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. 

Love,

Me. 

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.



Bedtime 

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. 


Morning 

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.

Love,

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.


Yours,

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.

Anna


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!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Letter to the Creators of the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit

(Please Note: In no way is this post a product endorsement. I am not paid by or in any way affiliated with the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit company. I am simply reporting my own experiences.)

Dear Creators of the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit,

Oh the elusive enigma that is baby sleep. When my first son was born, I was baffled by his comatose days and sleepless nights. I devoured every sleep book I could get my hands on, desperate to unlock the secret magic that would make ours the kind of story I so desperately wanted: My little one started sleeping 12 hours a night at 6 weeks old...

Over time, I learned there is no magic. There is no secret. Unless you consider it a secret that babies don't come out sleeping 10-12 hours at night, they have unique sleep patterns,  and those patterns change over time, often quickly.

I also learned that there are vehement opinions and philosophies when it comes to baby sleep. There is the Ferber camp, those that believe babies must learn to self-soothe and therefore should be allowed to cry themselves to sleep. There is the Weissbluth camp, those that believe that sleep begets sleep and babies should be placed on strict sleep schedules from early on. There is the Attachment Parenting / Dr. Sears camp, those that believe that babies should always be soothed, shouldn't be allowed to cry, and perhaps should co-sleep with their parents.

Let me be clear, I am NOT here to take a side or fuel the fires of this debate. It is a furious one, I can tell you. In fact, I stopped talking much about baby sleep to people other than close friends or immediate family in order to not incite angry dialogue. I will say this. I didn't do cry it out with my first son and probably won't with my second. I just can't get on board with it. I nurse my babies or otherwise soothe them when they cry at night. I bring this up because it helps explain my forthcoming thank you to you.

With my second son, I have been much less anxious over his sleep because this time I know his patterns will change quickly. He's been great for the most part, only waking up once or twice a night and mostly sleeping 11-12 hours or so at night.  Just a few days ago, when he turned four months, he suddenly started waking up all. the. time. Ouch. So, I was up all the time.

Enter the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit. Last night, I moved him into a bigger crib (also part of my current sleep triumph, I'm sure), and popped on one of your sweet, hilarious-looking suits. My husband and I giggled as I zipped him up, made the same Michelien-man comments we made with our older son, and I popped him in his crib.

Here's what happened.

  • He fell asleep on his own, in his crib. 
  • He slept 12 hours, only waking up twice to eat. 
Currently, his usually 30 minute morning nap has been going strong for over two hours.

I know sleep is constantly subject to change when it comes to babies, toddlers, kids, and, let's face it, adults. But right now I'm happy. So thank you. Thank you for a little bit of peace. 

Sincerely,

A Satisfied Customer 



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Another Letter to My Dad (on Cuba)

 Dear Dad,

I almost reached for the phone to call you today after I read an article in the Washington Post about Obama's address to the people of Cuba. You see, Obama's administration is seriously lifting many of the restrictions that were in place against Cuba. I know how much you would appreciate this.

Of course, I am thinking so much of the time we went to Cuba as a family. It was incredible.  Wasn't it around 2005? We got to fly directly from Miami, so rare in those days. It was because you were part of an organization called Send a Piana (Piano) to Havana and we were bringing music, instruments, piano parts, and tuning supplies to several music schools in Havana.

I'll never forget what we saw in Havana.  We saw a city swathed in poverty, to be sure. But we also saw a culture so rich, so proud, so beautiful. Although most families depended on their government rations of a few bags of rice and beans per month, they welcomed us with generous, carefully prepared dinners and evenings of camaraderie.

And the schools - just amazing. Of course, music is a highly-valued part of the Cuban culture. We went to some of the best music schools in the city, so in the country, really, and we saw kids hammering out extraordinary melodies on pianos with missing keys, strumming soulful tunes on beaten-up guitars, producing Mozart from worn cellos and violins. You spent days fixing those instruments, tuning as many pianos as possibly could, teaching others how to do the same in your stead. I know you left those schools in much better shape than they were before we arrived.

What a gift you gave our family, bringing us all to Cuba to be part of something like that. None of us will ever forget it. And what a gift you gave those children.

You left a great legacy, one of joy, generosity, love, and, of course, music.

I'm celebrating Cuba today. And I'm celebrating you. Si se puede.

