Tuesday, May 21, 2013


This is a letter I wrote to a close friend on a day weeks ago that I was feeling very vulnerable and the clouds seemed to weigh heavy in my world. She's a mom to young children and I knew she would understand my desperation that day...

Hi --

I'm struggling today to stay focused. I feel silly, almost ridiculous that I'm feeling frazzled and upset the way I am, and my hope is that by typing the words and seeing my feelings on the page that it will snap me out of this wave of sadness and worry that I'm getting swept away on today. Roger Ebert. I know, right? Everyone is talking about him and as they talk about his life, inextricably they are talking about his death and battle and loss to cancer. And every time someone "loses their fight to cancer" I'm always on edge -- sometimes more so than others. I can never really tell what triggers it. Yesterday, I read an essay Ebert wrote himself a year or two ago in his memoir. There's a part there at the end where he quotes someone else and they have described cancer, MS, any debilitating and mostly incurable disease as the "celestial train to death and that dying of old age is like getting there on foot." Those words were so powerful to me yesterday and I have been thinking about them since... mostly because Ebert says in his memoir that he's at peace going by the celestial train and not on foot, which seems dreary (and I paraphrase here for him). That pisses me off because my initial reaction was -- and maintains to be so -- "Well, that's easy for you say because you don't have children." As always, when I'm confronted with my immortality, my mind and heart always turn to Alyssa first. And I am pissed off, mad, slighted, supremely betrayed that I have been given a ticket for this celestial train ride at such a young age and with such a young child. I don't want this ticket; I don't want this ride. I'm an environmentalist for crying out loud -- I want to walk to my death!

I don't feel silly after all writing about my feelings, but I have not snapped out of my sadness. Unfortunately, I am very sad today. I'm worried as my surgery draws close. I crack jokes to cope with my biggest fear -- that I might not wake up. Or that if I do it's to bad news that the cancer is back. And I do think about this all the time -- that maybe not this year or the next five years, but what about when Alyssa is 11? Or 14? Or 16? Or 23? But I guess we never know -- none of us really know if we're carrying around tickets for that celestial train ride, right? And if I dig down deep and call on the ever-so-positive One Boob Diva that I am, maybe she'll tell me, "Hey, what if you were never given a ticket? What if you're meant to walk to the end of your life and see your great-grandchildren? It's just fate, the universe, something out there wanted you to take a detour so you could appreciate how great walking is?"

I think I just consoled myself. But I never know how long my inner sunshine lasts. Some days the clouds come and go. Anyway, at least outside the sun is shining. I might go for a walk in a bit or just sit in the sun on the deck. Maybe the external sunshine will crack through my very gray clouds.

Thanks for reading this.

...That was the end of the letter I wrote on April 5, 2013. The sunshine that broke the clouds later that day was a small joke a friend made by email. So wonderfully mundane.

And today, May 21, 2013 -- a week after my reconstruction surgery -- the surgery that puts me on the other side of my mountain (and still walking), I've heard of a wonderful, beautiful, young soul who's now in the clouds. His name is Zach Sobiech and he passed away yesterday from a rare cancer called osteosarcoma. And he wrote an amazing song, called clouds: http://youtu.be/7zxXAtmmLLc

To learn more about Zach and his beautiful life, watch this short film about him: http://youtu.be/9NjKgV65fpo and I hope you hear the message I heard -- that life is about living it; not worrying about what's next; it's about cherishing every day we get to wake up and be with the people we love. Walk, dance, dream and revel in both the sunshine and the clouds.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, May 13, 2012

To My Dear Alyssa, on Mother's Day

Dear Alyssa,

Someday you'll read this letter on your very first Mother's Day. I can't predict what will happen twenty, thirty years from now, but I know in my heart that I will be proud of you no matter what; and that you will always be my baby, my baby bee, my Alyssa-bee. I know, I'm a sentimental marshmallow. You've known this for years. But today, I can imagine how many different emotions are running through you as you hold your own little bundle of joy. I can't tell you how to be a mother to your baby, but I can tell you that as long as you have love in your heart - and you have so much - your baby will know this and your baby will thrive.

