Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It's Cramped But We're All OK: October 2016

The setting: an apartment that's too small. The characters: A woman and her dog, mortal enemies by the cruel providence of a cross-country move and an unsold house, that's now been sold but wasn't by the crucial moment of moving, necessitating this in-between "homestead" that was definitely made for one person, or maybe two, but certainly not two and a half, and a dog. The dance: the woman and the canine try to avoid each other but cannot; his fur flying everywhere, into socks and shoes and drains and newly cleaned counters and drawers; his dumb dog butt taking up the entire hallway as she attempts to bring out the laundry basket and doesn't see him below her, causing her to stumble, he screeches, pride wounded, but no wiser about stashing his dumb hairy self a little off to the side next time. Her toe is stubbed; temper rising melodramatically.

It's cramped in here.

My other little creature is slowly learning to talk, and more quickly learning how to manipulate me with her little whimpers and huge blue eyes. She started saying "mama" this past week and I'm absolute toast, all my determination to help her "learn to go to bed on her own" out the window because the second I put her down and her tiny, sing-songy and terribly dramatic little "mama"s start floating down the (too-short) hallway to the (cramped) couch I'm up and back in the bedroom, picking her up for a long rocking sesh. How could I deny the "mama"s?? YOU try.

Our old house sold almost immediately after we got here, and that is such a gift. We've saved so much money and angst. On top of that, we found a dreamy little brick house in the neighborhood to top all neighborhoods (library and giant historic bookstore within walking distance), and there's plenty of room for both woman and beast (and husband and babe) and even more, and we close on said storybook house at the end of this week. Lots to be grateful for, sighs of relief to sigh and hands to high five and gratitude journals to fill (who actually does this?)

Still, it's too cramped in here.

I miss my friends. The ones who would cry tears of joy with me at the "mama"s (and who did, honestly, over the phone, but it's not the same). I miss the ones who make us carnitas at 9 pm, patiently waiting for my evening run to finish and for us to zip over in our pajamas with wet hair and huge appetites and hearts convinced we deserve a weekday night beer (or three) with our Mexican pork. I miss the ones who run into the Church building Sunday morning, faces lighting up when we see each other like it's been more than four days, talking too loud about how we love each others' outfits and how work sucks and isn't this summer way too hot? I miss the ones with the cutest babies who watch the garbage men and love donuts and in fact, shall we stop over to Bosa and pick up a dozen on this lazy Saturday morning?

My days now are somewhat formulaic, and the formula is actually full of ingredients I like: coffee in the morning, an episode of something funny on Hulu while baby bounces in her little playset, then we eat (sweet potatoes are YES, JUST THE WORLD-EXPANDING SNACK WE WERE WAITING FOR), then we read books and play just before our nap while Mom e-mails and writes and reads, and then we cook dinner or go to the park or call desert friends or write sad letters to desert friends. These are all lovely things, but they're lonely too.

Our best friend is off at meetings during the week, driving everywhere and making friends and charming the pants off anyone who looks at him for more than 15 seconds, including your humble correspondent who doesn't get to hug his neck enough these days but loves counting down the hours until she gets to.

It's too cramped in here, both apartment and brain. We miss our friends but love the autumn, and we're so grateful for this apartment because so many mamas and babies and charming men and annoying dogs don't have a place to lay their heads, but we want more space and to be able to find all the cutlery. And now you're up to speed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Baby Baer had a doctor appointment the other day, at a pediatrician's office in the same compound as the hospital where she was born. My room in the maternity ward overlooked a patch of green grass and a bike path that weaves through the campus, and seeing it again sucks the air out of my lungs. It's a good feeling, sort of - a happy memory, certainly - but jarring. I can't believe she started life in that building. Isn't that a strange thing to think about? That she wasn't breathing air and then suddenly she was, and it was inside those four walls? How could it be a real, physical place and not some spiritual fifth dimension?

That's also the hospital where I found myself a few months after moving here, with side-splitting stomach pain that we soon found out was an ulcer. I also went to that hospital for outpatient physical therapy back then. I've visited a crop of fresh new babies belonging to various friends there.

It's weird to get nostalgic about a hospital, but I guess this is where we are.

These last couple of weeks in Phoenix feel like this: I feel like my heels are dragging a valley through the burning asphalt. I feel like if you listen closely enough, you can hear my proverbial breaks squeaking. I don't feel ready to leave. I don't want to leave.

