Hello, 7

Dear Mia,

Once upon a time, I read Three Little Kittens as you climbed onto my lap and gingerly plucked from a bowl strawberries that I had painstakingly chopped into thin slivers for fear of clogging a tiny, miraculous airway.

You came across Three Little Kittens in an anthology the other night and I had to remind you that it used to be your favorite. We read it when you woke up in the morning and before you went to bed at night and a dozen times in between. You carried it with you everywhere, cradling it under your arm or resting it on your lap, a constant companion through your toddling hours. One day, just as you cracked the book wide, a stomach bug presented itself. Our old, frail Golden Book copy was done. That night, after I put you to bed whimpering for your beloved book, I scoured the internet for a comparable copy less than $50.00. I finally found one. It still sits on your bookshelf, lost between thicker spines.

Now, you read about mummies and polar bears or the latest escapades of Ivy & Bean. You tell me about King Tut’s tomb as I paint your toenails. You proffer a guess at the culprit’s identity in the new Nancy Clancy book while you dip whole strawberries in Nutella because the time when I needed to slice them tissue thin is long gone.

Hello, 7

Hello, 7.

Hello, teeth that wiggle, rainbow loom bracelets that fall to the bottom of your backpack, cowgirl boots that lead you into a day separate from mine. The other day when we were out, I noticed your lips were chapped so I dug around the bottom of my purse to find chapstick but all I came up with was a tube of dark cherry lip gloss. I dabbed my finger with the sticky stuff then smeared some on your lips, much to your delight. Instantly, I saw you ten years into the future, plump lips coated candy red, cornflower curls shading stormy eyes, your own purse with your own chapstick, a swift smear of lip gloss no longer a thrill.

Sometimes you catch me staring at you. “What?”

“Nothing,” I say, though I want to ask, “Who are you?”

I’ve memorized all of you — the coffee stain birthmark on your ankle, the lashes that fall over sleeping starfish eyes, the tickle of curls that slip through my fingers, the butter skin of your arms as they drape around my neck — but you surprise me every day. Thoughts and ideas and questions tumble from your lips in forms I didn’t realize you were capable of articulating, illustrating more clearly than ever the slope of time and a point along its continuum when you will ask this question yourself: Who am I?

This answer will change and take many forms. You will explore options and challenge beliefs and seek understanding and test boundaries and make mistakes and question your capabilities all in the quest to find yourself, and all of this is okay as long as you don’t lose sight of this one constant: you are loved.

You are loved.

xoxo,

Mommy

P.S. Hello, 6

My Favorite Oscars Moments

Let’s talk about last night, shall we?

I don’t know about you, but I was totally blown away by Lupita Nyong’o. I have to admit that I haven’t yet seen 12 Years a Slave and I didn’t know much about the actress other than her current reputation for killing it on the red carpet during this awards season. And last night was no exception. She was my “Best Dressed” pick by far. That pale blue Prada gown popped beautifully against her skin tone, and the Fred Leighton headband added a whimsical touch for the girl whose first acting job out of school landed her an Oscar nomination. I especially loved that she chose the pastel blue because it reminded her of Nairobi, and she wanted to have a little bit of home with her.

Lupita Nyong'o joy, lovely joy

And then she won for Best Supporting Actress and her inspiring acceptance speech only made me love her more. Stunning (and stunned) and full of joy and grace, she nailed it.

“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

 

Cate Blanchett, whose dress and styling I also loved, took home the Oscar for Best Actress for Blue Jasmine (another film I’ve yet to see), and delivered an inspiring speech of her own.

“…And to those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”

 

And then there was Matthew McConaughey. I was a little surprised to find this morning that some media outlets were calling his speech for Best Actor for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club “bizarre” and felt the need to interpret it. Some even twisted his words and message to claim that he was “thanking himself in his acceptance speech”.

Joy lovely joy Oscars Matthew McConaughey

At the beginning of his speech, McConaughey said that there are three things he needs each day: someone to look up to, something to look forward to, and someone to chase. The someone he looks up to is God (“He’s shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates.”). The something he looks forward to is his family (“You are the four people in my life that I want to make the most proud of me.”). The someone he chases is a hero who he sees as himself ten years into the future. He knows he’ll never attain “hero” status, but it gives him something for which to keep striving, someone to keep chasing.

Seems pretty clear to me.

“So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we’re chasing, to that I say, ‘Amen’. To that I say, ‘Alright, alright, alright’. To that I say. ‘Just keep livin’. Thank you.”

