Hugs

Seven has been full of eye rolls and huffing and puffing and “are you even listening to me?” Shitty diapers, midnight fevers, and not sharing seem like a walk in the park right now.

Seven, on my part, has been full of deep breaths and giving space and a voice inside whispering, “Don’t forget the fucking year we’ve all had.” It is teaching and stretching me more than any tearful, toy throwing tantrum ever has. Or maybe those moments prepared me for these moments.

Seven, thankfully, has also been full of rushing me with hugs and unexpected snuggles. Tenderness that catches me off guard. These embraces speak to me.

They tell a tale of a little girl whose world is changing – new home, new school, new routine, new family dynamic. They tell a tale of a little girl between, who can sense the changes around her and those taking place in the world she holds within – heart and mind expanding, growing richer, more complex. It’s the story of a girl who remembers being 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and knows she’s left those days behind but still carries them with her as she figures 7 out. She’s juggling a young heart and big emotions. She’s looking for her place like we all once did (and still do).

So. There are hugs, so many more than before. I relish every one. Eye rolls and raised voices, huffs, puffs and lost patience, today those are the sounds and signals of change and growth and becoming. Hugs are the space the between, the stillness.

This is her love language and I’m no linguistic specialist but I’m her mom so I learn as the moments pass. Hugs, embraces, touch, tenderness, cuddles – this her heart speaks, this her heart calls for. This I give her.

So much has been going on the last few months there’s been little time for writing. Make that no time for writing. And yesterday, in a frenzied pizza joint with 20 kids running around, inspiration called and I listened. We finally moved and are slowly making ourselves at home. This hopefully means I’ll be writing more. Come back and visit, k?

The Grass Ain’t Greener

I’ve been told I’m an amazing mother. My daughters are lucky to have me. The girls are wonderful children because I’m doing such a tremendous job. I usually smile and say thanks while admitting to being nothing more than human, imperfect and human. Anything after “thanks”, though, usually gets brushed aside. I’m left feeling like a fraud. Like somehow, through my writing or something I shared on social media or the tiny moment of my day they witnessed, I gave the impression I’m June Fucking Cleaver. I am far, far from it.

I share a lot about my life and my interests on social media but it doesn’t capture it all.  No one really ever gets to see the whole picture besides us. I share those things because my mind is easily distracted and prone to forgetfulness; so sharing is my way of reliving, repeating and burning it into my memory.

I don’t share when I lose my temper and raise my voice. I don’t share every time one of my daughters has a tantrum. I don’t share all the times I’ve taken toys from my daughters and put them on top of our fridge. I don’t share when I make my daughters cry because I’ve said no yet again or I rush them away from something important they’re doing to go run errands. I don’t share when I’m impatient and take my young children’s words personally. There are plenty of don’t share moments. Those poor decisions I’d rather soon forget, aren’t shared but they certainly aren’t swept under the carpet.

apologize to your children

For some reason, the joyful memories are fleeting while the hard moments are always waiting in the wings. This is why I share the good moments, to hold onto them. This is why I share so much about the kind of parent and woman I want to be; it takes practice and constant learning.

So whether it’s me or someone else, the grass is never greener. We are all human, perfectly flawed and growing. Every mother is amazing. Every child is lucky to have the mother they cosmically chose when they were just a star in the sky. And we’re all doing a tremendous job at this motherhood business. Some days tremendously awesome, others tremendously crappy, and others still tremendously mediocre.

Less Is More, More Is More

We bounded from the car with a skip in our step, coats left behind, giddy to bask in the sunshine of a 40 degree day in a winter full of single digit cold. My hand fell out to my side, waiting for her to reciprocate, and it hung there grasping at the air.

It’s a reflex I’ve grown accustomed to like tucking a strand of hair behind my ear when it’s already pulled back or wiggling my nose to adjust glasses I’m no longer wearing. More and more often my hand reaches out and there’s no hand there to meet it, a reminder of the changing needs of my daughters.

While their hands are too busy holding books or toys or finding comfort in pockets or slicing the air as they confidently stride through childhood, I’m still recovering from other reflexes not soon forgotten. Days when I not only reached out for their hands but slouched over just enough to meet them where they needed me, walking beside them like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Or the one that had me bending at the knees a hundred times a day to hoist them into my arms onto my hip. Where did those days go? These when-was-the-last-time-?, will-they-ever-again-? moments always sneak up on me. This long, winding, changing road of motherhood makes me and breaks me every day.