Love,

Anna

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Letter to New York

I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering, splendid
Tell me, princess, now when did
You last let your heart decide?


- From Disney's Aladdin


Dear New York City,

My Beloved. It has been nearly 15 years since you swept me off my feet. You unveiled to me riches I had only dreamed of: mountains of the most exquisite art, the finest food in the word, an array of people such as I had never seen, evening after day after evening of fresh, new, excitement. Even with my small teacher's salary, you welcomed me wholeheartedly and showed me that you have something to offer everyone, anyone.

I left you, a few years ago but only briefly. I was desperately sad when I said goodbye and went to Sydney, because, you see, I wasn't sure I would ever come back to you. But I should have known - your pull would prove too strong to resist for long.

So I came back, now a married woman, and I started a family under your wing. I never in a million years intended to raise children in New York City. But you are my home. Our home. I can see my children's future here - one filled with opportunity, promise, choice, excellence, and love.

Lately, though, I've been having a few misgivings. You see, you are very, very crowded. And to provide my family with the things I would like to provide them, you are not cheap. Also, though I refuse to live in fear and instead live proudly within your borders, you often come under threat.

Please know I have no plans to leave you anytime soon. I just wanted to let you know that I will always love you, even if I sometimes think about leaving you. And even if my husband and I have mentioned the idea more and more often lately.

But above all, I thank you. Thank you for making me into the adult that I am.

Your Grateful Tenant,

Anna

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Letter to My Dear Friends

To My Dear Girlfriends,

Nothing is quite the same as the relationship a woman has with her friends. The two of you are truly my chosen family. Spending time with you today reminded me that I am a person, a woman, an adult, with my own history, desires, and interests.

We have been through so much together. I have known you longer than I've known my husband, after all. We've been through break-ups, make-ups, cross-city and cross-continent moves, babies, career changes, broken hearts, heartaches, triumphs of spirit.

No one knows me in the same way that you do. Our conversations are indicative of the shifting of our relationship and the shifting of our lives. Today we talked about preschools and ailing parents, lawn care and career moves. Ten years ago, we talked about crushes, cocktails, the symphony, and fashion. But whatever the topics, we remain each others' stalwart cheerleaders.

Here's to over ten years of friendship, and, I hope, fifty more.

LYLAS forever, love you (both) like a sister.

A


Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Letter to Curious George

Dear Curious George,

I feel guilty about you. You see, you have been entertaining my son for the better part of the morning.  I had removed you and your other screen-delivered buddies (Caillou, Daniel Tiger, and the like) from our lives. Your presence had gotten way too strong when the baby was born. So I decided to banish you completely. Almost overnight, I noticed changes in my son's behavior when you were gone, like more willingness to transition through parts of our morning routine, better breakfast eating, greater engagement with toys and people.

But my son found you today, lying in wait on an iPad left in his reach, and here you are again. He's laughing, engaging with you, saying the names of objects he's learned that appear on your show. Also, and here's the true crux of my ambivalence, I'm using his preoccupation to write this letter. After I do, I will probably continue to allow you to entertain my son as I do the dishes, check email, straighten the house.

So here you are, and here you'll stay for another little while.

But don't get too comfortable.

Sincerely,

Tommy's Mom

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Letter to My Sister

Dear Abby,

When you told me a few years ago you wanted to be a teacher, I was so happy. We'd have the same profession! You are one of the most connected, compassionate, thoughtful, meticulous, intelligent, creative people I know. So, how lucky would the profession be to have you!

You went to an excellent undergraduate school for education and completed a four-year degree. You got certified to teach English Language Learners. You took your preparation to be a teacher seriously.

Your first couple of years teaching we hard, as to be expected. But you didn't give up. You kept on going. You organized, planned, wrote, connected with your students.

And then you moved to a new city, and you had a hard time finding work. I tried to help you in any way I could. The profession cannot lose you, I thought. You finally found a fourth grade position. And now, after two years, you are ready to throw in the towel. You feel beaten down by pressure to convert barely fluent non-native speakers of English into master test-takers. Your administration has taken it upon themselves to organize your students into small groups, yes, based on test scores. You deal with constant infringements to your judgement, your knowledge, and your ability.

You are a wonderful teacher. Those students are so lucky. The problem is not you. The problem is that somewhere along the line, the system (whatever that is anymore) started failing teachers. Especially teachers like you, willing to work with disenfranchised, struggling students who more than anything else need someone who is compassionate, thoughtful, meticulous, intelligent, and creative.

