Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011/2012

New Year's Eve has always been my favorite holiday.  When I was younger, I loved it because I imagined someday spending the evening at some glitzy, sparkly, jazzy sort of Manhattan cocktail ball, wearing something glittery and black and expensive, dancing with a handsome date, champagne in hand...

Honestly, I've watched "When Harry Met Sally" more times than I can count. 

And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. 
 
I guess I also always wanted to spend New Year's Eve in 1989.  Anyway.

So, I never went to that particular party, and I realize that this sort of unmet fantasy is exactly why so many people intensely dislike New Year's. But I have spent a New Year's Eve or two at some pretty great Los Angeles parties, handsome date at my side, champagne in hand.  Plus, these days, I'm honestly just as happy spending the evening in pajamas, watching a movie, drinking champagne from the funny frosted champagne glasses someone gave us at our wedding, the babies sleeping soundly and peacefully in the next room.

As it turns out, New Year's Eve isn't my favorite holiday because of the fantasy.  I love the holiday because it's the only time of the year that we're really encouraged to reflect on our lives: to look at every aspect, the good and bad, the accomplishments and disappointments, friends we made and friends we lost, what choices we made firmly for our own lives, and what was utterly outside of any control we could have hoped to have, perhaps taking us by surprise and changing our lives completely and irrevocably.

We remember what happened to ourselves alone, what happened in our families, our communities, and what happened to affect the whole world.  We become completely narcissistic for the moment, while also feeling completely insignificant, a speck of dust in an ocean of stars.  And then we look ahead to the coming year with a sense of awe, knowing that no matter what we plan, we have no possible way of knowing what we will be watching on all those news recaps one year from now, or if we will even be here to watch them.  And then we make plans anyway.  Because what else can we do?

And I love the holiday because, despite the fact that I live in LA, I still imagine New Year's as I did growing up - imbedded in the quiet heart of winter, blanketed in snow, the noise and color of Christmas well over.  Maybe a few twinkling lights are still strung, but January comes quietly in my mind, full of possibilities, but no promises, beckoning us forward into the unknown, asking us what we want to be and do and live.  My birthday is also in January, so I'm sure I'm sweet on the month more than most, and I love it, snow-covered or not.  January reminds me every year that I am alive, and that I can choose - for some part, anyway - how I spend that life.

I do make resolutions.  I do look at last year's resolutions.  I dream too big for the coming year even while looking wistfully at what I did not manage to accomplish over the last.  I'm an incorrigible optimist on this one night alone, year after year.  And I believe it anchors me, somehow.  We may each incorrectly count our life in years although it happens solely in moments, but I think we know our error.  So somehow, we turn the problem on its head, and once a year at least, we look back to count the moments, and for a night we live those moments as they happen, second by second, as best as we can.

Happy New Year, friends.  Being here, writing here, has helped me to live in the moments of my life more often than just once a year.  Thank you for coming along with me, and being a part of it.  All my very best to you, particularly on this incredible night that comes to meet you, wherever you are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

featured

One of my favorite photos of Jimmy with Lena was featured on Design Mom today, and I am super excited and so, so flattered.  This was one of the last times I shot a roll of film on my old SLR, and really, some of my most loved family photos turned up on that roll.  It makes me really happy to see this one highlighted so nicely.  Thank you, Gabrielle!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

present

 I spent the first three weeks of my new, antidepressant-filtered life in hiding.  Knowing the slowly increasing schedule of doses would take time to really kick in.  Knowing I already felt markedly different.  Afraid that "different" wouldn't be good, or right.  Afraid that it wouldn't last.  Afraid of what it meant, or where it would leave me.  I took the part of my brain that spends its time living my life, that is always making decisions, consciously evaluating me - myself, my life, my mood, my responsibilities, my schedule - and tucked it into bed, covers over its head, pillow squished down around its ears.  I slept, I edited months' worth of neglected photos, I watched cheesy movies and then watched them again, I read flimsy novels on my iPhone for hours on end.

I couldn't have quite managed this without spending a couple of those weeks at my parents' home, where my mom, especially, entertained my girls and changed a hundred diapers without complaint.  Truly, I tried to take over and make her rest several times, but Grandma loves her girls, and those girls love Grandma.  And I really, really appreciated the chance to hibernate.

Because I needed it.  When I tried, a couple of times, to come out from under the covers and see what was going on, the view was disorienting.  I wasn't stressed out.  I wasn't SO WEIGHED DOWN by all the things I needed to do.  My waking hours weren't suffocating just because of all the existing that had to be done.  In fact, I didn't really care if I accomplished anything on my previously overwhelming-to-the-point-of-debilitating to-do list.  And I didn't feel like getting up off the sofa was a chore.

Liberating is a good word for it.  Terrifying is another.  I felt untethered, and untethered felt AWESOME.  So awesome, in fact, that for a few days there I had an overwhelming - completely immature, but overwhelming - desire to be completely untethered.  To cut off all responsibility and walk out the door into the world of possibilities that I could finally see was out there, and that I finally had the energy to explore.

The urge was strong, and distracting.

During a brief check-in with my doctor during those days, he said that many people going through this period feel like teenagers again, feeling energy and hope that they didn't remember having since those years.  It's a great description of how I was feeling, except that I felt like a teenager who woke up as a thirty-three-year-old mother of two with work to be done and bills to be paid.

Jarring is another word for it.

I tucked my brain back under the covers after that, and stayed down for another week or so.  The girls and I came home, and I began to peck away at my to-do list without thinking about it too much.  This time, the list didn't feel insurmountable.  It didn't even look all that difficult.  I knocked off jobs and tasks, I finished up projects, and I even somehow did it all while keeping the house clean and the laundry done.  We decorated the house for Christmas, sent off the Christmas cards, and finished up our Christmas shopping.  I visited my therapist, and told her everything good, everything scary, and everything mysterious.  She nodded her head, congratulated me, talked me through it, took me seriously, encouraged me, and gave me a hug.


That was last Friday.  And honestly, even though things have been pretty good for the last couple of weeks, I think I was still hiding then.  But on Friday I visited my therapist.  Friday was Lena's last day of preschool before winter break, and Jimmy's last day of work before hiatus.  I sent off the last files of my illustration project on Friday, the last big, urgent item on my list.  And as we walked out the door that evening and drove to Lena's preschool holiday program, I could feel myself unwinding - really unwinding - like springs had been tightly bound up inside every inch of my body for years and years - and they were uncoiling and relaxing and almost audibly releasing and then opening, softening, turning into something less like rusty metal and more akin to velvet.

I enjoyed myself at the program that night more than I've enjoyed myself at a group event in I don't know how long.  I couldn't stop smiling.  We went out to eat afterwards at a favorite diner, and took the long way home to look at Christmas lights and listen to Christmas music.  And Lena's ridiculously earnest joy at every new house's display felt like a mirror of my own joy, because I was there, I was really there and present, making memories with my family, and loving every second of it.

So this is where I am, today.  It's a new world for me, and I'm still sticking to my decision to take things slow, and see where it all goes, keeping expectations at a minimum.  But every day that comes finds me feeling less apprehensive, and more hopeful, and best of all - content.  Present.  And if everything that has come before has existed only to make me appreciate the chance to be present with my family, I'm going to have to say that it was worth it.  I feel flat-out lucky as hell.

Friday, December 16, 2011

don't forget the hot chocolate-ing

Hello, friends. I've been thinking about this space all week, and there's much that I want to share with you, particularly regarding how I'm doing now that I've been taking antidepressants for five weeks, now. But I've been busy wrapping up that illustration project (32 pieces of art in all, and my hand is killing me), and now that I've just sent off the last of the files - YAY - I've got to run off to Lena's preschool holiday program tonight. I can't wait. Preschoolers are ridiculously cute when piled together and told to sing for their parents.

