LOVE, NO MATTER WHAT

I came across this insightful and thought-provoking TED Talk and wanted to share this with as many people out there as possible (and with Mina when she’s older, of course)!

You don’t have to be a parent to find his talk moving and compelling, only human. “Diversity is what unites us. … [T]he experience of difference within families is universal, as are the struggles toward compassion and the triumphs of love.”

Another quote with profound meaning to me: “Love is something that ideally is there unconditionally throughout the relationship between a parent and a child. But acceptance is something that takes time. It always takes time.

This distinction he made between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance was an AHA moment for me.  This distinction is something I knew by experience, by living through the pain of nonacceptance from my family; but something I was never able to make sense or articulate.  All I managed to do through it all was LOVE.  “LOVE, NO MATTER WHAT,” as his title says.  Yes, indeed.  And in the end, almost miraculously in my eyes, my parents have come around to accept me and my family for who we are.

Now, seeing that fine line and separating the two gives me an odd sense of security and relief.  I’ve arrived here: a calm understanding and compassionate resignation that acceptance from those unwilling will take time, on their time.

There is a lesson here for just about anyone willing to listen and give the next 23 minutes a chance.  Profound meaning is here, wherever we are; but only found to those who are open and present.  Both his books, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity and The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression are on my reading list now!

“Andrew Solomon’s newest book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children, but also find profound meaning in doing so. Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the struggles toward compassion and the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.  Woven into these courageous and affirming stories is Solomon’s journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.”

Andrew Solomon Bio on TED

andrewsolomon.com

we love. we are loved. with all its flaws and magic intact.

Another month’s escaped me since I first drafted this post…no more “Save Draft” for more edits, touch-ups.  With less time to write (let alone edit!), I just need to let the words out and let them be.  Just love them as they are, as I do my Mina.

==

It’s been 2 months since my last post, 2 months since Mina’s first day of Friends & Me class.  Where does the time go?  Days, weeks, months just move too quickly…Mina is surely growing up too fast!  I can’t catch up to do the thing I really want to do: WRITE!  I just have to make time! Just Do It, right?

Today, I was touched by this quote:

“The best advice I’ve ever given — I hope — is that which I gave to my son when he was growing up. He said, ‘I don’t have any friends. How can I get some friends?’… I told him two things. I told him, ‘In order to get a friend, you have to be a friend…’ And also I told him, ‘There’s a place in you that you must keep inviolate. You must keep it pristine, clean, so that nobody has the right to curse you or treat you badly. Nobody. No mother, father, no wife, no husband, nobody.’”  - Dr. Maya Angelou

Makes me wish I was given this gift of advice when I was young but more greatly, makes me happy and proud to be able to share Maya Angelou’s advice with Mina (when she’s older, of course!).  I daydream about all the wonderful things I hope we’ll get to share as mother and daughter, as us as a family.

I’m not fooling myself; I am fully aware it won’t ALL be happy, breezy times.  There’ll certainly be challenging times beyond anything I could ever imagine now, but I hope I’ll be able to live through them with love and grace.

I smile thinking about all the wonderful things we already share: hugs & kisses, tickles & laughter, stories & poetry, even demands & tantrums.

Motherhood has been by far the most amazing gift ever, especially because I get to share this magical journey of parenting with the love of my life.  We have our moments.  He breaks my favorite bodum cup. Honey! I break our special artwork mug.  Sorry!  He runs my delicate new top in the dryer.  Again!  I nag at him.  Sorry…

Yet, even in the most annoyed moments, we know that it is just that, MOMENTS.  It’s fleeting, only momentary, never here to stay.  Even at the height of our annoyance, we each know, without a doubt, that we love and that we are loved.

Our love is never harmed or touched, only opens to reveal the unfathomably resilient unconditional love.  It’s like what Maya Angelou’s saying.  Our love is what we keep inviolate; we protect, keep our love safe and whole, with all its flaws and magic intact.

Big girl, Mina @ Friends & Me

Wednesday, March 20, 2013.  Mina’s first class of Friends & Me.  Two complete hours away from Mama, Mom, Mommy! Yup, sometimes that’s how she calls me, exactly in that order!

As we enter the classroom at 9:15 am, she jumps right in, exploring the different tables of fun activities: drawing, stamps, and floam as they call it (looked like flowery foam).  Her body language is excitement, curious, and free.  She pays no mind to the other kids, just so focused to check it all out, without missing a thing!  When a bigger boy starts to cry emphatically for “Mommy,” Mina looks concerned.  I worry that this would set her off, too, but I really  had nothing to worry about.

