One of the perks of working in higher education is that (per your contract) you have a pretty nice holiday schedule. As I worked through this extremely front heavy semester, I kept my eye on the prize: Christmas Break. I dreamnt of Great Lake’s Christmas Ale, the smell of our fresh cut Christmas Tree, the soft glow of Christmas lights on my banister outside of our bedroom. I began listening to WHAMS! Last Christmas in October. My son and I watched The Grinch literally like every single day.
All of those warm thoughts of Christmas break kept me diligently pushing forward. As break neared, I prepped a mental list of “to-do” items. It went something like:
Re-paint pine trim Polar White where it is turning brown (the cons of painting pine)
Clean out all traces of maternity and postpartum wardrobe, newborn baby clothes/ toys
Schedule truck detail appoinment (my birthday gift from my husband that I have yet to use)
Work on marketing materials (work related and super LOFTY of me)
Do some DIY arts and crafts with my son
Make homemade meals as much as possible
Get back into Ketosis and work out…lose the last of the baby weight.
What I didn’t know at the genesis of this list was that: My entire family, self included, was going to be sick for ALL of break. Yup. I actually get depressed just thinking about how much time I spent sitting on my couch. Daily I have had to remind myself: Clarissa you are in the right place. You are taking care of yourself and your son. It doesn’t matter if you do anything else. Something magical happened these past 2 weeks. My son and I grew closer like in the beginning. Sometimes he would just say to me, “Mumma?” and I would answer, “Yes, baybee?” and he would merely be checking in; sitting with me even in my sick state has been completely comforting and wonderful to him.
So what did I accomplish over this break?
Administered albuterol, via spacer and inhaler, to my son every 4 hours throughout the daytime
Baked 5 PERFECT pumpkin rolls (with age comes perfection…and the longer I’m on this earth the better I get at both baking and cooking)
Drove my Grandma home for Christmas in the thickest fog I have EVER encountered
Made an incredibly delectable homemade chicken noodle soup that had thee best herbal flavors (rosemary, thyme and parsley)
Lifted legs twice, shoulders (who knows how many times), done several hours of cardio ALL TO GAIN 5 LBS
Created a DIY sensory activity for my son
Baked several breakfast casseroles
Drank an absurd amount of coffee
Shampooed and scrubbed our carpets
Took our son to see Santa and then out to dinner
Took our son to the Zoo and fed a giraffe
Took our son to the playground for the first time
Lately I’ve been wrestling with this idea that I’m now in a space where I feel like saying “I’m too old for this or that” while simultaneously feeling like the young person.
Tonight I was prepping my pork and sauer kraut, and I dug into my fridge for a bottle of beer. I excitedly remembered that I had a brand new bottle opener from Sandbridge, VA and like a REAL adult I could pop the lid off of this bottle of beer. When I went to open the bottle, I realized that my beer mug/bottle opener/ magnet must be defective because I couldn’t work it. And then I realized: No Clarissa, you’re just an old boring lady who doesn’t know how to drink.
Once the beer was opened, I poured a little in my crock pot, a few sips in my mouth and then passed it to my Netflix-ing husband in the living room. He had a few sips and then offered it to me. And thats when I realized: WE ARE BOTH OLD AND LAME! Haha. Seriously, what people share half a beer (actually less than that because the pork loin drank some too)? Guess we do.
So whatever this new half-old stage of life I’m in is…I guess I’m ready? This is the first time in my life where I am so content that drafting a new years resolution seemed meaningless to me. But then– it hit me.
I thought this week would never come–but here it is; the end of the semester. And much to my dismay, another year is about to come to a close and I am no where near meeting my goal of writing…daily.
I am constantly out of time. Lately, when I get a moment of silence I’ve caught myself reflecting on how over time I’ve watched my personality (in the MBTI sense) morph. Old me documented everything in a planner, my own custom calendar document and an Outlook calendar. New me– just sticks to Outlook.
Old me would memorize appointments for the following day prior to logging off at the end of the night.
Old me planned and prepped meals.
The list goes on– you get it.
I have become SO MUCH MORE chill. And I’m not sure why? Is is that I am a one woman office now? Or, that I am a new Mom who has learned that she can’t get caught up on the little things–you simply won’t survive. Or perhaps it’s that I’m no longer in constant pain.
Things are different. I’m not complaining, but I’m wondering “why?”
Last night I was on my way home from the gym and grocery getting. My neighbor invited to me come have a glass of wine while he decorated for Christmas. Despite feeling like I was completely out of time, I made a point to take the time to visit while he placed family heirlooms on his perfectly trimmed live tree. We sipped wine and filled each other in on life, while beautiful orbs of light danced across the tops of what I call his “dueling pianos”. I sat Indian style atop an ottoman, sipping my wine, as he told me the significance of the day’s date and week. The date was an anniversary of sorts.
In a bit of a wine mood– I rattled off some of my upcoming projects involving my college’s Lutheran identity and explained a bit of my own ideas regarding the afterlife that involve Jung’s theory of synchronicity. My neighbor remarked that he wasn’t familiar, but knew what I meant when I defined what makes a moment synchronicit. We both sat, with what seemed to be a mutual understanding that we haven’t had one of those moments in a while.
Then out of nowhere my neighbor says, something about numbers and that his most significant numbers are 8-22. I grinned and blurted out, with one hand waving a glass of wine and the other over my heart “THAT’S MY BIRTHDAY!” And if anyone knows me, I take great pride in being a Leo, but also a Leo-Virgo cusper.
The hair on my neck and arms stood up, and I looked at the painted, family portraits displayed on the living rooms walls and felt a mixed sense of superstition and glee.
One thing my neighbor and I have in common is a sense of urgency to cling to tradition and preserve things to stay close to the people they represent. For example, my live tree is decorated with my Grandma’s wooden, vintage ornaments. My neighbor’s home is filled with significant treasures, especially those that represent his mother and father.
Sometimes in a world filled with electronic devices, blue light, constant meeting reminders and excel documents a girl needs to sit down with a glass of wine and a good story teller. Last evening surrounded by paintings, pianos, an organ, a beautiful black cat and my endearing neighbor I remembered things that I had long forgotten about due to the selfish ego of work needing to occupy all of my head space.
