conversations with Mina (episode 3)

lovely dinner chat on July 5th, 2015:
Mina: “I don’t care.”
I: “You’ve been saying that a lot today, maybe we should use other words.”
Mina: “It doesn’t matter.”
Papa & I laugh, and then a little later,
Mina: “Sometimes words don’t mean anything.”
Papa: “Ok, Noam Chomsky.”
(Outburst of laughter!)

I love our family talks on words and meaning, bats, evolution, a few of our recent topics. ūüėČ

conversations with Mina (episode 2)

Our bedtime conversation with our not-yet-4 Mina back in October 2014:

Mina: When I’m 4, I can do what I want, right?
I: Um, no, maybe when you’re 21, you can do what you want.
Mina: Like go to a bar?
Papa & I: (laugh) Yes.
Mina: I’m going to very miss you guys when I move.
Papa & I: (reassuringly) You don’t have to worry about it yet because we will be together for a very long time.

Backstory: Papa went to bars to¬†catch the SF Giants play in the World Series¬†then and he’d explain to her she couldn’t come with him until she was 21. Funny but somehow her brain¬†stored that piece of information to be used at an opportune time like this one ūüėČ Around this time, we also¬†talked¬†about going away for college because her big sister goes to school in the East Coast, and this, too, stuck with her and she clearly wasn’t ready to move¬†out and leave us just yet, our sweet pea ‚̧

conversations with Mina (episode 1)

February 2014

I: Mina, you’re so good at sharing.

Mina: It’s hard when I’m mad.

I: You’re right…

Mina: Only happy kids can do it.

Papa & I: You’re so right.

Mina: It’s not nice when you don’t share.

Papa: Yeah, it’s hard when you don’t have enough…but it’s okay, we always do what’s right.

Mina: Bad people don’t share. I’m not bad people; I’m good people, right Papa. I share!

synchronistic encounters: part iii

I wrote about my synchronistic encounter with a long-lost friend in synchronistic encounter: part ii and wanted to share my aha moment.

To be honest, a part of me wanted to say so much more, to reply charged with emotion. I wanted to win the argument, have the last word, or at least get even. I struggled with it and it was so hard to resist, but in the end, I realized that none of that matters. (Plus, the satisfaction from a snarky remark would be momentary, only to leave a lasting sentiment of regret.) By creating distance, removing emotion, and seeing our shared past as it was, not overwrought and blinded by emotion, I felt like I gained power over it.

To admit even further, I think that part of me¬†sought one-upmanship. I wanted to feel superior, to validate my meaning over hers as wiser or more meaningful. How foolish of me. If I’ve come to understand and¬†made my meaning of my past, of course, she has, too, just as firmly.¬†How weak and insecure of me. I don’t need to take the bait of outwitting, I just need to stay strong and keep my eyes on me, on my path.

Meaning is relative to the individual and this profound truth resonates with me. It’s¬†meaningless to seek validation of my¬†meaning over hers. Rather, such an attempt is counterproductive, an interference and regression from¬†my own path.

My meaning is meaningful to me, all on its own; its validity and gravity doesn’t depend upon approval, acceptance, or even acknowledgement from others. My meaning is all that really matters to me.

Relinquishing labels and relational hierarchy from my youth, I feel more grounded and connected to the heart of who I am, who I aspire to be.

Happy Birthday, Bambalina Mina

DSCF9064 DSCF9190 DSCF9198 DSCF9252Photos:  Jeff Nakahara, Jeff Nakahara Photography (

Our Bambalina Mina is now¬†4!! (We had a nickname for¬†her¬†in my womb, “Bambalina/o” meaning “little child” in Italian, as we kept her gender a surprise until her birth.)

4 years since that most magical and empowering moment of my life: giving natural birth to this wonder of a being. It feels like a flash yet I know these past 4 years have been filled with countless moments of surprise,  doubt, wonder, fear, giggles, tears, reflection, insight and always always love. Learning and growing in love.

There’s a part of me that misses the baby Mina, the toddler Mina, these stages seemed to have passed too soon. This part of me wants¬†to hang on to every detail, record and remember every tender exchange, capture and carry them with me at all times, and even wish to trap time so I can have this moment last a little longer, but I know that’s neither possible nor the point.

One day, Mina says to me, “I don’t want to be 4, I want to stay¬†a baby…Mama’s sad that I’m growing up.”

I was taken by surprise and quickly realized how my seemingly innocent expression¬†of missing Mina’s¬†babyhood was taking a toll, affecting¬†her energy, her being. How unfair and selfish of me, “I love you just the way you are, Mina!”

I can neither control nor cage¬†time, change, or love (and I wouldn’t want to anyway). Buscaglia says, “There is no stopping it, no holding it back; there is only going with it. ” I don’t want to hold her back, but I regret that my words were doing just that. Only by letting go, can I truly be free to engage in the moment. Every age, every stage¬†is different, each with special discoveries and newness of becoming. I choose to welcome, embrace and celebrate each new day of our family life.

All the moments we’ve shared as a family are lived through each of us, growing through them and being changed by them.

