Sunday, August 29, 2010

on sending my toddler off to college

Sunday night. I have this knot in my stomach, and can’t get to sleep. It’s past midnight and everyone sleeps, while I sit here staring at a monkey with a crown. I didn’t expect this to happen.

I mean, it’s not like it’s the first time. She has been going to some playgroup or kinder-type schooling since she was 19 months. In the past I’ve laughed about stories of parents crying as they dropped their kids in school for the first time. But somehow it’s different this time, and I can’t get my head around it.

M the princess is starting pre-school.

We went shopping today, the whole family unit, on a mission to get the four things she needed. It’s a big deal and we treated it as such.

We moved through the Sunday crowds until she chose a backpack she liked. The one she had, the small one with the Disney princesses, is no longer big enough. It doesn’t fit the A4 folder she needs to put her homework, her books, and her report cards. There are no princess backpacks that size. It’s like the world is pushing her to grow up, and a little voice in my head keeps repeating ‘they are taking my baby away.’

So finally she settled on a large, bright pink, monkey princess. Which is really ironic because we always call her monkey, and she calls herself a princess, so it’s pretty much tailor made for her. It’s sitting in front of me, all ready for the big day, and I can’t stop staring at it and all it means.

Up until now we could choose to send her to school or not. (Ok, technically we still can as she doesn’t legally have to go for another year), but that is not the point. The point is she’s about to begin official schooling. It’s the permanence that is killing me. From reception she’ll go to first grade, then high school, then college, then work. Forever now her mornings will be hurried and busy. She is entering the conveyor belt of life. It makes me long for summer like I was back in school myself.

The backpack is huge. It’s almost bigger than her. Isn’t there some law that says kids should only go to big-girls school once they are bigger than their backpacks? There should be.

I want to scream “give me my baby back!” but not sure who I’d be screaming it to.

Her backpack also needs to fit her snack and lunch boxes, needed for the endless hours she’ll spend in that building, a full three blocks away from home, away from me. From now on, she is having lunch at school every day but Wednesday.

All the research says that kids learn eighty percent of their vocabulary at the table, so I’ve always made an effort to ensure lunch was a family affair. Her vocabulary is now in the hands of Phil the-snot-kid, and steal-my-shoes Mathew. Wednesday lunch is now officially sacred.

But she’s so excited about it. She chose her snack box, (a pink Disney princess classic), and her lunch box, which is neither pink nor does it have princesses.

Having left the back-to-school shopping a bit late, there were not many options left, so she chose a purple and black version more appropriate for a pre-teen than my baby. Another little prick in my heart, right next to the beaming pride.

My baby is off to school tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

on loosing my religion, and my kids finding it

I spent the first years of my life in Post Franco’s Spain, back when it was a religious state, each classroom had a crucifix, and every school day started with a song to baby Jesus, (which would later be replaced by ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag’ when we moved to America).

My family was not very religious. We went to church once a year for the special Christmas mass, la misa de gallo, which celebrated the birth of Christ, and took place particularly late. It was great. The whole town would dress up to attend. And after wishing each other happy holidays, we’d all walk home lighting sparkles knowing a full Christmas dinner and presents awaited.

The town priest, Don Arturo, let us use a run down moldy room behind the church, which we did up as our secret headquarters. He would sometimes give us left over non-consecrated communion wafers.

I did my first communion by accident, on a day I decided to attend mass on my own, but my parents didn’t tell anyone, and let me have the ceremony and the party with the rest of my friends. After a short stint in the states, the family moved to Chile, where I joined a girls-only school run by nuns.

By this point I was pretty unimpressed with most of the stories I was being told: I had issues with the claim that Mary was a virgin, and the implication that sex was somehow dirty and related to the original sin; I had issues with the fact that women couldn’t be priests, let alone popes; I’d read a book that claimed to have proof that Christ had lived after the crucifixion. That he’d walked up Mount Olive and descended on the other side, where he got a job, a wife and children, and I was happy to discuss it openly. My religion teacher purposefully avoided eye contact or calling on me whenever I had a question.

One day a priest came in for confession. He and I sat alone in a room. Well, he sat on a chair, he made the thirteen year old kneel between his legs. I proceeded to recount my sins: I’d lied to my mom, I yelled at my sister, the usual. Unsatisfied he asked if I had a boyfriend.

The day I had that old priest asking about my love life, while I knelt between his legs, was the day the church and I finally parted ways.

