Friday, July 25, 2008

tough ladies

I've always been a super sucker for the tough ladies. I've rocked out long and hard to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos, always finding solace and strength from their candid words and badass artistry. But there's a third girlie in my mix. One who shares her space in that top three, if not, dare I say, landing her place at the tippy top. That's my girl Ani Difranco. And I got to watch her in all her glory on stage at the Wilma last night.

I've followed Ani since I was tortured twenty year old college gal. I went through some dark times during college. The generally peppy, smiley, fairly optimistic GT was replaced by a brooding, angry, cynical chick in really dark lipstick and big, black Doc Martins. I always had headphones in my ears and walked with a purpose, with my head down my backpack heavy with the feminist novels and poetry I sucked down like water. And right there beside the books, those ladies sang their little hearts out, creating a soundtrack for my turbulent times. When I found Ani, it was like suddenly getting really good therapy and finally having a friend that totally got me, all rolled into one. Her songs played like my diaries. Her combination of anger, honesty, brilliance, toughness, energy, grit and humor got me through many long, lonely nights. And then last night, she came over to play. After all this time.

Ani is a mama now. Yup. We're that connected. And Casey is another fellow die hard. So I could share the absolute splendor of it all with yet another badass mama. After the show, I just kept looking around at all of these tremendous women who live in my lil town. Amazing, strong, solid, honest, kind, hardworking women. More than I have time to play with. More than I have time to keep it real with. But always totally inspirational.

Journeying back through the years with Ani last night reminded me how far I've come. When I saw Eliana this morning, I just wanted to squeeze her silly. I was flooded with pride for the smiling little sunshine that I brought into this world. Her mama went to a dark place a long time ago, wrote and swore and battled her way out of it, and now can shine brightly on the other side. Ani looked more beautiful than ever. How could she not? She now smiles knowing that her heart is fuller than ever because of the little girl she brought into the world.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Birthday Madness

We've finally started to come down from the birthday madness that was last week. I am a big believer in celebrating birthdays to their full celebration capacity. We only have our very own holiday once a year, why not go for it and extend it as long as possible? Here are some highlights from Eliana's first.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

identity crisis

I had a relapse of mommy identity crisis yesterday. I thought this phase was over. It certainly happened frequently the first six months or so. Things I used to like to do seemed silly; my priorities seemed to shift so intensely that I couldn't really remember who I was without the context of Eliana. Right around my birthday (March), I started to come back into my own. I wanted to go out with my girlfriends. I wanted to hike without her always attached to my chest. I didn't constantly check the phone to see if she was okay. I knew she was fine without me. I needed space and time to myself. I had made that separation and could be myself without her.

Yesterday I woke up in a foul mood. I had agreed to dance in a little local fashion show to help out a friend. I worked hard to learn the choreography last minute and knew, from the beginning, that I wasn't feeling it. Then I was given the outfit that I would be performing in. Green leggings and a black tee-shirt that said in multi-colored, fluorescent, "Frankie Goes to Hollywood"-style all caps, "Check Yourself." I hate leggings. Always have. Hated them when I was nine and they were hip, hate them now. I guess they could be hot if you don't have the special place between your booty and your thigh, that special little love bump that, regardless of your fitness level or strength, is always hanging on. But I do. And I hated my outfit. The body that I'm finally feeling good about inhabiting again felt ridiculous in this get up.

I should have quit right then and there in the store. I should have put up more of a fuss. My face fell when I saw myself in the mirror. Was I really going to do some pseudo hip-hop routine to Senegalese rap in this hideous flashback outfit in front of a rowdy summer crowd, no doubt filled with people I know? But the store owner wouldn't let me change the bottoms, told me I looked hot and I had to flaunt my "post baby body." Good God.

So then we were supposed to meet early to rehearse at the studio, but the studio was locked. And then we were supposed to be dancing on a 20 by 20 stage, but when we got there, it was a tiny square in the middle of the street. Okay. Things were not helping me get a hold of my rather juvenile mood. I felt pissy and pouty. I wanted to use the words "lame" and "sucks" a lot. I was tempted to feign an ankle twist. Or just bail the fuck out.

But didn't I love performing? Don't I just love to dance? Wouldn't it be great to get my freak on in front of my small community, in fact, many small, lovely children that I teach to read would get to see that not only am I good at spelling and similes, I'm also quite excellent at shakin' my thang. Again, Good God.

