Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Simple Pleasures of Summertime


It's pretty unreal that our family actually gets two full months of 24/7 togetherness every year, and I can't help but feeling that it's a little rude somehow, seeing as how everyone else is still mostly trekking off to work every morning, but I'm trying to just soak up the last bits because I know August is going to feel like the world's longest Monday. Also, in a few weeks, we will have a one-year old, so there's that.


Two sets of some of our closest friends got married this summer, so it feels like a very special season in our community of friends near and wide. When we first got married, we knew almost no other married couples our age, certainly not in our close circle, and now our once-single friends are suddenly dropping like flies. I'm a big fan of marriage so I'm excited to see all of them start that journey. It has been good for me too, to witness those exciting, holy, blissful first hours and months of two becoming one. Life can start to feel so mundane, a blur of chores and work and baby, that you forget about the holiness and beauty and mystery of it all, about all the little choices you make each day to keep the vows you made, about how every morning you are writing a new line into the story of your family. So I am thankful for the weddings.


A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle - This was a very leisurely, slow read for me, but I'm glad I stuck it out because it was good for me in a lot of ways, some of which I wrote about here. In addition to that, the sentence "A journal is a notebook in which one can, hopefully, be ontological" has helped me get back into journaling as a form of self-care and I found her writing somehow made me excited to be middle-aged someday, so that was nice. I've also been dwelling a lot on her thoughtful interpretation of kairos. I can't explain it all here though. You'll have to read it.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - I read this all the way back at the beginning of the summer, and it was unusual for me because I'm not usually a beach read, modern day fiction kind of gal, but I had read several good reviews of it that intrigued me, and, like 90% of the books I read, it was at the library. As other people have mentioned, it really made me think about my life and marriage, and the person I want to be in 10 years.

Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans - So so good. I don't have a big sister, but if I could choose one, it would be Rachel Held Evans hands down. We live less than an hour apart, so I'm going to leave that open as a possibility. But seriously, where do I even begin? Her views on theology and life were so affirming to me. In the book (and on her blog) she gently refutes so much modern day religious dogma in a way that is so truthful and graceful and always leaves me thinking, "Of course, why didn't I look at it that way?" As a doubter learning to evolve in my faith as well, I (along with a lot of other people) am truly so grateful for what she does.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott - As a new mom to a baby boy, it was fun to read about Anne Lamott's adventures raising her son and her brutal honesty definitely made me feel a little less crazy. I was hoping to move on to Some Assembly Required next, but was disappointed by the reviews I found. I think I'll stick to her faith-centered memoirs from her on out.

Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? by Mindy Kaling - Just a quick, fun read. It was cool to learn about her life and career, but I think I'd personally rather watch her be funny than read her be funny.

Ollie and I have been loving Who's Hiding in the Pond? and I am a Bunny. On a related note, I also read parts of Diaper Free Baby, and am following it casually, with mild success.


We were lucky enough to find audio versions of both Bossypants by Tina Fey and A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans at the local library, so the 20+ hours we spent in a car with a baby this summer actually flew by. No, seriously. Bossypants was hilariously entertaining (the breastfeeding chapter made me especially glad) and I can't even count how many aha moments I had during A Year of Biblical Womanhood. I like to think that O enjoyed them as well.

As far as music goes, baby and I have been listening to a lot of Head and the Heart, because we both love it and O smiles real big when "Cats and Dogs" comes on. And, kind of embarrassingly, I've been a teensie bit obsessed with Get Lucky by Daft Punk because it's really catchy and I feel like it says something profound about the human expereince. I just haven't figured out what that is yet.

In other news, been loving visits with family and bike trips with this guy. 

The Office- Also kind of embarrassingly, we rewatched the entire series (minus season 9) in three months, basically by watching very little else. It was enjoyable, and we always end up choosing terrible, unexpectedly depressing Netflix movies anyway. Also, it was worth it to realize that the true love story of the last few seasons is the developing friendship between Jim and Dwight. So precious.

Masterchef- We started watching this because a very talented local food blogger from our city was a contestant (seriously, her photos and recipes are amazing, check them out). Unfortunately, she's no longer in the running, but we're hooked on the ridiculousness now anyway.


