On the Importance of the Pose

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Shortly before we left Brazil I was sitting around the lunch table when a colleague mentioned how important it is to be aware of the transitions of life, particularly those that involve leaving one place and moving onto another. She said, “Remember that leaving is like a yoga pose. You want to be as thoughtful and intentional getting out of the pose as you are getting into the pose.”

In that moment I didn’t fully understand what she meant. It was our first overseas stop and I was just excited to be heading off on a new adventure. I was sad to be leaving friends but I fully believed the move was going to be good for our family. Everything on the horizon was shinier and brighter than the present.

For me, getting out of Brazil was anything but thoughtful and intentional. It was awkward and messy. I was happy when I should have been sad, standoffish when I should have with friendly, and disconnected when I should have been sentimental. Despite Brazil holding such a special place in my life, I have almost no fond memories from our final months in Brazil.

Everything about that transition felt wrong.

It’s easy to convince yourself that if you just build momentum and push yourself through the movement to the next pose, or life event, you will be stronger, more balanced, and more beautiful.

But that can’t be the truth. We can’t rush through the less attractive and more uncomfortable places in life just to move on to the next big moment. We can’t rush to the destination and miss the journey.

Taking the transition slowly, strengthening and flexing each move intentionally, will carry us further than the momentum alone. It will make the next pose that much more beautiful.

We have three and a half more months in India. We’re beginning the process of transitioning to our next stop. There are so many things that require our attention and focus on the future. My hope is that I can move from this pose to the next not just with ease, but with intention. I want to spend time with those who are a part of our life here, say the goodbyes to our favorite people and places, and build a strong foundation for our new life in Doha.

And this time, maybe this time, I can move from this pose to the next with the thought and intention that will not only carry me to the next place but help me embrace the beauty of the in-between along the way.

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Quality Time

I took my Sophie to get her nails done yesterday afternoon. One of my goals this month was to take each child on at least one individual outing so that we could have some sweet uninterrupted time. Sophie was first on the list for many reasons, the least of which is she’d been begging me to take her for a pedicure for months.

Nine, I’m learning, is a funny age. Sophie’s precariously straddling the world between child and tween (I hate that word and yet I don’t know what other one to use). Her sense of humor is strange to all of us but her close friends, and her emotional buttons are triggered with little warning.In short, these days she can be hard to figure out. I was hoping a few hours by ourselves would be helpful in bridging this gap.

We had a good time. Lots of chatting and though Sophie’s humor seemed to appear in the strangest of moments, we enjoyed each other. On our way home we swung by the mall to pick up Paul, Noah and Stella. While we were waiting for them to come out Sophie turned pale and shaky. In a matter of minutes she’d become quiet and withdrawn and it was clear something was wrong. Once she said “I don’t feel so good,” I pulled her out of the car. And just in time.

Poor thing spent the rest of the afternoon and evening laying on the couch or bathroom floor. Her whimpering and shaking took me to that dark mother place where you can do nothing but hold her hair and rub her back to help.

As we laid in bed just before sleep last night Sophie said, through her broken and hoarse voice, that there was one thing she liked about being sick. She said the only good thing was that when you were sick you could see how much your family loved you.

And in that moment I recognized that as fun and important as dates with each child can be, it is really more the time in between-the packing lunches, the tuck ins, and the holding hair moments that define my relationship with each of them.

At the end of a rough day it wasn’t the fun nails, or the time without her little sister, or the treat from the deli that Sophie treasured. It was simply that when it counted,
I held her hair back.

And that alone is enough to keep me going.

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I Wonder

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I wonder they’ll remember their life here.

The people. The smells. The pieces of culture that sneak their way in to our daily lives.

The rickshaws. The street dogs. The bumpy roads.

The never ending flights. The temples. The beaches.

The heat and the rains. The dust and the dirt.

The first mangoes of the season.

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Or perhaps it will remain buried underneath her thoughts.

Like an urban legend waiting to be proven.

As if it never happened at all.

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This week was the winner, handily beating me without much of a fight.

School was incredibly full-we worked a half day on Saturday and managed to host three different artists throughout the week. That led to packed days and exhausted evenings. I coped with this craziness by deciding NOT to run this week (when will I ever learn?!) and going to bed by 9 pm every night. I’ve been in a terrible mood and I’m hoping a weekend of rest and relaxation will be just what I need to recalibrate.

And so here, in rapid succession, are the seven quick takes from our week:

Sophie celebrated her ninth birthday! Around Christmas Paul and I agreed we wanted to scale back the birthday parties and focus more on family parties than friend parties. Sophie took the news quite well, but I was unsure how she’d feel when her day arrived. A few days before her birthday she decided she wanted to have our friends over for penne a la vodka and blueberry pie. We enjoyed an early dinner together and then she had one friend spend the night. It was very low key, but I think she still had a great day and felt very loved.

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In addition to Sophie’s birthday, we also had our last Festival of Nations at school. It was a bittersweet day to see the kids walk in their last parade at this school. As it’s been every year, Noah walked for the U.S.A. and Soph and Stella for Brazil. I was almost convinced we’d have three kids walking for three different countries this year, but Stella decided to embrace her Brazilian roots. It always amazing to see the whole school gathered representing a ridiculous number of countries and religions together.IMG_7989

Even with this internet thing, I still manage to be so far behind everything important. I just discovered Audrey Assad this week. I can’t tell you the number of times I blasted her songs through my ear buds all through my lunch just so I could make it through the afternoon. Listening to this is like one long exhale and I’m only disappointed it took me this long to find her.

