Laurita Dianita

Reflections and art on the topics of public health, social justice, and love

Archive for the ‘love’ tag

A different telling of Rio’s birth

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I know I already wrote Rio’s birth story and shared it here. I wrote it as clearly and honestly as I could, with all of the relevant factual details, the small collection of photos that my globally-published photojournalist friend Ash was able to get me right away, and an attempt to be even-handed in its telling even though I felt heartbroken.

This is a different telling of it. 

I am telling it differently now because I now have all of Ash’s photos from which to choose, and I also now have license to share that the reason for my heartbreak was Oscar and the end of our marriage. We are going through a dissolution of marriage currently (in as collaborative and child-development-focused a way as possible). Though our relationship had been troubled for a long time, the night before the birth was particularly difficult. This was why I birthed through an ocean of grief.

In this version, then, I am visually telling the story (thanks to the gift of Ash’s photo-documentation) with a focus on what really matters to me from the birth. I am telling it with a focus on the narrative that strengthens me, the memory of it that reminds of me of my own fierce will. Most of all, I am telling it with a focus on what provided me the resilience I needed to cross that ocean of grief to meet my baby: the women in my life, the women in that room. They are the fountain from which I drew my resilience. When I had no tranquility and peace inside myself, I absorbed theirs. When I felt defeated, I concentrated on their love and belief. The faces and hands and voices of my mom and Jen are the way I want to remember this birth. Suki hugging me, Deb pressing the hot pack to my back, the quiet presence of Ash and of my sister, the sunlight from the window, the calm female voice singing “Ra Ma Da Sa” from Jen’s phone, the colors of my robe, the blue and purple of Jen’s hair, the tickly feeling of my mom’s gentle fingers, the love I spoke to Rio as I pushed him out, the way I reached down to feel him crown and to pull him to my chest, the sweet way Ida greeted her baby brother with a kiss. These are the things I want to remember. These are the elements that I am choosing to carry with me from this birth, to sustain me in this hard road ahead.

What I have learned in the last six months is that resilience is an active process. It requires choices in every moment to draw on the strengths around us, and it requires that there is something good around us and inside us that we can draw on. These women were my pillars and my lifeboats, and I wanted to tell the birth story again, with a dedication to them.

The collection of photos does begin and end with Oscar, though, because this pregnancy did begin with him, and because the birth ended with him. That is, we will be co-parenting together for the rest of our lives. The kids are ours. The moment of birth is brief; the process of parenting is life-long, and he will always be there, dedicated to our children alongside me, even as we craft separate lives.

But the birth, the birth I want to remember, is not about him at all. This is the story I want to tell.

[Please note that some photos are NSFW…unless you work in the birthing field, that is.]




























All photos by Ash Adams

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December 3rd, 2016 at 10:17 pm

On Love and Obligation

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I took this iPhone pic of Ida as she air sucked (continuing to nurse even after she fell asleep and I pulled her off the breast), asleep in my arms on the beach

Written April 5th in Princeville, Hawaii. Ida Luna is 10 weeks old.

On Love and Obligation

I have experienced two new realizations about love lately.

One is that I have never felt love anything like this before. This full, this large, this deep. It is not intense in the way that falling into romantic love is intense – like a bonfire, like an explosion. It is, rather, a slow flame that can’t ever be extinguished. It feels as though it comes burbling up from a fuel source deep inside my body and beyond my body (I think people call that the soul) and it fills me up, fills my head and face and chest and gut. I love this baby with my heart splayed open. I love this baby with my hands held open, always ready to pull her to my chest, to respond. Which brings me to the second realization…

I think that love and responsibility come from the same source. They’re intertwined in a way that makes them feel like the same emotion, the same physiological and psychological and spiritual process. My obligation to Ida, to meet her needs and let her know always that she is loved and safe, to stimulate her brain and make sure that she is healthy and strong and smart, my obligation to follow her through all of her growth and protect her and teach her the skills to protect herself, this feeling arises in me just as the feeling of love does.

Although this is my first time feeling this so strongly and certainly my first time being the primary person responsible for any child, I have encountered this nature of responsibility-love before. As a third-grade teacher, I felt a deep debt of responsibility to my students, and I loved them.  I suppose I shouldn’t have played favorites in any way, but I couldn’t help but love most those who needed it most, those for whom I felt the most responsibility to offer help with socio-emotional and academic needs. Especially S, who would run to my classroom crying because the children in her classroom bullied her and she would fight with them, S who eventually just joined my class even though she didn’t speak Spanish because I made sure that my students treated her with respect and that she could learn in peace, S whose grandmother beat her and then punished her after I reported it to Child Protective Services. I loved her the most because her soul was radiant and full of kindness and hope despite everything, and I loved her most because I felt the most responsibility to her. (Little 23-year-old me, I wanted to adopt her, but it wasn’t an option.)

