Writing for my own sanity – 11.11.2016

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In times like these, I have to write to understand my thoughts. It’s November, and I have been biking in the rain.  In the last few days that journey through the gray is the only thing that makes sense. I’m cold, but also hot from the exertion. My thighs are burning, the air smells of leaves. The river is low and there is a flock of swans that lord over the bike path. The sensations don’t quite add up.

I haven’t been able to eat since I heard the news. The only food that appeals is carrots. It’s the same feeling as grief, a pain in the stomach, the mind floating out of the body and not even observing anything. And I am alone in Germany. I am not in America where I can see it in the faces of my fellow citizens. I call my colleagues in Berlin, France, the UK, South Africa, and I am afraid of what they will say, but it is ok. “Populism is coming everywhere” they say. “I am sorry” they say. And I am sorry is the right thing to say. Because it is a loss.

And now that I have had two days in a fog of depression, I am peering out of the fog and trying to hold up my feelings and examine them. What have we lost? And I realize this process of asking, of holding it all up into the light, is something I have been taught my entire life.  I was raised in the liberal city of Seattle attending a Unitarian church that valued free thinking and the individual search for truth and meaning– and then offered the sanctuary for hosting training in non violent direct action training for the WTO protests. I was taught in diverse public schools and then I went to the Johnston Center at the University of Redlands, a small liberal arts college, where I designed my own major and was free to explore my creativity and grow as a writer and global citizen. In my first jobs with the Franciscans and the ELCA at the United Nations in New York, I learned about the profound history of churches in social action and the role that faith communities play in development and human rights of all people around the world. I walked the streets of New York City, met youth organizers from around the world, including my husband who is from Venezuela. I was fortunate to be a young professional in an organization that cared about my own personal development and growth, and gave me freedom to find my niche making an impact in international development. Then I moved to Germany, to follow my husband who is working at the UN Climate Change Convention. I have two children that are bi-cultural and speak three languages. In my free time, I  read global writers and listen to music in different languages. In my career as an executive search consultant for NGOs, I talk to people from all over the world on a daily basis, and I spend a lot of time thinking about what defines leadership for social change. In Germany, I have learned what it means to be an outsider, and to sit in a place where I can look at America from a distance.

So it is not that it is Trump. It is that every step of my life is at odds with what this campaign stood for. And as I hold it up in the light, it makes me realize just how fortunate I am to have grown up in this space and how grateful I am to my many mentors and teachers. And that my choices, which have not necessarily felt intentional, reflect a solid set of values that at this time I will now return too.  After she conceded, Wolf Blitzer said, “Hilary has her faith, she will go back to that.” He was so confident, I wanted to scoff.  But at times like these, our only choice is to go back to our values. I can go back to social justice teachings, to poetry, to songs, to looking at my own choices in the life I want to live. I want to bike. I do not want to buy a lot of fancy things. I want to have quality time with my children and instill in them the same sense of wonder for the world I have. I want to do work that is challenging and that makes the world a better place. I want to celebrate the richness of artists and writers from many backgrounds. This history and amazing cultural wealth is what makes me proud to be an American.

The night before I the results, I was watching what was the morning news and was buoyed by the energy from the Democratic party. They were already celebrating. I was surprised, they were so secure in their knowledge of what would happen, but it was infectious and it moved me more than I expected. I put my little girls to bed with tears in my eyes, thinking they would grow up in a world where a female president is normal. I set my alarm for 6am to check the results and then could not believe what I read. I called my Mother and used the F word.

The next day I watched Hilary’s concession speech and then Obama’s, with tears streaming down my face as my girls pranced around the living room in tutus, unaware. In the stages of grief, I was solid into depression and denial. I could not work. A candidate waited in Sudan for my call which never came. The next day, my colleagues told me it was time to move on and accept the results. That now was the time to be nice to each other. Bullshit.

That night I went out drinking. Stephen Colbert recommended it as a coping strategy and I would have to agree. Alcohol helped me to let go of depression and grab onto anger. I still cannot accept the results. Hilary won the popular vote. Every major city in the country -the drivers of innovation and economic growth- voted against Trump. I cannot accept this. But now just maybe I can move from depression, to anger, to action.  And it is not, oh, let’s look on the bright side. No. Let’s look at what we have. We have all the institutions that have come together throughout my entire my life to make me who I am — churches, schools, communities, non profits. We have three hundred years of history of brave leaders and cultural giants. We have new organizing power: through targeting corporations, through swaying public opinion and bringing on bad press. We have people who have mobilized this past year in new ways to stop the Keystone Pipeline and for Black Lives Matter. In recent years, these movements have been quietly investing in young leaders and new organizing techniques and there is a hell of a lot of ground work already laid.  States like California, New York, and Washington can set their own terms and craft progressive legislation. We have people in the streets right now, I am just sorry I can’t be one of them. We can do our damnedest to make it really hard for him to do what he wants to do.