“Bye-bye, Mama will come back, ok?” I say, and she repeats, “Mama come back,” with a smile.

9:40 am.  Some quiet time at Starbucks with a hot vanilla latte in one hand and Joan Didion’s book in another; I’m a happy mom.

10:37 am.  An hour has never felt so long, so stretched beyond reach.  This time away from Mina, the world seems to crawl when any other time, it seems to sprint.  A girl close to Mina’s age on a date with her Mom, giggling as she makes different animal sounds.  Makes me smile and I can’t help but miss my Mina.  I wonder what she is doing right now.  Busy-busy Mina, I can just see her exploring every activity, every toy, observing the teachers and kids, taking mental notes of every detail.  She really doesn’t miss a thing!  I can picture her goofy smile, her tender eyes, her sweet gesture of “share-share/junban-ban ne.”

I feel like the best part of me is missing, or at least, far away.  Yet, I know she is learning and laughing to her heart’s content.  Today is my first baby step of learning to let go.

Letting go.  This busy girl deserves all the space and freedom to explore this world of hers she so adores and loves, even if it means a fall or two.  I need to accept and embrace the fact that I cannot protect her all the time, I cannot catch her every time.  She needs to be able to do that for herself.  I need to let her.  I need to toughen up and not be so afraid for her.  I’m not doing Mina any favors or service by being overprotective or overbearing. Note to self: So sometimes, I need to keep my distance.

Sipping my latte, I start Didion’s Blue Nights.  But my mind is wandering and wondering, distracted with thoughts and pictures of Mina.  I can’t concentrate…not fully present…disrespectful to Didion to say the least.

I also feel the urge to write.  Record these thoughts and feelings pouring out of me.  So the lure of a quiet date with my book and latte quickly wears off and I know I have to go find something to write on.  The backside of those Google maps lying around in my car would be perfect.  And here I am spilling it all out.

10:57 am.  Perfect time to head over to pick her up.  I can’t wait to feel her small hands gently tap my back when she hugs me.  A tender “I love you and I knew you’d be back” hug.

I still have time to learn to let go.  Not just yet but one baby step at a time.

festa @ casa di mina

Continuing to practice the art of loving, one shared meal at a time :)

Gallery: Photos from November – February. Click on a photo to enlarge and view as a slideshow;  I’ve provided links to online recipes when available.

If you missed these, please check out manja manja, Minathe art of loving: food, and meals, desserts, and snacks for Mina.

♥ Happy Birthday Bambalina ♥ Big 2 ♥

Before Mina was born and before we knew the gender of the baby at birth, we had a nickname for the baby in my womb: Bambalina, an Italian name that means, “little girl.”  We loved the sound and rhythm of that name. “Bambalino, if it’s a boy,” we joked. Now, our Bambalina-Mina is 2! So fast yet so distant, she’s grown and changed so much since we first met her two years ago.

We see each of us in her. Her calm attentiveness is my husband. Her stubborn defiance, me. Her endless curiosity and sweet playfulness, us.

She is our perfect and precious gift. We love you, Mina Marie!

Big 2 and big kiss to Hello Kitty!

♥ happy 23 months ♥

In exactly a month, our baby Mina will be 2 years old!! Hard to grasp that soon it’ll be 2 years since that day of her birth; about 2 years, 9 months, and 1 week since that moment of her existence inside my womb.

The passing of time is intangible but what’s tangible is Mina’s growth: she is changing every day right before our eyes. The passing of time is immaterial but what’s material or essential is our interactions and connections that fill that time: we’re changed by our exchanges, we’re strengthened by our experiences. This makes me realize that the only meaningful way to carry our past with us is in our growth, our lessons; the only meaningful way to exist is to let this moment change us for the better.

I can’t help but feel that time is flying by; Mina is growing up too fast! I want time to slow down, so I can indulge in this moment just a little bit longer. Pretty selfish of me, I know. I just don’t want to miss a thing, and I want to remember every detail. Pretty impossible, I know.

I can’t change the flow of time, but what I can change is my attitude towards time. I can’t take any time for granted and I have to make every moment count. All that’s in my power to do, then, is to pay attention in every moment, because “every interaction counts” and “this very moment is the perfect teacher.” (Tiffany Shlain & Pema Chödrön respectively)

I’m so grateful for our Mina. She inspires me to change for the better.

Mina is our perfect darling daughter, our sweetest sunshine.