Why does this oddly feel like I am setting up a scene straight out of Goodnight Moon? #momlife
Like my neighbor’s mother, I had an aunt who was a painter. Her paintings can be found in my home and almost all of my relative’s homes.
My mother was a music teacher, and I grew up playing a baby grand piano.
My beloved cat, that my aunt picked up for me from a shelter while she was battling cancer, was a black cat named Snoop that snuggled me through 15 years of highs and lows.
And here I was surrounded by these things that made me visit a place of deep nostalgia. In the dark appreciation of the person I was once before work consumed about 92% of my identity, I sat starkly wondering if the childhood I knew would be anything like that of my son’s.
I arrived home to a house warmly lit by our Christmas tree. The very tree that this year as a mother to a toddler seemed like more work to put together than joy. But as I withdrew to my upstairs, and took one last look at our tree, I relished that I was still partaking in a rich tradition that took me back to a memory of being a hopeful little girl, drunk on the smells of a fresh-cut pine tree, wondering what this season was all about.
There wasn’t any ACTUAL water in this watering can– so we had to improvise.
We trusted each other to know what to do. But you see, this plant died. It was trying to survive on the ideals of a society that is far removed from nature.
Today all of our plants are thriving. We water them often, but not too much.
Though, I have found it seems that my plants grow best when I whisper to them words of encouragement.
Happy Anniversary Gary. May we never again think to ourselves that doing what society expects us to do will make us happy. Rather, let’s pretend there are no rules. Let’s continue blasting disco while we clean the house. Let’s walk barefoot in the grass with our son. Let’s spend nights under the lights of our patio, petting our dogs, razzing on eachother. Because that’s where love grows best.
Well, we celebrated our little one’s first birthday yesterday. I dreaded this event like the looming deadline of a term paper in college. Just like a young, procrastinating, scholar– I was capable and competent to plan the party little by little in advance. Yet, I chose to wait until the end. To be fair, I had made my mind up early that we were just having cake, ice cream and a small gathering. Then at the last minute, I realized this was selfish. It is not my husband’s fault that he was born into a large family. So that little idea turned into 50 relatives, a taco/nacho bar and so much joy.
Honestly, I told myself “You are going straight home from work today and resting.” I woke up feeling 70+ years old. Kind of like when I was in chronic pain but different. And yes, I felt 70+ years old on the regular, before my surgery. But…like a typical Mom I got home, started putting clothes away and setting mental goals for what I needed to accomplish for the evening to feel like a validated human for the day. Instead, I ended up at urgent care (just not feeling well).
Last week was my first week back to work. I ended up flying to a conference with the President of our college, the new campus pastor, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and my mentor (the chair of the religion department). This was all VERY good, and warrants a blog post of it’s own. BUT, I really have overdone it now for several weeks. Earlier I remarked to Gary, “You know how when I first got my job I said ‘I could never do my job hungover’? Well with this promotion, I have added a degree– I can’t do this job tired.” And today I was very tired.
Once I arrived home last Thursday, I worked on Friday and then started prepping for Rhett’s first birthday. I did not sleep much. I did, however, blow up a lot of balloons. I even joked on social media that my new maladaptive coping mechanism was blowing up balloons to keep my son from turning one.
Ever since the birth of my son, and my surgery, I have had serious issues in the way of memory and recall. Add sleep deprivation, pain, and recovery to the list and it is quite a concoction. Although, I’m supposed to be sleeping in bed right now– husband’s orders– I’m at our tiny desk that is littered with balloons, typing this post.
You see, I know that my blog is far from perfect. I had a livejournal in high school and would even type in html code for THAT blog. Those days are gone. I’m in a hurry to get things done. My biggest flaw is that I don’t edit anything. I constantly feel like I have a dragon breathing down my back (especially since my near death experience). And that dragon is pushing me to accomplish as much as possible (aside for my wasted time on social media) with as little as possible. I guess I assumed after my NDE, that people could figure out my message whether or not it had a typo in it. I kind of live in this space of today might be my last day…again. And if it is my last day, I sure as hell would hope that I wasn’t wasting time proofreading messages (or scrolling social media) that were already clear.
Well no matter how many balloons I blew up, how many times I told myself our party wouldn’t be a big deal, or how many times I thought my summer vacation would last forever…Rhett still turned one. And I still had to return to work. And returning to work this week felt like that time I was concussed. I was able to juggle multiple thoughts in the air, but I couldn’t make any progress on those thoughts. Today a colleague of mine sharing this feeling described it as mental purgatory. To which I told him an anecdotal story, that my superior told me, regarding the virtues of a leader.
I arrived at work this AM with full intentions of moving linearly down my to-do list. As I began chipping away, an admissions counselor approached me about a student. The student’s parents had some questions about reasonable academic accommodations for their student with a disability. So, I walked over to admissions to meet the family. I firmly shook both Mom and Dad’s hands and introduced myself (prior to this I memorized their names and their student’s concerns that they sent me via my online self-disclosure tool). To my dismay, their child/new student was not happy to be discussing the sensitive topic of being a person with a disability. Mom and Dad talked over the student and on his/her behalf. And like any good counselor, I acknowledged the silence and asked the student how this experience felt for him/her? I was getting nothing.
This reminded me of a time at Yale– in my pastoral care class. At that time in my life, my goal was to work in a VA hospital doing clinical pastoral care. In a role playing exercise, I was playing the role of chaplain. Our scenario was that two parents were at the hospital with their child who was comatose. Now, if you did not study psychology nor counseling, you may not understand just how intense role plays can get. In my role as quasi-chaplain I addressed everyone in the room, although the person role playing the patient was not going to acknowledge me. Yes, this is truly where my mind went as I sat with the non-verbal student. Who by the way, can speak. Sometimes though, when we try to speak for others we actually silence them. Mom and Dad were unintentionally doing this.
I kept reminding these incredibly sweet parents that our college is a small place and I will see to it that their son/daughter never gets lost. Little did the parents know, that I was the most lost little college freshman ever. I sometimes could go a full day without speaking to anyone. It’s in these moments that I hope Mom and Dad can feel my authenticity when I say your student will not get lost here because I do mean that.