And, we can set the bar high: Obama and Clinton have both graciously wished Trump the best in a way that displays that the president is to be a humble servant to the office. They are older than me and they are wiser, because if they treat him with this dignity, then maybe, just maybe, he will do the same.

So now I am going to get on my bike, and make my veggie meal, and take some time to read some poetry and even pray and dig deep into myself. And then I am going to donate to my favorite organizing groups and get prepared to pay attention, reconnect and get involved. Because this is not happening on my watch. It is my country too and I am not giving up on it. There is just too much at stake. 

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Happy New Year! and tales of a staycation

This year, New Year’s Eve felt like a social construct. My Mom and Steve had just left for Copenhagen after their nice long visit, and we were all home. Elena stayed up a bit later to see some early fireworks, so Lucia was not in bed until 11. I was too fried for revelry.  I took a bath. Then when it sounded like a war zone, I had to stop myself from running outside in my towel.  Germany loves its fireworks.

This Christmas we stayed home, and it was exactly what we needed.  It took me almost a week for the ache in my jaw to leave from work stress.  We hit the road with Mom and Steve exploring the local sites.  A staycation with visitor’s is the best because it still forces you to go out and about.  And then when they leave, laying around in your pjs feels extra sweet. We had plenty of time for making scones and coloring.

Getting cozy, guess who was asleep five minutes later?

Santa was here!

Even Obi is fun with Grandma

Luis was extra busy this year, with COP21 in Paris. We missed him, but for the first time, a meaningful climate deal was struck. It took a while for him to demobilize after the event. I hope being home is still exciting enough after a ‘regular day’ meant organizing joint events with the rapper Sean Paul and Ban Ki Moon.

Lucia has been difficult lately: not sleeping. If she can see my phone, she demands it. I was never a big believer in the terrible twos, but I could be convinced of the terrible 1.8s. She refuses to go to bed and can now catapult herself out of her crib. What can we do, tie her down? She regularly wakes up at 4am crying. It should be a comforting thought that next year at this time she should be sleeping much easier. Elena just marches her pajamas on, we read a book and voila, bedtime! A friend of mine threw a New Year’s party after her fellow 1.8 year-old went to bed.  If only.

At this time last year, Lucia was still crawling. I can hardly remember it. But I do remember that after Elena turned two, it was like I could finally lift my head up and look around. I guess it feels bittersweet, because this is our last year of Lucia as a baby.

Enjoying the view at the Zollverein in Essen, a repurposed coal processing plant

Modern art at the Zollverein

Eating an apple with Grandma in a tree trunk

Lucia’s favorite words:

  • apple juice, to be demanded at any time, mewed like a kitten
  • bus, as in the Wheels on the Bus, to be demanded at any time
  • TroTro a British cartoon about a donkey, 3 minute long.
  • and where would we be without: Mas and Nein!

Just this week she got: orange, donkey and Steve (sorry Grandma). Eleana’s new expression, when you ask her to wait for something: “but later is never ever over”.

While I would caution anyone with small children to save themselves from making resolutions, I cannot resist a small list:

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Help refugees in Germany
  • Open retirement account
  • Eat more sustainably
  • Run Hood to Coast
  • Color and play
  • Go to co-working space

The staycation has left the house a mess, but I feel at peace. I am incredibly grateful. These girls inspire me everyday. Wishing you love and happiness in 2016.

Too cute gotta go.

 

Happy New Year!

 

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Hearts and flowers, and lots of cleaning

The house smells like cloves. I need to rethink my spice storage, as Lucia was able to remove a jar of cloves and sprinkle it across the living room carpet.  At least it was not chili pepper.

We seem to be living simultaneously inside a valentine and the eye of a small hurricane.  As she gets closer to FIVE, Elena’s ideas are getting bigger and better.

Last Saturday, while I was cleaning one of the preschool classrooms as part of our “parent hours”, Elena together with her partner in crime Zaira, closed themselves in the Ponies’ bathroom.  While I scrubbed down the cabinets, they proceeded to empty 15 tubes of toothpaste. It was one of those situations where I needed to be mad, but I was laughing too hard.  Elena blamed Zaira, though it seemed to me it was her idea. The fumes from the bubble gum toothpaste were dizzying. While I cleaned that up, the girls ran outside and smeared sand across the windows. Clearly two heads are better than one.

Three days later when we arrived at preschool and Elena went to put on her house shoes, they were no where to be found. Zaira had dunked them in the toilet the day before. Was their pee? Yes there was, according to Elena, whose version of events is not reliable.

Last night Elena asked me, Mama, when you sleep do you dream of two little girls?  Why yes I do.  I dream of hearts and flowers. Every day she cuts out paper hearts and Lucia helps her distribute them across the house.

