4.30.2012

The art of the pre-ending.

Because I am a tender-hearted literature person, I imagine the bittersweet endings of life events soaked in the promise of nostalgia, hazy with reflections of time gone by. But inevitably I find the last few moments of these events I've lived in to be quite the opposite. Less than an hour ago I crouched on our old patio, scooping handfuls of wet, moldy dirt into a garbage bag. I'd left some potting gear out to rot all winter long, the mess destined to be cleaned up in the final hours of April 30th, as our lease ran out.

I'd imagined a poetic scene on the patio, Chris with his arm around me as we took one last look at the view of Brooklyn, remembering the parties and the baby showers and the drunken fests that took place in our home. Instead I was scooping dirt and Chris was ferrying giant pots filled with soil down the hall to our new place at a frantic pace.

This isn't the first time an ending has gone awry. I left on a trip to Ireland the day after my college graduation, so I slept on an uncovered mattress in a sleeping bag, needing to get up for a 6am flight.

In 2007 I left Paris as one does, shoving the contents of my apartment in my suitcases until they threatened to break, then threw the rest of my acquired stuff out.

And even when I think ahead to a future date when we might leave Brooklyn, I know I'll be running some banal errand that last night, picking up packing tape at CVS or the like. Life is never the television show that it promises to be, the character who hovers an instant in the darkened doorway before pulling the door closed gently behind her, a soft, satisfying click closing a chapter. Instead we do one last run to make sure all the hardware is pulled off the walls and swing the door shut with our arms filled with trash.

Fair enough. The anticipated nostalgia is probably too false to enjoy either way.

This was one of the feelings I remember about my wedding day. Being so aware of the walk down the aisle, that it was a Big Hallmark Moment, made me feel a bit unsure about the genuineness behind my excitement. I'm uncomfortable with expected emotion; it makes me feel false to act as everyone assumes I will, as if the mere coincidence voids my authenticity.

Which is why it's important to find moments in the pre-endings. A few days before the wedding I stopped by the Church of Saint Luke's in the Fields on the way to pick up my dress at the tailor's. The doors to the chapel were open but no one was around, so I sat there for a few minutes reflecting on the day and my mood and my husband-to-be. It wasn't exactly at the same time as everyone else, but it allowed me to later feel genuine as my Dad walked me past friends and family snapping photos soon to be posted on Facebook. It allowed me to look Chris in the eyeballs when I arrived next to him and think "Yeah. I'm cool with this."

I had my pre-ending apartment moment last week before we boxed up a thing. It was brief because we were packing for a weekend in Charlottesville, but I moved between my closet and my dresser and the bathroom, grabbing what I needed effortlessly. How many times had I packed my bags in that apartment? A million. I knew where everything was and I knew how long it would take me and I had things down pat so that I could make oatmeal in the background and end up fed and packed with time to spare before work.

It occurs to me that this feels apt to life. I'd like to believe my death one day will be quiet, surrounded my everyone I love, a soft guitar in the background and stars twinkling above. Much more likely that it will be unexpected or that, at a minimum, I won't have a scene prepared. Instead I'll need to take stock all along the way, taking small moments to appreciate this life of mine and be grateful for the moments I've been allowed to live.

We're moved. Officially. Some of our stuff is still in boxes and lots of it is put away, but a long run of unplanned days and weekends unfurls ahead of us to sort it out. And as I write this, I stare out at our new view (Brooklyn towards the water and the Statue of Liberty's arm visible); Chris kisses me on the way to the shower and I am grateful for this first pre-ending of many.

4.26.2012

Courage begets courage: T/F?

If you listen to enough podcasts and watch enough documentaries and know enough people who majored in the sciences, it dawns on you at some point that we are all just a bunch of chemicals. (Let's leave the question of the soul to the side for this post, k?). I started reading a bunch of books about growing a baby early on in the pregnancy and encountered the fascinating world of Epigenetics. Epigenetics says that influences during the gestation period can change the way that genes manifest themselves in the human who is born into the world.

Around the time we cheered Kelley on during her half-marathon, I thought a lot about what activities in my life give me bursts of good chemicals. Just being around all those runners was giving me ambitious feelings. Remembering running the 10k and overcoming something I'd once thought impossible reminded me of the BRAVE feelings that coursed through my body during the race.
Enjoying our time (and the view!) in Charlottesville, VA. 