This love–responsibility feeling is something born out of our evolution as a species. Empathy, compassion, and protection of the young is a requisite for our survival. As I heard a biologist once say, it is “survival of the kindest.” It is produced by pregnancy, by the prolactin and oxytocin that flow through us as we labor and give birth and breastfeed and hold our babies to our chests, by the hormones present in our partners and family members who surround our children’s birth and early life, by the hormones and impulses that can be produced in anybody—blood kin or not—who cares for a child.

But obviously, that isn’t all. If that were all, everybody would be a responsible parent (well, except that high intervention birth and formula feeding do, on a population level, place some barriers between many parents and these natural processes—nothing impossible to overcome, but a formidable issue). We have to be well enough cared for ourselves and with the resources to offer such care to children. Our brains, if they are too damaged by our own childhood torment or by drug addictions or severe depression, struggle to produce those same impulses.  And we have to be equipped to translate those brain/hormone messages into action; that is, we have to be supported in our roles as caregivers, with knowledge of successful and culturally-affirming parenting passed on, with practical and emotional support available, and without an endless torrent of competing demands placed on us by a callous economic system. There are, unfortunately, many things historical, political, economic, familial and intergenerational, that interfere with this love-responsibility feeling for children and being able to put it into action. And of course, even when we do try to put this into action, we will mess up in all sorts of ways. Lord knows I can attest to that —especially as a teacher. Or we will do our best but the messages we receive about how best to raise children places contradictory demands on us (this is what I am going to write about next). We are up against a lot in caring for children, especially in countries with a high degree of inequality.

This means, I think, that part of this love-responsibility feeling for my baby Ida Luna must extend beyond her and add to my motivation to undo the many barriers that stand in the way of good parenting and healthy childhoods.

But for now, for these last two weeks of maternity leave that we are spending here in Kaua’i, my focus will simply be on feeding and connecting to our baby girl as much as possible, filling her body and brain with a sense of connection and security, holding her to my chest as she is right now, asleep, and observing this well of love that keeps burbling up. (Okay, admittedly, I am also reading a book about trauma and addiction, and also working on getting back in shape, but Ida attachment is my main focus).

Oscar ( took this photo of us at Anini Beach. (But don't worry--we were only in the sun for about 45 seconds. She's too young for sunscreen yet.) Ida squirms most of the time that she's awake and sometimes while asleep, and is doing so here while eating.

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April 6th, 2014 at 10:13 am

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Week 32

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I recommend you look at these pictures while listening to the song in the Youtube video link. That's how we took them.

I determined last night that my uterus is too big or maybe baby is just in too funny a position for me to continue with Zumba. But I am determined to still have fun however I can, even though my body is limited in a way it has never been before. So I was happy when Oscar proposed this morning that we do an obnoxiously-colorful photoshoot with his retro backdrop/lighting and that we accompany it with fun music. I threw on my workout clothes from the previous night and we got down to the Pointer Sisters. I am happy about all the little ways that mi amor reminds me to have levity and grateful for how much we laugh together.

P.S. This is another left-handed drawing. I think they all will be from here on out. And yes, the legs are disproportionately long. That’s because I drew how baby feels rather than focusing on anatomic accuracy. Baby feels like a mess of knees and feet that are constantly protruding out of or changing the shape of the right side of my belly and waist. The other night I sang to baby to encourage her/him to move so we could try to distinguish body parts as they surfaced inside my skin. Seriously, baby thinks my uterus is a 24-7 dance studio or something.

P.P. S. This is my dad’s singlet from college at UNLV, where he went to undergrad on a running scholarship.

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December 3rd, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Advice I’ve Gotten on the Eve of my Marriage

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wedding invite:

My wedding to mi querido amor, Oscar Avellaneda, is in 3 ½ weeks. In about 2 weeks I am officiating the wedding of my two good friends, Garret and Mystie. In light of these VERY serious events, I have been asking for relationship/marriage advice from everyone I know who has been happily married for a long time—my parents, colleagues, Garrett’s stepmom, my boss, whomever, and from those who are divorced as well. I also ask it of my best friend who has been with her wife for 6 happy years now. Here is some of the advice I’ve gotten:

1.) You are responsible for your happiness. Take care of your own happiness.

-everyone I’ve asked

My mom adds, “Your partner can only fulfil, I don’t know, maybe 50% of your needs. Of course they have to be the most important needs, and then there are some needs you can’t get outside of the marriage, like sex. But you have to find ways to fulfil your own needs. You have to take care of yourself.”