And of course, car rides are great places for conversation. Are mermaids shy? Um yes.  Are pegasus very shy?  Definitely.

Lucia also has a lot to add to the conversation. She keeps up a steady stream of baby talk and can sing little songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Frere a Jacque”.  We can hear her repeating the rhythms of songs and conversation, she is just one stage before words. Her top words are shoes, coco (cookie), agua and Ana! (Elena). As I write this, she is  taking a nap while clutching a tiny orange pumpkin.

I find that it helps to think of housecleaning in a yoga-like fashion: do not get attached to where you are in the pose. In fact, this is a useful idea for much of my life right now.

In other words, just hold on and enjoy the ride.

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Today at 35

It is very hot in Germany: 38 degrees or 87 F.

After a crazy morning of painting a secret present for Papa, we went to lunch with the abuelos at the biergarten. Elena has already told Luis what the surprise is three times even though I told her not to.

After arriving in Bonn after four weeks in the US, everyone except Lucia promptly got sick for one week. We are all still coughing.

We returned to find that caterpillars have eaten all the bushes in our garden. I bought a sunflower, and within two days they ate that too. There is a plague in my yard and I don’t know what to do.

My I-phone 6 was last seen by Elena on a plane from Seattle to Chicago. The true loss is two weeks of photos of my family on Whidbey island.

Because my doorbell does not work, I got two “we missed you” slips for a new phone and flowers from Katja. Then I cried.  Then two hours later, DHL came back. It was a birthday miracle.  But the phone is still not working yet so I don’t know if anyone called me for my birthday.

The girls have been out of childcare for six weeks. I’m questioning my sanity. At some point I will be googling “motherhood self-care”.

After sleeping with us for most of her life, I finally set-up Lucia’s bed in Elena’s room.  Now every night when I go to sleep, I feel a small aching hole next to me.  But it is usually filled between 5-7am again.

Lucia is getting 4 new molars. She carries a baby doll named Petrika everywhere. Sometimes Elena takes it and they fight for it. This is a key childhood milestone.

I got a massage today. This was a brilliant move and a weight has briefly been lifted from my shoulders.

Thanks to Lucia, we cannot find: the remote, my old I-phone, a brand new purple marker bought for the creation of Papa’s secret present and one of my shoes.

While I write this, the girls have free range with the hose in the yard and have dumped a carton of dirt into their kiddie pool.  Elena has given Lucia an involuntary shower and she is looking at me like what the hell happened?.

Luis and I have a date tonight.

Now I can run for president.

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Thanks to Manuel for this great rare family pic.

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Happy Birthday Lucia, you are one and Spring is here

Lucia is now one and she does not want me to blog. Or if I do, it must be only with one hand while I hold her. She got sick on Friday, and but we went and had the party anyway on Saturday. Her teething is the worst it has ever been, so I couldn’t put her down today and Elena took the opportunity to give herself a hair cut.

You did what?!

I think this was inspired by her theatre debut as a Spinnen in “Unter Guerillas,” a live, big band dance show in St. Augustin. We went to two dress rehearsals this week, and Elena even wore lipstick! (She was supposed to wear mascara, but that was not happening.)

Her costume was her black tutu and her hair in eight braids — she was a spider. No bangs allowed, they were pinned up quite ceremoniously. And this is what I think inspired the haircut. Since she did it at 7pm on a Sunday after Lucia had been crying for two hours, it was just too absurd to get mad about. Luis and I had to hide our faces so she couldn’t see us laughing. We will have plenty of time to discuss why this was not a good idea while her hair grows back.

The spider dance was so great that I just had to stop myself from crying, or I would miss it, since it was only about two minutes long. Elena looked so small compared to all those big girls. We think she is a natural, she looked totally comfortable up there in the front.

Kleine Spinnen. Proud Papa.

Anyhow, back to the birthday girl.  March 21 has come and gone.  A first birthday for a mommy is a special celebration. After just one year, I can still easily remember exactly what I was doing the day she was born. I was not resting, as one really should be doing. I had worked in the morning and then went to a spouse luncheon where everyone teased me that I was going to give birth right then. Then I went to get the keys for the apartment rental for Luis’ parents, and had to run so I didn’t get a parking ticket. I made Desirae come with me. Then I got home at 4pm and the contractions started. By 10:50pm, Lucia had arrived and I could not believe that it was already over, since it was so much easier than Elena’s 33 hour marathon. I remember leaving the house for the first few times with her, walking out into the first sunny days of Spring.

It’s amazing what happens in a year. Now she is standing, playing with her sister, calling Mama, and eating grapes and arepas.  I have been part of a baby group this past year, and I have really appreciated having these women in my life going through the same thing.  Having a baby is a unique time in your life: difficult, profound, joyful, boring, tiring. Everything should slow down (not that I am very good at that), and going through this journey, intentionally, with other women has been very special.  Even after a day like today, which has actually been one of Lucia’s worst days ever, my arms and boobs are aching, and she is finally sleeping, and will probably wake up soon again… I just want to look at pictures of her.