I used to blog all the time about the weather here. It's too monotonous, certainly too hot. I never quite adjusted to it, though I learned to cope and hate the summers a little less. (This one has been a doosey though - carting a gradually heavier carseat and drooly baby everywhere you go in the 115 degree heat is... grumpiness-inducing. No matter how scrumptious said drooly baby is.) And truthfully, I feel a little sheepish having so much emotional trouble leaving. I know the impression I gave my family and friends back home was that I hated it here and was desperately homesick for Ohio. That was true for a long time. But then we steeled our resolve and found a beautiful church and a book-of-Acts community, and by the time Aaron suggested we buy a house I didn't even blink. We made a home here.

Part of this is that I simply hate change, like most humans do. It's really unsettling to be sitting here in my living room, with gray morning light coming through the windows like it does every morning, and Jethro the dog lying on the rug waiting to be let outside, and the air conditioning humming and my clothes in the closet and groceries in the fridge and laundry that needs done and then realizing: in about a week and a half, none of this will be. We'll be in another place.

But part of it is also that I love it here. Our routines, favorite dinner joints, book stores, coffee shops. And the people. Mostly the people. Forever the people.

On Sunday I got a tattoo with three of my closest friends, a little prickly pear cactus with a bloom on top on my left wrist, and not to be dramatic, but let's be dramatic about it for a second: it feels so appropriate, like acknowledging that Phoenix dug itself into my skin, and that I'll wear it forever, along with these people, and the desert, and that it hurt while it happened but it was so worth it, and have I overdone the metaphor? You get what I'm saying. Pain, permanence, beauty.

I really should be packing instead of ruminating, but my talents favor the ruminating and isn't packing what husband's are for? Moving is the worst. Just this moment I came face to face with the reality that I'm about to have to bubble-wrap every single dish in my kitchen cabinets. This is cruel and unusual.

Once in my more dramatic days (clearly I've overcome that vice) I wrote this quote on one of my journals in mult-colored gel pens, as one does: "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." It's something Nelson Mandela said. I know it's not perfectly representative - Columbus and Ohio have certainly changed, and I'm not returning exactly as I've never lived in that particular city. But I'm a little afraid of what I'll find out about myself when we get there. What if I'm not as adventurous as I always thought I was? What does this move mean about me?

Sometimes things don't mean things about you. Sometimes they just are.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

God as Mother

We're about four months into baby Baer's little baby life, and one of the best parts about that is that she finally feels solid. Like a real, chubby, happy little baby who I'm not terrified of anymore. I don't think I realized how scared I was of her at first - they're so LITTLE, and so DEPENDENT, and light as a feather and sleepy and quiet and unable to tell me what they need. At least mine was. Now she's awake, with lots to say, lots of whining, and just now starting to grab at toys and things. She grabs my shirt in the exact same place every time I feed her and we settle in. She likes her elephant rattle. We take naps together. Heaven.

A couple of weeks before I had her, after I had started my maternity leave, I met one of my best friends for coffee at Lux. It was very much a "my-new-life" moment for me; yoga pants and a sweatshirt at 10 am with nothing to do afterwards. I loved it (but also hated it, because of the giant baby pressing on my internal organs, etc. I feel like we've talked about this before.) Anyway, this friend of mine is also a coworker, and she works in the department of our ministry that organizes our overseas missions. She primarily works in Ethiopia and Ukraine.

She was telling me about a community in Ethiopia that - for whatever reason - seems to have a  preoccupation with Mary (the Mother of Jesus.) They're not practicing Christians, per se, but they treat Mary almost in an occult way - building shrines, believing she'll do them harm if they speak ill of her, etc. It made me think about my relationship with Mary, which I don't mind telling you has been a little... strained? for a few years now.

I grew up Catholic, named after Mary and always feeling like I had a special relationship with her. Lots of rosaries said, lots of prayers with her and thinking about her and hoping she was watching me especially, and helping me. Eventually my theology on that was challenged, and when I combed the Bible for some answers I started feeling like maybe I misunderstood who she was. I broke up with her, really. For a few years I tried not to think about her at all - pendulum swinging too far the other way and all that - but now I'm at a place where I feel ok accepting that she is special; that she made an incredible sacrifice, is a wonderful and beautiful example, and meant a lot to me in my childhood. I still look up to her. No more rosaries, though.

