There Was Joy

rear-view-mirror

There are so many things I had to refuse her.

I was newly a mother of two when a doctor – a kind doctor, a thoughtful doctor – told me that my new daughter would almost certainly end up in the hospital with every respiratory infection she got. Not a great idea, he said about twice-a-week daycare. Probably not, he said about baby-and-parent music classes. No, I don’t think so, was his answer to my hopeful questions about baby swimming, a smaller daycare, a playgroup. After two hospitalizations in her first five months, I believed him.

Through that first winter watched through front windows into an empty courtyard or through car windows into big sister’s preschool, my new daughter and I eyed the world with suspicion: me because it contained too many germs and her because nothing in it made her feel quite right. There was no sleep, no break, no time apart for the two of us to learn the beauty of missing each other and being reunited. There was just us, with the world outside the window a mystery.

The winter turned into years, isolated and treading water. Continue Reading…

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They Were Babies

they-were-babies

Sometimes I can close my eyes, quiet my surroundings, and feel the shapes of my daughters’ infant heads in my hands, one under each palm.

Narrow and thick with hair and heat, my firstborn daughter’s head needs my steadying touch, needs more of me and more of what’s mine. With more of me around her, touching her, with my voice and my smell, she calms, nestles, sleeps. Her head is the other side of the magnet; we fit and pull each other in. I know this head; I have held it and will hold it, run to hold it again, lifetimes over and over.

Resting beneath my other hand is the perfectly spherical head of my second daughter. Its roundness tidily fits in my hand like it was built in that space, like it grew outside me in a pot shaped like my palm. It is tiny and utterly symmetrical. Its temperature is like the air around it. The baby under that domed scalp does not react to my touch. I am there, but I am only someone, any someone, and I know nothing about her more than anyone else. She is still and new. She is trying me on, surprised to see that I fit. Continue Reading…

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My Superpower is Messing Up

cup-flower

Like everyone I know, I’ve done some things that make me feel ashamed. I’ve said hurtful things to people I love. I’ve been lazy about things that needed my attention. I failed my children in ways that none of us probably even know yet. I’m not always the best partner to my husband that I can be. All of these things keep me up at night, sometimes, but all I can do is move forward: try to do better, mind my words, do the things that must be done, and be mindful in my relationships.

That all feels infinitely more possible than coping with the problematic image at the top of this post. Continue Reading…

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What I’m Listening to This Summer

podcasts

Someday, they tell me, the midwest will begin summer. For now, we’re in what I imagine mid-spring Seattle is like, with buckets of rain and temperatures in the hoodie-and-jeans range. However, I’ve lived in the midwest for decades now, and I know that we’ll go right from this to scorching summer. As soon as the cottonwood fluff clears from the air and my lungs calm down, I’ll be back outside, running along the lakefront, the same routes that have taken me out of my worries and onto another spiritual plane for the last eight years.

Moving my body in the early mornings past gardens and parks and not-yet-open cafes has always been a salve for me. I often say that I don’t like running but I like having run, but that’s not entirely true; I also like seeing and feeling the world on my own feet and at my own pace, alone, in the quiet.

But sometimes it’s too quiet. And sometimes it’s too early to listen to Salt-n-Pepa. That’s when I find podcasts to be just the thing. Continue Reading…

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10 Things of Thankful, Kitchen Edition

My kitchen used to be a prison, and now it’s a sanctuary.

In the early years of my younger daughter’s life, she had to follow a series of complicated medically prescribed diets that left me frantic for recipes and alternative products. The kitchen was the battlefield where I wrestled gluten-free starches and egg substitutes and strange milk alternatives into breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was where I brought many times the normal grocery budget for one year, and a head-scratching selection of 1980s diet foods for one terrible spring. That kitchen held the answer as to whether my daughter would eat well or starve. It was where I gave up me for her.

But something happened once she was well, and eating normally, and it happened to both of us.

After a while, I missed the thrill of the battlefield. I missed the puzzle of ingredients that I could assemble into a picture that made sense. I missed using my skills. I began, over the years that followed, to love my kitchen. When I cook or bake something delicious and beautiful, I feel a sense of accomplishment that is, finally, not also connected to fear of what might have happened if I failed. When I’m doing it, I am both energized and peaceful. I’m now grateful to be in my kitchen. Continue Reading…

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