Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Some Things (Will) Never Change

I wrote this post two years ago.

I could pretty much have written this part of it today:

We went to a BBQ at a friend's house over the weekend.  There were five couples there.  Among the ten of us, there are nine kids.

(And one dead baby.)

Four of these couples (including us) were pregnant in 2010.  There was a little girl there who is five months older than Eliza would have been.  A little boy who is two months older than Eliza would have been.  Another little boy who is one month younger than Eliza would have been.

They are so big, these kids.  Big, and gorgeous, and funny, and they say big words and talk in whole sentences and wear big kid shoes and have hair that requires brushing and they ate dinner sitting in little chairs at tiny tables and not wearing bibs.

We had plans to have a Christmas dinner party with this group of friends the week after Eliza died.  David and I didn't make that dinner party.  Or any parties after that.  For a very, very long time.  We've gone to dinner with the adults in the group a couple of times in the past year or so, and I meet up with the girls on a pretty regular basis, but this was the first time since Eliza died that we were around everybody with all the kids.

It was fine--I didn't want to have a meltdown or anything.  It was nice to see everyone and to see how big the babies are getting--there's also a little boy who's a month older than Zu and a little girl who's a month younger (both have older siblings).  Zuzu and Evie even wrestled a bit over the Cozy Coupe.  
But David and I talked on the way home about how much we miss Eliza when we are with all of these families-of-four.

It just never stops sucking.  The "big" little girls are taking dance lessons.  My friends are talking potty training and crib-to-bed transitions and where these kids will go to kindergarten.  I can listen to these conversations without crying (that's called progress, my friends!).  I don't even have to fake interest or pretend to be okay when it feels like my insides are melting.  I can really handle it.  But there is something totally surreal and breathtaking about watching my best friends live my alternative life--the one I might have had if both my babies had lived instead of just one.

These days, I don't feel bitter or angry or resentful about it.  I'm happy for them and I love their kids.  I just feel sad for me.  I just want it to be me, too, buying leotards and ballet slippers and princess underwear.  I just want Eliza in the mix.

It's a million times easier than it was--I mean there was a time when I couldn't be around any kids who were close to Eliza's age and not lose it.  But it also struck me what a life sentence it is that we're facing.  Their kids will always be doing stuff that Eliza will never do at precisely the time she would have done it.  Their lives will always be eighteen months ahead of mine when it comes to raising kids.  Their families will always be complete while mine will always have someone missing.

I remember my mom telling me about a classmate of hers who died in grade school, and how every milestone of his classmates--driving, prom, graduation, and then college graduations and weddings and class reunions--was one more thing his mom witnessed as a reminder of all her son had missed out on.

I would have never thought it would hurt the same for a baby who never lived outside my belly.  I could have never imagined that my love for her didn't require her to be alive.  I would have never understood how much I would mourn both my daughter's life and the life I would have had if she'd lived.

I'm grateful my friendships have survived the wreckage.  I think I need to try harder because my instinct for so long was to distance myself from things like family BBQ's and kids birthday parties (we haven't been to a single one besides Zuzu's since Eliza died) and I know we've missed so much.

It's just that we still miss her.  So much.

Grief gets so much easier to live with--shockingly easy, to the extent that it sometimes feels like a betrayal.

But when you boil it down to the part where she was here--or she was thisclose to being here--and now she's gone... That part still makes me crumple. And I guess it always will.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cultural Messages and Chocolate-Chip Cookies

I made chocolate-chip cookies last week. I baked a double batch so I could take some of them to a Pedal the Cure fundraiser that Beth and Curt were hosting, and would have some to take to my friends who just had a new baby, and would have some left over for our house.

Since I was baking them for other people, I didn't enlist Zuzu's help, but later in the day, she asked me if she could have a cookie.

She was so excited when I gave her the cookie. She held it in her hand and said, "This is so yummy, Mommy!" She held it up for David and my parents to see: "Mm-mm! This is good!"

She still hadn't taken a bite.

She took the tiniest little nibble off the side. "Yum-yum-yum!" she said enthusiastically.

And then she just kind of sat there with the cookie in her hand.

"Honey, you don't have to eat it," I told her.

"Okay!" she said. She put the cookie down the table and went off to play.

Zuzu obviously does not like chocolate-chip cookies. She doesn't have much of a sweet tooth at all. She isn't into ice cream, and she'll eat plain Greek yogurt by the spoonful.