2.) Let your partner be him/herself and you be yourself.

– Connie at work, many more people

3.) “Commitment is what drives the engine, not love.”

-Garrett’s stepmom, Amy

4.) The secret to a good, long-lasting marriage? Hard work and every once in a while  a good therapist.

-my mom

5.) Don’t sweep things under the rug. They won’t go away; they will fester and grow.

-my mom

6.) Let your partner grow and learn their lessons at their own pace.

-Jessica Laura

6.) Touch each other a lot. Gentle, loving touch bonds people and diffuses anger.

-my dad

7.) You choose your partner to be your primary healer because there are some lessons and types of healing you can do only with them. There are lessons to be learned from the difficulties. Take the time and have the faith to learn them.

-Doris, our LCSW

8.) Have fun together.

-Doris & Oscar’s sister, Erika.

So, commitment and work.

Honesty and communication.

Patience and compassion.

Nurturing one another and yourself.

Acceptance. Acceptance. Acceptance.

I presume that’s why Jessica Laura and her wife Julia said, in their marriage vows, “I surrender myself to who you really are.” Because as hard as it can be, you have to be willing to do that, to truly accept, to surrender your hang-ups and fears to that true acceptance.

I am willing, but I will need the support of teachers and friends to know how to do that at all times. I guess that’s why we get married in communities of loved ones.

For that support, for this advice.

I am counting on your help, community.

Thank you for all you’ve already done.

And Oscar, I can’t wait. I am so excited.

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June 21st, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I love my parents because…

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(photo by Oscar Avellaneda)

In kindergarten, Ms. Clutz asked us to write an “I love my mother because…” paper with a drawing for Mother’s Day. In the big open space on top of that newsprint paper with the lines, I drew a ferris wheel and wrote: “I love my mother because shez gona tak me to the Dixn May Fare,” or some such partially-invented spelling. (Oh how I wish I had the paper with me to scan and post here!) When I found this piece of writing as a wisened 5th grader, I thought, “How shallow I was! I thought love was just about her doing little things for me!”

But tonight, I began a little list in my head of reasons I loved my parents, and they were all small things like that. Of course I love them for big, giant reasons—reasons as big as the lessons and patterns of my life, reasons like the way they’ve helped form my character as a strong woman with integrity or the way they accept me. But I find that little things are powerful in themselves, and powerful as symbols of something larger.

So here goes a very short list of the little reasons that came into my head tonight.

I love my parents because:

  • We share fruit and cheese from Costco. One of us goes to Costco and then we split up the food and the receipts. They have the money to buy excess fruit & such, but they don’t like to waste. And they know that I hate to waste food and loathe spending more money than I need to, so they agree to sharing food from Costco runs, as inconvenient as it may be. It’s kind of cute and communitarian of them.
  • My dad helped me move furniture on Friday night even with his thumb in a brace. Half-way through, I fed him green curry which he said looked like second-hand food, but smelled good. We ate in silence as he read, with rapt attention, this book I have on foods from the African diaspora. Then we carried more furniture, using my shawl as a sling to make up for the un-opposability of his thumb. My dad, and both my parents, are so tough and adaptable, so curious, and ready all the time with wry, sometimes caustic, sometimes obscene humor.
  • My mom and I just went and saw “The Kids are All Right” and then talked about it over beer and dinner. To me, the message of the film was about how marriage is hard and it takes work and you can’t let problems pile up without addressing them consciously and compassionately. It was a message shared poignantly in the film. But I was grateful that it was also a message I grew up hearing, grew up understanding from my parents. I love them for demonstrating that you can’t sweep problems under the rug and that the work of love is worth it.
  • I love them for being reticent with their support when I was in the wrong relationships and generous with it now. I love my dad’s enthusiasm for making beer (“Hoppiness is Wedded Bliss Brown Ale,” as he has already named it) and black currant wine for Oscar and my wedding and my mom’s eagerness to help cash in miles to get me to Bogotá to see my amor.

There’s more, there’s always more, and it’s good to stop and note it at times. My kindergarten self, as egocentric as I may have been at five years old, recognized love in the little things, and wrote it down.

(Left, at a District K forum with legislators. My photo.)

