Transition

Yesterday morning, I woke to a few inches of snow covering the asphalt parking lot that the back of my house faces.  My neighborhood is a densely packed New York City suburb of 30,000 people, which could be far worse than what it is, but isn’t precisely what I would call a picturesque environment.  Snow significantly augments its beauty by hiding all the pavement and letting me pretend that I live somewhere far more pastoral and charming than I really do.

Although it is already the end of January, we’re still awaiting our first snowstorm of any significance.  Yesterday, the snow turned to sleet within a few hours and the plows were out in full force, so the beauty of the snowfall disappeared rapidly under their combined efforts.  We are due more snow tomorrow and on Tuesday, which does make it feel like winter has finally hit us here.  The seasonal transition is late this year, but it feels appropriately timed for the events of my life, as I wind down my professional life and move into my last few days before motherhood really begins.

deskviewOn Wednesday, I worked my last day in the office before my maternity leave.  I was filled with a remarkable amount of sorrow, despite the fact that I am still working from home until my labor begins.  I am coming back to work after my maternity leave, but over the last few weeks, I’ve been slowly cleaning out my office and bringing home the things that I’ll need to function as a telecommuter, so my office feels echoey and empty. I took a picture of the view from my desk and joked with my Beloved that I should hang it on the wall in front of my desk at home so that I can still feel like I’m part of the energy of my department. Perhaps I have spent far too much time around cats, but the idea of not following following the same routine that I’ve had for the last seven years has thrown me for a bit of a loop.  Logically, I know that it is a temporary change, but my hindbrain hasn’t quite gotten the memo.  I had tears in my eyes as I snuck out the door at the end of the day.

I am fortunate enough to like my coworkers very much. I’ve realized that I will miss seeing them while I’m on leave.  Working from home is not something that I enjoy nearly as much as I feel that I should — I do miss the variety of the small social interactions of our team as we navigate around each other on our way to the water fountain and the coffee machine and the fridge.  We often eat lunch together. I don’t go to work to socialize, but the social life is a big part of why I’ve worked there for so long.  Working from my desk in my basement in my pyjamas is comfortable, but it is lonelier than I would like.  All the same, I do see how fortunate I am that it’s an option for me.

At home, we are quite busy arranging for the last minute provisions and needs of our incoming infant.  I’ve been working hard to try and speed up the labor, as I’ve now been given a deadline for an induction.  Having heard some horror stories about induction, I am  very motivated to invite our daughter out into the world as soon as possible.  This morning, we went out for breakfast in the nearby beach town so that I could waddle down the boardwalk for a while.  I watched the ocean waves coming in, pounding on top of each other in the January winds, and thought about all the fluid surrounding our womb girl.  I’m sipping on raspberry leaf tea and taking my evening primrose oil tablets, as per my midwife’s advice.  I’m waiting and counting false contractions and waiting some more.  I’m writing and knitting at a furious pace, trying to finish up projects before I have a rather less understanding project demanding my attention.  I am spending a lot of time with my Beloved and dreaming of the future.  I can’t decide if I want her to hurry up or if I want these final days of preparation to linger.  All I do know is that change is coming–and it’s coming very soon.

 

Book Review: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Dracamer99 Perhaps it is the cold that I have been harboring all week, but there was something just delicious about curling up with the freakishly successful Dracula while I was ill.  It might surprise a modern audience to learn that Dracula was written by a pulp novelist and theater manager who specialized in churning out penny dreadfuls.  Likewise, it might be surprising to learn that it far from the first vampire novel, but its success and the sophistication of the storytelling has made it the pinnacle of the genre.  Even the literary noteworthy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote to Bram Stoker to express his admiration for the blood-curling nature of the story, while its more general popularity has made Count Dracula a household name — and a synonym for vampire — for over a century.