But she obviously knows she's supposed to like chocolate-chip cookies.

A three-year-old, whose television exposure is pretty limited, whose parents generally try to eat pretty healthy, whose schools have never served sugary snacks, can recite the things she's expected to say about chocolate-chip cookies, even though she doesn't actually want to eat them.

It really makes me think about all of the other unintentional messages that we send her, and how readily she absorbs them. And then consider all the messages that our society is sending her about how she is supposed to act and look and think and feel.

Liking chocolate-chip cookies seems pretty harmless, and we all laughed at her enthusiasm for a treat she obviously didn't want to eat. But what happens when she starts to absorb other kinds of social messages? You know the ones I mean--Math is hard. Girls should be skinny. Alcohol makes everything more fun. A little more troubling than Chocolate-chip cookies are delicious.

She performed the cultural ritual of celebrating a chocolate chip cookie even though she didn't really want to take part in it. She wanted to be part of what everyone else makes a fuss about (even though we didn't realize we were making a fuss--we obviously were!). Like every kid, she wants attention, pleasure, positive reinforcement. That's normal. But it's scary to think about how quickly she'll want those things to come from places other than her parents, and how the cultural messages about what will bring her attention, pleasure, and positive reinforcement are not necessarily the messages I want her to receive.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Recap of the Week in Which David Attended Baseball Games and I Did Everything Else

Crafty Cousin Amanda texted me today to ask what was going on because the blog was silent.

The answer is NOTHING is going on, but also, of course everything. I seriously have not seen my husband to have more than a five minute conversation since Sunday.

So, here's a quick recap of my week for CCAmanda and anyone else who cares.

Monday, I left work early, knowing I'd be there all day the next day, and the girls and I spent some time outside and went for a stroller ride. David's dad came in town and David took him to the Cardinals game, so I was on my own for dinner, clean up, bathtime, bedtime.

Tuesday, I was at work from 8:30am until 10:30pm. BUT it was also the day that I went to dinner with Lea DeLaria, which just goes to show that being an English professor is very glamorous and basically the same thing as being a celebrity.

Really I was on the committee that organized her visit to our campus. She was gracious and funny and foul-mouthed ("Zero fucks given!") and her talk (part stand up comedy, part self-acceptance pep talk) was a successful event. But preparing for it was also time consuming and stressful and included a last-minute date change and I'm relieved that it is behind us and that it went really well.

And I have no shame, so I requested a selfie with Lea and she was super cool about it.

David went to an event at Zuzu's school Tuesday night, but his grandma had come in town to visit us (she's staying until next Tuesday) so she watched the girls while he was there and I was at work. In other words, David was not on his own for dinner, clean up, bathtime, and bedtime.

Wednesday was back to regular life for me (no more dinners with celebrities), except on less sleep than usual because I got home so late on Tuesday but was still feeling wired so stayed up to watch most of an episode of Castle before falling asleep with fifteen minutes to go, which is the story of my life when it comes to TV watching these days. It takes me an average of six attempts to make it all the through an hour-long show (40 minutes because I can fast forward commercials). I'm not even kidding.

Plus I woke up at 2:45am Wednesday morning feeling sick to my stomach, thought I was going to puke, popped two Tums, tossed and turned and moaned pitifully, then went back to sleep and woke up totally fine. Except tired.

Wednesday night I spent the evening at home alone with the girls while David and his grandma went to his league's championship baseball game. He pitched a shut out against a team that's averaged 12 runs a game all season. I'm sorry I missed it, but glad his grandma got to see it. The girls actually played together in the basement for a while, allowing me to work on sewing Zuzu's Halloween costume and we were in bed by 9:00pm.

Also, since David was at a baseball game, I was on my own for dinner, clean up, bathtime, and bedtime.

Yesterday, Thursday, I picked up the girls, sat in road construction traffic, and got home just in time to start fixing them dinner. David walked in the door, changed his clothes, and left to take his grandma to the Cardinals game.

Another baseball game. So I was on my for dinner, clean up, bathtime, and bedtime for the third time this week.

If the purpose of David's attendance at ballgames this week was to make me notice how much he contributes around the house, POINT TAKEN. He has been very missed this week. Both in terms of adult conversation and a second pair of hands.

