25 April 2015

taking stock // 4



making: Another Amish style rag rug- this one is for the kitchen. Its coming out great, requires no sewing, and uses up scrap fabric that has been taking up precious closet space for years. It is requiring patience, but patience is much cheaper than a store-bought alternative.

drinking: Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Jake has been working a couple side jobs and I'm swamped with my two gigs too. Add to this that I'm on solo parent duty every day after work- Jake hasn't been getting home until after 10PM. I'm worn thin on every level, but barreling ahead with coffee in a stainless travel mug.

reading: Nothing! Not a page has been turned in weeks! RE: side jobs, hands full, tired eyes.

wanting: Weck Jars. We use our Ball jars and love 'em, but are often short due to my passionate attempt to rid our home of plastics, especially for food storage. And Weck jars are even better than Ball jars- those glass lids, c'mon. Also, they're pretty. I'd love to switch to storing our water in the fridge in these.

watching: Mad Men is in the final-final-final stretch. Only a couple episodes left. Parenthood and now Mad Men? No more TV for me after that, folks.

listening: Still loving Carrie & Lowell. Can't get enough. Alice shares my love for folk music too. The more percussive banjo and cello the better.

eating: I made a very simple & cheap kale pesto pasta the other night. Alice liked it. Jake liked the leftovers. I liked another way to ingest kale. Win-win-win.

smelling: SPRING AIR. Open the windows! Rake the leaves! The little stream that runs through our backyard when the water table is especially high is, well, running. I drink my first sips of coffee every morning standing in our kitchen in my bathrobe, looking out our double window at that sweet little stream and our half raked yard. #grateful

wishing: That fruits and veggies were cheaper. Alice and I want all the avocados. All of 'em.

enjoying: Though I am a bit worn out, it is nice to be busy and active and not feel paralyzed by it all. I'm getting my groove back, slowly but surely. Take that postpartum.

loving: Earth Day was this week, followed shortly thereafter by Fashion Revolution Day. I'm loving a renewed motivation to make our home more toxin free, green and sustainable. So far we've made soap, shampoo, baby shampoo/body wash, deodorant, face scrub, lip and cheek stain, and have gotten steadily back on the composting bandwagon. Go team.

hoping: To stay grateful when I'm weary. Its easy to be Eeyore, but I don't want to be.

needing: To keep weeding out our house! I've gotten rid of an entire car full of belongings- consigning and donating clothes, giving things away to friends, recycling and upcycling when possible- but somehow our closets seem just as full. It is all progress though. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

feeling: Like Jake and I should cash in the couples massage gift certificate Linnie gave us for Christmas. Yes, I do believe it is time.

wearing: Sunglasses! Shoes without socks! I even wore SANDALS once already.

bookmarking: I love this sweet new-to-me blog. It makes me want to sew all the things. And this makes me laugh. And these watercolors are exactly my favorite kind of lovely.

17 April 2015

illumination


Sufjan's new album, Carrie & Lowell, is sad. And I love it. It reeks of emotion- the honest, soul-searching kind that comes barreling through you when you've been destroyed, unexpectedly, by loss. For Sufjan, loss came in fits and starts from the time his mother left when he was one. She suffered from schizophrenia and addiction. He had hardly any relationship with her. And then, in 2012, she died.

Alice is nearly one. The idea of suffering to the extent of needing to abandon her is horrifying. It is intensely sad too, because at 12 months along, you've just truly formed a parent-child friendship. Until recently, I loved Alice, but she wasn't capable of expressing distinct affection in return. But now? She hugs, kisses, teases, and gets mad. It is awesome. And it is heartbreaking to think that in this time, when all the personality switches are beginning to flip on, a mother would need to escape.

So, it seems to me, that Sufjan must have spent his life up to 2012 intermittently racked with questions of his abandonment, mourning for his relationship with Carrie and the security it would have provided. When she died, the potential of reconciliation and relationship died too. There was no longer hope for a cleaned slate or a maternal bond or the kissing, teasing, and madness of a mother-child relationship.

Sufjan gurgled through the drowning depression that his mother's death instigated. He felt possessed by her. He loved her deeply and tragically. And he is a musician, so he made music about it.

On Sunday night Sufjan's voice sounded older and weaker than it has at his more rambunctious concerts. On the Illinois tour Sufjan wore a cheerleading outfit and danced with pom-poms. For Age of Adz he wore massive wings and neon stripes. But Carrie & Lowell is raw and hard and Sufjan's voice matched the themes as it cracked through every transition into falsetto. He missed beats and dropped lines. And, just like the album, I loved it. I love Sufjan Stevens and all his quirky, honest artistry. I love him even more now that he has put lyrics and music to these life experiences.

