commenting on the duggars.

I didn’t think I was going to have to do this.  And suddenly, I find that I must. I have seen numerous comments and opinions written about Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar’s photo of their daughter and now I must weigh in.

For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t know their names until recently) Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar are the parents of 19 (21 if you count accurately and include the 2 babies they lost) children and the focus of the reality show “19 kids and counting” (or something like that? I’ve never seen the show.)  They recently lost their 21st child in Michelle’s second trimester, what some call a miscarriage, and others, a stillbirth.  The family decided to have photos taken of their daughter, and proceeded to post them to their FB and Twitter accounts.  The one I saw was beautiful.  They were holding tiny Jubilee’s feet with the words “No footprints are too small to leave an impression.” (I might be paraphrasing – it was something like that.) And it was precious.

Since that time people have felt it their responsibility to announce that the photos were distasteful, inappropriate, disgusting, and as I read this morning…a publicity stunt.  People have said things to the effect of “They have 19 kids. They didn’t need to do this.  They shouldn’t have posted those pictures. Obviously, it is for publicity.”  That, my dear readers, is what made me so angry this morning that I decided I had to write as well, for whatever it is worth!  Who in the world are other people to tell them how to grieve?  Who in the world are other people to offer up their opinions about how a family should honor the life they lost?  Obviously, these people with all the opinions have never lost a baby.  Excuse my language, but WTF?  Yes, they have 19 blessings to be grateful for, but that does not take away from the fact they lost THIS baby.  Are they supposed to not acknowledge a new life, simply because they already have many? Jubilee Shalom Duggar was a being who for whatever reason chose to be here for a very short time. It is only right to honor her, and her family can honor her in whatever way they wish.  Good for them for taking those photos.

I have lost two babies. And it was exactly these kinds of attitudes from society that prompted me to write a book to guide women through the grief after pregnancy loss.  Our culture is death-denying – we are told to package it up in little box inside ourselves and put it away somewhere, so as not to upset the normalcy of life.   Well, death is a part of life, and the death of a baby is a particular sort of pain that perhaps only those who have gone through it know how intense and awful it can be.  I wrote my book in hopes that a) it helps other women through a lonely grieving process and b) that it opens up some dialogue about this topic.  Pregnancy loss happens so very often – yet there are hardly words available to discuss it.  I, for one, applaud the Duggars for making their grief public.  Our society would benefit from pausing and taking time out to actually feel.

My book, There Was Supposed to be a Baby: A Guide to Healing after Pregnancy Loss should be available this summer.  In the meantime, if you’d like to be updated on it’s progress, you can “like” it on Facebook – .  There will soon be a website, blog, and Twitter (Yes…Twitter…not my thing, but oh well!) account as well.  At times I have wondered if all the hard work involved in creating this book is worth it – and then I read jackass comments that this family shouldn’t be making such a big deal out of their miscarriage, and I realize just how important it is.  It is important for grieving families, essential that our culture start to recognize the very real pain of pregnancy loss, and only right that we honor these tiny beings who come into our world and leave too quickly.

Duggar family, if you are for some reason reading this, thank you.  I hope more people take your lead and share their grief.

Whew. I feel much better getting that off my chest.  And now, may I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa, Joyous Festivus, and a Blessed New Year (and anything else you might celebrate)!  Enjoy the beauty of the season, however you may celebrate.

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for real?!

Living here in the Pacific Northwest sometimes causes me to have to pinch myself and gasp, “for real?!”

I spent the last moments of daylight on Friday evening (ahem, late afternoon) at the water’s edge with my crew (baby and 2 dogs) watching the golden sun sliver down behind the snow capped Olympic mountains.  There were a few other families there at the same time and I could feel the shared peace among us, as we said good-day to that glorious orb in the sky.

On a routine Saturday morning walk around our neighborhood, we bumped into a woman who had a telescope set up and pointed at a pod of Orcas moving swiftly along in Puget Sound.  Some neighbors and we took turns, watching them swim, play, and jump out of the water.  For real?! Take the dogs for a walk and run into a pod of Orca whales?  In the meantime, the seals were barking as usual, and the hummingbirds were playing their silly hummingbird games.  And all a few blocks from my front door.