My mother was cool about it, and signed a note stating I was unwell every first Monday of the month so that I could skip mass. We told them I had already done my confirmation, and we all left well enough alone.

Later I attended a college run by Jesuits renown to be the best for my field. Psychology, philosophy and theology have always been closely linked. Half of the bar was filled with missionaries in long black robes. When I started working in development, we would often have religious organizations as our grassroots counterparts. It was all fine with me. After years of debating about the church, my philosophy was pretty much ‘I’ll leave you alone if you leave me alone’.

Then came the whole marriage thing. Not a big fan of marriage to begin with, I agreed to a big wedding, I even agreed to a religious wedding on one condition: that I be married by a woman, which technically should have been possible given that in the Roman Catholic tradition, it is the spouses who are understood to confer marriage on each other. It didn’t fly, shocker, so instead we had an amazing civil service by the sea during sunset; friends read passages of their choosing; The Little Prince, love poems. My sister, a professional singer, sang Noa’s version of the Ave Maria, where she talks about war and the lack of grace in the modern world, and wrote our own vows.

Given that the moms, (as in mine and the hubby’s), were very disappointed by this, we offered our children’s souls in exchange; both our kids have been baptized.

Again, fine with me, they can make their minds up about that one later, dropping out is easy, having to get baptized in high school might have been more of an ordeal.

So long story short, my kids have attended some religious gatherings; baptisms, communions and the like, where the religious element was completely drowned under the social element; the excitement, the party, and the presents. They’ve never asked any questions.

Then the other day we went for a walk. A nice aimless stroll to kill time before dinner was ready. We were minding our own business when M the princess spotted a castle on the horizon, and off we went on an adventure to find it.

Just as we reached the castle walls a priest came out and opened its doors. The kids were excited, so I politely asked if I could show them around. He said yes, mass wouldn’t start for another 20 minutes. And so I squatted to eye level and spoke in a stern tone:

“This is a special place. Here you cannot run, and you must keep your voice down. You must be very respectful of…”

and then I drew a blank. When you have never spoken about religion before, where do you start? What do you say?

Fortunately they didn’t care why, they just wanted to enter the ‘castle’, so they accepted the rules.

The church was empty, and I was surprised by how nice it felt to be in there. The kids followed the priest, who was lighting the candles. It felt so welcoming, so quiet, like a great place to meditate. It made me think of my Muslim colleagues in Somalia, and how envious I often felt of their five prayers a day ritual. Five times a day the world stopped for them, no matter what. They faced Mecca and took time to give thanks, to acknowledge the universe. I’d often walk into an office to find them prostrated on the floor. At lunch they would gather in the garden, and when their prayers were done, they’d lie on their rugs under the trees, chatting away and eating.

The children continued following the priest as my mind wondered. I tried to point out statues of angels, but they were mesmerized with the robed man that could make fire. Once we got near the altar, we sat down to take it all in.

‘I need to say something’ I though, ‘ I can’t have them going around thinking these places are castles’

“look!” I finally said, “that’s the virgin Mary over there” pointing at some colorful statues near the ceiling, immediately regretting that I had used the word ‘virgin’ and might be asked to explain it. My daughter was having none of it

‘No mom, that is the queen”

Then I saw the pieta; the virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus on her lap. It made me sad, it always makes me sad these representations of death. I’ve always wondered what extraterrestrial life would think if they came down and saw all this paintings and sculptures of a man nailed to a cross. What a cruel culture they would think we are. Even in that context, a mother holding on to her dying child seems particularly cruel to me.

“look, that is a mother with her child, he is sleeping’ I lied. They could not see the blood, and a mother was appropriate in the castle context, so they accepted my explanation.

As people began filling up the space preparing for mass the spell was broken. I’d had enough. I had no idea where to begin nor what to say.

“it’s time for dinner now”

And so we walked away.

Monday, August 23, 2010

on little decisions with big impact: skip a Starbucks, support an adoption

This is actually a rather serious post. (consider yourself warned)

I came across this through aspiringmama's blog. I don't know CJredwine personally, but her story rings true, honest and simple: they want a baby and can't have it. After a five year wait, they are finally on the final stretch to adopt a little girl from China, and in the process, (the red tape, the procedures, ...) they have managed to empty the piggy bank that was meant to get them through this last bit.

It rings home to me because I always wanted to adopt a child. even before I wanted to have children of my own I felt that calling, until I realized how much it costs. In short, a f* fortune, so there went my dream...