But my point is that this conversation with my friend got me wondering what it is about Mary that has this Ethiopian community so enraptured, and was it the same thing that held my heart and my attention as a kid? I think it's partly this: that we naturally seek the love of a Mother. And that the picture we have of God as only a masculine Father is incomplete. (If both male and female are made in His image, does He not have both male and female qualities?)

This thought came crashing back into my consciousness one night after feeding baby Baer. (As an aside, I think that's how I can best describe the hormone storm of post-partum life as I've lived it: rushing, unpredictable thoughts. Some good, some beautiful, some sad, some scary, some weird, always unexpected and very quick.) I was looking down at this girl, and my stomach was warm, and I couldn't believe how I felt about her. That I'd never ever felt about anyone like I felt about her, and how it hurt me, in a good way. I wished so much that she would wake up so I could tell her how incredibly much I loved her, and how there is nothing she could do that would make me not love her, and how wide and deep and aggressively I loved her, and I wanted her to understand me. She was dozing off on me, there in my rocking chair, and an old hymn we used to sing at mass came into my head:

"I heard the voice of Jesus say
'Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, o weary one, lay down
Your head upon my breast."

And! Then! I had this thought that made my heart and mind go wild: is this feeling, the way I feel about baby Baer, the way God feels about me? I had never, ever considered that. Never felt it that way. But if He is our Father, and our Mother, then yes, I suppose it is.

I started mulling this over and found more questions than answers - in a very honest moment I wondered, if that's true, where are my sonnets? Where's the poetry, the exclamations of love and beauty over me? Because that's the compulsion I have when I look at my girl - but that's not how the majority of the Bible reads to me. It's a lot of story-telling; some (a lot) of it violent; and letters from apostles giving lessons they've learned. It's much more than that, but it's not the shouting-love-from-the-mountaintops prose I would've written.

Still, I think my understand of Jesus' love for me started to change in the rocking chair, and it's still evolving. If God is my Mother, too, that means a thousand new things and a thousand times more powerful of a love than I pictured before.

Friday, May 20, 2016

My Invincibility: A Realization

The subject of this post is: I can do anything. This includes (but is MOST ASSUREDLY NOT LIMITED TO) birthing a baby, which if you'll recall from my last post, was a bit in question.

My perfect little peanut butter daughter came into the world on April 15, about 36 hours or so after writing my last post, which just brings a smile to my now not-pregnant self. I'm super stoked that I didn't turn out to be the one woman in the history of all mankind post-Adam and Eve to remain pregnant until the coming kingdom, but even more stoked that my girl is here and she seems to like life. That is just the best.

Now back to me telling you (and myself) about how I can do anything. This will seem like a rather insignificant story, perhaps. But it isn't! You must believe! Come on this journey with me!

A couple of weeks after she was born we took baby Baer to a fund raiser, featuring a fancy hotel ballroom, plated dinner and a Fox News correspondent, if you can believe it. We were determined to do it. We strapped her to me in her little wrap (kudos to the inventors of this contraption; you, I assume, can also do anything), put on maternity dress pants much to our lingering chagrin (SO MANY WEIRD SHAPES happening to my body right now) and a pair of earrings and hit the town.

Was it a crazy thing to do? Maybe, but please remember that I can do anything, and consequently I can also do anything I want; which in this case was to get out of the house. Presumably baby Baer wanted this too - plus, I could finally stand upright after the delivery. This wasn't going to go to waste. So we went, but about an hour and a half into it we realized the event was going to go longer than expected, and I was faced with a Great and Powerful Dilemma, surely faced by many but unexpected by me up until this point: she needed fed.

If you're one of those gentlemen or ladies who can't handle breastfeeding talk, earmuffs please. I'm not going to lecture you on the harmful American sexualization of breasts and how you need to get over it already, because honestly, I don't much care, and I also respect your decision to look at/read or not look at/read anything involving boobs given your level of comfort/discomfort. This is a blog for another time but to reiterate: I'm not sure I care, and I respect you. So if you're uncomfortable, earmuffs. Or the earmuffs equivalent for reading? Open a new tab and shop for something on Amazon Prime. Then come back in ten minutes.

