Breathing for my Baby

It’s funny (or maybe sad?) how many ways I wouldn’t take care of myself for my own sake, but that I am trying to make a priority now that I have a child. Especially physically. I never treated my body very well until I suddenly needed it to grown another human. As I said before, I can act or work an office job or keep pushing on in school readings on zero sleep and a diet of ramen and rice, but I it is hard to keep up with a toddler and make sure he isn’t trying to electrocute himself I don’t take some time to recharge. Continue reading

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Lent: Mary & Martha & Hard to Measure Goals

***Originally Posted on 2/19/15 This is the last of my old posts crossing over. new content from here on out!***

I went to a great session of my church’s MOMS group last week. The topic was Lent and it left me with a lot to think about. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is, perhaps surprisingly, my favorite part of the liturgical year.  It has been a time to reflect and pray and make major changes in my daily and spiritual life. I usually go into Lent having a pretty clear idea of what I need to work on the most to draw closer to God, but I was extra appreciative of my church group last week because this year I am at a loss.

My favorite Ash Wednesday meme…

Since becoming a parent, so much has seemed to change and get thrown up in the air. I can feel on top of the world one day and at a total loss the next. The shenanigans questions of “balance” and “having it all” are constantly nagging at my head. I’m a multi-tasker by nature and suddenly I feel like I need to get all that multitasking I used to do done AND take care of my child AND contribute to start saving up for the next big life event. Everything is very full speed ahead and it has left me with very little time or mental space to really sit and contemplate what I need most in my spiritual life.

Luckily, one of our MOMS group facilitators suggested checking out this website and I ended up getting the Lenten journal that website came up with. The journal is called Only One Thing and it seems to be the perfect thing for me right now.  The title comes from a passage in Luke about Mary and Martha. Those of you who are not familiar with this story, Martha is a lot like most of us- she is trying to do ALL THE THINGS, especially because Jesus is visiting her and she wants it all to be perfect for him. Her sister, Mary, is sitting at Jesus’ feet, being with him, listening to him, not necessarily doing anything the world would judge as “productive” which of course makes Martha angry. She asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things: there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

So I’m going to prayerfully work my way through this journal which gives you one word a day to focus on with the day’s readings. The focus of my Lent this year is scary for me because it seems the things I’m supposed to abstain from are over-commitment and guilt. It would be much easier to keep track of giving up chocolate or hot sauce. It’s scary because the world won’t necessarily see or understand these sacrifices as they would with a good natured teasing session when people aren’t eating hamburgers on Fridays. It is scary because odds are good I will fail multiple times over these 40 days, and I REALLY like to succeed. I like being the straight A student. I like being able to check something off my to-do list and those things need to be easily measured. I like having visible, outward indications of my achievements. I am such a Martha.

Trying to break this way of thinking…

I am excited and nervous for what this season will bring. Lent is a beautiful time of reflection and sacrifice and change. I wrote in some comments earlier that perhaps the surprise “B” in my year of Bs is Bravery. It takes a lot of bravery to let go of the plans you have, to be uncertain about what is next, and to trust that God will take care of it and will love you as much through your failures as your successes.

Beginning Again: Shoes, Jesuits, and Motherhood

***Originally posted 1/29/15***

One of the things I love about Jesuit theology is the idea of detachment.  Detachment can sound like a cold word, but it really just means being “less fixated on the stuff that doesn’t truly matter- like money, possessions, or even technology” This does not mean that there is a carelessness or a lack of responsibility about those things. Budgeting and using tools and being a good care taker of what you have are all wonderful things. But this is how I’ve come to think about detachment, and how having a baby has fast tracked my practice of this spiritual discipline.

Obligatory Pope meme… because Jesuits…

In my own experience, the opposite of detachment tends to be anxiety. When I’m too attached to something, I worry about it so much that I stop enjoying it. Sometimes, the anxiety is understandable- like when we just don’t have the income to meet medical emergencies. But the anxiety is NEVER helpful. Here’s a clear example: We were given a gorgeous pair of crystal champagne flutes for our wedding. They are so beautiful and they are from a dear friend and I know the thought behind it was even more beautiful than the flutes themselves. In her card to us, she said that we should use them to celebrate the everyday, not just special occasions. It took me a while before I could fulfill that. I was so obsessed with how beautiful they were that I was afraid to use them. I worried we might break them either while using them or washing them. It took my husband reminding me of the instructions in the card to ever use them.

Here’s to everyday mercies and miracles!

Another example: About five years ago I had a single, clear, favorite pair of shoes. I didn’t want them to wear out… so I never wore them. DO YOU REALIZE HOW CRAZY THAT SOUNDS?! The point of shoes is to be worn!

(Pictured: My wedding shoes were sparkly and perfect. Photos from Katherine Miles Jones. Not pictured, the shoes I’m referencing. Because I couldn’t find a picture because I would not wear them!)

You would think that with the struggle I was already having with detachment, having a baby come along would only magnify that fear. Babies (and toddlers and children in general) are kind of known for getting into things, making messes, breaking things. But amazingly, it’s been the opposite. For the most part, knowing there’s a good chance that even if I put something away or up high and never use it, odds are that someday my child will break something special has allowed me to enjoy them for however long they last! It’s amazing how much we’ve started using special objects to celebrate the everyday since our child was born. I’m talking pizza on china, drinking out of my favorite coffee cup, wearing clothes that make me happy even though they will probably end up drooled on or spit up on, and yes, using those champagne flutes.

