Lately

My friend Gina at Popcorn and Pandas does this great recurring series called “Lately” that she adapted from another blogger (you can check out all of Gina’s Lately posts with links to the inspiration here).  I love the idea of checking in with yourself and creating a record of the things that drive us every day. With that in mind, I’m snagging the idea, adapting a few of the gerunds myself!

Lately I’ve been…

reading A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible; Jesus and the Disinherited; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges. You know, light stuff. I’m about a third of the way through the first year of a four year course affiliated with the Episcopal Church called Education for Ministry, for which these are our texts so far. Here’s a great explanation of the course from Sewanee:

Every baptized person is called to ministry. The Education for Ministry (EfM) program provides people with the education to carry out that ministry. During the Service of Confirmation we ask God to “Renew in these your servants the covenant you made with them at Baptism. Send them forth in the power of the Spirit to perform the service you set before them.” EfM offers an opportunity to discover how to respond to the call to Christian service. 

writing  Descriptions for our new classes, press releases for events, and email after email after email.

listening  Right now, to sweet, sweet silence, but we have a lot of Jack’s Big Music Show on heavy rotation, and I had a major craving for some Tracy Chapman today, so the self-titled album was on repeat.

thinking About how to better organize my time, so that I’m giving my best to myself and others. And also about the fact that’s nearly swimming hole weather!

smelling Lilacs. Everything is in bloom despite the fact that our last frost day isn’t for another few weeks. I can’t get enough lilac, though, since it always seems like they fade far before I am ready for them to go.  

watching The big, blue (and purple and pink and orange) New Mexico sky.  When we first moved here, I was a little overwhelmed by the size of the sky and the intensity of the light, but now I crave it, every day. It’s a wonder, that sky.

wearing  So much linen, y’all. Consignment shops +  Santa Fe ladies that give up their Eileen Fisher wardrobes for the betterment of others have been rocking my world. Linen pants, linen shirts, linen jackets, linen skirts. So many neutrals, so little time.

eating  The leftovers from the popsicles Winnie and I made yesterday: coconut milk, avocado, frozen blueberries and raspberries, and a couple bananas. I filled all the molds, but some of the puree was leftover, and, ya know, somebody’s gotta eat it.

drinking My first ever cup of totally homemade dandelion root tea!  I’m obsessed with roasted dandelion root tea, so Winnie and I dug up some roots in the backyard yesterday (or as Winnie called it, “gardening”) and then I washed, roasted, and ground them today. It’s a whole lot of work for something I can pick up at the store pretty easily, but it was so cool to know that it’s just right at my fingertips like that! And the flavor was spectacular. My liver is giving me a high five right now.

feeling Ready to do some gardening. We have a couple raised beds in the back, and lots of seeds started, so I’m ready to see things get going!  We’re hosting a meetup of local parents and kids next week to do a seed and seeding swap, and I’m really looking forward to it.

wanting For all of my thoughts, actions, and belongings to be organized and purposeful. Is that so much to ask? (In other words, put down your damn phone, Sascha.)

needing  To prep for tomorrow’s coffee and cheese pairing run through. Excited to cup coffee and pair with cheese– totally unexpected, but really delicious.

loving  Our little community. The folks we’ve met here, the people we run into day after day, and the new people who keep popping up at every turn, have totally made our transition to a new place

wishing I were going to to be in Brooklyn when my friend Elizabeth Mangum-Sarach (of BirthFocus) hosts the inimitable respectful parenting guru Janet Lansbury for an intimate tea at Elizabeth’s new space, Nurture(Bklyn). What a cool opportunity!

hoping  For excellent weather for Saturday’s Spring Fair, hosted by Winnie’s preschool. We think this nature-based preschool is just magic, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to connect with other Dragonfly parents and share a little bit of that Dragonfly magic with other folks in the community!

craving  A veggie burrito from the Betterday Coffee Shop: homemade tortilla, red chile, squash, greens. It’s so ridiculously good.

clicking  On todoist.com every other second.  It’s the only way I can keep my to-dos in order, between work, home, Winnie’s school, church, volunteer obligations, our garden, and the like. As soon as it pops in my head, it goes on a list, or I’ll never remember it.

Oh, and in keeping with the Lately theme: since I last posted, we got to hang with a pal from NYC, I went to a spa in the mountains and had no cell reception and soaked in a tub and walked around in a robe and it was AMAZING, we flew as a family of four for the first time to Mike’s sister Jenny’s wedding and it was fabulous– so great to see family and meet Jen’s friends,  we threw a Fleetwood Mac & Cheese party at the shop, we signed a lease on a house, and Winnie has gotten really into shouting ALLELUIA during quiet moments at church, which is totally liturgically appropriate (for now.)

 

Alleluia, y’all!