OK FOR THOSE OF YOU STILL WITH US, I had to feed baby Baer, and for the first few weeks postpartum that shit was PAINFUL. Some ladies will say - it shouldn't be painful at all! Which is very confusing. Others will say yes, it will hurt a little at first, which is also confusing. It turns out that both are true. I assumed the pain I was experiencing was soreness, but after about three weeks when it wasn't improving and in fact was getting worse, I realized my babe and I were doing things wrong. We worked together on it, consulted some friends who also have boobs and babies, and we figured it out. Hallelujah. It still hurt a little bit, and every feeding sounded like high school gym class ("take a deep breath! We can do this!") but eventually the soreness wore off.

At the time of the fancy fund raiser, however, the pain was still VERY MUCH HAPPENING and very real and very anxiety-inducing. So the Great and Powerful Dilemma was indeed great and powerful, because was I going to endure that pain in public? Where could I go to do it? Would the baby be up for it?

I decided to give it a try, with my husband's full endorsement that if it didn't work, we could head home. That would be disappointing, I thought, but maybe necessary.

I found a private family bathroom. You know, one of those ones with just one room. This was a victory, but immediately upon entering I realized the air conditioning didn't ventilate in this one room. An obstacle, sure, but not unsurmountable.

Earmuffs again, boob-a-phobes - I was still at this point unable to feed baby without pretty much taking off all items of clothing from the waste up. This feels very vulnerable to do, but nevertheless, I did it, right in that family bathroom. I washed my hands. I set the baby on the changing table. I got situated. We started our sweet little ritual. OUCH IT FREAKING HURT.

Then, a perfect storm came upon us. It started to get really hot in there. SO HOT. In Arizona, in the spring and summer months most especially, it is absolutely imperative that every room has air conditioning ventilation. Imperative. That's why I'm introducing legislation to make it a capital crime not to (just kidding, but I did find out this week that the state legislature passed a bill saying school students are allowed to eat their own vegetables that they grow in their own gardens, which is vexing, to say the least. Not the vegetables; the fact that this bill needed to be written and then needed to be passed. I digress).

Anyway it started getting really hot. Then, another thing happened - people started knocking on the door to get in. At first it was just a polite knock, then they tried the handle and realized it was locked. Then the knock got a little more aggressive, which told me it was not a new full-bladdered person but instead the same full-bladdered person who had knocked a minute ago, and he/she was getting impatient, and even more full-bladdered, probably. This caused a small amount of stress that soon began growing.

Then, baby started really hurting me. I mean you guys, it HURT.

Suddenly I had a moment of perfect clarity. Total and perfect clarity - unlike any other moment I've had in my life up until this point. I'm not kidding about that - I know this is a small situation - but throughout parenting for five weeks (five total weeks!) I've learned that small situations can be really Big Lessons, and this was one.

I saw my two decisions in front of me, and neither held any particular moral weight, which is a very large accomplishment for me. I could give up trying to feed her, get packed up, leave the sauna family bathroom and let Angry Knocker in, and go home. That would be ok. Or, I could keep trying, let the Knocker battle it out in the regular many-stalled bathroom down the hall, accept that I was going to get a little sweaty, and just keep going. That would be ok too. Everyone would be ok.

I looked at it objectively, decided I didn't really want to get home, that the baby was still getting fed despite the stress, and I kept going. We got a full feeding in. I ran my hands under cold water afterwards and wasn't so hot anymore. The person stopped knocking. We went back to the dinner.

This is the point when I realized I can do anything. And I did! I did do anything. I birthed a little baby girl. I endured a really painful post-birth infection, and lived to talk about it. I fed her in a public restroom when it really hurt and people were mad that I was monopolizing the room. I looked at a situation with more than one option, chose one of those options, and didn't feel guilty about it. I have a feeling that is going to be a big part of motherhood and I'm real, real glad I did it somewhat successfully once. Now the next time a similar situation happens, I'll hopefully be able to do it again, stress-free.

Now I have to ask the question that's plagued me since I started this post about 20 whole minutes ago: is this now a mommy blog???? SAY NO!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

39 Weeks Pregnant

I am a beached whale. With paralysis. A paralyzed beach whale. Who has lost all interest in television. This is a very sad state of affairs.

The happy part is that I know this is all so very temporary, and on the other side of this is a squishy little baby, hopefully with Aaron's eyes, that I get to snuggle. But I am not lying or exaggerating when I say it genuinely feels like that is never going to happen. I just can't imagine it happening. I fully expect to walk into my doctor's appointment tomorrow morning and hear my OB say "wow, we've never seen this, you're just not going to have this baby."