But I’ve changed my attitude towards more than just material things: Let’s give a nonmaterial example that was not mentioned above: plans. I definitely lean toward a type A personality. I was also praised a lot growing up for doing ALL THE THINGS. This was kind of the environment of the schools I went to and programs I was involved in.

I was used to scheduling out every day to the minute sometimes. If someone was late my anxiety levels would go through the roof because it meant my whole day might be thrown off. It was crazymaking (Rather, it IS crazymaking). I still struggle with this tendency sometimes, especially of overcommitting. Or making to-do lists for myself and then feeling they HAVE to get done. Completely. Today. When I am the only one expecting that!  It’s important to respect the time of yourself and others. But meeting a friend for coffee should not be a stressful experience., even if they end up 30 minutes late. And sometimes now, with trying to get the baby ready and having unexpected needs to change him last minute or feed him before we go to avoid crying the whole way there etc. etc. I’m the one who ends up late. This used to seem like the end of the world. I would drive like a crazy person to assure I was somewhere on time if not ten minutes early. Now it’s something I do my best to avoid, but in the end… what is all this in light of eternity? I am trying every single day to look at my baby, look how fast he is growing up, and to SLOW MYSELF DOWN.

Trying to make sure that Busy is not one of the words in my year of Bs…

This is not to say that I’ve achieved some zen state of total detachment. NOT EVEN CLOSE. In fact, do you know why I wrote this post? Because we used a really beautiful baby gift for the first time recently, and I found it totally stained with bright orange carrot/squash baby food that I’m wasn’t sure would ever come out. I wanted to cry and tell my husband “this is why we can’t have nice things!” I had a terrible attitude for about 20 minutes as I finished sorting laundry and folding the load that had just come out of the dryer, and then I walked into the next room and found my husband rocking our sleeping baby, just like he did when our son was a newborn.

(Pictured: newborn status. Nothing like sleeping in dad’s arms!)

And I started to laugh at how WONDERFUL our life is and how thankful I was that I didn’t wreck this perfect moment by screaming about a stained baby blanket. God is continually trying to remind us of the things that matter. But sometimes it takes a little practice with detachment to see it.

What to REALLY Expect When You’re Expecting

***Originally posted 1/23/15***

So this article from Scary Mommy popped up on a friend’s Facebook wall today and it made me really want to write this post about my own experience with pregnancy. I thought I knew “what to expect” when it came to pregnancy. Not just the societal ideals and pop culture memes, but on a more thought out level because not only had I read the entire What to Expect When You’re Expecting book before I was even thinking about having children, I read it in service of working on my graduate thesis

In case you can’t see, that’s a paper fetus from when I played pregnan Helena… Photo by Woods Pierce from All’s Well That Ends Well directed by Linden Kueck

which dealt with staging pregnancy and pregnant characters in Shakespeare and how that highlights some gender issues we have as a society. I knew a lot of facts, but really:

Continue reading

BLOGGING: On Blogging Past, Present, and Future

****This was originally posted on 1/11/15***

So, I have to admit this is not my first blogging attempt. I think I’ve had 3 or 4 others that I abandoned at some point between graduating from Pepperdine and the present day. And I’m not even counting Newlywed Shakespeare and the long hiatus I took from that when I got pregnant and the first months after I had my baby.

I have, however, been very successful with journaling. I journaled faithfully from the last semester of high school through my first semester of grad school both in online journals and good old-fashioned physical journals. I love looking back at what I wrote and remembering things I might otherwise forget (or cringing at things I wish I could forget) and then marveling at the growth I have made or a piece of wisdom that I had no idea was so wise at the time (I’ll show my hand early, I tend to think that wisdom is NOT from me…)

A few of my journals from years past…

After I fell in love, the journaling kind of stopped. I think because I was focusing a little less on me for the first time in my life, but also because usually when I have something I want to work through or mull over, the things I’m not quite ready to share with friends that I would have put in personal journals… now I tell those things to my husband. And usually we work through them together. Or he suggests someone who might have better perspective than him to talk with on a given subject.

But blogging… is different. I mean, you CAN set blogs to private settings but that seems kind of antithetical to the whole blog thing. And the public aspect of the blog is part of why I’m making myself do this. I spent a lot of time a few years ago giving way too much care to what others thought about me. I am still vigilant about what goes on Facebook and am constantly re-evaluating how I use social media. On the one hand, I think it will be good to make myself a bit vulnerable. Whether I ever hear from them or not, I have no doubt that some people might disagree or judge me for what I write about. On the other, I kind of feel like this is the next step in realizing that I am responsible for my life and my decisions and I like it that way.  There’s an anonymous quote that is ALL OVER PINTEREST that says:

That’s what I think blogging is going to do for me: Make me realize which decisions I love, and which decisions I’m pretty lukewarm about and which I feel passionate about but still need some bravery to share. I have ideas for posts that are intimidating and I think those posts are going to be good for me when I finally work up the courage to publish them.

When thinking about what I wanted this year and this blogging project to be, I thought maybe I shouldn’t include the “baby” aspect and instead stay completely private about family life and save that for a private journal. But you know what? I LOVE the decision I’ve made to start a family and in a world that can be overwhelmingly cynical about marriage and parenthood, I think part of the brilliance I’m aiming for in 2015 is showing that family can still be a shining light. Even if they sometimes make you crazy and won’t let you sleep.

Yup, talking about this guy… he’s not always the cute bundle of smiles I usually post…

So there you go. A little bit of background on my blogging past and why it is now part of my present. I’m not sure where all this will go, but it feels good to be writing again.