So please, please, don't leave. I promise to fight harder for you. And for those students who need you. Don't question your gift. You have it.

Love,

Your Sister

Friday, March 18, 2016

A (Short) Letter to Germs

Dear Germs (Bacteria, Viruses, and the like),

Please go away and leave our family alone. You've been lurking around all winter long. I know you are part of the world too and you can't help doing your thing, finding host bodies, etc. But I think we've done our duty as hosts for now. We need some peace. We need to get back to doing things other than fighting you off. Like playing, seeing friends, running in the sunshine, and writing better SOLSC posts.

Sincerely,

The Cockerille Family

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Letter to Tommy

Dear Tommy,

You are the absolute light of my life. I know these past months have been tumultuous, to say the least. We spent most of our days together, just the two of us, and then suddenly this baby appeared. Wait, let me back up. Before the baby appeared, I left for a couple of days. Something I had never done before. You came to visit me in the hospital. Daddy had you all dressed up to meet your new brother and to appear in photos of the big event. When you saw me, you cried. You ran away from me. I'm not sure why you did this. You couldn't tell me; you weren't talking much yet. But I can guess you were feeling pretty overwhelmed with emotions. Boy, so was I. I cried too, when I saw you. Because I knew everything was different, and I knew you were hurting. And I knew I couldn't take away your hurt this time. I could be there for you, but I couldn't make it better.

On a show I watched, a character said, "You don't love anything like you love your first born." That line has stuck with me since I heard it. It resonates so strongly, because it's true. It's not that I love your brother less than you. There is no more or less when it comes to love of one's children. It's just that the experience I had and am having with you - well, there is nothing like it. You made me a mother. And for that I will always be grateful. For that, you will always have a special place in my heart.

When I was expecting Oliver, people saw you and me together and they gave me lots of advice for taking care of two young children. They even gave me advice for helping you with jealousy that might arise. Many people suggested I include you in the care of the baby, or suggested I make you my special helper. But what no one told me what I might feel. And what I felt was gutted. Completely torn apart. I felt helpless to help you. I felt like I had betrayed you. I felt for the first time, that you were going through something I couldn't fix, you had needs I couldn't meet.

After Oliver was born, people told me that to imagine what you were feeling, imagine how I would feel if my husband brought home another wife. I have no idea why someone would say this to an emotional, newly postpartum, sleep-deprived mother of two. Someone even upped the ante and suggested I imagine the second wife was younger and couldn't cook and clean. Wow. I tried to dismiss these suggestions as best I could. But then I thought, maybe a more apt comparison is how I would feel if you brought home another mother. Jealous as hell, is how. Betrayed, is how.

We are getting through this, you and me. While I was putting you to bed last night, Oliver started crying in the next room. You heard him and you said, "Get Oliver." You two smile at each other, and I have a feeling you are going to be fast friends. I know things will continue to get better. But that doesn't mean this hasn't been hard.

I love you, Buddy. With everything I am and everything I've got. You're my little guy.

Love,

Mommy

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Letter to Marta

Dear Marta,

I don't get out much. You see, I'm a mostly stay at home mom with two very little boys. We don't really have a set daily schedule because the baby is just four months. We have a loose routin  that looks something like this: 
Get up
Have breakfast
Play
Have lunch 
Take naps 
Play
Have dinner 
Go to bed

What this schedule doesn't capture are the minutes. Because I take each minute as it comes, always on my toes, ready to meet the needs, soothe the cries, enjoy the laughs, calm the fears, join the play, clean the bodies and fill the bellies of two helpless boys. 

Oh don't get me wrong! I'm not complaining. I love these minutes dearly. I cherish them, soak them up, because I know they are fleeting. My boys are my life, my greatest gift. 

I also love and cherish the times I get to come see you. You fix up my hair. You help me feel like an independent, adult person. It used to be I didn't think twice about making an appointment at the salon. Okay, I did think twice, but the thinking had more to do with having salon-quality hair for important social events. Not about when I could arrange care for tiny tots. 

To you, this is probably just another afternoon. Clients coming and going. But to me, it's an indulgent treat of an event. 

Thanks for all you do! 

Anna 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Letter to Facebook

Dear Facebook,

It might be time to say goodbye.

