Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On the verge

For the last few weeks, Haven has been THIS CLOSE to walking. She's been doing an extraordinary amount of running around the table (video coming soon, Eric) and standing all on her own. Gradually, she's begun to push up to a standing position rather than pulling herself up to stand, which requires more balance and more leg muscles. And then, every once in awhile when she was just standing around, she'd take a step or two. Usually, she was distracted, chewing on a toy or some such thing, not realizing she was walking at the same time, and usually she would plop down once she realized what was going on.

We've been waiting for Haven to walk for the past couple months it seems, feeling like she is just on the verge of walking, that she is just THIS CLOSE. And for the past few months, I'd been feeling this great sense of - well, I'm not sure what, but this sense that we - all of us - were on the verge of something big, something momentous. This walking thing seemed different than all of the other milestones we'd hit in the past year, and there have been A LOT of them, seemingly everyday. Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, standing. But the idea that Haven would be walking soon felt like our lives were going to change, that somehow we were crossing a threshold for which there was no going back. It sounds dramatic, and I don't mean it to be dramatic, but I think there's some truth to this, that Haven is moving forward, moving out of babyhood and into toddlerhood, that we are leaving things behind as well as facing new and exciting frontiers.

A couple weeks ago we had a routine NICU follow-up appointment for Haven (the hospital checks in with their NICU babies every few months for the first two years, to catch any physical or developmental delays or issues). In our time with the therapist who does the developmental screening, she made an interesting comment regarding Haven's readiness to walk - she seemed to indicate that Haven might be physically ready (balance, strength, coordination - or whatever it is that goes into walking) but that she might not yet be emotionally ready. I asked about that, because in all of the reading I've done this past year, I'd heard no mention of an emotional readiness for milestones, or for this one in particular. The therapist said that walking is the first big milestone that moves towards independence and that sometimes some babies are maybe a little more grumpy or clingy for a few days when they make this transition. She said, too, that there are some theories that this is repeated at other milestones that continue this move toward independence (first day of school, moving away to college, etc). She said some kids breeze right through it, hardly bat an eye, and others maybe have this little hiccup for a day or two.

I found this really interesting. It helped me see this walking thing as not just a new skill for Haven to master within a certain timeline, because heaven forbid we don't keep up with the Jones's. No, it helped me see this as a developmental step for Haven as a person, as a whole person, that this has just as much to do with gaining balance in her legs and hips as it does with gaining balance in her relationship with me and Aaron. She is learning where her center of gravity is and how to propel it forward as much as she is learning that when she walks away from us we will still be here when she turns around or when she stumbles and bangs her head, she won't be left comfortless. And I think we are learning that delicate balance between when to hold one hand of her hands or two, or when to let go altogether. Perhaps this is a developmental step for all of us, not just Haven, and maybe that's why I've been feeling the drama, the gravity of her first steps so keenly the past few weeks.

Whatever the case, I'm pleased to announce that, all on her own and seemingly overnight, Haven is now walking (I swear, video coming soon). We have crossed that threshold, all of us. She seems pleased to be marching around like a little Frankenstein, arms stretched out in front of her as her legs, all wobbly and gangly beneath, her take choppy steps down the hallway. And I am pleased too, taking it in stride, this little person developing right in front of me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Talent of the week: Supervising

Supervising the gardener


Supervising her grandfather while he power-washes the deck
"Grandpa, I think you missed a spot!"

Haven developed a talent this summer for supervising work being performed in and around our places of dwelling (our apartment, my parent's house in MN). A keen observer, she has spent many a Monday morning watching the gardeners blow leaves, whack weeds, and trim the grass. Thanks to her careful eyes, they do excellent work. She also used these skills as supervisor to guide my dad through the process of power-washing the deck (in preparation for re-sealing it). She was smart enough to keep vigil from inside the house, letting my dad work up a sweat in the heat and humidity, but she also held my dad to a high standard of excellence in deck washing, quick to point out areas he had missed or could improve. She sets the bar high but only because she wants to see us do our best in life, be it mowing or washing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Brilliant idea #174

Nap while the baby is napping. Not after you've washed the dishes, read your email, and scarfed a piece of toast. No, nap immediately. Waste no precious minute of quiet.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Talent of the week: Sorting laundry


Haven has quite the talent for sorting laundry, if by sorting you simply mean pulling everything out of the laundry basket and disseminating it widely across the floor. Or if you mean crawling into the laundry basket on top of all of the laundry. Either way, her talents are many.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brilliant idea #7

Place baby in stroller. Tie beast of burden, er, I mean very large hairy dog, to the front of the stroller in a pseudo-harness-type-fashion. Instruct dog to commence walking, stopping only for necessary potty breaks, and to turn left three times (at appropriate intersections) and then right one time until arriving back at starting point. This allows you, the responsible parent, to relax and drink your morning cup of coffee from the comfort of your couch as well as accomplishing the dog's morning walk and the baby's time out in the fresh air.

