Quiet Moments

To my darling daughter Reagan,

I hope this letter finds you on a day when you are able to understand it and take something valuable from it. Most of all, I hope that this letter finds you when you most need it.

You are with me in this very moment, whether or not you know it, and I already love you, sweetheart. You have been in my heart since the first day I played “house” as a little girl. You were my baby then, you are my baby now, and whenever you read this, whether you are on the verge of your teenage years, or having children of your own, you are still my baby.

If there is anything that I have learned that is certain and true in my life, it is that there is meaning and insight in quiet moments. They will find you, and how they change you is hardly within your control. They hold, quite literally, a silent power, and you would do well not to underestimate them.

A few years ago, I made the decision to move out on my own to the city of angels. I lived by myself in a 500 square foot studio in the heart of downtown Long Beach. It was nowhere near perfect, and daily life was a struggle. My quiet moments that year defined, in large part, who I am today. They were at night after driving home from work, while I walked through the neighborhood blocks to my car in the morning, while I drove the scenic route to and from school, down Ocean Boulevard.

I would stop often and walk down the steps toward the water, my shoes dangling from my fingers and sand in between my toes. I was in a trance. I stopped and sat in the place where the sand turned dark, dancing with the tide in a tango I knew I was sure to lose if ever I tried. The ocean kissed the sun goodnight, and the sky turned vivid shades of purple and pink, the air around me cooled, and the hairs that stood up on my arms and neck brought me back to reality. Caught between the sea and the city, I slowly made my walk back up the steps to my car.

Sitting there in those quiet moments made me feel so small, and at times, so deeply insignificant. In hindsight, I realize how important those moments were, and I must confess something to you. Although my thoughts had convinced me of my unimportance, I am not insignificant. I never was, but what I hadn’t realized in those moments was that I am, and have always been, a very important part of humanity, as are you, darling. You would be doing yourself, and the world, a great disservice to be selfish with your heart and your mind. Don’t ever be afraid to make yourself vulnerable in the attempt to spread kindness or truth.

Those quiet moments made me feel lonely, insignificant, and so utterly small. I was twenty years old, alone, and terrified that I had given up everything I ever knew in search of something I had carried with me all along. Eventually, I found solace and peace in knowing that I alone was capable of creating meaning in my life.

My quiet moments aren’t so lonely anymore.

You have given my life so much meaning that I never even knew existed. My birthday is in less than two weeks, yet all I can think about is yours, whenever it may be. I can’t wait to get to know you, to watch you grow, and to nurture your beautiful soul. I promise to be there when your heart gets broken for the first time and to kiss your tears away when life knocks you off your feet. I will be there when reality rears its ugly face and you need someone to humble and teach you how to find life’s silver linings. I hope that I am lucky enough to see you through all of the milestones in your life, but I cannot promise you one thing.

I will not be there in your quiet moments. While not always lonely, those moments are yours alone, until the day you have children of your own.

While my moments are quiet, they are no longer lonely. I have been blessed to share my quiet moments with you these past seven and a half months. By now, you probably know me better than I know myself. Every doubt I have ever had about whether or not I am ready to be your mom is erased the second you get a bout of hiccups or start to explore every remaining inch in your temporary home. I have been a mom since the moment your dad and I found out about you. I have shared every one of my quiet moments with you. In turn, you have come to fill my heart with more love than I ever knew existed.

My only hesitation is this irrational fear that somehow my heart might burst, for I have never loved someone in the way or to the capacity that I already love you. This is my quiet moment, and I want to share this with you, whenever you are ready. For now, sharing this with friends and strangers in the blogosphere will have to suffice.

I love you.

A.A.G.

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I Resolve

I am sitting here in utter disbelief. The ornaments that adorned our first Christmas tree are now boxed away, which sadly makes our tree just that: a tree. The photo frames that once held pictures of my sorority sisters now hold ultrasound pictures of the baby girl that we already love so much. The textbooks have been replaced with baby books, Wolfe novels, and my bible. The downstairs office is now a nursery. The shot glasses in the sink have been replaced with coffee mugs. There is laundry humming in the washer, football on the television, and a silver tabby sitting in the window across the room from me. My life honestly couldn’t be any different than it was one year ago, and I truly couldn’t be any happier.