 

Did you watch the show? What moments stood out to you? Who was your “best dressed” pick? Did you find McConaughey’s speech bizarre?

 

Hope Begins in the Dark

Joy Lovely Joy
I don’t know when it happens or how it happens or sometimes (like now) how to get out of it. And I suspect if you’re a writer — particularly a freelance writer working with set guidelines and a slew of editors — you’ve been here too. This is the place where you beat your head against the desk and you stare at a blank screen and you find any excuse to not work on the project at hand (or under contract) because you’re just not hitting the mark. This is the place of paralysis. I dread working on this project, and trust me, if I were to explain the project it would seem simple, fun even. Let me assure you – it is not fun.

I wrote the above words yesterday, hoping that by writing it out — as is often the case — I could purge myself of whatever was holding me back and pick myself up and move on. No such luck. In fact, the opposite happened and I found myself in a dark place by nightfall, both literally and figuratively.

I don’t often talk about my faith here because I fear alienating readers (maybe I should get over that), and my relationship with God is a deeply personal one. My running dialogue with God is a continuous thread woven throughout the fabric of my everyday routine. I pray constantly for  my children, my family, my friends (whether real or online) and neighbors. I’ll drop what I’m doing and pray for a child whose struggle/fight/disease/disappearance I learn through Instagram or Facebook or the news. If you’re a part of my life and you’re carrying darkness, or you’ve expressed something you’re struggling with, or you’re contemplating something huge, chances are high that I’ve sent up words to God on your behalf. Yet I struggle with praying for myself. I fear that I’m being selfish. I rationalize this by telling myself that no one knows me better than God, so I don’t need to tell Him my struggles and worries. He already knows.

Last night, when I found myself in the dark, it wasn’t just about this project. I can now see that this has been boiling for sometime — I’ve been simultaneously stretched thin and stuck, not knowing in which direction to turn, where to place my attention or priorities, and suddenly all my failures, all my shortcomings, all my second guesses, all my worries and fears and regrets spilled over into one sticky puddle at my feet. So I sank into it. I surrendered. I pushed my prayer-censoring self out of the way and finally brought some things before God. And then I watched that puddle slowly dissipate.

Hope begins in the dark.

-Anne Lamott

This morning, I awoke with a clearer focus, a more positive mindset, a mental list of actions I need to take to get this train back on track, and I’ve managed to accomplish more on this project in a few short hours than I have in two weeks. God answered my prayers with a vision of my life and priorities and goals as a neatly compartmentalized pie chart, and I now see the things that need my attention most, the areas where I need to kick it up a notch, and the places where I need to cool it for a bit.

I’m not saying my prayer session was miraculous — there are still things under the surface that could pull me under if I let them — but it did gift me direction and grant me peace for the time being. Is it a coincidence that the sun is splashing light across a blue canvas of sky today? I certainly don’t think so.

Confession: I feel a bit exposed writing this post, and publishing it will push me out of my comfort zone, but sometimes such vulnerability is essential for growth, so here goes…

Journal Day #1: Dear New York, I Miss You

“Crossroads…Sometimes you can see it as it’s happening, and you’re able to choose one way or another. Other times you may not realize you’re there until you look back, and see what a turning point it really was.”

Danielle at Sometimes Sweet is relaunching Journal Days and the excerpt above is from her first prompt. Below is my response. (If you’d like to join in, she posts prompts on her site every Sunday evening and responses, including hers, are posted on Thursdays.)

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Joy lovely joy

image via

I was sitting at my desk in my office of the literary agency where I worked in New York City when I got the call. I had been to the gynecologist the day before for my yearly exam. This doctor was also a fertility specialist and when he asked if we planned to have kids I said yes, that we weren’t trying at the moment but we weren’t not trying either. We were letting it happen when it would happen. He decided to take some blood because I had been off birth control for four months and he just wanted to “get the ball rolling”, whatever that meant. (I now know what that meant.) So there I was sitting at my desk, door wide open, about to cram some food in my mouth (I had been so hungry lately) when the receptionist transferred a call back to me. It was the nurse from my doctor’s office.

As I remember the conversation went something like this:

“Lara?”

“Yes?”

“This is so-and-so from Dr. Gyno’s office.”

“Oh, hi.” Something within me shifted and I pushed my food aside. It was entirely possible that she was calling to say that my blood work was fine and to make a follow-up appointment with the doctor should we have trouble once we started actually trying to get pregnant. But I knew this wasn’t the case.

“I have your blood work results,” she said. “Are you aware that you’re pregnant?”

chirp…chirp…chirp…

“Lara? Are you there?”