Dracula is an epistolary novel, which incorporates the emerging technology of the late 19th century as its characters experiment with phonograph recordings and typewriters to tell their story.  This sense of the changing modern world is a major theme of the novel, and it is interesting to get a contemporary Victorian reaction to emerging technology.  At the heart of the story is Count Dracula, who is made horrific through his intelligence and cunning as much as by his murderous means of eternal life.  The novel quickly becomes a race between the five heroes and the Count as he puts into action his schemes to move to a more populated and modern country than his rural Transylvania.  Although being a member of what Stoker calls the Un-Dead, the Count’s humanity still lingers, although he remains an unambiguous monster with few redeeming qualities.  It is this combination of cold intelligence and monstrosity that has allowed Dracula to linger so vividly in the popular imagination for so long.  We never do discover how Count Dracula first became a vampire, but we quickly learn about vampirism and its dangers to a populated city through his attacks on the beautiful and pure-hearted Lucy Westenra.

Those who have seen the 1992 movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula might be somewhat surprised to hear me describe Lucy Westenra as pure-hearted.  Francis Coppola’s vision of Dracula is astonishingly sexualized (or as I like to say, HBO-ified) compared to the original novel.  Although Stoker was a contemporary of Freud’s and it is reasonable to believe that he was familiar with Freud’s psychological work into sexuality, the novel is actually much more interesting for its inspection of the Victorian understanding of the complexities of the psychiatry of criminal minds.  At the heart of the novel is the lunatic asylum, where Dr. Seward records his case notes about his patient Renfield, who has been eating flies and spiders and ranting about the ability of blood consumption to lead to everlasting life.  The reader, who is already aware of Jonathan Harker’s terrifying stay at Castle Dracula, enjoys the irony of understanding the sanity of the mad man, while Dr. Seward struggles to put his ravings about vampirism into modern medical language.  Once the vampiric attacks on Lucy Westenra begin, the tension raises as we understand precisely what is happening to her, but like her doctors, are helpless to interfere.  The novel is filled with enjoyable winks to the reader as we watch the heroes go through their journey and try to figure out what we already know.  In one of the newspaper excerpts in the novel, Stoker writes:

“There is, however, possibly a serious side to the question, for some of the children, indeed all who have been missed at night, have been slightly torn or wounded in the throat. The wounds seem such as might be made by a rat or a small dog, and although of not much importance individually, would tend to show that whatever animal inflicts them has a system or method of its own. The police of the division have been instructed to keep a sharp look-out for straying children, especially when very young, in and around Hampstead Heath, and for any stray dog which may be about.”

We, of course, understand that there is a vampire on the loose — at this point in the story, we even know who the vampire is, but these small ironies engage us as readers and keep the pages turning.

As in the modern cinematic culture around the Dracula story, Van Helsing quickly steals the show as the brilliant and eccentric foreigner that remains a few steps ahead of his companions.  His eccentricity mainly comes out in his forgetfulness that his patients and companions are people with emotional attachment to the events in the story — he becomes so hyperfocused on stamping out the problem of vampirism that he has delightful slips in compassion such as this one:

“Yes and no. I want to operate, but not as you think. Let me tell you now, but not a word to another. I want to cut off her head and take out her heart. Ah! you a surgeon, and so shocked! You, whom I have seen with no tremble of hand or heart, do operations of life and death that make the rest shudder. Oh, but I must not forget, my dear friend John, that you loved her; and I have not forgotten it, for it is I that shall operate, and you must only help.”

In Van Helsing, we discover the character that is most like the Count — he is a true adversary in cunning and intelligence.  Yet, unlike the Count, Van Helsing does care about those around him.  It is his devotion and love for his companions, combined with bravery and kindness,  which makes us care about his fight to remove evil from the world.

Perhaps the best part of Stoker’s writing is that all of his characters jump off of the page, often because of their language.  Although all dialog is being repeated to us by the characters themselves, we hear Van Helsing’s Dutch roots, Quincey’s American slang, Lord Arthur’s upper-class upbringing and Dr. Seward’s medical training.  Epistolary novels can easily become boring as the letter writers report what happened in past tense, but Stoker keeps it fresh by getting his characters’ words on the page.  It requires a small suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader, but brings the novel to life.  As an Irish immigrant in London, with extensive experience as a theater manager, Stoker must have had a great delight in dialect.  It does a great service to the novel.

