Monday, February 28, 2011

words i love

and while i'm quoting The Poisonwood Bible, there's another bit i loved. (can't say if i loved the book, but i did love the writing, especially this part.)

As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer's long hair in water. I knew the weight was there but it didn't touch me. Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come floating around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown. So I just didn't stop.

The substance of grief is not imaginary. It's as real as rope or the absence of air, and like both of those things it can kill. My body understood there was no safe place for me to be.

A mother's body remembers her babies--the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against her nose. Each child has its own entreaties to body and soul...By instinct rather than will, I stayed alive. I tried to flee from the grief. It wasn't the spirit but just a body that moved me from one place to another. I watched my hands, heard my mouth give orders. Avoided corners and stillness. When I had to pause for breath I stood in the open, in the center of a room or out in the yard...Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I've only found sorrow.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

doing what i can't

have you ever had the feeling that someone--or Someone--planned church just for you on a particular day? the sermon today was about seeking the kingdom, i think, but that wasn't the part for me. you'll need some backstory, though, before i get to that part.

as many of you will have heard by now, anastasia has earned a new nickname: anastasia the great. here she is, in all her chubby glory, about a week ago:

luke weighed 6lbs. 9oz. when he was born at 39 weeks gestation. eliza weighed in at 6lbs. 8oz. at her 38 week birth. at this 36 week ultrasound, anastasia's estimated weight was 8lbs. 2oz. the sonographer's comment: "i hope you don't have too many newborn-size clothes!"

it was amazing and amusing for a few minutes. but of course, it would have to get more complicated than that.

in fact, anastasia is disproportionately fat around the middle. she's average sized everywhere else--head circumference, femur length, etc.--but extra large in the abdomen (something like her mother right now, as i imagine it!). it's a long story, but the gist is that babies shaped like this are at an increased risk of shoulder dystocia, that is, getting stuck halfway out during delivery.

apart from the fact that experiencing such a birth sounds horrible to me, it's also a dangerous situation for a baby. i won't go into a lot of details, but the point is, though it's a smallish risk, it's one to avoid. thus have ensued conversations about c-sections and such; i'll have to keep you posted, as nothing is decided yet.

if you know me, you'll guess i've spent the last week reading anything and everything i can about shoulder dystocia and c-sections. i know better than to just read whatever comes up on google, of course, but there's plenty of reliable information out there. and sam and i have talked and prayed and asked questions and all that jazz. i wouldn't say i've been worried, per se, but i have been preoccupied. as if i have any control at all, i'd really rather avoid any trauma this time around, thankyouverymuch. as if i have any control at all.

today at church, while our rector had plenty of good things to say to all of us about seeking the kingdom, God had some select words for me about this situation specifically. first, it was the opening hymn:
While all that borrows life from you
Is ever in your care,
And everywhere that I may be
You, God, are present there.
then it was the collect of the day:
Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

and then the Gospel reading, from matthew 6, which i can't help but prefer in the king james version:
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
okay, i'm listening. i'll stop googling and start being patient. "I've done what I can, it seems, and now I have to do what I can't. Wait" (from The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

halvesies, or an un-traditional valentine on an un-valentine’s day

for my valentine, my other half, of course

i can’t wait to see what take four on half-you/half-me is like.

our first experience of “halvesies” is now seven-and-a-half going on thirty. he is a thoughtful, brilliant, sensitive schemer who really does love giving a clever handmade gift as much as he loves receiving a shiny, purchased-for-him one. he is an excessively social extrovert who craves an hour stashed away with a book. he can’t get enough of running or playing or swimming or jumping or talkingtalkingtalking or most anything, really; he resists all limits and boundaries even as he intuitively deciphers his own. he craves attention and love even as he attempts to hide his need for it. even his appearance is sometimes all you and sometimes all me, and most often a perfect mix of a dissimilar pair. halvesies, indeed.

our second experience was the perfectly opposite combination physically of her big brother’s perfect mix of us, trading dark eyes for light, olive complexion for ivory, cowlicks and waves for ringlets, dark-but-always-getting-lighter hair for the palest of blondes, narrow chiseled face for round. her secret personality was harder to unravel, but she combined a love of physical contact with a craving for peace and quiet, even as you and i do. her brilliance was of the physical type, lighting the way as she did in more ways than one, as opposed to her brother’s verbal brand of enlightenment. among her few decipherable likes were warm water and a good snuggle. how could two versions of halvesies be both so different and yet such complete combinations of the same two elements?

our third version of half-you/half-me remains a tantalizing mystery. someday we’ll get to know this enigmatic combination in his or her fullest completeness. and i look forward to that day.

and what will our fourth experience of two-halves-make-a-whole look like? what will she sound like? what will her passions be? as the time draws near when the adventure of finding that out will begin, i find myself endlessly excited to see which of my favorite parts of you will show up this time. will she share your passions, your strength, your sensitivity? your selflessness, your fiery red-headedness, your creativity? your determination, your longings, your laugh? discovering her particular combination of us will be yet another adventure, one i can’t imagine embarking upon with anyone other than you. so here’s to the next leg of a great journey of loving each other in and through and together with an as-yet undiscovered person who we already couldn’t love more.

happy february 17, my love.

