Life Wanderer

“Don’t worry, I’m not lost. I know right where I am.”

Have you ever, at some point in your adult life, had some moment where you look around and think, “How the heck did I wind up here?” I have. I admit it. And I had a similar moment just recently.

I have a four year old who has recently been having some major separation anxiety issues. I don’t mean he just misses me when I’m not there. I’m talking about practically-has-a-complete-emotional-breakdown-if-he-can’t-see-you level of anxiety. If we are at home and I get up off of the couch to go into the kitchen, within 1 to 2 minutes I’ll hear him call for me and say “Where are you?!” He doesn’t like it when he can’t see us, which means school is also difficult now. A couple of weeks ago I was dropping him off in the morning and he said he didn’t want to go to school, which is SO not like him. When I asked him why not, he said, “Because you’ll leave. And I can’t see you.” So I knelt down and talked to him about how that’s okay, because I always come back. While he’s at school, I just go back home, etc. And then he looked at me and said, “But what if you get lost?” Heartbreakingly adorable. I told him, “Don’t worry, I’m not lost. I know right where I am.”

At the time, I didn’t really think much about it. I mean, when I said that to him it meant something. But I didn’t realize how much it would mean to me when I thought back over it later. I’m a planner. I always have everything mapped out, to the tiniest detail. And I don’t always like it when the plans change, but I can deal with it, because I always have a plan, so I can still feel like a control. But thinking back over those words brought me to one of those moments where I thought, “I’m not lost. I know right where I am. But where exactly is that? And how the heck did I get here?”

You see, looking at my life and how wonderfully amazing it is right now, it is absolutely nothing like I thought it would be. In no way whatsoever does it match up to any plan that I’ve ever come up with for my future within the last ten years of my life. And it practically floored me to realize this all of a sudden, but…I’m okay with that. Somehow with all of the changes I’ve had in my life over the last couple of years, and with how caught up I’ve been with my own busy-ness (<–is that even a word?), I’ve wandered away from all of the specific plans I’d been clinging to. But I’m okay with that. Actually, I’m more than okay with that–I’m totally thrilled and blissfully happy with it, because if I hadn’t, my life wouldn’t be what it is right now. And it is many things each and every day: fun, crazy, hilarious, hard, hectic, happy, frustrating..and amazing. A gift.

Its a lesson I didn’t even really consciously set out to learn, but learn I did. Sometimes the best gifts are the ones you stumble across outside of your box or off of the beaten path.

So, no worries. I’m not lost. I know right where I am, and I love it.

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Wisdom

So it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, and I absolutely believe I have the best mother in the whole world. She’s everything I’ve always needed at every stage of my life. She’s strong and determined, loyal, kind, understanding, sassy, the list goes on..

So the other day I dug out my old highschool yearbook and looked up the little note she had submitted for me in the back for my senior ad, which contains some of the finest advice she’s ever given me. And in honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy!

“Dear Anna,

Woot–you’re a senior! It seems like just yesterday you were my little, pumpkin-headed baby girl, and now you are a beautiful young lady getting ready to ‘have an adventure’ and go out into the big, wide world and take it on. The least I can do, as your loving mother, is give you some advice to safeguard you and guide you once you are there. Take these tidbits to heart, and remember how much you are loved and you won’t go wrong.

Call your mother; always keep a globe in your heart in case you get lost; never fry bacon naked; never underestimate the stupidity of another person; don’t smoke; wear a bra; call your mother; don’t put metal in the microwave; don’t cut your own bangs; don’t kiss a vampire; call your mother; always think outside the box; constant vigilance; keep both hands on the bat-rope; call your mother; your day–your attitude–your choice; always say ‘I love you’; laugh often and pray more; call your mother; remember the best things in life aren’t things; play nice; trust yourself; don’t look behind you; call your mother; true love does not come by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly; tie your shoes; call your mother; celebrate the little things; you shouldn’t always say everything you think; rules are NOT more like guidelines; truth can be diplomatic; and lastly–CALL YOUR MOTHER.

Love, Mom”

Breaking the Silence On Hijab Stereotyping

We have all done it before, myself included. You are out somewhere, and you see someone who is different from you, and you do the double take. And then after than initial reaction, you make a quick mental decision–Do I look away and pretend I didn’t see them at all? Do I just nod or smile to acknowledge their presence? Do I stare at them and make them feel uncomfortable? Do I laugh at them? Do I show them so eloquently through just my facial expression that I don’t care for the fact that they are different from me?

