Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fond Farewell

When I read the post I wrote one year ago today, it feels like ages and ages ago. I still shudder when I think about how horrible 2012 was. 2013 was so kind to me. This year I applied and was accepted to grad school, I (finally!) got pregnant, I gave birth to an almost 10 pound baby boy-- without medication, we moved to a house, we bought a second car, I visited family in California and Utah, and I rocked my first semester of grad school (4.0 folks). Obviously those are just the big things.
I used to think everything happened for a reason-- that all the hard things in my life happened to teach me a specific lesson. I think that attitude is part of what made 2012 so hard. I didn't understand what I was supposed to be learning from all of that junk, and it felt a little unfair-- like, "why is this happening to me??" And the thing I learned from all of that is that it's just life. Sometimes life just. plain. sucks. I hope in the coming years when I have another 2012 (because it's bound to happen) I can just roll with the punches a little better rather than getting bogged down by what it all means. Also because, just as sure as I'll have terrible years again, I'll also have more years just like this one.
I am looking forward to 2014. I don't have huge exciting plans (though Sam and I are planning to run the Richmond half marathon in November together), but I am looking forward to establishing a routine and getting out to explore this fine city again (now that I have a buddy to accompany me!). I'm not setting any resolutions because I never, never keep them. So I'm just going to keep doing what I was doing for the whole last year: work hard. I worked really hard this year to be emotionally stable (not an easy task for me), and I worked really hard to kick grad school's and childbirth's ass. I totally did it!
So, a fond farewell, 2013. Who knew you would be so great?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


On Monday I had my very last class of the semester-- and, as predicted, I did write my paper on Sunday night. 
I learned a lot of things this semester: namely, going to school during your last trimester of pregnancy (and first month postpartum) is no easy task. I had no idea how exhausting it would be!
Also this introduction to grad school was awesome. Everyone wanted to be there, all of the assignments were relevant, and my professor felt more like a guide than an instructor. 
I also gained a lot of confidence. I went into this semester feeling rather self-conscious of my age, my lack of professional experience, and the fact that I've been a stay-at-home mom for the last five and a half years. It's a work in progress, but I feel much more confident in my ideas and my ability to contribute to the class. At the beginning of the semester I felt panicked to make any comments, but by our final class I felt my undergraduate fervor returning and I was making comments left and right. (Maybe too many, as it turns out?)
Looking back it may have been a better plan for me to take the fall semester off and then start in January, but instead I am taking this next semester off and will return in the summer or fall. It will be good to dedicate myself to finding my groove as a mom-of-a-baby again, but I am already looking forward to getting back to school. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I had a baby and stuff

There are a million blog posts going through my head these days. I barely have a free second to eat lunch most days let alone make my thoughts coherent. Babies are the weirdest things. Somehow I do nearly nothing all day, but I have no time to do anything else. This newborn phase is short lived, though, and soon I'll be spending leisurely afternoons reading books and going to museums with my new little dude. 
Before that happens, though, I've got to figure out how were going to manage feeding. Bria was bottle fed because that girl wouldn't even try to latch. It's something I've mourned ever since. And now here comes my champion latcher, and my milk supply is practically non-existent. (When your baby is dehydrated and losing weight, you take these things very seriously.) So this new baby adjustment is now including coming to terms with the fact that both of my children will be formula-fed. I have lots more to say about this, but for now, I will just continue to let myself have some good cries about it. 
And, oh yeah, still finishing up the semester, folks! Final paper due Monday, and I'm pretty sure it's gonna get written on Sunday night. 
But look! I had a really cute baby, so it's all good. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You're Doing a Good Job

Bria has been really sick all week (which means it's probably good this baby hasn't come yet), in fact, I decided around bedtime tonight I should probably take her to the doctor tomorrow, since her throat hurts so bad she couldn't even swallow raw tofu or bread. Since she's felt sick, I've been helping her brush her teeth, because she has cankers along both sides of her tongue, and it scares her that she'll hurt herself. (Understandable. Cankers are the pits, man.) While brushing her teeth tonight, I kept telling her to stick out her tongue so I could brush the top of it, but she just kept leaning her head back, and every time I would try to brush it, she'd pull it back in, and then she just drooled all this toothpastey goo all over my hands. In the history of losing my parental patience, it wasn't so bad, but it wasn't exactly honorable either. I mostly felt irritated, so I snipped a little and gave her an unnecessary lecture. As she finished getting ready for bed and came into her room to get tucked in, her spirits were rather down. She's had a tough week. Due to being sick, she had to miss her school's Thanksgiving lunch party today (many, many tears were shed about this). At dinner she explained that she's school sick: "it's like being homesick, but you miss school instead." And, despite also being very excited, she is experiencing some anxiety about the baby's imminent arrival. Let's not forget the fact that she was in tears this morning because the last of our billion pregnant friends went into labor today, and as Bria lamented "it feels like our baby is never going to come!" (me too, Bria. me too.) So, it's been rough for sweet little B. The last thing she needs is her mom snapping at her because it hurts to stick her tongue out. So before she climbed into her bed, I knelt down, looked her in the eyes and said, "You're doing a good job." Her face relaxed into a small smile, and she gave me a huge hug. The last couple minutes before I turned out her lights and shut her door were a good bonding moment for us as we chatted and sang a song together. All it took was me telling her she was doing a good job.
As I've learned many times in parenting, the same things that work for kids often work for adults. Most of us could really benefit from being told we're doing a good job. Lots of times we may not even be doing our best, but we're usually trying. And it's incredibly validating for our efforts to be recognized. The last two weeks of this pregnancy have been emotionally taxing as we just wait for my body to spontaneously go into labor. Sam is the Ultimate Supportive Champion, and there are times when he tells me I am doing a good job, and it really turns the situation around for me. It's validating to hear the hard work I've done has not gone unnoticed, and it encourages me to keep it up. (Not like I have a choice with pregnancy. I mean, I just gotta keep existing.)
The next experiment is to apply this to affirmations and self-talk. Is it just as efficient to tell yourself you're doing a good job? I'm going to try.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pretending to Be Calm and Collected

oh, um, hello. I am now past my due date. I don't enjoy it. even though I have wanted to go overdue in order to go to one more of my classes on monday, I am still a fireball of anxiety. you know the thing about being pregnant? is that every woman experiences it differently. which means this is not the things about being pregnant-- this is actually just the thing about life and humans. but you can read birth stories looking for signs, and every one will be different. some women can sense the shift within their own bodies and know they are close to labor. some women feel like everything is staying put until suddenly they are bowled over with contractions. some women are in pre-labor for dddaaayyysss on end. there is absolutely no way to know when you will go into labor. some of us deal with that uncertainty better than others. in this scenario, some women feel like they are about to lose. their. freaking. minds. ummm... ahem. not me, of course. (ok, but really. I am about to lose my mind.)

I went on a long walk yesterday and watched the leaves swirl off the trees with each gentle gust of wind. It was miraculous and beautiful to watch them float and tumble through the air on their inevitable path to the street. I did my best to at least pretend to be calm and realized that I am like a leaf. This cycle of pregnancy has led me through various stages of development, and now it is almost time for the wind to blow me off the tree, into labor. There is no way of knowing which gust will finally release my stem from the branch, but it will happen soon. So I keep repeating to myself "I am a leaf. I am a leaf."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Plodding Along

My to-do list borders on out of control. Part of the problem is that I find something new to add every day. Working around the exhaustion and aches and pains of full-term pregnancy means I don't cross very much of my list on any given day. Yesterday I started a labor-inducing routine with acupuncture and I had insane, uncomfortable contractions all day long. As I was nearing bedtime I thought "what if this actually sent me into labor tonight?" and I realized how far I am from being ready-- just in terms of my to-do list. My hospital bag is not packed, my house is a wreck, I still have three papers to write for my class, I haven't finished making burp cloths. Because I was so exhausted and worn out from all-day-long contractions, I had to just go to bed without even attempting to accomplish any of those things weighing on my mind. The baby technically could arrive any day now, though I've done a good job at convincing myself he'll come late. Still, I need to be prepared. Luckily I did get one extra meal in the freezer yesterday-- I'm trying to stock it full so we're not eating Five Guys and Papa Johns for every meal after the baby comes.

In terms of school, yes, I do still have three papers to write. (I am waiting to get my first paper back to help me know if I'm on the right track as far as my teacher's grading is concerned.) BUT, I did finished my observations in the high school. I had two long days of observing, but they were incredibly educational, and I rather enjoyed it. As I suspected, after observing all different levels, I am still most interested in teaching upper level classes-- juniors and seniors honors or AP.
The first day walking in to school, I was immediately mistaken for a student by some security guard who thought I shouldn't be parking in a visitor spot (really?), which immediately made me feel self-conscious. I tried to assume an air of authority and confidence to counteract my youthful look, but it was surprisingly difficult. Walking to my car after school I passed a group of students and immediately heard a girl yell to her friends, "is that a student?!?!"
Once again trying to remind myself I'll be glad I look so young when I'm 50. (Though, ya know, I'm getting rather near 30 and I didn't think I would still be mistaken for a teenager.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Block One: Complete

I am finished with my first block! After filling out a course evaluation and staying for a make-up session, I completed my yoga class. What a relief! Now I can focus on my more-important education class. On Tuesday I go to a local high school to observe English classes all day-- this will be one of two observation days. (Can I just note that I have to be there at 7 am? Seven. In the morning. I'm not sure how that is going to be physically possible.)
I also finished a group project for class on Monday, and can I just say I hate group projects? In fact, I'm not sure I know anyone who likes group projects. But we were all happy with the final product. The benefit of these group projects is they are all online. On the day your group "presents" you just post your presentation to blackboard, and the rest of the class has about four days to contribute to an online discussion of the topic. There is no physical class on presentation days. So the real bonus is there are two of those in November. I hope this means I will only miss one class (the week of Thanksgiving). And now I need to buckle down and write the four papers I have due for the class. My original goal was to turn them all in before the baby is born, and that still seems manageable.

In preparing for the baby, I will say that I am not currently making things easy for myself, because I am a hippie. I have been obsessed with this article I read on Salon a couple weeks ago that compares childbirth to extreme sports. I don't talk very openly about my opinions on childbirth (actually, my first and most important opinion is that every woman has the right to birth in whatever way she wants), but my intention is to have a completely natural, un-medicated, intervention-free birth. I totally get that this does not appeal to everyone most women. But one thing I loved so much from that article was a quote from explorer Peter Mathiessen about his expedition to Antarctica: “What draws me eludes me to the same degree…. A longing it most certainly is, but a longing for what?” I can try to explain my feelings rationally: my body does not react well to pitocin, I do not want to risk another spinal headache, I don't want the increased risk of a c-section, etc., but the reality is that I don't know what draws me to natural childbirth. There is a deep desire that cannot be verbalized. It is a desire to be connected to the primal nature of woman within myself and to feel that raw power.
But it means my preparation for childbirth is much more involved. I actually hope it will translate to an easier recovery this time around (my recovery with Bria was out. of. this. world. horrible, and I was so not prepared for that). So I hope maybe all this hard work and preparation will pay off when I still have school to finish after the baby comes. And this is why I can consider childbirth to be my extreme sports expedition also: I have no idea what to expect in that dark abyss of childbirth/postpartum recovery combined with school. It's a pretty accurate explanation of how I feel to say "here I go . . . into the wild . . . "

Friday, October 4, 2013

Home Stretch

I took my meditation final yesterday, and my yoga final is next week. Yoga has been such a disaster-- the class feels incredibly disorganized. Our final consists of us each demonstrating a sun salutation of our own creation, which at this point, I sometimes feel like I'm lucky just to be standing in mountain pose. Luckily I just found out my teacher will walk around the room observing us while we all do our sun salutations simultaneously. I was having nightmares about performing a solo sun salutation in front of my class. I still have so much to do for my education class, but at least I will only be on campus once a week from here on out. I feel like I can finally turn my focus to preparing for this baby to be born.