Following my impromptu parent meeting, I had an impromptu meeting with a board of trustee member who just happened to be on campus. It was nice to catch the trustee with his wife and family, and in casual wear. Last time I saw him, I was hosting a networking event for our students to practice their skills– with one caveat– they had to network with our board of trustees. I especially appreciated this trustee’s skill of careful listening as young students told him about their hopes and dreams via rehearsed elevator pitches.
I then went on to start planning our Alumni Professions Panels for Homecoming 2019. This resulted in a spontaneous lunch with colleagues whilst taking notes on my yellow, legal pad. Strangely, I realized that despite my memory issues, my fatigue, and feeling out of it I was sensing that I was handling all of these things much better than I had in the past. A very toxic person is no longer involved in these planning processes. Now I’m the one calling the meetings. Now I’m the one pulling in cabinet level officials and thinking through, not just programs, but processes. And although I’m a bit off right now (also experiencing vertigo from flying) I’m still making some progress. And I no longer have someone speaking for me or over me (picking up a theme here?).
The rest of the day I spent thinking about what I MUST absolutely accomplish by August 14 (the day our first students move on campus). So suddenly I went from wanting to avoid everything at home, to planning everything a semester in advance for my job. That kind of duality is striking. I think about this everyday as I put on my business clothes. Who is this professionally dressed Clarissa? This feeling was once quite unsettling. I found something to be very inauthentic about it. But then I realized the pompous males around me were only going to get richer if I didn’t learn to play their game. Now I find that I’m dancing the dance of personal/professional sacred/profane a bit better.
I have no idea where I want to go with this post. This is the first time I set a time limit for myself, because truthfully I could spend all night writing. But– self-care is important and I need to rest to do my job, be a better wife and a Mom. But maybe, trying to get things done faster is not always better. When I let myself freely write I think I tend to produce better content, although it be laced with typos…thus diminishing it’s quality. My husband also just came upstairs to lecture me that I should be in bed. Awkward.
I am going to bed wrestling this notion of duality.
How can one person be in a hurry to get some things done, and yet, committed to the step-by-step slow process for other things?
How can one person pride themselves on being an authentic soul, yet, put on a costume and memorize a script before talking to parents?
This perception of two time-zones in one body is exactly what this year has been for me. Everyone remarked, as I mentioned in my previous post, that “I bet this year flew for you!” And while it did, it was also painfully slow at times. There were days at work that my pain was unbearable and the minutes were crawling by. Yet, there were nights that I held my son until my back hurt thinking, God, can I please just have 5 more minutes of his heartbeat next to mine.
I guess it’s kinda like that old jingle–
“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life!”
Lastnight I returned from a conference in Minneopolis and rushed home to look at my son, sleeping peacefully in his crib. Tomorrow he turns one. One is the milestone that everyone has talked about since the day he was born. “It goes so fast” they all say. Each and every time I heard someone say this to me I could feel a sinking feeling in my stomach, worse than that of the hunger pains that came with being a nursing mother. I knew it would come fast. I knew I would miss Rhett’s little coos and the way he needed me for everything. I somehow knew I would even miss nursing him. Which is completely nuts, because it can be a real chore. I knew that someday the adrenaline of a 26 hour labor would pass, and I would miss feeling like super woman too.
One year ago, I was in the hospital with a blinking, wireless, heart monitor stuck my belly button rolling around on a medicine ball. As I type this I can do nothing but smile, because one year ago whatever divine thing is out there, that I often refer to as God, was preparing me for the best job on earth: Motherhood.
Going into labor with no disc between my L5-S1 (lumbar spine lingo) was concerning for me. Gary and I decided near the end of my pregnancy that we would not go to any classes, that I would tap into my intuition and Rhett would come the way nature intended. The only planning I did to prepare for my delivery was think of creative ways to take pressure off of my spine. Laying in bed was almost impossible for me, so the thoughts of being in labor in bed were not pleasant thoughts. I walked around my hospital room. I bounced around on the medicine ball. I did ANYTHING not to lay in a bed.
My contractions started sometime around 2:30 PM. Rhett was due on July 9th, and it was now the 18th. Each day I would cautiously go to my Mom’s new above ground pool and swim. It was the only activity that provided me relief. Yet, getting out of the pool was almost impossible. I would describe it as “it’s like nature has turned gravity up and it is 5 times stronger.” As soon as I would begin climbing out of the pool I was reminded how terrible of shape my spine was in.
On July 18th, 2018 I was walking back and forth in the pool when I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen, quite similar to a menstrual camp. It stopped me in my tracks but it was quick. Prior to this day, I recall reading many blogs about how women described their first signs of going into labor. In the moment, I didn’t get my hopes up. I remained calm.
I exited the pool, wrapped myself in an extra large towel and waddled into my Mother’s home. I sat down in the living room and said, “I am having some cramps.” My mom looked at me and noticed I was kind of almost panting. She replied, “you might be going into labor.” While I wanted to believe that, I didn’t get too excited. About 5 days earlier Gary and I made the novice trip to the maternity ward thinking I was in labor…but it was just braxton hicks.
I went home and got comfortable on our couch. Sure enough I was beginning to have more of these electric, quick cramps at random. I text my husband, “I think today is the day. I am starting to have contractions. Don’t worry, they aren’t close together.” I’m not sure what Gary was up to, but he was probably farming and out and about.
Gary and I knew that our plan was to have me wait it out at home as long as possible to keep me comfortable. I downloaded an app on my phone to time my contractions. They were still quite random (this is a theme). I sat out on our back porch, in my trusty gravity chair (the best piece of furniture ever for a large preggo) and I calmly waited. Around 8 PM, we knew we were closing in on our last moments as just two the of us. I asked Gary to go get us some ice cream from Shirley’s Twin Kiss. He didn’t believe me. Gary sometimes needs to be reminded that there are no rules in life, except for the ones that we create for ourselves. I smiled at him and reminded him that I was about to make one hell of a sacrifice, and if I wanted vanilla soft serve with sprinkles… in the grand scheme, that would be a pretty modest request. So we had our last date together, on our back porch, imagining life as three instead of two.
