Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It must be Monday

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.
-Woody Allen

Yesterday I had all kinds of plans. I thought about the upcoming week, what I wanted to get accomplished, broke the large tasks down into manageable daily tasks, and renewed my commitment to eating moderately; not emotionally, in spite of a brewing hormonal storm.

I began my day as planned, by running. Something was off though, I could feel it. Something in the air felt against me. My normal run was sluggish and forced. I made it, but barely. No runners high to be had, I felt like a neglected lover.

Still I pushed on. The next plan was to return the jacket I had gotten for my husband's birthday--wrong size. I could not find the receipt anywhere, which reminded me I needed to clean and organize more, but figured I could use my credit card as proof of purchase.

I decided to check my voicemail before I headed out the door. There was a message from my bank that let me know that I had left my credit card at a restaurant we ate at on out way home from Christmas. I had two options: drive 3 hours to get it in person with my ID or they could shred it for me. New detour added to list to go to bank and order new credit card.

So I couldn't return the jacket and couldn't get through to the bank so I decided to move on and start working in the yard as I had planned. I want to start a compost bin but have to move two years worth of pruning and gardening debris just to see the ground.

I pulled the unwieldily green waste bin across the driveway into our back yard. I started filling it slowly with the half rotting leaves, vines and twigs. I had to cut the larger pieces as I put them in the bin with my large pruning shears. The huge container filled as I added copious amounts of leaves and other slimy matter. Babou stood by pinching her nose and saying "Stinky," her new word for anything unpleasant!

Finally I had most of the pile in and was going to add one last large branch to top it off. I looked around for my lopers and could not see them anywhere. After a quick search, I realized that they had disappeared. I turned to look at the brimming yard waste container and realized that they were most likely buried in the bottom of the container!

I decided to H with it and pulled it around to the front of the house. I had little time left to get to the post office and grocery store before Mr. Jo got home from work. So I got everything together to go, loaded up the jogger stroller, and put the collar on our loco dog because he needs a walk at this point also.

By the way, I am in the midst of full pms and hate all my clothes, hair, face, really everything about me. Could I have gained 15lbs over Christmas? That's how I feel. So I put on a larger pair of black pants for the walkabout which decide to start falling off as we go along. You know how irritating this is even though it might mean that the 15 lbs are all in my mind.

So anyway, I make it to the PO and then to the store, stragelingy pants, jerking dog and all. I go through the aisles making up dinner as I go, going in circles, trying to remember my list which I had forgotten at home, of course.

On one of my circles back, I notice a monkey sock on the floor of the store. "That's weird," I think. "That looks just like Babou's sock." A quick glance at her feet informs me that they are, indeed, her socks as she is both shoeless AND sock-less. I spend the next 15 minutes re-circling the store in reverse, trying to find her shoes and socks. I finally find the last shoe and have put them away as it is useless to put them back on her once she gets it in her mind that she wants to go barefoot.

It is at the moment that I get the shoes and socks tucked away that I hear the howling. It must have been going on for a quite a while from the look of the other shoppers faces; I had just been preoccupied to notice. Or perhaps I had become somewhat deaf to it as it was all too familiar. The sound was unmistakeable and a quick glance out the front of the door proved it was indeed, my dog. There he was, head thrown back, in full howl!

I tried to remember the rest of my list and get in line as fast as I could. The line was long. The howling continuous. Finally I made it outside, collected my loco ultra needy dog, and took off for home.

As I crossed the parking lot an older woman caught my eye. You know one of those older grandmother types that know EVERYTHING about children and their proper care? She gives me a terrible, scornful look as she passes. The look said "what kind of mother lets her child ride around in the cold evening with NO SHOES or SOCKS on!" She actually sniffed at me!

Anyway, after that, I pretty much gave up. I hurried home and made dinner, the only thing in my day that was truly successful. No wonder I eat too much!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lazy Days

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
-Henry David Thoreau

We got back home late Friday night and have been utterly, deliciously idle the entire weekend! It felt so good to loll about after all the excitement of the holidays.

And to be silent after all the talking! I have realized as I have gotten older and more aware of myself that, while I am social, I can be social only in stints. I definitely need my alone time as well.

We spent most of the weekend housebound except yesterday when we managed to make an expedition to the park before our dog came completely unglued (he is decidedly social AND energetic)!

But today is Monday, and we are back in the swing of things. I am going to try to work in the garden today, maybe actually get some winter vegetables in the ground (got inspired watching a gardening show from the comfort of the couch), figure out how to get my digital camera to communicate with my computer better so that I can actually start putting more photos up on my blog, work on my resume and writing, and the other usual suspects such as errands, exercise, cleaning, etc.

I think I just made myself tired! How does two days go by so fast!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Tidings

As light is born out of darkness, may hope, love and compassion be kindled this season.

