Happy Birthday, Dear Blog — GIVEAWAY

This little blog is two years old today!  When I contemplated whether a blog celebrates an anniversary or a birthday, I decided that this blog on motherhood definitely celebrates a birthday.  “Life with Levi” was born just shy of four months after I gave birth, during a time when I was frantically trying to find my way as a new mom.  In many ways, I was trying to find my way back to my pre-baby self, and as all moms know (or will come to realize), that is impossible, and it is supposed to be that way.  In one of many foggy moments spent scouring the internet for information on motherhood that would make me feel less alone, I came across Kristen Hedges’ blog, milk & moonlight.  I wrote about that relief-filled moment of connection–of being able to relate deeply to her words.  Her writing speaks straight to the confused, conflicted, but joy-filled (mostly) mommy heart.

Birthdays, of course, involve presents (yay!), and the birthday of this blog is no different. Since I cannot give this inanimate, online space a gift, I am giving a copy of Kristen Hedges book, Mama, Bare: The Birth of Mother, to one of you reading this post:)

mama bear

Two steps to enter (you must do both in order to be eligible):

  • Follow this blog!  If you’re already a follower, leave me a comment on this post, saying hello, or telling me one thing you like about the blog, or making a suggestion for improving this blog.
  • Follow me on Instagram!  If you already follow me, leave me a comment on the associated post saying hello or telling me why you’d like to read Kristen’s book.

Contest will stay open until Wednesday, May 3rd at midnight and winner will be selected Thursday, May 4th.

The Snow Globe

Christmas 2015, Levi received a snow globe from my parents.  The miniature world of white, glittery snow is made up of a little village with a large Christmas tree in the center, and there is a little train that circles the base, traveling underneath a bridge below the houses and trees.  It plays “Over the River and Through the Woods….”  He loves it, and so I have never packed it away with the Christmas decor.  It sits on his dresser year round (something that would typically bug me, but it’s strange the things I’m willing to overlook when it comes to making him happy).

Last night he wanted me to take it down and wind it up, so I did.  He watched the train intently, as it made it rounds.  At times he would pick the globe up to hold it closer to his face.  He was examining the train, looking for its engine and freight cars, he told me.  Then he wanted me to name every aspect of the little village scene as he pointed to it:  tree, bridge, house, another house, another tree, BIG Christmas tree, and so on.  As I stared through the glass past the softly, falling flakes, I could feel my body begin to soften and relax.  As I stared at the quaint little houses with windows filled by yellow light, I could imagine tiny people stuffed safely inside, eating dinner, reading a book, putting a baby to bed–untouched by the outside world–in a land of near constant snow fall.

I’ve always loved snow globe scenes–and really anything in miniature:  doll houses, shadowboxes, miniature museum scenes, etc.  In there everything is as it should be.

My neuroses run big and hard.  As a person with anxiety I spend a lot of time in the “fight” reaction of “fight or flight.”  I imagine a lot of tigers ready to attack that aren’t really there (or are they…?).  My fears and anxiety are frequently of global-scale catastrophe (in particular they are related to running out of clean, usable water on the planet–amongst other smaller, more immediate and localized fears).  The environment in the snow globe is controlled, unchanging, and predictable.  It’s also not real, of course, so I can make it into whatever I want it to be.  And last night, as Levi and I took a tour of every detail in the miniature world, I did just that.  Like him, I stared transfixed at the unchanging, painted on perfection, and I was transported.  And everything–for a minute or two–was as it should be.  And my shoulders melted away from my ears.  For a minute. And then the train came to a stop, and the real world presented itself to us in the form of diapers to change and jammies to put on, and we returned the snow globe to its place on the dresser.

The “W” Word

Dawn and I got married in June 2014 when because I was pregnant.  We had been together for eleven years at that point and had never really intended to get married.  It just wasn’t an institution that either of us was interested in participating in. Like many couples we were committed and monogamous and had been together for so long that legal/public/spiritual recognition felt unnecessary.  For me, marriage also represented the stronghold of heteronormativity on our culture; participating felt like complicity (this was shortly before DOMA was overturned by SCOTUS).  However, when you are bringing a little being into this world, some ideals end up doing by the wayside to make room for practicality and keeping your family as safe as possible.  Knowing marriage would help with the legalities involved in establishing Dawn as Levi’s parent, we said our vows in front of our officiant (our midwife) and one witness (a dear friend), ate some pub food, and headed off for a weekend of biking in Vermont.