Anyway, as of tonight, we are officially on Christmas break for two glorious weeks. Jimmy will be on hiatus, too, and I have sleeping, baking, wrapping, sleeping, Christmas movie watching, visiting Santa, going to church, and sleeping on the agenda. And writing. You've been so supportive of me this year, and I owe you an update.

In short, though: life is good. How are you?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tangerine Tango

Happy Friday, friends! So, I'm not a design blogger by any means, but the Pantone color of 2012 was just released, and I was surprised to see that it's a color we've already been incorporating touches of slowly into our kitchen. Normally I tend toward pale, cool colors - blues, greens, and grays - but I wanted to brighten up our kitchen, and began collecting these prints over the last year. One of them is not mine, yet, but I think it would work well with the group if I can find the wall space:


1. dear pumpernickel, orange grey bird
2. mincing mockingbird, He Thinks My Sudden and Terrifying Mood Swings Are Kinda Cute (not currently in stock, it seems.)
3. funnel cloud, zinnia lino print in aqua
4. samantha french, coming up for air
5. drkennedyjones, afterthought

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas wishlist 2011

Alright, Mom, this one is for you.

We're trying to keep it simple for Christmas around here, so I only asked Jimmy for one of two things as my gift this year. And I will be perfectly happy with that one gift, and nothing else. In fact, I had to think hard to pull this list together. But someone whom I like to describe as "incorrigible" keeps asking me for more ideas. And in any case, I thought it would be fun post my first collage. So without further ado, my Christmas wishlist:


1. West Elm mercury glass vases - because I am SO on the mercury glass bandwagon.
2. EyePoetryPhotography Tuscany print - I'm a sucker for anything in this shop, and already own several prints. Her work makes me wish we had more wall space. I know this is a photograph of Tuscany, but it also reminds me of the drive we take up north when we visit Jimmy's family on the central coast of California, and I love that drive.
3. West Elm serving platter - I have such an affinity for bowls that it turns out we're short on platters. This one is so lovely. Who's coming for dinner?
4. Lillypie Accessories ruffle ribbon flower necklace - this one is Michelle's fault, for sporting a cute cute t-shirt with flowers on it that I mistook for a necklace. I'm not complaining, though - it's too pretty!
5. Ugg Caspia boots in black leather - this right here is one of the two gifts that I asked Jimmy for. The California central coast taught me to love wearing Uggs, but they never look right on me. And then look here at the CUTE Uggs! Who knew?
6. Emma Stine Seraphine necklace - this necklace was featured in Real Simple, which is where I saw it, as did the rest of the world. I shouldn't probably post it here because it's completely sold out and discontinued, but, well, it's so pretty....I guess I'd like something like this. Do you think that's possible?
7. Harry Potter paperback boxed set - I've read them all, of course, but somehow don't own them. And they're on sale! Seriously, I'd love to have these.
8. Envirosax set in Bloom - indispensable, and pretty. We've been giving these as gifts for years, but don't have any ourselves.
9. Chungking Express on Blu-Ray - one of my favorite movies. I used to own a copy on DVD, but loaned it to a friend, who loaned it to a friend, and then moved...
10. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Kindle edition - Yes, I AM the last person to read this book. I usually avoid popular fiction, but the trailer for the movie looks great, and I've recently developed a habit of reading light pop fiction on my iPhone. Is this light pop fiction? Yes? No? Well, it's better than the usual Angry Birds addiction, right?
11. Buechner, Listening to Your Life, paperback - "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." I'm almost embarrassed to say that I don't currently own any of Buechner's books, so suffice to say that any one of them would be greedily accepted on my part.
12. White Christmas on Blu-Ray - one of my favorite Christmas movies! Every year I tell myself I should buy it, but I never do. And clearly, I neeed it. How else will I teach my girls to sing "Sisters"? Don't answer that.

Friday, December 2, 2011

home

The girls and I are flying back to Los Angeles tomorrow. We've had such a good visit, and we all hate to leave. Part of my soul is intertwined with the landscape here in ways that are hard to describe - something about the sky, the trees, the birds, the weather... And of course, most of my family is here, and it hardly needs to be said that a piece of my heart lives with them no matter where they are. But I miss Jimmy, and I miss our city. I'm ready to be back, to celebrate Christmas in our own nest for the first time, and to face the new year. So many possibilities ahead for us, I think. I'm ready.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November


The girls and I are still in St. Louis with my parents, hanging out in front of the fireplace, drinking "warm hot chocolate" (according to Lena), and vegging. I'm working desperately to use the time to catch up on months of unfiled, unedited photos, and emails, and newsletters, and phonecalls. I need to work, to get some more illustrations done, to write our Christmas letter. But mostly I've been drinking too much coffee and reading some embarrassingly light novels. It's been awfully nice.

I don't believe, when I was growing up here, that I really appreciated November in Missouri. It is so cold, and the trees are almost completely bare, only a few brown or golden leaves left on two or three varieties of trees that I wish I knew the names of (although I'm sure the oak trees are partly to blame - I remember the tall oak in our old front yard used to hang on to matte-brown leaves until the snow was thawing in the spring).

There isn't any snow to warrant the cold, really, in my opinion. But I miss those deciduous trees so much, now, that even in November I find them fascinatingly beautiful. I tried to get some photos today, but had to settle for shooting through the window of a moving car. Maybe tomorrow I'll get the shot I want: golden fields cradled by perfectly curved hills, the hills rimmed with the dark misty gray lace of thick barren trees against a silver white sky. I can't imagine I'll do them justice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I know there are a few of you reading out there who don't celebrate this American holiday, but I still wish you all a wonderful day, hopefully spent with loved ones, and maybe with a moment taken to reflect on the good in your life.
We've had a year dotted with several very difficult and unpredicted events in our family, but I think there is still a way to respect the gravity and the tragedy in those events while also finding so much to be grateful for. I know for myself, I am hoping to end this year stronger than I've ever been before - something that never would have been possible without acknowledging my own frailties.

But also, who am I kidding? I'm about to spend a lovely Thanksgiving with my family in the gorgeous rolling tree-covered hills outside of St. Louis. My mom is going to work her Southern home-style magic on a turkey that might be bigger than my 19-month-old, and I've already got dibs on a slice of pumpkin pie, a slice of pecan pie, and an entire tray of dressing. We are missing a few family members - Jimmy included, unfortunately - but it is looking to be a lovely day for us.



And even if it wasn't, I still have this:






















and I will never quit thanking God for that.

(and for you - I am so thankful for you, too.)


Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

- melanie

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

keep you right

I decided it wasn't fair, telling you about speeding on the 10 towards downtown Los Angeles with the windows down and the volume up, and all that, without sharing what I was listening to at the time.

Blind Pilot's album "3 Rounds and a Sound" has become sort of the sleeper hit on my playlist over the last couple of years, and (at last!) their new followup release "We Are the Tide" has not disappointed me in the least. I'm particularly in love with this song, enough so that Lena, at a whopping four years old, makes pointed remarks about how many times we've listened to it in the car, now. She fails to recall that day at Disneyland when we rode It's a Small World three times in a row. But I remember. And this cannot possibly be considered fair punishment.

Blind Pilot, Keep You Right:



(in full disclosure, i secretly adore It's a Small World. but i'm pretty sure three trips in a row is enough to make anyone insane. there's probably even scientific proof. somebody check wikipedia.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

slowly

Just after noon, just last Thursday, I walked out of the back of a Westwood office building and out to my sun-warmed car hoping, more than usual, to keep my pace smooth, regular, unnoticeable. The small, folded, white square of paper tucked into my muted bronze-colored tote bag, shuffling around inside with a mess of other, larger papers - glowing lab reports and boring insurance receipts - felt like it would float up and out of the bag all on its own, glowing, growing, spreading out and calling to the strange group of international tourists bunched up outside by the parking lot, waiting for nothing I could discern except maybe to gawk at me and my new prescription.