Zuzu was actually on pretty good behavior this week (except for one day in the car when she was so pissed off that the Pandora radio wasn't playing songs from Frozen that she threw her milk cup at me and I had to take many deep breaths so that I wouldn't pick it up and pitch it right back in her face) so we really had a good time. I'm telling you, age 3 is SO MUCH easier than age 2 for this one. Milk cup throwing notwithstanding.

All week, though, we have been having lots of conversations about the Big Bad Wolf. It started with this crappy little tent that my mom picked up for her secondhand somewhere and we occasionally set it up outside for her to play in. Well, the top of it got torn because it's a cheap little secondhand tent. Zuzu was very perturbed and wanted to know what happened and how it got torn, and evidently my mom told her that the Big Bag Wolf blew it off.

Haha, funny joke, Grammy.

Except now Zuzu keeps asking me where the wolf was when he came to our house, if he was hiding in the garage ("By the lawnmower, Mommy?"), if he only comes after dark, if Daddy chased him away, if he lives way far away or in St. Louis... a million questions about the Big Bad Wolf and his geographical location. I'm trying to reassure her that since our house is made of bricks, he can't blow it down, but she pointed out the TV room (an addition the previous owners made) is not made of bricks (it has vinyl siding). So she's obviously concerned. I told her I'd chase the wolf away, and she said that she'd slap her hands together and say, "Get outta here, Wolf!" so it seemed like we'd settle the matter, but then a while later she'd bring it up again.

Nice work, GRAMMY.

Tonight we have no plans so we'll be back to a more equitable distribution of cooking and parenting duties, and I, for one, am thrilled about that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Weeknight Walk

The other night, Zuzu and I took Cooper on a walk around the neighborhood after dinner.

It had been a typical evening--not bad, not great--in terms of feeling the just-got-home crunch. I pull in the drive way after working all day and driving 30 minutes to pickup the girls, and then I unload the girls and all our stuff out of the car, and instead of getting to just crash on the couch and re-calibrate for a moment, or pour myself a glass of wine and grab a cookie, I immediately feel pulled in many directions at once because everyone NEEDS something from me.

Cooper needs to be fed. Coco needs to nurse. Zuzu wants a snack, a toy, a show, a prize, a visit from a babysitter, a particular dress-up dress. I need to start a load of laundry. I want to change my clothes. Sippy cups from daycare need to be washed. Diapers need to be rinsed. And all of these demands really need to be met at precisely the same time, the moment we walk in the door.

I sound like I'm complaining, but really I feel bad that it's not my favorite moment of the day. I feel bad that sometimes thinking about that post-driveway, pre-dinner timeframe fills me with dread. I'm happy to be home and with my family (or I know that's how I'm supposed to feel), but mostly I feel tired, stressed, like my head will explode from listening to the whining/crying, and resentful of David who is still in his car alone and enjoying a podcast (nevermind that he's probably sitting in traffic, wishing he could be home with us). Oh--and of course I also feel guilty for having all those negative feelings.

So I psych myself up. I take a lot of deep breaths. I smile because smiling makes you feel happy. And I prioritize like I'm an ER nurse dealing with worst-case scenarios first. Coco and I both want to nurse, and her crying is louder and more stressful to me than Zuzu's whining (plus she's harder to distract), so that takes priority. Zuzu's snack comes next, and poor Cooper has to wait until I've chopped an apple and given the baby a graham cracker--then I run downstairs to feed him and start the laundry.

That half hour or so when we first get home and everyone has ALL THESE NEEDS and is so LOUD about expressing their needs can really take it out of me.

The routine is getting easier as the weeks go by, but on this particular night, the weather was beautiful, dinner was finished and cleaned up, I had done all the mothering I could cram into two and a half hours, and I just wanted to get out of the house by myself for a little bit before bedtime.

But of course Zuzu saw me put the leash on Cooper and wanted to come with me.

There was a time when we seriously could not take Zuzu on walks around the block because she always expected that we would walk to the park and play on the playground and when that didn't happen, she would have a colossal meltdown and it just really didn't seem worth it to us to listen to her scream and watch her writhe in the stroller, pointing toward the park with fury.

But although she certainly has her difficult moments, turning 3 has been a good thing for us. So many people said 3 was worse than the "terrible twos" but that just hasn't been the case for Zuzu. Her ability to rationalize and accept explanations is SUPER helpful and a great improvement.