(Right, playing Pictionary on Christmas 2009. Photo by Oscar Avellaneda)

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August 1st, 2010 at 10:01 pm

A recipe poem: Salsa Verde Para Mi Amor

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Salsa Verde Para Mi Amor

1.)  Boil the jalapeños:

Yeah, seeds and all.
I mean, I know you’re Colombiano
y no se come picante allí,
but you know that story your mama tells?
The one where your abuela
made the sopa without cilantro
“for Nachito”
and your mama put the cilantro back in
(she flicks her hand as she re-enacts it)
because she knew she’d be eating with him
for the rest of their lives?
since I’m your future wifey
and you’re the chaparro de mi vida
and I’m your aguacate tree
growing in Alaska
to whose roots—and fruit—
you will come flying back
and we will sit across kitchen tables
from one another
for the rest of our days,
pues, te tendrás que acostumbrar.

2.)  Slice the onion:
And try placing it in the blender
but poniéndome aguila
because before I know it
you’ll kiss me with that onion
on your breath,
whole slices tucked away
into your teeth.
I’ll say “¡Guácala!”
and never understand it,
how you find the sweet
in its so acrid flesh.
But I quietly admire you for it,
this iron mouth of yours,
the way you see through
even the worst.

3.)  Skin and mash the garlic:
And this too I must guard
from your habit of drinking it
with cayenne and
waiting to do so, of course,
until I’m soon to come over.
The smell of it:
“Ay, Oscar, ¿Porqué
lo tenías que comer ahora
before kissing me?”
And I search out the line
between asking you
to be considerate
and control.
Then toss the garlic in the blender
with everything else.

4.)  Enjoy:
Disfrútala, with fish, with sopa,
with cuidado, mi Colombiano.
I learned in the cloud forest,
the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca,
from a small woman who
cooked her beans in a clay pot,
to make salsa verde sin tomate.
Y así, mi amor,
when you eat it,
the sweat beads up,
glints of light over the
redenning skin,
across your brow,
across your nose—
your nose, mi amor,
that perfect bridge of shadow
and light
that bridge of indígena and
None of our ancestors
ate like this,
the people of wheat,
the people of potatoes.
But we are adaptors
and you sweat your way through it
like we work our way through
each other
building bridges across
continents and
spirits and
from which we’ll create children
to pass the recipe on,
learning, over time,
to endure.


I was inspired to write this because a creative little girl who I taught in math was surprised when I told her that her poetry teacher, Ashley Skabar, was also a professional food writer. She asked, “Does Miss Ashley write her recipes as poems?” I replied, “I don’t think so, but that’s a great idea,” and I went home and began working on this recipe-poem. I am bringing the original to Oscar, drawings and cursive and all, for part of an anniversary gift. We will celebrate our anniversary together in Jalisco, México, eating comida picosa, camping, biking, swimming in rivers, reading the stars.

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May 18th, 2010 at 1:31 pm

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On last weekend’s “This American Life,” which was actually an old show, the theme was “Somewhere Out There.” It was about finding the one. There was a great story about a young white American man named Eric doing an exchange in China and singing Chinese opera. He fell for a musician there named Yuen Yuen, lost touch with her when he came back to the states, and then, years later, upon returning to China, tried against all odds to find her in Beijing with very few leads. It was a fairytale story of how they found one another and came to be in love. But then it became less fairytale like–she came to the US on a fiancé visa, so they had to get marry sooner than they were ready to. It was rough for a few years. They had to rely on their falling in love story to convince themselves they were worth the work, that their relationship was too magical to let end. But they got through it…and this is the quote at the end of that story that made me bawl when I heard it and choke up later when I recounted it to my own amor:

Narrator: The story of how they met began to feel less and less important. And they didn’t talk about it as much. Now, they have a different story.

Eric: Which is the story of struggle and pain that we, uh, sort of passed through and fought through and overcame. And, y’know, that’s a story that you don’t tell in public. Because no one ever asks, “How did you two stay together?” Everyone always asks, “How did you two meet?”

I love this quote. I love this lesson. I love stories of how people stay together. I guess that’s why I love cheesy Brad Paisley country songs–because they’re about his wife; they’re about pregnancy and daily life. They’re about staying in love.  I’ve seen enough in my little 27 years to know that a lot of the  falling in love songs and movies don’t last long, that they don’t just live happily ever after.  I think we do children a great disservice when the majority of their stories end with only the beginning of the beauty and work of real relationships. (Side note: we also do them a great disservice with the myth that everyone already knows how to have sex so you don’t have to talk about it. I hate that one.)

We all need help holding our relationships–with partners, with friends, colleagues, sisters and brothers and parents–together. We all need help communicating and giving and negotiating respect. We need more stories about this. So thank you, This American Life, for that brief and beautiful articulation and I hope that we create space for more such stories.

p.s. My parents have been together for 30.5 years. Oscar’s parents have been together for about that long. Another family I grew up with, the Blouws, have been together 40-some years. I have access to some stories.