“Are you sure you have the right Lara?”

Heavy sigh. “Yep.”

“Are you sure you didn’t accidentally switch my files with someone else?”

Heavier sigh. “Yep.”

chirp…chirp…chirp…

“Lara?”

“How far along am I?”

“According to the blood work you’re about seven weeks along.”

More words were exchanged, a prenatal appointment was scheduled, and I hung up the phone. I was pregnant.

I made one decision quickly with no hesitation and no input from Zach. We were going back to Indiana. (Insert Jackson Five song here). I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but this decision became my crossroad, the crux of everything “before” and everything “after”.

My childless life was in New York. My mothering life is in Indiana.

My professional career was in New York. My work-from-home-part-time/mother-full-time life is in Indiana.

I was a newlywed, a mere child, in New York. I’m an adult living a responsible life in Indiana.

I was in my third trimester when we moved from New York. When I think of our last day in the city, a montage of images comes flooding to the surface like a silent film. This film is always underscored with the sadness and finality of saying goodbye, a low and slow song playing on the track. But when I think more, when I tap into what I was really feeling that day, joy seeps in. Excitement for the unknown.

I remember waking up on that cold December morning, walking the hallway from our bedroom to the kitchen, feeling the hardwood beneath my feet, catching a glimpse of the rising sun outside our wall of windows in our tiny living room. I made a cup of coffee and sat on the couch surrounded by moving boxes. I was happy there. We loved the city. I loved my job. But we both wanted to be near our parents as we welcomed this new addition into our lives. I watched the snow lightly falling outside and I was viscerally aware of the conclusion to this chapter in our lives. I had dreamed of a life here since I was a little girl, and now I was saying goodbye to my beloved city.

Later, as our life was getting packed into the U-Haul, I walked to the Starbucks down the street one last time. I went into our corner market and bought snacks for the road. I checked our mailbox and turned in our keys. As we drove away, I looked back only once.

Now, when I think back to our life in our little apartment on the Upper East Side and the day we drove away, I want to cry I miss it so. Now, I think I would have done it differently. I think I would have stayed.

Joy, Lovely Joy, Dear New York

The babe I carried in New York. She was 4 years old here.

The Sweet Spot

“It seems to me that since I’ve had children,

I’ve grown richer and deeper.

They may have slowed down my writing for a while, but when I did write,

I had more of a self to speak from.”

- Anne Tyler

I don’t know why I’m following that quote with this post, other than those words speak to me at this moment. Those words are me at this moment, a suspended moment stretched over nearly seven years now.

I went on a field trip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis with Mia’s class last Friday. She sat with me on the bus and rested her head on my shoulder. We giggled and took selfies and sat in that intimate space of propinquity where neither of us thought twice about tracing fingers along open palms (“Guess what I’m drawing, Mommy”) or erasing smudged cream cheese with a licked thumb. She wanted me there with her and I wanted to be there for her, but I would be lying if I didn’t look at the day’s map before me and not feel a slight twinge that the next time I sat down to write would probably be the following day.

I was right. But also, it didn’t matter in the end.

At one point close to the end of the day, my little group was in the construction zone. They had climbed to the top of a crane installation and from there Mia yelled down to me, “Hi, Mama!” She shouted it in front of her classmates and strangers. She didn’t care who heard as long as her voice reached me, and a thought struck me: We’re in the sweet spot.

Gone are the days when she needs me with her to make every move. I don’t need to watch everything that she does for fear of putting foreign objects in her mouth or climbing on something or falling down the stairs. She can disappear into her bedroom or playroom and I don’t need to check on her every five minutes. She has playdates and I don’t need to worry about orchestrating crafts and games to fill the time and keep little minds and hands entertained and occupied.

And yet we haven’t reached the age where I become an embarrassment. Where my presence is more burdensome than welcome, more shadow than light. I know my days are numbered in this place where I’m her first choice for companion. All too soon I won’t be a companion at all. I know that. I don’t know how I will deal with that once it comes, but I know it will it arrive one day. And one day I will have whole stretches of hours to devote to writing. For now, I’m reveling in the sweet spot, and I’ll remember her call from the top of that crane whenever I lose sight of it.

Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Mia is fascinated by mummies, something I find totally endearing about this otherwise girly-girl.

Children's Museum of IndianapolisChildren's Museum of IndianapolisFireworks of glass is the largest permanent glass sculpture by artist Dale Chihuly:

Chihuly at Children's Museum of IndianapolisHere’s a better picture (taken from the museum’s website):

a1_20110202_123618Looking up from underneath:

Chihuly at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis