Turned Upside Down


How I spend my days

Life is such a funny old thing, isn’t it?

I remember way back when I was in my twenties. There were definitely times when I stayed up more than half the night and then slept through half the day.  That’s just what we did back then, you know?  Friends would be getting together to see a band in Boston at 11 pm, so we’d head out at 10:30 and get back home at dawn.

I remember those days. I do!  Lots of Scotch, lots of dancing, maybe a stop at an all night diner for waffles before the sun came up.

Then we grew up.  Got jobs.  Got married.

We gave up the all nighters in favor of early to bed and early to rise.  We became responsible.

When Paul and I had our babies, the day/night thing got sort of all mixed up again for a bit.  I remember those middle of the night nursing times, watching really really bad TV (this was before the 500 cable channels) and trying to stay awake long enough to change a diaper.  I remember stumbling through my shower and getting through a full work day when my brain really wanted to be completely unconscious.

Once I was co-leading a social language group with our school counselor.  I had been awake every two hours all night to administer a nebulizer treatment to my son.  We were all sitting on the floor of her office in a circle. I had a cup of coffee on the rug in front of me.

I woke myself with a loud snore.  Ten learning disabled kids were staring at me.  The counselor calmly stated, “Karen had a bad night’s sleep.”

Then my kids grew out of those difficult nights, and life settled into a pretty normal cycle. We are awake and productive by day, we sleep by night.  I understood this concept.  It fit quite well into my daily life as a teacher.  All was well.

But now I am retired.  I have no pressing need to be articulate, alert or entertaining during daylight hours.

Now I spend my days as Nonni, and life has settled back into that old familiar upside down pattern.

Now I wake up early, shower and have my coffee.  I am alert, happy, awake and ready to go.  My sweet Ellie comes to spend her day with me, and we have a wonderful two hours of cuddles and books and toys.  Then there is a bottle.  Then there is a blanket, and a yawn, and that warm sweet bundle of baby relaxation settled herself on my chest.  The recliner goes back, my cheek rests on her head, and the snore fest begins.  I sleep the deepest and calmest sleep of my life while my hands cradle that round little diaper wrapped bottom.

And after a couple of hours we wake up, and there are diaper changes and snacks and books and some toys.  There is tummy time and sitting time and music and another bottle.

And the cycle repeats itself.


I pretty much sleep my way through half of my daylight hours.  With that beautiful child held tight in my arms, I am so happy and at peace that my dreams are filled with rainbows and ponies and fairies and glittering stars.

Its the BEST.

But all that daytime sleep means, of course, that I am usually awake in the darkest deepest part of the night. I get up, I make tea, I read a bit, I stroke the dogs.

And I don’t mind at all.

My life is turned upside down once again, putting me back in touch with my youthful, carefree self.  Reminding me of my young mommy self.  I can watch the moon set. I can sit alone on my couch and think about life.

I know that tomorrow Ellie will come.  And we’ll play and laugh and eat, and then we’ll cuddle up and sleep our peaceful sleep together.

Life is such a funny old circular rhythm, isn’t it?


Living in the moment

In the past few years, I have tried very hard to learn new ways of thinking, new ways of being.  I have tried to make myself a more positive person, and I’ve tried very hard to get control of my attitudes and moods and reactions. I have tried so hard to be calm.

Life is a stressful journey! Sometimes I find myself so swept up in the worries and frustrations of the day that I lose my ability to enjoy that day. I find that  my mind gets stuck in one narrow groove, like the needle on an old phonograph, playing the same irritation over and over and over until I find myself unable to sleep, unable to unclench my jaws, unable to take in a good deep breath.

I’ve tried to learn how to be mindful.  To be awake and alive in each moment. I’ve tried to force myself to notice the beauty and the grace all around me. I have tried to let go of the petty frustrations that really have no meaning.

I’ll be honest, though; when I was still rushing off every morning to my classroom, I found it incredibly difficult to achieve that level of mindful acceptance of each moment that I craved.  I found myself reaching for artificial and forced moments, just so that I could cross the words “be mindful of beauty” off of my to-do list.

Do you know what I mean?  There were days when I would be stuck in a snarl of winter morning traffic, worried about my literacy lesson for the day, anxious about every lost minute that meant I’d be behind in my copying and filing.  I would think the words, “Be mindful!” and force myself to look out the window at the slush covered roadside. “OK! A blue jay sitting on a pine branch!  How lovely!” and I would put a tiny check mark on my internal list.

Its just that I didn’t really live that moment of grace; I simply observed it and noted it, then moved on.

I never did truly achieve that goal of gentle mindfulness.  I never really managed to be fully present in every moment.

Until now.


Now I spend my days looking into this face, into these beautiful eyes. Now I have someone to teach me how to be truly mindful.

Ellie soaks in every part of every minute while she is awake. She gazes in awe at the colorful glass chimes that hang in my window.  She listens to the dog’s bark as if it is the most fantastic sound in the universe. She is riveted on my face when I talk to her in words that are pure nonsense. Every second is a new adventure for Ellie. She is totally attuned to every puff of air, every change in texture, every new color.  A bird flying off the feeder makes her open her mouth in awe.  The feel of cool air on her bare skin makes her crow and coo and wiggle in pure delight.

And when she sleeps, she goes so deeply into that secret place inside of her that her whole being is engaged in the miraculous act of resting and renewing.  I can almost hear her body growing as I hold her close.

To hold a baby, I have learned, is to be finally free of every other thought or worry or idea.  No words pass through my brain when I am breathing in her breath.  No fear or anxiety touches my heart when I feel hers beating against me.  I hold her close.  I feel her fingers touching my neck. I look at the perfect tiny crescents of her lashes, at her rosy lips, her tiny nose. I can think of nothing in those moments except for her: Ellie.  Our Ellie.  All I can do is sit and rock and feel the love that shakes every cell of my body.

This is true mindfulness, I am sure.  Nothing in the universe matters to me at moments like this. I am wholly open and receptive and so incredibly grateful for the beautiful gift that is this little girl in my arms and in my life.

Ellie is teaching me to live in the moment, and I am so grateful to have her as my teacher!