We had a great party, and I planned a mini-Easter egg hunt despite the rain for the little kids. They were such girls about it, it was very funny, they were totally slow and cooperating and helping each other find eggs. No one raced around.

Do you need help finding eggs?

Lucia slept half her party, but everyone else kept it going, making sure just about every toy we own was played with and every Frozen sticker stuck.

Between the party, the dancing and the chocolate eggs lying around, Elena has been flying high. She has entered the phase where she doesn’t stop talking, and based on the family history I expect this to last for some time.

We love you Lucia. Keep Growing.

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The days are long but the years are short

Saturday morning random thoughts:

This is sleeping in.  I awake at 8am to someone hovering over me breathing loudly. “Elena, go get the I-pad”. One hour more of sleep, then banana waffles, dance party, and by 12:37 the house is thoroughly trashed.  This weekend we have to do volunteer hours for Carousel, Elena’s preschool, so I will spend four of my “free” hours cleaning the gymnasium.

Lucia is a “kleine crabbler” and she is fast. Her favorite thing is to stand up in her high chair which is totally death-defying.

Lucia in the basket with Ella.

Elena likes to write letters to her friend Isini that we never send. We made at least 40 Valentines and sent them around the world. The cats in Seattle were especially pleased to get some mail.

I read a very complex article in the New Yorker about the brain science of psychedelic drugs.  They have studied which parts of the brain are active when you are tripping on LSD, and basically it is the same part of the brain that children use the most.  The point of the article was that when used in safe and controlled environment, psychedelics can help cancer patients find the big picture and make peace with their lives. But I keep thinking about what it means that children are always on this level. But that was only a small part of the article.

Even fairies need naps now and then.

Something I would never post on Facebook : You know you are parent when you get puked on and go back to bed.

We are still a totally Pony household.

What’s for lunch?

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Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas

Birthday! Christmas! Abuelos! Crawling! How many exclamation points can one blog handle?  And, I must say, it is a lot for one mama to handle as well.  I just learned that the U.S. Ambassador to the Security Council, one of my personal heroes, Samantha Power, has two small children.  When she was confirmed by the Senate, she had a 14-month old.  Talk about having it all: can you imagine negotiating a ceasefire in Syria after a long night of teething? Absolutely not.

I can’t say the last two months have been easy. Luis was in Peru for COP20 for most of December, and before that he was super busy getting ready for the meeting.  We seem to be passing the same cold back and forth going on six weeks now, and though there is lots of crying, there is not a tooth in sight. I was prepared to spend the long holiday season at the christmasmarkts, but they flew by and I only ate 12 poffertjes.  Anyhow, enough of that: Elena is Four.

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Luis came back on Elena’s birthday, bearing gifts of llamas and wool hats, and we had a birthday party the following Saturday.  We had kids from her old school (English) and her new school (Spanish and German), so it was quite a multilingual fiesta.  I caught myself struggling to translate instructions for Red Light Green light in the muddy yard.

We had an amazing custom made Twilight Sparkle cake and we sang Happy Birthday in three languages, which gave Elena plenty of time to try to blow out the candles (maybe next year). Later I caught her on the phone speaking German.  She said she was calling Santa.

This is the first time since she was born that we have been in our own house for Christmas, and it has been nice to be home.  It is also the first year Elena really got excited about Santa, though she is already sharp: she asked me if Santa borrowed my wrapping paper.

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All for me!

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Someone help me move this so I can get to the tree!

In the process, we have gone from owning one princess to possessing an entire Playmobil empire.  We gave Elena the dollhouse for her birthday (only three hours of assembly required), and the kitchen set for Christmas (they are setting your expectations here early about the kitchen being sold separately).  She also received the toy store set and we enjoyed 24 days of Playmobil in an Advent calender.  The house is so cool that you’re gonna find me playing with it when they’re in bed (just kidding, they are never in bed).

In other news, today I saw the most important painting in breastfeeding history at the local bundeskunsthalle.  All the way from the National Gallery in London,

The Origin of the Milky Way (Tintoretto)

The Origin of the Milky Way, by Joseph Tintoretto.  It’s hard to see the milk shooting in the picture, but it looks great in person.

According to myth, the infant Heracles was brought to Hera by his half-sister Athena, who later played an important role as a goddess of protection. Hera nursed Heracles out of pity, but he suckled so strongly that he caused Hera pain, and she pushed him away. Her milk sprayed across the heavens and there formed the Milky Way. With divine milk, Heracles acquired supernatural powers.

Now that’s Breastfeeding power!

Happy New Year everyone.  Catch you in 2015.

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