In previous years, January 1st always found me with a sense of renewal, a false sense of change and a mentality that with a new year came a mythical and imaginary reset button that everyone, from every walk of life, acknowledged and respected. This year, January 1st came and went, and that change, that renewal didn’t come. Call me crazy, but I’m sure it has everything to do with this little baby growing inside of me. There is no more reset button. I am now responsible for the life of another human being, no matter how small she may be right now. Every little movement from her reminds me that someone in this great big world is dependent on me, at least for the next two decades or so. I am indebted to her for teaching me that I am so much more important to this world than I ever could have imagined.

In less than one week, Zach and I will be entering into the third trimester of this pregnancy, and all of the warning signs are here. I get heartburn from drinking too much water, I find myself waddling up the stairs, and breathing like I just sprinted after walking across a room. Oh, and forget sleeping through the night. A month ago, I was diagnosed with hydronephrosis: a painful, yet harmless, condition where the positioning of my uterus is such that my ureters are constricted and my kidneys swell with fluid. If you have never in your life experienced kidney pain, consider yourself lucky and knock on wood, for good measure. After a week of doctors visits, blood tests, ultrasounds, and a short hospital stay, we were finally diagnosed and sent home. I was put on a pregnancy disability leave of absence from work, and have since lost my mind. I don’t do well when I have nothing to do, but all of this time to myself has given me time to think and bond with this little baby.

A few mornings every week, I wake up early and make a pot of coffee. I go into the nursery and pull out a baby book that Zach’s grandma Barbara gave us for Christmas and I read to her. The book that I’ve read most often is called “You Are My I Love You,” and the first time I started reading out loud, I felt ridiculous. They say that your baby has the ability to listen beginning around 14 weeks, but halfway through my second trimester I was reading a book and staring at my belly with the door closed because God forbid Zach hears me talking to myself and thinks the same thoughts that are running through my mind. After reading the book, I sat there for a moment in the silence and felt one of the strongest kicks I’ve yet felt throughout this pregnancy. No matter how silly I felt, I knew I could continue to read for her.

Zach and I have grown tremendously over the past year, and our lives have changed drastically. I don’t think many people plan on becoming parents just a year after graduating college, and I definitely didn’t plan on having a baby before getting married, but life has a tendency to humble you in ways you could never imagine. I have been humbled, in the biggest way through realizing that this journey in motherhood will be a daily reminder that my life is no longer my own. My twenties will not be my selfish years. Instead, they will be selfless. I was given the opportunity to imagine an entirely new story for my life and to start living it the day that those two lines appeared on that test. This year, although I have no overwhelming sense of change or renewal, I resolve to be more selfless, more responsible, and to listen instead of speak so that I can begin learn how to be a mother and a better human being.

A.A.G.

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Fall Into Life

Hello world,

Between closed chapters and new beginnings, life has kept me busy.

I sat and wrote about my graduation in May, about my adventures living with Zach and four of his friends, about finding a new job . . . But all that seems so trivial now.
Yes, I graduated.
Yes, I found a job.
Yes, I finally got out of the frat house and Zach and I moved into a new home to call “ours.”
But none of that amounts to the news that we received almost two months ago.

In mid-August, I woke up with mixed emotions. Eyes half-open, I walked downstairs to take a little test. It didn’t cross my mind that this one simple test would change my life forever. I looked at my reflection in the mirror as the cracked screen on my phone counted down from two minutes. I noticed subtleties that I previously hadn’t. My skin looked different, my eyes looked older . . . Or was I just imagining all of it? Was I just tired and hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before? Maybe this is all a dream and I’m still sleeping . . . The alarm went off and snapped me back into reality, and I looked down at the test. I looked twice, because it didn’t look like the cartoon picture in the pamphlet that they put in the box, but I knew it was right. I called Zach down from upstairs, and when he saw the test, we just held each other while I cried. Our whole life was about to change.

