Live Lightly, Laugh Often

random thoughts: some deep, some not

Perfection

“You’re so perfect.”

“How are you so perfect?”

“You do everything so well – you’re just so perfect!”

“I love your shoes. And your dress. And that scarf goes with both, ties them together, actually. It’s perfect!”

My whole life has been built around this theme. Why? Who even knows.

No one ever told me explicitly I had to be perfect. There was no sit down conversation with my parents where they said, “we won’t love you unless you’re perfect in all things.” Similarly, my two big sisters, who helped raise me, never told me, “you’re not good enough to be in our family unless you’re perfect. ‘Cause perfect is how we do things around here.”

And, God never said I had to be perfect, either.

When I was kid, I was very independent. I liked to figure things out for myself. Researched encyclopedia pages to answer the questions I could have asked parents or teachers. Taught myself how to ride a bike. Perfectly happy to read a book, create some artwork, write, whatever. I lived in my head. My imagination had a never ending supply of entertainment. I rarely gave into peer pressure, either. I think because of this, many people left me alone.

Looking back, I really could have used more input from an imprinting adult on how to express myself. Once I became interested in interaction, I think in order to feel interesting to others, I became both a chameleon and a comedian, becoming a source of blending in and enjoyment for others at the expense of my own happiness. That’s not to say I didn’t have many authentic, wonderful experiences — I did — but as a daily habit, I always tried to draw as little attention to my own feelings as possible because then everyone might realize how inept I was. The times I did express myself were some of the worst experiences in my formative years, as developmentally necessary and normal as that pain likely was.

We all do this. When someone says, “Hey, how are you?” the answer is always something like, “fine,” even when things are crappy and I’d rather not talk about it. Because I don’t even know how to talk about it.

I’ve been through counseling with different therapists in my lowest points. One of them, who was my least favorite (she literally spent every session talking about herself), actually finally gave me some useful information that none of the others had. This was our last scheduled session out of maybe 6 that I had to attend due to a self-initiated referral, and because I was weary of the idea of having to keep coming to see her, I told her I now felt much better and didn’t think I needed to continue these visits. She recognized my determination, and she must not have been too concerned for me otherwise to compel me to continue our sessions, because these were her parting words, showing me she actually had been observing me the whole time despite my lack of participation:

“You’re a perfectionist. You have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies. And, you squelch yourself.”

The first sentence made sense but I didn’t really focus on it at the time. The last sentence is what I reacted to at the time, as it was only too true. I’d rather be miserable than ever let on that I am unhappy. Others in my life never have any idea I’m enraged, depressed, or anything other than what I want them to see me be. This is generally because I don’t want others to worry about me. I’m the peacemaker, and I’ll try to distract others from their misery so they don’t even have time to notice I’m carrying a huge suitcase full of my own misery. And as a result of successful deflection of attention on me, others think I’m somehow perfect.

Perfectly happy. Perfectly content.

Perfectly furious at times, to be honest. And never comfortable enough to reveal how I really feel, and therefore who I really am.

Remember how I mentioned that I taught myself how to ride a bike? I actually can’t ride a bike. I was such a poor teacher to myself – ill equipped. My bike training regimen consisted of figuring out the balance of the small rusty used bike that was at our house. It didn’t even have brakes, but fortunately, our driveway was the perfect gradual U shape, allowing for a gentle downhill launch and an uphill natural braking mechanism. Over and over I went, down and up, a live physics lesson, until I reached equilibrium. I was such a poor teacher to myself that I also never learned to truly love riding the bike. Just checked the developmental box and moved on. I’m terrified to even try now. The last time I tried I shook so badly that my hands ached for days from gripping the handlebar with such ferocity.

I refused help with it, because I wanted to figure it out, but maybe there was something more to my rejection of help. I had trust issues as a child. I still do. And just like no one told me to be perfect, I can’t recall why I would have trust issues. But between these two areas, I have a placed a huge burden on myself. I have this weird belief that I am to be both perfect and 100% self reliant. Neither of which is possible. Neither of which is healthy. Neither of which feels good.

Even now, I am writing this and wondering if I should just delete it all, edit it to death, try to say all the things I left out. Reveal more. Reveal less. I hate dithering, but I do it all the time. Perpetual spin of yes, no, yes, no. Stop, go, stop, go. Don’t, do, don’t, do. Say something, no don’t, say something, no.

The major dithering episodes usually drive me crazy, keep me up at night, and end with decisive ultimatum action. I usually leave situations rather than try to make them better (jobs, singing group, relationships). I reject before I am rejected. I think the act of detaching gets the point across. Even when I give other plausible reasons for ending things, it’s usually because I have chosen not to fight for what I really want. I choose flight over fight.

I’m going to try to take a crack at being less perfect. I’m so used to putting everyone else’s needs in front of my own, and it’s very hard for me to be actively selfish enough.

In writing this post, I read an American Psychological Association article that said some really scary things about perfectionism, including these revealing highlights (emphasis mine):

“The PSPS rates three aspects of perfectionistic self-presentation: advertising one’s own perfection, avoiding situations in which one might appear to be imperfect and failing to disclose situations in which one has been imperfect.”

