Turning 32: Acceptance, Love and Hope

In only a month I will be 32. Today I am in an unfamiliar city, which is pretty much my favorite thing in the world and I am enjoying it tremendously, despite having cried three times already for missing my baby.

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My boys without me

I am listening to two adorable baristas discuss giving up sugar. They are tiny, young, friendly and energetic. One is petite with a pixie look and a valley girl intonation. My 20-year-old self wouldn’t have tolerated her in conversation but completely envied her style. The other has an androgynous look and I am drawn to her smile instantly. My twenty-year old self would have followed her all around campus. I’m still eavesdropping.

But in a month I will be 32 which somehow feels more significant when I turned 30. When I turned 30 I was pregnant for the first time which overshadowed everything else. Two years later I am pregnant again, less overwhelmed by the enormity and more…surrendered? My life, in a long term think-about-the-future sort of way feels paused while I create new life, someone else’s life. My mind has shrunk- unable to take in much beyond my house and the people who live there. I know that since becoming pregnant two years ago I have not been as good of a friend as I once was. I forget birthdays and don’t return emails, never on purpose but simply because. 

I no longer write, travel or create crafts often- all of which are my favorite things. There is a half-finished gray knit hat in a plastic bin in my attic among piles of yarn waiting for me, hoping I will come back for it. But I don’t have the time or money (two things to enjoy traveling) or the energy (required of writing or crafting). Although I sometimes long to do one or many of these activities, mostly I don’t care. It’s become normal but in waiting Haines grow and become more independent, I have seen the light. It won’t always be like this. This is just a phase of life where I will do me, as best as I can do me, and this is enough even though it won’t look anything like before.

Normally in a new city I would be racing around, walking every street. Today I worked remotely, found amazing Mediterranean food, bought two books in the book store where I am now very unhurried. I am sipping tea from an actual teacup and saucer. The afternoon light is casting a gentle flow across old wood floors in the café and I’m admiring the energy of nearby baristas while I write.  

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This is a sign of my age right? When taking time to be slow is just as important as seeing the sights? Then again, bookstores have always been “the sights” for me. I am old enough to have only bought 2 books (it’s called living on a budget) but not old enough to know I should go ahead and buy all the books, because books are invaluable. 

I believe the new year really starts on your birthday. I always look to the new calendar year as a fresh start but birthdays are far more inspiring. So what do I want for my next year? What do I hope for 32?

I hope for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

I hope for calm in the face of chaos.

I hope to have a few moments like this one where I feel contented in everything, fully knowing that all is not perfect.

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Ten years of friendship

I hope to spend time with friends and have a few laughs. I hope to hold hands with my husband after the bab(ies) have gone to bed.

I hope to read a few good books and enjoy a few warm summer nights.

And if I am lucky, I hope to get a few good nights of sleep.

All in all, I think this could be a wonderful year.

 

July: A Cure for What Ails You

Um, I don’t know if you’ve realized yet but July is basically over. And since the seasons still revolve around school in my mind, this means that summer is on its way out. (Although not in any way related to temperature. It’s hot and humid here!)

Baby days are very strange. Each day passes pretty slowly but the weeks just fly by. My baby is 7 1/2 months old. That’s insane! It really just seems impossible to me.

July was a bit of a rollercoaster. It started off drowning in mom guilt (mom guilt is to be defined as totally unnecessarily guilt having to do with parenting) but after some personal time it really evened out. It felt like the medicine I didn’t know I needed.

A Dose of Time Off

For weeks I had been nervously anticipating a 5 day work trip to Texas. As time got closer the more it became apparent that I really needed this time away. The week before we switched Haines to formula with bed time and wake up nursing sessions only. It was incredibly emotional and stressful for me, but traveling with minimal pumping was so much more enjoyable. I was sad to give up breastfeeding but this was a huge silver lining.

Over the past few months I’ve felt myself get more and more uptight. While I’m relaxed in many areas of baby life, the introduction of solid foods, baby sleeping in his own room and becoming mobile really threw me for a loop. Getting to eat fantastic food, drink good beer and hang out with awesome Austinites was really a total reset for me. I came back home with a fresh mindset and a whole lot more patience.

A Dose of Using My Brain

My time away and fresh mindset has allowed for a lot more reading! This July I read We Should All Be Feminists, Americanah, and Hunger. I’m working on A Manual for Cleaning Women and getting ready to start All the Lives I Want. I feel like a person with a brain that works! Woo hoo!