In fact, I was just thinking about how nervous I was about coming home from the hospital with Coco and facing long days at home by myself with a new born and Zuzu--who was two years and five weeks old when Coco was born. That was Zuzu's most difficult stage--she had so much energy and force of will, and yet limited understanding and self-expression. I remember taking her to the library that October and being so frustrated with her behavior--that I'm sure was developmentally typical, but felt just totally A-hole-ish to me.

She can still be A-hole-ish, but so far I am loving age 3 way more than age 2. So I told her to go put her shoes on, and off we went. The experience on this walk (eleven months after the library visit that made me swear never to take her anywhere out in public ever) was totally different. She held my hand, and we just talked.

I mentioned that I heard the cicadas and asked if she heard them. She replied, "Oh yes! And maybe mosquitoes, too!"

At one point, she wanted to let go of my hand and walk next to me, and I could just see how grown-up and independent she felt.

We chatted briefly with a neighbor whose dog was outside, and she noted that the dog was Cooper's friend and asked if maybe they could play together another day.

We talked with a neighbor who was out picking up a squirrel's nest that had fallen in her yard, and Zuzu was so interested in how the squirrels built the nest, and whether they had been inside the nest when it fell, and where they would live now that this nest wasn't in the tree, and what their new nest might look like, and why we couldn't see it.

(It's not lost on me that if I'd been alone, my exchanges with these neighbors would probably have consisted of "Hi." "Hello.")

It's such a cliche, but I love seeing the world through her eyes. I love that a walk through our neighborhood feels like an adventure. I love the way I find myself looking for things to comment on and the way she takes our conversations in unexpected directions. I love her quirky and sometimes hilarious attempts to understand how things work. She's just such an interesting little person, and I probably think that mostly because she's my own kid, but the way her mind works fascinates me.

(Sort of related to this is the fact that one of her teachers got her hair cut and she told me that Zuzu kept asking, "Who cut your hair? What was her name?" like she wanted to name of the stylist, maybe as a recommendation, or possibly to get that person into trouble. Her intentions were unclear.)

Last night, I thought I wanted a ten-minute escape from the obligations of my family at home, but really I just needed to get outside for a new perspective on parenting. This was the fun part of being a parent--not making dinner and cleaning it up and listening to kids whine for cereal instead, but just walking and talking about dogs and squirrels and mosquitoes.

These little moments don't always happen on a typical weeknight, but when they do, they're really, really good.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekend Update

Weekend Update reminds me of Saturday Night Live, which reminds me of middle school, which reminds me of the time that one of my classes did a video recording of a newscast from 1915. My friend E and I were the news anchors and we had to wear period-appropriate clothing and hair styles. Some of our classmates were news reporters in the field and one of the guys didn't have a shirt and somehow this resulted in him borrowing my friend E's shirt, leaving her cowering in only her bra and a pair of black pants in a bathroom stall in the sixth grade hallway. She's probably still traumatized by the experience. I had to race down the hall with her shirt so she could get dressed and get back in place to film our coverage of the sinking of the Lusitania after the guy borrowing her shirt got done covering news from the White House. Also the teleprompter was not in the right place for the news anchors to read, so the whole time E and I are reporting, we're giving the camera the side-eye.

This actual weekend, in my non-middle school life, we had zero plans, and it was awesome. David suggested we go to the zoo Saturday morning because the weather was awesome and I said, no, let's just stay home and do nothing.

Friday night, I picked up the girls and we drove out to David's school. They were having an outdoor movie night and showed the movie Home, which was super adorable. Before it got dark, it was a general playground free-for-all for all the kids, plus there were a few food trucks.

Coco's mind was blown. 

Zuzu (not pictured) kept right up with all the elementary school kids. I was so impressed that she wasn't at all intimidated by them. There was one point when she got off a piece of equipment and came over to me in a huff. She said, "That girl blocked me!" I asked her if she said excuse me, and she said, "No, she blocked me and I got really upset!" (I think the girl was concerned that Zuzu would fall if she climbed up high).

We made a couple trips inside for potty breaks, during which Coco decided she is ready for kindergarten.

Zuzu ran ahead and did not want to cooperate for my photo taking. She played her little heart out, and didn't stop moving from the time we got there (around 5:30pm) to the time the movie started (a little after 7:00pm). When it was time to go sit down for the movie, she was reluctant to leave the playground (and by "reluctant," I mean that she tried to bite my hand). But once we got settled down, she ate a picnic dinner.