“‘”Those types of individuals [perfectionists] tend not to disclose anything that’s going to make them look imperfect… It’s difficult to keep them in treatment, because you’re asking them to do the thing they’ve been fighting against.”‘

I think the imperfections I choose not to disclose is what keeps me stuck in the Dithering Cycle. Why make someone unhappy with what I could say? Why make a big deal about something that maybe isn’t a big deal in the long run? Okay, I’ll just instead smile and say, “I’m fine.”

I’m always amazed at what people feel comfortable telling me. Whether it’s a compliment or something deeply personal, I am usually stunned at first. Sometimes I think I am a mirror, reflecting back how others want to see themselves, so I can see that I make them comfortable enough to share their thoughts with me. I’m going to work on saying what I mean. Maybe I’ll amaze someone else.

As I write this, I imagine myself on an elementary playground, standing before a swinging jump rope, and it’s my turn to jump in and keep up with its pace.

Encouraging Me: Jump in, Susan.

Dithering Me: No.

Encouraging Me: Jump in!!!!

Dithering Me: No.

Encouraging Me: Oh for the love of all things, just go do it! What can you possibly be waiting for?

Dithering Me: No.

Deciding not to decide is making a decision.

The lyrics to Lean On Me say, “no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show.”

I’m in a Dithering Cycle right now. How do I get out of it? How do I let my needs show?

My current therapist says I need to work on expressing how I am feeling. I’m going to start there. She says we can’t control other people, places, and things. And no matter where we take ourselves or surround ourselves with, we’ll still be stuck with our same unresolved issues. If I want to be all the things I want for others — to feel worthy of time and attention, to feel valued — then I’d better get to work on addressing my unresolved issues.

Here goes nothing. Well, not nothing. These feelings are going to be named.

I feel unfulfilled because there are a million things I want to do with my time that I am not doing. I feel like I am wasting precious time. I feel like I am 80 years old, looking back on my life, and am disappointed in myself for the things I’ve left undone. I feel worried about the many unknowns in life. I feel guilty for hurting others I’ve cared about by not expressing love to them. I feel overwhelmed with responsibility. I feel lonely a lot of the time. I feel disconnected from those I feel like I should be the most connected to. I feel sad over relationships I’m not enjoying that I used to. I feel lost. I feel frustrated. I feel terrified about sharing all of this. I feel vivacious though, doing so. I feel sad about not singing in an official group or recording. I feel my talents are invisible when I am ready to shine. I feel like I am missing out. I feel mature and childish at the same time. I feel stormy, like a teenager, which right now to me means the world is at once amazing and unfair. I feel confused about what all I am feeling. I feel like dancing. I feel like singing. I want to create. I want to leave a legacy. I’m tired of constantly retreating to the safety of my shell, like a turtle or a snail.

Me: Jump in. Let’s do this.

 

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Ohhh, let’s Lent again, like we did last Easter

Is this thing on?

Don’t you just hate awkward mic checks?

“Say something. Anything.”

“Test 1 2 3”

“Anything but that.”

Rent

Going to try this blog thing again. Might be a little rusty.

Folks, it is Lent again, and I love Lent. Someone on Facebook announced she was going to practice some sort of discipline during Lent for the first time, and I felt compelled to tell her all the ways I have observed it. My list of suggestions was rather long. I felt like I an expert or something. Dang, I love Lent. It’s like New Year’s all over for those who swing and miss on their failed resolution. At least there’s Lent. I might not have much self discipline to practice a New Year’s resolution, but I am disciplined at Lent because I can do it for Jesus.

That reminds me of a story I heard once, even though it’s not about Lent. A mother was in her son’s principal’s office, learning how her son, though bright and doing well on graded assignments and tests, was failing because he wasn’t doing his homework. Mom, being a devout Christian and fired up about her son’s bad attitude proclaimed to him, “if Jesus can get up there and die on the cross, then my son can do his $#%&$% homework!”  That is exactly why I am able to adopt discipline during Lent, but seriously, I ought to try a little harder the other 45.5 weeks of the year.

This year I thought I would be cool and give up Facebook for Lent.  I’ve been feeling a wee bit addicted to it, yet also annoyed with it.  Facebook to me had become like Cady Heron’s description of Regina George in Mean Girls:

“I was a woman possessed. I spent about 80% of my time talking about Regina, and the other 20% of the time, I was praying for someone else to bring her up so I could talk about her more. I could hear people getting bored with me, but I couldn’t stop. It just kept coming up like word vomit.”

Only my version was,

“Did you see on Facebook that so-and-so did such-and-such? Did you see ____ on Facebook? On Facebook I saw _____. Facebook, Facebook, Facebook!!”

I made that decision to drop it for Lent, only to find out in the days leading up to Lent that seemingly EVERYONE was giving up Facebook, with varying lengths of announcements about it, succinct to extended play length statuses.

“See you after Easter!”

“I will not be on here for a while. I am giving up Facebook for Lent.  If you need me I’m on email.”

