Friday, February 16, 2018


I barely follow the news. I have a handful of bad excuses, but no good ones. Some things don't require you to follow the news, though. They infiltrate social media spaces, radio news headlines, and conversations with real humans in real life (remember when 'real life' didn't need to be categorized?) I haven't even read or heard any details about the last school shooting, but eventually, when something is ubiquitous enough, horrendous enough, and having to do with children--which I happen to have a number of--a shift from 'them' to 'us' takes place. Even for the deeply asleep, deeply privileged. Even for me.

I'm just going to say it. Even though the shame of it is almost too heavy to crawl out from under.

Today is the first day I actually feared for my children's safety. Today is the first day I can't wait to pick them up from school and get them home safe and sound.

I know. My feelings are a watered down version of what every black and brown and Native parent in this country has felt for the last 500 years. What every Syrian and Iraqi and Afghani and...and...and parent feels every day.

My feelings are not new. They are the opposite of new. They are just new to me. I haven't had to feel them until today.

This is what privilege looks like.

The good news is that the group of people who are 'privileged' is shrinking. The bad news is that the group of people who are 'privileged' is shrinking. 

These tragedies will end. But will it be before or after our own children are murdered?

What if we saw all children as our children now. today? I don't pretend to know what policy changes need to occur, but I'm pretty convinced they will all start with heart changes.

Monday, December 4, 2017

I Think I'm a Princess

I think I'm a princess.

I read my children books about Malala and Rosa Parks and Ada Twist and Elizabeth Blackwell. We watched Katherine Johnson get men to the moon, in spite of the men on the ground. They still haven't seen Cinderella.

We conduct science experiments and do math problems for fun because science and math are awesome. Especially when you're a girl. And you need them when you want to change the world.

I try not to do for my children what they are capable of doing for themselves.   

I wear jeans everyday until pajama time because I can do ALL THE THINGS in jeans all while feeling comfortable in my skin. Sometimes I wear pajamas until pajama time. I have never worn heels in my entire life and cannot for the life of me understand why that could be considered a good idea. When I wear tinted chap stick, the kids ask why I'm so dressed up.

I firmly believe that women and men are equally capable of working inside and outside the home in a fluid and fluctuating interchange. At the moment I work at home to raise my children because I want to and because I'm the one whose body makes milk and because we're okay with barely scraping by and because our life circumstances allow for it. Also, it's the most challenging, hardest job I can imagine and I believe I can do hard things.  I believe my happiness depends on doing hard things.

When my husband cleans the kitchen at the end of the day and tells me that he 'did the dishes for me,' I remind him that he did them for our family. And that we both work 24 hours a day, but he splits his time between two jobs and I stick with just the one.
The never-ending, endlessly rewarding, endlessly exhausting one.

Sometimes I thank him when I am genuinely grateful for all that he does, and often I don't because when he does the laundry or cleans the bathrooms or braids the girls' hair, he isn't doing me a favor. He's just doing his job. OUR job.

And when he doesn't do those dishes, I fight hard against the tendency towards resentment, knowing that if he could, he would. (I only know this because he has told me repeatedly for ten years and I am just starting to believe him.)(Damn 'feminist' mindset making me see injustice even where there is none.)

Also, if its okay for him to say, 'I just can't tonight,' it's okay for me to say that too. And that, my fellow ladies, is probably the most liberating thing you can do for yourself. Stop. doing. more. than. you. can. Resentment doesn't come when your partner isn't pulling their weight. Resentment comes when you take it upon yourself to pull more than you are capable of pulling, and then blame your partner.

When Oprah asked Elizabeth Gilbert what her secret to happiness was last week in an interview, her answer was: 'No happiness without self accountability.'

"Who are you going to blame your life on today?" she asked. "There is only weakness to be had in waiting for somebody to change it for you... It is the weakest position you can stand in. I'm in charge of this person. Whatever happens out there is none of my business. I'm in charge of this soul that was given to me to take care of. And I accept 100% accountability for this soul."

This. This is why I surround my children--and especially my girls--with examples of humans--and especially women--who took the souls they were given and honored the purpose for which they were created.

And yet their mother--their first and arguably most important example--thinks she's a princess.
I didn't know I thought this until I found myself standing at the kitchen sink the other night, washing dishes, suddenly awash in sadness. It's nothing new. Just the soul saying you could have done better today with what you were given. A healthy signal necessary to correct tomorrow's trajectory. That sadness used to morph into anger. Because blaming my husband for not doing x, y, or z was easier than owning my own feelings and acting on them. I still blame him sometimes, but I like to think I'm inching toward that 100% accountability.

