Watching you becoming

Shonnie to Gracelyn recently: “I love seeing who you’re growing into.”

Gracelyn’s response: “Mama, you know who I am. I’m Gracelyn.”

This past week, Gracelyn and I spent about an hour sitting at my computer watching videos that Bruce and I had taken of her since her birth. I’d probably seen them all at some point, but either that point was very long ago or had gotten lost amidst other memories and thus some of the moments seemed brand new. Videos showed her pulling towels and dish cloths from a kitchen drawer, playing peep-eye with me, early crawling and stair climbing, being in her plastic swimming pool for the first time, splashing in rain puddles, and pronouncing our cat Desmond’s name for the first time that I’d understood. There was even a short video of me holding our then un-named daughter the first morning after her birth when we were still at the hospital (that one I didn’t remember).

It was heart-warming to see how she responded to each video, sometimes asking questions about the moment, sometimes remembering an experience, sometimes simply laughing or obviously entranced by these snippets of her life thus far. For me, it was a delightful and quick trip down memory lane, giving me glimpses into the lives of the people on the screen: Who was she back then? Who was I? Even though a few of the videos seemed entirely new to me, most gave me a deep sense of familiarity — I knew these people. I’d had the time and the space to get to know this child as she moved through her life phases — newborn, infant, baby, toddler, preschooler. I’d had the opportunity to bear witness to my own evolution from freshly-claimed motherhood status, to just-emerging-from-the-first-year-whilrwind mama, to mom who knows that this parenting gig is her own growth path as much as it is her daughter’s.

Being together

Bruce had originally encouraged me to stay home to be with Gracelyn for her first year of life. I hadn’t been opposed to this, though having been cared for by sweet, little ol’ ladies because my two parents worked outside the home, I didn’t think it was a huge deal to be the primary caregiver for one’s child. Within a few weeks of being home with Gracelyn, however, I’d become a convert and my desire to be with her the vast majority of the time hasn’t waned much in the intervening 4+ years.

days-long-years-short-quoteThose cliché sayings are true, of course. Time does pass in a flash. The days are long and the years are short. By having the freedom to focus my time and attention on my daughter, I’ve gotten to see her growing. I’ve been present as she had first experiences but also as she had second, third, fourth, and more trys at her discoveries. Having the time and energy allows us the space to get to know one another. I wasn’t merely a watcher of those videos of Gracelyn’s past, I was present then, either at her side, behind the camera lens, or nearby observing. Some call my — or our experience — a luxury, and it is in the sense that not everyone can easily have this experience of being together with their child most of the time. For me, however, it has also become a necessity to my spirit — the chance to soak each other in, to come to know one another intimately, confidently, gently as we both evolve into who we are becoming moment-by-moment, one lived experience at a time.

So as Gracelyn now passes age 4.25 and I approach my 43rd birthday, I give a knot-throated, teary-eyed thanks. First for the very precious opportunity to be a mama at all. Second for the gentle insistence of my husband to be at home with our daughter for that first year. Third for the continuing blessings that allow me to devote most of my time to nurturing my girl during these early years. Finally for the innumerable, mostly unrecorded yet nonetheless indelible, gifts that have come from, and been comprised of these many moments.


Building a loving family foundation

BRM-SL-wedding-closeupToday Bruce and I celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. We met 17 years ago this fall when we both joined a marathon training program in Austin, Texas. We began dating a year after that when we were both unattached, and moved in together on 1/1/97 (this date is auspicious for us, hence it’s when I decided to take that pregnancy test — rather both of them — back in 2010). Though this is officially Gracelyn’s “baby” blog, I wanted to write about Bruce and me today because who we are, how we live, and how we love is the primary “swimming pool” where Gracelyn will learn about how to be in intimate relationship with another.

“Love will enter immediately into any mind that truly wants it, but it must want it truly. Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

~ A Course in Miracles

A promise to love

Love is manifest in what we think, say, and do (and what we refrain from thinking, saying, or doing) — I mean this about all of us, not simply our family. Bruce and I wrote relationship vows when we first co-habitated back in 1997 because that was part of the way we wanted to keep our relationship “on track.” Similarly when we married, we each had written the vows we intended to uphold throughout our married lives. We reread these vows aloud to each other to refresh our personal commitments and remind and re”heart” ourselves of how we’ve chosen to be.