These were taken around 8:30 PM. Upon eating our ice cream, we packed up our GMC Sierra and headed North to the hospital where I would deliver our son the following afternoon.
Gary and I decided in October, of the previous year, that we were ready to risk it all and become parents. We had been planning for that moment for a couple of years. I bought a new truck, that we felt would be safe for hauling a child in. Gary worked extra long hours on the road to create a nest egg for renovations to our farm house. I, despite having a bad back, tried my best to be in good shape and eliminate as much toxicity from my life as possible.
In October of 2017, we decided we would never be completely ready, but we were ready enough.
Now, I know what I am about to say will be hard words for some to read, but please know that we (Gary and I) both know that WE ARE very privileged and blessed. We pretty much became pregnant on our first try. Ironically, shortly after Halloween (which was pretty epic) we were laying in bed. I looked at my husband and said, “I think I’m pregnant.” Which, let’s be honest, I had said many other times. But on this morning I had this flutter of possibility in my gut. I knew that with Gary being home (which he never was) that I should take a test. I went downstairs took the test and waited. It was positive. I quietly tip-toed upstairs, crawled back in bed and said to my husband, “I’m pregnant.” We smiled and spent the morning cuddled up in bed dwelling in all of the possibilities.
Around 2:30 AM on July 19th, I was running out of steam. I folded, and requested to crawl in bed and give my back a break. The nurses were able to inject me with some type of medicine that only made me feel loopy. My contractions were brutal. They never had a steady rhythm to them and no matter what I did to prepare for each one, it was nearly impossible. Sometimes they came back-to-back.
This went on all night long. The only thing that kept me going was my husband. He stood all night on his feet, at my bedside, holding my hand. Sometimes he even walked me into the bathroom and back out– all the while still holding my hand. He was exhausted. Men don’t go through the same physiological changes of having hormones and adrenaline that allow laboring mother’s to do unthinkable things. I knew this and could see that he really really did love me so much.
Closer to sunrise I was reaching exhaustion. I remember sleeping for a few seconds in between each contraction and thinking how wild. I am not the type of person that can quickly dose off. Around 5:30 AM I was reaching my physical limit. Between my back pain, random contractions, and just being so far along in my pregnancy I was tapping out. I started whimpering to the nurses, “I can’t do this anymore…someone please help me”. I demanded to see an OB. I did not know, that you don’t see your doctor until delivery. So an OB came in, took a look at me and said, “Okay let’s manually break your water, and get this thing started.” UH what!?“Is this going to hurt?” I replied. “Not really, you might just feel some pressure shift.” So the OB did what she said she was going to do… except then she never returned. This is when my mental state took a turn for the worse. This woman got my hopes up that I was about to meet my son, and then poof– SHE GONE (as the kids say).
I began begging for something to help me with pain. For whatever reason I was not dilating the whole way. I was like a quarter of an inch from where I needed to be, and I could not make any progress. After begging the nurses, a saint of a man came in and administered an epidural in the midst of intense, irregular contractions. During that time, I remember telling myself “you must remain as still as possible and breath. You will remain still.” And that is what I did. My husband’s jaw was on the floor. From there, I became a lunatic of a human. Epidurals are thee weirdest phenomena ever. You are still in labor, still having contractions, but your mind is not aware of it. Okay!?
So then I was a loon for a few hours. Gary asked me if I wanted my parents to come into the room? Which I recall thinking was sooo weird. But, it was alright. So the nurses sat me up in my bed, and my Mom and Dad came in to see me. My Dad walked into the room very far away from my bed like I had something that he did not want to catch.
“So are you like still in labor?” he said. “Yes, it’s awesome. See if you look at the screen you can see that I’m still having contractions.” He was mystified.
After a few hours of resting, it was time to prepare for the final and hardest stage of labor…the pushing. I will spare everyone the details on this process. Most women I have talked to push somewhere between a few minutes to a half hour. I pushed for two hours. I was convinced I was going to be an emergency c-section.
Rhett was born at 4:23 PM on July 19. He was a WHOPPING 9 lbs. 40z. and 22 inches long.
Becoming a Mom is the only thing that I have ever done with familiarity without having ever done it. Read that again. Becoming a Mom is the most natural thing I have ever done. I remember thinking to myself over and over that no matter what medical interventions I had, or what building I was in…the very act of giving birth is something sacred that connected me with every Mother that came before me.
I’ve said it once in this blog, and I will say it again.
Women are goddesses that walk the earth clothed in societal norms that downplay their powers. “
Even after 26 hours of labor, I could not sleep after Rhett arrived. I stared at my him. I spent probably the next 24 hours staring at him. It got to the point that the nurses took him away from me, gave me an ambien and told me I HAD to sleep. Rhett gave me a peace that I had never known before. When I held him, the world would become very still. Sounds around me became muffled, and my senses focused on him with hypersensitivity. He made me appreciate not just moments, but literal seconds of each day. He brought me closer to nature. We would spend time together on my back patio nursing, in my trusty gravity chair, while tractors echoed in and out of our driveway. And I would sit with him thinking it was better than any vacation, drug, gift that I could ever experience. It was truly an incredible time.
So tonight as I sit here sharing this story, I have to say I no longer feel these things. After spending almost 6 months of Rhett’s first year on short-term disability I reflect with sadness that we were not able to have more of those experiences where time stood still. I am back to work, in a new role, that requires even more responsibility.
Today, as I left work, I remarked to a dear colleague of mine that I have a lot of guilt and sadness that it couldn’t have been different. And something he said gave me: this sassy, little, feminist (me) a paradigm shift.
My back problems, my surgery, my promotion– all of these obstacles forced my husband to become the primary nurturer of our son. And you know what? He is damn good at it. I’m not one to be quiet when it comes to equality between men and women. By going through my own obstacles this year, I think I made one of the coolest sacrifices a feminist Mom can make. I gave up a piece of my motherhood and trusted a male with it. And in doing so I gave Gary an opportunity that not all Dad’s get. And because of it, my husband is an extremely, incredible and invested Daddy.