I experienced a little bit of all of those things within the past twenty-four hours. It all started simply enough. I am your average 22 year old Caucasian American female. I have a job and friends and hobbies. Once a week I help teach English as a second language to a group of women. Some of them are from other countries, but the majority of them are from Somalia, and they are devout Muslims. I also have a very dear friend of mine, who I have known since I was born, and she converted to the Muslim faith a few years ago. I love all of these people that I have the privilege of getting to spend time with. I am not a Muslim, so obviously there are some differences between our lifestyles, but why does that have to be a bad thing?

Recently a Buzzfeed video was brought to my attention. In the video, four Buzzfeed employees sit down and learn the meaning behind the practice of wearing a hijab. They were also shown how to correctly wear one, and then they went about their normal business for the rest of the day to see how other people would react, look at them, or treat them based on that one addition to their usual clothing. It’s a short video, but very thought provoking. You can see it below.

That same video inspired me to conduct a similar cultural experiment. I see quite a few wonderful, lovely Muslim women who I regard as my friends every week. All of them wear hijabs, and I couldn’t help wondering what that is like, both mentally/emotionally, but also physically. So yesterday was a normal day to me. I got up in the morning and got ready to go out. The only difference was that I also wore a hijab. I wore it for the whole day…an interesting day.

The first time I got together with my childhood friend after she became a Muslim, we just decided to go out for coffee. That was a while ago now, but I can still remember sitting there across from this person I knew like the back of my hand, and she didn’t seem to notice a lot of the looks that people were throwing her way, but I did. On the one hand I couldn’t understand why it should matter to people that she was donning a hijab in this little coffee shop in the same town that we grew up in. But at the same time I felt very defensive of her and the fact that people were treating and looking at her differently.

After wearing a hijab for a day myself, I now know how it feels to be on the receiving end of all of those stares.

The most interesting place this educational trip of mine took me to was the lake, where I (along with many other people in the city) frequently go walking when the weather is nice. Traditionally, you might not see anyone you personally know when you go walking there, but everyone is friendly and smiling and social. That was the first time I have ever walked that route and felt like I didn’t belong there. Everyone I saw did a sort of double take. A lot of them decided to very pointedly look away, like I would think they hadn’t noticed me at all. Quite a few of them stared at me as we passed one another, in a non-aggressive yet still uncomfortable manner. A few of them actually stared at me with pure dislike etched on their faces. There were some people who walked in pairs, and I could hear them talking ahead, but once I came into sight they fell silent until I passed them. Interestingly enough, the only person there who actually smiled at me, waved, and said hello was a military man going for a jog.

Why do we do things like that? How can a piece of fabric wrapped around someone’s head make such a difference in how others perceive them? There are a lot of people who might react negatively to someone wearing a hijab out of fear. But they’re not afraid of the fabric. They’re afraid of the mere possibility that the person beneath it could be some radical extremist who wants to hurt them and everything they stand for. But do you have any idea how unlikely that is? And honestly, what I find even more disturbing is that in today’s society (and especially in my own generation), most people have a reaction like one of those mentioned above because they just don’t know any different. But either way, those are reactions based on uneducated and unfounded assumptions.

When I left the confines of my own house in the morning, I became nervous. I felt like I was doing something wrong. But I wasn’t. It isn’t wrong to dress according to your preferences or beliefs, whether that means wearing a speedo at the beach, or wearing electric blue eyeliner, or even wearing a hijab. And I think that it’s time that more people make an effort to educate themselves to save themselves and others from the danger of stereotypes and prejudices. Because the truth is that we are all just people. And no one person has the right to judge another based on their appearance alone. You know nothing about them until you take the time to get to know them.

I am grateful to Buzzfeed and their staff for making the video that encouraged me to do my own educational experiment. I think I learned a lot from it. Most importantly, I have a newfound respect for my personal friends and others who take the time to correctly put on their hijabs every day and wear them proudly because that is what they believe in. Also, on a more personal level, wearing a hijab for a day helped drive home one of the lessons that my mother has always tried to teach me–it doesn’t matter what other people think of you, especially as long as you are doing what you believe is right.

“Prejudices, it is well known, are the most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.” -Charlotte Bronte

Women Wear Hijabs For A Day: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_WosD_GTz_E

“Don’t be sad. It’s okay to miss mommy..”