The temperatures dropped Friday night, so I was delighted when she snuggled up on my lap and we pulled a blanket over us and cuddled while we watched the movie--such a sweet treat. Totally made up for the attempted bite.

Coco was thrilled to be on the loose at David's school, but had to be watched closely because she also wanted to climb up all the equipment like she was a third-grader. More problematic was the fact that most of the playground is filled in with pea-sized gravel, which Coco seemed to think was DELICIOUS. Every time I'd take my eyes off of her for a second to check on Zuzu, when I glanced back down, Coco would be shoving handfuls of gravel in her face. I spent a good deal of time freaking out and fishing pebbles out of her mouth. Fortunately, she cooperated by falling asleep in her stroller as soon as it got dark.

Saturday morning Coco got up at 6:00am, but after I nursed her, I went back to bed and David got up with her and let Zuzu and me sleep in until 8:00am. Once we were up for the day, we cleaned the house and put out fall decorations (yay pumpkins!). The girls played outside and we had a generally lovely, low-key day, except that Zuzu skipped her nap and got kind of nightmarish. My friend E (same name but not the same friend who was traumatized by the middle school newscast) stopped by and I tagged along with her and her parents to a couple of stores so she could look at potential furniture for her new house. Shopping was way more fun than staying home and listening to Zuzu scream-whine.

Saturday night they both fell asleep early (the only benefit to an afternoon of scream-whining) so David and I actually sat on the couch and ate popcorn and watched a movie and I caught up on a few blogs and googled a bunch of stuff I've been wanting to google but never have time! (examples: scuba skirts (I want one), how old is Kate Winslet (39), what will college cost in 2030 (you don't want to know), what if my toddler won't drink milk (the internetz kinda stressed me out on this one), and recipes for pudding cookies (yum).

Sunday morning I got up and hit the half price day of the Recycled Kids sale nearby. It's a huge consignment sale where any vendor can take their kids clothes/toys/paraphernalia and on Sunday it's open from 9-12 with everything half price (except for some sneaky things marked with a red dot because I don't know why). Anyway, I scored a few little outfits, the most expensive of which was a dress for $5.50 that Zuzu likes because it is tea-length and therefore "I look like a princess!" and I like because it has a Peter Pan collar and therefore is adorable. I also got a bunch of socks that look new, a pair of roller skates, a set of knee and elbow pads, a few matchbox cars, and a dress up Rapunzel dress.

Here Zu models the dress and tries to keep sister out of her dollhouse.

I stopped by Old Navy to check out their toddler leggings selection, but after a big consignment sale, paying $8 for leggings seems unreasonably expensive, so I didn't get much of anything.

It did make me think about my "buy nothing new" pledge and how it's actually much harder than a spending freeze because buying things gently used requires a significant time commitment to browse and hunt. And free time is something that I don't have a whole lot of these days. So it's a bit of a struggle. And then I bought a new shirt at Target.

I've also purged an enormous portion of my closet--I did a top swap with friends, I donated a bunch of stuff to my parents' church basement sale, and I have two more bins in the basement ready to donate. Basically I have NOTHING to wear and no time to buy anything new (except at Target). I'd like to use this as an excuse to subscribe to Stitch Fix, but I'm not sure I can justify the expense... (Maybe if I do the every-three-months option?)

David was home with the girls while I was shopping and pondering the state of my closet. Coco had a bad fall outside and got road rash on her forehead. She was running with cherry tomatoes in her hands and when she fell she didn't put her hands out to protect her noggin. I guess David was pretty scared when it happened, but by the time I got home you could barely see the road rash. She's so tough.

Today starts another long week, so I'm off to iron and set out clothes for the week. It's a tough job picking out clothes for everyone in my family, but someone's got to do it.

I wore this--and yeah, that's the new shirt. Pardon my weird claw hand holding my keys. Also the outfit was cuter with the pointy-toe flats I keep in my office. The whole damn outfit (except the shoes) is from Target. The belt is my favorite. I heart neon.

Friday, September 11, 2015

How Have I Not Written About This Poem?

After I posted the photos of my office, I went searching in the blog archives for where I wrote about Mary Oliver's poem, "Heavy."

And I couldn't find it. 

Maybe the blog post was all in my head?

At any rate, it's September 11th--a day of grief for many people--and I think I should write about this poem. I feel like I talk about it or tell people about it all the time (because I'm always foisting poems on people in otherwise normal conversations, natch). It was sent to me in the mail by my friend Erica, folded up and tucked into a card. I remember opening it and reading it, and crying the way you cry when everything is terrible and nothing can make it better except knowing you're not the only person who has ever felt this way.