We went to the doctor to confirm our pregnancy with a blood test, and one week later, we went in for our first ultrasound. Up until that moment, it all seemed surreal. Then, we saw our baby on the ultrasound monitor, and the ultrasound tech showed us our baby’s heartbeat. A strong one hundred and sixty beats per minute. I cried because, in that moment, I realized that I would never love anything in my life as much as I love this little baby growing inside of me. Zach felt it was appropriate to high-five me right there in the doctor’s office, and added a “We made that!” to lighten the mood. Call me crazy, but I love that man.

People ask all sorts of questions when they find out you’re pregnant, but all I’m certain of right now is that I want to be the best mother I can be. I want to be kind, but stern. I want to teach my child to love unconditionally, and to trust that there is intrinsic good within each person. I want them to love the world and all of its cultures, and to always have a deep desire to travel and learn. I want them to grow up only feeling entitled to those things that they have truly earned, and not those that they demand. I want them to know that the world doesn’t owe them anything, rather they owe the world every bit of kindness and inspiration they can give. I want them to know that I love them, every moment of every day. Always.

A.A.G.

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Lo Siento

What are we saying when we apologize? That our souls are so entwined with others so much so that at our fault we have hurt the soul of someone with which we shared some small piece of happiness.

To say “I’m Sorry” is to say that we feel in our hearts the guilt and the shame that comes with hurting someone we love, but it is a personal burden, for it is not synonymous with the pain that we have caused the other.

What a world it is that we live in when we avoid hurting another soul so much so that we build ourselves into someone we no longer recognize, only to fear the day that the mural of falsities comes crashing down. On that day, the fear that had manifested itself in the silent moments, the goodbyes, the time between . . . It is far worse and far more threatening than the haunting idea of truth.

The reconciliation does not come in the apology. Rather, peace comes in little moments of forgetfulness. You forget to remember how badly your actions hurt another person, a person with whom you once shared your soul entirely.

The growth of the soul and its manifestation throughout our lives is a challenge worth undertaking. You cannot be afraid to hurt someone else, but always choose to hurt with the truth rather than to destroy with a lie. Do not run from your problems. Face them, and face them knowing that you are sufficient and strong, and that your soul is pure and beautiful. One day, peace will come. You will find the closure you have needed in seeing the person you once loved and hurt live a life of happiness.

What a strange concept, to apologize, to announce to another that you feel pain for the same hurt that you have caused, to bare to another soul your naked ability to fail. How very human it is to deny our fault, and announce our failures, but how very magical and honorable it is to one day find peace in your fault, to grow, and to have faith that they are no longer living with the sadness that you had once caused.

A.A.G.

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A story of love and loss

Contrary to the implications of the title, this won’t be a story chronicling a love between two people. Rather, this will be a tale of two separate and distinct lives, of two people, and their only connection is me. They do not know each other, and they probably never will. One is my Grandma, the other is my “Grama” Gwen.

My Grandma was in a lot of pain for months, and doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. They didn’t know the cause of her pain, so instead, they continued to prescribe pain medicine after pain medicine; they weren’t treating the cause of her pain.  She bounced from specialist to specialist, and I tried to stay as supportive and encouraging as possible, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it was beyond frustrating. I want to be a doctor myself one day, so when I heard that they couldn’t find the cause of her pain, I became discouraged. I hate to admit it, but I felt like they saw an old woman who has lived a beautiful life . . . I felt like they were content with keeping her medicated while never getting to the root of her pain. Someone up in that big blue sky heard my cries of frustration, and I started to hear plans of scans and biopsies; they were finally going to figure out what was going on, and in the pit of my stomach, I already knew what it was: cancer.

