Tuesday, April 27, 2010


We are blessed with a healthy baby boy!


born on April 15th, 2010
(our little tax man)
7 lbs 10 oz
20 inches tall

With love - his proud parents,
Lara and Phil

*more to come at a later date, I am in new mother mode and this is my first writing experience in almost two weeks!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

India has been my greatest teacher

When describing our journey to India that Phil and I took in the spring of 2009 most people gasp and say, "I could never do that!" "The poverty, the smell, the brokenness, the dirt, the chaos, not much of a vacation is it?” Phil and I were blessed (or cursed depending on how you view it) to spend around 3 months in this mysterious exotic country as our honeymoon. Most people in our culture also say that they could "never spend that much money, never break away from home/work for that long, etc". I will say it was quite a juggling feat to make it happen. But honestly it cost us far less (besides the loss of daily income) for the entire 3 months of travel than it does to exist here in Portland, ME for even one month! It's all a matter of perspective We of course were not staying in the Taj Mahal in Mumbai -- we were schlepping backpacks and eating lots of street food. Looking back now I know how important this journey was for me on so many levels.

The sacred and the profane that exist hand in hand in the heart of India is the most extreme I've ever experienced. The reverence and the irreverence, the beauty and despair, the brokenness and wholeness, life and dearth co-exist everywhere. The country teems with raw pulsing gorgeous life glimmering amongst the whole stinky mess of pollution, sewage, and extreme poverty. It is an absolute sensory overload. Many moments you wish you could run away and hide and close you eyes and ears and nose to what you are experiencing. But if you close your eyes or ears or nose you might miss the most beautiful music you've every heard, the most incredible visual image of women in neon sparkly colorful saris amongst herds of adorned camels, or you might miss the roadside flower-garland weaver with his jasmine blossoms, marigolds, and rose petals. If you keep your senses open to experience, India can offer delights unlike any other place on earth. She offers you sublime architecture, ornate and wild gardens, monkeys, elephants, and exotic birds, Himalayan mountains, incredibly spicy and flavorful food, colors, singing, art, dance, music, and a deep connection with her people.

To travel in India holds a steep learning curve in which you eventually must surrender and submit -- or sink. I heard of a western traveler who couldn't leave the airport in New Delhi after flying 1/2 way across the world. She would step out of the airport doors into the dust, the cows, the rickshaws, and mayhem -- and run back inside. This went on for two days! She finally split and went on to Thailand. We decided to plunge in and stay.

One of my personal most horrifying moments happened when I was in the backseat of a car in Rajasthan weaving through the desert on essentially a dirt path (not really something we would call a road). We were on the outskirts of a large city with many slums and beggars. A scene similar to something out of Slumdog Millionaire arose right outside my car window as a cow blocking the road stopped us. An older, wrinkled, and bony woman held up a small child who had severe burns (maybe chemical or fire induced) down the entire backside of his body. She was begging for money for her and the child and vacillating between the universal gesture of begging (hand to mouth) and the burns on the boy's back. We were stopped for what felt like an eternity and she had honed in on ME (not the other passengers or zillion of other rickshaws, cars, or taxis) but me and me alone. The absolute worst part of this reality was my deep wondering if she had inflicted this harm to the child out of desperation or if both of them were owned and being forced into this circumstance. If I gave her money it might encourage her to continue to inflict such harm or encourage their owner to continue. I was ripped apart for hours and days to come (and still am). My deep urge was to reach out of this window and grab this child and give this family every single ounce of anything I had -- my clothes, camera, food, water, energy -- anything. But then you look around you and begin to realize that this scene is reproduced in many forms all around you and YOU just can't fix it, you can't. The press and crush of this kind of poverty and humanity is so heavy, so deep, and so present. Our seasoned friend whom we were traveling with had some advice for me that I'm drawing on a lot these days. It was something about how" it's not what YOU do in each of these circumstances because you honestly can't fix them, it's how you let them AFFECT you and how you chose to respond -- keeping the bigger picture in mind at all times". Of course there is an appropriate response somewhere between running away and becoming overwhelmed and consumed by situations. There is a middle path. What is most difficult I've found is keeping an open heart amongst so much pain and shattering -- and simply witnessing, deeply witnessing the pain of others.

