Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Bit of Elbow Grease

"I had almost forgotten
How lovely it is.
To be tired and leave
Things to themselves."
Lars Gustafson, translated by John Irons

Recently, my mama went to an estate sale and picked up, for me, the most soothing and delicious book, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. SA is an authentic and soulful work, filled with spiritual and applicable thoughts and advice. I am, when I'm not nervous about it, excited about the paths it takes me down.

This week's topic has been money, and the daily essays are filled with both mentally enriching and practical advice for thinking of, handling and managing money. For the most part, I've absorbed it readily enough. Today however, while trying to sort out bills, I got in a good, heavy funk. Here was a situation with no immediate resolution and I fell into worry, an ineffectual heart-crushing action.

A conversation with my mom helped tremendously, enough to remind me there was a bigger and greater energy in the world than that of bills or the national economy. We hung up, and I felt a little restored, but still unsatisfied. While Dory napped, I rallied enough energy to do two things: scrub my bathtub and talk with God.

These conversations are still so new to me, something I've begun in the last few years. They start abruptly, not kneeling sweetly in front of my bed at night, but in the middle of five o' clock traffic or silently in a chaotic get-together or in a half-sleep in the middle of the night while nursing Dory. They can be anything from "I am so grateful..." to "WHAT is going on..." Today I started with some kind of chemical cleaner with bleach for the tub. In my conversation, I fretted, accused and worried out loud about two weeks from now, two days from now, two hours from now. I didn't get anywhere with either track, so I gave up both of those.

I tried a second, natural cleaner and requests for help. Help in seeing the positive, help in finding the best in the situation, help to not waste anymore of my life in worthless, wasteful worry. Anne Lamott, a particularly brilliant writer on the subject of faith, says her main prayer is "help me, help me, help me, and thank you, thank you, thank you." I stuck with help me.

I gave up on cleaners and moved on to a good solid scrub brush, with a fat handle and thick solid bristles. At some point, in asking for help, I'd grown calm enough and clear enough to ask the question: "What does my life look like, right now, through the eyes of God? What does my Authentic Self, as Breathnach calls it, know about me?" That question, finally, resonated. What does Spirit see? A woman with... great health... a gorgeous, thriving baby... a gorgeous, thriving husband. A woman with loving, thriving parents. A woman with a warm home, running water, electricity. A woman with lovable, though fairly smelly, dogs. A woman with great friends. A woman who loves knitting and fiber. A woman who enjoys walking when she makes the time. A woman with a passion for writing and literature. A woman who likes to laugh and has plenty of reasons to everyday. The grime started to streak and abate; the scuffed white tub underneath began to show through. Both the literal and metaphorical cleaning worked their magic. I threw my back and heart into it, knowing the time before Dory woke up was brief and that, once she was up, I wanted to be present with her.

What did this woman really want? Comfort. I wanted a little comfort, a little serenity and ease in my present moment. I can't know with absolute certainty what will happen in the next few weeks, next week, next day. But this worthless, wasteful worrying- agh! This felt helpless and served no purpose.

Looking at a white bathtub brought me a little comfort. Picking up Dory and cuddling her in my arms brought me more. I decided to seek comforts for the rest of the day. Fresh sheets on the bed. Putting Dory's pumpkin hat on her. Making a good friend's potato soup recipe for dinner. Chatting with Matthew about his day at work. Reading the SA essay for today again. Putting this lovely girl to bed and seeing, as always, how very, very blessed I am.

It wasn't easy and several times, actually many, many, many times I felt that old fear start to creep back up. What about- tomorrow? this person? this event? Each time, I dragged my mind back, back to the present, the here and now. I had everything I needed right now. Today. In this minute. Still my mind wandered, and still I brought it back. I wasn't blissfully, wildly, outrageously happy getting ready for bed. That would have been lovely, but a stretch. I was quiet, thoughtful and grateful.

The most important part of the day? Remembering the second part of the prayer and taking it to bed with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Greetings and Salutations!

Hello, hello, hello! How are y'all on this fine day? I just wanted to follow up on yesterday's post...

What? What was that?

I haven't posted in a week?

My goodness. How embarrassing.

Well, there's good reason. We've had friends in town. You know what that's like. All go, go, go, busy, busy baby.

But life's settled down again and I'm back at the blog! So check back soon!

