Life and Love and Creativity

I have been absent again from posting here lately. The baby has been teething and starting her one year growth spurt, and I have also snuck away on a few short trips with the family, visiting the 1000 Islands and Buffalo/Niagara Falls. It is so much work to travel with kids, but the time with friends and getting close to nature was well worth the effort. I feel more grounded, more accepting of the current state of affairs in my life, and ready to allow myself to expand again after feeling retracted for so long.

My time to create has been so short, and this was one of the biggest things I had to come to terms with. Almost all my efforts right now are going into creating my sister’s wedding dress and jewelry. The only writing I’ve been doing lately is an occasional email or letter, and I haven’t had any time for music or painting. Because my energies are being poured into my family and into the work that allows us to survive, and that is where they need to be right now. Because the love I have for my family and the joy I experience witnessing my children grow makes the sacrifices worthwhile.

All this to say that my creativity is not gone; the fire has merely been stoked, waiting the right opportunity to blaze once again. In the meantime, I will guard my embers and feed them as I may.

 

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Freedom’s Just Another Word…

I came across this quote recently from the author David Foster Wallace that I thought was interesting, because it’s the exact opposite of what most people think of when they imagine freedom.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

The truth is I have found more internal freedom than I ever thought possible through having my kids. I’ve grown so much in making space that includes family and deep soul connections in my life. I’ve lost fear. Which is the biggest freedom there is. So even though I can’t go out partying if I get the urge, even though I can’t blow my paycheck on concert tickets and new clothes, even though I frequently put another person’s needs before my own needs and almost always put someone else’s needs before my wants, I am free or on my way to being free in the ways that truly matter.  Sometimes, though, I very badly need the reminder, and so this quote hit home.

What are your thoughts on freedom?

Also, the title of the blog post comes from the Janis Joplin song “Me and Bobby McGee” which I’ve always loved singing along to.

I’m So Very Very Tired…

Cue Madeline Kahn. If I ever decided to pursue a career in acting, my goal would be to follow in Madeline Kahn’s footsteps.

But seriously, I’m so tired. My 9 month old has been going through a sleep regression for weeks now. And the lack of sleep is taking a huge toll on me emotionally and physically. I’ve been suffering a severe lack of “me” time, either to relax and self-care or to create. We know what we signed up for as parents, especially being the second time around, but it’s still not easy. I pity those who are chronic insomniacs.

I’m also tired in the sense I blogged about last spring. You can read it here. More people seem to be growing aware of the bigger picture, that change is needed, but will it be enough?

And really, I’m so tired of being strong. Strength of will, strength of character, a pillar of strength, a warrior woman, juggling it all…  Is it strength to do what you feel you have to do? I don’t know.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t start this blog until after my son was a year and a half years old. He was a terrible sleeper and I was a “mombie” for a long time. A couple of weeks at a time with his sister doesn’t seem half bad by comparison.

I’ll be back to normal soon, I hope. I feel like I’ll be emerging from my cocoon soon.

It’s that time again…

Every year I try to look back over the year and take stock of how well I’ve lived up to certain goals. And then I try to set myself some new goals for the coming year. I’ve decided to break up that post into two posts because I’ve got quite a bit of sorting out to do for this year.

Many people have felt betrayed by 2016, and a lot of terrible things have happened to a lot of people, both personally and on a large scale. There was much divine masculine energy being brought online, if you follow that particular spirituality, and quite frankly, people haven’t been processing it very well. Hopefully that will settle in as we move into 2017 collectively. For myself personally, early on, I’ve dubbed 2016 my Year of Change, and it has proven to be that for me right up til the end. Change is not easy, change can be both good and bad, change can be scary, but it is also necessary for growth, so I’m hopeful that the coming year will be a fertile one for me.

What personal changes did I go through? I bought a house, I had my son diagnosed as being on the lower end of the autism spectrum a couple days before his 5th birthday and a week before we moved into said house (which I haven’t discussed on this site before and as someone who hates labels, I had a hard time adjusting to), I had a leadership shift at work and many of my good work friends left but I was assured that things would be shifting to the better, I delivered a beautiful baby girl with all the changes that go with that, and I got fired early in December from the job that rather than shifting to the better was made more difficult.