Three years ago today
In all my life, I have never done and will never do anything as significant as being your Mom. The moment you came into my life I was forever changed. I am many things - there is not just one me. But of all the things I am, the one I'm most proud of is being a mother. All daughters and mothers I think have interesting relationships. There's such a strong bond between mothers and daughters, that sometimes it puts them at odds with each other. I remember going through a phase with your grandmother when I was much younger - I was determined that no matter what, I would never be like her. As I grew older, hopefully wiser, I realized there was so much about your grandmother I admired. As a young mother to you, my goal every day is to be half as good of a mom to you, as your grandmother is to me.

You are amazing, Alyssa. You teach me new things every day. You are my biggest responsibility and it is an honor to have that distinction. Someday, on your first Mother's Day, I think you'll read this letter and know exactly how much I love being your Mom.

With so much love,

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mirror Mirror

The memory is so clear to me: hot tears streaming down red cheeks, nose all runny and congested, screaming and kicking, the feeling that no one in the world understood why it was absolutely imperative that socks not be worn today of all days. Nobody understands me! I remember feeling that way once upon a time long ago. My Mom was the enemy and life, as I knew it, was horrible... for that moment, at least.

On Saturday, that's exactly the same emotion I saw in Alyssa's eyes. "No! No! No socks! No socks!" Clock ticking; Wiggleworms class was starting in 15 minutes; we lived 20 minutes away; shoes and coat and hat still lying in a pile at my feet; there was no way we would make it in time. "No! No! No socks! No socks!" It was the end of the world. 9:55, 9:56, 9:57... class starts at 10am. My heart sank. I start to think, it's OK to miss a class. We'll just make it up next week - twice. Yeah, maybe not. I can feel the defiance rising. Mine, not hers. "I don't like this sock anymore! I don't like this sock anymore!" I think I'm about to explode, but I manage to take a deep breath.

Somewhere, a light bulb goes off. I hold out my arms to the little one standing in the corner, face all red, eyes wet with tears, nose drippy with "snozzies." I hear myself say, "Come here, baby, it's OK." And just like that, it's over. Alyssa comes running to me, so hard and fast that she knocks the wind out of me. That's OK, too. She's not crying anymore. She's also forgotten why she started crying in the first place. I soothe her and wipe the tears away. I talk to her in a low, slow, soothing voice. "We're going to see Ann Marie. We're going to play with the instruments, and see your friend Jasmine, and catch bubbles!" She's nodding her head now, looking at me with the biggest brown eyes I've ever seen. "So let's get going, OK? We've got to blow our nose, fix our piggy-tails, and put our (deep breath) socks on." Nothing but a silent nod. Life is good and I feel like I've come full circle from long ago.

Mommy's brown eyed girl

Alyssa's P.S.
It's not easy being two and a half. Most of the time Mommy and Daddy get me. But sometimes, it's just so hard to tell them what I need. Mommy always says, "Use your words." But I don't know what words to use. Sometimes I hope against hope that she'll read my mind, like she used to do when I was a little baby. If I cried she came to feed me, or change me, or hold me. She just knew back then. Now, I have to use my words. When did things change on me? Why doesn't she understand that I don't want to wear my socks because I want to see my pink toes... the toes I asked her to paint yesterday; when she held me close and whispered in my ear, "Look baby, I love your toes!"

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Whoa- where'd my baby go?
Someone told me, not too long ago, that days go by slowly, but years go by swiftly. That has never been more true in my life since I became Alyssa's Mommy. Not a day goes by when I don't look at her and ask the heavens to please slow down time. I could swear we just brought her home from the hospital yesterday, and now she's saying things like, "Mommy, I put on shoes by self!" Insert screeching sound of brakes here. When did my baby turn into a toddler? And why is she suddenly marching into kid-hood?

I look back at the last two years and the answer to my questions are staring me right in the face. I can still remember when she could sit up by herself; when she ate her first solid food - pureed butternut squash; when she started sucking her thumb; when she became mobile and crawling like a crab; when she took her first steps; and when she started using her first words. During her first year, all the milestones were physical. This past year they're becoming more and more intellectual. The gleam in her eyes now comes from learning how to count to five; or how to identify animals and match their sounds; how to complete a puzzle; or how to put shoes on all "by self." What happens in year three? Complete sentences? Even finer motor skills? Quiet and focused play (I'm looking forward to that one!)? Learning the alphabet? Am I ready for this? I know she is.