How do you support a loved one who has just been diagnosed with cancer? How do you tell them that everything is going to be alright? How do you force yourself not to cry when you’re on the phone with them, because any hesitation and crack in my voice would have quickly given myself away. I stayed strong. I answered questions. I explained everything the best I could, and I researched. I researched like hell. And I felt better. I felt confident that she would be alright. My grandma had a team of experienced surgeons that had become personally invested in her success.

February 11. February 11 would be the day of her surgery, and she reminded me of that every time we spoke on the phone. I heard the familiar hesitation and crack in my Grandpa’s voice when we spoke on the phone. He was being strong for her. I was being strong for him.

February 10, I called to talk to my Grandma. “Hello?” My Grandpa had answered the phone, my Grandma was out to the pharmacy to pick up a pre-operative prescription. I wouldn’t get a chance to talk to her before her surgery, and deep within my stomach, that familiar sinking feeling grew stronger. The hesitation and crack in his voice were strong. She wasn’t there, he didn’t have to stay strong for her, but he tried so hard . . . It nearly broke my heart. We got off the phone, it was a short conversation. Well wishes and prayers.

I continued with my day. I went to class that evening, and I found myself on the verge of tears, salt stinging my eyes, blinking it away in the hopes that my pride could outweigh my fears.

I came home that night to an empty home. I live with a family . . . Judy and Sam are married, their mother Gwen lives below me with her caretaker, Pamela. The day I moved in last summer, Gwen had written me a note welcoming me to her home, signed “Grama Gwen, 91 1/2 years old.”

“Grama” Gwen was not in a lot of pain, she was old, but she wasn’t dying. She would get in her walker and go out into the backyard to play fetch with her miniature poodle, a rescue, named “Papo.” She believed that he was the reincarnation of her husband who passed away years ago.

The other day, Papo came out to greet me when I came home, and I carried him into her room. She showed me her newest drawings, she really is an artist, and she shared another story of her past. She was happy, she was smiling and talking to me and everything was fine . . .

This is a tale of two separate and distinct lives, of two people, and their only connection is me. They do not know each other, and they probably never will. One is my grandma, recovering from a surgery designed to rid her of cancer, the other is dying from congestive heart failure in a hospital room surrounded by her family and friends.

Papo is in bed with me as I type these words, and he has not stopped looking at the door since Gwen left last night. She was picked up by the paramedics while I was in class. She can no longer breathe on her own, and uses a machine in order to assist her. Her granddaughters are on their way to the hospital. One lives in Lake Tahoe, California, the other lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. My heart is heavy, yet my heart is happy.

Thank you for giving me so much to look forward to, “Grama” Gwen. Thank you for fighting to stay with us, Grandma.

A.A.G.

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My 23

I recently stumbled upon an article that several of my Facebook friends had shared, titled “23 things to do instead of getting engaged before you’re 23.”  In her post, author Vanessa Elizabeth included items like “Make out with a stranger,” “Date two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face,” “Hangout naked in front of a window,” and my personal favorite “Get a tattoo. It’s more permanent than a marriage.” Not only did these items leave me open-mouthed, staring at my screen in disbelief, but the emotion that they stirred up in me led me to completely discredit some of the core ideas behind her other list items, like traveling the world, finding your “thing,” personal expression, and self-confidence.

Personally, having done one of the aforementioned items (and no, it wasn’t hanging out naked in front of a window), I can say with full certainty that it was self-destructive, self-denigrating, and it more than blew up in my face. It almost blew apart my life. So yes, I was quick to judge Miss Elizabeth . . .

That being said, a good friend of mine was quick to remind me that the “list thing” is very popular within the blogging community right now, and added a “To each their own, man.” Sometimes, it can be way too easy to criticize someone without putting yourself in their shoes.

So, without further adieu, I present to you, my list of “23 things to do . . . Before turning 23,” because with the new year comes the scary realization that I will be 23 just more than one year from now.