I copied it into my notebook of quotes and poems I started collecting after Eliza died, and I carried the typed copy that Erica sent with me for a long time, frequently pulling it out of my bag or my pocket, unfolding it, smoothing the creases, and reading the words over and over again. 

I was bent. My laughter was gone. And yet, I could recognize a hopeful truth in this idea that it's not the weight of the grief you carry, but how you balance it "when you cannot, and would not / put it down."

Eventually, I put the poem up on the bulletin board in my office--a place where I balance both grief and books--and even though I am sure I know it by heart, I still read it almost every day.

It's a poem about life after grief. About how you live with it and around it. How you never really let it go, but it eventually stops feeling like such a burden and becomes a familiar part of you. How you kind of stop hating it and start recognizing it as a reminder of love. How you find space for your old self in and around the grief--but Mary Oliver really says it much better than I can, so here it is:

"Heavy" by Mary Oliver

     That time
     I thought I could not
     go any closer to grief
     without dying.

     I went closer,
     and I did not die.
     Surely God 
     had His hand in this,

     as well as friends.
     Still I was bent,
     and my laughter,
     as the poet said,

     was no where to be found.
     Then said my friend Daniel
     (brave even among lions),
     "It is not the weight you carry

     but how you carry it--
     books, bricks, grief--
     it's all in the way
     you embrace it, balance it, carry it

     When you cannot, and would not
     put it down."
     So I went practicing.
     Have you noticed?

     Have you heard 
     the laughter
     that comes, now and again,
     out of my startled mouth?

     How I linger
     to admire, admire
     the things of this world
     that are kind and maybe

     also troubled--
     roses in the wind,
     The sea geese on the steep waves,
     a love
     to which there is no reply?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

My Office

Some friends were asking me about what my office looks like, so I thought it would be kind of fun to share it online. I obviously haven't done much in terms of "styling" it. All the furniture is provided by my university, the walls are the basic cream color of all the walls in my building, and I've just kind of "decorated" with whatever I already had on hand. It's kinda random. Let's call it eclectic. Let me give you a tour!

View from the door. Sometimes I sit on the exercise ball at my desk.

Close up. I keep vitamin-C lozenges in the little bowl. The framed photo farthest on the right (slightly blocked here by a photo of David and me at Stonehenge) is of David and my family and me at my graduation from my PhD program. I was 8 weeks pregnant with Eliza and my smile is SO happy.
It's a great office space, really. Very generous size, with huge windows, which I really appreciate, especially because I spent many years as a grad student in a shared basement office that was windowless! I've been thinking that I'd like to personalize and glam it up a bit more--maybe get a cute chair to put in the corner with a reading lamp, and bring in a rug for the spot in front of the desk.

Instead, I have a gray classroom desk and no lamp in the corner. This is the view when I'm sitting at my desk. Gallery wall of Zuzu art and clock that needs a new battery.
The work space. Keeping it real, and not clearing it off for photos. I make a real effort to keep it organized, but there are lots of stacks of papers and books going on.

Do you recognize the girl in the portrait above my bulletin board? It's Buffy. The Vampire Slayer. The painting was created for me by a student I had in class the semester after Eliza died. I used Buffy as an example topic for a research project, and the students (most of whom had never seen the show before I showed an episode in class!) teased me about it, but also recognized the awesome.
It occurs to me now that I could definitely improve the aesthetic of my bulletin board if I better organized it, but I decided to ahead and share it as it is. I'll keep you posted when (if?) I make improvements. In addition to schedules, phone numbers, and reminders ("Good writing is all in the rewriting"), there are my favorite family photos, "Hark! A Vagrant" comic featuring the Bronte sisters, postcards from Europe, and my two favorite poems that I return to again and again: "Heavy" by Mary Oliver and "The Laughing Heart" by Charles Bukowski.

This is the bookcase on the left as you walk in the door.
The top shelf of this bookcase features a phrenology head, a plant, a silver Big Ben, and a framed print that says, "I like big books and I cannot lie." My diploma hangs on the wall. The Sunset Boulevard poster was a gift from a high school boyfriend that I just can't let go (the poster, not the boyfriend, though that did take a while, too), and that shelf is full of comp textbooks and my notebooks from grad school, and stacks of exams and papers from previous semesters.