My bag had felt so silly and light when I walked into the building. No diapers, no baby wipes, no bottles or sippies. I wondered if I would ever get used to traveling so light, when that becomes a regular routine. But of course when I left the building, my mostly empty bag felt so very, obviously, full. To capacity.

I climbed into the car and texted Jimmy, needing to coordinate picking up Lena, relieving Evie's babysitter, swinging by the pharmacy. Before I hit the 405 South I was giving him a quick recap of my visit. By the time I made it to the 10 East it was just me, my playlist, and an unbelievably clear path all the way to downtown. Nothing in my way, now, and nothing to slow me down. I turned up the volume. I cracked the windows. I wondered at the feeling.

Believe me, I know, I am SO aware, that I am not the first person on the planet to begin antidepressants. In fact, since I've been blogging about my experience here, it's been made painfully clear to me just how many people have done this. Have had to do this.

But I am not anyone else. I'm only me, and this is new for me. This is something I've known could be a possibility for me for, goodness, seventeen years? But I put it off, I tried to fix my problems any other way. And clearly, no matter where I've lived, what I've weighed, what I've eaten or given up, how much I've exercised, prayed, meditated, organized, gone to church, avoided church, worked, not worked, been single, been happily married, had beautiful children, vacationed, stayed at home, spent money, saved money, gone to yoga, had acupuncture, laughed, cried, yelled, or thought - thought and thought and thought about what it was and how to make it go away until I began to think my skull was made of thick brick walls on the inside. None of it has worked.

As I sped freely toward the tall glinting buildings downtown, I tried to pinpoint how I was feeling. And I think I got it. I felt like I'd been living on a cold, wet, black and craggy outcropping of rock, somewhere far from shore in an icy steel-colored sea, but not so far that I hadn't been able to watch the sun sparkling on the tops of green trees blowing gently on the mainland. And I felt like, after all these years, someone had finally floated by me on a little wooden rowboat, and said, "Hop in."

It didn't look one-hundred percent trustworthy, that boat. But I was sure as hell tired of trying to swim. Tired of being cold. Tired of being alone, and primarily, tired of being so completely and utterly stuck.

I made it to the snarl of intersecting freeways downtown and headed south on the 110, needing to navigate more traffic, now, and no longer able to see the neverending Los Angeles sprawl now that I was in the literal gray concrete canyon that is that stretch of 110. I held my breath, and thought about jumping into the rowboat. I hoped it could carry my weight.

By the time I'd picked up Lena from the old factory building where she had been working, (that story will come later. maybe.) and continued down the 110, circling across the 105 West and back to the 405 North, heading home now, I was feeling a bit less melodramatic. Less melodramatic, but equally as tentative.

So, on Friday morning, I marked 11/11/11 by taking my first antidepressant. Just a quarter of a tiny tablet, sticking to a slow scheduled building pace, just to be sure that all stays well. I think the crumb of white powder I swallowed must have been the tiniest portion possible - about the size of a grain of sea salt. Unbelievable that we could break a tiny pill into such tiny portions. I wasn't even positive that I had swallowed it - it could have dropped to the floor and I would not have been able to hear it, and I certainly couldn't even feel it going down.

I felt it later.

I felt it later when Lena asked me to get her a chocolate milk, for the hundredth time, after I had just settled onto the sofa to do something or other - maybe to check my email. She asked, and before I could think to chide her, to put her off, to let out the usual exasperated sigh, I found that I was up and moving to the kitchen to fix my four-year-old a chocolate milk.

I felt it later when Jimmy said he might have to work the weekend, and I didn't feel like my planet had been hit by a meteor, exploding it on impact into thousands of unmanageable, uncontainable, hurtling shards. My planet stayed intact, and kept on spinning.

And I felt it later when I caught myself in the mirror, and did a double-take. With all honesty, I did not recognize my reflection. And with total, completely unsophisticated sincerity, I sent this text to Jimmy:

I cannot tell you what a monumental relief it is to look in the mirror and not hate myself. I think the drug might be working.


To which he responded, Oh honey!

I hope he doesn't feel too bad. I didn't realize it had been so awful, either.


So.

So....

This is where I am.


To use my analogy, again, I would say that I'm in the rowboat, being rowed to shore. And maybe I'm laying flat in the rowboat, or close to it. Maybe I'm hiding under a thick scratchy wool blanket, hoping the icy waves don't lap over the side and find me there, not on my rock where I should be. Maybe I am occasionally peeking over the side, unable to stop myself from calculating just how much distance we've gained toward the shore, just how much clearer I can see the sun breaking through there. And then I promptly tuck back in under the blanket, rocking gently in the boat. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to sleep; be patient. I'm not entirely sure when we will get there, or what we will find, or how I will look or be or feel when we do. But I do think we're making progress.


slowly.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I would also like to thank pumpkin bread and coffee, without whom I could not have written this post.

I am doing much better today. Thank goodness for Jimmy, who did everything he could to be available for me as much as possible over the last week, despite being in the middle of dailies at work. Thank goodness for my mom, who also called to check up on me several times and basically willed her love and support to be physically present with me despite the distance between us. And thank goodness for you, my dear friends and family who have sent me notes of encouragement over the last days, weeks, and even months. I just can't stress how much this has all meant to me. And it's made me believe that I've done the right thing in deciding to write about my depression here, because let me tell you, I agonized over that choice.

And I am doing much better today. We were busy again this weekend, of course, but I was able to get some work done, particularly on the illustration job I took a month or two ago. I'm not sure if I'm cleared to say what the project is, but the sketch you see here is just a sample of my contribution. This project is headed up by friends of mine, who offered very kindly to let me back out after reading my last few blog entries, but also very astutely noted that creative outlet can be a welcome relief for people in my position. And that has turned out to be exactly the case. I am enjoying the work so very much, and am planning to see it through. So thanks to them, too, for the opportunity.

I think, too, that the supplements must be helping. It's hard to tell, but I feel much calmer now than I did last week. I guess I'm just afraid to believe anything is really working, because it's scary as hell to be in charge of the lives and hearts of two little girls all day while you can barely manage to stay up and out of bed, and instead wind up practically hiding from them from breakfast through dinnertime so they won't see how much you've been crying, over nothing, and because you know that seeing their sweet little faces will make you have to sit down and cry all over again.

Last week was awful. But I feel so much better today. And I plan to feel even better tomorrow. And I plan to come here to talk about something else soon - something lovely, or funny, or happy - and not have to mention my ridiculous addled brain chemistry. Because people pull through this, yes? And I absolutely plan to be one of them.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

after

Since coming home from our trip to St. Louis for my nephew's memorial, we've been running in a million different directions. In less than three weeks we've had Jimmy's mom to visit, and then my mom. Lena turned four and we threw her a little party at home and a big party at the park. I tried (and am still trying) to catch up on a freelance job, an illustration project, and an online class, all of which I signed up for just before everything fell apart in St. Louis. And our new family....project? Or, let's call it an adventure. Well, it suddenly took off just in the last two weeks, going from nada, to frenzy, to wild success! to scratch-that-you-are-at-least-temporarily-rejected-for-no-apparent-reason-try-again-later. (So that was fun.) Then there was Back to School Night at the preschool, Lena's twin friends' birthday party, and a lovely afternoon at the Ocean Park beach playground with my mom and my girls.