I've been toying with this possibility for a while. Here's what started it all. I read an article that explained that to determine if a relationship is toxic, consider how you feel after a meeting or encounter. If the relationship is healthy, one typically feels great after an encounter, energized, hopeful, happy. If the relationship is toxic, one feels drained after an encounter. More and more lately, when I spend time with you, I don't feel great afterwards. You leave me feeling a bit... empty.

Oh, don't get me wrong - you are enticing. You offer the siren call of entertainment, belonging, friendship. But the truth is, you don't really deliver. What happens instead is that you suck me in to your dramas - bits of information that I probably don't really need to know. When I'm with you, you choose what grabs my attention. I think it might be time for me to choose what grabs my attention. Time for me to get my time back.

There are reasons not to leave you, to be sure. You are how I promote professional writing. You are how I keep in touch with friends from high school and college and former jobs who aren't on texting status. Are these reasons enough to stay together?

I'm still thinking. This isn't a breakup for sure. Yet. But for now, I do think some time apart to reflect wouldn't be a bad thing. Either way, I'm quite certain you'll be able to go on without me.

For now, all the best. And by the way, it's not me, it's you.

Anna

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Letter to My Father

Dear Dad,

Tonight  it was like you were at dinner with us. James and I were laughing about Tommy's full head of curly hair. He gets it from me, of course. And I got it from you. I used to straighten it in high school and college, and you would say in your tongue in cheek way, "Anna, you're denying your Jewish roots!" This was so you in one statement: the gentle teasing, the double entendre, the pride in your heritage, the noticing, really noticing, and caring, what I did. 

I miss you so much. Sometimes when I remember you aren't here anymore, I struggle to catch my breath, I feel as if I am underwater, gasping for air, so profound is my grief. Most of the time, I don't feel like this. I go about my life, and I focus on what is in front of me. And a lot of the time, like tonight, I remember something you said or did and I'm able to smile. This is one of the gifts you'll always give me, the ability to see life for less than the serious affair we tend to think it is. 

Oh what fun we would we have if you were still here. You would love your grandsons so much. You died when Tommy was three and half months. (What a time that was, to be present for a birth and a death in the span of less than four months. What a reminder that this is all real, and it is finite.) Now, Tommy is nearly two and a half, and we have another, Oliver. He's the age Tommy was when you died. You would get such a kick out of Tommy. He loves music more than just about anything. I think he gets that from you. I am desperately sad that you didn't get to meet Oliver. But to move past this sadness, I think that maybe you did meet him. Maybe in that time after you left and before he came, you were somewhere, hanging out together. 

Sometimes I want to scream at the injustice of this. At how unfair it is that my mother still has her father, but I do not. At how unfair it is that horrible, hateful people are on this planet, but you, with your endless joy, patience, and generosity, are not. But to succumb to bitterness is to do you a great disservice. 

There are two passages that give me some comfort. 

The first is from The Little Prince, a story with much meaning for our family. 

“You - you alone will have the stars as no one else has them...In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night...You - only you - will have stars that can laugh.” 
― Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ryThe Little Prince 

The next is a poem by Henry Scott Holland. 


Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better, infinitely happier and forever we will all be one together with Christ. 



I miss you very much, Dad. Thank you for everything. 

Love, 

Your Daughter 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Letter to My Brother

Dear Brother,

You are an artist. One thing I admire so much about you is that you've always known this. We've always known it too, by the way, from the time you were barely walking and you were drawing complete, detailed trains. You've never stopped creating. Now, you're a painter. You live here in New York City, in Brooklyn to be specific, and you are doing it. You found a way to make ends meet here, as a handyman in a big gallery in Chelsea. You get out there; you make connections. All of the rest of your time goes into painting. You paint your heart out. You stay true to what you believe is your path. And now, you have your first solo show.  Your star is rising.

I know it's hard. I know this city chews us up and spits us out. I know there are good days and bad days. I know you're worried about money, about your contract, about what's going to happen next. I can't assuage those specific worries. But I can tell you this: You are going in the right direction. Because you are doing exactly what you were born to do. So there is no other direction to take. We should all be so lucky, so bold, as to follow our destinies.

Keep on keeping on.