Change is inevitable and so beautiful; it is proof that we are most alive.

Mina, now 4, is full of life, eager to learn and understand her world as she sees it, so brave and independent to do everything, “I can do it all by myself!” she constantly says¬†with attitude. When she was still a baby, one of her earliest expressions was, “Mina do!” She’s the same little stinker, just a bit bigger, and sharing more of herself. Lucky for us.

At her 4-year wellness checkup, she greeted her doctor¬†with, “I have a¬†stethoscope, too, a¬†real one!” (which she got as one of her birthday gifts). And when¬†I asked if she wanted to hold my hand for the shot since she forgot¬†to bring a friend (she always has one stuffed animal with her), she paused only for a second¬†and shrugged, “No, it’s okay, I’m 4 now, I’m fine.” Not a cry, and she later explained to the receptionist, “It hurt just for a bit and it was gone.” She’s becoming such a big girl and quite social. I’m so proud of her and so grateful to be a part of her happy life!

And her new greeting to anyone she meets now is “Hi, I’m 4!!!”

synchronistic encounters: part ii

I wrote about synchronistic encounters in my previous post and want to continue that thought here.

I believe everything happens for a reason, even if one can’t see the reason in that moment. The encounter of this book, “Love” by Leo Buscaglia, was synchronistic in more ways than one, addressing so many of the personal issues I’ve struggled with¬†for so long. It spoke to me, cheered for me, and reassured me on my path. It was a perfect nudge of support to navigate another interesting synchronistic encounter, this time, with a long-lost friend.

Last year on my birthday, I gave myself permission to cleanse, let loose on paper the occasional and obnoxious tinge of shame from my past. As I revisited those words today, they are clearly strung with anger and resentment. I only note this to share that I was still struggling with my past then, even after 10 long years.

This New Year started with a surprising message from this long-lost friend through Facebook. She was offering her forgiveness for my unforgivable act of betrayal over 10 years ago (yes, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life, betrayed her trust, and lost a friend but over many years, I had learned to forgive and love myself again, as well as grieve and adapt to the loss of that friendship). She added in the message that she was moving back and thought it would be fun to reconnect with our daughters.

As much as I was happy to hear from her and the possible reconnection, I was a little thrown off. More than a little, actually. With close to 10 years of silence, I wasn’t confident we could repair the damage of the long separation. And out of the blue, completely on her terms, she was ready to let it go, offer her forgiveness, and see me again.

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond and I wrestled with all the possibilities, but I couldn’t disregard this nagging gut feeling. Something wasn’t sitting right with me. Something felt off. Maybe it was her message, her string of words, there was a hint of something I can’t quite name. Maybe carelessness. I’ve always had a sharp intuition, but my trouble has always been listening to it and trusting it. This time, thanks to Buscaglia and other synchronistic reads and thoughts, I convinced myself that the only way to reply was to be honest, to be me. So I did.

Though I welcomed the opportunity to reconnect, I also honestly shared my reservations. She replied with hints of surprise and annoyance. She couldn’t understand my reservations and found my response to be negative and off-putting. I replied with calm and truth. I clarified I was only being realistic. I wasn’t interested in hanging out without ever acknowledging and coming to terms with our shared past. Knowing myself, I knew I couldn’t forever ignore the “elephant in the room,” my betrayal over 10 years ago and the long separation thereafter. If it needed to be addressed, better sooner than later. I didn’t want to waste any of my limited time and energy only to find out later that our definition of “reconnection” were incompatible. She termed this “drama and negativity,” yet I saw it as a necessary, positive, challenging opportunity to learn and grow.

I don’t quite know what she was expecting but I noted that if she couldn’t understand my reservations, maybe it would be best to keep things as they were.

In the end, she ended our brief reunion¬†with, “Have a nice life.”

I will and I am. I have a nice life, an extremely nice one, growing in love, a happiest trip of my life.

“There’s value in the past. After all, it brought you to where you are.” –¬†from “Love” by Leo Buscaglia.

Ironic but I’m grateful now for the painful past because it brought me here, to where and who I am now. Thank you for the lessons, the opportunities to choose a better path, a better version of me, to get closer and arrive here, particularly this last exchange.

I am most proud to have stayed true to who I am, stayed true to my path of truth, authenticity, and vulnerability. I didn’t give in to the trap of labels, expectations, or rationalizations. I trusted, I stood up, and I spoke up.

I am empowered to break the chains of labels and stereotypes from my young adulthood, to make peace with the shame and guilt of my past, and live and love this moment.

I will end with another powerful quote by Buscaglia: “If one wishes to know love, one must live love, in action. To think or read about love or carry on profound discourses on love is all very well, but in the last analysis, will offer few if any real answers. Thoughts, readings and discourses on love are of value only as they present questions to be¬†acted upon. One will learn love only with fresh insight, with each new bit of knowledge, which he¬†acts out, and which is reacted to, or his knowledge is valueless. As Rilke states so accurately, he must simply “love along someday into the answer.” One, in other words, lives the questions. But in order to live the questions, it is logical that one will have to pose them.”

synchronistic encounters

I love synchronistic encounters, whether that may be a person or, in this case, this wondrous¬†book: “Love: What Life Is All About” by Leo Buscaglia

I added this book to my reading list from reading excerpts from Brain Pickings¬†(Leo Buscaglia on Education, Industrialized Conformity, and How Stereotypes and Labels Limit Love¬†and A “Dynamic Interaction”: Leo Buscaglia on Why Love Is a Learned Language) a few months ago and it just sat there on my list, waiting patiently. I felt the urge to start my New Year with this book, along with a few others, and I am beyond glad that I listened.

