Versatile Blogger Award

The Versatile Blogger Award

The Versatile Blogger Award

Big, big thanks to my pal Valerie at Atlanta Mom of Three for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. As an aside, I’ve been particularly enjoying Valerie’s recent posts on homeschooling—one of many options we’re starting to wade through as we look to our kids’ education down the road. No idea yet what we’re going to do. It’s a daunting topic, but Valerie makes her family’s choice seem very approachable and not as intimidating as I previously imagined.

I have been instructed to share some random facts about me that you may not already know. Here goes:

  1. I love musicals. No seriously, I LOVE musicals. Song and dance make everything better. And Doctor Who makes everything better as well.
  2. I used to be a performer—music, theatre, etc.
  3. My only trip out of the country, so far, has been to study in Jerusalem and Jordan the summer of my eighteenth year. My fellow students were a mix of American and Palestinian teenagers. It was an incredible experience. I learned so much that I never expected to learn.
  4. I hate waiting tables. I never want to wait tables again. Ever.
  5. My favorite drink right now is what my hubby and I call a preggertini: ¾ mineral water to ¼ juice (no sugar added). It is the best pick-me-up.
  6. The first gift Damon ever gave me was a vitex plant. It made me cry. It’s so beautiful, and it will be hard to leave it behind when we move…
  7.  My favorite cookbooks in the world are both beautiful and well-written, can be read like a novel, pages turned, pictures ogled like a tawdry magazine spread. Doing a fave cookbook list would be too long, but my favorite cookbook authors are hands-down Shauna James Ahern and Yotam Ottolenghi. Makes me weak in the knees.

In turn, I am nominating the following for the Versatile Blogger Award:

Pint-Sized Pioneering – My pal Jenn’s blog about homesteading in the city. Her DIYs are very practical and easy to follow, and her sense of humor can’t be beaten.

Les Recettes du Panier – I’m a new follower of this blog which focuses on fresh, in-season recipes. I love that the recipes appear in both French and English, allowing me to practice a little bit, my French having grown quite rusty.

Better Bites – Samantha’s recipes are amazing and wholesome. Samantha seems pretty amazing a wholesome, too, now that I think of it…

Purple Front Porch Photography – My superhero pal Anna’s photoblog. Technically, this is for her business, but the variety and personality of her photographs just inspire me. You’ll see.

Forcing the Bloom – Also a mother, this blogger’s baby boy is very close in age to Oscar, and I love reading how she’s seeing the world through the lens of motherhood. Read her bio—I love the reason she chose this title for her blog. Yes.

To accept the award, just copy the above image in an acceptance post, share some random facts about yourself, and nominate some other great blogs!

Writing to Reframe

I love to write. I’ve come to believe that the writing process is essential to my health and well-being, much like good digestion or sunlight. Sure, I don’t have to write, but my life and the world inside my skin is a much happier place when I do.

I’ve come to treat writing as a daily ritual, and even though I often want to call a piece done as soon as I bang out a draft, I always let it sit at least a week before returning to it and revising. As an introvert, writing helps me process things at my own pace. I can set even my most turbulent and muddy thoughts down on the page, then release it for a while. When I return to it, the seas have calmed, the sediment has settled, and I can see my feet, where I stand, in the clearer water. I make adjustments, and then sometimes I share.

My friend Robbie once shared with me an exercise she had learned. Think of an event in your life that still upsets you—perhaps even a regret—and write that story. After you finish writing that piece of your history, rewrite it: change your ending, change your outcome, transform the situation.

I found this a very challenging idea because it seemed sort of dishonest at first, like an exercise in denial or wishful thinking. I had to chew on it for a while, hold it between my cheek and my jaw and let it soften. Perhaps the rewriting exercise helps the individual discover the specific spot on the memory that is still most poignant and hurtful. In locating the splinter, perhaps it can be pulled.

Although I don’t change the details of my stories when I write, I do often change my heart. Wanting to write from a place of being present and honest, I turn a floodlight onto my own mind, thoughts, assumptions, those inadvertent ticks of defensiveness and judgment. Why am I jumping to this conclusion? Why do I get defensive here? Do I feel apologetic?

My inner landscape changes, shifts. The story is the same, but the narrator is new. The picture has been reframed.

Central Park

Reinhabiting Life

The first week following Oscar’s birth, I moved through a hormone- and love-induced haze during which I slept little, sometimes only one or two hours a day.  I didn’t need sleep: I was in love.

Week two, the tables turned. The sleeplessness caught up with a vengeance, prompting sweeping emotional swings – crying one moment, laughing the next, and repeat—and even frightening hallucinations. This was where Damon, good man, drew the line; he enforced naps between feedings, and though I protested that Oscar needed me, that I wanted to visit with him and our parents, as soon as one feeding was over, Oscar was whisked away to cuddle or nap elsewhere, and I was forced to rest. One more thing for which I am eternally grateful to my husband.