In the middle of all this, I finally, FINALLY, got in to see my new psychiatrist, an event which had me angst-ridden all on its own, and unfortunately the only date it would work was Lena's birthday. But it went well, I suppose, and after a very long meeting we agreed to try a specific supplement route before resorting to medication and also to run a new round of what turned out to be quite a lot of bloodwork, and then see where we are in about a month.

I can't tell you how strange it is to take fifteen years to decide that pills would be an acceptable solution, finally get in to make that happen, and then walk out of the office without them.

We'll see how this works out. Because after all the chaos of the last month, after my mom went home on Tuesday, after I finally sent out a revised PowerPoint and made a few more drawings for my freelance work, after I finally checked in to my online class already in progress, after our little family adventure fell apart (not necessarily permanently, but still it fell apart), after the house was cleaned up and put back together, after I had a moment to sit down and be still, I absolutely crashed. Again. And hard. Again.

And that was yesterday. To be perfectly honest, I'm doing better today, but I am not doing well. This is an untenable situation, if not just for me, for my family. One encouraging thing was that this morning my supplements arrived, much to my elation, but about a half an hour after taking the first handful I felt like throwing up. I don't know if they are going to be the solution, but I am trying to keep reminding myself that I am working on a solution, and that I have an excellent doctor and an even more excellent support system to help. I keep reminding myself.

I don't write this here to worry anyone. In fact I really WANT to write a much lighter post here, and soon. But the fact of the matter is that this where I am right now, and I am trying to change it, but change is coming slowly. So please, just bear with me. And thank you, again, for all of the encouragement. I cling to it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cole

My nephew passed away a week and a half ago, on a Friday evening, in St. Louis. He was 4 1/2 months old. His mama and his daddy held him while he settled into peace at last, and all of his grandparents were in the room. He was, and is, incredibly loved.

I flew out to be with them that Sunday, my girls in tow. We all had 4 1/2 months to get used to the idea that baby Cole would be leaving us, but that didn't make anything easy. I think I was doing alright, though, until the visitation. We arrived early, as family does, and waited in the next room until Eric and Jennifer were ready to come out and let us in. When they did, I gave Jennifer a hug, and then behind her I saw Eric. And I don't believe I'll ever forget seeing my big brother standing there, still, perfectly pressed in a suit jacket and tie, looking like I usually would see him before something like a holiday, or a wedding, except the look on his face was somehow the exact look of a father who is at the funeral home for his son, his only child, just a little baby who looks like he is sleeping in the next room, but isn't.

All I wanted in the whole wide world at that moment was to be back in our old family room, sprawled out on the floor with our Legos, building spaceships, fighting over pieces, me trying desperately to make something even half as cool as he could - my brother the future engineer - and probably annoying the heck out of him in the process. I just couldn't believe that we weren't there, surrounded by a sea of tiny bright plastic colors, but were here instead, getting ready to receive guests at little Cole's visitation.

Part of me always knew I would have a nephew named Cole. Cole is a family name for us. It was our grandfather's name, the one Eric and I never met, whom my brother Mark only knew as a baby, but about whom we always heard such wonderful stories. My grandfather died from an accident while my mom was expecting Eric, I believe, and Cole became Eric's middle name. My dad's brother's name was Cole, too, and he was certainly a favorite uncle. Any time he called the house and I answered the phone he would make a point to talk to me for a few minutes, asking me how I was, always telling me a joke or two, before asking to speak with my parents. And we lost him too young, as well, from pancreatic cancer when I was in college.

Both times I was pregnant with our girls, before I would find out I was expecting a girl, I remember making a conscious note that as much as I loved the name Cole for a boy, I really shouldn't use it in case Eric would want to use it one day.

And I just can't believe that my nephew Cole finally came, only to leave so quickly. I wanted to get to know him, and I wanted so much to see him growing up with Eric as his daddy. I wanted to see them playing Legos on their family room floor.

We are heartbroken that Cole is gone. Relieved for him in some ways, that his troubles are over, and his little body doesn't have to work so hard. And so happy that he was able to spend two months at home, being loved on and cared for and cuddled by his parents, his parents who were nothing short of amazing during this entire experience. But still we are heartbroken that he is gone. I am heartbroken.


Thank you, friends, to each and every one of you who extended thoughts, prayers, and love to our family. I said it before on facebook, but I want to say it again here because I mean it: every bit of love you sent meant the world.

And I hope and pray that one day, when we ourselves pass through the veil, we will get to know Cole. Until then, I believe that he is in the arms of a loving God, peaceful, and so happy that he was able to spend even a little time with his mama and daddy, who love him so.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

because if you asked me in person, i would tell you. or i wouldn't, but in that case it just seems all the more important.

Last Friday was our first day officially off the Whole30 diet, and I had plans. PLANS. Blueberry oatmeal for breakfast (plus flax!). PB&J on homemade wheat bread for lunch. In the evening I attended a booksigning, and they had snacks! Yogurt-dipped pretzels! Barely-sweetened lemonade! And I might have stolen a chocolate cupcake for later. When I came home, Jimmy had made a cashew-crusted chicken for dinner, some vegetable or other, and we each had a glass of white wine.

Saturday morning, I felt pretty physically yuck. I didn't sleep as well after the wine, and the sugar had me feeling hungover. I was short-tempered with the girls. We somehow managed to herd everyone out the door for an appointment, and I want to say we had eggs for breakfast? But after the appointment we headed over to Umami Burger, the (arguably) best new burger joint in LA, which is, if you didn't know, a town with an unusually intense fixation on burgers. I've been wanting to go for at least a year, and it was absolutely worth the wait. I'm not sure it was worth the price tag, the lack of included accoutrement, or the almost invisible service, but oh, that burger was YUM.

We promptly went home, put the baby down for a nap, let Lena watch a movie, and collapsed into unavoidable, almost uncontrollable food comas. My body was in full shut-down mode, and after napping I think we spent the rest of the evening taking it easy around the house. I don't even remember what we had for dinner, but if I know my husband, it was probably leftover chicken and salad.

Sunday. I was irritable again. I don't remember what was for breakfast, but I do remember having a terrible time getting everybody out the door for church, and I remember being almost incapable of dealing with all the toddler whining that came from the backseat on the way there. I could barely stay awake during the sermon, which I thought was otherwise unusually good, and beelined for the after-service coffee much faster than I usually do. We treated ourselves to brunch out, because I'd planned for it for so long! But Jimmy, who had learned his lesson by now, ordered something healthy. I desperately wanted that pain perdu, but in trying to be good opted instead for the ham/cheese/potato omelet and a chocolate croissant. And a latte. I KNOW. But there were eggs! And I had FRUIT instead of the potatoes au gratin!

I know.

I continued to be grumpy. And began to be bummed out, because I didn't think I deserved to be so grumpy.

We had a lovely dinner that night over at Jimmy's sister's home, and while it didn't exactly meet all paleo guidelines, it was delicious, and balanced, and plenty healthy. I drank two glasses of wine, mostly trying to enjoy myself and to take the edge off the grumpy. For dessert, Jimmy and I split a s'mores-flavored gelato sandwich, which was so delicious we both agreed we could have forgone every other cheat we'd had that weekend in exchange for that half-a-sandwich. Lesson learned.

That's the weekend laundry list. And I've written it all down here because it was so important to Monday. Monday, when we went back to routine, and went back to paleo, and I went back to my workout. Monday, when I went back on my homeopathic meds. And Monday, when none of it mattered. On Monday I did my best to power through and do everything right, to fight off the growing, paralyzing fear I felt that I was losing control again. That I wasn't just grumpy and irritable, but I was also fending off feelings again of being inadequate and incompetent, that I failed at everything and everything I tried to do or be was dumb. And I was trying not to lose control just because I was afraid I could be losing control. But it was undeniable, and on Monday I felt like I was drowning.

