Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Letter to Myself

Dear Me,

Each day this month, I've written a letter. I've written to just about everyone in my immediate vicinity. My family members, nuclear and extended, each got a turn, many of them more than one. I wrote to my girlfriends, my hairdresser, my son's teacher. Even the construction workers outside the apartment got one.

And then it dawned on me - why not you? Er, me. 

In many ways saving you for last is representative of life right now. You are caring for small children basically full time, and it's not about you, it's about them. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a complaint. They are your life, your gift. But it means that self-care has not been at the top of your list. 

But what I'm realizing lately is self-care is not an optional indulgence. It's a necessity. For, you see, when you care for yourself, you create a happier, healthier being with more energy and space to care for others. 

Yesterday, for the first time in a looooong time, you went for a run. You decided, today was the day. So, you laced up your shoes, informed your husband that he was taking the kids for a half hour before he went to work, and out you went. You went because you wanted to have more energy, less stress, and to sleep better. I think you will get all of those things. But what you realized, out there, running totally unencumbered, with the sun glinting off the water and warming your face, is that getting out there for those few daily minutes will give you so much more than that. 

While you were running, you remembered that underneath your motherhood, your wifehood, your adulthood, you are still you. You still love the things you always loved. You are layers and layers of memories, joys, wants, needs, comforts, and sorrows. You remembered all of the times and places you've been running before, and you realized you're still just like the twenty year old girl who traveled to New Zealand for student teaching, still the thirty-two year old who was running every day in Central Park when you met the love of your life and walked a cliff toward huge, magnificent change. You remembered that anything is possible. 

You came back from that short run, and you felt recharged. You were more loving with your husband, more patient with your children. How could anyone begrudge you that? And no one ever did, no one except yourself. 

So, take care of yourself. Get a pedicure rather than catching up on work when the babysitter is here. Read a novel instead of organizing the toy chest while the kids are napping. Lay in bed after the kids go to sleep and let husband have dinner on his own. Above all, get out there for that run. 



It's been quite a month, filled with writing, and filled with connections, realizations, and tributes. As I wrap up today, I can't help but think that writing has also been part of my self care. To my Two Writing Teachers co-writers, in particular our fearless leader Stacey Shubitz, I thank you and adore you. To my fellow Slicers, I so appreciate all you do and your willingness to undertake this intrepid journey. Hope to see you on a Tuesday soon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Letter To Ollie

Dear Ollie,

As I type this, your little hand rests on mine. You make the gurgling, sighing sounds I've come to know as I know my own voice. This is striking considering a few months ago, I didn't know you yet. You were nestled safely inside my body. Now, you are a separate entity, your own little person in the process of becoming.

Two years ago, your brother was like you are now. And while he has the unique position of being my first baby, you have the unique position of being my second. He helped me blaze a path to motherhood. He helped me navigate the twists and turns, the perils of this new journey. But you, you my son, you get to relax a bit more with me. You get to be simply enjoyed while I let the path take its familiar, yet not identical, course.

Two years ago, during this same March writing challenge, I wrote the following two poems for your brother. I didn't know it yet, but I was writing them for you, too. 

With my whole heart.


Could life bestow a greater gift 
Than that of a sleeping baby?
Here he is, nestled against your chest 
His hands caressing your shirt, 
His lips suckling as he slumbers. 
You are his earth, his sky, his stars. 
You are that for him, and him alone, 
No one else could need you this much. 
And because you are his universe,
You love him more than you thought possible. 
You would tear down mountains for him,
And build them back up. 
You would swim rivers and hike tundras 
If he needed you. 
You would rearrange the stars, stare at the sun. 

Because at this moment, he belongs to you alone. 


The only thing as sweet as bedtime 
Is the first moment of the day 
That eyeful of trust and love
Coos and gurgles and yelps 
Your baby's whole little body jumping to greet you
His arms grab for your hands
His legs beat the air like rudders
If he could fly to you
He would.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Letter to the Construction Workers Outside My Window

Dear Construction Workers Working Outside My Window,

I get that you are doing your job. You have a retaining wall to build, a facade to redo, a park to put back together when you are through. I have no doubt that your work will help make our neighborhood safer and the public grounds you are working on more accessible and beautiful.

However. Wow. You are loud. I'm not sure what machine you are using. But it makes even jackhammers sound like butterfly wings.

You have been starting every day at 7am with that machine, the exact time you are allowed by law to begin making this sort of noise. So, thanks, I guess, for following the law. But may I make a teeny request that you also follow the laws of polite human interaction when you consider the work you will do at 7am? Surely there must be some quieter jobs that also need to get done.