Friday, February 11, 2011


this afternoon, i wanted something beautiful.

i wanted to sit down with my blog and have something beautiful to write, some beautiful photograph to edit. but i had nothing to write except emails and childcare schedules, no photos to upload except some of luke's new dresser that i've needed to send to my parents since christmas--nothing beautiful whatsoever. i read some other people's beautiful words--an article, some blogs--but i had nothing of my own to say.

i'm no artist, but in those few spare moments while luke played outside with the neighbors, i wanted something of beauty.

something made me sit down at the piano keyboard, luke's birthday gift from last fall. once upon a time, i used to spend hours at the piano in my own house, preferring above all to play "fur elise" from memory. i realize now that i was a piano teacher's nightmare, always memorizing my music rather than reading it each time i played. thus my playing chugged along at a decent pace, but my sightreading was never more than marginal. (honestly, i didn't have much patience for the whole endeavor at all, preferring to participate in some sport that included the risk of death rather than learn to play an instrument whose biggest risk seemed to me to be a sprained finger.) i've been reminded of my laziness at sightreading as i have sung with our church choir these past few years--i can't even try to sing a piece of music until i've heard it at least once. music prodigy i was not, nor will i ever be.

anyhow, since luke got his keyboard, i have pecked away at "fur elise" and the few other songs still alive in my memory and my fingers. but huge parts of the song have been missing, and neither do i own the music nor would i likely be able to read one bit of it if i did. so i've never spent much time trying to get it back, for lack of patience most of all. but today, it struck me that if i could remember some more of it, surely "fur elise" would satisfy my craving for something of beauty.

it occurs to me that i might have been better off listing to it online or on cd...but i digress.

so i took advantage of luke's time outside with his buddies, and instead of putting away the laundry or cleaning up the kitchen or starting work on dinner, i pecked away at "fur elise." luke came inside once as i played, for a quick snack and a what are you playing, mom?, hoping that i was trying out some of his selections for the week. ms. kristin [his piano teacher] would be proud of you, he declared as he and his string cheese disappeared out the door again. my hunting and pecking for long-lost chords was hardly something to be proud of, i knew. but although the music was sorely lacking, even once i had re-found all the notes and strung them together relatively smoothly, i was discovering something of beauty.

because as i fought to find a chord, i could try all i wanted to match what my right and left hands were doing by ear, but i failed most every time. i could look at the keys and try to remember where my hands were supposed to go next, but that didn't work very often. what worked best was to start at the beginning over and over again and just play. each time i did that, i got a little farther in the song, sometimes without even realizing it. my thinking brain, no matter how hard it thought about what notes would sound right together or where it made sense for the next chord to land, had nothing on the physical memory in my fingers. if i could stop looking at my hands, stop thinking about the notes and just let my fingers move, they often knew where to go.

so i figured it out, note by note, thankful that luke and his buddies were so occupied by the trampoline. i can't say it was all that beautiful when i at last played it through, but it was satisfying if nothing else. it's a beautiful song, for certain, so even if my version sounded choppy and hacked, in my head i could hear it pretty well. but the beauty wasn't in the music.

the beauty was in the mystery of what my hands were up to. maybe it's because i've recently been reading a book about liturgy in the church, about the beauty in the mystery of it all, but i found the mystery of how my hands could know what to do when my head seemed to have no idea beautiful. (by the way, if you're at all of the liturgical persuasion--anglican, catholic, episcopal, or otherwise--or have maybe visited such a church and are curious what their liturgies are all about, i highly recommend mark galli's beyond smells and bells, which is the book i've been reading recently. it's highly accessible and enlightening, even to a nearly-lifetime liturgical worshiper like me.) it seems to me a beautiful thing our Creator did when he made our minds to work this way--that our hands (controlled by our minds, of course) can "know" something that our thinking, rational minds don't realize they know. muscle memory, it's called, or something like that. i call it nothing short of miraculous, mysterious, and beautiful.