  1. Graduate from college with my useless Political Science, Pre-Law degree. (Which I will spend the rest of my life explaining to people, especially when I become the pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon that I know I am meant to be)
  2. Move out of the LBC. It’s been a good two years, but I’ll leave this one to Snoop. 
  3. Don’t move back to Bakersfield. It will always be my hometown, and that’s enough for me.
  4. Run a half marathon. Why not a full marathon, you ask? Well, no. Just no. Not yet. Maybe before I’m 24. 
  5. Renew my passport. After all, I don’t think my expired passport will get me very far when I go to travel to Puebla during spring break. 
  6. Hike the Hollywood sign trail. Just not at night . . .
  7. Go wine tasting. Paso Robles, anyone?
  8. Get a medical assisting job at a place that you love going to every day.
  9. Become a morning person. I don’t think I’ve seen the sunrise (on purpose) since freshman year of college.
  10. Go to the Ellen show.
  11. Stop judging. Just stop. It doesn’t lead to a better life. 
  12. Go to church more often.
  13. Read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
  14. Volunteer. I may not be at the point in my life where I am able to join the Peace Cops (a wonderful thing to do, and a list item to commend, Miss Elizabeth), that shall not stop me from doing my part here in my own community.
  15. Get to know your little sister. And not just know her name, friends, and hobbies . . . Treat her like the best friend that she will be for the rest of your life, your future MOH, and do everything possible to make her life more beautiful.
  16. Get over your irrational fear of feet. It’s silly, and quite embarrassing, but I promise you, it is very real.
  17. Las Vegas. GO. You’re turning 22 in one month, and you still haven’t gone. It’s sad, really. 
  18. Cohabitation after graduation. Sorry Grandma and Grandpa, it’s the 21st century. 
  19. Travel to another continent. Preferably Europe, but anything will do. 
  20. Buy a car. Even if has no A/C, no power steering, and a manual transmission, it will be YOURS. 
  21. Become self-sufficient. Yes. That means no more car insurance help from Mom and Dad, and paying for your own cellphone bill. I mean, come on, you couldn’t expect them to do that forever, could you?
  22. Go to a Patriots game. Preferably to one where they win. 
  23. Buy a designer watch or a pair of shoes. After all, I’m still a girl. 

A.A.G.

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The dichotomy of my life

On a typical Wednesday, I wake up around 7 in the morning, hop in the shower, and get ready for my day. I leave home, walk to school, and head into Anatomy.

Anatomy lecture is almost always exciting, and my professor is animated. She used to work as a surgeon, who gave up the exciting medical field to train the world’s future nurses and doctors. She knows the ins and outs of the field, and she has real world experience to share.

Early in the afternoon, I head into my Physiology lecture. He plays a lot of YouTube videos, and treats the course like the general education requirement that it is, but the information is still fascinating. He specializes in skeletal muscle, and even worked on projects aimed to help astronauts maintain muscle mass while in space.

After dinner, I have a night class. I take Constitutional Law Rights with a wonderful professor. He looks like he could be the same age as my grandpa. This man was born and raised in Boston, worked for the CIA, and now shares his knowledge with hundreds of students, in the hopes that they go out and change this world to become a better place. I’ve heard stories of his senility and dwindling mental capacities from other students and professors, but I don’t believe a word of it.

My day has been full of science: both natural and political.

Medicine and Law. They truly are different worlds. It can be exhausting, but it is always eye-opening.

I have but 15 school days and one semester left until I finish my undergraduate degree. I can tell you how the politics of the United States came to be, and name several landmark cases that have shaped our criminal justice systems. I can trace a drop of blood throughout the entire body. I can name all of the amendments. I can tell you about the cranial nerves, and each of their functions. Most importantly, I can tell you that I don’t regret any decision that I have made thus far. I may have decided a little too late in my undergraduate career what I truly want to do with my life. But maybe I didn’t. Maybe it was meant to be. And maybe, just maybe, I am the luckiest person on the planet for having been given so many obstacles and challenges throughout the past four years.

A.A.G.

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