August 27, 2012

The Simple Things: Breakthroughs

When I started this blog back in May, I committed to keeping a list of the joys and blessings and even the simplest things that make me grateful for the life I'm living right now. This past week has been so full, and while I'm thankful for a few of life's simple pleasures this week, there are a few momentous breakthroughs worth mentioning as well!

The Simple Things:

-Loving that my husband works at Starbucks for the time being. He has really come to a place where he is seeing it as a blessing and a joy, even on the really difficult days. I also love the treats he is able to bring home for us to enjoy with his employee discount, like the hazelnut syrup that I put in my coffee every morning, and this awesome passion tea that we are constantly brewing here for pitchers of fruity iced tea.

-The glorious inventions that come with modern technology-- cell phones, email, facebook, texting, and Skype. I'm so, so thankful that even though I'm miles away from my family and closest friends, I can keep in touch and let friends know I'm thinking about them, and even see people's faces in real time (and introduce them to Emmett!) via Skype. During this time of adjusting to living in the country in Virginia, I've really needed these ways of feeling connected to the people who are most important in my life!

-Getting to cook and bake more, now that I'm getting into more of a routine with Emmett and have the time and energy. Recently I made some awesome homemade pizza for the family, and this sweet apple crumb cake from an Irish Pubfare recipe book. My friends Natalie and Rachel have encouraged me to check out Jamie Oliver's 'Food Revolution' cookbook, so I'll probably be trying a few new recipes this week as well.

-Having the chance to hang out with our friends Cedric and Caroline, who are expecting a sweet little girl any day now! It was so neat to be on the other side of pregnancy and to share some little nuggets of wisdom for the first time with a friend who is waiting to meet her bundle of joy. I still am adjusting to the fact that we're parents, but it's fun to get to talk to other friends who are in a very similar place to us, and to know that Emmett will have a little friend for play dates so soon!

-Some seriously awesome Good Will finds and an impromptu little date with my hubby. We headed to Good Will this week after I had a doctor's appointment (Emmett was at home with Charlotte), and we took advantage of the fact that we were out without a fussy baby. We combed the racks and found some gems, and enjoyed running through the summer rain back to our car. It kind of gave me that giddy excitement again of when we were first dating :)
Emmett won't be able to wear those sweaters for a while, but he loves the Peter and the Wolf record!
-This active carrier (thanks Ash and Erik!). We can put E in it, and the kid is out like a light within 5 minutes. It's pretty incredible!


 -Emmett's continuation of learning to make new faces and smiling more and more...


The Breakthroughs!!:

1) I found ME again. Yesterday, I went to my first ballet class in over 12 years (whew! it's been a while) with my friends Natalie and Rachel. I was SO giddy for this all week, and on the drive over, I couldn't stop beaming (a smile that comes from inside of your soul). The class was wonderful, but even better was my time with the girls after class, exploring Grandin, a town with a renovated movie theatre from the 1930s, boutiques, used book stores, adorable coffee shops and an overall Gilmore Girls-esque feeling. I spent my Saturday morning laughing harder than I have in a while, perusing antiques, and enjoying an awesome grilled cheese sandwich and rootbeer float at an old-fashioned soda shop called Pops. Needless to say, I was in my element and I'm thrilled that I have something to look forward to once a week this fall. It lit up a part of myself that I have been missing dearly.
Before class on Saturday morning :)
2) I realized that my baby needs me. For the first 7 weeks or so, we had the toughest time with our sweet boy (beyond the normal shock of being new parents). With his colic, severe acid reflux, the challenge of having to give up on breastfeeding since it was better for him, trying out different formulas and reflux meds, being in and out of the pediatrician's office, and so many sleepless nights, we have just been exhausted. We're so thankful that God knew that we would need to be around the support of family and that we moved here when we did. Charlotte and W.B. have provided more help with Emmett than we could ever fully thank them for. However, one of my biggest struggles has been gaining confidence as a mama, as I've often compared myself to my mother-in-law who is like a Super Mom and is so natural with children. It's difficult to come into my own when I'm constantly looking over my shoulder and asking 'am I doing this right?' Not to mention, she has been watching him for a few hours every morning since we came home from the hospital so that I could catch up on the sleep I didn't get over the course of the night. All of this has been so incredibly helpful, but it's definitely made me question whether I could ever do this without help, and whether Emmett would know the difference between me and his Grandma (silly I know).