Brilliant.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Talent of the week: Entertaining Zoe


Whether Zoe wants to be or not, Haven is developing quite the talent for entertaining Zoe. It usually involves a lot of shrieking at Zoe, the shriek being some sort of articulation of the word "dog." We think. Other forms of entertainment include: "petting" the dog, using the dog as a step-stool to get onto the couch, kissing the dog, and crawling over, under, and around the dog. Thankfully, Zoe is more than patient. Her reward comes at meal times, when she lays under Haven's high chair waiting for the food to drop. And drop it does.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Brilliant idea #259

For the crawling baby, attach Swiffer cloths to their knees, legs and hands. Avid crawler = clean floors!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Talent of the week: Reading



Haven is now an avid reader. She likes to empty her box of books, one by one, and then sits on the floor (or in the box itself) and pages through the books. Sometimes she reads quietly, other times she is pointing out all of the exciting things, like dogs and balloons and, really, who knows what else. I can't really tell what she's saying. When I told my dad about her new knack for reading, he said "She's a true Johnson." At a Johnson family gathering, it's not unusual for at least 25% of the people in the room to be reading. We love to read. I do hope she continues to love books and reading and stories. They make the world a better place, in my humble opinion.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brilliant idea #493

Haven doesn't love eating her vegetables, at least not as finger foods. Since she will, however, place anything that she finds on the floor into her mouth, Aaron suggested that we start leaving bits of broccoli and cauliflower on the floor.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I am made for a cooler climate

This evening the windows are open, the fans are running on low, the back door is ajar. I can hear the ebb and flow of traffic, regulated by the traffic light down the block just as the waves at the beach crash and retreat at the guidance of the moon.

The air conditioner is off.

There is a cool breeze gently rustling the leaves from time to time. Zoe is snoring at my feet.

And I am revived.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

To buy or to rent: what say you?

I know I know. I've been totally delinquent in writing these days, but here's part of what's on my mind: to buy or to keep on renting. Since Aaron has some work right now, we've been pursuing the whole house-hunting thing and it's been a little discouraging. We qualify for not that much money - well, it's a lot of money but not for LA. What we can afford takes us far away from any of the areas or neighborhoods that we like or enjoy, but it could possibly get us a house. Granted, a house that would require some work and a yard that would look like a) a cement slab surrounded by dead grass or b) dead grass. As far as condos or townhomes, what we can afford gets us a two-bedroom smaller than what we are living in now with no outdoor space and most likely in a large complex and includes HOA dues. And takes us, again, out of areas and neighborhoods we enjoy. And not just enjoy, but also takes us out of neighborhoods and areas where our friends live, which means it takes us further away from friends and I already feel a bit isolated being home now with Haven all day.

Admittedly, it doesn't sound like there are that many pro's to buying, at least not in the brief way I've laid it out here, but I also have the message in my head that buying is a good way to invest money, whereas renting is just throwing it away. But do I want to invest in a place where I don't really want to be and in an abode that we'll most likely outgrow sooner rather than later?

I've also really really really been wanting a third-bedroom and to bring home my project table. I'm feeling a need for a space of my own again, to write letters, do crafty things, etc. And it doesn't seem like buying is going to get me that space...whereas renting might, although it would take us up to a higher rent bracket.