Love,
Your Sister

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Letter to My Husband

Dear Husband,

Today we are diving and conquering.
Like we do every day.
Saturdays used to look like this:

  • Wake up after 10
  • Discuss where to get brunch
  • End up at our favorite place nearly every time
  • Discuss what adventure to have that day over a second coffee
  • Take a nap
  • Have cocktail hour
  • Have a luxurious dinner
  • Go to bed whenever we felt like it
Now, they look like this: 
  • Groan when we hear the first baby sound (usually between 5 and 6)
  • Try to wait each other out and breathe a sigh of relief when the other gets up
  • Stumble around for coffee, aim to get everyone fed
  • Try to decide if we can muster the strength to do something educational or adventurous before nap time
  • Pray for a nap
  • Go to the playground
  • Squeeze in a quick dinner before elaborate bedtime routine
  • Fall in bed, exhausted. Early. 
I know our lives look different now. I read a German study about the higher levels of stress and lower levels of happiness that people with children report. Of course, we love our children more than life itself. And we wouldn't look back in a million years. But it's also okay to admit that this is a hard time in our lives. We have a two year old and a baby. Everything is about them now. It's okay to admit that we miss being together, just us. We miss being able to look into each others' eyes and really, really listen to what the other is saying. We miss having no plans, empty days waiting to be filled. You might not feel I give you space to admit our lives are hard right now. But I understand, and I agree. 

Currently, you are outside with our eldest so I can rest. Thank you for doing your share. Thank you for your partnership. This is hard, but it is real. It is a gift. It is us. And it is temporary. One day, these boys will be leaving our nest and we'll think how fast it all went. 

Love,
Your Wife

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Love Letter to Sydney

Dear Sydney,

I miss you. It has been approximately five years and seven months since I left you.  And I've been thinking about you a lot lately.  Each day spent in your parameters was a gift. You poured riches at my feet. I keep so many of your moments strung like pearls in my memory, and I pull them out when I have the space to remember. The walks along the harbor. The day after day of perfect weather. The beaches. The gardens, teeming with exotic life. Our apartment, with its views of the bay, sailboats greeting us at breakfast and bobbing us goodnight in the evenings.

But another path called me, pulled me away from you. It was a gut-wrenching decision at the time. You see, even though you are stunningly beautiful, you are not mine. And I can never be yours. Because you are not where I am from. My family, my friends, they are here. But oh, Sydney, Australia, if I was from you, what bliss it would be.

Love,

Your Former Resident

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Letter to Myself, 10 years ago

To Myself, 10 Years Ago:

You are not going to believe what's going to happen in the next ten years. Right now, you are feeling lost, and a bit confused. You are with a man who doesn't feel right. You want children, but not with him. You feel guilty about this. You like being in a relationship. You like the things he provides for you. Companionship. Stability. Relationship status (in a relationship).

You feel a bit lost in your career. You love the children you teach, but you wonder what's next. You miss travel. You miss pushing your limits. You've discovered the Reading and Writing Project and you want to be just like those staff developers when you grow up.

You think, you're reaching an age where you should be more stable, more sure. You think you shouldn't be going out as much as you are. But you like going out. You like acting like you're still twenty.

You are running. A lot. You are probably a bit on the thin side. Though you don't have a serious issue, you probably worry about what you eat just a bit too much. If you don't run a certain number of miles per week, you feel like a failure.

To sum up, you are unmoored. But I'm here to tell you that this unmooring is something to be celebrated. For without letting go of those safe but slightly stale shores what happens next wouldn't have happened.

For example, in the next ten years, you will...

  • Meet and marry the love of your life
  • Move to Sydney, Australia with him
  • Move back to Brooklyn
  • Work for The Reading and Writing Project
  • Write a book 
  • Move to the Bronx
  • Have a perfect baby boy
  • Move to Manhattan
  • Expand your friends' circle with incredible fellow parents and caretakers
  • Work for Heinemann 
  • Have another perfect baby boy
  • Feel more fulfilled, grateful, and joyful (and tired) than you ever have in your life.


So, don't worry. Go through everything you need to go through. Make all of the choices. Because you end up just fine. 

Love,
Yourself, in 10 years 



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Letter to My Mother

Dear Mom,

I know you are sad. I know you miss dad. I miss him too, every day. I miss his voice, his laugh. I miss his constant positivity and joie de vivre. I miss his loyalty and his constant drive to put his family first. I miss the way he brought us all together in that understated way of his.

I know you miss all of these things, and things I can't begin to understand. He was your life partner, your best friend. I know you don't want to live alone.