it satisfied my craving for today, at least. maybe tomorrow i'll get my camera out.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

warning: no profound thoughts here

that's just not how my brain is working these days. these days, i'm lost in the practical. so that's what i'll blog about. i'm not usually an unedited stream of consciousness kind of girl, but today's that kind of day. stick around if you're curious about what's up...but not if you're looking for inspiration. don't say you haven't been warned.
my due date is six weeks away. luke was born one week early; eliza, two. is it possible that i'm down to a month until anastasia arrives? the trick is that i am a perfect combination of procrastinator and (obsessive) deadline-meeter, which means that i always leave my work until the last possible second but never fail to get it done in time. so i'm naturally inclined to spend these last weeks procrastinating--tons of church work, plenty of housework--until the very last minute. the problem is that i have no idea when said last minute will be. (thus the fact that with both of my children, i packed my hospital bag while i was already in labor.) i've decided to set myself the artificial deadline of march 1 to be "ready," whatever that means. i'm hoping i can fool myself into believing that is a legitimate deadline. and i'm well aware that i'm setting myself up to loathe every day after march 1 that i spend still pregnant. but sometimes those are just the kind of risks you have to take, i guess. i'll let you know.
meanwhile, we're slowly starting to get our heads around what it's going to mean to have a baby in the house again. we're realizing that luke has become pretty accustomed to life as an only child of sorts, with two parents as constant conversation partners and frequent slaves. we've decided to start helping him embrace his myriad abilities to do for himself as a nearly seven-and-a-half year old. so far, this has resulted among other things in a good deal of celebration of his newly-discovered independence, a fair amount of whining, and one burned oven mitt. i'll keep you posted on this one, too.
there's the issue of work for me, too. i loved loved loved my job when i was pregnant with luke, couldn't imagine leaving it for anything--though i was completely committed to leaving no matter what. i remember realizing about a month into my new career as a mom that i could never have dreamt of looking back. what i was doing was so much more important, so much more fulfilling, so much more challenging, so much more wonderful. this time, i find myself yet again in a job that i love and can't imagine giving up, and due to its flexibility and much less significant time commitment, i'm not planning to. i haven't--and don't expect to--quite figured out the long-term logistics for what that means, but up until recently, i've felt completely confident that i'll be able to work that out. but then i start wondering what i'm going to feel like when anastasia is here and is suddenly renewing my whole world. speaking of keeping you posted...
the superbowl is on today, and my boys are at a boys-only party. i couldn't be more delighted. emailing, facebooking, blogging, reading, far, soooo good. and they've only been gone an hour!
i'm remembering now why pregnancy has to last the whole nine months. if it didn't get really miserable, there's no way you'd be ready for the logical conclusion. if it ended at six or seven months, you would in no way be prepared for labor and childbirth and newborn life. but right now, right around the last month, i'm starting to remember how to be ready for all that: i'm up for just about anything that will put an end to this. ask me in a few weeks, and that "just about anything" will be a solid "anything." bring it on.

at the same time, i'm also quite sure i don't know how to be prepared for the unknown that is to come. Lord willing, anastasia will be healthy and happy and all will go well...but i know full well that this time, that's not all there is to it. there are bound to be significant emotions wrapped up in her arrival related to eliza's birth and life that sam, luke, and i cannot anticipate. i know what i don't know: what will it be like to deliver anastasia at the very same hospital where eliza spent the first ten weeks of her life, right next door to the nicu? will she look like eliza? what will it be like to bring her home right after her birth, escaping as it were that place that eliza fought for so long to escape? what will it feel like to dress her in eliza's clothes? what will it be like to have a baby girl that grows up healthily, Lord willing, unlike the big sister she never knew?

i know that i don't know the answers to those questions and many others like them. but i also know that there's lots more i don't even know to anticipate. there are questions and emotions i can't even imagine now that will no doubt come up. how can i prepare for the unknown? it feels like yet another opportunity--no, requirement--to trust in the One who does know. Lord, i believe; help my unbelief.
this typing pause and deep breath brought to you by braxton hicks. (wow, they're rough this third time around.) which is to say nothing about the baby enduring them, who, for the record, seems to be less busy than her big brother but way stronger than her brother or sister. wow. watch out, world.
another thing i think about a lot is being that mom. my children--the ones you'll see me with at the park or school or soccer field, anyhow--will be seven and a half years apart. sure, you're thinking, i know other families whose kids are that far apart. but think about why. there's always a story, i think; previous marriage, child out of wedlock, death of a parent or other family member, surprise pregnancy, or something else out of the ordinary. the fact is that people don't ordinarily plan to have their first child at age 25 and their second at 32. there's always a story. i'm realizing that i'll be that mom, the mom about whom people who don't know will wonder: what's the story there? she has one in middle school and one in preschool? her oldest is in college and the next isn't even in high school yet?

of course, there is a story. and if you're reading here, no doubt you know the gist of the story anyhow. but in some ways, anastasia's arrival in our family will make our story that much more transparent. there will be fewer and fewer places where i can hide from the fact that there even is a story at all (not that i do a whole lot of that anyhow!). that mom.
next up: reading. or napping. but first I really need to get something to eat...