“You guysssss I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided to give up Facebook for Lent!!!! OMG  I am going to miss you guys soo soo much! If you don’t have my email address or cell phone number, please please please let me know now because I won’t be checking messages on here, either! If anyone has a baby or announces they’re pregnant, please text me!!! If anyone gets engaged, please text me!!!! “

I felt so unoriginal!  I still gave up Facebook though.  My rationale was, I think, pretty thoughtful.  It probably annoyed some people, both the way I made my announcement as well as forcing people to email me or text me rather than message me on Facebook.  I didn’t think about blogging about it in time to be able to copy my status here on this post, but the idea about why I gave up Facebook is this (paraphrasing from what I remember from my status):

Jesus, after his baptism, left the community of his disciples and went away into the desert. Likewise, I am leaving this community during Lent to discern my next mission from the standpoint of being in the wilderness. Or getting more time to myself.

It’s been a good experience to not feel compelled to open this app on my phone or open the website on my computer.  There are still plenty of distractions online though, so I sort of feel like I wasn’t entirely faithful to the plan.  However, it has been interesting to feel separated from the online community this way.  I think when I return, at least I hope when I return, I won’t feel so sucked in.  I also think I’ll be able to read it with a more discerning eye.  I won’t be as easily drawn in to navel-gazing posts, displays of passive aggression, minute-by-minute accounts of the day, etc. I think I may even follow the practice of someone else I know who only checks Facebook on the weekends. We’ll see.

The other reason I gave up something virtual rather than actual is because of being a mom now.  Our baby is rapidly approaching the 1 year mark (HOW???) and I wanted to observe Lent but not over-commit myself during a time when I’m already so stretched thin. Even though I would have loved to have taken on something physical, like fasting or reading or something else to incorporate into my day, dropping something seemed more appropriate this year.

I know those post-Easter statuses from my friends who spent Lent sans Facebook will be just as funny, shallow, dramatic, and clever as the Fat Tuesday Facebook adieus were. But I’ll probably wait a while to scroll through and read them.  Because if Jesus can get up there and die on that cross, I can certainly control myself when it comes to my Facebook addiction, and more!

Obligatory cute baby picture before I go. It’s a few months old, but it’s been a while since I posted.  He’s a boy on the move now, has 6 teeth, eats solids, is a total chatterbox, flirt, and sweetheart.  He’s a delightful child, quick to smile and laugh. We’re completely smitten!

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Writing Stuff Down

When I was 7 months pregnant, my mom and sisters threw me a baby shower. That was last March. Weird to think of all that’s happened in almost a year.

Anyhow, one of my college friends was in attendance and she gave me a basket of travel size everything for baby in a nice basket, and included in it one of those 5 year diaries where you’re supposed to write one line each day.  (That’s the link to Amazon where you can buy it.) I am terrible at doing things like this and I kind of graciously smirked at her at the time – as in, she knew I was grateful, but I was also conveying “yeah, right!” at the same time. I had heard and seen how busy moms are.  How in the world was I going to have time to do this?

Knowing my thoughts, she gracefully replied, “just one line. Just one line each day.”

I know as the third child in my family that the first child is supposed to have the completed baby book.  I have worked on baby Henschen’s baby book some these last 8 months, and I imagine it’s further along than any future siblings’ will ever be.  It needs work though, and it holds priority over the One Line a Day book.

But the One Line a Day journal just nagged at me from its place on the shelf in the nursery, “write in me, lady! Do it! Do it!” I really wanted to do this for my child, but at the same time, what could I possibly write about each day? I imagined:

Bloopedymonth 5, 2013:  You are x months old and you pooped a lot today!

or

Blahbadeemonth 7, 2014: WHY WON’T YOU STOP CRYING?????

Which I just couldn’t think he’d find interesting. It certainly would be evidence that I had taken care of him when he was a baby.

I also wasn’t sure if I should write the tender things in my heart, the stuff of grotesque embarrassment later (even if it’s true, and exactly what I am thinking, what would he think if he read this at, oh, 14 years old?):

Boopdeeboopmonth 23, 2013:  You’re so sweet and tiny that it makes my heart burst!

Blergedymonth 15, 2014: I can’t help myself that every night before I go to bed, I check to make sure you’re still breathing.

At some point though, that book badgered me to the point that I finally gave in, and I tried to play catch up for missed time and then I faithfully wrote in for about three months. What I wrote included important events, like family birthdays, trips we took, him started daycare, getting his first tooth, etc.  I also took the leap and wrote down some tender thoughts that probably will embarrass him.

I really enjoyed the moment before I went to bed where I recorded my thoughts for the day.  I found that I actually could have written a page every day.  I had to think of how to squeeze everything I wanted to say into the small amount of space I was given.  I started formulating how to write the day’s entry whenever the notable thing happened so that it would fit on the page, editing it in my mind like it was a haiku or a tweet.

Then December 6 happened, and we rehomed our dog.

The day before is the last time I wrote in that book.

I just couldn’t write on the entry for December 6, 2013: “We gave up your first pet today. Please don’t hate us.”

And because I couldn’t write that entry, I just haven’t picked it back up since.  I know I could have just left that page blank, that he wouldn’t know the difference if I had written something else, but I just can’t. It was and still is a stumbling block for me. Maybe I will just write “ask me what happened this day” on a post it note so that I don’t write it in the book permanently. Maybe I’ll allude to it without saying it straight out: “The house is now a lot quieter.”