I just started two days ago but I’m already so captivated by his words and ideas,¬†willing to learn, grow and “take what is right for [me]” from all that he is sharing.

This quote hit home hard and gave me a boost of confidence to believe in my own path:

“You can only be “real” on your path. The hardest thing in the world is to be something you’re not. By straying from yourself you must get closer and closer and closer to what you are. You’ll find it’s an easy way to be. The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position. Find “you,” who you are, be as you are. Then you can live simply. You can use all of the energy that it takes to “hold back the spooks,” as Alpert calls it. You won’t have any spooks to hold back anymore. You won’t be playing games anymore. Clear them all away and say, “Here’s me. Take me for what I am with all my frailties, all my stupidity, and so on. And if you can’t, leave me be.”

~ Leo Buscaglia

And this quote:

“If a man in the street were to pursue his self, what kind of guiding thoughts would he come up with about changing his existence? He would perhaps discover that his brain is not yet dead, that his body is not dried up, and that no matter where he is right now, he is still the creator of his own destiny. He can change this destiny by taking his one decision to change seriously, by fighting his petty resistance against change and fear, by learning more about his mind, by trying out behavior which fills his real need, by carrying out concrete acts rather than conceptualizing about them, by practicing to see and hear and touch and feel as he has never before used these senses, by creating something with his own hands without demanding perfection, by thinking out ways in which he behaves in a self-defeating manner, by listening to the words that he utters to his wife, his kids, and his friends, by listening to himself, by listening to the words and looking into the eyes of those who speak to him, by learning to respect the process of his own creative encounters and by having faith that they will get him somewhere soon. We must remind ourselves, however, that no change takes place without working hard and without getting your hands dirty. There are no formulae and no books to memorize on becoming. I only know this: I exist, I am, I am here, I am becoming, I am my life and no one else makes it for me. I must face my own shortcomings, mistakes, transgressions. No one can suffer my non-being as I do, but tomorrow is another day, and I must decide to leave my bed and live again. And if I fail, I don’t have the comfort of blaming you or life or God.”

~ Zinker, Gestalt Institute in Cleveland, from his paper called On Public Knowledge and Personal Revelation

Other powerful quotes to share:

“We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.”

~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer

“We are all functioning at a small fraction of our capacity to live fully in its total meaning of loving, caring, creating and adventuring. Consequently, the actualizing of our potential can become the most exciting adventures of our lifetime.”

~ Herbert Otto

“Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life.”

~ Herbert Otto

a wonderful surprise: a poem from April 2008

A wonderful surprise, a gift this morning to re-read this poem from 2008.

Mina’s First Day @ Tiny Tots

I’m realizing it’s been 1 year, 5 months, and 10 days since Mina’s first day at Friends & Me:¬†Big girl, Mina @ Friends & Me

17 months…528 days…12,672 hours…760,320 minutes. Wow.

But these numbers don’t carry any meaning other than the obvious and inevitable passing of time.

What carries meaning is Mina and her moving, growing, changing self.

Mina graduated Friends & Me on March 13, 2014.¬†Since then, we’ve explored swimming and art classes;¬†our first long road trip from NorCal¬†to Jackson Hole, about a 14-hour drive across 3 days, involving Mina’s first hotel stays (she loved loved the Nevada hotels, especially the swimming pools and endless fun of jumping on beds); her first sightings of bison, antelope, ground squirrels, deer, and countless stunning¬†birds; and her first sleepover at her cousin’s.

She’s growing up to be quite an individual with wit, whimsy, and spunk. And a whole lot of sweet.

One of my favorite moments from¬†this summer: On August 3rd, we make a toast to us and our “moving, growing, working together” kind of love, “Happy Anniversary.”

And Mina celebrates, “We’re all married now!!!”

In that instant, we laugh and melt because she is so us. We feel and live love; love breathes and smiles in every exchange, and she’s already learned to share¬†these tender gestures of love with us. A sweet peck on our foreheads, soothing strokes of her small hand on our shoulders, and even a silly swoon after our kisses (my favorite!) ūüôā

Thank you, Miss Mina, for your sweet spunk. You surprise us, inspire us daily with your curious mind and mindful eye. You remind us to pay attention and notice the wonders around us. I am ever grateful and honored to be given this chance to be your Mama, to be part of this family I only dreamed of.

3 years flew by but with such force¬†to bring¬†out the best in me, in us. What a ride, what a rush of magical moments after another, and we’re now “firmly plantedandgrowing” as this family that’s just perfect for me.

We are such a gift, such a wonder to me.


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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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