It seems like it's all happening so fast... Her Daddy likes to remind me that she's only two. But she's also only two more years away from preschool! Four more years from first grade. Fourteen more from getting a drivers license. Sixteen from going to college! Whoa... the last two years might have seemed like they went by swiftly, but today is only Thursday. One day away from the weekend. It's only four o'clock and my baby will be home from daycare in an hour. I need to remind myself that every blink is a moment in time with Alyssa. And I will have millions of moments with her to come. She is only two, and no matter how many years go by she will always be my baby.

And just like that, time has slowed down for me again... in a blink of an eye.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hindsight & Heartstrings

My little angel
When I was growing up my Mom and I used to fight a lot. I wasn't a wild child, but I apparently had quite the mouth. I liked to, let's say, reason with my Mom... and it got me into quite a bit of trouble. She used to tell me that someday I would have a child of my own and I'd understand why she was hurt and upset by whatever it was I'd said or done. I remember being little, feeling cornered and misunderstood. I used to think my Mom was out of her mind and that someday when I had a child of my own I would be a totally different mother. Whenever I was in time out I would imagine all the ways I would be a different mom to my child - that I would never get upset; that I would be patient; that I would never raise my voice or feel exasperated. I imagined that as a mother I would never be any of the things that drove me nuts about my Mom. I would only take all the things I loved about my Mom and our relationship, and leave behind the many things that I thought my Mom was wrong about. Fast forward to today...

I've been a Mom for two years. Alyssa is now in her full blown new toddler phase. She knows hundreds of words, but often gets frustrated when I or her Daddy can't understand her, or when she doesn't have the right words to use. This usually results in a tantrum, tears, and the absolute loss of all muscular ability and Alyssa melts into a puddle on the floor, sidewalk, or grass. One morning, Alyssa and I were going through our usual routine of getting dressed and picking out shoes. I wanted her to wear sneakers, and she wanted to wear jellies. I succeeded in getting the sneakers on her feet, but not without sustaining some battle wounds: Alyssa was not having anything to do with those sneakers and she wanted me to know it. She kicked and screamed, cried and wailed, and bucked the whole time. It's not easy for me to handle Alyssa when she's in one of these states and it takes a lot of deep breathing on my part to get through it without losing my cool. I was frustrated, hurt, and I could feel my blood pressure rising. Reasoning with her didn't work; hugging her close to me and saying "I love you, and you're going to have to calm down" didn't work; raising my voice and telling her what to do didn't work either; so letting her lie on the floor to cry it out was the only thing left to do. She lay there yelling at the top of her lungs, face bright red and so very mad at me. I sat there looking at her, having done what I could and feeling very vulnerable. Finally, she calmed down and I scooped her up into my arms. She came willingly, took her thumb out of her mouth and quietly whispered to me, "I love you, Mommy. I sorry, Mommy!"

Instantly the tears came. I hugged her tightly to me and told her I loved her too. But I was crying because at that moment I understood what my Mom meant all those years ago. I had a child now, and I realize that it isn't easy to be a Mom. It's hard work being patient when the little person in front of you, who you dedicate most of your waking hours to, is being stubborn and is wailing her head off. In that instant I wished I could take back all those times I had said something, or done something that must've made my Mom's heart ache. She was right all along. Someday had come, and I know it's only the beginning. I can't take back the past, but I can do my best now and in the future to make amends. As I hugged Alyssa I imagined the kind of Mom I'd be to her... I will take all the good things my Mom was to me: I will try to be patient, I will teach her how to take care of herself, I will steel myself when she makes mistakes because I know it will help her learn important lessons, I will always be there for her, and I will learn when it's time to let her go. Because someday, I hope that when she has a child of her own, she will come back to me and perhaps thank me for being the best Mom I could be to her.

And to my Mom- Thank you for being the best Mom you could be to me. I love you, and I'm sorry for all the times I hurt you. But you continue to be there for me unconditionally. I hope to be half as good as a mother to Alyssa as you are to me.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Art of Walking Away

Oh, the injustice of it all!
To be fair, I've been warned about the terrible twos. And not just recently, since I had Alyssa... but, all my life. When I was younger and use to give my Mom a hard time, I remember her saying to me, "Someday, you'll have a child of your own, and you'll understand." Stop chuckling, Mom, I can hear you half a world away!