If you don't have the Jolie-Pitt bank account, and you can make 'em for free, it's pretty hard to justify spending all that money, but, (but) not everyone can. Actually, a lot more people than we know can't, it is often not discussed because it is private, it is personal, and it is somehow taboo.

So have a read, have a think, there are some prices being offered, and the minimum is 5$ (not much). And hey, too much coffee is bad for you anyways.

What do a skipped cup of coffee, a little Chinese orphan girl, and you have in common? I'll get to that in a minute, but first, I want to tell you our story.

We had three biological boys in four years, and then I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I had a hysterectomy and while I mourned the fact that I couldn't have any more biological children, I was certain our family wasn't finished. My husband wasn't so sure. :) I'd talked about adopting and I always saw us with a little girl from China. He came up with a ton of reasons why now wasn't the right time to adopt. Then, on Mother's Day of 2005, he leaned over to me in church and said, "We have a daughter in China. We need to start the adoption proceedings to bring her home." I adjusted to this unexpected news (we hadn't discussed adoption for months) in about 15 seconds. :)

The next day, we began researching adoption and we picked out her name: Johanna Faith. Johanna means God's Gracious Gift and Faith is what it is taking to bring her home. We signed up with Chinese Children Adoption International agency based out of Colorado. We completed our stateside paperwork and homestudy within a few months, sent off our dossier to China with the understanding that it would be a 6-8 month wait, and eagerly planned to bring our daughter home.

Soon, though, we began to hear rumors that the wait time was extending. Then we heard that the government had cracked down on orphanages who were receiving money from the state but who weren't keeping all of their beds full and the wait slowed to a crawl. Our dreams of having her home for Christmas were dashed. And then our dreams for having her home in time for summer were dashed as well. Before we knew it, another Christmas had passed and we were still waiting. Meanwhile, the Olympics were coming to Beijing, and the word was most adoption processes would stop altogether.

As the wait stretched from 8 months to three years, I struggled with depression. I could hardly bear Christmas, because she wasn't yet there. I shut the door of her bedroom and left it closed because I couldn't bear to walk past it in the hall. It hurt to think about having a child out there whom I couldn't protect. Couldn't love. Couldn't save. Three years became four with no real change. Our homestudy expired. Our immigration petition expired. Three times. Our fingerprints expired. Four times. And China raised the orphanage and court fees by thousands while we waited. Suddenly, the cushion of money we'd raised at the start of this process was almost gone, and China was picking up speed in their child match program.

In September, it will be five years since we officially started our adoption process to bring Johanna home. We expect to receive her picture, information, and permission to travel sometime by the middle of September.

I opened her bedroom door for the first time in 3 1/2 years.

And went a little crazy ordering cute little hand-made hats and headbands on Etsy because I still don't know her size so can't buy her any clothes.

We're so excited to be able to travel soon to bring her home! But we still need to raise $8,000 to ransom her life from the orphanage. And that's where you come in!

The thought behind
Skip A Starbucks Day is that if every person who reads this and feels a tug on their heart to be part of Johanna's journey home would give up a personal indulgence (like a cup of coffee) and donate that money toward our adoption instead, we could raise the money needed to bring her home to her forever family.

for details on how to help, or to contact CJredwine directly go here, and have a lovely day

PS you are still allowed to get another coffee, a different one, if you can't shake the shakes. Alternative sources of caffeine, such as CHOCOLATE are also allowed. Damn, you can have whatever you want actually, AND (for once) feel good about it

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Motherhood is nothing but a series of days

‘ I’m a bad mother day’;

‘ I could be replaced by the nanny and the kids wouldn’t notice day’;

‘ it wouldn’t make a difference if I didn’t show up day’;

‘ my preschooler knows more swearwords than me & chose to show me on open class day’;

‘ I don’t care if their teeth fall off from too much sugar as long as they are quiet day’;

‘ my kid went from the terrible twos to the fucking threes day’;

‘ there is no such thing as too much TV day’;

‘ my kid is screaming his head off and sounds just like me day’;

‘ the hospital shouldn’t have allowed me to take the children home day’;

‘ I sound just like my mother, & I’m saying everything I swore I wouldn’t day ’;

‘ I’m getting divorced and leaving the children behind day ’;

‘ I’d rather be sleeping day ’;

‘ stop touching me day ’;

‘ you peed on me (again) day’;

‘ social services is going to come take the kids any day now day’;

‘ I’m never buying them paint or anything that can stick permanently day’;

‘ you opened the public toilet door too soon and showed everyone my butt day’;

‘"don’t touch the guitar" includes for putting stickers on it day’;

‘ stop touching your sister day’;

‘ either you stop crying or I join you day’;

‘ who are you and what did you do with my sweet baby day’;

‘ I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that until after I’ve had my coffee day’;

And then, just when you think you are about to break, your kid is the only one that picks up the toys, says please and thank you, and charms the room with a lovely story, which makes it into

‘ I’m the best mommy in the world (or at least this room, which is pretty good) day ’.

Or you get an ‘only mommy can make it better day’; you make the booboo better, you fix the bike, you saw the eyes back on the rabbit, you save the day;

The little hands reach around your neck

“I lowe you too much mommy”

and all’s forgotten.

PS this post is dedicated to @L8enough, hope you get a laugh out of my crap mommy days

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cheating on my new affair with an old love. It’s very confusing

When I was a kid I learned to play the piano. It sounds simple, but first it required my mother accepting that I was serious about taking lessons, that I wasn’t too young, and that I wasn’t asking just because my sisters were doing it. She thought my sister could teach me for a while. Soon enough she realized her mistake, as my attempts to study my sister’s music sheets, instead of mine, led to many a loud fights. So I got my teacher.

I wasn’t the type to sit for hours, but rather, I would sit for a few minutes at a time, often throughout the day. I learned to read music, could never play by ear, and in over ten years I only composed one song. But I loved playing. I loved the feeling.

Then we moved, and I hated the new teacher. Then I started college, I left home and my first love behind. For years I missed it. I missed that feeling that only now, many moons later, I realize is akin to that higher level of consciousness yogis and other spiritual masters talk about. A place where your mind wonders to and escapes the every day grind, noise, hustle and bustle. Full concentration on the simple mechanics empty the mind, and with the music comes a certain stillness that takes over. I read somewhere that playing the piano is one of the few activities that requires action of both sides of the brain. It takes your whole being to another place. I just missed it.

A couple of years later I bought an electric piano. Back then I was doing over 100 hour weeks, so it didn’t get played. My roommate on the other hand was unemployed, and I would pathetically hide the cord before heading to work. I just could handle the fact she had time to play and I did not.

Then I started working for the UN. Initially it was a one year contract, but I never went back to the UK, where my piano was based. After years of denial I paid to have it sent to my sister’s theatre so that my piano would finally get played.

A few years, two kids and a couple of countries later, I decided to give it one more go. I signed up for lessons and everything, even though I had a new born and a one year old. Trying to foresee the difficulties of travelling with a piano I bought a keyboard instead. Big mistake. A keyboard is to a piano what aerobics are to a dancer, or being called American is to a Canadian. Needless to say it was a disaster. Then we moved, the keyboard’s speaker broke, and I never played it again.

It’s still in my room, the keyboard, taking up a large part of it. It still has no speaker.

But I missed the feeling. I missed it so much, I decided to do one more desperate attempt. I decided to buy a guitar. I thought maybe a completely new instrument would free me from the torture of watching my clumsy fingers on the keyboard as my brain repeats “you should be playing better”.

My husband, who has never seen me play the lonely piano, asked one more time

“are you sure you want a guitar for your birthday”

I closed my eyes, held my breath and jumped in


Two days before my birthday, way behind on work, a friend on holidays lent me her apartment so that I could focus without the kids running around. I went into the empty quiet space and was greeted by a bran new black piano. I looked at it, sat down, and played the only tune I could remember. Over and over again. Then I opened the sealed music sheet book, and found a tune I used to play, not too hard, but soothing and melodic, and played it, again and again. It was amazing. The feeling was back. Alone and with no pressure I could just give in, stop judging and enjoy it. It made me want to buy a piano again, and it made me feel like I was cheating on my guitar, even though we hadn’t even met yet.

I was conflicted, but realized my husband would probably lock me up and throw away the key, if I now said I wanted a piano to sit next to the lonesome keyboard and the brand new guitar. So I stayed quiet and kept my dirty secret.

Then my birthday arrived, and with it the very much awaited package. The guitar was beautiful. For some strange reason I remembered four chords I had known in another life, and strung them together, and it sounded like a tune, a tune I could sing along to, I could never do that with the piano, and I love to sing.

Maybe this was going to work after all.

One week in, I can play my made up tune and a clumsy “home on the range”. My fingers hurt so much they remind me of my nipples when I was trying to breastfeed. So does the fact that I keep doing what made them raw to begin with.

But the feeling is good. I can’t wait until I can play a tune without having to stop on account of the pain, or because my fingers refuse to get into the right order. I can’t wait to learn a tune the kids can sing along to.

I’m excited. I think this is going to work. And maybe, some years down the line, I can buy a piano to play along with my guitar.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I've come to realize...

This is so much fun, I recommend everyone to try it, (and then maybe come back and share if there were any funny or surprising ones).

I got this lovely list from , via Michelle @ Mommy Loves Stilletos, by way of I'm just the MOM at Life in the Boys' Locker Room.

So really, it’s quite a slotty list, it’s been around.

1. I’ve come to realize that my chest-size….will never recover from two years of breastfeeding. I miss my perky boobs

2. I’ve come to realize that my job…. Is not static, and will probably keep changing (have a few ideas in mind at present) which is just how I like it

3. I’ve come to realize that when I’m driving….is the only time I listen to music, but not the only time I sing out loud

4. I’ve come to realize that I need….more sleep, more discipline, more stability and more exercise (more more more) oh, and less chocolate

5. I’ve come to realize that I have lost….a lot of good friends a long the way. Downsides of nomad lifestyle

6. I’ve come to realize that I hate....bullshit, hypocrites and spineless butt kissers who don’t want to rock the boat

7. I’ve come to realize that if I’m drunk…. I regret it the morning after

8. I’ve come to realize that money… not everything, but pretty darn helpful

9. I’ve come to realize that certain people…. are meant to come into in to your life to open new doors and opportunities

10. I've come to realize that my life would be easier if... I was a best selling published author

11. I’ve come to realize that my siblings(s)….are my roots and my closest friends, and a pain in the butt sometimes

12. I’ve come to realize that my mom… an angel, a saint and probably on speed (you just can’t have that much energy naturally). She probably also has two VIP tickets into heaven, which is why I’m being so nice to her

13. I’ve come to realize that my cell phone…. Rocks. love the photo apps, love the navigator and the fact that I can’t get lost, no matter how hard I try

14. I’ve come to realize that when I woke up this morning….. I was in no shape to do the work marathon that was scheduled cause I stayed up too late, (again) but still have to do it, and am procrastinating and doing this instead

15. I’ve come to realize that my first love is….. irrelevant, but a nice memory

16. I’ve come to realize that right now I am thinking about…. coffee

17. I’ve come to realize that my dad… awsome, and like a good brandy, getting smoother with the years

18. I’ve come to realize that Facebook…. Is essential for keeping up with my friends rudely scattered around this big ‘ol world

19. I’ve come to realize that today…. Is going to be a long day, and it better be f* productive, cause I need it to be

20. I’ve come to realize that my best friend(s)…. Are few and far between, and really, really important

21. I’ve come to realize that my spouse….is my rock, my boat, my friend and partner (and a pain in the butt some times)

22. I’ve come to realize that what I really want to do…. Is write, and take portraits, and travel, and spend time with my kids, and work in development (wait, I’m already doing that) so I’ve realized I want to get paid shit loads for doing it …. (see #8)

23. I’ve come to realize that life….. is an exciting ongoing experiment

24. I’ve come to realize that this weekend…. Is my birthday! And I’m supposed to learn to play the guitar now cause I asked for one

25. I’ve come to realize that next weekend…. Is probably going to be very boring cause there is *no one* left in town but us (seriously, I think they closed the borders and all)

26. I’ve come to realize that my child(ren)….. are amazing, and my main source of entertainment, and still can’t get over the fact that I made those people (etsy eat your heart out)

27. I’ve come to realize that when life gives you lemons…. You make lemonade. Unoriginal, but f* brilliant

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Shoot the messenger. wait that's me! Ironies & contradictions of Aid Work

So I have a funny job. It revolves around a basic concept: I waltz in, I have a look around, I read, I ask questions, come to conclusions and write ‘em up.

Conclusion that seek to help people do their job better, that seek to learn from the experience so that the same mistakes are not repeated, so that good things are replicated, so that the international aid community is accountable.

It has one basic flaw; no one really wants to hear what I have to say, not if it’s bad anyways.

The country running the project because no one likes to have a know it all walk in and make them look bad, tell them about their job, their country, what they are doing wrong and what they could be doing different.