Becoming a Mom is great, but I guess never really thought about what it was like to become a Dad.
The new Ann Taylor suits are purchased. I’m down 11 lbs., thanks to keto. My back seems to be healing well. Rhett is turning 1 (insert healthy coping skills). Gary and I are back to being frisky dorks that love and laugh A LOT. So rather than allowing the Sunday Scaries to get me I thought I’d hop on do a list of things that I have been thinking about.
It is often the most self-critical people that are the most judgmental. Read that again. Let it sink in. I am HYPER critical of myself. Pretty much anyone that lands at an ivy-league is. And pretty much a large majority of those people are also medicated for depression and anxiety. I’ve seen it.
Well folks, here is the thing… if we are that hard on ourselves, just think about how hard we potentially could be on others. I’m learning to really think about my actions and feelings and understand where they are coming from. I need to EASE up sometimes. So ya see, outside of work I am a messy-haired, vintage t-shirt wearing, cursing, authentic, loyal as fuck wife/mom. But at work, I am a put together human who is surrounded by PhDs. It almost makes me a little neurotic.
But wait…where are you going with this Clarissa?!
I guess I just want to say [type] that if I have come off as hyper-critical of you or someone else…I am so sorry! In reality, it was probably the hyper-critical voice in my head, that I hear, on the daily correcting my errors, projected outward.
2. Keto works.
I’ve lost 11 lbs. and I am very close to my pre-pregnancy weight. Some people hate on keto, and that’s fine. They immediately discuss how unhealthy it is. But you know what else is unhealthy?
Staring at our cellphones.
Even worse, staring at our cell phones in the presence of our loved ones.
Eating fast food.
Added pressure on bones that you are trying to heal.
Catch my drift? This is working for me. My lifestyle is like 80% sedentary right now. If I want to eat under 20 net carbs a day, let me.
If I want to intermittent fast let me. And let me tell you IF (intermittent fasting) is not just about losing weight. For me, the added bonus of mental clarity is rewarding. There is a reason why some of my favorite minds fasted. There is high that comes with it, that I happen to enjoy.
Also, the confidence boost of losing a little weight. It’s incredible, just ask my husband!
3. Boundaries are important.
I am technically not on the clock, but my email is always on. This means if I wanted to, I could work my “off” days away. Instead, I threw up the “out-of-office” email signature. I still went in to work to check my fax machine for confidential documents, answers parents questions etc. I attended a few business meetings. I also checked in with my superior. I am very fortunate to report to someone who respects “time off”. Nonetheless, I have felt this crazy anxiety about how much needs done. But you know what, my family really appreciates that I am present with them. Rhett doesn’t quite know it yet, but I know he loves spending time with his Mumma. Also, like how fucked up is it that work takes precedence in our lives? I get it. We gotta’ do it. We have to keep the lights on. But, if I am really going to talk to students about “leading lives of meaning and purpose” I really need to talk to students about their roles outside of work. Ol’ Marty Luther’s doctrine on vocation makes sense to me. Pretty much, whatever you are– be a good one. Be a good Mom. A good son. A good neighbor. Work should not be your WHOLE identity. I don’t think that’s healthy.
Being a Mom is my most important vocation and it is a sacred one that is worth a few criticisms at work.
Hmmm Clarissa isn’t answering her emails immediately like she used to. Wonder if she is ACTUALLY taking a break, recovering and spending time with her family?!
It’s fine. Right?! That’s what I’m telling myself. Tomorrow I will handle all loose ends when I’m back on the clock.
4. We are getting old[er].
Yikes. We now attend weddings as ye ol’ married couple. Unfortunately we are old enough now that we will see our parents age while we watch our son grow. We will laugh at each other’s gray hair and who has more? But most importantly, as long as God allows it, we will have each other to lean on through this next stage of life.
We are old enough now to re-think snowboarding trips…they get a bit more conservative each year…kind of like my swimwear!
Yet, at the same time, I’m wearing so much body/shimmer/oil that I am high vis. in lastnight’s flash photography cell phone pics! LOL
HELLO MID-LIFE CRISIS.
But seriously, if my mid-life crisis is showing up as appreciating Bath and Body Works scents and shimmer body oil… I think we are safe.
5. We are in the club, the parenthood club.
Becoming parents has been so cool! We look at other parents and are like okay, we see you. We know what you are going through. We are here for you.
We rolled up to our friend’s swimming pool with Rhett’s stroller full of Rhett’s things, but no Rhett. Our Dad friend was like,
“Oh yeah, that’s THEE stroller. Mhm. We used to do that.”
I look at other Mom’s with so much empathy and love. We go through some fast changes through the whole maternity process. There is nothing better than the silent, mutual, understanding between two women who are mothers.
When you encounter another new Mom you encounter the most beautiful, quiet, humble, love there is. You see a reflection of yourself that is sacrifice. Moms are the unsung heroes. And that’s okay. Becoming a Mom is fulfilling the most sacred job known to (wo)MAN. We don’t need parades, trophies or badges. Just being a mother is enough.
Well, that’s it for now. I’m off for one last time on the lake, with my family, before life gets more serious.
In the Spring I purchased two Fiddle Leaf Figs from Home Depot. They were my dream houseplant. Though I was nervous to buy them, after reading blog entry after blog entry about their level of difficulty, I could not pass them up.
One day I wobbled into Home Depot with my back brace on. This was my first trip alone post back surgery. I was searching for pampas grass to plant along our patio for a natural barrier to keep both my son out of our driveway as well as passerbys’ eyes from staring at us on our patio. Like many of my shopping trips go– I went to the store with a mission, but left with something completely different from said mission. Most often, this happens to me at Aldi.
Hence the spontaneous purchases of: Cold brew pitcher, patio lights, mandala beach towels, 5-layer muslin baby blanket, cosmetic organizers etc.
While wobbling around HD, something caught my eye.
$29.99 Ficus Lyrata
What?! The elusive and luxurious Fiddle Leaf Fig is in front of me at THIS price point?!