So I did it. And I nailed the moves in my new, much more rooted, grounded style. And it was fine. But I still wasn't. I didn't get the performance high. I felt self-conscious and old and ridiculous and after the show, all I wanted to do was get my hands on Eliana and get the heck outta there. I didn't want to chit chat. I didn't want anyone to see me who might comment on the performance. I wanted to cry. And hide. What was going on?

I talked to my friend Melissa today about my little performance issue. The bad mood. The lack of desire to be public. I told her I felt like I was having an identity crisis and why was this happening when I'm now so good at leaving Elie and doing lots and lots of things that I used to enjoy? Social worker (and fellow dancer) that she is, broke it down. She reminded me of how emotional I was with Eliana's birthday just a mere few days prior. She told me that it was totally natural not to want to perform something that didn't resonate with me in a deep way. She reminded me that I am a mama and an artist now. That those two identities are irrevocably intertwined.

I sort of feel like a diva, but if I am going to perform at this point in my life, I want it to be incredible. I want lights. I want to be wearing a gorgeous, flowing dress. I want to perform choreography that is rooted and heavy with emotion and love and power. I want to be deep and dazzling and strong. I don't have flippant in me any more. I don't have "just moves." I still have soul. I still have groove. But it all feels so damn serious and important and huge and I can't separate that grandeur from the art. I can't just put on some ridiculous outfit and bust it because it's fun.

Do I sound like I take myself super seriously? I probably do. I guess that's because when you do something as serious and relevant and real and powerful as become a mama, it's hard not to let that sense of importance plant it's seed somewhere deep inside you. Little blossoms twist on teeny vines that run through your being, constantly reminding you of how you've changed. Transformation is happening. That new self, that mama me, is always there, always evolving, always resonating and permeating everything I do. And this mama did not feel right publicly "checking herself" on a flimsy stage. And that's just how it is.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Life is giving me so many gifts each day. That sounds so cliche and sort of weird and religious, but I can't seem to put it any other way. I feel like I am continuously in this state of vivid understanding. Realizing how lucky I am, how beautiful everything is, how much fun I'm having. One of my biggest gratitude shout outs goes to my girlfriends. They are all so damn smart and beautiful and talented. They also all seem to have babies who are buddies with Eliana. It doesn't get much better.

These are some beautiful pics that my friend Nici took when she and her hubby came for dinner the other night. I could never take pics like this. Thank goodness for my girlfriends.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Happy First Birthday, little Eliana!

Happy First Birthday,
My Sweet Little Eliana!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

almost there...

It's the eve of Eliana's first birthday. I remember Casey writing about holding Moana to her face for as long as she could the night before she turned one. I too did that tonight. Usually these days when I go in for a long, hard squeeze or snuggle, she quickly tries to wriggle away, little independent duckling that she is. But tonight she let me hold her. I kissed her cheeks and little neck. Her eyelids. I let her rest her soft arm around my neck. I let her melt into me and savored each glorious second, as I knew she'd soon enough throw her head back and reclaim her freedom.

I inhaled. She doesn't smell all babyish and sweet anymore. In fact tonight she smelled a lot like me, the soap we'd shared, the bath we had just taken together. I kinda love that. Smelling like her. I had to scrub the dirt out of her little legs and wipe the sticky watermelon juice off of her face. Eliana is certainly enjoying being a grubby little girl. This doesn't surprise me at all seeing as how her dad and I are not exactly neat folk who certainly enjoy a little sweat and funk, especially when the sun is hot and there's fun to be had.

I've thought so many times to this day last year. We went to Red Rocks Beach on the Blackfoot. My sister was in town for the birth and we were with Bobby, Jo, and Solan. We left my mama in the hotel to rest. I remember sitting on the shore, all gazillion enormous pounds of me and feeling the early pains of labor. I was no longer scared, but rather experiencing the sensations in my body, feeling thoroughly present and absolutely ready. One of my favorite yoga teachers always told us to focus on the, "sensations in our body as they moved through the moment." We were encouraged not to judge them or fight them, just to let them be and acknowledge them.

I've never realized until this moment how fitting that wisdom was for the whole birth. Actually, it's a superb metaphor for the whole act of being a mother. All we have to do is add a piece about honoring the sensations as they move through the body, the mind, and the heart. We have to link it all together. We have to give the sensations a soul. We have to hold them and cherish them as they morph and strengthen, surprise and devour, endear and empower. We have to hold the moments. Bless them. Honor them. Revere them.

That day on the Blackfoot, the river astonished me. The love I felt for my family and friends was overwhelming. The moment shone; the golden dust on the dirt road, the sunlit laughter of the water, the shiny gleam of the pebbly beach. I felt so full.

And I had absolutely no idea. No idea how much I would love you. No idea of how good it still could get. No idea of how thoroughly blessed I am that you chose me.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Eliana is so ready to turn one. She's doing all of these toddler-like things. Like for months I've been signing the word, "more" for her, hoping to get her to respond. I was pretty certain she had no idea what in god's good name I was doing when I vigorously pressed my fingers together and said, "more, more" like a total freakazoid. But just the other day she started signing "more" just out of the blue. Joellen said something like, "Wow, Gil. You already taught her the sign for more." Not realizing that I had taught her anything I replied, "I've been doing the sign at her for months...uh, I guess she picked it up."

Now we're up and running. I can ask her, "Eliana, do you want more beans?" and she looks at me and makes the sign for more and smiles in anticipation. It's kind of like on Pee Wee's Playhouse. There was always a word of the day and whenever someone said the word, everyone in the playhouse just freaked out. That's kinda what she does whenever I say, "more." Today we pushed her wagon all the way to school. Then she practiced up and down the hallways and she showed off her skills for all her favorite ladies at MIS. When she decided to take a break and do some discovery crawling, all I had to do was say, "Eliana, do you want to do some more walking?" She looked up at me, made the sign for more, and then motored back over to her wagon, stood up, and headed off down the hallway. Remarkable. The bells and whistles are exploding in my brain.

I get such a kick out of seeing her upright. It still looks so odd to me, the way she still doesn't really know how to bend her knees, the way she walks "peg leg joe style" like her legs are made of lead or something. The sun was so bright today, and I was sort of spacing out as I spotted her maneuvering down our street. For a second her walking felt like some sort of freaky hallucination, bringing me back, however briefly, to some really fun times on the beach in Santa Cruz, circa 1995. Is this really that tiny, helpless thing that I brought into the world almost a year ago? This beautiful little girl with her big personality, tenacious approach to new things, love of good music and exciting food, wonderful, unique sense of humor? This grubby little girl whose knees hit the sidewalk so many times today, yet she continued without a complaint, determined to battle on.

Sometimes it just feels so wild. Like there's way too much love in one moment for any human to possibly handle. Like I just want to open my arms and embrace whatever power brought this little dynamo into my world, whoever deemed me worthy of this sort of grace.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

elie's montana summer

My love for Montana always grows exponentially during the summer months. We have been enjoying gorgeous, mild days, the hills have still not turned completely brown, and all the flowers have finally burst forth from the ground. The market is hopping. The Rattlesnake smells piney and fragrant. The parking lot is like Disneyland. We are not the only folks enjoying this mountain state these days. I met a fellow in the lot yesterday from Pasadena. He said, "Wow. You finally got out, huh?"

It doesn't feel like that to me. I certainly miss plenty of things about city living, most importantly, living in close proximity of my family. It does feel like a tremendous gift, though, to give my child. To give her these mountains. Time to dip her toes in the creek. To eat mint and basil leaves from the garden. Little friends that are a simple walk away. We spotted two bear cubs by the creek yesterday. She fell in love with horses when we were at the ranch over fourth of July weekend. She's certainly a little mountain girl. And while I could have never imagined this life for myself ten years ago, I wouldn't change a thing.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Eliana and I are basking in summer rituals. Perhaps my favorite involves her budding love of music. We do lots of dancing in front of the mirror and she's starting to recognize the changes in the music and can predict when I'll spin or dip her. Her favorite nursery, playtime tune is "The Littest Birds" by The Be Good Tanyas. When she hears the opening, "la, la" she always stops what she's doing, turns to me, and gives me a big, Eliana grin. It's this knowing look, like we share this awesome secret about how tremendous and full this moment is about to be. She then resumes her playing, only looking over at me occasionally, building her independence and confidence one toy at a time. This video captures her explorations to her favorite song and even includes some fearless adventuring into her old moses basket.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

almost a year

A week from today will be Eliana's first birthday. I'm sitting here listening to the cd I made for her, "Eliana's Love Songs." It's really should be called Mommy's Love Songs for Eliana. These songs are so full of memories. Of those hot, early August days when she slept in the sling while we walked, slowly around the park, my body still not healed, by skin still thick and hormonal, her personality still hidden in long naps, fussy evenings. Then the smoke moved in and the air became thick too. We sat and stared out the window at the brown haze, the red curtain in our living room casting an ominous glow on our day, trying not to breathe too deeply, lest our lungs, which still seemed one, take in anything less than our pure, new love.

