A Legacy of Goodness

I believe in Karma.

The word Karma comes from Eastern religions such as Hindu and Buddhism. The literal translation is “action” or “deed,” but it is understood as that which causes an entire cycle of cause and effect. Although its origins are ancient, it has been solidified in popular culture as a single word to imply–you get what you give, you reap what you sow, or for those (like me) who speak fluent Beatles; in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

This philosophy makes perfect sense to me. I believe deep within my core that everything we do (and even think) has an invisible force or energy attached to it. I believe that energy affects the entire world in ways we will probably never understand.

When my first child was born I decided to jump through hoops and endure the extra blood tests so that I could donate the stem cell enriched, umbilical cord blood to a local university. I did this for three reasons. The first, is because I believe in modern science and its abilities to save lives. I know that the stem cells found in umbilical cord blood are some of the very best for people who need stem cell transplants for cancers like leukemia. My greatest hope was that this byproduct of the birthing process would give someone else a second chance at life, and that was essentially my second reason–a wish, really. I hoped that the biological tether that tied me and my daughter together, the thread that gave her life could be woven back into all of life’s fabric as something positive, renewing, and life-sustaining; that the moment she entered this world, she would be a force for good, an act of kindness, an energetic spark of good deeds and good karma.

This year my daughter turned three and I threw her a butterfly themed birthday party.  I ordered live caterpillars from an online company three weeks prior to her party. Over those three weeks we watched them grow into fat caterpillars, form their chrysalids, and then emerge as butterflies. At her party, in spite of the grabby, sugar-fueled grasps of toddlers, we released them safely into the sky. It was an impossibly adorable, highly memorable moment that left the girls in awe.

We also had a pinata, face-painting and butterfly-shaped snack bags. It was all a little indulgent for a three-year-old but you’re only three once, right? In the midst of the frantic preparations I ran to the store for last-minute items. When I got there, there were teenagers out front collecting food for a local charity supporting homeless families. Although I was in a rush, I took their flyer with a smile and promptly shoved it to the bottom of my overflowing handbag.

As I darted up and down the aisles I was struck by a profound thought; a whisper in my ear, really. One of those moments of shear clarity. Here I was buying organic blueberries for rainbow-colored fruit skewers for a gaggle of three-year-olds who were probably only going to eat the cupcakes anyway, when there were entire families in need of basic things like toothbrushes and soap. I bought the soap. I also bought many other items on their list.

As mothers often do on their childrens’ birthdays, I had been remembering the day my daughter was born. I remembered the first donation made in her honor; the spark of good, the act of kindness. I decided then and there that this was going to be our family tradition.

Each year, on my children’s birthdays, we are going to find a way to give back. We are going put forth a conscious effort to honor the gifts we have been given in this world by giving of ourselves to others. We are going to give, sow, create and produce positive energy and good karma.

Later that day when the five butterflies fluttered away above our heads and into the sky I said a silent prayer. I prayed that the good deed of donating food to those in need, and the action of caring for and releasing the little butterflies into the world, would find its way back to us, to my daughter, really. And when it did, she would continue to do more good deeds and perform greater acts of kindness. That as a family we could create a never-ending circle of giving and getting love in the world.

Isn’t that what every parent wants for their child? A legacy of goodness?   (click to tweet)

Yes. I believe that everything we do matters. And even if we never understand the reason, there is always a reason. Because I believe Sir McCartney when he sings, In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

And if you’re wondering what my third reason for donating the umbilical cord blood was… recycling. I also believe in recycling.

It’s good karma.

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Wanting What Doesn’t Exist

I need space to think. I know this about myself. I need time to reflect, to ponder, to remember over and over and over the reasons why what I’m doing is important. I need time to untangle the thoughts and emotions that twist like vines in my head, and to do this, I need moments to breath and just be.

And then after I get those moments, I need to connect with other people about them. This helps me not to feel alone and/or crazy.

I need these things a lot to feel good about myself.

The pace of my current life is not allowing for this luxury, and I do believe it is a luxury. The pace of my current life is: Hurry up! Stop that! Let’s go! We’re late! I need this! I want that! (And my least favorite) I’m hungry!