On Tuesday, I woke up hoping to be back on my feet, because on Monday I had been so good. But on Tuesday I still had that sensation of drowning, only on Tuesday I realized I'd also completely lost sight of shore. The benefit, I suppose, of being on the paleo diet for the previous month, and maybe also that little bit the day before, was that I could see what was happening to me with much more clarity this time. I could see that I had somehow, almost out of nowhere, plummeted back to the bottom of depression. It was a sneak attack, and it was terrifying. I could also see that this was probably much bigger, overall, than how much sugar I ate. That plunging into the depths just because I had a free weekend was probably not the safest gamble to live with. I knew - I know - that I am not at all in any control of how this monster makes me feel, and just because I can muddle through the bad days now does not mean I will be able to next time. That I can't take that risk when I have girls to be present for, to hopefully even be a model for.

I spent half of the day crying for no reason at all, and the other half trying not to. And of course, my therapist is on vacation.

Jimmy was able to be home yesterday, and that man is a Godsend in my life, literally. Without his support, encouragement, love, advice, and - let's face it - his sense of humor, I don't know where I'd be. Today I am back on the upswing, but it isn't easy. It is work, and I am petrified that a day could come when I am too tired to do the work.

Clearly, I need to spend some time with a professional, but I'm pretty sure that this is me on the road to antidepressants, at last. What about the diet, you say? Yes, it helped, SO MUCH. But even on my best day on the diet, I'm pretty sure I was still just okay. I have no way of really knowing, though. Depression is something I've been battling since high school, if not my whole life, which means I have no "normal" personal experience to relate to. My guess is that my cycle of moods - my highs and lows - are just generally set much lower on the chart than everyone else's are. My best days are the days when I am simply too distracted to be down, or when I just feel even. There are indeed times when I am truly elated, but they are rare, and seem to be always followed by a crash. And my crashes are hard to recover from.

So, we will see where this goes. I am almost as terrified of taking antidepressants as I am of depression itself. I've read up on the possible side-effects and I know I could possibly be taking them for the rest of my life. And frankly, I have no idea what I SHOULD be feeling like, not to mention how antidepressants COULD make me feel. But every time I look at the little checklists that begin with "Are You Depressed?", and I check off every single symptom, I know it's the right time for me to try something different. Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with a husband who supports me. I hope you will, too.

Goodness knows, I need it.


Friday, August 26, 2011

seven things

It's funny to me that last week we had a million things planned, so I came here to say I probably wouldn't be posting, and then managed to post several times anyway. But this week, when I thought I'd be back on schedule, I've been so unexpectedly busy that here it is Friday and I haven't been around at all.

Oh well. But it has been a pretty good week. Just exhausting, that's all.

And I don't have much time to write today, either. Of course! So I'm going to give you a quick update instead by listing seven things, all about my week. Seven things, because one of my favorite bloggers, Mary, over at Finding Magnolia, is passing along a seven things theme, and here I am volunteering to be tagged.


1. Yesterday marked 30 days since I began the Whole30 diet cleanse. I have to admit up front that I did end up cheating on the diet much more than I should have, a couple of times for great reasons, and a couple of times for no reason. However, I do consider it a success, as today is my first day off and I've yet to eat an entire box of cookies. Also, I lost ten pounds, and it wasn't difficult. I think it really helped my sugar addiction, and I think my itchy skin issues are coming from wheat or gluten, though I'm not sure which. Jimmy (he lost about a million pounds) and I are planning to eat this way - for the most part - indefinitely. But I might try to do the full cleanse again sometime. Probably next spring.

(Did I mention I lost ten pounds?? And dropped a full size in all of my clothing. To say I'm thrilled is an understatement.)


2. My mood, also, has been greatly improved since I began Whole30. I know exercising has also helped, because the last two weeks have been hectic and I haven't had my workouts, and I can feel a difference in my brain. That said, I still find that I'm unable to make a decision regarding antidepressants. It might sound silly, but I simply don't know what a "normal" person's baseline is supposed to be. Do you wake up smiling? Are you always optimistic? I think my natural baseline is just generally low, and can't decide if that's worth going on prescription medication, or not. Now that the Whole30 is finished, I'm going to try my natural remedies again, and see how I do.


3. My sweet mom's birthday was yesterday, and I miss her. We sent her this as her gift this year. It's her favorite movie (she's from Atlanta), and it's maybe just a little bit possible that I was named after one of the characters. Or a lot possible. So possible that I might have written the actress when I was maybe fourteen, and received a lovely letter and autographed photo from her which I kept in a frame for eons. And I think it's sort of funny that now I live in the same town where they made the film. Not that *I'm* obsessed! But I do love it because my mama loves it. Hope you had a wonderful birthday, Mom! I love you!


4. Lena's fourth birthday is coming up! Alright, it's in October. Early October, though, so I need to start planning now. This week I reserved a pavilion at our favorite neighborhood playground/park, so all I can think about is what to do with twenty-ish four-year-olds. Lena is still hoping that we'll go to Disneyland, too, around her birthday (a tradition for us), so I'm trying to figure out how to do a party on the CHEAP. I've begun a Pinterest board for inspiration, but it's mostly just colors and decor, for now. I'm thinking the theme will be art. She loves to draw and paint and will spend hours doing so. So I have ideas for covering the tables in craft paper and crayons, giving little art supplies as favors, and having a little kid-friendly photo booth setup, with fun masks and hats and things. I need more ideas for games, though. And I'm desperate for an idea for cheap eats that isn't pizza. Although, pizza is sooo easy...


5. I have been thinking about doing a series of posts about our little home, here, complete with photos. And whenever I think that, I think maybe I should hire a maid, first, and then I see all the little things I want to fix, too. But I might just do it anyway. It's more real when it's covered in toys and sippy cups, yes? Just say yes.


6. One of the reasons I've been so unexpectedly busy this week is because we decided to let Lena begin a new hobby, and it already looks like a very big and time-consuming hobby. I'm not willing to say more about it right now. Maybe next week. Maybe not. Still feeling very tentative about the whole thing. (And also excited.)


7. Speaking of excited, I am THRILLED to be attending Holly Becker's book signing tonight! And I am even somehow magically on the list for her Inspiration Board Tutorial beforehand, which I thought was impossible because I was out of town when the event became available for RSVP. No complaints, though. Yesterday I threw together a little gift for her. I hope that's not strange, or too forward, but I want to connect who I am online with who I am in person. Also, it really isn't much. I'm hoping, too, to meet some other nice folks from the area while I'm there. Plus, who doesn't want to hang out at Anthropologie for the evening? I can't wait!


So, those are my seven things. I don't think I quite managed the quick post I intended... Maybe it makes up for my absence all week? I'd love to tag some folks to see your seven things, as well, but I honestly don't even know who's reading this. So, please, if you want, consider yourself tagged. And if you make a Seven Things post, let me know, and I'll post your link!

Happy weekend!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Morro Bay

I know, I know. It's another Hipstamatic shot. What can I say? I am very sorry, though, that it isn't better. I took several photos when I shot this, and wasn't fully satisfied with any of them, and now the opportunity to capture what I felt there is gone.

This is a photo of one of the hundreds of calla lilies growing rampant behind my husband's family's home in Morro Bay. Or rather, their former home. As soon as Jimmy wrapped up his work season last May, we packed up the girls and made the 3 1/2 hour drive (without stopping, but remember, we have toddlers, so make that more like a 5 hour drive) north up the coast to the little lazy beachside town. I say "lazy" because on top of the pace being shockingly (and wonderfully) slower than our normal pace in Los Angeles, something in the air up there always makes us feel lazy, as though there really is nothing more important in the whole world than finishing the crossword puzzle before noon and making sure we've bought enough wine for dinner.