Maybe it is because I so recently waded through depression? Or maybe I have simply grown tired of defaulting to criticism rather than kindness? Thankfully though Carrie & Lowell doesn't beg me to restrain judgement for the sake of Sufjan's feelings- it is solidly, poignantly, Sufjan's best album to date.

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The Moral Bucket List made me cry in my cubicle today. In it, David Brooks discusses interactions with good people, people who he describes as those who "radiate an inner light." He writes about resume virtues versus eulogy virtues and what makes a deeply good person: profound honesty and confrontation with their weaknesses, deeply rooted beliefs, relationships, and a sense of calling, limitless gratitude. I nodded my head, over and over again, as I read and re-read paragraphs. And this part? This is what had me wiping my eyes:

Dorothy Day led a disorganized life when she was young: drinking, carousing, a suicide attempt or two, following her desires, unable to find direction. But the birth of her daughter changed her. She wrote of that birth, “If I had written the greatest book, composed the greatest symphony, painted the most beautiful painting or carved the most exquisite figure I could not have felt the more exalted creator than I did when they placed my child in my arms.”

That kind of love decenters the self. It reminds you that your true riches are in another. Most of all, this love electrifies. It puts you in a state of need and makes it delightful to serve what you love. Day’s love for her daughter spilled outward and upward. As she wrote, “No human creature could receive or contain so vast a flood of love and joy as I often felt after the birth of my child. With this came the need to worship, to adore.”

She made unshakable commitments in all directions. She became a Catholic, started a radical newspaper, opened settlement houses for the poor and lived among the poor, embracing shared poverty as a way to build community, to not only do good, but be good. This gift of love overcame, sometimes, the natural self-centeredness all of us feel.

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My own struggle with depression after Alice's birth was somehow simultaneously mixed with the exact feelings Dorothy Day describes. I recall, late one night, very early in Alice's life, standing and rocking her in our bedroom. I looked at Jake through eye-fulls of tears and blurted, "this is what it is all about." It was one of those Royal Tenenbaums moments:

ROYAL: I just wanna say the last six days have been the best six days of probably my whole life.
NARRATOR: Immediately after making this statement, Royal realized that it was true.

The upending of motherhood- the hormones, lack of sleep, physical injuries from birth, disorienting disconnection with one's own body- is slap-dashed with a new-found deep understanding of love and creation. Like Dorothy, I felt utterly decentered and now, without the haze of postpartum, I also frequently feel electrified and unshakable, clear and focused. Simpler.

As I listen to Carrie & Lowell I feel that I am keeping company with someone who feels a likewise desire for clarity of purpose and confrontation of weaknesses. In this interview Sufjan says the album is an attempt "to pursue a sense of peace and serenity in spite of suffering." Ah! As he sings, I nod and cry. He brings up his niece and I think of Alice:

My brother had a daughter / The beauty that she brings, illumination

15 April 2015

crocus face

Crocuses have poked their glorious noggins through our backyard and I want to crawl inside them like a tiny fairy. I would like to have a full-on make out session with Spring. If it weren't for Jake I would marry Spring and have flowers for babies.

Thankfully, Jake IS in my life. And so is Alice- our blooming, blossoming, vibrant girl. And we are suddenly mother&daughter. Alice hugs with intention. She kisses me and plays with my hair. She shows me things- stares out the window and points out what she sees, wanting to share and experience together. It is incredible. She took her first steps last week and another tooth popped through her bottom gums. As of last Sunday she has decided to sleep through the night, foregoing nursing for 12+ hours. I've stopped pumping at work because Alice has stopped taking a bottle during the day. She nurses in the morning, and sometimes in the evening too, but, for the most part, she is well on her way to weaned, completely on her own accord.

I used to deeply mourn each inch and pound of Alice's growth. Every passing week felt like a death. I was losing time and missing moments. Postpartum framed everything as loss. Gradually, the world came back into color and instead of aching for those tiny, raw beginnings I began to embrace the joy of  being a mom now and anticipating the discoveries of tomorrow. Instead of lost time, I hold our days as a gifts spent together. I feel genuine excitement over who Alice is becoming and what our relationship holds. I love her in a new way now- as a person all her own and, though it may sound completely odd, as a dear little friend.

Monday was our first totally balmy-warm, sunshine-y day. 70s and bright sunshine? It is a whole new world. I used to love Fall, but Spring has stolen my heart. The air. The smell. Alice's birthday and our anniversary. Alice and I had our first-ever little picnic: late afternoon, a shared orange, a pink polka dotted blanket and backyard raking. There is still snow holding out in shade-y corners of our yard, while in other spots iris leaves and full crocus faces are in view. I love the juxtaposition of Winter to Spring- the clean, white of mid Winter gets dirty and dingy, but then everything suddenly bursts and blossoms. Comes to life, or just wakes up and does a dance. Spring, glorious Spring. 
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