The girls are 4 and 6 now. They need me less in some ways and more in other ways I couldn’t have predicted. Their bodies are strong and capable; their will as stubborn and determined as ever. They need more of my silent presence, more of my restraint to comment or help or solve, more of the intangibles of life we all seek to feel embraced, guided, and supported by.

Early motherhood is a tremendously physical journey. Feeding, cradling, nursing, lifting, swaying, swinging, bouncing, forehead feeling, buckling, unbuckling. wiping, bathing, brushing, shushing, chasing.

Then suddenly, without much warning, the balance of motherly duties shifts from your body to your heart. Less work on the outside, more on the inside. The needing less and needing more, it’s all more to me. It demands more of me to dig deeper within, to give more, to stand back more, to be present more, to trust more, to witness more.

The funny thing is while their needs for me have changed, my need for them is as fierce and primal as the day they were born. From the very beginning until forever, I need them, want them and for them in the simplest, purest way one human can love another. 

up out away.jpg

Eat, Pray, Sleep

EatPrayLove JuliaMy inspiration, equal parts Julia and Eat, Pray, Love

This past weekend I took the stage for the second time as not just the producer and director of Listen To Your Mother Providence but also as a cast member. Below you’ll find the piece I read. I debated for a long time whether or not to be in the show. I knew I wanted to talk about my life right now, separated and getting divorced and single. I just wasn’t sure if I was ready to be so publicly honest. I began writing and felt so uncomfortable as the words spilled out – there was an unpleasant tingle just under my skin, I felt restless and wanted to step away from the computer and when I read parts back to myself, my voice cracked. That’s how I knew I had to keep writing. Listen To Your Mother is a reminder that however unique your story is, there is someone out there who needs it as much as you do because they’re going through something incredibly similar. It’s about an audience of strangers bearing witness to my story but also about my story being a beacon for someone else to recognize their story is important and that they’re not alone. For you and for me - 

Eat, Pray, Sleep

“I can’t do this anymore.”

Those are the words that launched me into single motherhood.

Standing in our kitchen, no more unhappy than we’d been the last couple of years, doing the mundane tasks of marriage and parenthood,

“I can’t do this anymore.”

5 words is all it took to start the hardest year of my life.

Moments like these, the ones that drastically altar your life from one second to the next, they never happen like in the movies. There’s no change in music to foreshadow impending heartbreak or gut wrenching sobbing begging someone to go or stay or change their minds. Nope. It just kind of happens.

As it happened to me, 3 distinct thoughts ran through my mind.

First, I thought about how much relief I felt. I was relieved I wasn’t the one making the decision to separate, and eventually divorce. An immature part of me wanted to be free of blame for the emotional hurricane waiting for us around the bend. My relief made me realize I was willing to endure many more years of misery in the name of family. My relief put me face to face with how lonely , sad, and unhappy I truly was and how little I was willing to stand up for myself. My lack of action, though, was in itself a decision that holds as much weight as any of the other factors that contributed to the end of my marriage. With all my talk about authenticity and living out loud, my relief put a spotlight on the one area of my life where I couldn’t dare greatly, that I couldn’t pursue with vulnerability.

As quickly as thoughts of relief came to mind, my thoughts went in the opposite direction of deep and introspective to the frivolous and silly thought of Disney World. I thought, “I’ve got to be the first one to take them to Disney.” Mature and logical, right? Despite my separation being as amicable as amicable can be when lives are torn apart and hearts are broken, fear still rears its ugly head. All the promises and dreams of “family” get shaky. What dreams seemed once owned by “us” feel left in limbo. And I know no one truly “owns” these dreams. We both harbor them with the same affection as before but shaky ground is ideal terrain for fear. And Disney, well, it’s a big, silly dream and that quick passing thought is a reminder that separation and divorce make rational human beings think of the most foolish things.

Case in point, my next thought was of Julia Roberts. I thought, “This is my Eat, Pray, Love moment. I get to start over, find myself a James Franco to distract myself, travel to Italy and India and Bali and, best of all, I get to find my own Javier Bardem. I envision Julia, with her iconic toothy grin, globetrotting, learning languages, meditating, finding herself. Quickly, I come back to reality – I’m a mom with two kids. This is not Eat, Pray, Love.