It's been interesting since this is my second baby, I should feel more prepared than I do. Because it's been five and a half years, in many ways I feel like I'm starting over. I mean, just from the practical side, we had to get all new baby gear since we'd slowly weeded out basically everything. But there are other details I just don't remember about last time. Our doula asked me this week if I felt like this baby was heavier (as a mother's sense of size is often most accurate), and I honestly have no idea. I do not remember what it felt like to be eight months pregnant. There is one huge change this time, however, which is that I am not filled with terror at the prospect of having a baby. The entire first year of Bria's life I was living on the edge wondering if we were both going to survive. And we did! I'm glad I have that piece of evidence under my belt so on tough days in the future I can remind myself, "hey, you've kept another human alive for five and a half years. you can totally do it again!" It also helps that I wanted this baby for a long time. Sam and I were flying by the seat of our pants in so many ways when Bria was born, but now we feel so ready for this little boy to join our family. It's a good feeling. It's good to know that really tough transition to motherhood will count for something.

Over the last week I've started to really assume a sense of ownership over my plans for labor, and I'm actually feeling excited about it. Everywhere I go strangers want to know when I'm due, and it's starting to freak me out that the answer is now "about a month." And I really don't love strangers inserting themselves into my business, but when the jock from my yoga class asked me how much longer I have today, he followed up with "and is everything going ok? how are you feeling?" I told him I'm feeling pretty good, and he said "yeah, well you're totally killing it."
Now that is the kind of commentary I will accept.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Meditation Final Essay

The meditation class I have been taking this semester is incredible. It's hard to even know where to start when thinking about the long term benefits this class will have on my life. Who knew?? It's just a one credit class I took to fulfill a financial aid requirement. I want to write more and more about it, but to start, here is the essay I wrote for my final. The assignment was to pick one attitudinal foundation of mindfulness and write about how and why I will try to implement it in my life. It's not the best writing of my life, but I think it's a good representation of some important things I've learned recently.