And they'll of course get her out in some way, by some means I'm DESPERATE to avoid (read: c-section) and now I'm thinking about that ridiculous article I read in Cosmopolitan (first mistake) like two weeks ago about women who felt like they had no control over their "birth story" (second mistake), and how that meant they lived the rest of their lives to regret it and statistically were more depressed, or some such. (The irony with shit like that is that Cosmo likes to think they're 'empowering women' by articles like this - the gist was 'maternity wards are evil, rabid tools of the patriarchy' - but really they're just freaking everybody out and pushing they're own agenda, which is genuinely patriarchal, if you ask me, which you didn't.)

I'm not even to my due date yet. 5 days away. 5 days feels like saying "two decades." 5 days of this? Of feeling like my hips are falling out of their sockets, and not being able to eat, or sleep, or keep my attention on old episodes of The Office or the weird English novel I'm reading? How could anyone possibly live through this?

Imagine every night at like, 2 am googling things like "are cold feet a sign of labor" or "are chapped lips a sign of labor" or "has anyone died of insanity while waiting for labor" or "oh god is this labor I hope so but also I hope not because that is terrifying." And then your bed mate is like "you ok babe?" And you're like "never better, just watching Jimmy Fallon's latest lip sync battle."

On Monday I went grocery shopping, which was a huge mistake, because I can't walk (I mentioned the paralysis.) I finished my round of the store and realized I hadn't seen the Panko anywhere, so I had to go back and find it, dammit. Because I was sure as hell not going back out later (paralysis) and I had made it this far, etc. etc. On the very front of the box of Panko it says "JAPANESE-STYLE BREAD CRUMBS." But for whatever godforsaken reason, Basha's does not stock them in the "Asian" food aisle. Can you please explain this to me? They are in the BAKING aisle. That is SOME BULLSHIT. Especially because the baking aisle is like, aisle 2, which meant I had to walk again to the other end of the store (paralysis reminder).

Anyway I brought up the grocery shopping because the last item on my list was a modest bouquet of flowers for myself. Well, technically for my impending daughter, but she's not coming anytime soon at all, so I knew they were really for me. For my kitchen table, because for the love, I need something colorful and distracting. But I forgot the flowers. I got to the register, miraculously only encountering one person who exclaimed "WOW! YOU'VE GOT A BUNDLE OF JOY COMING SOON!" (the "wow" part is always just so kind) and as the cashier started ringing everything up I suddenly remembered the flowers. I didn't go back and get them (flowers are not panko status.) I mourned for a little bit, I don't mind telling you.

But I bring that up because today the doorbell rang - you should really hear our doorbell right now. It's dying, so it sounds like the warped tones of a Tim Burton nightmare sequence. Anyway it rang, and there was a delivery - a bouquet of flowers. From my mother-in-law. How did she know? She didn't, but she sent them anyway, and I love them. That's a nice story to share right now, I thought.

Also regarding the weird guy who brought up my BUNDLE OF JOY in the yogurt section - I finally remembered the other day to try out my joke when it happened, which is to look confused and say "what do you mean, I'm not pregnant." But my error was that I pulled this joke on the lady doing my nails, who did not have a great grasp on the English language. She started it by saying "you have boy or girl?" And I said "What do you mean?" And the look on her face! I thought she was going to vomit. She was like "YOU BABY! YOU BABY!" and I realized this was not going as expected, and that she might call the police, so I said "yes, a girl, a girl! I'm just teasing you!" And she looked horrified, and then said her daughter told her she was pregnant as an April Fool's prank. Mine is not an April Fool's prank, except maybe it is and the joke is on me because, as I mentioned, my daughter is just going to live inside me forever. She just is.

Every time I google something about impending labor or the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, all I find are articles about disgusting bodily activities to watch for and all the things that are GREAT SIGNS but also could still mean your baby is 2345 years away from coming. I haven't yet found any articles about the mental anguish of these weeks, and though I've established the good side of all of this above, like a good Catholic girl, (squishy baby, etc.), I can't access that emotion right now, and I feel horrible and like I am going a little insane. This blog post is my contribution to the world of internet discussion boards about week 39. Here's some SEO to make sure you find it:

39 weeks pregnant going crazy
39 weeks pregnant oh my god someone help me
has anyone ever been pregnant forever
39 weeks pregnant i hate everything and everyone

Signing off now, bye.