It’s more like Eat, Pray, Sleep. Or Eat, Pray, Torture Myself With Every Romantic Movie Under The Sun, then Sleep. Despite a desire to shed my old life and start a new, the mother in me could never drag her daughters along a soul searching journey around the world.  Someday we’ll travel the world together but certainly not to run away from our lives.

Since that fateful afternoon, I’ve learned a lot about single motherhood. It’s everything and nothing how I imagined.

Single motherhood is cradling my first born in my arms as her body heaves while she’s weeping over the news of the separation. She’s 6 and barely fits in my lap.

Single motherhood is getting flooded with messages from friends offering their support and love and their own stories of love and loss. They are friends I see everyday and friends I haven’t seen in over a decade.

Single motherhood is crying at a stop light when Pink comes on the radio crooning, “we’re not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again.” I held onto those lyrics for a long time before things “officially” fell apart.

Single motherhood is crying when John Legend comes on the radio serenading me with, “Cause all of me, loves all of you, love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections.” And I cry because I realize despite all the heartbreak, I’m still a woman who believes in and hopes for love.

Single motherhood is talking on my cell phone…again, that’s talking not texting…more than I have in the last 3 years. Laughing and crying on the phone with friends in some of the hardest and best conversations of my life.

Single motherhood is almost peeing my pants listening to my best friend trying to make me feel better about my chances for finding a man with heavy warnings about the perils of online dating. She insists I stay far, far away from the wackos online unless I’m looking for a serial killer.

Single motherhood is coming face to face with how I drown my sorrow. For some it might be a glass or two or a bottle of wine, for me it’s daily stops at the drive thru for an apple pie and a coke followed by an evening on the couch watching Sex and the City.

Single motherhood is kicking myself in the pants to get off the couch and get shit done. Because even though I want to disappear sometimes, I’ve got two pairs of wonder filled eyes watching my every move. So I put on a smile and go through the motions and one day they are no longer just motions but living.

Single motherhood is awkwardly talking to moms on the playground not knowing what to call my ex. Technically he’s still my husband but just calling him my ex sounds like I’m talking about a boyfriend. I’m trying to be honest, for everyone’s sake but mainly my own. So the easy answer is “their father.”

Single motherhood is learning to recognize tantrums that are tantrums and tantrums that are pieces of their broken hearts. Maybe she’s pissed about sharing, maybe she’s working through the weight of her whole world changing in less than a month.

Single motherhood is falling in love with my friends again – for listening when I need to let it all out and for telling me the hard truth when I need it.

Single motherhood is knowing sometimes I won’t be able to talk to my family and certain friends. They love me deeply but my natural inclination to gently chart this new path is too much a stranger to the anger they’re feeling.

Single motherhood is seeing that single motherhood is just as much about my own womanhood as it about being a mother.

Single motherhood is nothing like what I imagined. As a naïve kid I welcomed single motherhood, even sent it an invitation. I said if I wasn’t married by 30 ( my definition of old at the time ), I’d simply have a baby with a friend and be the single mom version of Carrie Bradshaw. Yeah, like Eat, Pray, Love, I was way off.

These are different lessons than I anticipated. Some harder than others, some way funnier than others, all of them exactly what I need to close one chapter and begin another. I won’t be following in Elizabeth Gilbert’s footsteps but I’ll take a word of wisdom from her, “This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”

eat pray love quote

Life is a grand story and every moment, good and bad, is a page that’s moving things along. This page is Eat, Pray, Sleep tomorrow, perhaps, Eat, Pray, Love. All that matters is that I keep on trying, broken heart after broken heart. It’s about always trying for something or else we’re not really living.

—–

A word on the topic of separation, divorce and single parenthood. This is my experience as someone who feels deeply. I’ve met many people since becoming a single parent who have gone through their own separation and divorce or are going through it right now. I’ve learned we have a whole lot in common but we also differ in many ways. Maybe you’re the one who left or the one who got left, maybe there’s an unpleasant reason or perhaps there’s nothing major that broke the camel’s back (from first hand experience, this in many ways is harder than having a Reason), maybe you’ve moved on quickly, maybe (like me) you’re ready to enter a convent until the kids are in college, maybe you’re going through the emotions now, maybe you’re going through the motions now, maybe, maybe, maybe. What I’m getting at is be gentle if you know someone, an adult or child, heck even yourself, going through a separation or divorce. It blows big time and all we need is friends willing to bear witness not ignore the elephant in the room. 

