30 Months

Dear Z,

Can I have a few minutes?

Something sad happened today. The youngest child of two of my high school friends passed away. They posted a photo of their daughter on Facebook. The little one was in a wheelchair, smiling. Sending her off with a farewell full of both sorrow and joy.

I never met this impressive little girl, but I know my friends. Over the years they shared photos and let us get to know of their daughter’s fighting spirit and cheerful personality. I stared at the one photo today and wept. I commented with condolences, trying to be strong for these friends who have to be so heartbroken right now.

Before today’s photo, my friends posted photos of their other children posing with their sister. There was so much love, and I was hoping and praying so hard for her to pull through. It was not meant to be. I am grateful to have seen these precious last moments of her life, so full of joy and compassion and love. Her family surrounding her, cherishing their time left with her in mortality.

At this moment I’m thinking of bedtime. You know the routine: go potty, change into an overnight diaper, brush teeth, say prayers. Dadda gives you a big kiss goodnight, and I lie with you for a few minutes as you wind down for sleep.

Usually you take my hand and lead me to your toddler bed. I lie down, and you lie beside me. The soft purple and pink beams of your night light roll in a small circle on the ceiling, and Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel” plays softly in the background.

We talk for a little bit. I ask about your day; I describe mine. Sometimes one of your legs rests on top of me; sometimes we hold hands.

This is my favorite part of the day.

When I try to get up, you grab my hand or hold my head down to make sure I stay with you.

A few more minutes.

A lot of people consider turning 30 years old a major milestone in their lives. This week you turned 30 months.

You’re getting taller.

More observant.

More opinionated.

You tolerate a crowd of children, but most of the time you’d rather play alone. You’ve shown this numerous times at daycare and in the church nursery.

We won’t force you to make friends. You might be a lot like me in this regard. I either reach out, or I don’t. I either reciprocate friendly gestures, or I don’t.

I hope that you become better than I am. For that to happen, I need to be better than I am.

I told you about these friends tonight, as we lay in your little bed, trying to sleep.  I was blinking back tears in the darkness. I told you my friends were sad, that you would have loved their daughter. I squeezed you a little tighter, a little longer, hoping the embrace somehow would reach my friends.

Thirty months.

As we snuggle every night, I think about this, how the time passes. I dread the moment when you’ll no longer want me lying beside you, talking about our day. You’ll hurry me out of your room instead of getting me to stay. I will yearn to find warmth and comfort in the pride I have for our wonderful daughter. Wonderful you.

This abstractness worries me. I equate it with a void of a little body beside me in a little bed. The absence of gazing through the dark at each other, eyes connecting the way only a parent and child’s can connect.

Until that moment, I will lie next to you. I will enjoy the space you occupy, the warmth you emanate, for as long as you let me.

Even if it’s just for a few more minutes.

Love, Mom

On Unsolicited Advice

It used to bother me when people offered advice I clearly didn’t ask for. And that makes me a giant hypocrite, because I do that to other people all the time. It’s a condition I think, where I start talking and I come across as a big, blubbering know-it-all. I can see it in other people’s faces as the words spew from my mouth. Something I say rubs them the wrong way, their eyes register annoyance then glaze over, then they let the subject drop because they don’t want me talking anymore. I recognize the technique because I do the very same thing.

Now I’ve become more accepting of people and their opinions. Because people are always going to have opinions. And they’re often going to present them as fact. But the thing is now that instead of those imposed opinions ruffling my feathers, I’ll maintain an underlying level of doubt about what they say. When people say something like, “Babies pee purple until they’re three months old” or “Dancing will not only hasten delivery but make the baby more coordinated coming out of the womb” they can be sure that I won’t wholeheartedly believe them.

Nobody’s said those things yet, but there’s still time.

But I’ve mellowed out quite a bit, because I’ve recognized my own vast ignorance on the subjects of pregnancy and parenting. It doesn’t bother me as much when parents look at us and make the strangest remarks about what seems to be rather predictable things.