But this week, my in-laws went out of town to Williamsburg for a few days, and it was the best thing that we didn't know we needed. Emmett's reflux and colic literally turned a corner the day they left for their trip, and he is a DIFFERENT baby than he had been for the previous 7 weeks. His new medicine has kicked in, and he is sleeping for several hours at a time at night time, is SO much happier and calmer, and the fussiest he gets is when he is hungry or working on a good diaper ;) I spent those couple of days feeling awesome about what I can do-- Emmett and I totally bonded even more, and I loved that his big blue eyes followed me whenever I walked around the room, and that he cried for me when I walked out of his line of vision. He was so cuddly and sweet, and I even got to do a ton of housework, take a trip to the grocery store and Walmart (my first without anyone with me), make dinner, and had the energy to care for him without help. This may not seem like a huge deal to anyone else, but it finally showed me that I can do this, and that Emmett knows me, and that he needs me right now in ways that I was not giving myself credit. A few articles that have spoken to my heart and the truth of where I am right now, from both mama's I know, and mama's I don't know (Lil, you know me so well- thank you for sending this my way), have definitely helped me this week too.

3) Finally, we have turned a corner with Neil's job search!!! This past week has been an answer to prayer. After several months of not finding much/not hearing much back, there were a few great opportunities that opened up and sent some affirmation our way that God is looking out for us. The most exciting breakthrough is also a prayer request that I'm sending to everyone who reads this in the next day or so. He signed up with a temp agency several months ago, but we've been pretty disappointed that they haven't called with any prospects despite his attempts to continue following up with them and showing his continued interest. However, out of nowhere on Friday they called him to schedule an interview for a fulltime bookkeeping position at the Taubman art museum in downtown Roanoke. Apparently, they told him that the CFO hand-selected his resume because he had bookkeeping experience for an arts non-profit (back in Massachusetts), so we are definitely encouraged by this work-to-hire opportunity and we're praying that this could be it! It perfectly combines his background and passions, and we're really hopeful about this prospect. If you think of it, be praying for him Monday morning around 10. We'll keep you all posted!

Update at 11:34 a.m. NEIL GOT THE JOB!!!! Thank you all so so so much for your many prayers this morning, and over the past several months. We couldn't be happier :)

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost
Amen. 

August 21, 2012

Nostalgia and a Thank You

Today I think back on a New York summer. A summer of solitude in the midst of strangers. Figuring out how to make $20 stretch for meals and coffee and spending for the week. Salsa music and the smell of pot drifting into the open windows of my apartment in Washington Heights. Stretching on the polished hard wood floors of dance studios for open casting calls. Wandering through the Union Square farmer's market on Saturday mornings to buy fresh produce and soak in the sights and smells of downtown Manhattan. Remembering the freedom I felt in wandering into coffee shops where I knew virtually no one and turning out some of the best writing of my life. Bad dates. Lunch breaks taken sun bathing in Brooklyn and chatting with my co-workers by the Manhattan Bridge overpass, marveling that I was actually living and working in New York. Eating Chinese food and watching reality tv with my roommate on the futon in front of the tiny window air conditioner in our tiny little apartment. Figuring how to put my faith back together after a long stretch of feeling broken and not sure of whether I'd ever have the same kind I used to have again. Finding my faith again, but in a different, much more real way. Belvedere castle and long walks through Central Park listening to jazz. Discovering the jazz group in Central Park that would let me sing with them at a lounge on Tuesday nights on the lower East side. Visits from friends who loved me dearly even through that time when I wasn't quite sure who I was. Re-discovering who I was. Fahrehnheit 451 and falling in love with Ray Bradbury. Realizing I cared more about theatre education and making good art than being a professional performer. Learning my limits. Feeling the growing pains. Settling into a state of peace by August that let me know I'd found myself. And suddenly, I think God knew I was ready.