The A-to-Z of Me

I spent some time yesterday walking down memory lane on the blog. I read old posts, went through old drafts. I learned 3 things -

1. I often don’t remember what I write. When I reread my writing, I’m always surprised the words are mine, a pleasant surprise usually.
2. While I don’t post often, I’m proud of the things I do post. Better to post with meaningful words less often than post more often with less to say.
3. I’ve got a few projects I started but later abandoned, some rightfully so and others need resuscitating. I love some of those projects. So a few of those are coming back soon (hope you’ll join me!).

I also realized the blog’s been kind of heavy lately what with all the talk of separation and divorce. So today something a little light, a little on the fun side inspired by a post I read ages ago.

A-to-Z of Carla

A. Age: 33
B. Bed size: King
C. Chore that you hate: Ugh, putting away laundry. I’d rather scrub a toilet ten times.
D. Dogs: Yes, a giant Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy named Luella (Lu, Lulu, Louisa, Lula). She is a giant, way more dog than I ever imagined myself owning. I always thought myself a dog person but I’ve learned there’s a huge difference between being a dog lover and a dog owner. I’ve had to grow into the owner part. Love her to pieces and the comfort she’s brought to my girls and I during all the madness.
E. Essential start to your day: Warm water with lemon, a little namaste-amen-ommmmmm for my holy temple
F. Fear: That’ll I’ll never write those books I’ve always wanted to write. That my daughters will grow up and want nothing to do with me. That I’ll never find love again. That a mouse will jump on me. That I won’t travel to the all the places I dream of. That I’ll swallow a bee (not really but kinda).
G. Greatest achievement:  Producing and directing Listen To Your Mother Providence. Seriously, the most inspiring, challenging and kick ass thing I’ve done in ages.
H. Height: 5’1″ – I’m a shorty.
I. Instruments you play: Technically, I can play anything, right? I took lessons in piano growing up so I feel comfortable around it but I don’t actually play the piano, or any instrument for that matter, with any regularity. However, I do sing with wild abandon in my car.
J. Job title: Office manager, producer, director, writer
K. Kids: Two dynamite little ladies almost 5 and almost 7, my sun and moon and stars and sky.
L. Love: I believe in it deep into my bones. I’m a lover of love and despite my current heartbreak, always will be, a hopeful hopeless romantic. And right now, I’ve got love to spare – my girls, my family and an incredible circle of friends who never cease to surprise me.
M. Mother’s name: Cirila though for some reason after arriving in the US from Cuba she became Racquel.
N. Nicknames: I gots none. Every once in awhile someone will call me Carlita (which I adore) or Chinita (a childhood nickname that reminds me of Jersey & my grandfather). Then there was the time in grade school when I had a short, poofy hair do and I was called Jesse for a short stint because my hair resembled Uncle Jesse’s in Full House.
O. Overnight hospital stays:  Each time I gave birth. That’s it.
P. Pet peeves: People who are rude. People who invade your personal space without permission. When I let a driver go and they don’t say thank you.
Q. Quote from a movie: “Nobody puts baby in the corner.” Duh ;-) Close second? “How are things down under? Blossoming, I hope.” Can you guess? “Winter must be cold for people with no warm memories.” The original and that other one I love. “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Bam.
R. Right or left handed: Right tighty
S. Siblings: Only child plus several half sisters I’ve never met.
U. Underdog moment: I’m only just now getting back in shape so when I took a cross training class with some heavy hitters who are in incredible shape, I was convinced I’d be passed out on the floor. I survived, though, and loved it. At the end, they showed us how to scale a wall and much to my own surprise, I did it! One big jump and push off the wall and I was coming down the other side.
V. Vegetable you hate: Beets.
W. What makes you run late: Being Cuban.
X. X-files: I’ve had exes who looked at me like I was magic. All these years later I still remember what that felt like. I was cheated on once, in the ever emotional high school years, and it felt awful. Hmm, other than that one, they’ve all been good eggs.
Y. Yummy food that you make: I make amazing maduros (fried plantains, if you’re wondering) and killer rice. I can be a great cook but it’s not something that inspires me right now. I’m a great baker and sweets always inspire me. Brownies are my speciality.
Z. Zoo animal: I love them all, really. Here’s the thing. Zoos always make me feel like I’m at Jurassic Park and there’s always the possibility the animals might be realistic looking robots. So I just really, really want to pet them to be sure so the more exotic the animal, the more skeptical I am and the more I’m all sorts of googly eyed for them. 

Your turn. A-to-Z of you, por favor.

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