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A Dose of Love & Marriage

No one really ever talks about how a baby affects their relationship. It’s always just love and marriage and baby makes three. Well, sure all of that but it’s so much more. I’m not sure if I have all the words for it yet. It’s been challenging. I thought Tyler and I would be going through the same experience but we weren’t. Childbirth felt both traumatic and empowering. The changes in my hormones made me feel depleted emotionally and physically. Maternity leave was lonely. Those experiences were all me. Sure, Tyler was affected by them but he didn’t go through them. We came into each phase from completely different entry points and left with very different perspectives.

Somewhere around the 7 month mark there has been a shift. I can surely attribute part of that to sleeping more but it’s also communicating more. Our baby is happy and learning new things every day. We feel more like best friends and partners than we ever have.

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A Dose of Slowing Down

The weekend I got back from Texas I did nothing. Nothing but lay on the floor with a baby who is learning to crawl. Nothing but make silly noises and sing made-up songs to a tiny guy who thinks I’m very funny. I didn’t go to grocery store or clean the bathroom or do laundry or anything else on the long list of the things that needed to be done. I didn’t think for a moment about doing otherwise. It was the best.

Although work often makes me overwhelmed and anxious, I’m trying to keep this attitude while I’m at home. This time with Haines is important and although sometimes I feel like I should doing other things, this isn’t time I can get back. So I’ll just be over here blowing raspberries and trying to worry a little bit less.

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Yes, that is a creepy glowing owl bath toy. He’s way less weird in person. 

Celebrating Togetherness

You may already know that I am a sucker for certain things. These things include: books, ladies night, book clubs where books are actually discussed, excellent food, and adorable decorations. Evidence of such love can be found here, here, and here.

Sometimes when you are very lucky you are able to combine all of your favorite things in one delightful evening. This month was the one year anniversary of our little, lovely book club. It was an anniversary that went mostly unnoticed but it was wonderful to realize that our group was still going strong. Previously I’ve been in book clubs where wine trumped the book but each time I am pleasantly surprised to find that everyone has read the book and everyone genuinely wants to talk about it. My book club email chain is basically the only reason I read my personal email. Except to obsessively enter giveaways, but that’s another story.

Another one of the perks of our group is the food. It’s been a fantastic, unexpected perk that everyone likes to cook or bake. Even this week when we were “only having pizza” (delish!) the side dishes included kale chips, a fantastic kale salad (recipe here), breadsticks (be still my heart!- make your own), fresh fruit and NUTELLA STUFFED COOKIES. Since you will die unhappy without this recipe, I will provide it for you. You have been warned though- a cookie coma is possible.

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This past Monday book club was elevated to a new level when Mel of Tabled sent us some goodies to perk up our table. You may remember reading about Mel when I described how I want to live vicariously through her. Even though I only met her and her fiancé, Carson, briefly for a weekend it was such a wonderful encounter and I’ve been lucky to stay in contact with them. When Mel kindly volunteered to share some of her wares with us, I couldn’t have been more excited!  Her table accessories are all handmade by local artists and craftsmen from throughout the country. Tabled’s philosophy comes down to every meal being a celebration. I couldn’t agree more.

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Photo credit: Chrissy Hennessy

Meal times are special, whether there’s an occasion to celebrate or not. My husband and I sit down for dinner together most every night because that is our time together. It was the same with my family. Whether it was when my parents were together or after their divorce, it didn’t matter whose house I was at- we always ate dinner together. It’s also the hardest part of living in Wilmington. Our weekly supper club was family night. It was a meal time that could be fancy or could be pretty basic but it was a celebration of our friendship, of new friends and of being together.

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Having Tabled’s little touches to our book club dinner was a fun and special touch that we all really enjoyed. I’m excited to incorporate them into my every day dinners too!

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Even nacho night is looking extra fancy!

The Most Memorable & Influential Books in the Life of Kat B.

A little less than a year ago, at a friend’s suggestion and my push, a book club was formed. It contains 75% of everyone I know in Wilmington. The other 25% of people I know are probably all coworkers. I’m pretty enamored with our book club which we call The Bookplates. We are dorky enough to have a name and a Twitter account, albeit a rarely used one. This is the sort of book club where wine actually comes second to discussing the book (it’s a close second) and so far every member has read the entire book each time (with rare exceptions).

In the eight months we’ve been meeting we’ve read:

The Paying Guests- Sarah Waters

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls- Anton Disclafani

*The Land of Love and Drowning- Tiphanie Yanique

*A Little Life- Hanya Yanagihara

*Fates and Furies- Lauren Groff

How to be Both- Ali Smith

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl- Carrie Brownstein

Under the Udala Trees- Chinelo Okparanta

*My favorites thus far.

For January’s book club we were asked to bring a list of five books to share with one another. We could give the list any theme we wanted. Some were based on books of their youth, some were books they thought about a lot- it varied. I pondered my list for several days and asked the advice of multiple friends. Slowly my list became “The Most Memorable and Influential Books in the Life of Kat B.” I excel at titles.