We love our visits up there. My in-laws are a fun -okay, wonderfully crazy- bunch, and they adore having the kids around (more than having us around, as we are often told), and I know I always feel a huge relief getting out of the city for a bit and into a town that can't even be bothered to put up stop signs in most intersections. Okay, the stop sign thing makes me crazy. But you get the idea.

Well, this was our last visit to that home. Jimmy's dear Grammie passed away early last year, and this year the situation was such that his Grampa needed to move into assisted living, so his mom, who had been devoting all of her time to taking care of them, moved on to be with her granddaughters in Sacramento.

It felt sort of like losing home base for that family, I think. Although probably nothing felt more like that than losing his Grammie. This certainly put on a finishing touch, though.

We will still be visiting up there as much as we can, to see Grampa and also Jimmy's aunt and cousin, but we know it will be different. We're not sure that we will ever have the same family gatherings there that we used to. Our dream has always been to have a vacation home in that town or the next, and although that feels pretty ridiculously unattainable right now, we're still dreaming of it. Maybe one day. And it will be covered in calla lilies.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 23

Today is day 23 of my foray into Whole30, and I must have hit the ten-pound mark because all of a sudden almost none of my pants fit anymore. Granted, I'm failing miserably on the NO CHEATING UNLESS YOU FALL FACE FIRST INTO A BOX OF DONUTS guideline of the diet. Look, I chose sushi for my unusual chance at a night out with old friends this week, and had no idea that the particular restaurant selected would be offering a happy-hour-only menu of rice-laden hand rolls and tempura (and 99 cent beers! 99 cents! Beer!!). It was eat sushi and have a good time, or sit there and drink water. And really? I cheated with sushi? COME ON. Also, I drank water. I feel I should get some credit for that.

But I'm working hard to stick as close to the diet as I can, and it feels great, and I feel great. So, today I found myself rooting through my drawers in search of pants that fit (old jeans: yes; cropped pants: no!), which then devolved into trying on almost everything in my closet. And it was wonderful. My shirts and blouses fit so well, now, and they look nice again. I finally remembered why I bought them all in the first place. I also collected a nice trash bag full of larger items that I won't be needing anymore, and really, that was so encouraging.
I even ran out to Target with Evie for little shopping spree. Hey, I needed pants! Also, Jimmy told me to. You did, Jimmy, right when you were walking out the door this morning. No, really, you did. I'm not lying. You did.

I don't know if it sounds silly to write about all this, but it means more to me than I can probably accurately describe. I feel like I have been trying to lose weight unsuccessfully for so long. Now, I know, there were two pregnancies thrown in there over the last four years. But I was honestly at the place where I just didn't think I could do it at all. And now I feel so much more like me again.

The thought that terrifies me is that I will finish the thirty days and then balloon right back up. Of course, we are planning to continue eating this way, more or less, indefinitely. Maybe forever. It's generally easy enough, and it's difficult to argue with how excellent we both feel. And I am happy with the adjustment as long as I can still keep my date next Saturday morning, 9am, day 32, with a latte and the pain perdu from the French cafe up the street. Seriously, I can almost taste it now. I mean, for heaven's sake, just look at it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

beat

It's only Tuesday night, but this week is already getting away from me, and fast. An old and dear friend of mine visited from Philly yesterday, and we were able to get out for a great sushi dinner with another friend of ours last night. (Somehow it wasn't until we were well into the middle of a ridiculously long line of hand rolls that I realized just how much I missed my old friends.) But I'm not used to that much fun anymore, I guess, because that combined with this morning's scramble of preschool and appointments and getting my friend to the airport had me pretty fried by this afternoon.

We'll be out and about tomorrow, too, so I hope to have a longer post for you on Thursday. I hope. Because our Friday is looking unusually packed, too, so....oh, I can't even think about it, I'm so ridiculously tired. Good night!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Spring in Saint Louis

We were in St. Louis twice last spring on trips so close together that they are sort of blurred together in my mind. But the first visit was happy and relaxed, plenty of time to enjoy spring in the midwest, drinking coffee on the breezy sunporch, watching a storm roll by from the front porch, the girls and I being pampered by my parents. The second trip, though, was difficult. It was rushed, a mess of deep concern and heartache, trying to help and feeling completely helpless in the face of my sweet nephew's hospitalization.

This picture is from the second trip. For me it captures both the fresh, cool feeling of spring in the midwest, and also the sort of happy sweetness that I hope my girls brought to my family. Because I couldn't do much to help out except pick up a few groceries here and there, and really, isn't this much better?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

especially the volume control


My day has been a little more unruly than first expected, as Evie's nap schedule got all wonky and she's also recently decided to be very into playing with anything that is NOT one of her toys, such as bookshelves, photo albums, picture frames hung on the wall four feet off the ground, and stereo equipment. Instead of writing, then, I'm offering you a drawing I made for a friend last month. With all the awful news coming from across the pond this week, England has been on my mind. I spent a little bit of time there in college, and I'd like to wish all my best to them, with my hopes for a quick recovery.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

featured


It's Wednesday, and Wednesdays are our day off around here, or rather, Lena's day off from preschool. So it's more like my day ON, and we have fun things planned. Instead of writing today, then, here is a photo I took on one of our many trips this summer. It's a Hipstamatic shot of Jimmy and Lena at Richardson's Beach in Hilo, Hawaii, where we were visiting my father-in-law. You can see one of the many, many, many Hilo rainstorms rolling in, but of course it was nearly impossible to convince Lena to come out of the water. She had such a ball.

I'm extra proud of this shot because it was included in a first round of picks on a recent Pioneer Woman photography assignment. I didn't win, but I'm still awfully pleased to have made it on her site at all.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

first, let's establish the latest crazy.


I want to tell you where I've been all summer, and I plan to, but first I want to write about what I've been eating. Not because I hope to torture you with a lot of diet blah blah, but because I think I need a little help along the way, and I'm hoping that writing about it will help. Also, Jimmy said I had to. So there's that.

It might be so overdue, but it's only been in the last few weeks that I've felt capable of spending some time getting myself in order. Evie didn't bother to try to sleep through the night at all until she was ten months old, which happened last February. I then spent the next few weeks in a different sort of daze, one that was the result of trying to convince my body that sleep was actually GOOD for it, a surprising task given that I'd spent the previous year in a regular-ol' normal sleep deprived daze. Yes, the previous YEAR. If you can sleep during the last two months of your pregnancy, more power to you. Also, thppppt!

Anyway, in March the girls and I flew to St. Louis to visit my family, because we missed them. Three weeks later my mom flew out to visit us in LA for Evie's first birthday. Three weeks after that, the girls and I rushed back onto a plane for St. Louis in a sprint to see my new nephew. And we commenced traveling every three weeks after that until, oh, two weeks ago. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. There may have been some joking about setting my suitcase on fire by the end of summer. And I may possibly have been not joking. Or maybe just a little bit not joking.

Ugh. Suitcase.

Most of those trips were to visit family (whom we love, and whom we loved to see. Not joking!) So, most of those trips involved an absurd amount of eating. And if it was Jimmy's family, also drinking. (Hey, his family is Italian, so, obviously. Mine is southern/midwestern. We just like to cover everything in margarine.) (Which always tastes so delicious, Mom. Don't get me wrong!)

Needless to say, my body has needed some serious attention.