Some weeks my mother-in-law comes over and watches the kids for several hours. For this I am eternally grateful. I just “hired” my 12-year-old neighbor to come over for three hours on Tuesday so that I might have a little time to myself. My husband helps out a lot when he gets home from work and of course on weekends but it is always a joint effort. We get the occasional, and very rare, afternoon to ourselves with the help of my in-laws. Most of the time, if I leave the house at all, there are one or two small people strapped into a car seat behind me.

All of this is to say that for the majority of my week, I am in my house and it is a one woman show.

The constant busyness and the inability to just be is causing a big problem in my life. I’m short with my husband. I snap at the slightest provocation and I’m quick to attack the most minor of infractions. I’m impatient with my kids. I’m resentful and unappreciative of gifts I’ve been blessed with and above all, it is that feeling I hate the most. Because I am blessed and I don’t like taking that for granted for one second… and yet I do.

I don’t like any of these things but I’m at a loss for what to do about it? Short of magically extending the 24 hour clock and figuring out a way to operate on no sleep I don’t know if a remedy exists in this moment in time. As I write this it is 11pm and I should be getting ready for bed. But I’m not.

Because I need this.

I also need to show up for my family everyday. Cleaning, cooking and fulfilling every major (and minor) need of these three people are not always what I want to be doing, and yet, it is what I have to do no matter what, and it is that part, the “no matter what” part that is my biggest problem.

It doesn’t matter if I feel disconnected with myself. It doesn’t matter that my head is cluttered with thoughts and emotions I can’t name because I’m too busy to name them. And because I can’t name them, they come out in the form of my de facto emotion, anger. It doesn’t matter that sometimes I want to scream for no reason because the over-growth stifles me. It doesn’t matter that all I want to do is read or write a goddamn paragraph but instead I’m cutting up strawberries into bite-sized pieces. It just doesn’t matter.

I know there’s a deeper lesson in all of this. I know that the discipline, the delayed gratification and the sacrificial dedication has an ultimate purpose. I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life at this very moment and I know there are profound and important reasons for all of it, some of which I do not yet know. I know that my life is intrinsically better for doing all these things but those reasons are buried like roots deep among the bedrock and my head is all too often in the clouds.

I also know that having roots are the most important things.

I know this, but it doesn’t stop me from gazing longingly up to the highest branches and wondering what the view must look like from up there. Is the air sweeter? The sun, warmer? The breeze, light?

And of course, I know too, that it’s not.

In fact, I know that it doesn’t even exist.

This post was linked to The Extraordinary Ordinary blog for Just Write.

Needful Things

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this (so when has that stopped me?) but the biggest shock I received when I became a new parent was how needy newborns were. Crazy right? Like I totally should have known this going into to it. Like, of course you dumbass what did you expect a Golden Retriever? On an intellectual level, I suppose I did know this, but I also think it’s one of those you can’t really know until you live it.

The neediness of my newborn equated to zero time for myself. This single fact struck through the center of my life like a lightening bolt on a clear sunshine day.

I think the longer you wait to have kids, the bigger this shock is to your system. I was 31 when I had my first. By this relatively average maternal age I was already quite accustomed to coming and going as I pleased. I regularly slept 8-9 hours a night. If I wanted, I could stay out until 1am on a “school night” and suffer no long-term repercussions. I went to the gym, read magazines, made a phone call and used the restroom all with relative ease, minimal planning and zero guilt.

That life was all I knew and when it came to a screeching halt, there was a bit of sadness and fear involved.

Sometime during the haze of the first week after giving birth is when this crushing reality came baring down on me because I chose to breastfeed. I chose to breastfeed because I believe in the benefits. I still do. But I could also care less what anyone else does. I’m not a fanatic about it and I totally understand why some moms choose not to go this route. The major drawback of breastfeeding, as I see it, is that this singular choice makes everything that much harder. It’s throws another thing on the pile to figure out as if you didn’t already have enough unknowns in your life. When you breastfeed, every feeding is not just about the baby and their need to eat, it’s always about you, too, and your need to get said eats out of said boobs.

Breastfeeding means that you are always on call and there is no other person on the planet who can take your place. If I wasn’t physically feeding my baby I still had to address the situation one way or another, and no matter how much I may have wanted my husband to take over “just this once.” It wasn’t possible. Ever.