 

matins

I woke up more slowly than usual.  Mike had already fed Winnie.  She brought me a ball in bed, clambering up on top of the bedspread and proudly displayed her new ball-kicking skills into my bedhead.  It was a soft ball.

We gathered up the day’s supplies (applesauce, clean dress, new stuffed bunny with a monocle) and tumbled out the door.  Hello to neighbors and our sweet crossing guard, who dutifully marches Win and me across the intersection every morning.  I wish she’d follow me around everywhere, making the way safe.  I wish they’d make those uniforms out of cotton instead of whatever synthetic blend they’ve got, in a city with a thousand percent humidity and so much concrete.

Winnie said bye (“BYEEEEEE!”) to Mike on the swings, and I signposted the day for her.  Swings, friends, nap, lunch, nap, friends, Mom, swings.  The parent pushing one swing over freelances, too.  It’s hard, it’s good, it’s different, we commiserated.  Childcare costs.  More time with them, moments fleeting (except they don’t fleet, they just are, stay mindful, stay present.)  It’s good.  It’s hard.  But good.

On the one block walk to daycare, we pass older men holding their coffee in the way you hold a deli coffee, regular, one cream two sugars, thumb atop the lid, fingers curled beneath.  Winnie waves hi, their eyes crinkle at the corners.

At daycare, Winnie jumps from my arms to join her cohort.  Last week she didn’t cry for the first time.  This week, the jumping.  Next week, she’s hired? We’ll see.  I rush out, balancing kisses and rituals with the impending WAIT ARE YOU LEAVING-LEAVING, MOM?

Pausing on the stoop outside, I hear Frere Jacques and no screams.  No one on the sidewalk to greet, but the warmth from earlier hellos sticks around.  I linger outside the open doors to the transept at the Immaculate Heart of Mary because I can hear the Words of Consecration and it feels odd to keep moving past them.  I listen and breathe through the acclamation, the doxology, the Lord’s Prayer, and amble on, passing peace.

There is the garden, the library, the playground, the school.  Back up the stairs to a humming laptop.  Eight hours to squeeze it in before I can scoop her up again.  I’ll need another cup of coffee, I think.

because what we really need are more words about work/life balance

I excused myself from the meeting to step outside, pressing my phone to my ear.

“I’m sorry—

we’re still meeting, and there’s no way I can make it to daycare on time.”

I was embarrassed for Mike to have to pick up my slack yet again, embarrassed that there were four people who put a meeting on hold for me to step out to make that call, embarrassed every time my thoughts and words seemed to move too slowly, too heavily to be of use, embarrassed every time I started to mumble out the “I’m sorry” refrain.

I drove home that evening, winding through the southernmost bits of the Hudson Valley, golden-hour sunlight finding its way through leaves and branches.  My thoughts zipped around the curves of the road, and I tried to stay mindful, appreciate my surroundings, know that time would keep moving at a steady clip whether I felt hurried or not.  I felt guilty for soaking up so many hues, so saturated, all alone.  It felt luxurious, but the gross kind of luxurious, like edible gold leaf or Super Tuscans. I tried to think of some benefit I could offer my family in exchange for the time I spent listening to the news, not responsible for daycare pickup or playground interactions or dinner that evening.  I was breaking the deal, not holding up my end of the bargain,  the bargain being that in exchange for the wonderful family I’d been granted— the toothy grins, sloppy smooches, and the solid hand of a partner in mine through it all— I agreed to be the Mother, the Mom, the Grown-Ass Woman who leads and loves and models the roles, taking on half of everything or more, performing my gender as I see fit, scooping up challenges and bopping them on the head so that Winnie could move through life with at least the solid foundation of having learned a thing or two from That Mom.  Only, I’m failing miserably at being That Mom, That Partner, That Human.

Work-life balance is a lie.  There is only life, and you work through every moment of it— work that is valued at different rates, in different ways, but it’s all work, it’s all life.  We make a calculation, explicitly or not, about the utility of each bit of work— this bit provides money, this bit provides some sense of self-worth, this bit helps a friend, this bit gives me snuggles, this bit ensures we can go to the doctor when we need to, this bit is the part where you line up daycare/schedules/work-work/finances so you can go to the kind of doctor who helps you get those darned neurotransmitters in shape so that you can face the rest of the work left to do in that day and the next and the next.

When I was a kid, the phrase ‘working mom’ carried its own set of meanings for me.  It meant, first and foremost, that you were a kid with a couple of hours on your own at home, during which time you curl up in a chair and eat orange slices and read books, leaving your chores until 5:45, when you would furiously wash as many dishes as you could before you heard the car pull into the driveway.  It meant you had to ride the bus home or walk the half-mile, hoping no one noticed you, while you thought about how many points were on a circle and wrote that YA novel in your head.  It meant you ate more green beans out of cans and maybe Kid Cuisine tv dinners if you got lucky, that your mom wore blazers, and that a teenager was hired to drive you around and answer your questions about high school in the summer.