“Just you wait.” Wait for what? We are waiting. I’m closing in on my sixth of nine months. And while we’re waiting, we’re talking, reading, asking people what their experience has been. Are we waiting for a baby that pops out like a jack-in-the-box? Are we waiting for a labor that requires more waiting, except more intense? Are we waiting for Baby’s first blow-outs and spit-ups? Wait until our child starts smarting off at us? Wait until she’s a teenager? Or until she goes to college?  Or until she starts spouting advice of her own? There’s a difference between waiting for some big surprise to completely blindside us and anticipating possibilities in development and preparing accordingly. Or are you saying we’ll never be prepared? Because I can prepare myself for that kind of news, too. Or maybe you’re saying to wait for the constant feeling of failure as a parent. We plan on doing our very best all the time, and maybe you are too, but that doesn’t mean you have to  be so negative about it.

third trimester. Next month begins my third trimester, and I feel whatever you’re warning me against falls under the “just you wait” category. We’re taking everything in stride, just like we did when we decided against guessing at the baby’s gender. We would have been just as thrilled for a boy.

Second trimester has been a relative breeze, except for occasional lower back pain. Reilly and I have watched my tummy grow; I’ve felt our daughter moving around. I’ve played my clarinet for her and Reilly has told her stories.

Third semester promises swelling, more back pain, and the resurgence of tinkle frequency. Third semester also promises a wonderful baby in our arms.

pregnancy brain. Why people feel compelled to warn us about this, I will never know. It’s true that I have lapses: I forget to turn out the lights; I forget the name of a movie or song or actor or book. But there are other cognitive thingamabobs that seem to have gotten better: certain reasoning skills and the connection between my heart and brain. This connection helps to explain why I cry at nearly everything, like Hallmark Channel movies and these videos:

“It’ll change your life forever.” Really? Devoting attention and energy as parents to a brand new human being while maintaining our relationship as husband and wife will make our life different forever? Someone, please explain this to me, because I thought we’d be able to continue every single aspect of our life as usual.

“Have you thought of names?” We are going to leave a big blank on the birth certificate. And then maybe we’ll call her Blanky, not to be confused with the nickname Blanket, formally Prince Michael Jackson II.

People are thoughtful enough to tell us to be careful of the names we choose. And then we decide not to name our daughter after these people.

“Girls are so awesome!” People declare this to us because:

  • girls seem to have calmer dispositions
  • girls as first children can be very helpful with raising subsequent children
  • girls are funner to dress

I guess those reasons are legit? People tell us boys are awesome, too, because:

  • boys can be calm, too
  • oldest boys can protect their younger siblings
  • boys can be just as fun to dress

Again, we would have been thrilled either way.

doctor/hospital vs. midwife/homebirth. Boy howdy, I’ve researched both sides of what seems a pretty heated debate. And I’ve asked people about their experience, which has spanned the entire spectrum. There are parents who’ve had horrible and wonderful home births, and there are parents I’ve spoken to who’ve had amazing and terrifying hospital deliveries. And there are studies upon studies upon studies. And then there’s a ton of fearmongering.

vaccines. Some people just love to debate and attack people for thinking differently. Or just plain thinking.

breastfeeding. Same.

“I’ve done a lot of research  into [important subject]. [Or I haven’t, but…] If you have any questions, we can talk.” I love this, and I think more productive conversations would happen if people used this approach more often. There are entire communities out there who engage in important parenting discussions and gain insight about their abilities as parents as well as their children.

I heartily admit that we don’t know everything about being parents, but we’re also not complete idiots. We’re not totally oblivious and unobservant. We’re not going to let an army of ants carry her away into their anthill to crown her the queen ant. That would make me jealous.

I appreciate parents who are passionate enough to share what has worked for them. And I’m willing to listen and try to see what will work for our daughter. But we will also trust in our own intuition and be specifically attuned to Baby’s unique needs. We have been fervently praying to be as prepared as possible, and if that preparation comes in the form of wide-eyed, über-zealous parents trying to tell us what to do, we can deal with that. But if it comes in the form of people who know what it’s like but want to let us figure some things out on our own, we’ll take that, too.