Several years ago, my sister told me that I was “a special kind of uptight.” I knew that I constantly felt stressed, but I didn’t understand why or how to change. When my sister put it in those terms, it clicked with me, and I realized I had the power to change. Over the next several months I focused on relaxing whenever I started to feel stressed or uptight about something (which was quite often). I would think, or even say out loud, “let it go,” until I was able to relax. This was a long journey, but one that I felt transformed me into a different and more functional person. I still have a long way to go, and in the last year or two, I have seen many of my old, uptight behaviors creeping back in. Studying meditation and mindfulness has given me a much deeper understanding of what “letting go” actually means, and how I can apply this to help me become healthier and happier.
There are many ways in which letting go would be beneficial, but the first is letting go of my need for certainty. In the article Letting Go of Attachment, Lori Deschene says, “in trying to hold on to what’s familiar, we limit our ability to experience joy in the present. A moment can’t possibly radiate fully when you’re suffocating it in fear. . . . letting go is letting happiness in.” I often feel a sense of false safety in trying to predict the outcome of various situations. This often means I expect the worse, so that if it happens, I feel prepared. Unfortunately this means I miss a lot of opportunities for joy, because I so often live in fear.
This need for control also means I am constantly trying to define the deeper meaning of situations and how it compares to what is “normal.” I want to employ a mindful attitude of letting go of the expectations I place on myself. I would not say I am a perfectionist, but I struggle to live in the moment because I am constantly analyzing every situation, conversation, and action and what it means. Letting go would mean feeling comfortable being my own person, regardless of if it is different from what others are doing. The same article, Letting Go of Attachment, says “practice letting things be. . . . make peace with the moment as it is, without worrying something’s wrong with you or your life, and then operate from a place of acceptance.” Letting go would mean opening myself up to feeling vulnerable, which can be an incredibly painful process, but one I feel is incredibly valuable and important.
When I initially began trying to be a more relaxed person, I interpreted letting go to mean not engaging with negative emotions. I did not allow myself to engage in situations that would cause me to feel anger or emotional pain, because I wanted to “let go” of things that made me feel stressful. My deeper understanding of letting go has assured me that it is ok to feel any emotion, but I do not need to cling to it or define myself by it. When my mind wanders during a seated meditation, I can notice and name where my mind had wandered. Similarly, letting go starts with noticing and naming my emotions so I can begin to separate myself (and my identity) from them. It is common for these negative emotions to come and dwell without my conscious awareness of what’s going on. In the moment, it seems easier to ignore the anxiety or emotional discomfort and pain, but instead of pretending these feelings don’t exist, I want to identify how I am feeling and why. If there is something I can change about the situation, then I can do that. If not, then I can work on accepting the situation for what it is.
I know letting go will benefit my relationships. I tend to cling to painful memories and replay frustrating situations in my head. The first step in letting go is identifying what is within my control. For the most part, when it comes to painful memories, very little is within my control. I cannot change what I cannot control, and I need to accept that. I have a very complicated relationship with my parents, and my inability to let go certainly makes it worse. Not only do I tend to cling to the past, but I also cling to the uncertainty and fear I have for the future and my relationship with my children as they get older. This is one way in which I do have some control. I can work towards building relationships on trust, love, and respect, and that is all. Everything else I can let go.
When I engage in my old habits and behaviors of being uptight, I feel a lot of anxiety. My body feels constricted, my movements feel frantic, and my mind races. I get angry and frustrated easily, and I become very stubborn. I am anything but relaxed. As I work towards letting go more fully, I know continued meditation will be of great benefit. I have used deep breathing as a way to relax for many years, but learning how to apply it to formal meditation has resulted in increased calmness of mind and clarity of thought. This takes dedication and practice, but the byproduct is being a naturally more relaxed, healthy, and whole person.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Three Weeks In

I have now been in school for three weeks, and it's time for a report. Overall, school is going well. My meditation class is as awesome as I hoped it would be, and I think it's changing my life. I'll try to write a longer post about that later. Yoga is good, but it's also rather comical. I started doing yoga 11 years ago, so I figured it would be fairly simple for me to find modifications for my increasingly huge pregnant body. Hmmm. Not so much. Let's say it's a really good exercise for me to not care at all what others are thinking. Yoga has, surprisingly, been rather rough for my back. I've had chronic low back pain since I was a young teenager, and pregnancy doesn't exactly make that better. I've been getting acupuncture to help manage, but putting weight on my knees and sides can make the pain rather acute. Luckily, I think I've determined that my old mattress is the main culprit (which means I've currently kicked Bria out of her bed so I can sleep there), so I'm hoping I'll be able to bend and move again in the next couple days. The point is: yoga is really hard.
And now for my education class. The first day I felt out of place. I feel really old compared to all these straight-out-of-undergrad kids, and my ginormous belly makes me stand out even more. Combine that with my feel self-conscious about having nearly zero meaningful work experiences, and my anxiety levels go through the roof. Each class has gotten better, and tonight I found myself contributing several comments to various discussions. Three cheers for me finding my stride and gaining some academic confidence. It helps that the material is so fascinating to me. Tonight we discussed the social, political, and economic goals of public education and it was blowing my mind. It's so complicated. But it was so refreshing to be surrounded by more of a majority who have similar liberal and progressive opinions to mine compared to my undergraduate experience at ye olde BYU.
Overall my classes are awesome, and I am loving being in school. I am so, so tired though and find I barely have the energy to eat three meals a day. (Confession: there has been a lot of cold cereal 'round these parts.) My to-do lists are getting out of control: there are growing lists in regards to school, baby, and still getting settled in our house. I am also aware that I have a sweet little girl who is still adjusting to kindergarten and needs a little extra love and attention right now. (Also she wants me to sign her up for chess and karate lessons, and I need to get back to her reading lessons.)
This is all so much better than being bored, though, Seriously.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First Day of School