After working out every day for a whole TWO WEEKS in July. I KNOW! And losing nothing! (Do you hear me, Jillian Michaels??) I may have gotten a little frustrated, which I believe my husband found, well, amusing. But when I thought about it, I realized the last time I'd managed to lose anything was when I'd cut sugar from my diet, a tough but highly successful experiment that might have done me a world a good had we not all come down with a lovely preschool stomach flu virus three weeks later. And oh, boy, do you want to lose some weight? Because Preschool Stomach Flu Virus will totally help you out with that. In no time.

So I decided to cut sugar out again, for a month, to see if that would help, and to see if that would re-wire my seriously sugar-addicted brain. Also, for good measure, I decided to drop alcohol for a month. Because our last trip? Basically a party weekend with Jimmy's family. Also, my regular evening glass of wine had turned into two, which I thought maybe was not the best trend.

Just as I planned to make these changes, I came across the Whole30 diet. It is finslippy's fault, but the timing of when I read her account was a little too, um, timely, and it stuck in my craw. My craw, I said. So, I read up on Whole30 and thought, these people are lunatics. Maybe I should try it! And then I tried to ignore it, but for some reason I couldn't (Did I mention my craw?), so then I enlisted Jimmy to talk me out of it. "I heard about this ridiculous diet. Can you believe it?? They say you can't even cook with olive oil! Crrrrrrraaazy!!!" (A cut to the heart, there - remember he's half Italian? I never saw so much olive oil before I'd met him.) And just like the wry, sarcastic, funny man that my Jimmy is, he joined me in my quest for ridiculing those health nut crackpots and put my mind to rest once and for all by saying, "You should do it! I'll cook!"

Wait, he said what?

Yeah. He's supportive like that. What-ev, I know.

And then we commenced a visit to Whole Foods to stock up on coconut oil, coconut spray, coconut milk, and olives. Oh, and chicken sausage. Who doesn't love a diet that involves chicken sausage?

If you want to know about Whole30, you should look through their website. Essentially, though, it is a no sugar, no alcohol, no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no gluten, no weighing, no cheating lifestyle cleanse. It's a paleo-style diet, which I hear is all the rage, but I had never heard of such a thing when I first looked into it.

I made it the first ten days without cheating, not even a tiny bit. I felt fantastic, had a ton of energy, my chronic itchy skin that I've had since Lena was born almost four years ago disappeared, and I lost four pounds. Also, I no longer woke up in the morning craving an entire pan of brownies, and that is not hyperbole. Why I cheated over the weekend, then, I couldn't really tell you. Maybe something to do with the fact that our only shower and bath currently has no fixtures and looks like it belongs in The Shining, all because I mentioned to the handyman last week that the shower was dripping a bit? It's been a little stressful. But I paid for cheating, because it only made my stomach hurt, and I spent the next two days itching again.

I don't plan to eat 100% paleo-style 100% of the time for the rest of my life, at least, not if I can help it. But I am trying to teach myself a new way to eat, a new way to look at food, and to hopefully get healthy and kick-start my metabolism along the way. I am also hoping it will help me with the recurring mild depression I've dealt with since high school, because otherwise I believe I'm very close to beginning anti-depressants, and I have a feeling if I do that I will never NOT be taking them. But so far, I see definite improvement.

Also, I should make it clear, I am still trying to exercise every day, if I can. I'm trying to make up with you, Jillian, really I am.

So, as the Whole30 plan is very adamantly NO CHEATING, I may add ten days to the end of this run, basically starting my 30 days over again. I haven't really decided, yet. But I'm hoping that blogging about the whole business will help. If you're on the same or similar plan, I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

family time


It's been a while, hasn't it? And although much of my absence is due to a wonderful, crazy, and incredibly tiring summer of too much traveling, that isn't really what interrupted my blogging.

A few days after my last post, my mom called to tell me that my brother and sister-in-law were heading to the hospital to deliver their first baby. It was a bit early, and we were a little concerned, but not terribly. However, the next few days and weeks were just, well, devastating. My nephew was born, but with so many complications that we didn't know how long he would be with us, and truthfully, we still don't. The girls and I hopped on a plane the following week in order to be there, to meet him, and to help (though I'm not sure I was exactly any help, with two toddlers in tow), and we've been traveling somewhere every three weeks ever since.

I think my nephew's unexpectedly fragile state is the hardest thing my family has ever dealt with, although the heaviest burden is, of course, on my brother and his wife. They are amazing, and I pray for joy in their lives, and rest. I only wish I knew better how to help from so far away.

Big, personal life events are not my forte when it comes to blogging. The last two extended blogging breaks I took came after I found out I was pregnant, and I didn't know how to be truthful here without sharing what was really on my mind during the weeks I still hoped to keep the news a secret. I'll have to work on that. I really don't want to take another break for some time.

More about my summer soon, I hope. Because as always, it just feels good to write.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

roses


It's a bit early for Mother's Day, but this little teacup and rose are sitting on my dresser now, and they are a perfect and insistent reminder to me of my mom, who visited us just last week. She loves, loves roses, and she gave me that teacup - her mother's teacup, who passed away last summer.

We've have good periods and bad, just like anyone, I suppose. In the last year or two, though, we've been closer than ever, I think. And I know that much of that is due to a great effort on her part. I know that distance and difference have been especially hard trials for us, and I can't appreciate any more how much she has worked at putting them aside. I value her friendship so greatly. And I want so badly, when my own girls are grown, for them to feel I am there for them, as I know my mother still is for me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

her birthday


I'm not sure if it's normal to spend the week before your baby's first birthday trying not to think about her too much, but I sure did. Over and over again I've said it, but Evie's first year has done nothing but flown by us all with both a speed and grace that has left me at a loss. And oh, Lord, but I love her to bits and pieces, and I could barely get through the day of her little party without falling to bits and pieces myself. So I tried not to think about how big she is already, trying to talk and run, only looking back to let us know how excited she is to round the next corner without us. Outside of the sleep deprivation inherent to babyhood, it's downright cruel to parents that the impossibly soft, impossibly small, insistently snuggling, quiet yawns, teeny toes, and kissy mouth stage has to be over so impossibly, insistently, and absolutely painfully fast.

But we had the best birthday party for her. She wore a pristine white dress and expertly christened it with lasagna and chocolate cake. Her favorite gifts were a dolly, a ball, and the giant balloons picked out by Daddy and Lena. She flirted with everyone and walked like a princess in all that tulle. Perfection.

And the next day, the day of her birthday, was quiet. So quiet and relaxed, with the excitement past, that I was able to savor my gorgeous one-year-old's sleepy warm yumminess as I rocked her down for her nap. We rocked for longer than usual that day, and I thought about the morning she was born, running the whole story through my mind in an effort to hang on to every tiny little memory. Giving birth was, to me, the most incredible experience, each time. I don't expect anything so amazing to ever happen to me again, and I want to hang on to every aspect of it for as long as I can - the excitement, the pain, the sudden belief that the removal of your body below your navel is an excellent idea, and then the realization that you have just given birth to heaven itself (and here is heaven now resting on your chest, her little heart beating fast against your own).

I'm so sad that her babyhood is ending. And of course, I am so, so happy to see her now, smiling and clapping and trying to call me mama. And I realize on these days that joy does not even begin to describe this experience of motherhood.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

nights away from home, and at home


Vacations aren't always what you expect. Last Monday, Jimmy took the girls and I to the airport where we would fly into St. Louis to see my family for almost two weeks while he headed into a tough schedule at work, one that would keep him away from home both late nights and weekends. I didn't have much planned except to relax a little, let the girls hang out with their thrilled-to-pieces grandparents, and enjoy some time on my parents' sun porch with a cup of coffee in hand, enjoying spring in the midwest and their beautiful backyard waterfall.