♪ ♪ Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say, It’s all right… ♪ ♪

BRAIN POWER

I came across this fascinating, insightful, thought-provoking video on Facebook. In moments like these, I am in awe of the power of social media (thank you, Students Rebuild!…you really never know who you’re reaching, whose minds you’re growing!). This 10-minute film echoed and reaffirmed many of my thoughts I’ve shared here on parenting and mindfulness, like another nod from the universe.

I will pay attention to the tickled glances and coy smiles, take notice of the petty annoyances and profound nuances, and pause to interact with loving intention, attentive adoration. I will fill each day with meaningful exchanges of love. Because “every interaction counts.”

Favorite quotes transcribed here:

“As we said, a baby is born with 100 billion neurons, but those quadrillion connections, they’re not there yet.  Those connections [in a child’s brain] form at a very rapid speed during the first five years of life, at 700 to 1,000 new synapses per second.  Those connections are created through every interaction a child has, and are important because they form the architecture of the brain.  So every time you talk to and engage with a child, you are literally growing a brain; connecting the different parts of the brain, which allows for new ideas, insights and creative thinking.  So each moment of eye contact, each new word exchanged, each time you make a child laugh, you are strengthening these connections [in that child's brain].

So how do we nurture both these growing interconnected networks to set a course for a better future? By paying attention to what we are paying attention to. Attention is the mind’s valuable resource. Every interaction counts.”

what they think is none of my business

In my previous post, RB’s life lessons to revisit daily, I highlighted a few of RB’s life lessons that serendipitously resonated with me.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

So simple, so profound. The power of words truly amazes me.

Personally, I can live by this life lesson when “other people” refers to acquaintances and strangers, but it’s dawned on me that this “other people” encompasses even loved ones, anybody that’s not “you.” I’ve always cared deeply about how my family viewed me and valued my choices. Probably too much for my own good.

“You’re probably seeking their approval subconsciously,” he says, smiling at my frown. My husband knows me so well.

I really hate to admit it but there must be some truth to that. I guess we all seek approval from someone or validation from something. Mostly, I hate that I’ve allowed them so much power over me, family or not is beside the point; without this acceptance I can’t get beyond my search for approval.

What they think of me, what they think of us, is really none of my business. What a relief.

All my life, I’ve taken everything so personally, so deeply to heart. I’ve been draining my emotions on things that have nothing to do with me, only with them. They point their fingers, I carry the blame, burden myself by finding faults where there were none.

I feel empowered and I need to let it all out.

I own.  I am in control.  I take back my control.  I won’t let others conveniently disrupt my peace of mind, and shove me back into their vicious cycle of self-righteousness.  I won’t stand by the sidelines as they insult my integrity. I take offense.  I am insulted.  I have every right to be.  I take a stand.  I take back my right to be equal. We’ve perpetuated this power structure in our relationships and it stops now.  No, I won’t go along with it.  I won’t play along.  I make my own rules, rules I value and live by. It’s who I am. It’s who I’m proud to be.

Nothing I do or say can change anyone else. Change can only happen in their own time, on their own terms. It’s really none of my business anyway. I can only wish them well and good luck. Of course, I love them and I’m always here for them unconditionally.

I give myself permission to stop seeking, to walk away.

Everything I need is here; within. My only business is me.

one perfectly good day at a time

In my previous post, RB’s life lessons to revisit daily, I highlighted a few of RB’s life lessons that serendipitously resonated with me.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

Back in 2009, I wrote, “Yet another dawn of submission, relenting to euphoric, effortless sleep. To drift off and away, to sink, float, and drown in weightlessness. What lies beneath this deliberate momentum to be swallowed in sleep? Laziness or torture? Pleasure or punishment? Is it a giving up or a giving in? A release? A surcease?” in this piece, “Seduction.” In fleeting moments, this same desire to be “swallowed in sleep” visits unannounced.

Unlike before, staying in bed all day is not an option because I have Mina, so I get up; but to be honest, there are days when I spend all day in my PJs, too lazy even to dress.  Almost always, I feel like a bum, like I wasted away a perfectly good day. All it took to avoid this, is to literally change. Changing out of PJs into even jeans and t-shirt made all the difference. It didn’t matter what I changed into, all it mattered was that I changed. This has been on my mind for some time; how serendipitous to come across this life lesson now, like a nod from the universe.

This life lesson made me realize that each day, each perfectly good day deserves my respect. My respect to get dressed and greet the day. My respect to show up and live the day. My respect to put my best self forward. Each perfectly good day carries with it a gift only for me. A gift that would never be realized in indifference or laziness. A gift that would be lost to a lackadaisical one. It’s up to me then, to show respect and receive the gift it carries, one perfectly good day at a time.

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