Monday marked my first day of school. My 18th first day of school, and my first in seven years. Sam took this picture to commemorate the occasion, and after taking it, he said "I think you'll like this one." In actuality, it's not my favorite. I think I look really tired, but maybe that means it's a good picture because it's accurate.

The report on school is that I have one graduate level class that meets once a week, and I think it's going to be ok. I have to do field work (observing in a school) and a group presentation, but I should be able to finish both before the baby comes. There are also four papers, which my teacher said I can hand in early, and tons of reading. Basically, I think I'll have a busy two months before this baby comes, and then I can just wing it, hopefully missing very few classes. The point is, I'm so excited to be doing this, and my professor seemed rather helpful in making sure I succeed this semester.

The other interesting thing is the shift in responsibilities occurring in our family as I take on this new role of student. Because I was required to take 4.5 credits to receive financial aid, I decided to take two one-credit classes rather than committing to another graduate level class. I'm taking a yoga class and a meditation class, which I am so happy about, but it means that my schedule worked out for me to be on campus five days a week. Add to that the multiple doctors appointments I've been having (seeing the midwives every two weeks now, acupuncture, and multiple trips to the lab), and I feel like I've been away from home a ton lately. I have always been vehemently opposed to referring to Sam as a "babysitter" when I'm away, but the truth of the matter is that I have been Bria's primary caregiver for the last 1,950 days. Sam works really hard, and lately he has been working weekends and double shifts to bank some time to take off when the baby comes, and here I am waltzing off to school, which twice a week will just mean meditation. I am experiencing some guilt. Sam assures me it is completely irrational to feel that way, but right now it is my truth. I have to imagine this will get worse as I eventually take more classes and then as I choose to work full-time rather than stay home full-time. This guilt and conflict about wanting to nourish my soul but feeling this cultural pressure to be with my children constantly has plagued me since before I even felt the flutters of Bria's first kicks.

On Monday Sam and Bria accompanied me up to campus to get a quick look around before I went to class. We sat in the student center eating a late lunch, and Sam just gushed about how excited he is for me. It almost felt anticlimactic at that point. For years I wanted to find a path to follow (I considered so many different ones), and I finally, finally, committed to one. Then I applied and cried and stressed about creating the best application and worrying what I would do if I didn't get it. But ever since I was accepted, I have been so consumed in preparing for this little boy, there has been hardly any room for excitement. But here I am starting grad school. It's real. It's happening.

Here we go.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Logistics: part one of a billion

It's good I'm starting to think about at least writing about starting school. Because it made me realize that there are probably some things I need to figure out. Like financial aid, and my immunization record, and I don't know-- stuff, etc.
Here are a couple things I have done in preparation.

1) The very first thing I did when I was accepted was contact the school and explain my situation. I asked if there was any possibility of taking time off from the program, and luckily, they have been very accommodating. I have five years to complete the program, so I can pace myself however I need. My current plan is to take one class this fall, take the spring semester off, then resume next summer or fall. In April I'll evaluate when I want to head back.

2) We moved from Alexandria to Fairfax. Since Sam works in Maryland, we figured at least one person in our family should live by where they go all the time. His commute stayed the same, and I now live 5 minutes from school instead of 40. There is also a city bus I can take to campus so I don't have to worry about a parking pass. And on ambitious days, I'll walk. And when I'm not hugely pregnant, I'll ride a bike! (Note to self: buy a bike.)