Now on to more important matters. Mama's specially knit Pumpkin Hat? Shoot me straight. Is it cute or is it cute?

Monday, October 20, 2008

What's On?

Maybe this is something I should be embarrassed to admit, but Before Dory, Matthew and I didn't always eat dinner at the table. He tends to work late and some nights we would chat, while I cooked, and then one of us (him, I'm sure) would casually mention, "Hey football/House/The Office is on..." And the other one (him again, no doubt- though that just doesn't make sense, does it?) would perk up and casually agree, that might be nice just to kick back, be on our comfy sofa, have a few laughs...

Not these days. Something's on, but it's not the inane ramblings of Michael Scott or the caustic witticisms of Greg House. Tonight we sat down to our tacos and turned our attention to the most interesting show I've seen lately...

...Dory attempting to grab the stuffed animal hanging from her Baby Papisan.

I couldn't tell you what kind of creature this fella is- some sort of rabbit/bear hybrid. He hangs over her head, not doing much, just staring, staring, staring in that mocking, slightly spooky way all the animals on these children's seats, swings, and chairs seem to have (or maybe that's just my interpretation). Clearly he's trying to drive her crazy with his just-out-of-reach style. But our girl's got her sights set and any day now she's going to catch him and show him who's boss.

Until that day, she swats, with the force of two tiny, but ever-growing baby arms, in an unsynchronized but totally charming rhythm. And Matthew and I watch. Instead of cheering, "Go, go, go- touchdown!" we now shout (quietly), "Ooo, get him, get him, almost- open your hand- oooohhh. So close."

She's not interested in us. Dory, with the sort of fixed attention demonstrated on the face of Michael Phelps before that eighth swim or Shawn Johnson before she tackled the balance beam, raises her arms, swats... swings... and sometimes- once in a mealtime- catches the tag.

So close.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sweet Dreams

I understand if sleeping is difficult for some right now. There are so many unfortunate events and unpleasant tidings. It seems a cruel twist of Fate, when you need the comfort of deep oblivion the most, its the farthest from your grasp. You crawl into bed at night, rest your head on your pillow, ready to sink into a deep sleep and yet... nothing.

So if a good night's rest eludes you, I encourage you to follow Dory's example and try different positions. You never know what might just work...

(At 8 days old in Grandpa's arms )

(At 3 weeks old on Daddy's chest)

(Almost two months in her quite plush Baby Papisan)

(At 11 weeks in a Moby wrap against Mama's chest)

There is something to be said for sleeping like a baby. Sweet dreams to you all!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Making Other Plans

Before Dory (BD, you might say) I thought the depiction of motherhood in entertainment media was overblown and exaggerated for the sake of exactly what it's called- entertainment. Moms with spit-up in their hair, moms who hadn't showered in days, moms out of clean clothes due to constant wardrobe changes made necessary by a little one who always had something coming out of some orifice.

I know now, they were exaggerating. But not by much.

Today I woke up early for me. By the time Dory, falling slowly back to sleep, had finished her first morning nursing, it was only eight. I thought, with little shivers of excitement, ooo, I can get a jump on my day. We made plans with a new friend and her little one to walk at the park and, for once, it appeared I would have plenty of time to tend to our dogs, feed myself, dress myself, ready a diaper bag. All simple mundane tasks BD, but tasks that now required timing and consideration and careful thought. But not this morning. This morning I was doing it alone, BD-style.

How carefully I moved! One toe at a time, breath held, slipping slyly away. You could almost hear the cartoon-soundtrack playing tiptoe noises. As I made my exit, I risked one glance back, over my shoulder, only to discover two bright blue eyes watching, with great interest, every stealth move I made.

Into the baby backpack went Dory and, strapped belly-to-belly, we proceeded to take the dogs out.

I stood on our front porch, many dog leashes in hand, admiring the foggy gray morning, feeling the breeze on my skin, attempting to guide our four-legged babies in the classic no-leash-tangle tango...

Dory, ever so often, has an interesting feature no one warned us about at the birth center. Matthew refers to it as "Baby Volcano." There is no clear reason for this occurrence, though I expect too much jostling on a full belly to be the villain. As I stood there, I basked in the lovely day, still savoring the knowledge I would have plenty of time to do all I wanted before we left. Then I heard the sound of something wet splattering the ground. I felt the feeling of something wet trickling down my front. And when I looked down, to the little one held closely to my chest, I saw Dory's little face peering back up at me, half-digested milk smeared all over her face, her eyes just as bright and blue as when they caught me sneaking away.