Small and good update, by the way: our dog is doing really, really well. He will likely live out his days with the rescue lady who is totally in love with him.  It turned out I know the rescue lady’s sister-in-law, and she provided this update.  She even gets to see him and says he’s really happy.  That really does make me so, so very happy to know.  She also says that we did the right thing.  I still feel horrible about it, and always will, but what a relief to know he’s with such a loving person.

Maybe I’ll go back to writing in the book each day after this 2 month break even though I’m now I am in the habit of not writing things down.  I do know what date his first top tooth broke through (January 19) and the second tooth broke through (January 21).  That somehow has stayed in my mind, such that it is these days that are so busy and punctuated with some sleepless nights still.

I used to keep a regular journal throughout my childhood and some in college. Then I got busy and transitioned into a digital world.  I think I also thought no one would possibly find my thoughts to be that interesting except for me, so I could just keep them to myself.  This blog is the closest thing I have to a journal now.

Does anyone actually successfully journal their life or their child’s life one line a day successfully?  Please tell me about your One Line A Day experience!

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It Takes a While for the Heart to Catch Up with the Head: Lessons Learned from Dog Ownership

8 years ago we made the decision to bring a new family member to our household. Newly married, renting a house with this future decision in mind, we adopted a then-6-year-old corgi.

He became our first child. We outfitted his every perceived need and want. This included a coat, even though he had plenty of corgi fur. We laughed over his antics and introduced him to all our friends. We took tons of pictures and basically our lives revolved around him for the next few years.

We moved houses a few times and landed at our present address a little over 6 years ago. One of the things we liked about our house was its large fenced back yard.  It was perfect for our dog, so we felt it was also perfect for us.

On Friday, unbelievably, our time with our beloved dog came to an end. It was by our choice, and he has not passed away.  We were able to return him to the rescue group that we adopted him from, which, given all the possible outcomes of this scenario, and because we loved him too much to continue on as we were, was the best possible solution.

So what all transpired between the time we got him and our painful decision to rehome him? I’m recording these thoughts to process it all and perhaps help others going through a similar situation to ours. Even though having a baby six months ago was the tipping point for us, there were lots of other factors that were present early on that we should have addressed. Also, I have to grieve over this loss, as if he did pass away, because I know I’ll be beating myself up for letting him down for a long time.

Lesson One: Even if your dog is 6 years old, if your dog needs training, pay time and money to get that training. And also pay huge attention to temperament matching the energy level needed in your particular home.

We had experience with corgis, and when we got our dog and got to know him, we thought, “Wow, he has a lot of energy. But he’ll calm down eventually like the other corgi we knew.”

Wrong. Plain wrong.

The loud barking whenever he felt like it? Never stopped.  He had something to say about everything!

Jumping up and moving whenever you did, even if it was just to run into the kitchen to then return to the living room? Also never stopped.  He could never relax, and he was determined to witness our every movement, because he didn’t know any other way to be.

Jumping up on us whenever he wanted? Nope, never stopped.  He was insistent on showing his interest.

Marking in the house, despite taking him out more? Did not improve with lots of trips outside.

We also noted early on that our dog was aggressive toward other dogs, which made walking him or having him in the yard next to other people’s dogs in their yards a stressful time for all involved.

His disposition was NOTHING like the other corgi we knew.  This dog was always athletic, always on high alert.  My heart breaks to think what a great joy obedience training would have brought him.  He would have been great at running through obstacle courses, too. He wanted to please, was smart, and could learn new tricks easily.

We fooled ourselves into thinking there was plenty of time to fix these things – he will chill out, we reasoned, as we turned our attentions to other things on a daily basis.  Instead, we should have nipped all this unfavorable behavior in the bud and gotten training for all of us.

Lesson 2: Make exercising the dog a priority, especially if that’s what it needs to become more balanced (most of the time this IS what your dog needs more than anything).

This partially ties back to Lesson 1, in training, only it’s for the owner.  We should have made it a habit to get the training needed AND work on that training in the setting of going on walks.  This would have kept his mind more active, created a bonding time for us, and it would have tired him out a bit.

But because he wasn’t trained, walks were, frankly, a pain.  Even anticipating the walk became a pain.  What if there are other dogs we’ll pass? He’ll go bonkers.  What if there are dogs off leash that try to meet him?  What if he wants to sniff everything? We’ll never get anywhere.

For the early years we had him, we’d walk maybe three to four times a week.  But recently, as his back legs started the telltale lowrider doggy slipping (due to back problems), along with lack of time and the aforementioned stress generated just by thinking of walking him, I can’t tell you the last time we went on a walk.  I know it was a pretty short walk though, as he really did have a noticeable limp now.

Plus, we used the excuse that we had that back yard.  “He can just go run around.” Sadly, that is just not the same thing, and not what was needed.