Modern horror lovers will no doubt find the lack of gore in Dracula to be quite tame compared to the graphic descriptions of the likes of Stephen King, but I found it charming.  The novel is no less suspenseful for all that it lacks a modern insouciance to violence — and reading it late at night gave me more than one fit of anxiety and restless sleep.  As with all things to do with the famous Count Dracula…..read at your own risk.  But do read it.

Birthin’ Hips

“You’ve got great hips. A nine and a half pound baby could fit through there. Yours is only seven pounds so far!”  My midwife’s face was gentle and reassuring, the smile genuine.

Bizarrely, I felt a sense of pride at her statement, as though something other than genetics and luck have had anything to do with my good prospects. This misplaced surge of pride somehow counteracted the awkwardness of the pelvic exam, which is uncomfortable and undignified at its very best, and I realize that I am being distracted by my midwife. I think that they must teach this at gynecological school, because every ob-gyn I’ve ever had suddenly becomes chatty the second they start touching my undercarriage.  I’ve got a lot of those moments ahead of me in the next few weeks.

I am very pregnant now. On Saturday, our daughter will be fully cooked, although it is still a little over two weeks until my due date. Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself worrying about labor more often, as my brain finds idle moments in my day. It happens when I close my eyes to sleep, when I am waiting for the train, in the moments when I try to manipulate my increasingly bulky body into clothes that grow tighter and tighter each day.

I only began to enjoy pregnancy a month ago, although mine has not been particularly hard compared to the hell that some women go through. Mine hit me where it hurts me most — in my athleticism and my vegetarianism — which made it hard to bear. There are amazing women who can handle athletics and vegetarianism during pregnancy, but my body could not. That smarted. Maybe that’s why finding out that I’m in a good position to have the labor that I’ve chosen felt like an accomplishment, when it’s really nothing more than luck. I spent the early days of my pregnancy talking up a good game of looking forward to labor for its pregnancy-ending benefits, but now that my bluff could be called any minute, I am becoming less brave.


It’s hard to be private when you’re pregnant. Many women report strangers touching them without asking. I didn’t have a problem with this, other than one drunken acquaintance forgetting to wait for permission before giving the belly a good rub. Still, being a New Yorker means having very little choice about interacting with strangers. I am on a train now, sitting next to a man that I will never know, who keeps glancing at the visibly moving baby in my midsection. I can’t blame him. I can only be grateful that he hasn’t given me the twenty questions that strangers seem to think it’s my responsibility to answer.

“It’s a boy, isn’t it?”

“Do you have a name for it?”

“You’re almost due, right?”

“Are you having twins?”

“Is this your first?”

I get these questions all the time, from people that I presume mean well, who presume that I’m the sort of woman who is thrilled to be pregnant and wants to talk about it all the time. Sometimes I don’t mind. Sometimes I want to forget that everyone knows and to just be treated like my old self again. I am looking forward to our separation mostly for this reason — the ability to be anonymous again, to be able to buy a sandwich without having my personal life questioned by strangers.


I’ve chosen a natural labor, with as little medical intervention as possible. Although I am rather hippy-minded, it’s more that I can’t stand the idea of spending my labor tied to a bed than any desire for a natural labor experience.  An epidural, which is the main pain management option, numbs you from the waist down, so walking is out of the question. The very idea makes me feel claustrophobic and anxious, which is the opposite of what makes the labor go faster. Fast is not a word commonly used to describe first labors and I am expecting that mine will last at least twelve hours, given the experiences of other women in my family. I may not be running, or even walking very fast these days, but now I’m preparing myself for a marathon.

I have some strategies to get through the experience. We’ve gone to the Lamaze class, so I understand the biology of labor and how important being able to relax through the pain will be. I’ve started getting Braxton Hicks contractions, which has given me the opportunity to experiment with breathing techniques to learn which ones work best for pain management for me. The contractions aren’t pleasant, but I’ve found them comforting, even when they hit me in the middle of my work day. I’ve learned that I can still be the professional side of me, even as a hugely pregnant woman. Maintaining that balance — the ability to cooly troubleshoot network problems and think logically while my uterus is clenching so hard that I wonder if it might fall out my back — that has given me a confidence that I can handle the upcoming ordeal. I just hope that my labor starts when I am well fed and well rested, just like I would begin any endurance athletic event.