The fall was perfect, when my memories are most vivid, awesome and clear. The leaves turned. Yellow and gold greeted our trips to the park. School started without me. Instead of sharpening pencils and making name tags, I had long lunches with my girlfriends and their babies, hiked up the mountain behind my house, held Eliana through her naps, watched her breath change, her eyelashes grow, her limbs strengthen. The days grew cooler. My return to work loomed like tragedy, an end to this precious time.

And suddenly it was November. The days leading up to my return were filled with tumult, anxiety, sadness, apprehension. Everything felt like one huge loss. But we got through it. And Eliana learned to love spending her days with her grandparents, filled their lives with her silly smiles and precious noises. I slowly learned to appreciate the other parts of myself. The way my mind has to be focused and organized to teach children. The importance of preparing and "being on" in a way that I didn't have to be at home with a baby.

We moved through a long winter. Lots of snow, the holidays, more snow, Valentine's day, more snow, my birthday. It was around March that I finally started to want to nurture my whole self again. I actually wanted to go out without Elie, wanted to do things that were just for me. I never thought I would want that again. There was a time when I never wanted to be away from her, not even to go on a dinner date with Jeff, not even to hike without having to carry her on my

My muscles started to come back together. My hair stopped falling out. My clothes began to really fit again. I felt, and still feel, more vibrant and strong and lovely than ever before. Eliana continues to be the smily, audacious, daring, engaged, enthusiastic, whole hearted lover that she's always been. That she will continue to be. I realize now that time will never stop moving. It will continue to slip away from me, the days rolling into each other like the sea, like the wheels on her little wagon, like her dirty knees as they scoot ever so quickly across the kitchen floor. All I can do is try to hold on to the moments. Keep writing. Realize how vital this expression of love is. That bringing love, holding love, expressing gratitude and kindness and being my absolute best self is the only true gift I can give my girl for her first birthday, for all her days. And all of mine.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Eliana's Gran gave her one fabulous gift for her first birthday. It's this lovely wooden wagon, which is the perfect height for her to push around. She loves to put her books and toys inside, get situated on her feet, push and go. The only unfortunate thing is that our house is too small for her to go very far before she bashes into a door or a piece of furniture. I may let her try it up and down the sidewalk after she wakes up from her nap. It's just so lovely to see her upright and vertical, like the little big person she really is.

There is something so lovely about her new independence. Every day is filled with new adventures, every minute a new exploration or sensation. We went to the swimming hole up by the farm yesterday. Eliana sat for over an hour and played with river rocks, tossing them into the water, listening to the different splashing sounds of different sized rocks, finding big, flat stones to put in her mouth and munch like giant cookies. Her top two teeth have finally broken through her gums and she loves to test them out on new and unusual hard surfaces. Each time she would bite into a rock, she would look up at her new boyfriend, uncle Matt and make this big, satisfied laugh-grunt as if to say, "Did ya see the size of that one? Can you believe I got my chompers down on that thing?" When it was time to leave, her bottom was soaking wet and she had all sorts of dirt and river debris on her innocent little limbs. She didn't cry. She didn't complain. I think she understood that being a bit damp and grungy were part of a summer afternoon on the creek, part of the fun of the package.

Pushing, maneuvering, exploring, kissing, biting, throwing, laughing, talking (though "mama", "bob" and "cracker" - pronounced "crack HUr" still seem to be her favorite words). So much wonder to behold in this shiny world. It keeps every day fresh for me, reminds me that the greatest joys come from the simplest things, keeps my laughter loud and my heart absolutely full.

Monday, July 7, 2008

mi mariposa

Eliana is not a shy child. In fact, I am starting to realize what an incredibly social little being she indeed is. I think it really started to hit me when we were flying a few weeks back. While she no longer nurses or sleeps on the plane, she instead fills her time making eyes and flashing dimples at strangers. Sometimes she would just stare at someone until they looked up from their paper/laptop/magazine and she finally caught their eye. On planes, she is particularly fond of older men in business suits who seem to want nothing to do with her.