Inside, without exercise, our dog would pace around.  He’d lick the floor for hours. He’d lick his paws.  Maybe unrelated, he’d bark maniacally at any “intruder” outside the window – squirrel, dog, cat, etc. He damaged our blinds and window sashes with his rage as he nosed his barking muzzle as close as he could to the source of his distress. His nails scratched the floors. If we were home but not downstairs with him, he’d wait at the bottom of the stairs, dejected and whining. It broke my heart if I had the brain width to offer – I was upstairs to take care of the baby, which of course takes a lot of time and energy unto itself.

Lesson 3: Provide the best type of space to suit your dog’s needs.

Looking back, our dog’s hind legs would have been better served by not having to go up and down the back deck stairs. There are about 8 steps, so about half a flight, from our deck down to the yard.  True, we didn’t let him up our stairs inside the house for this reason, but he still need to use the stairs out back to get to the yard to go to the bathroom.  I tried as much as I could to carry him, but there were many a time when I was zonked with lack of sleep and holding a crying baby and just couldn’t do it. I knew this meant he had an awkward and possibly painful descent down the stairs to the yard. This was a sign of things to come: I couldn’t meet this dog’s basic need to go to the bathroom in the yard.

Looking back, our particular type of dog needed a flat entrance in and out of the yard.  It would have made the last few years or so a lot easier on him.

Lesson 4: Don’t Judge Others on the choices they’ve made with regard to pet ownership: You don’t know the whole story and it’s a personal matter anyway. 

Eight years ago when we adopted our dog, I remember being completely critical of those who gave their dogs up for adoption. I had all kind of comments to offer on the topic.  How could they do that? The dog didn’t deserve it! How selfish! What a sweet dog, and how awful those people must have been to give it up.  I held some strong opinions of our dog’s prior owners, even though by giving him up, we were able to get him. Pretty hypocritical, eh?

Speaking of hypocrisy, the thought of rehoming our dog starting creeping into our minds.  The cognitive dissonance created by that thought dragged on me over the last while.  How could we do this?  What will others say, knowing how much we love him? How can I be supportive of animal rescue if I am contributing to the problem?

An underlying lesson here is that by not making a decision, we had made a decision.  The tug of war between sucking it up and honoring our original commitment versus doing what was probably best for all involved was a heavy matter that played out its battles for us on daily basis.  When I  first returned to work post-baby, the conversation came up. Then we got busy, tolerated the situation a little longer and decided not to decide, at least at that time.

Lesson 5: Recognize the situation early on and actively make the realization it won’t get better on its own. See above lessons and address the situation. 

Guilty as charged.  The long and short of it is that we were no longer providing the best home for our dog. We could have done things in the past to prevent us from being where we found ourselves. Despite very strong feelings of attachment, a commitment to keep this animal the rest of his life, we were experiencing a vicious cycle of not being able to address the situation due to lack of time and then having unpleasant interactions with him due to our lack of time with him.  None of this was his fault, but he was getting the blame all the same.

With heavy hearts, we knew what we needed to do to alleviate the situation because we knew we would not be able to give him time.  Time is not what we have right now.

Lesson 6: Recognize and Appreciate Grace on a Daily Basis

We finally broke down and emailed the rescue group where we originally adopted our dog from.  I cried for days over the thought of us actually doing this.  We were totally sad.  It was hard to look at our dog, knowing he wouldn’t be with us anymore.

The lady from the rescue group wrote a gentle and understanding response and offered to come get our dog. No questions asked. She couldn’t have been less judgmental.  She understood the grief of our situation, said we’d done a good job with our dog and said he’d obviously been loved and had had a fabulous 8 years with us.

It was hard to hear her say these things.  Shouldn’t she be telling us we were awful? Shouldn’t she be saying that we had made a commitment to this creature and we ought to keep it? Instead, she hugged us tightly.

Her actions told me she saw our dog as having value.  So many surrendered animals don’t hold value to anyone, and sadly, we know their fate.

Lesson 7: Come back and read this if we ever decide it’s time to get a family pet.  Ask if we have the resources – time, money, patience, to undertake this huge responsibility again. 

Trite but true: he’s in a better place for him now. Even though our dog is still alive, it is as though he passed away.  Our house feels empty of his presence and we’re in mourning. We console ourselves knowing that in the corgi rescue place he is likely breathing easier knowing someone’s attending to his needs more quickly and frequently than we could.  He’s getting to be around other dogs.  Oddly enough, he actually got along with other dogs when he wasn’t around us!

Before he left, through my tears, I told him that I loved him and that he hadn’t done anything wrong. I told him what a good boy he was – for all the areas that needed addressing from training, he really was a delight.  He had been just fine with the baby – no worries there. I told him where he was going was the next best place to be if not with us, but if I am honest, I know where he’s going is actually better than being with us.

My mother-in-law told me in response to this situation that “it takes a while for the heart to catch up with the head.” This is definitely what I’m experiencing, so I am trusting that my heart will understand our decision eventually and stop aching so much.

Thanks for reading.  I don’t expect you to extend grace to me, but I appreciate you taking the time to read and possibly understand what we’ve been going through the last while. Maybe it will even serve as a resource to you to save yourself some heartache.

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Bebe Boy

Our Little One (or, LO, as called by mothers on the myriad sites they write about their babies) is now 6.5 weeks old.  That’s funny to realize as he was born weighing 6 lbs. 5 oz.