My old yoga mat is already in my hospital bag, waiting for the hours I plan on spending in cow and child’s pose. My body may try to take over with pain, but my brain has fifteen years of training on how to deal with it. I’ll just breathe in and then I’ll breathe out. And then I’ll do it all again. And again. And again. And again. And again.

At the end of the day, what happens in that carefully decorated labor room is not really my choice. If complications arise that risk Cora’s life, then I’m happy to be tied to that bed and sliced open like a fetal pig. I’ve learned from this pregnancy that I’m already willing to go to great lengths for my daughter, even when those actions are in total opposition to my desires.  All the same, it was so reassuring to hear that my final moments of pregnancy might actually go the way I’ve planned.

Book Review: Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Gwape_first_editionThis was not the first time that I’ve entered the quiet world of Johannes Vermeer at the hands of Tracy Chevalier, but it has been a few years since the last time I read this beautifully paced novel. The subject of the novel is self-evident; Chevalier makes a guess at the events that inspired one of Vermeer’s most famous paintings, which is of the same title as the novel. In Chevalier’s version of the painting’s origin, the subject is seventeen-year-old Griet, who has been forced by the loss of her father’s career to work as a maid in the Vermeer household in order to support her parents.

Chevalier’s characterization of Griet as an outsider looking in is quite brilliant. Griet is filled with apprehension as she realizes that she must leave her home to live among Catholics but she is also interested in the possibilities of living in an upper class household, even as a servant. These differences of class and religion give Griet an insight into the world of the Vermeers that pulls the reader right into their household and gives an idea of the larger conflicts of 17th century Dutch society.

But again it was the paintings that struck me.  More hung in this room than anywhere else.  I counted to nineteen silently.  Most were portraits–they appeared to be members of both families  There was also a painting of the Virgin Mary, and one of the three worshipping the Christ Child. I gazed at both uneasily.

The beauty of Chevalier’s writing lies in small details and a simple narrative style that fits  naturally into the mouth of a teenaged maid, while teasing the reader’s senses with lush descriptions.

I took up my candle, found the mirror in the storeroom and climbed to the attic.  I propped the mirror against the wall on the grinding table and set the candle next to it.  I got out my needlecase and, choosing the thinnest needle, set the tip in the flame of the candle.  Then I opened the bottle of clove oil, expecting it to smell foul, of mould or rotting leaves, as remedies often do.  Instead it was sweet and strange, like honeycakes left out in the sun.  It was from far away, from places Frans might get to on his ships.

Picked for the job as a maid in the Vermeer household partially because of her father’s professional associations, but also because of her artistic eye, Griet quickly becomes fascinated by Vermeer’s work. It isn’t long before Vermeer recognizes her talent and asks her to assist him in mixing paints.  As she spends more time with him, developing talents that would be unexpressed in any other household, Griet begins to develop a devotion for Vermeer that threatens her position in the household.

Although the daily world of the Vermeer household is filled with many small conflicts and jealousies, the pace of the novel picks up when Griet is exposed to Vermeer’s patron, de Reis, who serves as the villain of the novel. A rich man, he clearly believes that serving girls are one of the many luxuries that his wealth brings to him. When he discovers Griet’s captivating wide eyes, he becomes obsessed with having her sit in a painting with him. As the Vermeer household scheme to protect her without offending the patron that pays their monthly bills, her own family begins pushing her towards a young butcher that has his eye on her. Torn between heart and head, Griet must figure out how to appease her employers, her family and her own heart and mind.

Chevalier brings us on a coming-of-age journey that rings true, as Griet enters her adulthood in a complex but captivating world.  This is a novel that I come back to again and again for its complex simplicity and honest prose, as well as the immersion into an exotic and fascinating world.