That afternoon we boarded the ferry over to Whidbey Island for an off-leash romp on the beach.  The sun was out, the air was clear, the eagles were soaring, and I couldn’t help but feel just oh so good.  Had it been a few degrees warmer I would have had to remove my shoes and bury my feet in the sand.  As it was I left my shoes on and stood feet planted firmly in the Earth with my eyes and my heart gazing out over the ocean.  It was all I could do not to stand with mouth hanging wide open, gasping over and over, “For real?!”

We played, we ran, we laughed, and we watched the light glitter across the water, noticing how different it seemed in December as opposed to in August.  Again and again waves of gratitude flowed through me as I wondered how it is I get to be so very lucky to live in a place that deeply inspires me each and every day.  For real?! I get to call this place home?  What a joy.

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good stuff.

I heard something delightful at church today.

I’ve often felt frustrated at the institution of church – while I know the majority of church goers are lovely, well intentioned people, there are times I just don’t understand the whole church thing.  Meaning, I can get annoyed at the apparent disconnect between what I would imagine Jesus was preaching and the way some “Christians” actually live.  I’ll give you a few examples.

1. Homosexuals.  This one really frustrates me.  From all I can see or hear, God, Jesus, and the like were preaching about loving all people.  Not just people who aren’t gay.  All people.  So why are people who are gay not allowed at some churches?

2. Animals and all of Creation (i.e. the trees, the waters…) I find it disconcerting (a very lame word to describe my true feelings here) that throughout the Bible belt, where numerous Christians reside and evangelize, there are hundreds of Factory Farms torturing animals everyday.  All to produce some cheap meat (that is nutritionally void anyway…but that’s another topic) for the masses of people ready to chow down.  If God created everything, didn’t He create the animals too?  And if so, shouldn’t we respect the animals and not treat them with cruelty and hatred?

Along the same vein, having a presidential candidate who believes himself to be a great man of God, whose ideas for improvement include extensive oil drilling in extremely fragile ecosystems, seems quite the contradiction to me.  To me, a person who deeply respects God would also deeply respect God’s creation, and not simply look at the abundance of this Earth as a means for man’s consumption, with complete disregard for the life therein.

3. Other faiths. Also frustrating to hear Christians spouting off about how other religions (such as Mormonism or Islam) are not true religions, are cults, what have you.  Again.  Back to the idea of loving all people.  Not just the ones that follow the same religion.

Obviously, these are extremes.  I do realize that.  But they, and smaller, less extreme examples, have made me feel a bit of inauthenticity in how the words of the church are carried out into daily life.

And then, today, at our lovely Episcopal Church here in Seattle, I heard the most marvelous thing.  Recently, a big group of the church’s bishops met in Quito, Ecquador to discuss issues of the times.  From this meeting, the bishops created some new doctrine for the church.  (Refer to #2 in the list above) – The bishops decided that taking care of the Earth is a God-given mandate and a moral responsibility of every citizen.  They further stated that until we stop exploiting both the Earth’s resources (God’s creation) and the people who rely on these resources for life (i.e. indigenous peoples) we are not actually acting in a way in accordance with Jesus’s teachings.

Bam.  A rule for religion about preserving and protecting the Earth.  Couldn’t ask for better news this Sunday morning.

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Since becoming a mommy, I have frequently been asked if I am going back to work.  While the automatic and technically correct answer is “no, I’m taking a leave from teaching,” I don’t think that is entirely accurate.  But, seeing as how I am not heading back to a scheduled work scenario, I sometimes wonder how to answer that question.

For some reason, I find myself not wanting to tell everyone about my writing – maybe it doesn’t feel “real” yet, or maybe I don’t feel like getting into the long story that prompted me to tackle writing a book.  I’m not sure.  Then there is the obvious answer I could give about not returning to teaching, but being busier than ever before.  (which, by the way, is true, but not the most genuine answer I could give.)

So, what then, is my work?  This is the question I have been mulling over in my mind for a bit of time.  Last weekend, at a lovely yoga retreat (time alone! what’s that?!) I think I found my answer.  Throughout all my tasks in a day or in a week there is one commonality.  From the cooking and cleaning to the bill paying to the story book reading and song singing to the dog walks and the star gazing to the research and writing to the rushing about all day so that when Daddy comes home we can all just be – it is all with one main intention.