In less than a month, Alyssa will be turning two. Something in her brain has, in the last month or so, decided that's already happened and a switch has been turned on. At least once a day, we must have a good ol' cry. Not just any cry: no wimpering, no sobbing, no tear-streaked cheeks... that's just a plain cry. A good ol' cry involves flat out noodling (no bones, refuse to get up off the floor), tightly closed eyes as tears are squeezed through, sometimes wringing of hands are involved, but mostly kicking of feet, and a plaintive cry for mercy. See the picture above? That's a good version of the good ol' cry. The child psychologists in our handy-dandy go-to parenting book all say this is part of the terrible twos; they say it has something to do with letting off steam; and that the best way to handle it is to... wait for it... walk away.

Now, I don't know about you, but for me, walking away from my tear-soaked baby girl is just about one of the hardest things for me to do! Have you seen the picture above?! But I'm learning that it's an art... this walking away thing. It's like training wheels on a bike... for parents. It reminds me when I was pregnant with Alyssa and how I used to go to the bathroom so often I considered moving in there. It was training for having to get up frequently at night once she arrived. Walking away from a screaming, drama-laden toddler is a lesson in deep breaths and emotional self-control. And I can see how it's training for times to come: her first day of school; the first time she knowingly yells at me that she never wants to see me again - ever; when she chooses to hang out with friends instead of me; when she insists on seeing a boy that threatens to give her Dad a heart attack; when she wants to move away for college.

Ok, rewind. Present day: Alyssa in her pjs, just finished two strawberries, walking down the hall with Daddy on a lazy Sunday morning. She suddenly runs out of the bedroom and runs smack into the wall in the hall. She falls down in shock, wimpers and says, "Head!" I tell her it's ok and to come show Mommy. She runs over to me and I kiss her head and ask, "Better?" She looks up at me with her big brown eyes, and says, "Yeths!" Then she runs away... Deep breath, Mommy, deep breath.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Alyssa's Fairytale

Soon to be made into a book!
I made this up for Alyssa around the time she was a month and a half old. Over time I've refined it and this is the story I tell her every now and then.

As told to Alyssa by Mommy...

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a little girl named Frances. She had a dream that someday she would meet her prince and that he would be her best friend, that he would make her laugh and that he would love her forever. So she dreamt and she wished, and she dreamt and she wished, and she dreamt and she wished, until one day Frances grew up. Then she realized that she couldn't wait around for her prince, instead she had to go out into the big, big world to find him. So she went to her Mom and Dad and asked them if she could go on a journey of a lifetime. And with their blessings off she went; out into the big, big world.

Now it so happens that also once upon a time in another land far, far away there lived a little boy named Dennis. He too had a dream that someday he would meet his princess and that she would be his best friend, and she would make him laugh, and she would love him forever. So he dreamt and he wished, and he dreamt and he wished, and he dreamt and he wished, until one day Dennis grew up. Then he realized he couldn't wait around for his princess, instead he had to go out into the big, big world to find her. So he went to his Mom and Dad and asked them if he could go on a journey of a lifetime. And with their blessings off he went; out into the big, big world.

Over the mountains, and over the oceans Dennis traveled until he came to a shining White City that sat by a Lake with crystal clear waters that stretched as far as the eye could see. And in that shining White City Dennis met a girl named Frances. They quickly became best friends, and everyday they made each other laugh, and then one day they realized they wanted to love each other forever. For Dennis had found his princess and Frances had found her prince!

But that's not the end of the story yet! Oh no, not at all! For Dennis and Frances had a dream of their own, that someday they could have a little princess to call their own. A little princess to whom they would be her best friends, that everyday they could make her laugh, and they would promise to love forever. So they dreamt and they wished, and they dreamt and they wished, and they dreamt and they wished... until one day... one beautiful summer night in that shining White City that sat by a Lake with crystal clear waters that stretched as far as the eye could see... On June 24, 2009 at 8:51pm, Alyssa Canonizado Belogorsky was born to Dennis and Frances. She was seven pounds-thirteen ounces, twenty-one inches long and as beautiful as the morning sun!

And that, my little princess... is YOU!

The End!