Normally a Ficus Lyrata can run somewhere closer to $100.00. I knew right then and there that I had to break the rules of my BLT (lingo for bending/lifting/twisting restrictions) and pick up two of these lovely plants for my home. Why two? Because I already knew that only one would survive. Right?! They are afterall so difficult to care for.
In addition to the Fiddles, I purchased pots to set them in and cute, wooden, wheeled platforms for me to kick them around because of well… BLT.
I arrived home and my husband just shook his head at me from the barn yard.
“Hunny look! They are Fiddle Leaf Figs! They were on sale! Can you help me get them in the house?”
“Everything is always on sale,” Gary replied with a grin.
He could see that I was extremely happy. After all, when one is recovering from back surgery, there isn’t much to do. But I knew that I could care for some house plants. Gary knew this too.
I immediately placed them to an eastern facing window (which is not recommended). Yet, this was the best spot for them in my house. Although, I often have to remind Gary that he is not allowed to bump them with the computer chair. They are fragile. When a leaf is damaged, it will not grow another back.
As I have eluded to, I went into this with failing expectations. Well, here are my Fiddles today!
I have to say, that I have been pleasantly surprised. I water the one once a week (the taller one), and the other a little bit less. My shorter Fiddle has a drainage problem, and the soil tends to stay wet a little too long.
If you would like some tips from a professional house plant grower, check out one of my favorite Youtube sensations. I could listen to this guy all day. He has soul…about plants!
Growing Ficus Lyratas in my house has been fun. Sometimes I push them into Rhett’s nursery and turn the heat on. Sometimes my husband carries them outside for me so that they can soak up the scarce hot, sunny days in Western Pennsylvania. But like any other success, this has taken consistency and patience.
Isn’t it odd how something as simple as growing a plant can be so i n s p i r i n g ?! Well, ever since I did thee unthinkable ( you guys I kept not just one but TWO freaking fiddle leaf figs ALIVE) I have been crushing my goals.
My fiddle purchase inspired me to obtain 2 indoor vines, 2 petunia baskets and 4 pampas grasses. All of which are growing. Though, due to the rain the arid loving pampas grass are a bit behind.
Getting closer to nature had been a much needed reminder, in an INFORMATION NOW society, that good things take time. I recently revisited Terance McKenna’s book Food of The Gods, a book about nature, altered states of consciousness and evolution. How appropriate– to be reading a book authored by a “philosopher, enthnobotanist and psychonaut” while I journeyed through my own mind/body problems in the company of good plants.
I’ll do my best not to get too heady here, but for those of you who don’t know me– I’m an ex-theology scholar, counselor, near death experience survivor and counselor. In chapter 4, PLANTS AND PRIMATES: POSTCARDS FROM THE STONED AGE McKenna touches briefly on monotheism, the Western world (Ya’ll that’s us!) and the ego. One night, as I read in bed, beside my sleeping husband, I found myself murmuring out loud, “Yes. Yes. Yes.” In that moment, if I would have had a highlighter, almost all of pages 62-63 would be highlighted.
McKenna points out that westerners are ego-centered and tend to project their ideals onto this individual, white, male egotistical deity. Interestingly enough, at no point in time does this monotheistic deity have ANY RELATIONSHIP with women. In many ancient myths, there is reference to both the divine feminine and nature.
BUT NOPE. Not here in the States. Ironically, where we are hearing news headlines about reproductive rights, back to back with horrible stories about the state of our ecosystem, and a division in legislation banning PLANTS at the federal and state levels. Hm… just let that sink in.
So before I say something too radical…I’ll let McKenna and Miley Cyrus say it for me…
The monstrous forces of scientific industrialism and global politics that have been born into modern times were conceived at the time of the shattering of the symbiotic relationships with the plants that had bound us to nature from our dim beginnings. This left each human being frightened, guilt-burdened, and alone. Existential man was born… From within the context of an unchecked growth of dominator values and history told from a dominator point of view, we need to turn attention back toward the Archaic way of vision plants and the Goddess.”
Terance Mckenna, Food of the gods
As I married into a fifth generation farming family, I constantly challenge the ideals of patriarchy. Luckily, I live with a man that, whether he knows it or not, understands the divine feminine energy that dwells within our home and our land. Women are creators. How difficult that must be for an egotistical, monotheistic society to cope with. I can’t believe I’m going to do this, but Miley Cyrus literally just talked about this in her interview with Elle Magazine. Yes, the recent issue– ya know the one that she looks like Stevie Nicks on the cover?
Here it is:
Cyrus hops up and begins pacing as she explains that “she” is the most confident version of herself, and that “she/woman is taking back the power. She is here, fierce femme energy.” Her sermon turns current as she conveys how women are the reason for life, “which is a blessing and a curse.” She laments the expectation this puts on the female sex: “We’re expected to keep the planet populated. And when that isn’t a part of our plan or our purpose, there is so much judgment and anger that they try to make and change laws to force it upon you—even if you become pregnant in a violent situation. If you don’t want children, people feel sorry for you, like you’re a cold, heartless bitch who’s not capable of love.”
I initially started this blog with the intention of getting back to something I LOVED growing up– writing. When I was in first grade I began writing almost every single day. I continued writing throughout the rest of elementary and through high school (ah, the days of Livejournal, or LJ, as my friend and I called it). But then college hit, and so did a lot of other things, and I no longer thought I could share my story without someone taking offense.
The last time I got into writing was while I was at Yale University. But again I had reservations about sharing my thoughts. I felt like I was shitting in my own nest because I had little to say about my year at Yale that was positive. It felt dirty to write negatively about the Ivy League institution that accepted me.
Here I am voicing my thoughts about Yale from the shitty, over-priced “apartment” I stayed in above my land lord, with my nutso roommate in New haveN, CT. I SO VIBED WITH THAT WALL COLOR. i WAS LATER BILLED FOR IT HAHA!
This was maybe about a month into my misery. Shortly after this pic, I chopped my hair off, dyed it brown, stopped wearing hip things(like feather earrings AND LEATHER JACKETS) became as pale as possible, and tried my hardest to blend in with the other drab and depressed Yalies.
See below. **LAUGHS** Oh, and shout out to Thiel!