To create home.

Home.  I’m sure the word resonates differently for people.  For me, home is a comfortable place, no, more than comfortable – a sacred place – a place where the outside world can’t touch me unless I let it.  Home is filled with good smells, non-judgment, and cuddles.  Home is family, home is peace, home is learning and growing.  When I consider the type of home I want my son to know, it makes me realize how I actually feel about my daily work.  It isn’t just getting a good dinner on the table.  It isn’t just massaging warm sesame oil on dry baby skin.  It isn’t just folding laundry.  It isn’t just reading my little guy a favorite poem, even if he doesn’t know the words yet.  It is all part of creating home.  And what more important work could there be?

Home is where we come from.  I want my babies to come from a place filled with heart and soul.  No.  I am not going back to work.  But I feel pretty fulfilled anyway.




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school without school.

This September will be the first time since about 1983 that I haven’t closed the summer with the start of the school year.  I have been on a school year schedule for basically my entire life, and while of course, I was always sad to see the carefree days of summer end, I also always enjoyed the fresh start a new school year provides.

When I was younger the excitement was mostly about new pencils and a fancy new Trapper Keeper.  As I got older, I realized I actually liked getting back into a routine, and the subtle things about school beginning – cooler air, the crunch of leaves under my feet, and a snazzy new back to school outfit.  All my life, dork that I am, I have liked school in itself.  I’d be a perpetual student if I could.

As a teacher, I have felt as though the return to school gave me an opportunity to renew, revise, and improve from the previous year.  I start every year enthusiastic about all the opportunity that lies ahead, a multitude of ideas in my notebook, and a feeling of “this is the year!”  I like how clean and organized everything seems at the start of the year.

So.  This year I don’t go back to school.  But I got to thinking about it, and realized that although I’m not officially heading back into a classroom, I do need some sort of closure to the summer, and opening to the fall.  I can’t just let them roll into one another.  I’ve been mulling around the idea of ceremonies quite a bit lately – namely, ways in which to honor the little things that make up life, and giving moments their proper due.  (I’m sure more on this another time. It has been a running theme in my head.) To me, the changing of the seasons counts as a moment for pause, a moment for ceremony.  The start of school used to be that ceremony, but this year, I’ll have to get creative.

Last night I got out my construction paper and markers and created a colorful list of goals for the fall.  Next week, when my husband goes back to work from a month long paternity leave, I plan to open every closet and every drawer and clean it all out.  Something inside of me needs to start the fall with that feeling of a fresh start.  Although I will still savor every last drop of sunshine, I know it is nearing that time when I officially say good-bye and thank you to summer, and welcome in the opportunities of a new fall.

I hope my children enjoy school as much as I do, seeing as how I’m already planning to create a room in a new house that serves as their own personal preschool:)  I just can’t escape my love for school.

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in my bed

Once upon a time I was a finicky sleeper.  I needed my own space, darkness, and ear plugs.  College was hard for me, sleep – wise.  Too much noise.  Too many people.  I got stressed about it.  I spent many a night lying awake, watching the clock tick.

As I lay awake the other night, about to go back to sleep after feeding my sweet baby, I noticed how much had changed.

I now have a husband who “breathes” loudly for much of the night, which I used to use ear plugs to block out, but now cannot, seeing as how I need to be able to hear the 10 week old human also present in the room.  I sleep with two dogs.  I admit it, I was the one who allowed them up on the bed when they were puppies – and there is no turning back now.  Heaven forbid I change position or get up in the night, one of them has repositioned herself directly atop my most comfortable pillow spot.  And pushing her over might move her temporarily, but she has pretty much moved in for the remainder of the night.  Baby sleeps in a co-sleeper for the first part of the night, but somewhere around 4 or 5 in the morning, he grunts so loudly that I can no longer even pretend to sleep.  At that point, I bring him into bed, to cuddle in a position that alleviates the grunting, and allows me to grab a few more precious moments of sleep.