This sweet miracle happened on 5/22/13 at 4:35 a.m.:

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Folks who say there is absolutely nothing you can do to prepare for a baby are correct. We were very well prepared for the many needed items to care for him, but wow, once we met him, we were overwhelmed with love beyond anything we’d ever known.

To see his face after carrying him for so long and then delivering him (yep, painful, but worth it), oh my stars. There are no words.

Now I get why so many of my friends were so excited for me. In the time our boy was born, other friends have given birth, others have announced genders of those I knew were on the way, and more have announced their pregnancies.  I have a new vantage point on what they’re going through. I want to cook meals, visit, and hold babies with this newly-born perspective of what they’re going through.

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He’s grown and grown these past 6 weeks, and it is a miracle that my body is the sole source of food for him.  What a crazy experience!

Everyone loves him. His two sets of grandparents are crazy about him. He got to meet his remaining set of great-grandparents, too. His cousins, aunts, and uncles are so thrilled he’s here, too. We’ve been able to travel with him on family vacations already (pediatrician said it was okay!), which has been wonderful for the extra help. His daddy continues to be a huge support to me, as I am sometimes still overwhelmed by my 24-hr job.

I have so many hopes for him.  I want him to be a good person.  I want him to be a good friend to others.  I want him to always love us and be able to trust us to love him no matter what mistakes he might make. I want him to make mistakes and learn from them, and fail so he can appreciate success.  I want him to be curious and intelligent.  I want him to know and trust in God.

I love being a parent so far.  I feel so lucky I want to pinch myself to see if it’s true. I love seeing my husband be a father to our boy.

My dear boys, I love you both so much.

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Baby Watch 2013

Where are you, baby?

Yes, I know exactly where you are right now, but why don’t you come on out and be born?

39 weeks pregnant. I am at that super uncomfortable point I knew I would reach but sort of hoped I would miss by a few days.

My doctor said two and a half weeks ago he doubted I would make it to my due date. I knew that could mean that the baby could come just a few days shy of May 25. Or he could still come late despite all indications. I didn’t become incorrectly convinced and subsequently impatient until a scare we had this past Thursday when my blood pressure was so high at my regularly scheduled appointment that I had to be admitted to the hospital to be screened for preeclampsia.

I was deemed okay to go home, but there was something in the way the doctor DIDN’T say it could still be a while before the baby comes that led Josef and me to believe we were operating under a short timeline now that we had had this scare. Parents were called, my parents came into town Friday night, contractions seemed to be ramping up, we made sure that our bags were zipped up and ready. I told my manager it looked like baby would arrive this weekend.

Baby must have other plans.

Which is fine. That means we made it to 39 weeks and he is considered full term and should have fewer health concerns than if he had arrived earlier. This is ultimately a good thing.

Except now I feel I got everyone riled up for no reason. Obviously I have no control over when he arrives but at this point I thought we would be holding our baby based on what all we inferred based on Thursday night.

More good news is that there are lots of telltale signs of labor almost ready to start. And we are running out of time as no doctor will let a pregnant woman in 2013 go too far past her due date (2 weeks max!), so this baby IS coming.

Just not yet.

I wish I could say this feels like waiting for Christmas or even a wedding day approaching, but it’s really not like that because of not knowing when this will happen. I feel more like I do when waiting for a hurricane to approach. No one knows exactly when it will hit, how strong it will be, and whether those receiving the hurricane are truly ready no matter how much preparation is done. We are ready and impatient for this major life event to hit. Josef and I are trying to enjoy our lasts as a couple with no children but at the same time we are ready mentally and physically, havjng prepared our hearts and home for this child of ours. We are excited about WHAT is happening (unlike a expecting a hurricane!), but that excitement is tempered by not knowing WHEN.

So day 4 Baby Watch 2013 continues.

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Hawks

I just remembered something else I’ve noticed recently.

The Monday after Josef’s grandmother passed away, I saw a hawk fly pretty low over the parking garage as I walked to my car after my doctor’s appointment for the baby’s 30 week prenatal check up. I love seeing hawks, and something about seeing this hawk, which was less than 20 feet away from me, made me feel at peace.

The next morning, as I drove to work, it happened again! A hawk flew right over my car as I got onto the interstate.  It took my breath away and again, I felt a sense of peace wash over me, even though I didn’t realize I had been feeling uneasy.

Both times, I thought about the baby and about Josef’s grandmother. 

Then I got distracted and forgot about it for a few days.  Then I saw another hawk and thought, hmm, I’ve seen a lot of hawks lately! 

Ever the researcher, I searched online what it means to see a hawk fly from left to right (as the first two I saw had done).  Apparently, according to Nordic and Native American folklore, seeing a hawk flight left to right can symbolize victory, and having a hawk “come to you” or “come close to you” means you’ve been blessed!  I’ll take all the victory and blessings we can get right now!

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Full Moon A-Risin’

When our oldest niece was born, there was a sudden onslaught of mothers who came in to deliver their babies that same night.  I remember the nurses expressing a mixture of humor and angst as the number of mothers delivering babies increased. 

One of them quipped, “I knew it! It’s because there’s a full moon!”  Sure enough, there was a full moon that night.