Dumbest thing I ever did, but there was a lesson there.
While I still have so much to say about my process with appealing my heath insurance provider’s decisions, being persistent, living with pain, and my lumbar spinal fusion… since April 15th I have just felt too blessed to digress.
When I was a little girl, my Father would come to get us every other weekend and on Thursday nights. This was the way his custody agreement worked out with my mother. I would climb into his old, red, Chevy pick-up. He had a set of ladder racks on the back, that I thought for sure were monkey bars. This was in the late 80s early 90s, way before compact discs, so we jammed to cassettes. Usually we (my Dad, sister and I) were singing along to Meatloaf or Boston. I fondly remember trips to Pittsburgh to visit my Grandma Claire, cruising down 79 South, windows down, and Boston’s “Don’t Look Back” playing. That’s a feeling I can’t help but remember every time I still hear Boston today.
I’m kind of at a place in my life were I have a low tolerance for too much negative energy. The three years I lived in pain, while simultaneously working alongside a complete maniac, the one year I spent at Yale and the other year I spent in an abusive relationship– are things I don’t like to look back on. They will have their moment, but for right now I can’t help but rejoice about how good life truly is.
Last-night the Dean of the college that I work at, took several of us out to dinner. She was laughing because the day of my surgery I was responding to email via my cell. And she remarked, “She wasn’t just responding to email, she was typing out elaborate correspondences and they were grammatically correct!” I looked at everyone at the table and said, “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t of done that.” They assumed my comment suggested that I was high on narcotics at that time from surgery. When, in reality, I remember every single thing I said, what happened and I recall that I did not feel messed up at all. I then said, “That was the best… **corrected myself** that was the second best day of my life (Rhett’s birth being the best).” I was so happy that I felt untouchable. I was no longer a prisoner to pain. And it was oddly sobering and intoxicating all at the same time.
That happiness has radiated from me for these past 3 (almost 4) weeks. I am the sunshiney Clarissa I was 5 years ago.
Gary and I were actually chuckling because we had a “mini date” this evening. A memory from the “On this day” app. popped up on my Facebook timeline while we simultaneously scrolled FB waiting on our apps.
Here it is.
Hilariously, this is my ex’s Dad in this picture #smalltownproblems. What is even more funny, is that this picture was taken out our (Gary and I’s) mutual friends’ annual birthday party. Two of our friends have the same birthday, and each year have a big shindig to celebrate.
On this particular night 5 years ago, I was having a lovely time.
I was walking through my friends backyard from the fire-pit to the house, and I saw a handsome man walking my way.
Ooo, it’s Gary A. Ya know what? Screw it. I’m going to be forward and just tell him what I think.
**Gary and I both open our arms and exchange a hug, as I burry my face in his neck and get a whoof of his cologne.**
“You smell good. Let’s go get a drink!”
**This was a normal thing that would happen between he and I. LOL. Because for one, he did always smell really good (where the hell did those days go?). And two, we were always a little flirty. This wasn’t our first rendezvous haha. **
Gary acted very kind, and agreeable but then walked away and did not talk to me the rest of the evening.
I’m left thinking… odd. Well, it turn’s out Gary wasn’t so sure I was single at that time. A month later we were celebrating his 30th birthday, and on our first real date. Several months after that, he coaxed me into thinking moving into his house was a good idea (which I’ll be honest..I was terrified). Two years after that we were engaged and getting married.
**Go Gary! haha**
Tonight, we were on a mini-date. It was unplanned, I wasn’t all dressed up, and it was fun.
We went to Home Depot to get materials for our Mother’s Day gifts that we are making our Mom’s..and Gary is making me one too (spoiler alert lol). Next, we hit up happy hour at a tap house. Three dollar 7.5% alcohol IPA’s and $5 appetizers. What a win for these new parents. We flirted and giggled at the bar like two honeymooners. I took a picture of Gary, and I thought, “he is still as handsome as he was 5 years ago.” He took a picture of me and I blurted out, “Is that what I REALLY look like? My teeth are yellow, my face looks like it’s melting, I look haggard. Trade me in.”
Gary about spit out his beer laughing. And I laughed back.
“Hunny, you look great. You still look pretty. You don’t even look like you’ve had a baby.”
And you see it’s these little stories that make me smile when I type them. Sometimes, especially after living in the dark for three years straight, we need love and light. We need dorky stories about me flirting with my husband after being together for 5 years. Because ya know what? It gives the rest of us that are having a shitty day a little bit of hope.
One of my best memories at Yale was studying with the incredible Robert Wilson. His course on the Old Testament was killer. When I hear “to everything turn, turn, turn,” I not only hear The Byrds singing it, but I hear Dr. Wilson’s stern voice at the front of a lecture hall reading the words from Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament as though we are at a church service, except the congregation is full of pale, drab, nerdy YALIES HA!
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
So you see, for now I’m taking a little hiatus.
This is a time to be born, a time to plant, a time to heal, a time to build up, a time to laugh, a time to dance, a time to gather stones together (literally if my back wasn’t healing, my husband and I would be picking rocks in fields), a time to embrace, a time to get, a time to keep, a time to sew, a time to keep silence, a time to love, and a time of peace.
Gary is spending long days in the field planting. I’m working on exciting projects for my new promotion. My spine is healing from surgery. My son is transitioning before my eyes from baby to little boy.
Life has seasons. If you are lucky enough to be living in a season of light, be grateful. Stay there as long as you can. It’s like laying out in the sun, on a deck, and you continuously move your lounger to keep your body in the sun’s rays. You know that soon, though, the sun will set and the warmth of its rays will no longer reach you. These seasons will pass. Change is inevitable. Change is the only constant.
Cherish moments of bliss. Imprint these moments on your heart and on your brain so hard that the next time you are in darkness, you can remember your time in the sun.
To everything turn, turn, turn. There is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose, under heaven”
TURN! TURN! TURN! The Byrds
Gary, thank you for being the light in my life after my season of darkness.