Cause and Effect of My Jerkiness

The other day, a chat:

Friend: hi

me: hi

Friend: how’s it go?

me: good it goes

Friend: good that is

🙂

me: how are you?

Friend: school is stressing me out

me: yeah

midterms, yay!

Friend: blah

me: you’ll do fine

Friend: I appreciate your vote of confidence, but I seriously doubt it

me: why?

Friend: I haven’t been putting in the time

me: why?

Friend: I get distracted and I don’t want to

me: so then you can’t really complain when deadlines come

i mean you do

you always do

but you know what you’re doing when you procrastinate

it’s not like science homework

i mean i should let you vent instead of giving you my opinion

so you should keep venting

Friend: no, you are right

I should quit [complaining] and just do it 🙂

me: working on a paper along the way is a lot less stressful, just fyi 🙂

you can try it next time

Friend: maybe I will 🙂

Then the next day, this blog post.

I mean, the friend doesn’t mention names, but I have a feeling her words are about me. And what I said did come out of nowhere, so I can see why it felt like an attack. I could try to come up with a reason I behaved this way. For instance, languages. I could have just told my friend I was looking at a bunch of foreign languages so that my friend could understand that I was trying to concentrate, but instead I lashed out with what she kindly called truth bombs.

She was way too kind for what I deserve. I kicked a soccer ball in her face. I remember one time in fifth grade our class was playing soccer during P.E. and a boy kicked a soccer ball in my face. It simultaneously shocked and hurt me, and I was angry and embarrassed. The game stopped and the teacher handed me the ball and told me I could throw the ball at the boy. Which I didn’t do. Because that would have been dumb. That teacher was a dork.

Just saying, I know how those hexagons and pentagons feel at close range and high impact.

I’m sorry.

Polls Are Great

My first week of school was pretty much amazing, but I’ll write more about that later.

In the past few days I’ve asked people what I should do with the rest of my life, and they came up with some pretty interesting answers. If you have an opinion either way (because you know that I will hold you completely responsible for my life), feel free to comment.

x: for a while i was gunning to live by a river with an irish poet-explorer. i’m way off-track, so you could take over for me
This definitely has a lot of appeal, and really, I don’t see why this couldn’t happen.

C: hard to say
Other people are supposed to have an easy time figuring out my future, but I’ll let this one slide.

H: ummm….go to paris eat really amazing food and find a handsome french man that admires you and buys you really pretty dresses and takes you to balls and then let me come visit you and then in a few years after you’ve had you’re taste of paris, move back to the states to be closer to your family and friends and of course your husband will have an amazing job that will let you travel when ever you want, but he wont want to leave your side, so he’ll have to come with you wherever you go in the meantime, you’ll be an amazing writer who will have your own column and eventually book that everyone in the world wants and becomes a number one seller in seconds then you could donate some of your money to charity and go on excursions to help the less fortunate people of the world
too much?
Is it really ever too much? Is there ever a detail too small? I say no.

B: grad school

  rock climbing
  love life
  reading
  teaching
  family
  Go

And then there’s the list approach, an outline with some really basic ideas. Then I get to fill in the gaps. Not bad.

J: we need to find a professional decision maker

 just do something that you like to do
 you don’t have to obsessively LOVE to do it
  but like it
  and be challenged by it

and feel like you’re doing something worthwhile

  or there’s always bellydancing
I like this advice, too, because not only does it leave my options open, but because I don’t have to wait to obsessively love something to pursue it. Also, bellydancing just seems like it should be impossible.
 

K: I don’t know much about life plans, but I believe in your ability to make choices

I like this a lot.