Our trip has, in some ways, been exactly that. But I was caught off guard when Evie woke up on the first morning before I did and went straight to Grandma. Morning had been our last remaining nursing time, and I knew it was coming to an end, but was completely surprised by the sudden stop. She didn't nurse for the next four days, and I could feel my emotions crashing down on me along with an unexpected surge of hormones as my body adjusted. I tried several times to nurse her just one last time, to have a chance to say goodbye to her babyhood, and she responded to each attempt with absolutely zero interest. I was crushed.

On the fifth morning, though, she woke up at four a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep on her own. So I brought her into my bed, and there she nursed happily and greedily until we were both satisfied, knowing that this was the last time. We finally fell asleep cuddled together, and later when she woke up with the dim morning light, she turned to me and offered this amazing, delighting, absolutely beaming smile that said, "You're here! I am so happy that you're here!"

She knows how to make her mama completely, utterly happy.


All the same, I have found myself both on vacation with my children, and also sort of without them. My mom is amazing with them, and all too happy to wear herself out making them breakfast in the morning, keeping them occupied, fed, and diapered all day, and putting them to bed at night. After ten months of Evie not sleeping through the night, or doing anything close to it, it's hard not to take advantage of the break. So I've been heading to bed late, alone, turning on old episodes of My So-Called Life, feeling the cool spring air breeze in through the open window, listening to the leaves in the tall deciduous trees wave and rustle outside, the occasional distant train crossing the river below, and finally putting on a favorite album to listen to as I fall asleep.

Other than the fact that the favorite album is now Bon Iver, that I'm watching tv on my iPhone, the fact that I'm a thirty-three-year-old married mama of two, this nighttime routine is almost exactly the same as it was when I was in high school. And it feels like a gift, just like that last unexpected time to nurse my Evie. It is a gift I never expected, to have a week or more of nights of uninterrupted sleep, of late mornings, of lying in bed and feeling there is all the time in the world to dream. I feel seventeen. Except this time, instead of dreaming about all the things to come in my life, I am dreaming of all the things that were, too. It's like finding an old piece of myself that I've missed for years, and being able to spend time in it. It is a gift.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesdays

Today is Wednesday, and Wednesdays are a free day for us. Lena does not go to school on Wednesdays, and we've recently dropped her gymnastics class (partially due to money, partially to laziness, and partially due to my not enjoying wrangling a crawler in a waiting area that was usually full of unfriendly mommies. Also: Lena is only three, and the cost/benefit comparison is questionable at best). So we are home today, relaxing, looking for projects and wondering when it will rain.

Our friend Julie picked Lena up from school on Monday, and they stopped for groceries on the way home, where they bought these perfect daffodils. The daffodils were tightly closed until yesterday afternoon when I noticed one beginning to relax, and all evening long they proceeded to bloom so quickly that you could almost see them moving if you paid attention. By this morning every one was open and full, and I believe they are acting as our sunshine on this otherwise dreary day. I think they are lovely.

Now I'm off to see why the baby has been napping for so very long. And if I can just convince Miss Lena to finish her lunch, I think we might try to make the last box of pumpkin bread mix this afternoon, followed by watching an old Batman cartoon on Youtube. Because she asked! (Because she's already interested in the boys at school.) But I am SO THRILLED to see her liking anything that isn't pink or princess or fairy. Thrilled enough that I'm determined not to mind her singing the theme over and over and over. Na na na na na na na na BATMAN!

Sorry....I can never resist sharing a good song...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

a quiet house

Sometimes, occasionally, the house is clean, the baby is napping, and Lena is at preschool. It's cool and bright and breezy outside, and I can feel the warming air on my skin through the screen door. I try to choose carefully what I will do with this moment.

I have never felt more spoiled for time, or more pressed for it, since having children.

Friday, February 25, 2011

conversation


Lena: Mama, I like your shirt!
Me: Oh, honey, thank you!
Me: (realizing I am wearing a plain black turtleneck.) ...um, so you like black?
Lena: No, I like pink.
Me: I know you do. Well, um, thanks for liking my shirt.
Lena: I was just kidding!
Me: Ah.
Lena: And Mama, Daddy was just kidding, too.
Me: Okay...
Lena: And my friend at school was just kidding. And my other friend was just kidding. And my teacher was just kidding.
Me: ...um...
Lena: Mama?
Me: ...yes?
Lena: Mama, we're ALL just kidding.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

warming up


Hello, again.

I want to warn you that I am so unaccustomed to writing, anymore, I've almost forgotten how. My fingers still type easily, but the words come out almost painfully, so completely guarded that I backspace over more than I leave intact. This is a tough re-entry for me, but as I think about writing absolutely every day, and have for months (and months), it has got to be the right thing to do.

But I would like to say this: just in the last few weeks my days have evolved in ways that make me feel so very blessed, as I know I am. Lena is happily in preschool for longer stretches, now, staying later on the days she attends, and Miss Evie is at last on a regular two-nap-a-day schedule, even deigning to sleep all night long on *most* nights. I'm so unused to the regularity and free time that the first few days I literally sat on the couch and fretted all day, not able to accomplish anything. Evie's sudden sleeping through the night was leaving me with a sleep-hangover, and I woke up two days in a row feeling like I was on a Nyquil binge that no amount of black coffee could dissuade. The rest of the days were spent in something between auto-pilot and shut-down modes. Poor Jimmy came home to the same mess of a house he left in the mornings, and no dinner. But I believe things are improving. A bit, anyway. (Hey, I'm here, aren't I?)

Even so, there is still so much I'm trying to fit into the day, and all together it's too much, I know. My friends who have more children than I do, who homeschool and garden and cook and bake and read and write and sew - you are my heroes, and no exaggeration there. I want to read and write, too. And draw and garden and run and finish the baby books and assemble six years' worth of photo albums and learn to speak French... so maybe that last one is too much. But the rest of it is TOTALLY DOABLE and don't you even try to tell me otherwise. Except for the fact that we keep needing groceries and dishes washed and laundry done, bills paid and email caught up, diapers changed and baths given (and toddler kisses and baby cuddles).

So, sticking to a schedule has never been my strong suit.

But I feel luckier every day. Blessed, really, as I said. And I am determined to make the most of these blessings. Or at the very least, to appreciate them as much as is humanly possible; which I have to admit, can't POSSIBLY be enough.

Monday, January 31, 2011

One might think

that maybe I quit writing when I found out I was pregnant again. That maybe the morning sickness combined with the need to keep the news to ourselves for a few weeks, or months, kept me away from the place where I like to spill my heart and thoughts to anyone who will listen. That perhaps being pregnant while trying to keep up with a toddler simply occupied ALL of my time and energy and sent me into a home-bound tempest in a teacup that hasn't seem to let up until just this month, when I've come out of the holidays and into another new year, and in the settling calm seen that we suddenly have a (mostly!) fully-functional family of four, including a vibrant three-year-old and an unbelievably yummy nine-month-old.

Those things might have had something to do with it.

But to be perfectly honest, I haven't been writing because I was told almost a year-and-a-half ago that my writing here was hurtful, offensive, and embarrassing to some people who are (and always will be) closest to me. And I haven't known what to do with that information. I haven't known how to write again. I hope it's needless to say that hearing that was a shock, and I never intended anything remotely of the sort. In fact, when I first began this blog, I thought I was keeping it separate from anyone I knew personally; and when I decided to out myself to friends and family, I deleted all of those archives, just in case. Because although I didn't think I'd done anything wrong, I also hadn't been monitoring myself then. But apparently that wasn't enough, and didn't matter. They didn't like the new writings, either.

(Writing this here, now, probably won't help.)

So it's taken me this long to mull it all over, (and over and over again), and I still haven't decided. What to do? I might not ever come back. I might be back tomorrow. I might move the site. I might....??? No idea.

This is me, taking it slow.

(but I have really missed you.)