This night though, there was no anger. The sadness stayed sad. I noticed myself listening very closely for the sounds of my husband's footsteps coming down the hall. Waiting for him to notice my sadness. Waiting for him to rescue me.  

I'm Rapunzel, clinging fiercely to my own burdensome braid, waiting and hoping my prince will magically appear at the window to rescue me from my sadness, depression, anger, fear, dissatisfaction, discontent.

I'm letting go now. I'm cutting that braid loose. I'm tired of waiting.  I'm finding my own damn way out of this tower.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Darkness of the Womb

It has been three months since Gloria's birth. Three months since she emerged from the darkness of the womb. I wonder what she was thinking during that long night. Her last night in the only world she knew. As the walls of her home closed in on her, literally forcing her out, was she conscious of hope? Or at least wonder? Or was it only fear?
In the early stages of labor it was me who was consumed with fear, blood pressure through the roof, heartbeat racing. But her heart, perfect and steady, calmed me. My husband calmed me. Later, fear having left me, could she feel the fierceness of my love, my unshakeable trust in her and me and Him? I hope so. When she emerged, head swiveling in all directions, certainly then she felt wonder. Followed by the fear of finding yourself in a foreign country and recognizing absolutely nothing. Her cries felt panicked and incessant. But her cries also felt victorious. It meant that what we had just done was scary as hell, but we had done it anyway. We learned that we can do scary things. We can do hard things. Together. 

And isn't that what life should be about? This exchange of hope. The constant dance of reassuring whichever one is in need of reassurance in order to keep going. We seem to find ourselves at a major crossroads at this particular point in history. The place where all 7.5 billion of the world's people suddenly find themselves merging onto the same road, faced with the impossible task of crossing one bridge. Together. It feels dangerous. It feels highly unlikely. It feels terribly uncomfortable to be shoved up against so many who are so different from ourselves. But the momentum of an entire planet's worth of people makes us powerless to stop this process.

The Sikh Activist and lawyer, Valarie Kaur said in her recent speech

“And so the mother in me asks, what if? What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead, but a country that is waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor? What if all of our grandfathers and grandmothers are standing behind us now—those who survived occupation and genocide, slavery and Jim Crow, detentions and political assault—what if they are whispering in our ear today, tonight “you are brave”? What if this is our nation’s great transition?
“What does the midwife tell us to do? Breathe. And then? push. Because if we don’t push we will die. If we don’t push, our nation will die. Tonight we will breathe. Tomorrow we will labor in love. Through love. And your revolutionary love is the magic we will show our children.”
So let's push across this bridge together, holding the hands of whoever happens to be nearest. Let us hope that bridge will hold us, since there is no other way across. Let us reassure each other along the way. Comfort one another. Love each other across. Because on the other side, we will see that there are no more lines in the sand. We will have arrived in the land of oneness. It still won't be easy. Neither is getting along with your family. But they are family. We are family. And in a family, there is no more 'us' and 'them.' There is only 'we.'

Baha'u'llah said:

The essence of all that We have revealed for thee is Justice, is for man to free himself from idle fancy and imitation, discern with the eye of oneness His glorious handiwork, and look into all things with a searching eye. 

I think, if we look with the 'eye of oneness,' we will see that we are all 'His glorious handiwork.' We are all family. In the truest possible sense.

Justice will follow.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Welcoming Gloria

Gloria Leigh Sabera entered the world on January 9th, 2017 at 9:09 AM. It was 9 degrees outside. So our midwife, Robin, said when she arrived an hour earlier. I was aware only of bright sun on white snow. Of candles flickering in a row, given to us hours earlier at our blessing. Of kind hands and gentle, encouraging voices. Of quiet laughter and loud wails. The occasional thunk of wood falling in the wood stove. The sweet relief of hot water being poured by the potful into the birth tub. Of bones descending and a head full of hair making its way into the world.

On Sunday, 12 days before her due date, after returning from children's class, my water started leaking a bit. I've never been this early before, nor had this happen, so I was wholly unconvinced that this was the beginning of labor. I fixed lunch, tidied the house (just in case), laid down for 20 minutes to put Isaiah to sleep, and went downstairs for the blessing my mom was hosting. In lieu of a gift, I had requested a reading to add to our blessing book, a candle to light at the birth, and a bead to contribute to the baby's first prayer beads. It was a sweet and beautiful afternoon- a reminder that we do not raise (or even birth) our children by ourselves, nor do they belong to us alone.