Out of curiosity, twelve years after this phenomenon took place the night our niece was born, I looked to see when the full moon closest to our due date is.

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Yeah, it’s on his actual due date, May 25, 2013 at 6:00 in the morning.  Wonder if he’ll be born on that date since that’s when he’s due AND it’s the full moon?  Wanna place bets?

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Pennies From Heaven

Almost two weeks ago, Josef’s grandmother passed away.

She was 92, and it was one of those occasions where, when the person passes away, everyone is grateful that the person is no longer in pain and discomfort.

I’d known her since early on into Josef’s and my dating relationship. She and her husband were at our wedding, as were Josef’s other set of grandparents. It was really special to have them all there at our wedding.  My only living grandparent, my grandmother Alice, wasn’t able to attend our wedding, and she passed away just a few years after Josef and I got married, so I greatly appreciated having grandparents-in-law.

Josef’s grandmother was someone I saw only on occasion, such as the holidays. She and her husband were in their 80s and still living at home north of Atlanta.  Over the years surrounding the wedding, her body began to dramatically fail her. It was sad to watch her decline, but it was also amazing to witness the devotion Josef’s grandfather gave her. 

Two-and-half years ago we helped the two of them make the heart-wrenching move from their home to an assisted living and nursing home community.  For the first time in their married lives, Josef’s grandparents would not be able to live in the same space, at his grandfather had a studio-style apartment and his grandmother moved into a semi-private hospital room.  Her health had declined so greatly that she entered the facility under hospice care.  None of us knew how much longer we had her.

Shockingly, we lost Josef’s grandfather two weeks later. He had developed an acute case of leukemia which had started to take its toll right before they moved.  We never imagined this scenario — we had all assumed he would outlive his wife.

After her husband passed, Josef’s grandmother, now in a situation where she was receiving the care she needed, gained weight and was healthy enough to be moved off of hospice care.  While none of us would say she was now flourishing, she certainly was able to enjoy some of the benefits of being in a community of wonderful care-giving with events she attended and enjoyed, including music programs, playing bingo, and even getting her hair done.  We came to know her nurses and the staff.  We came to know her peers there, too.

Suddenly, I found myself growing closer to her.  While she missed her husband greatly and wanted very much to “get out” of that place, she also said things to me that she’d never said before. She told me I had a great smile. That she loved me.  That I was beautiful.  The kind of phrases that children and grandchildren crave to hear from parents and grandparents. 

I grew up around elderly people at the church my family attended.  My father also took us to visit family and church members who lived in nursing homes  As a result, I was exposed to older people from an early age and didn’t experience some of the fears and dislike my peers had for older people.  In college, I went once a week my junior and senior years to visit a state-run home for the elderly near my college.  As much as seeing a young person may have brightened their day, it was always just a rewarding and even therapeutic for me to have those experiences.

Not too long ago, Josef’s grandmother went back into hospice status and had the extra layer of care hospice provides on top of the care she already received at the nursing home.  We’d been told before that she had six months, but of course she got better or simply lived on past that threshold.  We developed a theory we referenced after she passed – she was going to pass away eventually, but only on her terms and only on her time frame, not anyone else’s.

Josef and I were given, as a gift during our current pregnancy, a weekend away from a dear family friend at their lake house in north Georgia.  The day before our trip, a Thursday, Josef’s mother told us that Josef’s grandmother really was going this time, and it would be a matter of days.   I had already been feeling weird all day — there is something in me that just knew something was up, and so my feelings were confirmed when I heard she was going to pass away in a matter of days.

After work that day, we went to see her and we spent an hour with her, sitting, reading scripture, I sang to her, and we told her all the things that I hope she wanted and needed to hear as someone who is going to pass away soon: she had been a wonderful mother and grandmother, she had raised an incredible family, she had inspired her grandchildren in choosing their careers, and she was loved very dearly by all of them.  We told her how amazing we thought it was that she was going to have a great-grandchild in just a matter of months.  That her first born son, Josef’s father, would be becoming a grandfather.

The hospice chaplain came in while we were visiting with her, and it was very eerie and coincidental that he shared the same name as Josef’s grandfather.  This man had spent a great amount of time with Josef’s grandmother over the last while, which was really comforting to hear.

Not knowing whether or not we’d see her again, Josef and I made peace that we had said our goodbye without actually saying goodbye.  The next day, we went up to the lake, thinking we’d see her on Sunday, if she decided she wasn’t quite ready to go yet.

Saturday about mid-afternoon we got word that she had passed.  It was sad news, I cried, but part of my heart rejoiced at her freedom.  I imagined her able to not only walk again, but run like the wind.  I could imagine her hugging her husband close, as she’d dreamed of doing for the last two-and-a-half years. Her arms had stopped working over the last few years, so I could just envision her stretching her fingers, running her fingers through her air.  I could see her stretching her back and dancing and laughing and basically no longer burdened by all the ailments she suffered in her body. 

92 years.  Wow. That is almost 60 years from where I am now.  She had said, when Josef’s grandfather died, and she was 89 years old, that life was too short. 

The timing here is interesting – I can’t shake the importance of her passing coinciding with the arrival soon of our son. 