We kicked off the summer with our church's VBS, which is less VBS and more like a week of nightly community-wide parties for all ages, dinner included. It's always amazing to see it come together, everyone doing their part. It was my third year teaching corralling the preschoolers. Each year, as my doubts have become heavier and heavier, I always start off thinking, "Should I really being doing this?" but each year I end the week feeling wonderfully exhausted and loved and where I am meant to be. When we first started attending our church, it was mostly a mix of young middle-class singles and low-income families from the neighborhood, but now the singles are marrying and having their own kids, so all the children's classes are becoming this beautiful mix of classes and races and personalities. I know diversity doesn't mean that reconciliation is happening, but it's nice to see that we're all here, showing up, and slowly pushing through the awkwardness, and becoming family. I'm so glad to know that our son will grow up loved and known by the people of our church.


There has been so so soooo much goodness on the world wide web this summer. I thought about shortening this list down, but then I didn't:

Parenting: These much-needed posts on adoption ethics. Two posts on how to answer the school question when you're seeking to live intentionally in a low-income neighborhood: this one by Abby Norman on D.L. Mayfield's blog, and this one on Motherlode. It's a question I've been thinking about for a long time, so I'm especially grateful for their thoughts.

MotherhoodThis battle cry for the warrior mamas, this defense of creativity in motherhood, and this mama's perspective on the Treyvon Martin verdict, which is the most touching and thoughtful response I've read.

MarriageThis beautiful letter and this one remind me what it's all about. And this post by reminds me that teaching is our calling.

Faith: O modesty. If you read one post about it, make it this one. Another question I've been thinking about, the effects of sunday school on kids, is addressed in this one. This one is spot on about what 20-somethings really need from the church. And one sentence each from this and this one have been following me all summer: "When our churches have building budgets and our sisters have dying children." and "Hospitality means if there is room in the heart- there is always room in the house.

Simple Living: This funny, but levelheaded view on the idea of emergency preparedness.

Writing: I wouldn't actually call myself a writer, but I frequently find myself in the act of writing anyway and found these pieces encouraging: this one by Ester Emery and this one by D.L. Mayfield.

Whew. I think that's it. But in my defense, it was two months worth. Thanks for sticking it out!

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tales from the NICU: The last tale

In September 2012, my full-term newborn son spent the first three weeks of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit. "Tales from the NICU" are stories from our unexpected stay there. 


Every few weeks, I'll see an old picture or be reminded of a story that takes me back to our days in the NICU and all the feelings come rushing back and it's like I'm there all over again and I get this urge to write it down, to explain it all, to others and to myself.

I want to write about the nurses; those who were little glimmers of light in the darkness, who I hugged for giving us good news, who fought for us, and the ones I nearly yelled at, and the ones who grew on me, and how hard it must have been for all of them to face the pain of those babies day and night. And O those poor sweet babies, the little premies locked in their bubbles of survival, who saw their mamas, maybe touched them, once or twice a day; the little babies who cried all day and night for the drugs their mamas took. I'll never forget the mix of tiny cries and constant beeps that were the soundtrack of that place.

I want to write, too, about how bizarre it was to live there for three weeks, and of the pain in the one time I left there without him, and about how it all started to feel like a televisions show by the end: The rotating cast of characters, the suspense of waiting for updates, the drama of the bad news, the rush of emotions when we were suddenly released. I want to write about the breakdowns, and the sleep deprivation, and the friends who came with meals, and all the goings on in that little corner of the world, nestled in one of several small hospitals in a dime-a-dozen city.

I want to write about the weeks and months that followed, of the breastfeeding failure, and the late postpartum check-up that didn't go so well, and of the little fear in the back of my mind that it will all happen again some day.