I have experienced such intense joy and such intense pain through all these huge life shifts, but also a lot of numbness that I’ve blamed on pregnancy and postpartum hormonal shifts which could also just have been a coping mechanism. And a lot more stress than I should have allowed myself to experience.

These past couple of weeks have been difficult for me dealing with losing my job. It’s funny that I immediately felt acceptance, even in the moment, and I still do think it was the best possible thing to have happened given the situation (and if you believe in the law of attraction, I asked for it to happen a few days before it did and I was granted my wish). But two weeks ago, I changed my Amazon Smile recipient to an organization other than my former employer and I unsubscribed from the newsletter finally, and I realized that leaving an employer is quite similar to breaking up with a significant other, and then I further realized that my getting fired after being sick a week and a half after Thanksgiving was an exact parallel to my one break up I experienced in my life – I was 18 and so sick with mono and the boy I was dating broke up with me the week after Thanksgiving. I kind of pushed him into it by making him realize that he was incapable of coping with my being sick (one of those relationships where I was more a psychoanalyst than anything and when I couldn’t fulfill that function any further, he was a mess). So I’m still trying to figure out what lessons I missed that first time that are being repeated here. But I also let some bitterness in. Being unemployed and having to be super frugal was not how I imagined our first Christmas in our new house with our new baby. With the help of my family, I was able to stop myself from spiraling into a deep dark hole and actually enjoy myself, which I was glad for. Then this past week, as I reviewed old posts here and under my real name, I kept seeing how much joy I found in my work last spring, despite the craziness, and it made me sad to think that just a handful of people being switched out was enough to make me feel taken advantage of and abused by my employer.

So here I am, my creative barrel scraped pretty dry. I’m healed up physically fairly well now though I still need to bring my stamina and strength back to my pre-pregnancy self as I still tire more readily, but creatively I’m having a difficult time tapping into where I need to go. I’ve been doing some project daydreaming, played the piano and sang several times a week for a couple songs, and my aunt got me an adult coloring book for Christmas which I started one but coloring other people’s designs isn’t really fulfilling. My morning pages are lackluster and whiny, which is what they need to be, but beyond this blog and a couple of longer Facebook posts on my other site, I haven’t been able to write. So the healing that still needs to happen is deeper than I’ve managed to get yet. But I will.

My goals for 2016 were to get the house set up to be as sustainable as possible, and that didn’t happen. We still are unpacking! But we’ve made great progress since I’ve been home. The previous owners actually left a compost bin, and we’re planning out our first veggie and herb garden for this year. A friend of ours has a phenomenal green thumb, so we will be tapping him. So, in brief, everything around the house is taking way longer than I thought it would, but part of the fun is planning long term finally. I feel like I didn’t have enough energy to do as much as I wanted creatively and self-growth wise, but I’m giving myself slack since I was creating a baby instead.

Tomorrow I’ll look ahead to the coming year with hope and optimism. But I think it’s important to be honest about where I’m at presently.

Back at Work with Baby

I started back to work on Monday. I only took 8 weeks this time because I couldn’t afford to do a month unpaid (for my non-US readers who don’t know, the United States “maternity leave” is a joke – you get 6 weeks of disability for vaginal delivery and 8 weeks for cesarean, and disability is less than $200 a week). My work gave me two weeks of maternity leave, on top of the disability, and came up with an extra project for me to do now that I’m back to make up the difference in my salary, which is great and more than my previous employer did for me, and I have the flexibility of being able to work from home and make up hours as convenient and I get to bring the baby with me as much as I need to, which will be all the time at least through the end of the year.

But I’m exhausted. Trying to do it all is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting. I’m getting about 2 hours less sleep than I have been and I’m not able to rest while nursing at work like I do at home. Monday was tough on both the baby and I, Tuesday was good, yesterday was tough again, and today is good again. I had hoped to get a break and get some me-time and extra work done in the evenings after my son goes to bed, now that the baby is taking one bottle a day from my husband, but she needed me both Monday and Wednesday night as she’s transitioning to being out of the house all day and teething at the same time. Monday I was holding her, too tired to even cry even though I felt like I needed to, and last night I just accepted it – after screaming her head off for the entire 30 minutes I was putting my son to bed, she immediately calmed when I took her from my husband, then I tried passing her back to him ten minutes later and she went off again (he feels really bad about it), so we took a bath together, she and I, and then I just held her and read the rest of the evening.