A few days later, I started acting like a [somewhat] sane person again. A couple weeks after that, as our family adapted to its new rhythm, we were amazed at how well we functioned with oft-interrupted and scant sleep. Five or six hours of sleep a night seemed extravagant after the deprivation of the first couple weeks but was still much less than we had been accustomed to getting before Oscar was born. We were so impressed with ourselves; we had all these crazy new complications, and we still functioned!

Within a couple months, Oscar was going six to eight hours at a stretch at night, which allowed me at least four hours of sleep before I had to get up to feed him. Then he’d go back to sleep—and I’d go back to sleep—for another four hours or so. Suddenly, I was sleeping eight hours a night total, and my body was pretty well healed, as well.

Around five months I started to get the itch. I was healed, but I wanted to get back in shape. Every spare moment was crammed full with running errands, doing laundry, folding laundry, nursing Oscar—the list goes on. On the rare occasion that I had a half hour or so, I was either so exhausted that all I could do was watch part of a movie (never a whole film) or I would feel guilty about the epic to-do list and try to shoe-horn in one more thing. In my mind, I didn’t have time to exercise, and I certainly didn’t have time for myself. Other stuff and other people had to come first. Just like sleep in that first week or so, it always got backburnered.

As happy as I was as a mother, I started to feel pretty down on myself as a wife and as an individual. Although toting Oscar around had given me arms of steel, i otherwise felt frumpy. My clothes didn’t fit. Heck, even my skin didn’t seem to fit. It was hard to find time to do simple things that I normally took for granted, like washing my hair or dressing well. I felt ugly. I suspected that Damon only continued to profess his love for me out of kindness, obligation, and possibly pity.

Moreover, I felt intensely lonely. Oscar is fabulous company, and I was so happy with him, but I had all of these thoughts and feelings and revelations that I didn’t really have an outlet for sharing. I talked to my mom a lot, but I also got kind of self-conscious about talking about all this stuff lest anyone think I was either unbalanced or fixated (or both). I didn’t want anyone to think I was struggling or weak, nor did I want to disappoint anyone when they asked how things were going by saying anything other than a bright smile and a brave declaration: “Great!”

I lacked the courage and the ability to say instead, “I love being a mother; it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and this shit is hard. I’m unhappy with myself, I’m constantly questioning myself, and where I used to think I was a superhero for even functioning on a human level while taking care of a baby, now I feel insecure and self-conscious about my inability to even take care of myself. I feel ugly and selfish, and I feel guilty about feeling anything other than bliss when I have this amazing boy in my life.” Truth.

And once again, as in those first weeks, my husband came to the rescue. He continued to be supportive, to listen, and to empathize as much as he could. He encouraged me to spend an afternoon with a friend. He cheered me on when I started using my lunch breaks to exercise at work. I was so proud of myself, texting him that I’d run x-number of miles or done however many pushups or whatever, and he would always respond effusively—such a simple thing, but on some level I guess he knew how important it was to me, how much it helped me stay motivated.

Our family, August 2012

Damon, Anna, and Oscar – August 2012

As my energy-level and body image improved, I continued to wish for “me time,” and I continued to sabotage my own attempts at getting it: chores had to be done, errands had to be run, Oscar needed me to nurse him, insert pity party here. Damon heard the need and ignored the noise. One Saturday, he told me that he would watch Oscar for a few hours so I could go to a café and write. I had to run a couple errands, so off I went. I ran my errands, got stuck in traffic, and finally gave up, returning home without having written a damn thing.

The next day—Sunday—he once more packed me out the door again. He told me to stay out as long as I needed, to not make excuses and not feel guilty about taking time for myself. This time, I made it to the café. I bought a cup of chai and a banana. I sat down and stared at the computer for a minute or two.

And I started to write. That afternoon, I wrote a birthday letter to Oscar. I cried as I wrote it, trying (probably unsuccessfully) to hide it from the other people in the café. It was such a huge release and relief to be able to tell someone about my feelings and thoughts and memories, even if Oscar couldn’t read it yet, even if the only person listening was me. I felt like I could breathe a little better.

The following week, I wrote every single day. I couldn’t shut up. I felt like I was meeting myself again, rekindling an old flame. That enthusiasm spread and spread—I was more excited about Oscar, about work, about cooking, and it probably goes without saying that I was pretty durn happy with Damon, too! My hero. I was so worried that taking time for myself would mean neglecting or denying our family, but another week passed and I wrote every day, I cooked great meals, and I exercised regularly. And I somehow had even more energy and time for Oscar and much more joy to share with Damon.

Oscar is now one year old. Damon and I have been married for two years. And I feel like I’m better at living than I’ve ever been. I’m energized, I’m vulnerable in the best possible way, and I’m backing slowly away from those dirty words: “should be,” “ought to,” “supposed to.” Instead, I’m trying to give myself the freedom to celebrate all of it—the ups and the downs—and the space to be honest. I’m trying to remove my filter and get my priorities in order, and that means bumping myself up to the top of the list. I’m doing twice as much as I ever did, and I have energy left over because I’ve invested in myself. Because Damon patiently held up the mirror so I could see what he saw: powerful and beautiful. I am grateful.