I truly forgot what calm feels like. It’s a warm Spring night. A box fan in a window, one room over, is generating the perfect white noise. My son is gently breathing, lying next to me in bed– fast asleep. The smell of lavendar scented Aveeno baby lotion lingers on my hands. And between that and Rhett’s dinosaur printed jammies, I drift in and out of moments from my own childhood. Something about snug-fit patterned pajamas always takes me back. It makes me smile.
I am, for the most part, at peace. I reviewed my short term disability paper work today. My recovery time clearly states 6-12 months– a time frame I’m not willing to accept as truth.
For now, I’m giving myself grace for how I look, what I eat, and what I may or may not accomplish
Tomorrow I return to my role in higher education after being away for three weeks in recovery. I have had an uneasy feeling in my stomach all day. Numerous times I’ve walked up to my husband, arms extended, and requested “Can I have a hug?” And by hug I mean a gentle one arm over my shoulder, half-assed hug that you give someone you don’t really want to hug (hardly therapeutic). He doesn’t want to hurt me.
This is the second time in the past year that I have had to take short term disability. My first round, I was out due to a very difficult labor and delivery of my son. He weighed a whopping 9 lbs. 4 oz. and was 22 inches long. One of my least favorite things to do is to have to tell Human Resources, I’m going to be off work…again.
Today I have been filled with anxiety. For three weeks I have been in a post op. haze. My mind has been pleasantly idle. My body has been too tired to make it through the day without a nap. The scary part about overcoming obstacles, I have found, is wondering if one will still be able to function at such a high level, without the stimulus of added pressure. When I go back to work tomorrow, without the constant gnashing of teeth pain in my back, what will that be like?
I remember when I returned from maternity leave, work was so refreshing. Something about transitioning to motherhood had cleansed me and made me so much more creative. I remember sitting in my office reviewing my previous year’s annual report thinking…
Why did I manage that program like that? Doing x instead of y would make way more sense. This is going to be so much more efficient!
Prior to surgery when my back was so messed up, I felt a constant pressure to prove myself and over-perform so no one could tell me, “Maybe you shouldn’t be working anymore.”
This over-performing reached it’s peak this past Spring. My former boss, the Associate Dean of Career Development moved on to a new opportunity. I was already working in two roles. One of which I was an office of one 20+ hours a week with a case load too big to discuss. In the other office I was the Assistant Director 20+ hours a week serving the entire student population. When my boss departed, I began filling in the voids of his absence. No one really asked me to do this– it was something that needed to be done. Our seniors deserved the support in their final semester. After getting home late night after night…my husband started to really frown upon my long hours. I do think he thought I was choosing work over family. Yet, in my mind I felt I was supporting my family, because my job was one of the few things left in my life that I could still do– even in excruciating pain.
On April 16th, while I lie very still in my hospital bed it was announced to the college that I had been promoted. What a victory!There I was in my most vulnerable state, lying lifeless on a hospital bed reaching one of my biggest career achievements to date. On April 18th, my new boss and family attended another huge achievement– I was honored as one of the county’s most influential professionals under 40 (Forty under 40). I remember being in the hospital wondering how could I have went from being cursed these past three years to all of the sudden being fortunate?
I realized that week that people were noticing the work I was doing. Most importantly, I think people were noticing the work, my mission and the outcomes of my work before they were ever noticing that I was living in a state of constant pain. That was beautiful and sad to me all at once.
Preparing for work tomorrow, I’m not so much worried about my intellectual labor as I am worried about things like:
How am I going to look professional without wearing heals? All of my trousers are too long to wear with flat shoes. I am definitely not buying new work clothes again (considering I had to for maternity and postpartum).
How will I pack my lunch under 5lbs?
Can I carry a lunch and my purse?
Maybe I will just go out to eat everyday for a while for convenience…but can I afford that?
I wonder if I can get a parking pass to park closer to the entrance? But what if my colleagues wonder why the young person is parking closer to the entrance?
How will sitting at a desk, in a back brace feel?
What if I need to access files in cabinet that is low?
How am I going to move into my office, and consolidate my other TWO offices when I can’t lift ANYTHING?
HOW AM I GOING TO ASK PEOPLE FOR HELP?
Looking at this list you are probably laughing. My husband thinks I’m worried about the tasks of my actual job and I’m really just worried about what I’m going to wear. HAH!
This week my husband is also arranging for me to show hired help how to clean our house. Did I mention, I still haven’t picked up my son?! This is the second time this year that my Spring landscaping has been completely neglected. I haven’t cooked an actual dinner for my husband in months. At first, my optimism and gratitude were driving me to fearlessly move forward. But three weeks of not being able to have much physical contact with my son has taken it’s toll. Then there’s the dishes piled up in the sink, the unorganized walk-in closet filled with odds and ends, Rhett’s bassinet that is holding my clothes so I don’t have to bend– all of these reminders that I suck at being a wife and Mom right now.
For anyone reading this and thinking that I am being shallow. I do apologize. I do realize things could be so much worse. I remind my husband of that everyday. This is temporary. I’m going to get better. We’re going to be like we used to be. We’re going to be able to dance, to hug, to work together to go boating, to take vacations, to enjoy dinners and nights out and I’m going to be a good Mom again.
When my husband and I chose to start a relationship, we were idiots. Or at least I was. I was in the best physical shape of my life. I was actually what Gary would call, “ripped.” I even beat him at arm wrestling once. In those days I never imagined that I would be the one to suddenly physically deteriorate. I thought for sure our relationship would one day, when we were very old, require me to look after him (he is four years older than me). How stupid!
Each day is a gift. You never what the next day will hold. I kiss my baby goodnight every night and say a prayer for he and many other people. I think to myself, “If this were my last day with my husband or son, how would I feel about that?” While some might think that this is a morbid thought exercise, I think it is a very important one. Six years ago, on May 2nd I almost died.
My life has never been the same since that day, and I think it is extremely important to remember that nothing is guaranteed to us.
Today my seniors graduated, and I watched from a live-stream on Youtube. Tomorrow I will return to a student-less campus, to re-envision the future of an office that I will now be leading.
Meanwhile, I can’t even lead my household. Life is odd like that.
Well, my husband just came inside and it is time for us to plan the rest of our evening and how we are going to feed Rhett and get him to bed, without my arms. That’s it for now.