F: You ever read any jack kerouac? I say you either do something like him, minus the drug dependency, or write total money making fluff. It doesn’t have to be writing. I just came up with that since you seem to enjoy it and be decent. I suggest getting a publicist or agent. And don’t be afraid to get bad reviews at first. They can’t all be winners. I’ve been thinking about that as I write stand-up. I want to get a decent amount of material, then if I get any time off, looking into getting a booking agent or manager and doing some traveling gigs to get a feel for it and getting my feet wet. I feel like we were raised to struggle or hit it big. Nothing in between. But I guess that would be okay too.
Okay, maybe you can figure out who this one is. His response impressed me. He does often say substantial and wise (and often raunchy and funny) things, but I’m glad that he’s also thinking about his life.

You folks are so great. I’m so grateful for all of you.

Relationships

This past weekend, I spent more time on the phone than I have in a very long time. I can’t describe everything here, but it was eye-opening, and I’m grateful for all that I learned.

The following chat is with a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while. I’m blessed to have her around.

My mind is drawing a big blank. I didn’t really sleep last night, and I won’t get any real sleep until Saturday night. I can’t muster the energy to form a complete thought right now. I guess … life is hard in so many ways. It comes at us from so many directions. I hope all my friends out there find what they’re looking for. You’ll see I don’t give awesome advice, but it’s nice just to be there for them.

friend: May, I lost my voice (writing) and I’m finding it, but the way it’s coming through is in the corporate bs kind of writing and it’s stunted and stifled and choked.

So…
10:08 PM   I thought of you, and all that writing you started doing in NYC, and the blog, and the classes and how you’ve been like a dog with a bone
Never letting up. And I admire that.
me: friend, that’s really kind
friend: So I realized, I have to write for myself if I want anyone to appreciate/value my gift.
I can’t wait for organizations to affirm what i
10:09 PM ‘m doing and then get all bent out of shape when they want something else.
Instead of sitting there crying and wondering if I even have a gift at all.
10:10 PM And my mind kept returning to you..and your determination and your persistence iwth it.
10:11 PM I want that, but fear I don’t have it. Or that I’m too afraid to really try. I keep myself in a no-win situation, that way I can always blame so many other factors and secretly think “they just don’t know a great writing voice when they read it”
I thought I had somethign to offer, but tonight I realize, [company] doesn’t want it.
10:12 PM it hurts. But it’s good to know. and like I said. There’s a choice before me. The truth is there to seize or not.
Thanks for being patient with me. Encouraging my gifts, seeing them, etc.
me: you know i’m there for you. whatever you need
10:13 PM keep up the patience with yourself
friend: Thanks May. That’s amazing to me right now. But true, if you say so.
Does any of this resonate with you having “watched” me for years?
10:15 PM me: yes, it comes and goes for me
phases and such
i went through a time last semester when i was wondering constantly if i’ve forgotten how to write
friend: I guess what I’m asking is does it seem that I have gifts I don’t know how to let out, or seem to squander
?
10:16 PM me: i think it’s important to find appropriate outlets for your gifts
which can be hard to do
putting feelers out there
and risking rejection
10:17 PM knowing how those gifts manifest is quite the process as well
you just have to keep writing
letting people read your stuff. getting feedback
10:18 PM get with other creatives who are actively engaging in a community
find out where they’re submitting
get some positive comments, ride on that momentum
10:19 PM you have talent
but we can’t feed our own fires all the time
we do need people
and writing is about reaching out to an audience and touching them somehow
i know you’ve heard all this before
10:20 PM but if it’s what you want, it’s worth repeating
friend: I so need to hear it all again. thanks.
10:21 PM I feel like deep down I have a voice, a fire, a spark at least but it’s so hard to believe sometimes when all you get is non-affirmation.
But I guess tonight I realized I’m looking in the wrong place for it.
[omitted stuff]
10:24 PM me: well, now i’m nurturing the talent in an academic setting
expanding horizons, testing ability
friend: does that feel liberating and affirming?
10:25 PM me: it does. but that’s inherent of a university setting
friend: true true.
10:26 PM Anyway, I just wanted to share what’s hot off the press. And that I feel like I’m made for something different, but can’t actualize.
10:27 PM And yet, I’ve seen you consistently pursue, pursue, pursue!
me: keep creating
just know [company] isn’t permanent
friend: I’m proud of you for that (and slightly jealous that I didn’t join you in the journey)
10:28 PM Right. true.
me: you’ve had an impressive journey yourself
friend: oh geez, these last couple have been a bit rough.
10:29 PM but, are they spicy for all the dicy? yes. have they held lessons, yes.
expensive lessons. tonight feels like an expensive lesson. I feel like I’m finally squaring with something I didn’t know I was trying not to square with.
10:30 PM I feel like I’m finally back where I was when I first started writing and yet I’m like 20 yrs older.
10:31 PM me: that shouldn’t matter
you’ve hit a wall professionally, but you’ve got a second wind creatively
that’s great
friend: true. I believe that in theory, but it feels behind to walk out.
10:32 PM I mean I feel behind in the walking out of the concept.
10:33 PM Thanks for the encouragement. i should prolly go to bed. it’s way past my bedtime.
me: chin up
friend: What time is it there? 10:30?
me: yep
10:34 PM friend: yes’m
Thank May-may.
me: anytime
i’m glad you’re you
friend: I look forward to phoning, seriously.
me: take your time

