Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What You Have the Courage to Ask For

It's been an amazing summer so far, with a trip to the Salzburg mountains and so many sweet, simple moments with my son. We've had a wonderful mix of rain and heat, and the woods are already sprouting mushrooms that normally don't start appearing until July. Lately I've been experiencing instances where I am doing some little task, and find myself feeling just fine, which is a foreign sensation since my Mom died. I still have overwhelming waves of grief wash over me and shake my entire being. But more and more often, I have those realiziations that I am OK, things are good. Things would be better, and different, if I still had my Mom to talk to, and hug, and make new memories with. But this is how things are. It's time to start being OK.

Things have certainly changed quite a bit since I last wrote. At some point early this year, we came to the acceptance that Rafael will be an only child. After long, frustrating periods of trying to conceive, where each month of disappointment slowly poisons your relationship and eats away at your gratitude and joy, we decided stop mourning the absence of a second child and to instead celebrate having our healthy, lovely son. We let go of our picture of how our family would be. And we let go of the notion that we would only be whole and happy if Rafael had a sibling and we had a second child. I got rid of almost all of the baby stuff I had stored, and it was very freeing. We still have times where that longing comes back, and who knows, maybe it will never go away entirely. But the pressure and frustration are gone. They have been replaced by gratitude for my son that gives me butterflies in my stomach when I think about it! It is truly fanstastic having an only child. I would describe it as relaxed, and intimate. 

This realization presented a step that I thought would come much later. I thought I would be a stay-at-home-mom for many years to come, since I expected to have more than one child. But now I was the mother of a four and a half year old who spent the majority of his days in preschool, where his friends were, where he socialized, learned, and played. My work as a mother felt less and less like work, and was evolving into a deep, loving relationship. This is such a wonderful step, but it also became clear that he did not need me like he used to, and that it was time for me to find a job. 

For about a week, I fell into a depressed state. I had no idea what I should do. I am in my mid-thirties, and my life looked different than I thought it would. So what would the new picture be? I began beating myself up. Why hadn't I found what I want to do yet? Why had everything I had tried so far failed? I knew I didn't want to be self-employed, but I also didn't want to sit at a cashier or wait tables. There are so many creative things I love, but I didn't want to be a struggling artist. I wanted a stable job where I could be creative, where I wouldn't get bored. Something I would want to do for at least the next 30 years of my life.

But what could that be?

So there I was, feeling sorry for myself, when I started thinking about how I feel every time I bring Rafael to preschool, and pick him up. How I feel when his preschool puts on a little play, or celebrates Christmas. How I feel when he brings something home that he crafted, or tells me excitedly about something new he learned there. How I feel when I spend some time in his preschool group, sitting on a tiny chair, watching the children build with blocks or eat their crackers, surrounded by children's voices. What feelings did I get? Happiness. Comfort. Wonder. Fun. I pictured myself in a classroom with children, and immediately felt my heart jump. And suddenly I thought, "I wonder how someone goes about becoming a preschool teacher?" I began researching on the internet, and quickly found out that there was an open-door event taking place just a few days later at the near-by school where you could earn your teaching credentials.

After that open-door day, I knew this was the right thing. There were all sorts of beaurocratic hurdles for me as an ex-pat, but my will to make it happen had me ticking off those tasks one by one, springing over obstacles and heading in the right direction in a driven manner I had never experienced. I passed the qualifying exam with flying colors and am signed up to begin my two-and-a-half year education this September!

Oprah once said, "You get in life what you have the courage to ask for." I am learning to be outrageous and courageous with the things I ask for. I don't want mediocrity, and I don't want my life and creativity to be wasted. I am asking for a life well-lived, full of meaning for my fellow mankind. I am asking for a job that I love. I am asking for a job that is much more significant than a paycheck. A career that feels tailormade, where I learn easily because I am interested in what I am learning. Where my strengths shine, and my weaknesses are just tiny bumps in the road. It takes courage to ask for those things, to ask for your life to be something special.

Needless to say I am full of anticipation and have a whole new reason to look forward to Fall this year. I wonder if you all would be interested in following my journey to becoming a preschool teacher?

xoxoxo Thank you for sticking around and always welcoming me back!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Childhood Is A Short Season

"Childhood is a short season." -Helen Hayes

These are just a few snippets of the beautiful year we have been having so far. Writing those words...'beautiful year'....cuts me and brings tears to my eyes, because I am living each day in such division since my mother passed last August. There is the sweet beauty of my outer world: of my bustling, pretty home, spilling over with Legos; the sing-song of my son's voice asking questions, laughing, singing, complaining, demanding, explaining the world through his eyes, telling me he loves me 'more than there are things;' the daily rhythms of coffee, toast, dog-walking, nature and bird-song, laundry, dishes, friends, groceries, play-dates, meals, bed-time with sleepy cuddles and books in the blue-yellow glow of a globe lamp. And then there is the visceral pain, the choking-on-tears sadness, the inner explosions of desperation at the realization that I cannot bring her back, I cannot change this, this is what I must live with now. Living each day in this divide is still strange, but it is becoming more familiar the longer I live it.