The moment I realized this, I was devastated. I know that’s a big word to use for this situation, but in my sleep-deprived, hormonal, emotional, new parent state, it was, quite frankly, like hearing my world had ended and my new reality was one of complete servitude. I was now on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no breaks, no excuses. Ever.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and with this clarity of vision I realize this feeling was overblown just a tad, but I also know why it felt this way at the time.

I felt this way because I had no idea how fast newborns turn into babies, babies into toddlers, and toddlers into back-talking children. You just don’t know until you are watching your own kids grow up. How can you know something like this until you experience it for yourself?

This week I had one of those memory searing moments when you realize just how fast your child has grown. During a walk in a local park my three-year-old daughter stopped to pet a dog. When the nice owner bent down to introduce her dog to my daughter, they had a conversation… like a real, completely comprehensible conversation that went something like this:

Owner: “Do you have a doggie?”

Brooke: “No, no, I just have kitties.”

Owner: “I always wanted a doggie so I got this one when I got a house.”

Brooke: “But where do you live?”

Owner: “I live over there, not far. Where do you live?”

Brooke: “I live down the street.”

And just like that my throat was full of sentimental lumps.

I have always been her communication conduit. In her broken toddler speak it was I that translated her wishes to the world. When she pointed to the moon and said unintelligible things like “wittez,” I was the only one who knew she was saying “witches.” When she saw something at the store that matched up with something we talked about at home, I knew what she was thinking and I answered her question before she knew how to ask it. I was her mind-reader, her primary translator, her language semi-conductor.

Watching her carry on this conversation with a total stranger made me realize that she didn’t need me for that anymore. From here on out, she was good with making her own conversations. Those lumps left a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth.

Slowly, over time, the bottomless well of need abates, sometimes imperceptibly. Just when you complete and/or master one thing, a crop of different needs, issues, milestones come up with different ways in which your are forced outside of your comfort zone. The cycle feels endless.

But at some point you get used to it– the change, the need, the challenge. And just when you do, it folds back onto itself and all over you like a rogue wave or some alternate universe–like an M.C. Escher optical illusion.

That same sad feeling I had when I realized the endless void of need of my newborn–came back around for the very opposite reason– because I was no longer needed.

There is a biting sense of loss in moments like this. I have keep reminding myself that I’m not losing her and the reason she doesn’t need me is because I gave her what I had, when she needed me most.

If I can hold on to the sweetness of that, while beating back the bitter, what a wonderful, endless circle of giving and letting go I can leave her with. Something she can use wherever she goes, and with whom ever she speaks to.

Round, and round, and round…

Synonyms for Love

Synonyms for Love

Synonyms for Love

It’s a rainy afternoon when the boredom gives way to silliness and Daddy wrestles with Daughter on the floor while Baby Boy claps his hands and squeals wildly making Mommy grow sudden tears.

It’s the recognition that Your whole world sits in front of You on a small square of stained carpet. The most precious piece of carpet You’ve ever known.

It’s the first time Daughter says “thank you” to a stranger without Mommy’s prompt making Mommy gulp down a lump in her throat.

It’s the recognition that the monotonous repetition of Your days have a purpose. To raise kind, thoughtful, benevolent humans.

It’s the anticipation of a Family vacation–focused time on each other without the distractions of laundry and schedules and errands.

It’s watching Daddy take Daughter by the hand to explore a new and unfamiliar things like sand, sticks, worms and wildflowers and then watching raptured delight spread across Daughter’s face at seeing these things.

 It’s a delight that reminds You of how wonderous this world can be if seen through right eyes.

It’s an enlightening conversation on the virtues of the color red.

It’s pliable, hyper-extended fingers with palms reaching up for You.

It’s Baby Boy babble.

It’s a fall into a couch at the end of a long day, catching Your breath and then losing it again while you laugh Together about the funny things Daughter said and Baby Boy did.

It’s the inside jokes born from those funny things.

It’s watching bonds between Siblings sprout roots through laughter and play and sitting side by side in car seats and strollers.

It’s the near constant proximity to each other and feeling safety in that closeness.

It’s not having to question what You feel while sitting in crumb filled chairs eating familiar dinners around a Family table with assigned seats.

It’s not questioning any of these things as the purpose and reason for everything there ever was.

It’s knowing that everyday, even the bad ones, are synonyms for Love.

It’s knowing, without question or doubt or reason, where You belong, that You matter, and that the whole of You is so much greater than Your parts.