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These are somewhat in chronological order.

Little Women- Louisa May Alcott

Growing up I owned a hardback version with a soft, blue, faux leather cover. Throughout the book were illustrations of important scenes in the March family’s life. Each picture was preceded by a fine piece of tissue paper. It was most likely some sort of Barnes and Noble edition but I treated like a first edition. It was sacred. Sometimes I would trace the drawings onto a piece of paper and pretend I was Amy March. Other times I would write stories and pretend I was Jo March. These girls were in a world that didn’t encourage them to be creative but they would not be stifled.

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang- Joyce Carol Oates

If you need a writer to get obsessed with, pick Joyce Carol Oates. She’s written so many novels/novellas/short stories/plays/essays in her life that you will never run out of material. It is impossible. For six+ years I rarely read anything but Oates and it all started with Foxfire. I was sixteen working at the performing arts theater in Winston-Salem and a coworker, much cooler and older than I, gave me her copy. She let me keep it and I’ve probably read it ten or more times. It was a book about passion, anger, belonging and the fierceness of young women. I think I’m done reading and collecting Joyce Carol Oates books, but Foxfire will always be at the top of my book list.

Confederates in the Attic- Tony Horwitz

Stop what you’re doing. Read this book. If you live in the South or are interested in the South, you must read it. This book is as laugh out loud funny as it is totally disturbing. Tony Horwitz travels around to different states in the Confederacy trying to determine why the Civil War is still so important to Southerners. I was concerned when I first started this book that it would leave me feeling ashamed to be a Southerner. Not a chance. Southerners are complicated and generous with their crazy flags flying high. Also, as the book shows Southerners are not all alike, contrary to popular belief.

The Power of One- Bryce Courtenay

I can’t explain exactly why this book made my list. It’s just the kind of compelling story that never leaves you. It’s the story of Peekay, a white boy in South Africa, whose life shows us the Apartheid, South African culture, boxing and his coming of age. It’s a book I would recommend to anyone, especially someone who hasn’t been reading much and needs a compelling story to motivate them to read more. This will do the trick.

Wild- Cheryl Strayed

I’ve met a lot of people who hated Wild but when I read it, quickly and without stopping, I felt like the book had become a permanent part of me. It’s words and story stand out clearly in my mind and when I reflect on it, I first feel the story somewhere within me behind my sternum, near my heart. It is not a tale I have experienced but it’s something I read and thought, “Oh yes, I could see this happening to me or someone like me.” It also pulls me outside. No, I don’t want to lose all my toenails nor venture into the woods with an improperly packed bag and not nearly enough camping knowledge. I do; however, want to experience the meditation of a solo hike in the woods.

And so this is me, if I were a list of books.

This I Believe

Last year I created a reading list at work, where I had everyone submit book recommendations. I compiled them all together to make a fantastic list of reads. I may have been the only one who got really excited about this list but lists and books represent two of my favorite things! (Dork alert.) I’ve made it my mission to read as many books on the list as possible (except the ones that I’m just really not interested in- can’t be too extreme). There’s probably 80 or so books on there.

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So far I’ve read:

  • Beach Music by Pat Conroy- Very interesting read but most certainly written for a different generation. I felt I would have gotten a lot more about of it if I was my parents’ age.
  • I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb- Absolutely loved it… until the ending which was delivered all neatly wrapped in a big ol’ bow. Little disappointed there.
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed- Loved every minute of this book. Have not seen the movie yet but I’m hoping to this week.

For Christmas this year I asked for a couple books off the list including This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. It’s based on the NPR series that existed both in the 1950s and in the 2000s. It’s been a really incredible read. I want to share with you a couple of lines that I thought have been pretty poignant.

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“Give, give, give–what is the point of having experiences, knowledge, or talent if I don’t give it away? Of having stories if I don’t tell them to others? Of having wealth if I don’t share it? I don’t intend to be cremated with any of it. It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world, and with the divine.” -Isabel Allende

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“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious–the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty.” – Albert Einstein

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“I believe in the power and mystery of naming things. Language has the capacity to transform our cells, rearrange our learned patterns of behavior and redirect our thinking. I believe in naming what’s right in front of us because that is often what is most invisible.” -Eve Ensler

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“It would be folly for an individual to seek to do better- to do better than to go on in his own imperfect way, making his mistakes, riding out the rough and bewildering, exciting and beautiful storm of life until the day he dies.” – Oscar Hammerstein II

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“I believe in the creative powers of the unknown. I believe in the exhilaration of standing at the boundary between the known and the unknown. I believe in the unanswered questions of children.”   -Alan Lightman

Highly recommend it y’all.