A bath for her just waltzed its way into my plans.

As I took her to our baby bathtub (our kitchen sink) and prepared a spot (a towel, a baby robe, and a baby washcloth), I realized in this moment I had two choices in front of me. One: roll with it. It was done, there was no malicious intent, it was one individual behaving exactly as that individual was supposed to behave. That her behavior interrupted my plans was coincidental at best. So roll with it. Two: be upset. Frustrated with the circumstances, irritated by being thwarted in my plans, angry at the gods for not assisting me in my little request. After all, what I wanted was so simple. To do a few things for me, a few things quietly and smoothly and without interruption.

But that had not happened. And nothing could take it back.

So in this seemingly inconsequential little moment I had a choice. A choice that, in the moment, only had influence on me. Dory wouldn't remember "that time" Mama gave her a bath scowling, the time Mama was a little careless, a little rough, too eaten up with her own irritation to pay much attention.

Not much for Dory now. But how big for me? How easy to fall into that habit. How easy to let that one action create a reaction of frustration, annoyance, a bit of anger, a touch of resentment. Such an unconscious habit...

But not for me. Not today.

It was a lovely bath. I put her down, lengthwise, on our counter, and off came her little green-and-white striped onesie, so cute and simple, now sodden and slightly smelly. We let the water run for a minute or two (a blatant waste!) so that it was a nice warm temperature. Who wants to give and who wants to receive a chilly bath? Little splashes of water, a dollop of baby soap, a soft baby washcloth. It took such a short time, really, only a few minutes, and it was fun. There would be time for what needed to get done. I could always call our friends if we were a little late. They would understand. Nothing hung crucially in the balance on our timing.

I didn't think about what might have been done. I didn't think about what there would be time to do. I washed my baby girl, so little and so happy, and we both enjoyed ourselves.

And I tried not to think that little girl, who fit so neatly in her dad's hand and arm for her first bath, now, at more than two months, was almost too big for our kitchen sink baths.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What to Think?

The most peaceful time of my life was our baby's first few weeks here . Not, perhaps, the most common comment made about newborns, but so entirely true of our situation.

From the moment Dory arrived, a bubble erupted, encasing the three of us. For more than a week, she, Matthew and I lived in our brand new little world, a blissed out place, where the main event was tending to Dory and the constant conversation was admiring Dory. These two actions ceased only during broken, but deep sleep. I reveled, in half-exhausted splendor, in this soft, rich time.

The world came to us. My mother drove over daily to look after us, too busy looking after Dory to do much of that; my dad and step-mother came, my in-laws came, other friends and family trickled in, all to meet her. They came with groceries, home-cooked meals, cameras, soft exclamations of amazement, and deep, deep contentment just to be in the same room with this soft, bleary-eyed little one.

After that first week, Matthew returned to work and our bubble slipped just a little. She and I stayed in that same soft place, welcoming him home for lunch and in the evenings. He was always glad to come back and get down to the business of falling in love, a little more every day, with our new daughter.

Neither she nor I went anywhere those first few weeks. We were entirely attached, not only by my increasing delight in her presence, but her dependence on my breasts as breakfast, lunch, dinner and the dozen other times she needed to eat. As life developed more of a rhythm and it seemed she just might be as hardy and sustainable as the midwives at her delivery promised, we ventured out.

I remembered there was a world going on around us. And the constant chatter of this world revolved around mortgages, foreclosures, presidential elections, presidential failings- a smorgasbord of sad tidings, negativity and overall disharmony. This discourse affected us generally and personally and yet for the last month my daily experiences and Matthew's nightly conversation touched on none of it. Out, again, away from our nursing corner, our kitchen full of lovingly provided food, her co-sleeper, my bed, I found myself wanting to rush home again, to get away from all this noise, to piece our bubble back together by whatever means necessary. Thick gray strips of duct tape if need be.

At which point, I realized, now, more than ever, I wanted to choose my conversation, and, more importantly, my thoughts carefully. Did I want to put my focus on the collapsing economy, a distraught country and our own financial leanness? Would I contribute to that cloud of gloom hanging thick in the air? Would I bring that dark fog into our home, where Dory could feel, but not understand, the fear and anxiety surrounding her?