Published: 1999 by Dutton, 256 pg.

Reading List 2014

This year I started carrying a Bullet Journal to keep myself organized.  On the third page of my journal is a page where I proudly wrote the words “Reading List” back in the beginning of January, since I realized that I’m more or less hopeless at remembering to keep my Goodreads profile up to date.  It turns out that I’m not so great at remembering that I have a reading list in my Bullet Journal either.  Nonetheless, here’s a somewhat informed list of the year’s reading.

General Fiction

The-Round-HouseThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser
The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass
The Bastard by John Jakes
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Love Medicine (PS) by Louse Erdrich
The Children of Liberty by Paulina Simons
Faithful Place by Tana French

There were a few novels in this section that really struck me this year, but the author that I couldn’t get enough of was Louise Erdrich.  This is partially her subject matter, which is always centered around Native American themes.  Not being particularly knowledgeable about contemporary Native American issues and culture, I find her books both educational and compelling for the vivid and interesting world that she creates.  She so honestly represents the pressure of maintaining a traditional culture while integrating into modern American life, while providing an authentic window into a subculture of America that is so poorly represented by our popular culture.  Neither The Round House nor Love Medicine (PS) are books that I am going to forget for a very long time, both for their story lines and for what they were able to teach me about my own country and its history and politics.

Tana French’s Faithful Place is another novel that will stick with me.  Focused on a desperate and hopeless neighborhood in inner-city Dublin during the worst of the late 20th century economic recession, French does her usual magic with deeply character driven murder mysteries.  On top of the socioeconomic backdrop, French provided such an accurate portrayal of what being a child of an alcoholic is like that there were times I had to step away from the novel to shake off my own memories.  I’m not generally a crime reader, but I’ll never pass up a French novel.  She’ll definitely be on my list for 2015.

Likewise, I was really pleased by Julia Glass’s The Widower’s Tale, which tells the story of a retired father who is renegotiating his relationships to his community and children.  It was an absolutely beautiful page-turning story, with just enough tongue-in-cheek New England humor to keep the story light during its darkest points.  I look forward to reading more of Glass’s work in the future.  The Widower’s Tale was as beautifully crafted as it was enjoyable.

 

Classics

Hemingwaysun1

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Mathilda by Mary Shelley
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
The Floating Opera by John Barth
The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James
Maggie, A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane

The majority of this section was read for classwork, though certainly not all of it.  This was a second read of As I Lay Dying and Dracula, as well as my first successful complete read of The Call of the Wild.  Although I enjoyed Dracula just as much as a teenager as I did this year, I did not understand  Faulkner or London on my first readings.  This year, I really appreciated the dark humor of As I Lay Dying and the socialistic underpinnings of The Call of the Wild in a way that I completely missed as a younger reader.

My real love of this section, however, was Ernest Hemingway, who I also read as a teenager and couldn’t understand what the fuss was about.  The Sun Also Rises is a beautiful novel in many ways, but what really struck me was Hemingway’s sense of dialog, which feels both stylized to the time period and extremely realistic.  Reading Jack London and Hemingway together was particularly enjoyable — London is so obviously an influence on Hemingway that reading London gave me a different appreciation of what Hemingway’s thinking might have been as he wrote.  I can only imagine what might have happened if Hemingway and London had ever been in a room together, but I’m certain that it would have been strikingly manly.  Both have a no-nonsense terseness to their writing styles, though I admit that I prefer Hemingway’s often painfully honest emotionalism over London’s brutality.  I’m looking forward to more Hemingway over the coming year.

Essays/Nonfiction

letsexplorediabetesLet’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Loss and Grief, Edited by Sean Hanish
Beethoven by George Alexander Fischer
How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis

I have a good friend that is a huge fan of David Sedaris’s work, so I’m only surprised that it’s taken me so long to pick up one of his books.  Although I still have no idea why the book is named the way it is, despite having watched an interview in which he was asked that precise question, I laughed for nearly the entire read and have passed the book along to multiple people since reading it.  Sedaris is a master of situational comedy and you can’t help but wonder what a day in his life must be like, given some of the situations that he describes as truth.  It’s a book filled with lunatic moments, in which he blends his own sense of the absurd with a deep love of the quirks of the people that he meets.