“we are different”, “you don’t understand”, “you didn’t spend enough time to see the detail”, ” you didn’t get it"

The irony is that the ones that hire me don’t want to hear negative comments either because it implies that they fucked up somehow. That they did not choose right, that they didn’t judge the proposal adequately, in sum; it makes them look bad too.

So where does that leave me? in a funny place indeed.

As an independent observer there is another flaw: you may be independent, but you rely on these people to get work. You rely on their recommendation for more business. You are basically criticizing your client, which pretty much goes against all basic marketing tools, akin to a photographer telling a client

“you are dead ugly and a bit fat, so the picture is not going to look good unless you start eating healthy, do some exercise, get a haircut and a facial”

true and fair, but will they call you back? I don’t think so

Except they do call you back because, for the most part, once the knee jerk reaction to criticism passes, they understand you mean well, they understand it’s useful, because usually it’s productive criticism, because usually it’s ok.

But every now and then you are put in a real bind: when there is something really bad or really suspicious going on. Then you’ve got two choices:

a) you do your job and may the chips fall where they may. pray that you are getting it right, that you are being fair, and that what you say will be useful

b) you masseuse the info as much as possible, you potentially even turn a blind eye to certain things, which probably weren’t in your terms of reference to begin with, and decide it’s not your problem, or that it’s above your pay grade

As a consultant you are at the bottom of the food chain, and at the same time untouchable. What you write goes, but no one is going to stick their neck out for you if it gets ugly. The easiest person to kill when you don’t like the news is indeed the messenger.

But I’ve got a problem: I give a damn. I try to remind myself who my real client is, and it’s not the NGO nor the donor but the beneficiary, so I cant (shouldn’t) keep my mouth shut.

Which leaves me in a funny place indeed.

I’ve got one card up my sleeve though: I don’t need this job; I don’t need it to eat, and I don’t need it to feel important, (I had to find alternative sources of identity and self worth after I gave up my job when my kids were born).

I’ve got the kids, the writing, and all the imaginary voices in my head to keep me company.

Except of course I do need it because I love it.

So a toast and a prayer:

The toast: may I get it right, may I be fair, and may I be useful.

And a prayer: here’s to hoping I get more work after I press “send”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

singing lullabies to fate

As I photograph them laughing and playing, in the back of my mind I wonder what they would make of me if I were to disappear and all they had to remember me by were these pictures. These videos and my laughter recorded on the background.

As I sit on an airplane heading far from their reach, an invisible hand squeezes my gut until I can barely breath, and the thought that I may never see them again becomes too painful to bear.

I know that it is normal for a mother to fear the loss of her children. So much so that I probably cannot bear the thought of them going away, so instead in this half dream I am the one that disappears. The thought of leaving them is still painful, but more manageable. The thought of them suffering and not being there to comfort them takes my breath away. Literally. Sometimes the fear is so strong I dread it might be a memory from a past life. A memory so painful it cannot leave me, not even once I’ve moved on to a new life, to a new child.

Memories of friends who lost their mother’s in their childhood haunt me. The image of a half naked woman lying on her deathbed, her long wavy hair half covering her bare chest. Her small children run about, laughing and smiling unaware that their world is about to be torn apart. I can’t imagine a worse form of torture. The girl at school we all walked up to and asked about her mother, fully aware her answer would be “she’s on a trip to heaven”. And we thought that was funny.

I’ve tried to make a pact with fate: I’ve asked that no one I love will ever die. But I fear she’s not listening.

A college mate mourns her parents. Both died on a car crash with another couple. All of them gone in one instant. One road trip. One small second of difference is all it would have taken for their lives to be completely different.

We are so fragile. Life is so fragile.

And then of course there was my cousin, almost a year today. Young, hopeful and engaged. His death haunts me in a most selfish way, “spare me” is all I can think. “not me, not mine.” And then wish him well, wherever he may be, and think of something else before it becomes too hard.

My babies, I want to protect them from heaven and earth, yet have no power to do so. I want to watch over them night and day, yet I don’t have the ability to do so.

So I hide the fear away and instead sing to them. Sing in their sleep. Sing to fate and all her sisters in the hope that I will enchant them with my lullabies, that they will look bright upon my life, and death will pass us by, and spare me and mine.

And I pray, to no particular god, I pray that me and all my loved ones will live forever, that I may see my children and their children grow old. That I may always be there to comfort them, that I may never know that kind of pain, that I may never cause that kind of pain.