But I'm starting to realize that I'm never going to be able to purge it all. No matter how much I write down, I'm never going to be able to communicate all the emotions that I felt in that place to another human being. I think part of the reason I feel the urge to is because the whole experience has so completely tattooed itself onto my heart, and made me a different person, and defined my motherhood, in ways both good and bad. And because I still feel so much guilt, for the pain I saw him go through, and for not being able to hold him to my chest through every minute of it, and for failing to feed him in the way I wanted, and for his ever having to be there. So I guess I want a little understanding for that, and a little forgiveness. But this is the last I'm going to write about it here, because it's my pain to hold and process, and I'm the one who has to forgive.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Learning to Write Ontologically

I've just finished reading Madeleine L'Engle's Circle of Quiet. It was kind of a slow on and off read when I was in it, but several of the things she said have stayed with me over the past few days. Today, I found myself dwelling on this one: 

“Sometimes he will say, 'It's been said better before.' Of course it has. It's all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I'd never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn't what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.”

Lately, I have had that feeling, seeping in from every corner of my life, that there is something for me to write down, not something necessarily big or especially important for the world to hear, but something essential to my personhood, something "ontological" as L'Engle says. I'm not sure what it is, but I think it may mean getting out of bed more to write down the things that float in my head as I toss and turn. 

But of course, as Madeleine knows, this is no easy feat when you've stayed up too late already and only have a few sleeping hours left before the baby alarm buzzes and the day begins. These days, I'm starting to understand what Virginia Woolf was getting at about the room. I guess what Madeleine L'Engle is saying though, is that you have to try anyway, room or no room, "gift" or no gift, you have to create in the best way you know how, as a part of being your own human self in the world. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Adventures in Simplicity: On Being a One-Income Family

These are the stories of our family's adventures in living simply. We've had our share of highs and lows in the few short years we've been on this path, but we're loving just figuring it out together as we go along. And now with a new baby in the mix, things are sure to get even more adventuresome!  You can find the entire series, including our reasons for choosing this path, here.

Almost four years ago, my husband and I made the risky decision to move to a new city where we knew only one person and had no jobs, immediately after getting married. It turned out to maybe not be such a smart idea. It took me two months to find the part-time early morning coffeehouse job that I would hold for a few months while finishing college, and nearly four months for him to find a late night job making pizza. Needless to say, we were P-O-O-R. We had a little bit of savings and wedding gifts that got us barely through the first couple months, but I still don't know how we wound up paying our rent that year. Even when the jobs came, we were still living well below the poverty line. Our lives were kind of a mess, but we were so happy, just being together, having each other. We found entertainment in really silly things, like baking, or playing board games, or driving to the local college in the middle of the night to watch reruns of Lost in our car. Though we didn't think we would end up calling this random city home, we love it here now, and neither one of us would trade those early years of our marriage for anything, because they taught us, among other things, the art of living joyfully with less.

Who looked so young back then. And we were. 
This is a lesson that neither one of us wants to ever forget: that we can, and have and do, live happily while going without. And while I'll admit I don't miss not wondering where the money for the power bill is going to come from now that we find ourselves a safe distance above the poverty level, we don't really want to live our lives too far from that point of dependence. I think we are probably better off without even the option to spend money without thinking, or eat all our meals out, or fill our house with toys, because the money makes it too tempting to live lifestyle that is not what we truly desire, rich or poor.

So, when we got pregnant, wondering how we were going to get by on one income if I stayed home wasn't really an issue. We had made it on a lot less and our level of happiness was not really any higher than it had been when we were poor. So with the choice of giving our family extra money or extra time, we chose time and haven't looked back. With only one of us working, it's not really that big of a deal to open up our home to people, or have dinner as a family, or be involved in our church, or make time for hobbies and walks and friends, things that my anxiety-ridden heart would be stressing over if we were both trying to work full-time and raise a family.

Our place.
Basically, we are a one-income family because we've continued to live by a philosophy that we adopted long before we had a kid: that our jobs are not as important as our lifestyle. Whether we are making pizza, or teaching high school, or raising children, what is most important to us is that we care for others well. Right now, Andy does that by teaching and making time for us, and I do that by caring for our son and making time for others. It works well for us, and while a teaching salary may truly not be enough for some families, it is more than enough for us in this season.

Are you, or could you ever see yourself being part of a one-income family? What attracts or concerns you about raising kids with less money?