To me, though, it didn’t signify a constant state of wondering who you were, what your worth was and to whom.  I’m sure it did, to she who was the Working Mom, to any person who was in charge of the well being of another human being and of getting herself through life every day, as well.  I just didn’t expect to feel so utterly slain at the end of a day, knowing that there weren’t enough hours in the day to contribute to society, parent my baby, stand as a partner to my spouse, be a friend, neighbor, worker bee.  And there sure as hell isn’t a compensation structure to account for what goes into one day as a human.

Certainly, moving into a vocational space with more flexibility in location and schedule has helped me, but it isn’t the magic bullet.  With that move into the flexible, the freelance, the Master of My Fate/Captain of My Soul sphere, I’ve become increasingly aware of how very privileged that space is, how privileged I am to be in that space, and how much it exists within a much larger space of privilege in which I’m only passing.

And with that, I suppose, I realize that motherhood isn’t that much unlike anything else— clawing through any other career or navigating academia or whatever it is we call the struggle to find housing/get food on the table/build a foundation/find a faith community/love our partners/breathe our breaths.  It just is, and we work our way through it, and it isn’t fair or right or meet, but it all-caps IS.  I find comfort in the chalk scribbles on the wall, the emails I managed to send on time, in my library card and my parents’ group and public radio.  I noticed the same golden-hour light again last night, while Mike ran in to the grocery and I sat in the car with a sleeping Winnie.  We were there together, we were doing it, and we’ll do it today and tomorrow and the next.  We’re lucky.

Zero and Three Quarters

Winnie is nine months old (and four days, eleven hours, twelve minutes as I type).  She crawls faster than I walk most places.  She can pull up on anything, including mom’s giant exercise ball, the corner of dad’s shirt, and anything precarious/unbabyproofed (most things).  She makes the tiniest smacking kissy sounds and today gave her BFF Santiago a giant, slobbery, snotty smacker on the cheek.

There are a million and one things that THEY (all-caps-all-knowing-keepers-of-secrets THEY) don’t tell you about having a baby— that newborn sleep is actually the best (those little bugs sleep for like 20 hours a day!), that THEY are not kidding when THEY say that you need next to no stuff for a tiny babe, that 90% of your showers will involve playing peekaboo with the shower curtain, that you know more about your baby than all the THEYs put together, that tags are the best part of toys and dust covers are the best part of books.  I can’t believe, though, that THEY didn’t tell me you get a new baby every day.

I mean, at least every day.  I’ve sometimes put one baby down for a nap and gone in to a brand new one twice in one day!  Three times even!  The new baby is, of course, the old baby, but oh how very new she seems.  Even she seems delighted by her own new-ness, as if everything she does carries an implicit “TA-DA!”.

Her infectious laughter.  Her smacky kisses.  The way she looks Mike straight in the eye when she says, “Da da pa pa!” and waves as he leaves in the morning.  She crawl-chased a full-on walking, talking toddler into the corner at the library while growling (#banbossy?). She threw her plate of blackeyed peas in the air when she saw me walk in the door from work today— I can think of no greater greeting in the world.

Every day we try to live with a rhythm that meters our moments, and every day I am reminded that that rhythm is dynamic and ever changing.  We’re observing a quiet Lenten season at home— we’ve given up eating out at restaurants for the next forty days, gathering round the table for cornbread and beans, beef stew with pearl couscous, pumpkin, clementines, and star anise. We cook seasonally, we celebrate seasonally, we try to add structure to a life that is in constant, vibrant flux, and I wonder if she’ll feel it in her bones like I do when she’s older— if the change in temperature or quality of light, the change in the texture of an apple or tomato or the saturation of the colors at the market will reference an entire vocabulary of days and hours and moments past and yet to come.

Other things are changing, too.  I’m struggling with late onset post-partum depression, throwing a hazy cast on days that now graciously give us more light.  I cry and worry and struggle and push, and I am lucky to know where to go, how to begin to move forward, how to ask for help.  I am leaving my job, the job for which I uprooted myself from my home state, the job through which I have found out much about myself, the job that led me straight to Mike and our little family.  I’m taking a step away from whom I’ve known myself to be professionally to find out who it is I can be, who I am.

 

We’re making sauerkraut and yogurt this week, finishing off the giant batch of oats and amaranth from last week. I’ll keep sweeping the floor and Mike will keep washing the dishes, and we’ll get dinner on the table and everyone cleaned up and between warm sheets.  We’ll all cuddle and thrash about at some point in the night, and then we’ll wake up to a whole new one, again.

I can’t wait to see who she is tomorrow.