3) All of the classes in my program are night classes. That would be convenient if Sam didn't work nights. The one class I am taking meets only once a week, so the current plan is for Sam to go into work late on that one night so we don't need to hire a babysitter. I feel really lucky that this is the case, and I know we might not always be so lucky as I start taking more classes in the future. Also, part of my program will include student teaching, which means this baby boy is going to need full-time care at some point (unless Sam is still working nights). Clearly, there are a lot of variables, so I'm trying to not worry that far down the road.

4) The big question is what will happen when the baby comes. I am due November 7th, the last day of classes is December 7th, and my final exam is scheduled for December 16th. Luckily we've got Thanksgiving in there too. It's in the works for either my mom or one of my three sisters to be here from the time I have the baby until the semester ends. Some of the specific details will need to get worked out once I have an idea of what the class will be like. I'm hoping this baby arrives late like his sister. (Can I put in a request for the 19th?)

Friday, July 5, 2013

My Life is a Science Experiment

When you don't blog for five months, you should have an excuse, though I am often a terrible blogger with no reason. I guess I could say I have had stuff going on because there is finally going to be a tiny baby joining our family in November, and those first three months were an absolute hell of nausea and migraines. Also, we just moved this weekend, which almost killed me. Moving is so much work. But the real reason I haven't really blogged is because I haven't known how I wanted blogging to function for me. When I applied to grad school (oh yes, and I also got in to grad school! What can I say? I don't like to make only one major life change at once.) I tried to find blogs or articles or anything online about young moms going to grad school, having a baby in grad school, and what that entailed to avoid complete and utter failure. I had a really hard time finding anything-- except maybe someone saying they did that in retrospect-- so I decided I might start blogging about how I'm figuring all of that out. Not because I think I am going to be some expert, but just because I think the information should be out there. I feel like this is a major experiment, and it's a good idea to record my findings.

So, starting in September I will have a daughter in Kindergarten, I will be starting grad school, and I will be seven months pregnant. Here we go!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

colors on our water hearts

(Some days you just need to write, you know?) I left the house this morning at 9:00 to drop off B at school then head directly to drop off the last of my application to grad school (!), then to another campus for the class I'm taking, then off to pick up B from school, drop her at home, over to a friend's house to help her plan for an extended hospital stay, pick up B from home and eat lunch (even though it was 3:45), off to a park to meet a different friend, and straight off to meet another friend-in-need for pizza and girl talk while our daughters play. Home late, rush B off to bed, and now just a moment to breathe.
If I look back to three years ago when we had just lived here a few months, I would be astounded at how full my life looked today. I was so overwhelmingly lonely back then and wondered if I would ever make any lasting friendships. (I'm nothing if not dramatic.) A few months ago I realized this was the first time in my adult life I could say I wasn't lonely, but I've realized that it takes a lot of energy to maintain friendships, and I am happy to expend it. I wanted my life to be full of people, and it's starting to be that way.
The point of this whole long introduction, though, is to say when you open your heart to relationships, it can be sad, because people you love experience pain. I have someone very close to me who has shut her heart off because she doesn't want to feel sad when those close to her experience pain. I think that is a very sad way to live (and it has caused me a great deal of pain trying to be close to this person). Today I had heavy boots thinking of all the people in my life who are suffering in some way. Today alone I spoke with three very dear friends about very traumatic things happening in their lives. It makes my heart hurt. But I really think that's what life is: forging these personal bonds where we care for and love each other, feeling each other's pain and finding ways to provide strength and comfort. There is so much-- too much-- sadness and pain in this world. The least we can do is link our hearts and feel it together. Does the pain act like food coloring dropped into hearts made of water? The more hearts we can add to feel the pain together, the more the pain is diluted?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Off to a Good Start