I read Three Minus One in the same week as Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.  They could not be more different — Three Minus One is a compilation of stories about miscarriage and stillbirth, while the most serious that Sedaris gets is to wonder at his relationship with his father.  Ironically, I was reading it when I took the three pregnancy tests that confirmed that we were now taking our own chances with the pregnancy game.  Out of a certain sense of superstitiousness, I wondered if I should stop reading the book, but found that I couldn’t because while it was a compilation of sad stories, it was also a compilation of stories about the strength of the bond between parents and their children.  Ultimately, it is a celebration of love, through the saddest lens that I can imagine.  Every day that my child has grown, I’ve thought about those stories and been inspired by the strength in them to be a little braver and love a little more.

Fantasy

A Dance with Dragons hb f

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin

I first came across Mary Robinette Kowal through her blog, but when I learned that she had written fantasy novels in an Austen-like universe, that was an irresistable hook.  Taking on Austen’s world is a formidable task — so many have done it that it’s difficult to bring something fresh to the table.  Yet Kowal brought magic into the equation, which made it a fun and light-hearted read that was both authentic and pleasing. The other books in the series are certain to show up on my lists in the future.

Naturally, after last  year’s delving into the Game of Thrones universe, I had to finish off what was written of the Song of Ice and Fire series.  I’ve now joined the hordes of Martin fans that are eagerly awaiting the next installment of this series, particularly given the cliffhanger ending.  I have yet to be disappointed by the rich world of intrigue that he creates — I only want more, more more.   Yet I’m surprised to see that this section has so few books in it this year — perhaps my readers could give me some recommendations?

Previous Reading Lists

2013

 

The First Goodbye

Tux Today I said goodbye to an old friend, my beloved convertible Tux, which seems a remarkably appropriate thing to be doing at this time of year.  December always seems a little early for end of year reflections, as usually the weather has not turned enough to make me feel that the seasons are really changing.  This year is no exception — as I watched my first car drive away attached to a stranger’s truck, I was unzipping the wool cardigan that I had thrown on over my t-shirt, because the weather is far too warm for what this season is supposed to mean.

And yet, somehow, it is already the end of the year.  At work, we’ve done reviews and our end-of-year party.  A good friend of mine that has been scheduled to move away at the end of the year is leaving within a few days.  The solstice has already started making longer days. The New Year is less than a week away, which means that this babe in my uterus is now due in a mere five weeks, which seems impossibly close. There was a day in late May, when I sat on the banks of the Sandy River with friends, sipping beer and watching people float downstream in intertubes, which was one of the last days before I knew that I was pregnant.  It seems impossible that that was over half a year ago.  The moments in between have stretched out until they felt impossibly long, as my brain fought with my pregnant body, but now time has compressed again and I am left wondering how it has gone by so fast.

Today, as I patted Tux’s trunk goodbye, I felt like I was touching my own history.  Tux was my first car and we have been together since I was 21 years old.  New York has made it a long time since I’ve spent significant time in any car, but when I think of my car, I still think of my beloved convertible.  I’ve barely driven him since I gave him to my baby brother to use two years ago, but the emotions are still there.  I can well remember heartbroken nights where I would jump into the car and just drive and drive while my brain sorted itself out. Likewise, I’ll never forget joyous midnight drives and smelling the sweet scent of wheat on summer nights in Virginia, with the top thrown down and the wind in my impossible hair.  Removing the knots from my long hair afterwards could take all night, but it was worth the pain for the sweetness of the breeze on my face.

