he is a BIG PICTURE kind of guy, and can see the forest through the trees or whatever, so he doesn't have my tenancies towards feeling anxious and uneasy while we wait for the change to take place.

For the past 7 moths we've been in this ambiguous place between rolling with it and patiently waiting. Josh has been job-hunting and his search led to many possible positions all over the United States. From Texas, to Washington, to North Carolina, to Kentucky, to Minneapolis, it really seemed as if we would be moving out of state. 

The idea of moving to a large city both terrified and excited me. I was ready to embrace whatever adventure came our way, but I am a Michigan native and have never lived more than 30 miles from my parents. Since I was 5 years old I resided outside of Oakland County. I am a home-town girl. The principal that hired me for my first full-time teaching position was my Kindergarten teacher and several of my high-school classmates were either colleagues or parents of my future students. I relish the small-town feel of Rochester and the connections I feel with almost everyone I meet. Forget six-degrees of separation, in Rochester it's more like 2.

So when an opportunity came up for a position in Ann Arbor,  I (somewhat) selfishly encouraged Josh to go for it. I would have gotten behind any job or location that would be the best for our family, but this opportunity felt like a compromise to my homebody self.

But there was SO much WAITING before we heard anything. Although Josh was still working throughout this process, and was focusing on multiple opportunities at a time, the length of time we had to wait between interviews, call-backs, and decisions was agonizing to me.

Shocking to NO ONE - I am not the most patient person in the world. Especially, when I have no control over the change or the outcome.

But finally, at the beginning of October Josh received and accepted a job offer from the City of Ann Arbor! His position as Deputy Manager of Parks & Recreation officially began last week. Fans of the sitcom Parks & Rec will understand my complete delight in explaining that my husband is now the Leslie Knoppe of Ann Arbor! Feel free to congratulate him by sending framed pictures of the Notorious RBG, Hillary or even Amy Poehler to him! Or to me, because I get a bigger kick out of that joke than he does.

So while we are NO WHERE NEAR the end of the changes that our family will be going through this year - house-hunting, relocating to Ann Arbor, switching schools mid-year, dealing with a LONG commute in the meantime, etc.... I do feel as if Josh and I have regained control over the changes that will be occurring. Still difficult, but they shouldn't be as drawn-out and agonizing as the job search was. We are ready to roll with it and are looking forward to embracing life in Ann Arbor.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Picture Day

At first I was super embarrassed and upset I am a recovering perfectionist after all and still have the tenancy to feel very self-conscious and blame things like crooked pigtails on my low vision. But then I remembered the morning of Picture Day; Emy barely able to contain her excitement, not able to stop bouncing around long enough for me to do her hair. So impatient get to school that after the 3rd attempt to straighten the pigtails I deemed them, "good enough" and sent a bouncy, smiling five-year old out the door.

This is our reality and I am happy to have it captured in a photo.

Kindergarten September 2015

Seriously, how adorable is she?

This picture will serve as yet another reminder to myself that I have to let the little shit go. Crooked pigtails happen and sometimes they make the picture SO much better.