I can look at Dory and find a dozen things in that moment to feel good about. Her bright eyes. The little ooey-cooey noises she makes. Her delight in waving her naked legs and bottom in the air. Her contentment almost all the time and her clear and strident voice (and very red face) when something doesn't please her and needs to be fixed.

What to look at? Economy, candidates, events entirely out of my control? Or Dory's growing smile? Our dogs outside on a soft, breezy fall afternoon? Matthew's face when he walks in the door and smells something tasty for dinner? His laugh when I thrust a kiss at him, along with the apron, and ask him to take over dinner so I can nurse our ever-hungry munchkin?

Really, the choice is awfully easy.

Easier than it's ever been before. Or maybe I just needed a swift, hard kick in the backside to see how simple it really is. My kick came in the form of a perfectly peaceful and uncluttered little girl. I intend to drink in this time, I intend to absorb the details, I intend to memorize the words and the faces and the laughs of my baby and my husband and all my loved ones. I want to savor this brief, intense, brilliant time in her life and therefore in ours.

The bubble existed only in my head. Its up to me to maintain it. Choosing thoughts that feel good, maintaining that appreciation I have for her, expanding it to others, feeling love and letting it flow- that's the only power I have these days. I do believe that what you think about is what you get back. I don't believe you can have an unhappy journey and a happy ending. I do believe life is looking up, not just for me, but for the country in general. And I know, more than anything else, when this time has passed, I want to be someone who contributed kindness and hope and love.

Besides, the country has plenty of time to grow, peak, and fall apart over and over and over again. My daughter is this age for only a small, precious period of time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Little Things

Today is our wedding anniversary. Six years ago (six years!) Matthew and I got married, or joined forces, as I also like to think of it. This is a day I like to mark in blogland.

Unlike birthdays, that tend to be large, loud, liquid, and often week-long celebrations around here, our anniversary tends to be a quiet event. A nice dinner out, maybe a bunch of flowers or a cake. This year, with the addition of our little one, we went even more low-key. The exchange of lovely sentiments and goo-goo eyes over breakfast, a shared homebrewed beer at lunch while cheering on my Colts, steaks at dinner, and... a mixed-tape. Especially for me. Especially from Matthew.

Yes, it's actually a mixed CD, but a mixed tape evokes a much sweeter image in my mind. On this little gift was a medley of some of my favorite songs of this year. A few lovey-dovey, a few get up and dance, a few that just make me happy. All of them reminded me, Matthew is still my favorite person with whom I might share a drink, watch a football game, and make goo-goo eyes at.

It was an excellent present.
(Us on Halloween, 2007. He went as a ninja in an old Tae Kwan Do uniform- I went as one of the boys from the SNL "Da Bears" skit of the 80's.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Great Expectations

While it might be my first rodeo, this isn't my first blog. That one can be found over here and it is, though I say it myself, a good blog, a solid blog, with chatter on knitting, football, Harry Potter, vacations, Dave Matthews Band and other such worldly, important pre-baby topics. That one, though, doesn't feel up to speed with the fast, amazing and often spit-up sodden changes occurring daily around here. Today is the ten-week celebration of our baby's voyage into this world. She was born 7 pounds, 12 oz, 20 and 1/2 inches long, with a full head of hair and, from the moment they placed her on my chest, my heart. How easy to say it, but how impossible to really describe it. I could feel this small, naked, slippery body on mine and all previous thoughts- new mama thoughts, "what if she's crying?" "won't I want a shower?" and "what if she's all gooey?"- flew right out of my head. I held this girl, glanced at Matthew, pressed up next to me, to see the exultation, amazement, and disbelief on his face perfectly expressing my own mush of emotions, and I felt more than thought: I am completely happy.
With that sentiment still so clear in my heart, ten weeks and many, many, many loads of laundry later (with far fewer showers to match) I thought this might be the perfect time to admit, life expanded beyond my crafty, lovely, little site of old. So with no trombones or big parade to kick this off, I enter a new time in life with a new online journal to match. We'll only hope this lovely, little, expanding site will prove to be the fitting platform for the antics of this lovely, little, expanding family.

Testing, testing

Am I on?