I know I'm not a replacement for dad. None of us are. But I'm here for you. We are all in this together. I hope that being with your grandsons gives you purpose and joy.

Of course, it's okay to be brokenhearted. We are! It's okay to lose yourself in the sadness for a while.

There is a new kind of normal we have to discover now. Life without our beacon, golden years that are not the way you'd planned them. But we can find a way forward together. Don't give up. Don't let negativity and despair overtake you. Don't let grief define you. You are so much more than grief. You are vibrant, connected, helpful, hopeful. Don't let these things disappear. I'm not ready to lose you too.

Though it will never be okay that dad is gone, it will be okay to go on living without him.

Love,
Your Daughter

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Letter to a Father on the Playground

Dear Father on the Playground,

I know what some people think when they see you. They think - "Oh, it must be dad's day to babysit." Or, "Oh sweet, it's daddy duty." Or, "How nice, he's giving mom a break." I'll bet some people even say those things to you.

But you know what? I acknowledge you in a different way. You are not a babysitter. You are a parent, taking care of his children. I don't know you personally, so I don't know your schedule or your routines or the number of hours you are with your kids. Those things don't matter. What matters is that you are taking care of your children. And your children are lucky for that. Just as they are lucky for the care of their mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sitters, or any other adults who are in turn lucky to have their charge.

You see, I used to think some of those things when my husband took care of my son. And perhaps worse, I'd get annoyed when things were not done my way. I'd see the phone out, or the TV on, and I'd nearly explode. My annoyance often overshadowed the moments spent building train tracks or going scooter shopping or teaching my son to draw. But I'm starting to see that children need lots of caregivers who do things in different ways, who encourage different parts of the children's development, who provide different models for ways to be an adult.

Have a great afternoon. It's a lovely day and I'm glad to be alongside a fellow parent.

Anna

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Letter to My Fellow Writers

Dear Fellow Writers,

In addition to my work at Two Writing Teachers, each week, I write a blog post for Heinemann Publishing to promote weekly #TCRWP Twitter chats. In between, I'm writing two books for children and an adult novel. Each time I hit publish on a TWT post, or submit an article to Heinemann, or send a book to an agent for review (heck, even sometimes when I update my Facebook status), I am terrified. I am terrified the truth will be revealed - I can't actually put two words together. I am not really a writer. I am a fraud.

But then I think of you. You write. You are writers. You do it out of love and passion and perhaps hope that your words will matter to someone. You do it to teach and to learn. You do it because you can't not do it.

And then I remember, I'm a writer too. Because I  do it.

I commend you all, for your diligence and your hard work and your willingness to be judged and for your sheer bravery.

We're in it together.

Love,
Anna

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Letter to My Sleeping Baby

To My Sleeping Baby,

Of course, I love you all the time.

I love you when you are smiling.
I love you when you are crying.
I love you when  you are fidgeting.
I love you when you are still.
I love you when you are eating.
I love you when you are watching.

And this is not to say that I love you more when you are sleeping. I love you more each moment, even though at any one moment I don't think more love is possible.

This is to say that when you are sleeping, I am filled with a kind of peace that is beyond words. When you are sleeping, I watch you. (OK of course, when you are sleeping, I also: write, cook, play with your brother, hang with your father, sleep.) But often, I watch you. I see the way your face twitches into smiles. I think about your tiny brain, developing at a staggering pace. Sometimes I think I can see you growing. When you sleep, I can pause. I can take in the utter luck and joy that is mine, because life bestowed you on me. Also, I can catch up on my shows.

Sleep well, my darling.

Your Mommy

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Follow up: A Letter to the Boss

Dear Fresh Direct General Manager,

My faith in humanity is renewed.

When I sent my note yesterday letting you know about your exemplary employee helping my sons and me, I didn't need or necessarily expect a response. But you called me directly. You thanked me for letting you know what had happened, and you assured me you would recognize the employee directly. And, you said this: "You're a mom with two young kids, right? I'm giving you a $50 Fresh Direct gift certificate. I want you to get yourself some flowers and something nice for your kids."

Wow.