Today, during the week of when I first 're-met' my husband (two years ago), I owe a long overdue thank you to my friend Jane that I met that summer, for being brave and taking risks and enduring my apprehension/slight mocking, until I finally felt brave enough to follow her lead. I have you to thank, Jane, for helping me venture into the not-so-scary world of eHarmony at just the perfect time (right before my future husband would close his account), and helping everything else to fall into place to lead me to where I am today. :) As hard as that summer was, I would not have the joy and beauty in my life that I have today without it!



Some pictures of the summer that led me to my love:
My headshot for NYC
Graduation with my best friends from college!
My good friend and NYC roomie, Jess
Two of my best friends, Ness and Claire, who moved me into my apartment the day after graduation
Moving!
Washington Heights
In my element :)
A visit from Chels and Mer. Here we are in Central Park!
The Farmer's Market in Union Square

Sweaty on the subway

My last day in New York, out for drinks with my co-workers in DUMBO (hi Jane!)

August 15, 2012

Birds and an old blog

When I started this blog, I wrote here about why I chose this theme/title and a little bit about my obsession with birds.

I'm telling you, I've had this affinity for the image of learning to fly and birds taking flight for quite some time. I just came across this old blog I started in the winter of 2009 with a few random poems, thoughts and photos called 'Learning to Soar.' The inspiration came from this line of poetry:

Little bird, little bird, it’s time to fly// To spread your wings, and see the world.// Soar with the wind, and sing your song…”
-Little Bird, Little Bird, in the Cinnamon Tree… Anne Rhitak

Just thought I would share if you were interested in seeing where my writing has been and some of the photos that I took during my trip to Italy that once inspired me!

I'd love to know, what images, dreams, words inspire you??



P.S. Uncle Gibby is visiting again :)

August 14, 2012

Love Languages

When we were living up in Massachusetts, I was working as a graduate admissions counselor for a school in Cambridge. Our apartment was outside of the city and we only had one car, so I became best friends with the public transportation system. Not really, but we did get to know each other pretty well since I spent about 15 hours a week commuting, between the railway to get into the city, switching train lines twice once I got into Boston, and a quick bus ride/10-15 minute walk from Harvard square to my office. My husband worked as the accountant/bookkeeper for a national non-profit arts organization, which was pretty much his dream job. The only problem was that his job did not offer benefits, and the work load varied from week to week, so there were stretches of time when he was not needed as often.

The first few months of our marriage, we (mainly, I) struggled with the traditional gender/family roles, in that I was essentially the 'breadwinner' and Neil was playing 'housewife' (his words, not mine). I would grow resentful at times (especially during the worst of the first trimester) that I was spending 55+ hours a week answering emails, making phone calls, reviewing application credentials, meeting with students, sitting through meetings (so many meetings!), and commuting, and would often come home and say to my husband, 'But I don't understand... what did you DO all day?' when he only was needed at CIVA for a few hours that day. (I know... I was nasty). He was patient with me (for the most part) as I complained to him about how hard I was working and how frustrated I was that he had so much 'free time,' and he would calmly remind me that we each were doing what we were doing in order to support the other/our marriage. I didn't get it.

Until, literally, last night. I was scrolling through pictures on my phone (so, so many of our boy now!), and I started to come across pictures from our 'old life' in Massachusetts. I found this.



And suddenly I was so overwhelmed that tears filled up my eyes and I rushed into the nursery where Neil was holding Emmett and gave him a huge hug and kiss. I suddenly realized that while I was getting up early every morning to gear up for my long commute, my husband was (every single morning) waking up along with me just so he could drive me five minutes down the road to the train station. It was a very easy walk, but he did this just so he could spend time with me, and to make it easier on me. As I was rushing around to get ready (I was not a morning person at that point), he would calmly make a pot of coffee and often times even put together a few things for my lunch. He would send me encouraging texts or emails while I was at work, as my job was often a great source of stress, just letting me know he was praying for me, or reminding me of something funny, or coming up with fun things to look forward to later so that I could make it through my day a little bit easier. Every day at 6:17pm (or 6:30, or 6:45, or 7:20, depending on when I finally could pry myself away from work and catch the train home), he would be sitting in the red Subaru in the Beverly depot parking lot to pick me up so that I didn't have to walk home in the dark and so that we could catch up on the day. More often than not, dinner would already be cooking or mostly ready or at least thought out so that I didn't have to worry about it when I got home. Every so often, I would come home to a surprise-- a fresh bouquet of my favorite flowers, a bottle of my favorite wine to celebrate the end of a particularly tough week, a special pillow to help me sleep easier once pregnancy really started taking a toll on my body (that thing is still a life saver), cute maternity tops, or a fun magical tent with Christmas lights that we ate dinner under one night. My husband is not perfect (after all, who is?), and he didn't always get it right, but man, I had it so much better than I realized.