And then suddenly I thought: what if I spent my pregnancy doing awesome, brave things? If I was growing a baby while I was having awesome, brave experiences, would the baby grow up to be brave and ambitious as a result of all those chemical jolts received while he/she was growing?

Admittedly, I've been a little distracted and have not been paying close attention to doing awesome, brave things of late. But this is still something I kick around my mind during subway rides.

I'd like to teach a course this summer. I don't much care what the content is, but it's something I laid out for myself during Camp Mighty. I'm going to get on that.

I'd like to sing a song with my brother's band. That's another one I identified at Camp Mighty. I think I can make that happen.

We are what we eat, but we are also what we DO! Our actions not only represent who we are to others, but in the case of growing a baby, our actions might also influence the kind of little person we raise. Kind of interesting to think about.

(Note: Um. I'm not a scientist. I'm mostly talking in metaphor here... so... full disclaimer that I have no idea whether doing brave things results in a brave kid.)

4.25.2012

Dear Tiny.

Last night I had a mini-breakdown. They hadn't yet painted our new apartment (which meant that Chris could not paint OVER their paint yet), I couldn't handle cooking dinner in a kitchen filled with boxes and none of my pants were fitting. Plus we spent last weekend out of town and we had planned to go to three movies at the Tribeca Film Festival this week.

I hit a wall.

And bubbling up from the depths came anxieties about this pregnancy.

"I feel like I'm going to wake up and it's going to be October and all I will remember about this pregnancy is work and being busy and we won't have prepared a thing!" I cried. I was worried about labor, I was worried about not going to prenatal yoga, I was worried about having a name picked out. I don't know why I'm using the past tense; I AM worried about these things.

Tiny in his/her natural habitat.
"I don't want this to be our lives," I said, quite simply, once I had calmed down a bit. And that was true.

The past 16 weeks have gone by at various paces, but mostly light-speed. I am deeply concerned that the next 16 will pass in the same fashion if we don't do something about it, and QUICKLY. So we're working on that. We're not solved yet, but we know we have life pace problems.

During a phone call with Sima this afternoon, she suggested writing a sentence or two to the baby every day. I love this. So I present a little side content stream for the next six months. It's not pretty, but it gets the job done. It's called Dear Tiny.

I wrote the first entry in the subway on the way home tonight and almost teared up when I instinctively went to sign it. It's literally the first time I've ever referred to myself as a mother in written form.

And guys? That's quite a moment.

More from me soon.

4.17.2012

A change of scenery.

In an effort to upend nearly every aspect of our lives in 2012, we're moving in two weeks. Project never-a-dull-moment is a success around these parts, let me tell you.

About a month ago while I was down at Muhlenberg for a reunion, we got wind of a two-bedroom apartment coming free down the hall on May 1. Like, literally down the hall. "Go see the apartment," I told Chris, "and if it is anything better than a shithole, TAKE IT on the spot!"

Proud to report that it is a lovely apartment with two (small) bedrooms and about 100 closets. Storage won't be an issue, but human living space might be. Maybe we will have the baby sleep on the linen shelves! Or possibly in the pantry in the kitchen. Hey! It's called urban living!

In any event, we will be snug as bugs in our new home and will surely make the best of this serendipitous new living space. It will be the easiest move of our lives and we've invited a small group of friends and family to push dollies 100 feet down the hall while eating bagels and cream cheese. Moving?! More like a light breakfast workout.

We're going to miss the deck. Like, a lot. Having outdoor space in Brooklyn has been amazing for parties and for our sanity. But there's a time to make trades and we'll take a second bedroom over the outdoor space at this point in our lives.



Ahhh, adult decisions. A definite part of becoming a first-time parent!

4.15.2012

2012 goal: Surprise someone. CHECK.

One of my three goals for 2012 was to surprise someone. I left it really vague, knowing that it would be so much more fun if it wasn't defined for a specific person or event. And so when I realized that our dear friend Skersh's birthday was coming soon, I thought it might be a good idea to send a little surprise her way.