You see, I feel things have gone a bit awry lately. The news is bombarding us with images of bigotry, separation, fear, and intolerance. And perhaps because I'm exuding it myself, I feel a tension on the street. People seem suspicious, wary of each other. Weary too. People seem to have less energy to be respectful and generous. But what happened the other day when your employee helped us made me remember something. Respect and generosity often take hardly any time. And not a whole lot of extra energy. But they have the power to recharge us all in powerful and surprising ways. Because of a small moment, I am vowing to be more generous and respectful to those around me. I'm going to step out of myself a little bit and consider how I can be of greater service. Yes, it's easy to get bogged down in my own burdens. I'm pushing a stroller with two small children and a mountain of stuff! How can I stop to help anyone? People should help me. And yet. Your employee was pushing a cart with a mountain of stuff and no doubt was doing it on a deadline. But he stopped. He helped. I won't forget that.

And so did you. You stopped. You picked up the phone. You made a generous moment into a Very Big Deal. Thank you.

Anna Cockerille (and sons)

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Letter to the Guy Who Rescued Us



Dear Fresh Direct Guy Who Was Delivering Groceries in our Lobby,

Yesterday, I was trapped. I was trapped in the tiny lift in my lobby trying to get my giant stroller and two boys outside. You were there. You were delivering a huge amount of groceries, which you were sorting and preparing to haul upstairs. You clearly had a lot on your plate. You could have glanced at us, then glanced away and rushed about your business, as so many do when they see us coming. But you didn't. 

Instead, you stopped what you were doing, and you came over to help us. You called security. Unfortunately, they were rude to you. They informed you quite impatiently that the lift is for physically impaired persons. I guess they assumed you wanted to use it to deliver the groceries. I suspect part of their rudeness was because you are young. Or perhaps because you are a delivery person. Or, let's go there, because you are African American. Their rudeness made me sad and embarrassed and angry. I could see you were angry too, but you didn't leave. You continued trying to help us, and you stayed with us until the door suddenly, miraculously became unstuck. You reminded me of what a long way a little bit of kindness goes.

You are a hero. I want my sons to be like you.

Thank you.

Anna Cockerille (and babies)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Letter to My Son's Music Teacher

A Letter to My Son's Music Teacher

For years, I have been the teacher, working not for thanks of course, but appreciating thanks when it comes all the same. Now, my son is two, and I am the parent, thanking the teacher.

For everything you do, thank you. You come to music class each day, fully prepared and infectiously enthusiastic. You wear a love of music on your sleeve. The children cannot help but feel this. You go above and beyond to include everyone and invite them into the joy you feel for this art form. You play your heart out, even when the audience is less than focused.

You may not know what a difference you are making in my son's life. Here are just a few of the things he does, all day long, because of your class:

  • Plays his toy guitar with the raucous energy of Eddie Van Halen mixed with Slash mixed with Jimmy Hendrix. 
  • Dances, sings, and claps to songs you have song and says your name after all of them. 
  • Says, "Friday, music class" over and over. And over. 
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Your influence is far reaching and incredibly appreciated. 

With Great Respect, 

The Cockerilles 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Letter to My Sick Son

A Letter to My Sick Son

Dear Son,

My little guy. When I woke up this morning, here is what I saw. Your eyes were sealed nearly shut. Your nose was a runny disaster. You were drenched in sweat. Here is what I felt. My heart plummeting to my knees. Tears in my eyes. An overwhelming desire to do anything to help you feel better.

But then, I saw this. You jumped up and down in your bed. You smiled a tremendous smile. You yelled, "Mommy!" just as you always do. I wrapped my arms around you and we played. Then, here is what I felt. Along with the overwhelming desire to help you feel better, I felt extreme gratitude and awe for  your strength, your courage, and your constant, enduring joy.

I love you.

Your Mommy

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Letter to My Former Student

A Letter to My Former Student

Dear Juan Carlos,

I am so sorry.

I am sorry I made you move your desk to the corner of the room, with your back to the class. You still turned around and joined in, cracked jokes, told us what you thought, whether we asked or not. I am sorry I told you over and over to be quiet, wait your turn, sit still.

You see, I was a brand new teacher. I didn't know how to encourage your voice. I didn't know it wasn't okay to shame a student into behaving.

And now, I have two sons. They are still babies, but one day they will go to school. I hope their teachers know how important it is for them to move. I hope their teachers value their contributions, no matter how frequent or how unsolicited they are.

The truth is, you were always one of my favorites.

I'll bet you are out there now, killing it.

Your Teacher,

Ms. Anna