My illuminated heart

I attended a day-long retreat today.  My third year in a row to participate in Holistic Healing's Women's Wellness Retreat, and it gets better every year.  To be in the company of women who are genuinely interested in exploring alternative methods of healing and self-awareness is empowering.  As is the communal support. 

I spent the entire day in guided meditation, and it was amazing!  After seven hours of reconnecting with my inner Source, I'd come out feeling like I'd just had a massage.  Grateful and relaxed.  

What an experience it was to visualize my twin soul and truly focus on a meaningful moment.  To travel to the depths of the Earth's core and up beyond the planet's atmosphere, I understand that I am but a tiny detail in this expansive universe.  To seek the guidance of Goddess Spirit as well as a guardian angel was moving.  In my meditations, the facilitator asked us to call upon a loved one who has died and could serve as my guardian angel.  I naturally thought of my Dad, whose death I realize, I continue to grieve.  While my day-to-day is busy with the stresses of commuting and work which conveniently let me push away whatever it is I choose not to deal with -- when I finally get a moment to myself, I often struggle with the memory of my father.

The day-to-day is indeed full of so much static, so much so that it takes tremendous effort to either change the channel or tune into what is truly significant.  Ironically enough, for my past three years' retreat attendance,  my morning's intentions have always centered on the same people in my life -- my Mom, A., and my waiting child -- all to whom I radiate love, light and blessings. 

Today was a reminder that I need to be more disciplined about meditation.  Coupled along with prayer and gratitude, meditation is a powerful tool in maintaining my illuminated heart.  Namaste.

A most blessed thank you especially to E. for sharing in such a charmed experience!

Imagine a Woman by Patricia Lynn Reilly

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman.
A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.
Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.
Imagine a woman who trusts and respects herself.
A woman who listens to her needs and desires.
Who meets them with tenderness and grace.
Imagine a woman who acknowledges the past's influence on the present.
A woman who has walked through her past.
Who has healed into the present.
Imagine a woman who authors her own life.
A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.
Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and wisest voice.
Imagine a woman who names her own gods.
A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.
Who designs a personal spirituality to inform her daily life.
Imagine a woman in love with her own body.
A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.
Who celebrates its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.
Imagine a woman who honors the body of the Goddess in her changing body.
A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.
Who refuses to use her life-energy disguising the changes in her body and life.
Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.
Imagine yourself as this woman.



In my advocacy work, I find myself sometimes struggling between wanting to help those less fortunate, yet despising those who take advantage of the system that is established to assist them in improving their circumstances -- economic, educational, overall wellness.  Oprah has said that she will never make major donations to causes in the States because folks here have the support they need to succeed beyond what may be tremendously traumatic situations.  Elsewhere around the globe, that is not the case.  Social services as they exist in the States are not available in other countries.

I observe my friends' and family's kids who have every item they could ever want, every opportunity available to them -- music class for toddlers, soccer camp for tweens, the latest electronic accessory.  For the most part, their parents (and the kids) have worked hard.  Most of them haven't had to overcome neglect, abuse, or poverty to have their privileged lives. 

I spend my days commuting from the Jersey bay into ESS' Manhattan headquarters in Chelsea.  Days out in the field in low income neighborhoods like Mott Haven in the Bronx, the poorest U.S. Congressional district, or BedStuy in Brooklyn, meeting with public officials, trying to figure out which are the most effective public policies that will have the most positive impact on working families' lives. 

This social justice work . . . it's a challenge . . . (and can be draining).  What I am thankful for, is being in the company of predominantly fierce women who truly believe in social justice. 

Divine Fellowship
May people find comfort in others
To know that they care
May those of all backgrounds, various experiences know their blessings
May the common Spirit inspire interconnectedness
May we know our shared Selves

Who cares? I do!

It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks as I’ve been working on city funding requests at work and have submitted applications totaling almost $400K. If you’re keeping up with the federal, state and your local budget processes, then you know how devastating some proposed budget cuts are for families – children, seniors, and working parents. The budget challenges are not especially friendly to those of us who work in nonprofit and support child and family services.  I stood on the steps of New York City’s City Hall yesterday morning for almost two hours, rallying on behalf of working and low-income families with folks from social services across the city. Who cares? We do!

About New York City’s Child Care – The Mayor proposes to eliminate over 17,000 child care slots in the FY 2012 budget. This reduction will have devastating consequences for working families, their children, our economy and the child care system. The proposed cuts will eliminate one third of the city’s subsidized child care slots and have a severe impact on the children ESS serves – those enrolled in center-based programs, as well as those entrusted to the care of home-based providers. The $75M in short-term savings will result in long-term consequences for thousands of working parents, who, struggling to support their families, will be forced to make the intolerable choice of leaving their jobs in order to care for their children, or putting their children in less safe childcare arrangements. Those forced to leave work to care for their children will end up among the city’s unemployed and have to seek other government assistance – outcomes that are sure to add costs to the city. Structured, safe early childhood education has been proven to help children succeed in school – we cannot let them fall behind because their parents are poor!

Ifyou live in New York State, please act now to ensure the budget reflects our priorities and support vulnerable children and youth and affordable child care. 

About New York State’s Broken Juvenile Justice System – While the Juvenile Justice System was developed to protect public safety and rehabilitate youth, New York’s system does not accomplish either of these goals.  According to the State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), boys who have been placed in OCFS facilities have an 81% recidivism rate (upon returning to their communities, they commit crimes).  Thus, the system is failing to protect public safety and also fails to meet the rehabilitative needs of the youth in placement.  This system is also inefficient. The cost per youth in an OCFS facility is approximately $220,000 per youth. Each day, there are over 300 empty beds.  This under-utilized capacity is very expensive.  Alternatively, community-based alternatives to detention and incarceration programs have been shown to be much more effective.  At a cost of $6,000-$17,000, youth needs are better met and recidivism rates are significantly lower.