A reminder I desperately needed--I have had a lot of anxiety during this pregnancy fueled by a hyperthyroid diagnosis at week 30 with potentially dire but unlikely consequences. Still, once fear is introduced, it is hard to eradicate. And because such a condition technically disqualified me from a home birth (though not literally since my midwives placed their whole trust in me), it did require a heightened level of monitoring and vigilance. And so, leading up to this birth, I have been humbled again and again, constantly reminded of the delicate balance between placing my whole trust in God and trusting wholly in my own ability to grow and deliver human life into the world. It is a strange place to live- between powerlessness and absolute power. But isn't that life? Realizing over and over that we are standing, yes, but standing because of and in the shadow of something greater than ourselves.

I was in a good place. I could do this. The baby could do this. And the roomful of women--mothers and mothered--were a reminder that alone is just an illusion.

But then I came upstairs. I was having more signs. Labor was looking more and more like a possibility. I grasped desperately for that confidence from earlier, but found fear instead, flapping its wings in the shadows. So I did the only logical thing: swept and mopped the floors. Lined up the candles on the window sill. Made space for the birth tub. Channeled the adrenaline. It took Sisay a while to take me seriously, but before going to bed he pulled the birth tub in from the porch and cleaned it out. (We had just picked it up two days prior, and almost hadn't at all.) I gave our midwife, Lindsay, a heads up, told her I wasn't sure yet where this was headed, and tried to get some rest. Unsuccessfully. My anxiety was mounting. My heart was racing. There wasn't enough oxygen in the air. There were lots of feelings and none of them were, 'You got this.' I asked Lindsay to come. Even if this wasn't it, I needed her. She arrived around 3 AM. We chatted, she took my blood pressure. It was so high she wouldn't even tell me what it was. I drank some chamomile tea, tried to lay down again. Finally I crawled into Sisay's arms and asked him to hold my heart 'so it wouldn't come out of my chest.' He did. For two hours. 'Safe' started to seep in at the edges. I dozed in and out of sleep.

And then it was 6 AM. Like clockwork, all three children woke up. Sisay got up to deliver them to the grandparents downstairs. And suddenly a weight lifted off of me. I hadn't realized that having them in my birth space had impacted me so strongly. Immediately, a strong contraction pulsed through my body. I smiled. I almost laughed. Finally, labor was a reality. With each contraction, a wave of confidence rushed in, taking with it wave after wave of anxiety. As soon as Sisay came back in, I asked him to fill the birth tub.

'So this is it?' he asked. 'Yes,' I smiled. 'This is definitely it."

There wasn't space anymore for worry. My body took over and I gladly surrendered. I spent time on hands and knees on the bed, hung out in the living room while Lindsay put her magic hands on exactly the right spots.

At 8 AM the tub was ready and I eagerly slid in. Our second midwife, Robin, arrived. We had just met her at our last appointment two days earlier, as she was just coming back from maternity leave. But midwives--good midwives--possess a certain ability to be both unobtrusive and fully present. She quietly and gracefully stepped in as my subtle cheerleader.

By now, bright sunlight flooded the room. I was both acutely aware yet oddly removed from my surroundings. With each contraction, I felt for my baby's head, marveling at its journey through me. When my water broke, I felt my bones reconfigure as she descended through my pelvis.

"I'm going to push her head out now," I announced. And with both tremendous effort--and restraint--I did. As soon as her head was birthed, she opened her eyes wide under water and swiveled her head all around to get a good look. I could still feel her kicking inside. And then out came a hand, waving at us. I held it until the next contraction. Lindsay wiggled her arm out and the rest of her followed. We pulled her up onto my chest together and suddenly I was staring into the face of our fourth child. Our perfect, tiny daughter. Sisay had been recording the birth in front of me and I quickly called him to the other side. "She's sticking her tongue out!" I laughed. I cried. I sighed. I did it. She did it. And we had not done it alone.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dear Samaya: 6