You remember Skersh. Oscar has publicly proclaimed his love for her on his public website. Her birthday was this past Friday... and for some reason I had cookie cake on the brain. You know those cakes that people used to have at roller skating birthday parties or sometimes sleepovers? I couldn't get those giant chocolate chip cookie cakes out of my (pregnant) brain. 

AND SO. I looked up a shop in Madison. If you EVER need cookies in Madison, Wisconsin, please contact Ann at Cookies by Design. What originally was going to be a cake with birthday balloons iced on it became... well... this glorious piece of artwork:



THAT'S OSCAR. RIGHT THERE ON THE CAKE. He doesn't normally look as smiley in person (because he's basically a wise sweet old owl), but that's him right there. You can tell because of the white tip on his tail. 

Ann did an amazing job incorporating Oscar and flowers for a ridiculous surprise for Skersh's bday. It was such a joy seeing things come together on Friday afternoon and I'm so excited that the ladies are enjoying this cookie as we speak!

Here's what Oscar looked like today, hanging out in his favorite place. A BOX WITHIN A BOX:


Mission Accomplished.

4.14.2012

Our next project.

When you're pregnant, the first three months are like a science experiment. Vocabulary words like embryo and DNA and follicle eek out from the recesses of what you learned in biology in the 10th grade. You aren't telling anyone, so it becomes a private research project between you and your husband (and a couple of close friends and family). Every week you get an email newsletter from some site that tells you what is happening in your body at that moment.

You keep track of what you like eating, what makes you tired. You wonder if the pudge around your middle is possibly already a baby bump, somehow produced from an embryo the size of a sesame seed. Sometimes you forget you're pregnant for minutes and hours; entire meetings pass without you thinking "October is coming and so is a big change." But then, inevitably, every single time you have to pee, you remember.

Your husband's step-mom knits you a tiny pumpkin hat for the baby. Your dad saves a toy from a cereal box. Your brother texts you about teaching the baby how to play the guitar. You text your mom and sister constantly about changes happening in your corpus - aching hips or an aversion to chicken or just generally feeling fat.

And all along the way, you keep the secret until the first trimester is over. You don't blog about it, which means you don't write about it, which means you keep your distance from what is really happening to your life. You're on track to become a mom. And the sheer size and breadth and meaning of that? Is way too grand to grasp without writing about it.

We're having a baby. You have no idea how good it feels to type that in a blog post. The news is free! I can come here to think this through, to discover and share and process it all. Come October 11th (10/11/12, anyone??) or thereabouts, the adventure begins.

But, of course, the adventure has already started. The proof is in the pudding:

Tiny Dary, coming soon.

First baby clothes.

Maternity clothes shopping, bump not included.

Future Dad.
Future grandparents.

4.10.2012

Maybe this is what they mean when they talk about the 30s.

One of the biggest shifts that's happened to me since Camp Mighty has been my relationship to spirituality. The first speaker at CM was Brian Piotrowicz, a Co-Producer of the Oprah Show. Listening to Brian speak about the way the show was run (like the fact that the entire organization did meditation together) really affected me. Here was an enormously successfully project, run with strong values and good faith.

I realized that I could take some of what I loved about Brian's anecdotes back to my own work. And I have done that. But what I want to talk about today is how my personal life has been changed since then.

I started watching the Oprah network on Maggie Mason's recommendation. Maggie said that Oprah's Master Class was the best show on television - a comment I did not take lightly. And so I tried it out. I started watching Master Class, mostly in the evenings. I also started watching the programming they run on Sunday mornings (Super Soul Sunday for those interested). There I'd sit, with my oatmeal in my lap, watching television that made me feel calm. And not even that - it made me start to question how I thought about my life. It made me think about the relationships I have with my family, my co-workers and my friends.

Chris and I talked more deeply about the kind of life we want together. We tried meditation. I got an itch to go to church (ours is Unitarian and a bit of a pain to get to on a Sunday morning). And this all kept building quietly in the background, chipping away slowly at my resistance to ask Big Questions.

For a long while, I haven't had time to think about Big Questions. Getting up on a Sunday morning was inconvenient for a college student... and then for a Master's student... and then for a late-20s woman who had become a ball of frantic energy after living in New York City for a while. It got to the point that even bringing up tiny thoughts about Big Questions at dinner parties made the whole thing turn sour when others thought I was trying to indoctrinate or suggest that religion is any sort of solution.