Marriage Vows — Bruce to Shonnie

  • I will join you in full partnership to cocreate the life we both envision.
  • I will join you in living consciously, purposefully, passionately, congruently.
  • I will join you in creating true community and a more compassionate world in which to live.
  • I will laugh and dance and sing and have fun with you.
  • I will tell you the truth even when I think you might not want to hear it, and I will hear you when you tell me your truth.
  • I will afford you your humanity and not expect you to always be at your best.
  • When you forget who you really are, I’ll remind you of your power, spirit, integrity, intelligence, creativity, athleticism, and beauty.
  • I will remember that any anger, resentment, frustration I show toward you is more about me than about you and will refuse to hold ill will toward you.
  • I will be true to you and honor the commitments that we make to one another for all our days.
  • I will open my heart to you and love you with all my being.

Marriage Vows — Shonnie to Bruce

  • I will be authentically me. Bringing all my gifts and challenges and willingly using all the tools I have to fully live out my life’s purpose.
  • I will be your mirror. Reflecting the truth and reminding you of who you are, listening attentively, with an open heart and mind as I seek to better understand and support you in fully living your life’s purpose.
  • I will be your helpmate. Willingly sharing our responsibilities and honors, owning my part in creating our life, readily and fully forgiving, and working together to put us back on course when we stray from our path.
  • I will be your partner. Treating you with respect and equality, being creative and flexible in living interdependently in a way that reflects who we are individually and as a couple.
  • I will be your lover. Passionate and playful, tender and loyal, sharing myself fully and nurturing our love so that we grow ever more intimate.
  • I will be your friend. Honest and trustworthy, compassionate and committed, sharing all that life brings us.
  • I will be your companion. Honoring these sacred vows as we walk together, hand in hand, heart to heart, soul to soul, for all our days, giving all that we have and being all that we are, to create a world full of peace, love, and understanding.

“We can choose to make our love for each other what our lives are really about.”

~ Werner Erhard

What I hope that Gracelyn will learn about love and intimate relationships

Love is something that you choose over and over again, because sometimes you stop loving (or choose something else like “being right” or “showing who’s in charge”) and create a disconnection in your naturally loving state. I know that’s our natural state because it’s how Gracelyn is (this is one of those big areas where our “teacher” and “student” roles are reversed). So I hope that she learns to maintain this natural state even though our “civilized” world and family will present her a different picture. What Bruce and I can model in this regard is:

  • You CAN ALWAYS choose love. It is a choice, an act of will. No matter how long it sometimes takes you to choose love, it is never off the table of options in how we can be with another person.
  • If you can’t get to feeling love immediately, there are many other love-oriented ways of relating to your partner (compassion, appreciation, positive regard, acceptance). Choosing one of these will help put you back on the road to love, yet it will require you to let go of competing/conflicting emotions.
  • Loving another never comes at the expense of not loving yourself. In love you may choose to compromise your wants or sacrifice something of value to you for something of value to your partner, but these are not the same as not loving yourself.
  • To love your partner you must love yourself. If we don’t love ourselves we might give to others or care for them but then we are doing these acts out of obligation rather than choice. When we choose to love ourselves we are filled up enough to choose to love another.
  • Love doesn’t eliminate problems; it helps to heal wounds. I once thought that if you were truly “in love,” your relationship would have no “down times.” What I now know is that my love for Bruce and my commitment to love him is what helps me do the hard work of relationships — self-forgiveness, forgiveness of the other, and choosing more loving ways to be with each other than our “inherited” modes of operation.
  • Love is worth the effort. Being in intimate relationship (with a lover, a friend, a family member) and maintaining that loving connection doesn’t just happen once we start to become acculturated. While I’ve found my times of solo-ness liberating (“Hey, I don’t need to consider what anyone else wants to do right now!”) and I enjoy my own solitude, I’m much more content when I have people I love to share my life with. So, even though life gets more complicated whenever you bring more than one person into the picture, I will opt for finding people with whom I can connect, love, and co-create.

Of course there are many other things I hope that Bruce and I can impart to Gracelyn. I’m also certain that what we may be teaching her about love pales in comparison to what she’s already shown me in her 2.75 years in the flesh. I trust that she will also learn to unlearn some of the things that we’re teaching in spite of wishing otherwise (that’s part of her spiritual journey though sometimes I cry for the fact that she would ever learn some things). Finally, I know that, without a doubt, there could be no better partner for me in my own journey of love and my quest to help my darling daughter learn how to love throughout all the years of her life, than my amazing husband, lover, friend, and partner, Bruce Mulkey. Happy Anniversary my love!

Celebrating 10 Years of Loving Marriage!

“A happy wedlock is a long falling in love.”

~ Theodore Parker