I have always loved Christmas eve much more than Christmas day. There is something so magical about the evening, about a mythic birth, the mysteries that can only occur in the darkest blue of night.

I have been reading about the winter solstice and how many of its cultural undercurrents is one of rebirth. This is what Christmas is about for me. It is about rebirth, hope, newness of life, looking forward into the gathering light and dreaming of the coming days within the comfort of winter lull.

As I wrote before, there is also the frenzy that is Christmas. Especially in our family--we have no less than seven birthdays in December besides the Christmas holiday itself. Lots to do. Both my husband and baby's birthday falls in December. Our family takes December as rebirth quite literally!

We are heading out of town today to celebrate with my husband's family. We are celebrating with a traditional tamales dinner. I am so excited to learn to make them and spend time in the foothills of California. Of course, there is the trouble of getting out of our house and on the road, last minute presents and worrying that I've forgotten something. The usual rush and hustle. The frenzy that is also Christmas.

In any case, I hope that we all get to take a few moments amidst all the food, gifts, and socializing, to remember the sacredness of this season. Maybe even in the quiet of the mystical midnight hour.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Winter Solstice Gift

Marianna, Kahlil's Sister. Painting by Kahlil Gibran

My dear sister, Practical Sis, gave birth to her second child last night. I awoke yesterday morning a bit shaken. I had had a dream in which she had been in labor and, after calling her that morning, found out that she was indeed feeling the beginning signs. That is where my intuition ended, however, as I was pretty sure she would have a girl and her child is most definitely of the male persuasion.

I spent most of the day yesterday a nervous wreck. I was truly in a state. See, the thing I hate worse than pain is to know someone I love is in it. I had such a hard time calming myself. Right around the time she was to give birth, I tried to pull myself together for her sake as I prayed for her comfort and security. I found myself reading this poem. I hope you enjoy it and find it freeing as well.

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

-Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Mother of a Job

Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.
-Erma Bombeck

I know the gripe is not new. I know that I am one of many. But tonight I feel like the only one. Tonight I am feeling tired and small and sorry for myself. I am so tired of doing the same things every day.

Tonight my husband was complaining about how nonstop his work has been lately. And it's true, he has been working fairly steadily for almost a month now. He works on a job by job basis that comes in stints of intense work followed by a week or two, or sometimes longer, without having to work at all.

I sympathized with him and told him that it would be over soon, that he only to wait until Monday, and he could enjoy a good week or two of relaxation. And then I started feeling sorry for myself. It's just that I cannot look forward to that in my life,

My work haunts me day in and day out. I am going on about 730 days straight now. This is how it goes with few exceptions: Wake up at the bleeding crack of dawn, nurse baby, change baby, try to exercise, feed self and baby healthy breakfast, shower and dress self, dress baby, clean house, take baby and dog to park to run and frolic, run errands, make and eat healthy lunch for self and baby, change diaper again, nurse baby, put baby down for nap, do all the jobs you can't do with you baby as fast as you can, baby up, run more errands, plan dinner make dinner do dishes, clean up kitchen, baby bath and teeth brushing (fun!), baby reading time, nurse the baby, baby goes to sleep, Mama already asleep.

And repeat!

The thing about motherhood is its constancy. There are no days off, and, if you're a stay-at-home mom like me, you never leave your work. I suppose this would be the same for anyone who works from home. The work never seems to end, you don't see any ending point and consequently don't feel the satisfaction of completion very often. Your work is always a work in progress.

I know this can be the same at work. When I worked in publishing, it felt the work would never end. But I did get the satisfaction of completion as there were deadlines, and there was always the satisfaction that I could go home and leave the work behind.

When I was younger and I felt truly overwhelmed by the demands I was under, I would call a personal time out. I would not go to class or work. I would call in sick to all of it. I would stay in bed most of the day, re-inspiring myself with writing and reading, or I would go on a day trip adventure. Even I knew this frivolousness could not last long and as my responsibilities grew heavier, those "mental health" days disappeared as well.

But I think those days of getting away, of taking the time to renew yourself are so important. You have to remember what you like to do and do it. It is hard when you have responsibilities woven into your day, however. But I would like to try to weave more fun into my daily round. To have more fun now, not later when I have forgotten what fun is.

So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I am going to try to come up with a tangible way to give myself some "mental health" time. I simply can no longer deal with monotony and need to salvage what is left of the free spirit inside of me. I need to nurse Her back to health and vitality. Even if that means nursing a martini while creating a F.I.L.(http://fromthefrontlines.blogspot.com, December 17 post)! A woman has to do what a woman has to do!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter's Gifts

Live in each season as it passes; breath air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet drink and botanical medicines.
-Henry David Thoreau

Finally the rains have come to northern California. It seemed forever for winter to come and now it has with such intensity that I even had to pull some plants off my front porch in fear of frost. It has been cold, rainy, and...well...wintry.