I get it, this is New York City. If we considered other people's comfort all the time, we'd never get anywhere. If we held the door for each other, we'd be standing in the doorway all day. Usually I accept our close quarters, I accept the noise, the need for progress.

This time though, it's over the top. You just might put me over the edge. So while I wish you all the very best and I commend you for doing your jobs so enthusiastically, I also wish you would MAKE. IT. STOP.


Your Current Neighbor

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Letter To Parents at Easter Egg Hunts

Dear Parents,

Yesterday, my husband and I took our 2 1/2 year old son to an Easter Egg Hunt. Okay, it wasn't so much a "hunt" as it was a "grab." All of the eggs were sitting on a lawn, in plain view. The orchestrators of the event lined everyone up against a ribbon to wait for the start of the hunt. My husband held my son and my son held his basket. The line up against the ribbon was bout five people thick, and my husband and son stood about four people ways from the ribbon. I stood a ways away with our sleeping infant, watching.

The orchestrators rang the bell, and I lost sight of my husband and son. I searched for them in the crowd of screaming, scampering children and screaming, scampering adults. After only about five minutes, I saw them coming my way. My son's lip was downturned, trembling. My husband was shaking his head. My son held out his empty basket. "Boys, girls, took all eggs," he told me.

My husband said it had been a clean sweep, the wall of people in front of them impossible to penetrate. He said adults were pushing him to get in front of him, were sending children under his legs to grab eggs in front of him. I saw other disappointed children pass by us. I could tell that some of them had come from lower-income communities, and were leaving empty-handed. I also saw children with many eggs in their baskets.

Today, I saw this article about an Easter egg hunt that went even more awry than ours. Parents were pushing each other, breaking rules, shoving children out of the way. And here's the part of this that really gets me. The eggs at these hunts likely contain a few pieces of candy, or some trinkets that will soon be discarded. Not many of the children participating really need anything they will collect.

Yes, I get that the fun of the hunt is grabbing as many eggs as possible. I get that it's a game. I'm not trying to be an Easter Scrooge. But I am saying that I think we are better than this. I think we can set better examples for our children on how to be polite, how to share, how to watch out for each other.

In the end, my husband ran to the store to get some eggs for my son. He carefully filled them with treats and toys, and he placed them in the lawn outside our building. My son was thrilled and we had a lovely afternoon together. Maybe we should have taken the opportunity to teach him about working through disappointment, or to teach him that happiness doesn't come from having physical things. But we didn't. We aren't perfect. It's okay that none of us are perfect. But maybe we can work together on being a little bit better.


A Fellow Parent

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Letter to My Mother (II)

Dear Mom,

I know how hard it is for you to be away from us on holidays. I say this as if I have always known, as if I have always appreciated the struggle that is distance from your loved ones. But I don't think I really did understand until very recently. The difference, of course, is that now I have children of my own. And the thought of being across the country from them on special days, or on any day, fills me with such pain I think my heart my break.

I suppose things shift as children grow. Everyone gets more used to independence, more used to separation. Little by little, children spend their lives growing apart from their parents, and I guess that's the natural way of things. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

I used to be slightly annoyed by how much you missed us, how much you insisted we try to get together for holidays. I'm sorry about that. I get it now. It's a strange world in which families are so scattered. Distance from one's origin often seems to connote success. So, here I am, in New York, and there you are, in Indiana. But that doesn't mean I don't wish we were together.

Thinking of you today.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Letter to My Future Employer

Dear Future Employer,

There is so much I want to tell you, so much I want you to know about how successful our relationship is going to be. But I need to grab your attention and hold it, so I have to choose what I write carefully.

I am going to pour my heart and soul into my work at your school.

First, some background (I am all of these things, whether I'm currently doing them or not).

I am:

  • Always and most importantly, a teacher
  • A literacy coach
  • A staff developer for The Reading and Writing Project
  • A staff writer for Lucy Calkins
  • An editor for Heinemann Publishing
  • A blogger for Two Writing Teachers

Here's what I've been thinking lately. I miss having a school to call home. I miss the unity, the camaraderie, the striking change students undergo during a school year. I love working with a mix of teachers, visiting schools, and writing. I will continue to do these things when I can. But I also think it's time to return for a while to the heart of the work. 

I haven't quite decided which is the right setting for me, and how much time to divide between you and my family. When I do, you'll be the first to know. 

We'll be seeing each other soon. 

Until then, I remain respectfully yours. 

Anna Gratz Cockerille 

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Letter to My Husband (II)

Dear Husband,

You are really sick.  You've been sick all week. What else is there to say but I want you to get better? Right now.

This family isn't the same without you.

We love you,

Your wife

A note to my fellow Slicers -
More soon!