A little late...
Dear Samaya,

You turned six this week. I love six. Six is so rational. So independent. So mature. So completely unaware of time. Your last day of kindergarten was yesterday. Which means that Grandpa spent most every morning for the last 10 months biting his nails while you moseyed, sauntered, lollygagged, c.r.a.w.l.e.d your way to his car at your one and only speed. On Friday last week, I found you in the bathroom thoroughly flossing your teeth ten minutes after you should had already been gone. You’ll be damned if anyone attempts to interfere with your priorities. 
At school you are smart and social. You are most in your element surrounded by a gaggle of girls, effortlessly and invisibly directing the play. A boss without the bossy. (I hope!) Back at home, you often go straight to your room for some top secret six-year-old stuff. You’ve started to read, but haven’t found your confidence yet. Your inventive spelling is killer. You love math. You like gym, art, and library and dislike music. You recently founded ’The Cuckoo Club,’ whose mission it is to make people laugh. I get daily updates on the current membership. One friend in particular can’t decide whether she’s in or out. You adore this girl, so her enrollment status is of particular interest to you. 
At home, Auntie Aynit and Mena have been staying with us. Mena has been carrying around the doll you just got for your birthday for the last three days and you just take it in stride. You were born mature.
On Fridays when we have our toddler playgroup, the mothers hang out on the deck in confidence, knowing you are lovingly and diligently shepherding the littles somewhere just out of sight. Isaiah is forever screaming at you for this very same shepherding.
Most nights, after Violet has fallen asleep, I pull you out of bed to read chapter books together. Currently, we’re reading Λ†The Penderwicks. It is one of my most favorite moments of the day. Yours too, I think.
The day before your birthday, we had gone to a pow wow and you had begged and cried for a Native American shawl to no avail. So you made your own costume, dubbed yourself Singing Bird, and wore it to school. You gave out honey sticks to your classmates, then Daddy, Violet, you and I went out to lunch to your favorite restaurant, Loco Cocos. For a usually picky eater, you polish off a plate of nachos like nobody’s business.
Yesterday we had your friend birthday party--the first time you insisted on inviting all the girls in your class. It was lovely and sweet- four girls from your class swinging on the rope swing, playing on the slip and slide, making rainbow fruit necklaces, eating rainbow cake and ice cream.
You fill your own hours, take your own showers, write your own stories. You are my collector of treasures, my aspiring vegetarian, my lover of water, my expert eavesdropper. Always the optimist ('this is the best day of my life!')
Sweet. Sensitive. Six. 

*"Wunts a pon a tim thar was a flawr shee was lonlee shee was the onlee flawr the nd.” 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dear Violet (4)


Dear Violet,

On Thursday you turned four years old. You have known for a while now that you will start Pre-K when you are four, so on that morning when Samaya went to get dressed for school, you promptly followed her.  "Me too, right Mama? I have to get ready for school now, too. I'm four now."

And that is when you broke my heart a little bit. again. You do that rather frequently, and I think I finally realized why. I'm never prepared. I've known you your entire life. You lived inside of my life for nine months. But you, of all my children, are my greatest mystery. To the world, you are strong-willed and strong-mouthed and strong-armed. And even though this outer layer is paper thin, it is enough to fool even me. I know better, I do. I watch how when your little brother pulls your hair, you whip around in fury, arm cocked, and then melt into a puddle when you see him. Scratch at your surface, and a whole mess of raw, unfiltered love comes spilling out.*

The thing is, sometimes I forget to scratch. I see you hit your sister or wrench something out of your brother's hand and I see exactly and only this. On the days when I've had enough sleep though, remembered to say my prayers, and forgotten about the all-important to-do list,  I might take a second look--and see something else. A stab at justice. An over-tired/ hungry child. A tiny person who is feeling disconnected from her loved ones.

These are the moments when I march you to your room and, instead of slamming the door, I follow you in, cover you in kisses and tickle you until you beg me to stop. That outer gritty layer? Dissolved beneath my very fingertips.

It's not that I am surprised by your goodness. Rather, I am repeatedly in awe of how good, how pure-hearted, how thoroughly honest you are. Just this week when I asked why you had hit your sister, you replied matter-of-factly, "I didn't hit her. I punched her. It's not the same thing."

You offer others your food even though you LOVE food. You take away Daddy's headaches with a gentle massage. You stop mid-tantrum to comfort someone else in distress. And you give killer hugs.

You carry that big heart always in front of you, looking for other hearts to love. Everything else is irrelevant. For weeks, I tried to coax you into telling me what you would like to do for your birthday. All I could get out of you was a trip to the Kittery Trading Post to see the taxidermy moose. (Unfairly, you are also the funniest person in the family. Samaya and I frequently wet our pants.) As your big day approached, you repeatedly exclaimed, "I'm so excited!" 'What part are you excited for?' I asked. "The birthday part," you answered with absolute incredulity.

Right. Of course. Life is about living. loving. Not about doing. And that is why you are my precious gift.

Happy birthday, Violet Olivia.

*How fitting that you were born just two days before Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Class Valentines

 Samaya's kindergarten class is exchanging valentines on Friday and we made shrinky dink heart key chains for her classmates. I only do things that are crazy simple and this fit the bill. I cut out hearts on shrink film (4 per page), then the girls decorated one side with sharpies and wrote the names on the other side. We punched holes in each one, baked them for a few minutes, and attached the key chain rings. Finally we tied them to a simple heart valentine inscribed with Abdu'l-Baha's words on love: ..."let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path."