It seems so ironic that just as winter begins, so does one of the busiest of holiday seasons. It seems every day is frenzied with things to do, deadlines, and expectations. While all this is happening, you cannot help but feel that undertow-like pull of winter. Winter does not care if you have things to do, it still  beckons in a primordial way. It is calling upon us to rest, to sit still, to renew ourselves for yet another busy spring, and summer.

I feel a great comfort in my physical response to the seasons. It is a tangible way to experience ourselves as part of a whole, as part of the natural world. We are really not so far removed from nature as we may want to believe. It might wise to listen to the wisdom of our natural urges rather than try to push our way through them. Try to find a way to incorporate more rest into our days, more time for reflection, more time to do nothing.

I know this is hard, with so much to do. But perhaps we have more time than we think. Maybe it is more about priorities. It's funny how your perception of time can actually affect its seeming lack or abundance. At least that's what I've decided to tell myself! And it does seem to have its truth. 

There is a time and a season to everything and it all works together so well, if we let it. Tonight I am rededicating myself to honoring this season as best I can so that I may receive the quiet gifts winter has to offer. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Smells like Christmas Spirit

"We can't all, and some of us don't."
-Eeyore, Winne the Pooh

Christmas time is here and, with it, the requisite shopping expeditions. As I mentioned, my daughter just turned two and is so cute and so much fun...until it comes to shopping.

Shopping with Babou seriously takes its toll on me.

Today I planned my shopping expedition down to the detail. I was ready. I had my lists and I planned on getting it all accomplished within a specific frame of time, all within one shopping center. Done, done, and done.

Babou, of course, had other ideas.

She made it through Costco in fairly good humor mostly because of the samples around every corner. Whoever came up with this idea should be considered for a Nobel prize because of the peace it affords parents, at least 2-3 solid minutes of it as the child smears the procured treat all over itself, while some manages to be consumed.

Next on the list was Target, located in the same shopping center. I had a coupon so I planned on combining several expeditions to finish up my Christmas list.

Target no longer had any carts, that's how busy they were. I made do and figured Babou would hold my hand as she did through the parking lot, or at least stay close since it a place she is not used to being.

Of course not.

I spent the next half an hour not checking items off my list, as planned, but getting a speed course workout as I lunged through clothes racks, dodged customers, and ran down the aisles.

It is amazing just has fast a two year old can be. I had definitely met my match. And she had no fear whatsoever. She was not keeping me within her sights at all, I had to keep her in my sights. I wondered if that was at all possible. After 45 minutes of this, I gave up my well laid plan. I admitted defeat, loaded up my olympic grade dasher, and drove home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Breathing Space

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.
-Ivy Baker Priest

This month marks the anniversary of my daughter's second birthday, and my second year of being a mother. As I did last year, I commemorated the moment by waking at the time of her birth, and reliving the experience.

I relived the pain of my prolonged labor, the torment of those last moments. I thought I would surely die. I could not see how I could go on. I have never felt so close to my own ending, to the end of my strength and spirit.

I remember praying to God. I remember looking at the clock, watching the moments pass, and wondering when it would be over. The pain washed over me again and again and I held onto my husband as he helped me through one moment to meet the next.

I remember pushing with all my strength, thinking I had no more strength and, again, praying. I remember the disbelief as she was placed on my chest. I remember how she turned her eyes to meet mine. I remember the surprise that I barely registered her sex, after wondering for all those long months. I was so enchanted with her being that sex seemed an afterthought.

I remember the euphoria of getting to our room, of being taken care of, and having done it. Holding this amazingly perfect being in my arms, my heart breaking at the beauty of our blessing. It was over. She was here.

My life had changed forever in an instant and I was at once the same and at once reborn. I was now a mother, the heady gravity of those words becoming more and more real as the moments passed. I had become a mother. I was a mother. The feeling and meaning of those words slowly dawned on me just as that morning dawned, just as my daughter was born.

Life has a way of helping you even when you think it is hurting you. I look back at Babou's birth with a new perspective, one less shaped by pain than function. Those days of labor, of pain, of waiting, held an important purpose in preparing me for motherhood. Those thought clearing moments of pain were preparing me for change. The extreme fatigue, the relentlessness of it, created a near dream like state in which new pathways were allowed to open in my spirit. It was as though I became a vehicle, I was taken over by something much larger than myself. I was on the sidelines, my ego was out the door. I didn't realize until later that all of this was in preparation for my initiation into motherhood.

After I had given birth, when I had reentered a more normal state of consciousness, I realized I had changed. I realized that everything had changed. I was no longer the woman who had walked into that hospital. I was no longer the center of my own universe. There is something so liberating in that, in that act of becoming a part of something larger than yourself. I had glimpsed a larger picture and was beginning a new chapter of my life. As I look at my daughter today, I am still in awe of the raw beauty of life. I am in awe of the strength of love. And I am in awe of how much a child can teach you, even in one night, and in one moment.