As Helen Hayes says, "Childhood is a short season," and this knowledge, which feels almost like a threat, like a bitter truth, keeps me as firmly planted in gratitude for the every-day as much as possible. This time is fleeting. This time of chlorine and ice cream, sunscreen, scraped knees, a stick-sword, swings and footballs, watching Tom and Jerry under a fluffy comforter while drinking cocoa through a straw, hair still wet from the blow-up pool in the yard; a belly round and sticking out unapologetically, sticky popsicle juice running down fingers, shouting and singing and jumping from high-up places; one moment Super Hero, the next moment curling up in Mama's lap and stroking her arm, needing me and still so small.

Rafael, Mama is so sad sometimes, Mama misses her own Mama, Mama feels lonely and abandoned. Who will love me and call me and check up on me; be concerned, care, and bare witness to the weavings and highlights and tragedies and victories of my life? This was all my Mother; she was difficult and wonderful. She annoyed me and delighted me. She read my blog religiously, she commented on my Facebook posts; she called and wrote and loved watching Rafael grow up. She was a cheerleader, my biggest fan. She saw so much good in me, and wanted to see me flourish and live to my fullest potential. This is all missing now.

But now I am that for you, Rafael. I am your Mama. I am your biggest fan. I annoy you and delight you, I am difficult and wonderful. I will cheer you on, I will remind you all the time how awesome you are. I will watch your life and destiny unfold, I will be here for you as long as I can. I will be concerned, I will care. I will see the good in you, and will help you flourish any way I can.

Childhood is a short season, and I will not let it slip by. I will celebrate each day with you, my boy. Yes I will be sad, I will miss and I will feel that cutting loss. But, my boy, I've got you, and you've got me. And that's more than I could ever ask for.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A New Normal

The other day, through tears, I said to my husband, "I just miss feeling normal." He said: "There's going to be a new normal. Life will never be the same again, just like after we lost our first baby. But there will be a new normal."

Isn't he so right about that? 

Sometimes, things happen in our lives that change everything. They change the way you feel about yourself, and the way you see your life. Game-changers, I guess. At first you are ripped apart, and floating in darkness. You feel alone in your grief. You start to believe that this is all you will ever feel. Then days pass, and despite what people say, the pain doesn't lessen...but it does becomes familiar. You learn to live with it. 

The other day I realized that, from now on, whenever I meet someone new, and they ask about my parents, I will have to say, "My Dad lives in Germany, and my Mom died." This is now a piece of my story, and it's a part I cannot change. 

Rafael asks a lot about death. It has become a permanent part of the landscape of his childhood. This is another thing I cannot change. 

It means so much more than anything I can write here. The loss of my mother, the her-not-being-here, the no-more-letters-or-emails, the fact that her voice is only something I hear in my head. It has so much more weight than I can explain. It is woven throughout my days and nights. I think about it all the time. 

This lump in my throat, and the hot tears that spill. They are a part of my new normal. This missing. The terrible moment when I wake in the morning and remember that she is gone. Her final hours in the hospital, swollen, black and blue...and then seeing her lifeless, her body growing cold. It plays like a film in my mind every day. 

All a part of my new normal.

It's not that there wasn't beauty to be found in her death. Surrounded by loved ones! How many are so fortunate?

And it's not that there isn't beauty in my life. Just look at these photos. So much beauty indeed. 

But for now, it feels somehow separate from me. I laugh and smile, I play with my silly boy, and revel in his perfect face. I smooth his hair, put my face to his head and breath in his scent. I cook good meals, meet good friends. Talk about all the hundreds of things there are to talk about. 

But always, just beneath the surface, like a fine, lavender fog-colored layer that only I can see, right there, like a layer of second skin...there is that sadness. Always that sadness.

So the new normal is still settling in. I am still learning what it all means. 


Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Perfect Autumn Walk

Hope you are all having a beautiful Autumn.

Thank you all so much for your kind words regarding the loss of my mother.

xoxoxo Dawn

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Day My Mom Died

These pictures were taken just outside of San Francisco on the morning of August 25th. Later that day, my Mom died. She had been ill for a long time without knowing it, and once she found out, it went fast. We flew to her and spent her final days together. I was there, holding her foot, when she passed. 

Her illness was one of the reasons I stopped writing here. I found it hard to concentrate, hard to write about the beauty in each day. 

I don't know if I will continue this blog. Lately I find it hard to share personal things. 

I can tell you this: Rafael is blossoming, healthy, hilarious, and the most amazing person I've ever met. He is doing very well. 