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February 6th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

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“Show me show me show me how you do that trick!”

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Loving you long distance

Can you be crying? My friend, my


How large and salty now is the

taste of that in my fist.

-Marina Tsvetaeva, 1924

My love, Oscar, left last Thursday on the ferry with his sister Erika and their friend Will to bike from Bellingham, Washington to Bogotá, Colombia. Or, as we are all trying to convince them, to take a train to California and bike from there.

Oscar and I held one another as thick wet snowflakes came down in straight lines from the sky all around us, the white illuminated by headlights, standing out before the heavy green of the spruce in that rainy town of Whittier, Alaska. Oscar said to me, “Look at the snow. I will always remember this hug by the snow falling.”

We pressed our faces together and he began to whisper sing to me the song by The Cure to which we began to fall in love at my sister’s birthday party: “Show me show me show me how you do that trick…” I answered back, tears warbling the notes: “…the one that makes me scream, she said. The one that makes me laugh, she said…”

And then tasted his tears on my lips.

Tasted my tears on his cheek.

Both on my fingers as I touched his face.

And I thought of Tsvetaeva: “How large and salty now is the taste of that in my fist.”

But sometimes we want to quote poets at the wrong moments. Tsvetaeva had “reached the end of ending” when she wrote that, and this goodbye is not an end. It’s the beginning of a journey that Oscar has been planning for years and needs to take, the beginning of our relationship and our communication being given new challenges. It is the beginning of certain kinds of growth, alone growth and growth as we explore and expand in the world, as I grow into new jobs and new friendships, as I learn to self-soothe and Oscar becomes more intentional about the ways he wants to live his life. It is the beginning of many love letters and a commitment about which neither of us hesitates.

So, while this long absence does, at times, feel tragic and I hear Tsvetaeva again in my head–

though the time of the train is set

and the sorrowful honor of leaving

is a cup given to women.

–I pretty much stay away from feeling sorry for myself.

Love has survived much harder things than this.

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January 19th, 2010 at 9:26 am

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the essay I mean to write on love

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mom and dad cd cover(A collage I made for the cover of my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary mix CD of love songs)

I have been meaning, for the last few weeks, to sit down and write an essay of some sort about love. I’ve been writing it in my head as I drive, and saying, “Once I finish Christmas presents and this program plan and this research summary and lesson planning for the math unit in the after school program, then I’ll sit down and write the essay.” But I haven’t finished anything except Christmas presents, and I may be forgetting the words that I intended for the subject.

When I write this essay, it will be about mature love. It will talk about how fluttery dramatic and unreal love songs don’t move me, but songs about families and long-term loves do.  My best friend and her wife’s wedding vows did. Old couples do. It will talk about the way I’ve learned to love more maturely and how relationships are about so much more than that love rush and those emotions and the hasty commitments that might arise from taking emotions as enough. It might reveal the way that Oscar and I show our love for one another lately by talking about house design and interior decoration and what we mean by it is, “I am committed to building a life with you.” It’ll be way more eloquent than this.

I’ll write it and I hope you’ll read it. In the meanwhile, it is Oscar’s last 10 days in our shared city, and then he takes off on his bike journey from Bellingham, WA to his home city of Bogotá, Colombia (check out the trip site: I won’t see him again until April or so, so our mature love will be put to all sorts of tests. And I have faith in it.

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January 3rd, 2010 at 9:14 pm

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Stopping to observe

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It is Thanksgiving and I am in Kaua’i with my family. This morning I went on a run alone through the brush, past herds of chickens, and down a steep hill to the beach. When I arrived, I did something that my family used to do a long time ago when we were children but stopped doing–either because we got older or maybe because we all got into running and other endurance sports and started to take our heart rates so seriously:

I stopped.

I strolled around. I used a stick to examine some small jellyfish with football-like white stitching on them that had washed up onto the beach and died. I sat down in the sand to watch the waves. I observed. I breathed in the way the waves came in diagonal sections of brown upon the shore and behind them, strips of turquoise and behind them, the steel grayish blue of rain clouds. I had brought no camera, no iPhone, no drawing supplies, and so I just watched and took the time and love to etch into my memory what I was seeing.

This doesn’t sound like much, but it has become sort of an axiom about being a Norton-Cruz that we are always running around and doing or learning, and that when we are exercising we don’t take breaks. So I am returning to an older Norton-Cruz tradition where we used to explore the tide pools of California and play in the sand. And returning to the Laura that makes art from what she loves. So this is what I made, upon returning to the house:


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November 26th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

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