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. 

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Falling in Love the Hard Way

I didn’t understand that I loved my son until we got to the hospital. I’m not entirely sure I understood that he was my son. I felt love. At home listening to Christmas music, holding him next to Tyler, I cried for how full my heart was. All the same it hadn’t hit me, I didn’t know the depth, until he was in pain.

It was the pediatric hospitalist, a doctor for the Pediatric ICU who showed me how to use the breast pump. I hadn’t nursed in over 12 hours and my breasts were enormous. I thought I knew what engorged meant  when my milk first came in but it could not compare to my breasts expressing the physical pain of my child not eating. When he cried my breasts cried draining milk through my shirt, aching with helplessness.

At lunch time that same day we had taken him to his two-week check up at the pediatrician. They had given him a clean bill of health and sent us on our way. Almost immediately upon arriving at home Haines become inconsolable. He refused to nurse. This wasn’t alarming, he’s a baby. He’s fussy. At 9 pm though he still hadn’t nursed and couldn’t be calmed for more than a minute or two. His piercing cry had weakened and his breathing was congested and labored. The pediatric after hours line sent us to the hospital to get him checked out.

We thought we’d be sent home with a tall hospital bill and being told that we had a bad case of new nervous parenting, nothing more. It quickly became apparent this wasn’t the case. Our ER room filled with nurses, technicians and doctors. They stuck a tube down his nose and then his throat to suction the thick mucous that was choking him. An X-ray machine was brought in, an IV set up. When the team for pediatrics came down to move him, one nurse kept a bag valve mask in her hand to be ready to manually breath for Haines if he needed it.

We were ushered out of his room when they announced that Haines would need an airway and a spinal tap. They were testing the spinal fluid, blood and urine for infection. Now it was me who was inconsolable. Although we were shown the family waiting room we stood in the hallway directly outside of his room waiting for someone to speak to us, waiting to see him. They had decided against intubating him but he did have a breathing machine, a CPAP, on for the first 12 hours or so. The sight of him twisted our insides. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the next day that I got to hold him. It was after 22 hours that I gave him a bottle, his first food.

After a few days we found out that Haines has Group B Strep, a blood infection. Anyone who has recently received prenatal treatment knows that pregnant women are tested for this. Individuals who test positive get antibiotics during labor to prevent babies from picking it up in the birth canal. I had tested negative. Little did I know that women could test negative one day and test positive the next. What would I have done if I had known? Nothing, of course. We did as we were told by medical professionals. We didn’t know, didn’t understand.

Once we got the news of the type of infection we also found out the treatment, 10 days of IV antibiotics. This was another heart sinking moment. We’re wanted to take this baby home and to unhook him from these machines and monitors. But all he needs to be a healthy baby boy is to finish his treatment. So we waited.

In a hospital, time takes a very different meaning. Day or night just means a different nurse is on shift. Either way I am watching bad movies and Law & Order SVU at all times. I have finally sorted the room so that the couch is more like a bed and I have reusable grocery bags filled with our items. One bag for snacks. One bag for our clothes. One bag for baby’s. One bag for books and things to do. I write this now just as much for the cathartic act as I do to fill the time.

Today we take home a bouncing baby boy who is fattening up and growing stronger every day. This wasn’t the way we wanted to learn to be parents but Haines is helping us learn fast. And he is showing us all about love.

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Vagina Love

Somewhere in between my fifth grade graduation dance and trying to find my locker in high school I lost most of my confidence. I stopped being outgoing. I wanted to go back to that child who hid behind my mother’s skirt. I could only be described as “nice” or “quiet” to most of my classmates and remained somewhat reserved even to my friends.

So it came as a shock to all involved that two of my suite mates freshman year convinced me to audition for The Vagina Monologues. I was selected for The Not So Happy Fact. It’s a short blurb about genital mutilation and the incredible number of women who had suffered through it. You do not get applause when you give The Not So Happy Fact. It’s too jarring, too disturbing, too sad. Even my family sat stunned, not remembering to clap.

We spent months preparing for the performances and they are some of my most vivid memories of freshman year. Sitting with my roommate going over her lines, making posters (or was it T-shirts?) while listening to Le Tigre in the student union, watching young, vibrant women find their voices onstage through the stories of many.