“Don’t be sad. It’s okay to miss mommy–that’s okay. Because it means she’s a good mommy and you love her. And you get to see her again soon, just like you get to see me again another day.”

These are my own words. I had to say them to my two year old today as she started crying her heart out when I had to leave for the day. I made what some might say was the mistake of asking if she was really sad because she was missing mommy. Honestly, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get the words out without crying, myself.

Isn’t it interesting and complex and frustrating that you can so perfectly understand the confusion and sadness and anxiety that someone as small as that is feeling, and yet you can be at a total loss as to how to explain it to her. I have seven year old who perfectly understands the disruption of divorce and is struggling with it in his own way. As upset as he gets sometimes, it’s actually usually fairly easy to put his mind at ease and calm him down. Then I have a four year old who is the happiest guy on the planet. He knows things aren’t right but he also seems to know everything is going to be fine.

But my two year old…my little girl. She knows things are wrong. She knows people are upset. She knows she is missing one of her parents, but doesn’t understand why. And all of the sudden she is ruled by an anxiety that everyone who sets foot outside the front door is leaving her and not coming back. I know all of that. I understand it all, even on a personal level. And yet I can’t explain it to her.

Nobody deserves that kind of confusion and chaos. But especially children. How do you center them and focus them on positivity, no matter what their age? I’m still trying to figure it out as I go along. But it’s a heartbreaking process.

A Nanny In A Broken Home

I am sitting downstairs in the living room watching Dolphin Tale 2 in the dark, with my three sleeping kids around me–ages seven, four, and two. In the quiet, with the volume turned down, I can hear their hushed breathing and it makes me want to cry. Their hurting hearts are beating out rhythms that my own understands. Their world is changing in ways that they do and don’t understand, but are certainly not prepared to deal with. Their home is breaking up. Their parents are not together anymore. It is all so new and strange and hurtful to them. And it is all things that I have felt in detail myself a long time ago. Feelings that I have grown and learned from so that they are an embedded part of who I am, but that I never expected to have to reevaluate from this position in my adult life. I find myself being a diplomat for peace. I find myself being whoever they happen to be lacking at any given moment–mother or father–yet fully knowing that I can never truly measure up to either. I find myself close to tears on their behalf, wanting to be able to just pick everything up with my own two hands and put it all in its proper place again. To be able to so simply fix their lives. But I cant. All I can do is love them with all of my heart and sympathize with every fiber of my being and my full personal knowledge of what they are feeling. But it’s hard. One moment I feel like I’m doing a good job, or at least doing the best that I can. But then ten or fifteen minutes later, one of them will say something or react to something that takes my breath away. Suddenly I find myself thinking that surely there must be something else that I can do. When I was told by their parents that they were splitting up, I was given a choice. I didn’t have to stay. I could look for another job. But I was assured that, if I did stay, this previously unforeseen situation would not change my work. But that’s impossible. It takes a toll on my children–my little hearts–so deeply. And I am the one who spends each day with them. It has to take a toll on me too. But even knowing that, I could never walk out on them. As a child of divorce myself, I know the pain of someone you love walking away, and the balm of stability in such a situation. I could never leave them. Some days I don’t have a clue what to say to them or how to act around them. Sometimes, when they start crying, I just want to sit down next to them and cry too. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there are days like that still to come. But that is the most important thing–crying or smiling, I will be there with them. I could never be anywhere else. And that is why I’m sitting up in a room filled with the sound of gentle snoring, watching a cheesy movie. Because I need to be here with them. No matter how much we are all hurting, I don’t want to be anywhere else.

The World’s Most Beautiful Rose

“There once was a mighty queen in whose garden grew the most beautiful flowers. Every season there were some in bloom, and they had been collected in all the countries of the world. But roses she loved above all flowers, and in her garden there were many kinds, from the wild hedge rose with green leaves that smell like apples to the loveliest rose of Provence. Roses grew up the walls of the castle, twined themselves around the marble columns, and even entered the halls and corridors of the castle, where their ramblers crept across the ceilings and filled the rooms with the fragrance of their flowers.

But inside the castle sorrow lived, for the queen was dying. The wisest of all the doctors who were attending her said, ‘There is only one remedy that can save her. Bring her the world’s most beautiful rose, the one that symbolizes the highest and purest love, and when her eyes see that flower, then she will not die.’