We have a little hand-written sign on our front door that says "No Waiting!" It was written over a year ago to remind me and Sam to take control and create the lives we wanted. No more waiting around for stuff to fall in our laps. People often ask about that little sign, and I always forget it's still there, so I chuckle, give the brief explanation, and then think about taking it down. After last year I felt like life was laughing a bit at us: "you think you can try to make things go your way? mua ha ha." So maybe I was a bit jaded. But, actually, the truth is 2012 was just life. It was awful, but it wasn't insane or unfair. Sure, I started wondering if I was cursed, but, if I'm honest, I know there will be years in my future that rival and probably beat 2012 in levels of horribleness. And I need to be ok with that so I can handle it a little better than I handled 2012.


I am going to re-embrace that little mantra. No waiting! I still think it's a good one. And one of the first things I did this year was enroll in a class at the community college. It's a world literature course, and I'm a little excited. Nervous to be back in the classroom (what if I forget how to be a student?). Worried because I never felt like I had the best study skills to begin with. Happy because I'm taking a step on a path.

The next, most important thing I need to do is find a study group, right? 

Monday, January 7, 2013

maybe it just sags

Today I said something to Sam I never thought I would say:

"I hate cooking."

One year ago I was mourning my decision to not attend culinary school. During fall 2011, Sam and I took a trip to NYC to visit culinary schools-- the French Culinary Institute and the Institute of Culinary Education, specifically. These two seemed like the best options, and I even got to sit in on a five hour class at FCI. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I observed (and helped a little!) as the classes made duck confit, macedoine salad, salade nicoise, tartes aux pommes, pear frangipan, gravlax . . . truly amazing and beautiful dishes. (I ate so much that night!) When I stood in those kitchens, I could see a very clear vision of myself there. The pieces of my heart snapped into place like a puzzle. The rest of the weekend Sam and I talked and talked and talked about how we could make it work: living in New York City, having more kids, paying for school, etc. Figuring out logistics isn't my strong suit, but I really felt like we could make it work. With my writing background, I was hoping to enter into a career in food media when I finished school, and I felt like I was taking the first step to living my dream.

Within just a few weeks of returning home, Sam's career took a huge jump when he was offered a position as head editor on a new show. This was everything he had been working for since we moved to DC, and we knew we couldn't jump ship right when things were on the upswing for him. So we decided to stay. I thought maybe this meant I would just put culinary school off for another two or three years. It would be fun. We'd have another baby, I would find ways to gain culinary experience without school-- the plan was still in motion. And it continued for a while. Sam started his show, I got pregnant, and then there were a couple bumps.

I don't know what happened, but somehow, after miscarrying, I stopped caring about food. I kept telling myself it was part of the grieving process that I just didn't feel up for cooking dinner. But it dragged on for weeks and then months. I'd convince myself to dive back in and I would buy lots of groceries with new recipes in hand, but the food would always go bad before I could bring myself to use it. There was one night a few months ago I was having a rough day, but I knew we couldn't stand another night of pizza or quesadillas, so I made a real, home-cooked dinner. And it was amazing. It wasn't complicated or fancy (I think it was stir fry), but it felt so good to get back in the kitchen-- chopping, sauteing, stirring. I thought I was back. But it was a one-time thing. And it leads up to today. When I finally said the words out loud. I hate cooking.

Okay. But I don't really think I hate cooking. I mean I certainly still love food so much. But here's the thing: 2012 was a year of disillusionment. I know this is a dramatic thing to say, but my dreams got a little crushed. And while I'm not writing Sam's story, I can say that his soul got a little crushed at work. We've had a lot of long talks about dreams, careers, and combining the two-- whether that's wise or not. I still haven't made up my mind, probably because I think it just depends on the person and depends on the dream. But I can say cooking will always be a hobby for me-- except that it just stirs at painful memories right now. I've developed a different plan for my life that has nothing to do with food, and I'm hoping that by removing the pressure I'll be able to find myself in the kitchen again.