My generally chosen terms for referring to Dawn, both before and after marriage, were “partner” and (less often) “my other half.”  For me these words denote the strength and truth of the relationship.  We are partners, equals, working side-by-side in life (and this now includes parenting).  We are also two equal halves of a whole–interdependent (something I thought I’d never believe in/agree to, but that’s a story for a different day/post).  However, both of these terms clearly leave out any clarifying information about gender.  In speaking to strangers, this frequently left me/us in an uncomfortable dance of trying to communicate without gender pronouns until I found (or more often, created) a reasonable moment to drop one in.

After one particularly uncomfortable encounter with a colleague who asked if my husband was excited about my pregnancy and my response of, “Oh – I don’t have a husband…,” (resulting in wide deer-in-headlight eyes from my colleague), friends urged me to start using the term “wife” so as to avoid confusion and general discomfort for me and my interlocutor.

I was very resistant.  The word “wife” makes me squirm.  For me the Despite the actual etymology of wife being woman, for me it is still inextricable from its mid- 19th Century usage to indicate the status of spouse, but the spouse who lost all rights in the process.  The word for me connotes ownership and property.  I never wanted to be somebody’s wife.

And yet, here I am, watching the world rapidly come to accept, heck – even embrace, the marriages of gay couples and with that acceptance, the word “wife” is flying off the tongues of everyone around me.  My students ask me about “my wife” without flinching. Mothers at my son’s daycare ask about “my wife.”  Colleagues and friends introduce Dawn as “my wife.”  And yes, even I find myself using the word to avoid all those uncomfortable missing gender pronouns described above.  I’m not sure how long naturalization of word into one’s vocabulary generally takes, but as I approach the three year anniversary of my wedding, I am still gritting my teeth at every use of the word.

I recently joined an online community of moms and had to create a brief profile.  Here is what I wrote:  “Old(er) mama to an adorable little guy. With my partner for 14 year, married for almost 3. Recovering perfectionist and productivity obsessive.”  And with that use of the word partner, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, Ya know what…?  I don’t have to use the term wife because that’s the norm.  I’ve never done anything else for that reason.  And with that, I decided to start (again) using the word I find most appropriate for my relationship.  My partnership.

Now I just need to run this by the wife….  🙂

Sometimes Brushing Your Teeth Isn’t Enough

I think we all get the idea that when you’re sick and feeling really crappy, the simple act of brushing your teeth is enough to make you feel a little alive again–a reminder of when you were a healthy human taking care of yourself.  Brushing one’s teeth is the most basic act of self-care, and the minty-fresh feeling in your mouth afterward is a lingering and tangible reminder of this act (not to mention the fact that it’s an act of care toward others, allowing you to speak to them without them needing to duck or hold their breath!).  I recently wrote about a series of illness that swept through our house.  When I was in the worst parts of being sick (stomach bug + fever) brushing my teeth worked like a magic.  Short-term magic, but still after brushing my teeth I’d kind of bounce back to bed and be able to sit up as opposed to my typical “caveman” walk between the bathroom and bed.  However, once I returned to working, cooking, playing with my kid–life in general, that is–brushing my teeth was just part of the daily routine and didn’t give quite the same boost anymore.

At two weeks out from being sick, I was still moving through the world with pressure in my head and eyes, making me feel tired and logy.  Operating about about 75% of myself felt great (for awhile) in comparison to the five or ten percent of my typical self that I experienced during sickness, but it still meant I wasn’t exercising or getting a whole lot of movement in general.  That workout day I logged into the planner for Thursday of last week–didn’t happen.  I was still dragging myself through each day in desperate search of that finish line we call bed. The effect of all this was that I have been a giant, intolerable, worst-of-the-worst GROUCH.  Impossible to live with; I couldn’t even stand being around myself.

Yesterday morning, I left the house by myself and went to the gym (I was going to write “hit the gym,” but that wouldn’t be quite accurate to describe very low energy re-entrance to working out).  As I drove, I listened to a podcast.  This matters because for more than two weeks I hadn’t even listened to any kind of sound in the car.  Between the pressure in my head and the exhaustion of my brain, I desperately needed silence where I could get it, and that was mostly while driving.  The gym is the land of the living, and when I entered, I too got to share in that kind of energy.  It was the jolt I needed to add about ten percent to my operating level.  I worked out, and it was better than brushing my teeth!  Moving my body is the thing that truly makes me feel human.

Yesterday I was maybe five percent less grouchy and ten percent more human.  The numbers aren’t staggering, but I’m hoping they are representative of a better ratio to come as I continue my “comeback” to me!