Right now our days here continue to be filled with extreme ups and downs. The deeper pull of spring is bursting forth, buds are forming on the trees, and the promise of a new growing season is filled with possibility. Our little baby James is about to emerge into a newly softened air after the crisp edges of a Maine winter. I am due this Sunday, April 4th after nearly 10 months of nurturing this child inside my body.

The grief of Phil's stroke and its aftermath still hang heavy in the air. Our life often feels like living amongst the ghost of what once was. Phil didn't die, but many aspects of our life have died for now and there is grief for this. Many of the elements on the outside look the same. Same apartment, same group of amazing friends, Phil even physically looks similar to pre-stroke (although he has lost much weight and strength and his right side body hangs quite heavy). Aphasia is often referred to as a hidden disability. We bumped into an old friend at the grocery store last night and she hadn't heard any our tragic news, what a relief! Phil gently smiled at her and I kept the conversation flowing, she had no idea what we had been through. We pulled it off -- hooray! This was such a relief -- a slice of normalcy amongst this current tragedy. There is certain vitality to Phil's being that occasionally shines through (although these moments have been brief and far in-between thus far). I know I would experience much less grief if I could try to stay present to the moment and just sense our lives vs. attaching a story line of the past and the future. Interestingly the language center of one's brain is also where the ego center lives. Phil's brain has taken on such a new form but mine is still intact -- for better or worse.

I honestly think I would be able to let go of the story line much more if I weren't about to birth our first child together. There is a natural anticipation in the air when you sit on this precipice -- I think most mothers would agree. You want to give your child the stars. You want for them to land in a healthy nest, for them to have strong, intelligent, capable and loving parents who can provide for them and be present for their needs. I can't help but wonder (and so does Phil) IF and WHEN he will be able to recover enough to be the kind-of father his heart longs to be and husband I long for. We've had nearly 10 months to dream of this little being -- while the last two have been laced by this ghost of what once was lingering around our lives. (It's still cautious optimism regarding Phil's recovery and it's a long meandering road).

The big old WHY? keeps rearing its ugly head. I know it's a useless path with no end result -- but maybe this is a natural rivulet streaming into the river of post-traumatic stress. I know there is no answer to this question, but my mind still faces the big W--H--Y? Many folks say that they "couldn't possibly do what I'm doing". They couldn't be the primary and usually sole caregiver of Phil while being this pregnant and about to go through childbirth. I don't know HOW I'm doing this either? I don't always want to exhibit such resilience, strength, and courage. I don't know how we will manage once our little baby arrives either? I think when you face such things you either choose to plunge in or run back into the airport and take off to Thailand (ah, that sounds pretty nice right now I must admit). This is chaos, it is messy, it is confusing, it is hard, and it holds so much sadness. Meanwhile we are blessed with this new life? The irony!

Soon we will embrace this new life full of aspiration and wonder (and a lot of work and sleep deprivation too -- I know.). I am allowing myself at least 40 days post-birth to surrender to this experience. We've done all that we can do to prepare for this baby amongst so much change and chaos and new life tasks I never imagined. In our childbirth education class the teacher mentions how going through childbirth and becoming a new parent to an infant makes you draw into your deepest resources, and you must dig deep. I feel that we've been doing this for months already. I've done everything in my power to try and carve out a healing path for Phil, save his life, and to care for him deeply meanwhile trying to keep myself and baby as healthy as possible. I've had to do some deep digging.

If you don't hear from me on this blog please know I've gone into the birth cave and new motherhood mode. My request from all of you is to help us keep our hearts open during this time of so much heartbreak and shattering, life and death. Please offer your strength (we need it!) during our upcoming birth and becoming new parents to a new little soul being born.