But I wasn't. I was just feeling around. And for those counting, wondering aloud and working at some answers to Big Questions has never been the cool thing to do. Figuring out what I think about why we're here and what I'm supposed to do with the short period of time I'm on earth has not yet been allowed to be a priority. But Oprah's network and the experiences I had at Camp Mighty have started to bring me around to a place where the door is open a tiny bit. I might have more time than I think for this sort of quest.

"A quest," Elizabeth Gilbert once said, "Is the process through which you turn yourself into a question mark."

Indeed.

*

We had lunch in Portland with a friend from Camp Mighty and her husband. They're a little bit older than us and shared some thoughts about how they've navigated raising a family, building a life and establishing careers. Over a hot dog and kale salad (ahh Portland), something broke open in me. I'm not yet prepared to speak about it, mostly because I don't know how to put the mess of thoughts I have into coherent sentences. But it happened and it felt like a break-through.

Our futures are unknown. But that's always been true - for us and for you and for our ancestors and for everyone else on this planet. Our futures are unknown. But for the first time in a very, very long time, I feel calm about the future. I feel confident that we will find our way. 

And that feeling? That gritty, scrappy, earnest gut feeling about how we'll be fine? It is just the tiniest bit of an answer to a Big Question... and it terrifies me and excites me to keep my mind open to all of the possibilities that exist. 

4.04.2012

A few days in Seattle.

Sun in Seattle? The world is ending.
Conferences can wear you out. Out, I say! I was inspired about 27 hours ago. But now I've moved past inspired into drained and a little bit sick of myself. "HI MY NAME IS AND THIS IS WHAT I DO AND HERE'S WHO I DO IT FOR AND DON'T YOU AGREE THAT MOBILE IS THE FUTURE?"

Glarg.

It's been great, though. Seattle is sort of like a sketchier version of Portland, an observation based on my brief encounters with the city over the past couple of days. I actively planned how I would fight back if someone attacked me on my walks home the last two evenings. (I realize this is ironic coming from NY, but I just don't know how harmless some of these people are!)... On the other hand, Seattle has been pretty sunny the past two days and for that I am grateful.

I'm working remotely from the Seattle Public Library tomorrow and then headed back to Portland on a train. I am EXCITED to be reunited with Chris! I miss that dude. My evenings have been lonely here at the Ace without him, as evidence by the fact that I have eaten take-out and watched The Voice every night. (How is that show on every night? I am still confused.)

Alright, enough. Tomorrow I have to be up to work for East Coast time, so I'm off to bed. GOODNIGHT, EVERYONE. Thanks for the comments lately. This blog (and you!) have made me feel less homesick.

4.01.2012

Letting it get the best of me.

It's funny how we learn and relearn the same lessons over and over again in our lives. It's unavoidable, really, and nothing worth crying too much about. This is the way with humans. Some things we learn quickly- like the alphabet or how to tie our shoes- because we must do them repeatedly in a short time frame.

But other things, social things mostly, the learning is spread out over time; the right combination of social strangeness only comes along every year or two.

Tonight I found myself standing on a corner in Portland, the rain coming down hard, and I wasn't sure where the rest of my group had gone for dinner. I had no phone numbers. I had a vague idea of the restaurant they went to, but when I got there they weren't there and so I stood on a street corner, waiting. For what, I'm not sure.

This horrible feeling came over me, the one that doesn't rear its head too often, the one that made me feel like I did not belong. Sometimes traveling alone can be amazingly refreshing, but other times it can be plain old lonely.

And so I found myself with two options: go back to the room and order room service OR text a woman I'd met a few minutes earlier who had invited me to eat with a smaller group. Pride and social anxiety made me hesitate about the latter; knowledge based on experience made me realize that the former would end in tears, eating pizza in a strange hotel room with hours to go before it was time to sleep.

So I texted. And I had a great dinner with three people who were inviting and welcoming and smart and friendly. Also, kind of famous.

So what was the lesson? To trust that I am great! To trust that big groups suck sometimes, that moving a bunch of people around a city can get tricky, but that it's not something to take personally. To remember that it's not embarrassing to ask if I can eat with someone, but to feel perfectly comfortable and confident when I do.

Middle School, man. Are we all just living in it eternally?