The woods are still my sanctuary, the dogs are still my comfort, and my husband is still my best friend. 

I miss my Mom every day. It is unfair, and cruel, that she is gone. The past couple of years have been difficult, and I have had to be very strong. 

Fortunately, my life is also sparkling with blessings, wonders, and miracles.

Love, Dawn

Saturday, February 22, 2014

January and February

The first month of the year came and went in the blink of an eye. So many changes and new routines. Rafael began going to daycare two mornings a week and is getting settled in. I started waking up while it was still dark and the icy streets were empty to jog with the dogs. My husband's work year started up once again. Things felt fresh and full of good intentions.

My birthday was celebrated with a small but spectacular chocolate cake. I asked my husband to bring home flowers to decorate it, and he brought a big bouquet of roses. I ended up putting them in a vase and only using a cloud of baby breath on top of the frosting. I loved the simple look, paired with tall, thin candles. Friends and family came for the afternoon, it was a noisy bunch, toddlers running in and out of rooms, laughter and conversation. A friend made me a lovely little paintbrush organizer. My husband gave me a new wide lens for my camera. 

A couple of weeks ago Rafael got sick and I spent one of those terrible weeks stuck indoors with him. We watched lots of dvds, read hundreds of books, rolled out play-doh and lay out train tracks. He got amazingly good at doing puzzles. There were of course nice moments, but I have to admit that when he is sick I get depressed and my nerves are frazzled. Our whole rhythm is destroyed, and we are trapped inside these rooms with no break for days on end. I dream of going back to our regular daily routine, meeting with friends, going into the woods, even just going to the grocery store. In the end Rafael always seems a bit taller, and wiser. And I always think, "Why can't I just be more patient and serene?" 

Lately, when I get angry, and then Rafael and I make up again, he asks, "Are we best friends again?" And I melt and say, "Of course, we are always best friends, even when I'm angry." 

In my spare time I have been organizing my photographs and designing a logo and blog for my future small photography business. I will be offering child, family, and adult portraits. I'm feeling excited, mixed with fear and insecurity....can I do this? Will I be good at this? Will customers be satisfied? Am I capable of making smart business decisions? I try to put these questions in the back of my mind and don't let them slow me down.

Another important thing going on in my life right now is that, 11 days ago, I began Jamie Eason's LiveFit 12 week trainer program, and I'm already seeing and feeling results. It's mostly a mental challenge for me, sticking to the diet and getting my exhausted self to the gym. But the positive benefits are keeping me motivated. I don't want to look at old photos of the great figure I used to have with a sad feeling anymore...I want to look in the mirror and feel great about what I see. I also want to prove to myself that I can do this. It's not easy...if it was easy, everyone would do it. Sometimes I think, "What am I doing? Every-day-stuff is hard enough without adding all this meal preparation and training to the picture. Who cares if I'm out of shape. I'm a mom." My body is much stronger than my mind. My body if capable of so much. It's my mind that causes problems! I can't tell you how often I go on Instagram and look at motivating photos of fit moms, just to get myself to put on my gym clothes and go there. 

So that's what's been going on around here. I hope to blog again soon!


Saturday, December 28, 2013


I hope you're all enjoying the holidays. 

Things are very different with my husband home. Rafael is so excited to play and spend time with his father, and he usually pushes me away when I want to join saying, "No Mama, not you. Go away." I don't take it personal, or at least I try not to. I know he is making up for all the many many days his father was away or distracted this past year. Those two have a lot of catching up and bonding to do. 

This was the first Christmas where Rafael was aware of what was going on, so it was a lot of fun to get into all the magic making. Putting out cookies and a letter for Santa, wondering with Raffi what he would get, then clapping and saying 'Hurrah!' when there were gifts under the tree Christmas morning. Santa brought Raffi a big wooden Noah's Ark, and he has been playing with it for hours every day since, putting the animals in and out, and looking for the Mamas of the baby animals, reuniting them. "Where are you Mama Sheep? There is your Mama, little baby sheep. Now you can go in the boat with her."

I do sense that Rafael is going through a difficult period. He is very whiny and resistant to almost everything. He hates going on morning walks, which means that every day begins with a struggle. We try to mix things up, bring toys and tools along, go on new paths, pack a picnic. But he's not having it. He gets specific ideas in his head and when they don't happen he has major melt downs. We are doing that balancing act of trying to avoid freak-outs, but also trying to avoid raising a tyrant. It's tough. 

Still, at the end of the day, with our feet up on the coffe table and our nerves slowly easing, we look at each other and say, "Now that he's sleeping, I miss him." "He's so incredibly cute." "Remember when he said this and and did that?" 

Thanks for all of your input regarding my inner dialogue about parenting and the future. I really appreciate it.



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