Please urge the NYS Governor, State Legislative leaders, and your individual Senator and Assembly member to adopt a budget that ensures underutilized facilities are closed and counties have access to the resources needed to develop cost-effective alternatives to detention and incarceration programs. We should not keep ineffective underutilized facilities open to protect jobs – it is unfair to the children of New York State.

Or be an advocate online through your social networks – Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Post the links above and encourage your NY-based friends to ensure that our budget reflects our priorities. Whatever you think, whatever issues you care about, thank you for making your voice heard.

Who cares? I do!


Sweet peas

What a blessing it is when remain close to our dearest friends through the years.  Friends who truly know us, our most inner anxieties, the depths of our souls.  I am graced enough to have a handful of those women in my life.  One of my greatest confidantes is my friend, E., my old college roommate.  E. picked me off the shower floor while I showered in the stall next to her and said, I don't feel well, I think I'm going to faint. (And no, it wasn't after a drunken night.  I had the chills, was weak and ill.)  I spent the rest of the day in bed.  A. jokes that E.'s my PCP since - even after 17 years since we've graduated - I always call her first about any medical concerns (E.'s a midwife) before I call my medical doctor.  E. is so wonderful a friend that when she was pregnant with her third son, she was fearful of telling me of her expectant news as she didn't want to upset me since we were trying then . . . without much success.  A. is a robust and tough two-year-old who looks like he just might play for the Jets one day.  

Today, we visited with E., her husband G., their three sons and newborn daughter, I.  On our parenting styles spectrum, E. & G. are on the end we hope to model ourselves after.  A. & I often discuss hypothetical family situations and sometimes not so hypothetical, real and those we've had the (dis)pleasure of witnessing, and we ask ourselves, "What would E. & G. do?"  Knowing that we'll be older parents, we joke around that by the time we are well settled into life with our daughter or son, folks may think s/he is our grandchild! . . . though I understand that in our metro region it may not be too unusual to expand our family in our late thirties or early forties.  There's certainly something to be said for being parents later in life.  We are comforted by the fact that we've had years to observe and take note of varied parenting styles and will be able to pick and choose what works for us as well as know that we will have banked a good amount of life experience and wisdom as older parents.  

For Irene
three XY peas in a pod
the newest of them all 
a tiny fourth - XX!
sweetest pea


Operation Bring Home Baby (OBHB)

Relief today from PSB, our adoption agency. As A. & I. work on updating some of our dossier documents, including our immigration application for our child (who's yet to be matched), our heaviest concern has been the impact of his job search on how our profile will be reviewed. According to H. from PSB, it's a common occurrence across waiting families especially given the current economy, and A.'s job search should have no negative effect on how quickly our process continues. Huge sigh of relief. My adoptive mama friend has been telling me all along, they just want to know that you're not living in poverty . . . and we aren't.  (In the United States, the poverty level is $24,000 for a family of four.)  We are blessed that we've been comfortable enough to pay our bills and maintain our humble living expenses, and we're hopeful that the economy will turn around.  Thank goodness for freelancing. 

I was lurking on a good friend of mine's fb page (she also happens to be an adoptee from the historic Operation Babylift in the early 1970s) and noticed that she "Liked" the documentary "Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam," a must-see for anyone who supports adoption from what I can tell of the trailer. I've watched a number of adoptee docs, and I'm more than likely immediately reaching for a tissue as I watch frame by frame, each orphan face, barely imagining what their experience of loss must be.  As the partner of someone whose experience of growing up parallels that of some adoptees -- issues of abandonment, questions of parental decisions, personal insecurities -- I have witnessed the challenges of someone who grieves his past.  

At dinner tonight, A. shared his overwhelming effort to remember any memory of knowing who his actual birth parents were when he lived in the Philippines a world away from them, they - who were in the States.  And he said he couldn't.  He could only think back that he called his grandparents, Nanay (mother) and Tatay (father), understanding that they were the only parents he knew.  Story is, A.'s parents couldn't manage caring for two kids at the same time as they both worked, so for economic reasons, A. remained in the Philippines to be raised by his grandparents for seven years.

My parents decided not to follow the instruction of medical specialists who advised them to place their developmentally disabled son in an institution since there was nothing they could do for him.  Back then, institutional settings were notorious for the extreme abuse and neglect of the mentally disabled.  Autism had not even entered the vocabulary in 1969.  Immigrant professionals with one "retarded" son, my folks felt that they had no choice as they wanted the best care for their son, so they decided to send my brother, M., to the Philippines where family members could care lovingly for him.  At four years old, M. left for the Philippines; I was a year old . . . and would never meet him until I was 13.  When I was much younger, I wondered, What if it had been me who was developmentally disabled and had been sent to the Philippines?

Our parents made the decisions they needed to make.  While A. & I have internalized our parents' choices in traumatic ways that have required each of us to work formidably at self-awareness, it's what will make us incredibly insightful (adoptive) parents.  Strange how A. & I found each other, how our pasts oddly and awkwardly complement each other.  Now we will be returning to the Philippines to confront our individual histories and turn negative experiences into overjoyed memories -- that of bringing our child home. 

OBHB.  Ready and waiting.


Für Elise

(imagine Beethoven’s tune --)
La la la la la
 . . . la la la laaa
la la la laaa . . .
(Für) Elise --
a symphonous melody
asleep in her Mama’s arms
sweet, smitten love’s lullaby cradles her
an incredible musical opus
in her Pop’s ear

Blessings to B., V. and big brother X. on Elise's Christening Day.