It is harder than I thought, but every time I want to whine, I just remind myself how much better I have it than so many. I get to make the choice of having my baby with me, I have a supportive husband and family, the company I work for is transitioning to being even more supportive of it’s employees and trying to avoid us all overworking quite as much as we’ve been in the past. So I feel like an ingrate when it doesn’t seem like enough. The hardest thing for me, I think, is now that my son is in school all day and I don’t get home sometimes until 5:30PM, I feel like I get maybe 15 minutes before bath time and then our 30 min at bedtime for stories and cuddles and that’s it, and it’s not enough time for me. And I look at all the projects I want to do around the house (we still haven’t even finished unpacking) and all the creative projects I want to do for myself, and I have to remind myself that an infant is hard enough to take care of all by itself and everything else will come in due time. I have to continually let myself off the hook or else the tension starts building too high.

On the plus side, I’m feeling good about getting back in the swing at work now. Things are getting organized, we’re in the planning stages that I really like to be a part of, and there are some really fun projects coming up for me, as long as I let myself have fun with them and not stress out. And I’ll soon lose all the baby weight I gained (already more than halfway there) because of all the manual labor I’m doing on top of wearing the baby for hours every day. There will be days that I know I’ll barely be holding things together, that I feel like all the threads are starting to unravel, but it’s all worth it. At least, I hope so.

The New Arrival

I gave birth to my 2nd child last Sunday. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, even compared to my first delivery, but also amazing. The midwife had me reach down at the end and help guide my daughter out to lift her directly onto me, which actually is something I never imagined doing but a memory that I’ll cherish until I die.

This week, I’ve been mostly confined upstairs to recuperate, getting food delivered to me, sleeping and cuddling the baby and playing board games with my son as I’m up to it and reading a lot. I briefly went out a couple of days ago for the first doctor’s appointment, and it took so much out of me that I started crying as soon as I sat down in the car. I’m feeling much better today, and I’m hoping to get to slowly start making my way downstairs next week, and if this heat ever breaks, to start getting out for slow walks with my family. Because while the rest has been necessary, I also feel the hint of stir-crazy starting to make itself known. Healing myself is the most important step, though, so I have the energy to later do what I want to do.

My mother and husband have been wonderful this week taking care of me and the children, my in-laws who came in to watch my son while we were delivering left us stocked up with food and even made an effort to buy more organic/whole foods than they’ve ever done for us before, my father is coming next week to get some work done on our house and finally install our water filter, my doula has been out several times to do whatever we need done, and I have offers for next week as well of help from other people. It’s amazing how family and friends will come together to help when it’s needed, and even when you don’t know that you necessarily need it.

My doula said she sees one more daughter for me, but we’re done for the time being. It wouldn’t be fiscally or socially responsible for us at this point to have more. Maybe I’ll wind up with a surprise pregnancy later in life or something, though if I do, I hope I’m still physically strong enough to deliver without interventions.

Anyway, I love watching my daughter grow day by day. She’s already so strong she is nearly flipping herself over, she started doing half smiles within the first 24 hours in response to certain voices, and there is something comforting about being able to fulfill someone’s emotional needs just by being physically close to them.  I imagine that I’ll feel “touched out” on occasion, as I did experience that with my son, but for now, as I type one handed with a newborn sprawled across my chest, I’m just enjoying it.

 

“Don’t You Just Love Being Pregnant?!”

I am wary of women who love feeling pregnant, much in the same way as I am wary of those who are able to orgasm during labor. Tons of respect toward both groups, but also a sense of “what the heck is wrong with you?”.