Stella and I went to mass this week. It was our first time attending our local church. It all felt a bit intimidating and there were quite a few stares since there aren’t very many (if any) other expats. Especially ones with long blonde hair. Stella sat patiently through the whole thing and got the promised rickshaw ride back home.

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In just over a month Paul and I leave for Italy. Back when we thought we might be heading back to the US for good we decided we should book one last international trip. We booked Rome, Florence and Venice and then decided to stay overseas. So we’ve got big plans for our kids (spring intersessions at school), our reliable nanny, and hopefully enough wine to wash away the guilt of leaving them behind for a week.

Floating around Facebook today I learned that Qatar was the 19th most peaceful country in the world and the most peaceful country we will have ever lived in (the U.S., Brazil and India didn’t even make the list). Seven months or so until we move to the desert!

Finally, the Superbowl. Uh. So disappointing. As part of a self-protecting mechanism Noah’s already moved on to baseball season. Fingers crossed for next year.

Linking up with Kelly from This Ain’t the Lyceum to share the fascinating details of our week.

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The Mundane and the Magical

Last week I came in just before bedtime after an evening with friends. Stella and I had just settled down to read a book on Hammerhead Sharks when, in an effort to research the differences between sharks and dolphins, we feel down the rabbit hole that is the internet. We ended up rereading so many of our blog entries from our time in Brazil. The funny videos of the kids speaking Portuguese, the baby pictures of Stella, and even the seemingly unremarkable details of our life in Sao Paulo held us captive way past our normal bedtime routine. I didn’t fret over the pointlessness of a post or the imperfections in the photographs,
I simply enjoyed looking back on whatever little moments I managed to capture.

Lately this space has felt paralyzing. I have so much doubt about whether or not it is worth it to even share the thoughts that swirl through my head. I often stare at the screen and think “Who cares?”. But the truth is this space, this narrative of our lives in this place and time, becomes so much more precious in hindsight. The way words can capture a moment and a photograph freeze my children is so distinctive. Like so many others, I write to figure out what I’m thinking, what is important to me and what I fear. Beyond that, the words are just balloons I’ve set off into the sky-never knowing where they will land.

I’ve set a goal of writing in this space at least three times a week. Some of it will only be of interest to the grandparents, some of it only to faraway friends, and perhaps most of it to no one at all. Nonetheless, I will keep writing so that someday we can look back with fondness over these mundane and magical days.

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This morning Stella and I took a rickshaw back from mass. It was a two minute ride and certainly nothing remarkable here in India, but she loved every minute of it.

The January Rhythm

I have never been a particularly good dancer. Or even a dancer at all.

There was a short period of time when I was convinced I was the next Debbie Gibson. I put on shows for my family in my bedroom, but even I realized my energy was misplaced and gave up on that dream quickly. I took to the stage exactly once after the age of 10. In seventh grade I gave my Hollywood dreams one last shot and belted out a horrible but heartfelt rendition of “Stand By Me” for the Middle School musical. It was clear to all that wasn’t where my talents lay.

I spent my teens and twenties content to be a listener rather than a producer of music. The exception was my babies. Their midnight bouts of crying inspired many spontaneous songs and rhymes in a most often failed attempt to quiet them.

When I became an early childhood teacher I quickly learned that singing was part of the gig. I knew all the benefits of songs and rhymes, but my years of silence made it difficult to lead even the most basic song with my four and five year olds. Last year I had the opportunity to participate in some professional development focused on music. I pushed myself to go knowing that it was an important part of my teaching and a definite hole in my repertoire.

It was a long, difficult weekend for me. Those that are musically inclined probably find it laughable that those 48 hours caused me so much grief, but man, were they stressful. Assessments of my improvisation skills, basic music competence, and ability to lead a group song confirmed everything I knew about my {lack of} musical skills.

I tried. I imitated my peers as best I could. I clapped when they clapped, though perhaps a second or two behind, I followed the teachers’ directions, and when all else failed I tried to fake it. I smiled and moved and ignored the strangling feeling in the pit of my stomach.

So much of January reminds me of that music class. Getting back into the work and school routine makes me feel awkward and out of sync. I am doing my best to follow along, but I keep losing the beat. I find myself looking at my colleagues-imitating their movements in an attempt to look as if I am keeping time just the fine, but the truth is I feel exhausted and I would like to bow out of the whole song.

I know it gets better. I’ll find the words I need. First I’ll join in on the chorus and later grow brave enough to lead my own song.

Until then, I’ll just fake it.

Hello Monday

Several times over the last few years I’ve participated in Lisa Leonard’s Hello Monday posts. These posts are meant to encourage us to greet the new week with an open heart and a fresh perspective. I love the idea that you can begin again each week.

Sometimes though, life calls for a bigger beginning on a Monday. Sometimes we have to accept that there are parts of ourselves that we need to acknowledge, say hello to, and welcome in to our lives.

Today marks the beginning of the second semester of the year. Our first week back at work. I have three new children joining our classroom community. We’re starting our final months in India. There are plenty of wonderful things to say hello to this morning.

However, this week I need to crack open my heart a little bigger for my hellos. Sweep all the pieces of myself that I so often try to bury deep in the depths and gather them up in my palm. For these pieces, and all the rest of me I offer up my hellos.

Hello to gentle words swirling on repeat in my head. Let them be heard and accepted.

Hello to a smile following the inevitable mess ups in the week. Let me recognize my humanity.

Hello to the chaos of raising little ones. Let me embrace all of it.

Hello to a loyal and steadfast husband. Let me appreciate him.

And the biggest hello of all to new habits. Let me garner the energy to keep these hellos fresh in my mind daily. To give them their necessary place in heart and keep them at the forefront of my actions.

And let us begin again. Happy Monday.