I have been teaching lots and lots of dance classes lately. That means Elie has special night time fun with her dad. Recently that involved two different stints at local bars. While I wasn't there to witness this first hand, apparently one bartender (again, a male), made Elie a rose out of a napkin because he was so taken with her. Jeff said it was sweet, but a bit creepy as well. After class one night, I met them at another local spot for some food. We were in the "Jame's Bar", Missoula's latest attempt at being super hip. It's dark, serves sliders, and has a big black and white poster of Janis Joplin on the wall. It's not exactly a baby kinda crowd. But Eliana will not relent. She spent the entire evening pestering other patrons. She pressed her face up against the glass that separated our booth from the bar and batted her eyelashes until she finally got some aging frat boy to pay more attention to her than his blonde date. She then scooted around the booth so she was closer to the table next to us. There she smiled, laughed, and played her own game of peek-a-boo with the folks at the booth. She was so engaging that I had to start apologizing because I sensed that they wanted to get back to their conversation and not have my little dynamo begging for their attention.

But I think the clincher was tonight. We were driving home from a friend's house for dinner and it was past bedtime. Eliana was tired and a bit whiny in the backseat. Feeling tired and a bit whiny myself, I decided to crank New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" which just happened to be on the radio. I sat at the light, letting her cries get drowned out in that fabulous early eighties beat. The backseat was soon quiet. I assumed she, too, liked the song. And then I looked at the car next to me. A big, Montana style, white pickup with three, Montana style, cigarette smokin', truck revving dudes. They were all smiling and looking over at my little Honda. For a second, I thought they were checking me out. Both of our windows were rolled down and I thought, perhaps, that my pimpin' tunes and funky earrings were attracting their attention. I then realized that they were all talking to Eliana. And she was flashing those big lock eyes right back at them. She had managed to seduce men in the next car over from a rear facing carseat. What the hell are the odds?

I laughed. I laughed hard. I brought her home and got her ready for bed. We then had a long, old fashioned bedtime nursing session. And that big, social, flirty, crazy, risk-taking nut transformed back into a quiet, needy, teeny, sweet and extremely innocent little baby. I thought about her birthday next week. I thought about all the birthdays and changes and smiles we'll share together. And while I love the way she is spreading her tiny little wings, I wanted to hold her in that moment forever.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

summer of love

It's definitely shaping up to be a summer of love for our little family out her in Montana. We have visitors from all sorts of different lifetimes gracing us with their spontaneous presences, bringing love and goodness, wanting to meet our little princessa. We play hard here in the summer. We cook good food, mess around in the garden, get into everything. I am just so thankful to have my time with Eliana uninterrupted. To have long days, long play sessions followed by long naps, plenty of time for me, and plenty of time for us.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Although they're only ten days apart in age, I've always thought of Moana as Eliana's "older" friend. Moana always seems to master all sorts of cool stuff first. Once I see her doing something new, I am always quick to encourage Eliana to do the same, or rather, Moana teaches Eliana to do the same. Moana's latest lesson: giving kisses. It started last week while Casey was watching Eliana for me while I taught a yoga class (how lucky am I to have friends like this?). When I arrived to pick her up, the girls were playing together and Casey and I were chatting. We looked over, and there it was. Moana was leaning in ever so gently. Eliana followed suit. Together their open mouths touched, their little cheeks rubbed.

"No way."
"I'm pretty sure that's the cutest thing I've ever seen."

They break apart, gaze at each other, and then go in for more.

When we went for a walk in the Rattlesnake the other day, they did it again. Now when I ask Eliana to kiss something -- anything, my cheek, the bunny in her book, her crazy chicken that sings, "You are my sunshine" -- she leans in with her open little mouth, bats her long lashes, giggles, and plants the most perfect, delectable little wet mark. Thank you, sweet Moana, for giving the gift of kisses to my girl!

adios abuelos

Jeff's folks are back in New Jersey after an incredible year of generosity and love. I really can't imagine what going back to work would have been like if I hadn't had Jeff's parents to help watch little Peanut. They were so supportive, helpful and kind, always laughing hard and living fully. We will miss them, but know that they will enjoy some time with the rest of their friends and family back east. Here are some moments captured in our yard just before they left for the airport.