The bookshelf behind my desk.
The print on top of this bookcase was created by a student for a presentation--it's a pretty gruesome illustration from the seventh circle of hell in Dante's Inferno when he's in the forest, that she mounted on foam core (and evidently did not want to take home and display?). The shelves also feature plants, a pink geode bookend, photos of Zuzu and Coco, and an art print of Jackie Kennedy, baby-loss mama, who reminds me to keep my sh*t together and also wear big sunglasses.

Close up of gallery art so you can see what a genius my child is.
That gray chair is seriously sad.
The poster on the wall is the silhouettes of Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre surrounded by text from the book in the tiniest type. I bought it right after I found out I got the job, knowing I'd put it up in my office. The map of the world above it is a piece of wrapping paper I mod-podged onto a canvas. The ceilings are so high, I really just wanted to fill the space.

Sign by the door. #truth
Purchased after completing NANOWRIMO two years ago.
So, that's my office. Now that I've posted all these photos, I'm really feeling motivated to fix 'er up a little bit more... 

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Secret

I have finally discovered the secret to getting through the work week.

Are you ready for this?


I KNOW, right?

I am very affected by caffeine. If I drink it without eating enough, I get super jittery and shaky. If I drink it in the evening, I can't sleep.

When I saw a therapist in grad school, convinced I needed anti-anxiety medication, he told me to first try cutting out caffeine and also exercising.

(I was slightly irritated that his advice TOTALLY WORKED for me.)

So I chilled out on the coffee, quit drinking pop, and then I quit it entirely when I got pregnant with Eliza because I figured if it made me jittery, it would affect the baby, too. And then I didn't want anything even remotely questionable in my body when we were trying to get pregnant again. And by the time Zuzu weaned, I hadn't been drinking coffee in so long that I didn't have a chance to start up again before I discovered I was pregnant again.

But NOW!

I have quit pumping at work. I went to a La Leche meeting this week because I was having mixed feelings about this decision... I mean, I WANT to quit pumping, but Coco isn't a big fan of cow's milk (not the way Zuzu was) so it didn't seem as easy to quit sending mama milk to school with her when she's not really cool with the easy substitute.

But, Girlfriend is almost thirteen months old. She can drink water and catch up on mama milk when she sees me. I do not need to be pumping eight ounces a day at this point. The LLL leaders suggested I try rice milk to see if she likes that, but not to stress over it. I have some frozen milk (just a little bit, as I recently donated most of my supply to the Milk Bank), so I'll do some mixing and keep sending sippy cups of it as long as it holds out, but I'm NOT SORRY to say goodbye to the pump and to the washing of pump parts (except in the sense that it means my baybee is really not a little baby anymore, as though her WALKING and TALKING is not enough of a clue).

(Also there was the perk of having the excuse to get out of really boring work meetings sometimes, but I suppose that couldn't last forever...)

Anyway, what that means is that I am drinking caffeinated tea and having an occasional small cup of coffee and it feels SO GOOD! I slammed a nonfat chai latte before class on Wednesday and I was WIRED. It was awesome.

But my use is totally recreational, so don't worry.

I'm not an addict. It's cool. I feel alive. If you don't like it, you're on the other side.

(Anybody remember that song? K's Choice? C'mon, tell me you remember it. Mid to late '90s? Totally awesome. Love it.)

This week was a doozy, so the caffeine really helped.

Highlights of my week included:
* a pair of size 3T panties getting flushed down the toilet
* a pair of baby hands caught splashing in the toilet water (gag gag gag!)
* the poor dog getting shut outside for the night with everyone too tired to realize it so he basically shredded the weatherstrip lining trying to claw his way back in and shredded my heart with mama guilt for leaving him out because he is a special snowflake kind of indoor dog (at least it was a warm, dry night).

Oh, another great moment was when Zuzu got really mad at me and yelled, "I'm going to BITE you! With my MOUTH!" (She didn't actually bite me, so maybe we're making progress?)

David worked late last night, and my work continues to feel crazy. I don't know if I just forgot what the first couple weeks of the semester feel like since I was at home with a newborn last year, or if this year was just especially crazy. But I think it really has been especially crazy.

I'm definitely needing a long weekend. And I might even bust out the coffee pot for Tuesday morning!

Wild times here, my friends. Wild times.

Now excuse me while I go find K's Choice on Spotify.