I Had A Great Week

It was profound and eye-opening. And I wish I could describe it. All the great and marvelous happenings definitely countered the confusion and hurt.

I’m taking everything in the same stride. I’d rather feel hopeful than upset, and my chances for that increase when I don’t dwell on the bad stuff. Acknowledge the negative, allow a reaction, be grateful, then move on. Be better. What else is there?

Simple focus.

Still listening to the Freelance Whales. Here’s the last song on Weathervanes.

Lyrics:

We beg rebirth to take us up
Parade our souls out by the back gate
Some claw the ground
Some cut the air
Some warm the seas
But what will you be and when?

And I swim through dirt to find you out
And a whale without his family history is
And I used to shout to find my way in the water
Find my distant memory failed

Look into the reigns of a great estate
Better lights pull you out of the ground
Seep into the wood of the great estates
Animals your soul will guide

Give into the reigns of the great estates
Better lights pull you out of the ground
Seep into the wood of the great estates
Animals your soul will guide

Give into the reigns of the great estates
Better lights pull you out of the ground
Seep into the wood of the great estates
Animals your soul will guide

Give into the reigns of the great estates
Better lights pull you out of the ground
Seep into the wood of the great estates
Animals your soul will guide

Give into the reigns of the great estates
Better lights pull you out of the ground
Seep into the wood of the great estates
Animals your soul will guide

Two Links and a Little Rant

I’m going to try making this pizza. It’s cheeseless and tomato-less, but looking at it made me really hungry. Too bad for you who don’t like mushrooms or fruit. Sarah also shouts-out to New York City, which: awesome. Miss you, girl.

Speaking of tomatoes, I read advice columns. Yes kids, it’s true. This is one of my regulars – I look forward to it every Wednesday. Sometimes the situations are extremely drama-laden, but Sars has no trouble calling anybody out and offering pretty great advice. I’m including today’s questions, only because I see friends around who might have similar experiences.

***

I will briefly interrupt my current mirth to say just this once how much it hurts when people lie to me. People I’m close to; people I’m supposed to trust. You’re not protecting me, and in the end, you’re not protecting yourself. I get tired of gritting my teeth and trying not to swear. I’m not perfect; I do stupid things all the time. But come on. Please, please, just tell the truth.

Back to current mirth: I received a 98% on the midterm I mentioned yesterday. Then I talked with my literary criticism professor about a paper I turned in a few weeks ago, and she said it was one of the best ones, then we talked about an upcoming project, and then she offered me some advice on my current academic track: classes to take, minors to declare and pursue (I should hurry up and declare microbiology as one of them), contests to enter, internships to apply for. She had no qualms telling me how cutthroat the creative writing business is. She was incredibly helpful.

Dangit, people. I really like school.