While I experience some moments of pleasure in feeling the children I carry move within me, and while many aspects of the process are interesting because I find our bodies fascinating in what they can accomplish, the process of being pregnant is not one I greatly enjoy. My first pregnancy, I had huge patches of itchy, scaly psoriasis flare-ups covering my abdomen and back and hands, and terrible bloody noses all winter from the inflammation I was suffering. This pregnancy, I’ve been very short towards my loved ones without meaning to be, suffered several months of an almost robotic-like absence of emotions, and because my job is so physically demanding, have had some pretty bad aches and pains throughout. And my not-yet-arrived daughter has been incredibly active the entire time, which can lead to some not quite pleasant sensations. Not to mention the typical pregnancy issues that I’ll spare you all. And I consider that I’ve had it easy compared to many of my friends.

But pregnancy is a means to an end. A cute and cuddly end. So I will deal with being short of breath and tired and cranky, and thankfully my husband is so far putting up with me being so as well. I was talking with my son about how I couldn’t do certain things now because the baby has gotten so big, and he said “Mommy will be back to normal soon” and I laughed and responded “I sure hope so, sweetie,” while thinking that ‘normal’ is a relative term for me. For now, I feel like an overripe piece of fruit, ready to burst at any moment, and dealing as best I can.

Anyway, I know I haven’t been posting much here lately, and I don’t know if that will change going forward into this first year of being a mom of two and still trying to create good projects. But I’ll make the effort when I can. And as I slowly start returning to what passes for normal for me, I will do what I can to grow this site a bit more.

A Tale of Two Earrings

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I was almost twelve when I got my ears pierced. It was a rite of passage, and I was pleased with my little stud earrings. My ears didn’t heal properly, though, and I had issues with an infection and the holes trying to close themselves up for months. It turned out that I was allergic to the metal in the earring and I needed to switch to solid gold. So my mother, even though we were tight on money at the time, bought me gold posts instead. And my grandparents bought me beautiful birthstone posts for my birthday, that were not meant to be worn every day.

Fast forward several months, and I had already lost one of my everyday gold posts, thus having to wear my peridot earrings every day. I had gotten cast in a touring production of the ballet Hansel and Gretel, and while on tour, we accidentally left my earrings on a music stand in the room we were dressing in. My mom called the following day to see if anyone had turned them in, but they were lost forever. So, knowing that I had to have gold earrings, she pulled out the earrings in the photo above for me. They were my great-grandmother’s earrings brought with her from Sicily in the 1920s. My mother warned me to take Very Good Care of these earrings, being an heirloom.  And I did. My ears stopped trying to heal themselves over after a while, and I would switch out my earrings daily, but these were the pair I wore the most and that I slept in to make sure the holes wouldn’t try to close themselves in my sleep.

Fast forward to 2007, when I lose the earrings in southern CA. I had them on my desk and then they were gone. I searched everywhere, feeling sick to my stomach, but to no avail. Then when we moved apartments in spring 2008, I searched again. Still nothing. I put out a heartfelt wish to the universe that I would be incredibly grateful if they somehow ever found their way back to me, even while acknowledging how impossible such a task seemed. I assumed they had somehow fallen in a crack or under the carpet or our cat had swiped them and were lost forever.

Yesterday, I come home from work, and I saw one of the earrings sitting on the butcher block in the kitchen. I asked my husband about it, and he said he had found it while unpacking and sorting through a bin of art supplies. In that bin was a canvas papercraft organizer that I had sitting next to my desk in CA, and even though I’ve been through that organizer multiple times over the years since, it seemed that at least one earring had worked its way in so deeply that I never saw it. He showed me where he had put all the papers that had been in the organizer in our new art cabinet, and a few hours later, shrugging my shoulders at the likelihood of finding the match, I started sifting through. By the time I had gotten 1/4 of the way down the pile, I had found it. After over 8 years of thinking them lost forever, I had my great-grandmother’s earrings again. And I’m of course wearing them today.

It’s funny, because of course they’re just a “thing”, not even worth very much if I were to try to resell them (though because they are a unique design in that they enter from behind and hook in the front, there may be value there). But in many ways, it feels like a blessing from my great-grandmother on the house and the next chapter of our lives. And as I’m having a daughter, it’s nice to know that I now have something sentimental to pass on to her someday.