As I noticed all the sleeping bodies in MY bed, I realized that at one point this would have made me anxious.  “Too much noise, I won’t be able to sleep.”  “I’ll be too tired tomorrow and tomorrow is such a busy day.”  Those kinds of anxious thoughts.  But all I feel at that particular moment was contentment.  Yup, my bed is full.  Yup, my bed is noisy.  Yup, my bed is messy.  But…it is such a beautiful mess, filled with the hearts and souls of those I love.

I’m not sure what I would do these days, given a big bed for myself, with an eye-pillow and ear plugs…Probably not be able to sleep – too lonely.

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baby yoga

So I took a little break from writing here…for good reason – I had a baby!

A darling little guy, if I do say so myself.  Seeing as how we had a long journey to meet our little one, I feel like I deserve a moment to gush about him.  He is just the sweetest thing, and I couldn’t be more pleased with our 5 week old son.  He smiles often, cries rarely (mostly when hungry), and cuddles nicely.

Once I got past the initial adrenaline induced excitement, and the subsequent fog of “I’m so tired,” and after wading through the first (sort of overwhelming) days of nursing, I found myself engulfed in gratitude.  Of course, gratitude for this wee being who I get to share this time with, but also gratitude that I already had a regular yoga practice in place before becoming a mommy.

If there were any bit of advice I felt comfortable giving to a mom-to-be, it would be to adopt some sort of yoga or meditation practice before the baby arrives.  My practice has helped me in so many ways, and it has only been five weeks.

Finding contentment in what is.  Not thinking about what I want to be doing, but being perfectly comfortable in whatever moment is passing at the time.  Example — Knowing I have to be somewhere in half an hour.  Planning to make everything happen in that half an hour so we can leave.  Right when we are ready to go out the door, Little Guy spits up on his shirt (and mine) and is therefore suddenly hungry and screaming like I have a history of starving him.  I have found there is no point in getting frustrated.  He needs food.  He needs to be clean.  Those are my priorities, and that is what is.

Staying grounded. While there are a thousand different things that need doing throughout the day, it is incredibly difficult to find ways to get them all done.  At one point in my life this would have caused me quite an anxiety attack.  After years of meditation and centering practices, I am able to realize that the one thing that truly needs attending is my sweet baby.  I am aware of how transitory this special time is with him, and I work to ground myself in each and every moment with him.  It isn’t too hard, seeing as how his entire being is wrapped in nothing but love, and time can’t help but stop when he smiles and coos.  Everything else will wait for me.  He will grow too fast.

Attention to the body.  Now that I know how my body likes to feel and how it likes to stretch, I can spend a little time every so often to scan through my body and see what needs fixing.  I can imagine that if I didn’t have that experience, being a new mommy could be quite painful at times-  It is hard physical work!

Awareness of Food.  I have always been a big believer in the power of what we eat, and the importance of feeding oneself with whole foods, but never before has it been so perfectly clear.  Whatever I feed my body goes directly to his, and during these essential months of growth and development, I am extra aware of what I feed myself.  I know that if I don’t take care of myself, he doesn’t get the best – and obviously, he deserves the best!

The breath.  All this lovey dovey talk isn’t meant to imply that everyday is perfect bliss and harmony.  There are times that are frustrating and overwhelming, and they are generally magnified by the basic reality of exhaustion.  During those times, I feel lucky to be able to focus on my breath.  As I can focus on a few deep breaths, I can come back from the frustration, realizing it will pass, and find my center to address whatever needs attention at that moment.  And I can maybe find acceptance that I might not get that coveted shower until my husband gets home.  Being covered in spit up isn’t the worst thing in the world.

I am extremely grateful to our wonderful friends and family who have given us support of all kinds throughout this transformative time.  I have had the opportunity to truly enjoy time with my boy, as many of our loose ends (such as “what’s for dinner?”) have been taken care of for us.  We have had the opportunity to slowly shift from our babymoon to reality thanks to many wonderful people.  Thank you!

Now if only yoga could make a few hours of sleep seem like a restful nine or ten, or if it could explain to my son that headbutting me in the shoulder isn’t the best way to explain that he is still hungry, life with baby would be even easier!


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