The young and the old brought their roses–the most beautiful ones that grew in their gardens–but it was not such a flower that could cure the queen. From love’s garden the rose must be brought, but which flower would be the symbol of the highest and purest love? The poets sang of the world’s most beautiful rose, and each mentioned a different one. Word was sent to all, regardless of rank and class, whose hearts did best for love.

‘No one has as yet mentioned the right flower,’ said the wise man. ‘No one has pointed to that place where it grows, in all its glory and beauty. It is not the rose from Romeo’s and Juliet’s tomb or Valborg’s grave, though those roses will always bloom and shed their fragrance in stories and poetry. Nor is it the rose that blooms on Winkelried’s blood-covered lance. From the hero’s blood, shed in defense of his native land, the reddest rose springs; and it is said that such a death is sweet, but it is not the most beautiful rose in the world. The magical wonderful rose, which can only be grown under constant care, through days and years of sleepless nights: the rose of science, it is not either.’

‘I know where it blooms,’ exclaimed a happy mother who, carrying her babe, had entered the queen’s bedchamber. ‘I know where the world’s most beautiful rose is to be found, the rose of highest and purest love. It blooms on the cheeks of my child, when he wakes from his sleep and laughs up at me, with all his love.’

‘Yes, in truth, that rose is lovely, but there are those even more beautiful,’ said the wise man.

‘Yes, far more beautiful,’ said one of the ladies in waiting. ‘I have seen it, and a more exalted, sacred rose than that does not exist. It is as pale as the petals of a tea rose and I have seen it on our queen’s cheeks when, without her golden crown, she walked, carrying her sick child in her arms, back and forth across the room one whole long night. She kissed her babe and prayed to God as only a mother prays in her agony.’

‘Yes, wonderful and holy is the white rose of sorrow, but that is not the one.’

‘No, the world’s most beautiful rose I saw before the altar of Our Lord,’ a pious old priest said. ‘I saw it shine on an angel’s face. Among a group of young girls who had come to take communion, there was one who looked with such simple and innocent love up toward her God that on her face bloomed the rose of highest and purest love.’

‘Blessed is that rose too,’ said the wise man. ‘But none of you has yet mentioned the world’s most beautiful rose.’

At that moment into the room stepped a little boy, the queen’s son. His eyes were filled with tears and he was carrying a big book with silver clasps and bound in vellum. The book was open.

‘Mother!’ Said the little one. ‘Listen to what I have read.’ And the child sat down by his mother’s bedside and read about Him who suffered death on the Cross in order to save humanity. ‘Greater love there cannot be.’

The queen’s pale cheeks took on a pinkish shade, and her eyes became big and clear, as from the pages of the book grew the world’s most beautiful rose, the one that grew from Christ’s blood on the cross.

‘I see it,’ she said. ‘And those who have seen that rose, the most beautiful rose in the world, shall never die.'” -Hans Christian Andersen

All Hallows’ Eve

All Hallow’s Eve, a time of magic. Some rebuke this idea. But how can they, truly?

Listen! Can you not hear the quiet laughter of magic in the quick rustle of the leaves as they race and tumble along the ground? Listen long enough, my friends, and soon you will hear a dry cackle.

Can you not feel the velvety coolness of the night air brushing past you? Stand still long enough, my friends, and you will swear that you felt a cold hand upon your own.

Do you not feel something dark in the shadows, just out of sight? Stare into the blackness long enough, my friends, and you’ll feel certain that a black cat is staring back at you.

Look up into the trees! Do you not see the large, dark, amber eyes of the owl? Stand there and look for too long, my friends, and you will see the knowledge with which it studies you.

The stars–they are all around you, prickling you with the same light of thousands of years past. Observe them for too long, my friends, and you’ll see that they’re observing you; adding the knowledge of what they find to the stores of mysterious secrets held through the ages.

Caught up in all of this, you hear the voice of one passing stranger calling out to another. But was it, really? The more you think on it, my friends, the more certain you’ll become that it was the voice, not of a stranger, but of one from the distant past, long since gone.

There is a special magic in all of these things, just as there is magic in the silent dust of sacred books not opened in recent years; the orange glow coming from the jack o lantern on the nearest step, which seems to flicker mischievously with more than just light; or the silence of the graveyard under the full, golden, harvest moon.

Your spine begins to tingle as you are snapped abruptly out of this discomposing reverie by a group of passing children. Listen! Can you not hear the sounds of their laughter being carried back to you on the night air? Listen long enough, my friends, and you will find that they are laughing at your disbelief in magic.”