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Tonight I saw UNC Wilmington’s Vagina Monologues. It was the first time in eleven years that I had seen a performance of it and the first time I wasn’t on stage. Yes, it made me feel nostalgic. Yes, I immediately sent Facebook messages to my old roommates. Yes, I remembered most of the monologues almost word for word.

The message and its importance though felt renewed. Although I have to wonder if some of the content resonates with today’s youth (Do they know about the Bosnian war? Do they understand vagina workshops were a thing?) the message clearly does. The message of internal revolution, of female empowerment, of respect and boundaries, of solidarity felt familiar in a way that made me realize I had lost touch with it. In today’s world of negativity and divisiveness I had forgotten about being just plain old happy and proud to be a woman. To love your vagina! To love all vaginas! And to be appreciative of all those who embrace women, equality and respect.

When talking about participating in the Vagina Monologues I used to always add, “I only spoke a really small part. It was nothing.” I acted as though I was someone’s last choice. But perhaps I was chosen for The Not So Happy Fact because although I felt small, my voice was powerful. That’s what we all need to remember: that although we may feel small, our voices are no less powerful.

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Just a college girl in a dorm with her Sleater Kinney shirt. Those were the days.

** Vagina Monologue performances happen all across the country around Valentine’s Day. Find the one nearest you and bring a friend. All proceeds go to local non-profits that work to end violence against women and children. UNCW has a second performance on Sunday if you’re in the Wilmington area.**

Fall Apple Butter & The Difference A Year Makes

Last fall I made 36 little 4 oz jars of apple butter. It was the first time I’d ever canned anything and I was terribly nervous, but every jar sealed. As I fretted over jars that struggled to remain upright in the boiling water bath, two girlfriends sat on my couch trying to find their way through recent heartbreak.

Although I enjoyed their company, it was unnerving to listen to them, one being recently divorced, as I prepared for my wedding. Those little jars were to go with an equal number of little jars of smoked salmon that Tyler caught, smoked and canned in Alaska. Together they were our wedding favors. Homemade items that felt like they represented us. At the time “us” felt far apart with me in Texas preparing my DIY wedding items and the Alaskan boy in Alaska fishing and golfing and feeling like the wedding was still far off.

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The two crockpots crowded my kitchen. I didn’t have enough counter space so they sat on stools while the sterilized hot glass jars were filled on my counter next to the stove. I didn’t know what to expect. Was the apple butter supposed to be this dark? Yes, it’s perfect. Was it smooth enough? Yes, it will continue to break down as you process it.

I didn’t question loving Tyler or marrying him, although I did question whether or not I was going to make it through our wedding planning. Throughout my life I’ve questioned the longevity of marriage but not whether trying was worth it.

This weekend we celebrated our first anniversary with starting the search for a dog to be a member of our family. We toasted our marriage with beers over queso.   When I decided to make apple butter two days later to share with my coworkers and friends- the people who have newly become important to me- Tyler wasn’t in Alaska. He was helping me. Or at least keeping me company.

We made it in our new kitchen in our new house because we are homeowners now in a town that is just now beginning to feel like home. I once again worried that the apple butter wasn’t smooth or dark enough (cook for longer!) and I struggled to find all the jars and lids as I still don’t know where we’ve put everything.

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I know it is the first of many more anniversaries. After all, I’ve told him we’re required to make it to our 50th. After that, we can reconsider.

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To make your own apple butter (with extra love) I recommend Martha Stewart’s Overnight Apple Butter. Great for wedding favors and coworker surprises.

You Can’t Avoid Being Hurt But You Can Choose Who Hurts You

A friend of mine heard (and I’m paraphrasing here) recently that you can’t avoid getting hurt but you do get to choose who hurts you. It really resonated with me. It explained more articulately what I had been trying to say about love, or more specifically my love.

My friends from Austin really don’t know me outside of my relationship. I started dating my beau about a month after I moved to Austin. They saw all my phases: courtship (refusal to call him my boyfriend), brief period of separation (four month break-up that first summer he was back in Alaska), the rebuilding (where I was absolutely convinced that it would not work out), and eventually the faith in forever. What they may not know is that the first three phases pretty accurately describes the way I had always interacted with men- skepticism, fear and avoidance. Faith in someone or something is not the norm for me (except for faith in the healing powers of a good meal and a hot bath).