Ever since the accident a few months ago,Tux has sat in the driveway, staring sadly at the house with his smashed nose.  I did not crash him, but every time it rained and I watched the water seep into the gaps in his crushed hood, I felt a deep sense of guilt.  I have donated him to the fire department so that trainees may learn how to use the jaws of life.  I like the idea that this vehicle that is so alive in my head might help save someone’s life some day, but I also can’t help but be disturbed at the idea of someone cutting him apart.  He is a friend, but he’s also a symbol, perhaps the symbol, of my young adulthood.  Those days are solidly behind me now, as my increasing number of gray hairs and sensible shoes clearly attest to, but they were good days, filled with friendship and love and learning and opportunity.  I wouldn’t give up what I have today to go back to them, but it’s natural to mourn a little when you know that they’re really gone.

This next year is probably going to be a haze of milestones in my life.  I imagine that I’ll remember parts of it clearly until I die, as I take the first steps across the bridge into motherhood.  There will be so many firsts as labor and my first parenting experiences pile up.  The first joys, the first mistakes, the first problems, the first moments where I realize that I can do this after all.  Cora be nothing but a bundle of firsts, but I hope I remember my own milestones as significantly as hers.  First experiences are so sweet.

Flutter Brain

Chaos Fire by Walex Khmurets

My life has been so chaotic over the past few weeks that I found myself looking forward to today as a much needed respite — a time in which I could get All of the Things done that I haven’t had time to do as I’ve been moving through my day-to-day over the last month.  Now that I finally had a few hours of time to myself, I would have time to work on finishing plotting out my masters’ thesis novella, finish spinning that bag of fiber from SOAR 2011*, work on my nursing shawl knitting project and finally weave off that monk’s belt weaving sample that I started — according to my Bullet Journal — sometime in January.

Oh my word.  Naturally, I would also get all my Christmas cards completed and the family gifts purchased, as well as doing at least one thoughtful thing for each of the five significant birthdays that I celebrate in December…because those are all the things that I want to have done by the end of the day.  That’s how this works, right?

Instead, I found myself sitting down at my desk, which looked very much like what you might imagine the desk of someone who has been completely overwhelmed for months to look like.  I have more relevant loose papers to file than I likely have in my file cabinet.  The pitted cherry surface of my desk had been littered with various boxes of medication, lotions, plastic caps, small electronic parts and, inexplicably, half a small tube of toothpaste.  A broken necklace that I love has waiting for repair.  There’s an intricately folded dollar bill that came from who-knows-where and a pile of hair accessories for someone with long hair, which has not been me for at least a year.  I have been paying the price of my disorganization — I still have a crushed car sitting in my driveway because I cannot seem to get the title and the lien release for this car in my hands at the same time, despite several attempts.  No matter how many times I go through all the various piles of paper in my house right now, I can never reduce them to some meaningful amount that produces the paper that I need right now and that I know that I saw somewhere.  Even my computer was filled with too many programs open, a mishmash of ideas for work and school and the various aspects of my life, with no focus anywhere.  My inboxes are overflowing with unread messages and my brain feels just about the same way.

People keep saying that I have pregnancy brain, but I actually hate this phrase.  I think instead that I have life brain. Pregnancy has definitely contributed, as I’ve been spending a lot of my time on a fast-tracked learning curve about both pregnancy and what the heck you’re meant to do with a newborn to keep her alive.  Having to radically change my diet because of some issues with the pregnancy has also been a time-suck, as I’ve had to try to figure out new recipes and ingredients that I never used to cook with never ate before.  Normally, feeding myself is a fairly automatic process, but it’s been moved up to the front burner of my consciousness as something I actually need to pay attention to, rather than letting habit determine my behavior. That’s a lot of time that I used to spend on keeping my life in order and my desk has shown the end result.  I am not my normally organized self, which means I spend so much more time looking for what I need rather than accomplishing the simple things. Pregnancy brain indeed.

Stressed by it all, I reached a breaking point today that my family is quite familiar with — the  moment where the house is too thrown apart for me to even think.  I can’t be happy in chaos.  I’ve done none of the things that I planned to do today, other than cook some food to buy me time later this week, but I have thrown my desk and basement back into enough of a semblance of order that I can think again.  I can write again.  I can relax again….as long as I don’t go upstairs.

Ahhhh.   Can someone send all my food down here? I don’t think I ever want to leave.

 

 

 

* Yes, this is as embarrassing as it seems.