Towards the end of our time in Massachusetts, I opened my lunch box one day to see what Neil had packed me. And that's when I found the hugest chunk of pepperjack cheese EVER stuck between two plain pieces of bread. That's it. A cheese sandwich that I could not possibly consume just as it was. I laughed, and took a picture of it on my cell phone to send it to Neil to ask him what had happened, but I was also frustrated. We were on a tight budget getting ready for the move, and I couldn't really afford to buy lunch that day, so I didn't understand how he could expect me to eat that. He apologized and said that he was SO tired that morning (kind of in a haze) as he was packing my lunch that he didn't realize what he had done.

Last night I saw that picture, and realized that now I'm the one trying to support my spouse as he is at work so often working hard to provide for us. I'm not naturally a very domestic person (my friends and family have often made fun of my lack of understanding of the basic function of a mop, how I used to burn easy mac/toast/pancakes/all of the easiest things to cook, and Neil would sometimes have to BEG me in the old apartment to help him straighten up every once in a while). As I now learn how to stay on top of the laundry, help cook meals, keep our apartment clean every day, I'm realizing just how much of a challenge these 'simple' tasks can be if you're also juggling another job (like, being a mom, or working as a part-time bookkeeper). The love languages that are easiest for me to both give and receive are quality time, words of affirmation and physical touch, and I often before have taken for granted the ways that Neil has taken care of me and supported me in marriage. It is so much harder for me to serve Neil with acts of kindness and gifts (which are the ones that are easiest for him in showing his love), but I'm finally seeing how rewarding it can be to give those kinds of love too. Even if I get it wrong sometimes, like that hilarious cheese sandwich, I'm learning how to do the little things that make a big difference. And I thank God every day for a husband who is challenging me to be a better person.

Our wedding day (photo credit: http://www.the2654project.com/photography/)

August 9, 2012

Hands

My dear boy,



I was sitting with your Grandma Charlotte the other day and she was holding you. She was playing with your feet, and remarked to me about how amazing it is that something so tiny will one day hold you up. It got me thinking about your tiny hands. Those expressive little hands that are already telling us stories, that rest on your face when you are content, that are learning to grasp hair, your bottle, our fingers, so strongly! The hands that will one day learn to hold a pencil as you stick your little tongue out and concentrate on writing your name... (I wonder if you'll be right- or left- handed). I imagine those hands practicing scales during the summer you decide to take piano lessons, and gripping the bat that hits the winning home-run. The hands that will get sticky with melting ice cream as you try your first cone. I look at your hands and see your fingers tucked inside of your mittens, rolling up a snow ball while playing outside with daddy during the first winter snow storm. Warming up as you wrap them around a mug of hot cocoa once you come in from the frigid January cold. (I give you extra marshmallows, cause I cant resist that toothless smile). I see those grubby little fingers picking blueberries on a farm with your grandparents, and bringing them up to your already-stained lips (though we warned you about spoiling your appetite). Pulling up your classmate who falls during recess. Raised in the air as you fly down the hill of a rollercoaster, a huge goofy grin on your face and the wind running between your outstretched fingers. I see you in prayer, kneeling next to me saying your nighttime prayers with your palms together, just so. I smile as I picture you, my sweet boy, one day holding hands with your first girlfriend, maybe nervously sweating a little bit as you sit next to each other in the movie theatre for the date you begged us to go on. I see those hands playing video games and eating greasy pepperoni pizza with your college roommate on your first night away at school. Your hands will one day grow to those of a man, calling us to ask for advice, shaking hands at that job interview you've worked so hard to get, placing a simple gold band on your bride on what will be the most beautiful day of your life. Holding your own baby and understanding one day how we could love you so much. I see all that and more when I look at your sweet baby boy hands. And dear Emmett, I can't wait to see what else those hands can do!

Love you always,
Mama Bird