Two things happened to change me. The first and most obvious one is Tyler. He called me out on my bad behavior (re: skepticism, fear and avoidance) and remained constant regardless. In the past four years the biggest lessons I’ve learned have been about trust and communication. It was surprising to me how much I needed to learn these things.

Then the epiphany. It came eating frozen yogurt with a group of women getting together during their 40th high school reunion. I drove up to Oklahoma to visit my mom while she was at her reunion and tagged along with her and her friends. They were catching up, talking about their relationships. Only one was still married to her first husband. One was single after two marriages.Another was her second of two long term relationships and another two were in their third marriage. All complained, all teased, all joked about their current standings in love and all seemed happy (good frozen yogurt is a truth serum I’m told). How could they have known where they would end up? It may seem very simple to you but I was overwhelmed sitting around these women, joyously sharing about their loves, with the knowledge that I could be happy even if it all went wrong. But more importantly there was really no way to know.

You just have to decide if it’s worth it. That’s when I knew that I would stay in this relationship for the long haul. I no longer needed assurances that issues would work themselves out (like where to live!), that everything should be a fairy tale. I knew two things: First, I was willing to work at this because second, I was willing to get hurt over this. This relationship has made me a better person and brought me more joys than I could have ever anticipated. Relationships and marriage are the scariest things in the world, the biggest leaps of faith, and as someone who has seen the hurt of divorces I know that the potential for pain here is high.

I can’t imagine a situation more worth the risk.

Happy four years together to my beau (someone who is convinced our dating anniversary is in April)!

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Why Aren’t You Real: Empire Records

Sometimes I forget how much I love this movie. Sometimes someone asks me what’s one of your favorite movies and I stumble for a moment before I remember- Empire Records! Obviously this isn’t an award winning, audience stunning film, but I love it all the same. Rotten Tomatoes barely gives it a star but that doesn’t matter. Tonight I was able to watch it at Alamo Drafthouse and laughing and catcalling with the crowd made me practically pee my pants with joy.

Reasons I love Empire Records:

1. Because a declaration of love has never been so eloquent:

“And I did love you, and I still … only I didn’t realize that it really was love because it was more than love and it wasn’t just some stupid feeling in my stomach like everything else and I’ll never love anybody as much as you and I hate you! I hate you!”

2. It teaches how to deal with an armed assailant!

“Well you can’t kill me ‘cause I’m already dead. And I talked to God, and she says, ‘Yo, wassup?’ and she wants you to lose the gun.”

3. Empire Records teaches the importance of forgiveness. Even thief Warren who shoots up the place (with blanks) is welcomed back for a second chance.

4. Terrible music isn’t tolerated.

“I’m exercising my veto, man.”

5. It’s insanely quotable.

“I don’t feel that I need to explain my art to you, Warren.”

“Well “Sinead O’Rebellion.” Shock me shock me shock me with that deviant behavior.”

“This music is the glue of the world Mark. It’s what holds it all together. Without this, life would be meaningless.”

See what I mean?

6. Best soundtrack ever! Check it out.

 

 

 

 

 

Shit just got real y’all.

You may remember there was  a time when I was really struggling with the idea of being in a relationship with someone. I defined myself as single. It was part of my identity and the way I looked at the world. A romantic relationship truly felt foreign, uncomfortable and terrifying. 

Well, damn if I didn’t go and turn it up a notch. After dating for three years, I said yes to my Alaskan and in about 8 months I’ll be saying “I do” as well. It is a totally wild idea to me that I am actually planning a ceremony where I will be committing myself to another person for the rest of my life. How do some people enter into these things casually? The very idea is mind boggling to me. I’m actually going to agree to be with someone else forever and ever. Logically, this seems very silly but my heart is overjoyed at the idea of getting old with this person. 

I’ve been going back and forth between that feeling on Christmas morning when you’re a child and you know that Santa has come but you’re not allowed to go peek yet and also just being plain ol’ overwhelmed! People actually plan weddings for a living? But there’s so much to remember! 

Oh, in case you’re wondering, he did get down on one knee and yes, I cried. Excessively. The ring was my grandmother’s which makes it extra special. 

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Post-crying selfies are not the easiest to make pretty but you get the drift.