A kind of spooky story:  after Josef’s grandfather passed away a few years ago, his grandmother’s roommate at the nursing home complained about the man who came to room to see Josef’s grandmother at night.  She said it was the same man who visited when Josef’s grandmother moved in to that room with her.  In the days leading up to Josef’s grandmother passing away, the roommate wouldn’t go in the room because “that man” had returned.  Believe what you want, but some of wonder if Josef’s grandfather came back to fetch his wife, as she said he would.

More kind of spookiness: over the last 24 hours, I’ve been finding pennies in unexpected places.  I’ve found 4 of them, lying on the floor or on my desk at work. 2 at home and 2 at work.  There are some who believe that when you find a bunch of pennies all of sudden, it’s because someone (an angel in heaven is the most common story) is trying to communicate with you.  Maybe Josef’s grandmother is letting me know she’s thinking of me and telling me she’s indeed doing alright now that she’s passed on.

I hope (and am comforted by the thought) that Josef’s and my grandparents are watching over us while we prepare for the arrival of our baby.  I hope they watch over him and that we are able to tell him about his great grandparents. Pennies or not, we remember them and they will remain in our minds all our lives through!

"Pennies from Heaven" by Christina Jarmolinski

“Pennies from Heaven” by Christina Jarmolinski
http://www.jarmolinski.com/content/pennies-heaven
I stumbled upon this image and now I’m learning about this artist! Check her out!

 

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Watching the Clock

A funny thing happened to me twice over the last few months.  Perhaps it was supposed to be a sign, but it was frustrating at the time.

I have a clock I bought for work.  It’s a dinky little wall clock I bought at Target for my office at my old job.  It was a little silly to buy, I admit, given that there are always plenty of sources to tell the time at work – my computer, my desk phone, my cell phone, plus wall clocks around the office.

I came to work a few months ago and found the clock had fallen off the wall. No biggie, right? Pick it up and put it back on the wall — good to go!  Nope. This plastic chrono-wonder had split and cracked in several key places and it could not be repaired.  I was bummed!  I referenced it a lot throughout the day, and I had also used it a bit like a mirror to see if people were approaching my desk when my back is turned – handy when I have Pandora blasting and am knee deep in figuring out why my calculations aren’t working in a spreadsheet (or, okay, maybe I’m checking personal email).  Plus, I was sad that it wasn’t part of my work decor arsenal anymore because it was cute.  Again, silly, but I liked that clock, m-kay?

Secondly, my beautiful watch’s battery died.  Josef gave me that watch for Christmas a couple of years ago.  It was sparkly and made me feel special to wear it.  I rarely went a day without wearing it.  It stopped on my birthday this year, when Josef and I were spending our last weekend in Montreat before the baby arrives. My wrist feels naked without it still, but I haven’t gone to the trouble of getting the new battery put in it yet.  Not a difficult thing to do, but it hasn’t been done.

So, recap: two different time pieces I adored no longer work and I haven’t done anything about it.

My priorities have shifted and I have slowed way down.  I am off the clock.

I’m almost 30 weeks pregnant and I am finding it difficult to care about what time it is anymore. Maybe it’s the lack of time pieces.  Maybe it’s the new life growing inside of me.  Throw in the time change this past weekend and waking up at the new 6:30 is really, really hard.

Ten weeks until little Baby H arrives.  I feel myself watching the clock, figuratively, for when he will get here.  I feel the urgency of the dwindling of time as well as the stretch of infinity between now and when he is born.  How can one amount of time feel so drastically different at the same time?

I’m so ready to pour my need to watch the time on this baby’s time, on his watch.  I’m excited to calculate time based on his being born: one day later, one week later, one month later.

Outwardly, I am telling time myself, with my body.  I am a walking waxing moon, with my baby bump growing fuller before everyone’s eyes.  This also is slowing me down, making time seem to pass more slowly.  It takes me longer to do everything – between moving slowly and being generally spacier, it’s amazing I get anything accomplished!

Folks at work are hurting my feelings more and more by bringing up my appearance.  I hate the attention to my body.  I think many of them have never seen a walking time piece before! They think I should be ready to give birth based on my appearance – but I know better.  It is not time yet for me — they’ve got the time wrong, and their perception of how to tell time based on what they think a pregnant woman looks like is wrong.  Their eyes large as saucers, they proclaim “Not much longer!” “You’re popping more each time I see you!” “You can’t get any bigger!”

Now I know how the moon must feel, how the watched clock must feel.  My work colleagues are willing me to be ready based on what they see, much like I have watched many a clock willing it to be time to be ready to go.  I’m sure the moon is frustrated when it’s called a full moon and isn’t, and 5:00 ain’t 5:00 until it really is, no matter how many grumpy faces we make at the clock until 5:00 is ready.

30 weeks – that’s a quarter til in clock time (40 weeks in pregnancy, fyi). 75% complete in a progress status. A quarter til seems like almost time to be done to the point it feels time to be done, but that’s not quite true.  I have to be patient with myself and with others this last quarter and focus on what really matters – this sweet little boy who I hope is eagerly watching his own clock to know when it’s really time to arrive!

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