So, good friends, if you could all weigh in and solve this for me, I would much appreciate it. I'm going to go take Zoe and Haven for a walk. Haven is FUSSY as she saw no need for a nap this afternoon. Sheesh.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy Birthday

My little Haven,

Yesterday you turned one year old. The day went by without much fanfare. We took a trip to visit my homeopath where you played with a wonderful abacus-type toy (which you loved) and we dined at Boston Market for lunch where you enjoyed watching all the other people in the restaurant more than eating yogurt and we played played played at home and we opened a birthday card from Great-Aunt Maxine and loved on the birthday card until it shred in two and turned on the window fan and turned it off again and on and then off and then on and then we shrieked into the window fan which was terribly delighting so we did it some more and took puppy Zoe for a nice walk in the warm sunshine and ate sweet potatoes with cinnamon for dinner and enjoyed a splish-splashy bath and put on your cute panda pajamas and read a book about puppies and a book about farm animals and then you went to sleep so easy so peaceful.

A year ago, I could not even imagine this day. I could not even conceive that you'd be crawling with ferocious speed and then turning backwards to see whether or not we're chasing you, squealing with glee if we are hot on your heels. Or that you'd be babbling little snippets of mamamama and didididi or waving hello or bye-bye (granted, it's a floppy wave). Yesterday you spent part of your day pulling tupperware lids out of the tupperware drawer and then distributing the lids all over the apartment - so clever, so industrious. A year ago, I could not have fathomed that the little bitty peanut of a baby that was born to us would begin to grow up and develop into such delight. I remain astounded.


While your birthday itself went by with little fanfare, it did not go unnoticed. I spent the entire day, hour by hour, recalling where and what your dad and I were doing leading up to your birth. Mostly it was a lot of sitting in a hospital bed, watching some Olympics, taking a catnap here and there, eating crackers and juice (supplied by our dear friend BJ), and figuring out how to get to the bathroom with all of the various cords attached (not to mention wrangling the big billowy open-in-the-back (and strategically-in-the-front) maternity hospital gown). Oh, and saying the contractions were really not too bad. Until they were.

So many things about that day still seem so vivid to me - I can remember what I wore to the hospital, the smell of your room as I tried to figure out what to pack in the diaper bag for the first time, where BJ sat in the hospital room, the look in your dad's eyes when I told him I didn't think I could make it - and then your arrival, in what felt to me like such a moment of peace and safety.

Haven Elizabeth. Your arrival into our lives has felt both ordinary and extraordinary - ordinary in that we can't imagine our days without you toddling along, singing to the window fan, kissing the dog, or pounding blocks with such enthusiasm on the coffee table, and extraordinary in that you came from me and from your dad and arrived here like a miracle, with your own little set of features and your own little personality and emotions and already your own little experiences, that we were given you and your life to enjoy and delight in. That just seems amazing to me - and normal all at the same time.

What will tomorrow bring, Miss Haven? Some stair-climbing perhaps? More adventures in finger foods? A nice long afternoon nap? Hugs and sloppy open-mouthed kisses for Mom and for Dad? This has been an incredible year and I look forward to tomorrow. And the day after that and the years to come.

From May 2009

love,
Mom

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Home again home again jiggety jig

We - Aaron, Haven, Zoe and I - spent the last week traveling by car from dear old Minnesota back to Los Angeles with a short layover in Denver. In a station wagon. With a car-top carrier. And did I mention the very large dog who really likes her space for sleeping? And the almost-one-year-old who really really really prefers crawling and standing and exploring to sitting still for more than 15 seconds? And me, the woman notorious for sleeping in the car? Truth be told, the road trip went pretty well considering all of the aforementioned factors. Give Aaron significant amounts of coffee and he can do nearly anything, including drive for incredibly long periods of time. We eventually figured out an arrangement in the car that seemed to work for just about everyone and we made plenty of pit-stops to give Haven the illusion that she really wasn't spending that much time in her carseat and the two day layover in Denver was a delighful break from day after day of driving.

And now we are home and I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I am about that. It's so nice to be in our own space once again, doing our normal routines, sleeping in our own beds. The entire way home I wasn't so sure I wanted to go back to Los Angeles - I was envious of just about every other place we visited for many many reasons - but oh, it's nice to be home. At least for now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Back to my roots

Skills I’ve been brushing up on since visiting Minnesota (thanks to the Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine):
  1. How to tell Ole and Lena jokes
  2. How to talk about the weather (100 degrees = “a little toasty” and 40 degrees = “T-shirt weather”)
  3. How to buy a cabin up north
  4. How to maximize your state fair experience
  5. How to laugh in the face of adversity
  6. How to walk in the skyway
  7. How to give a gift (with a gift receipt, of course)
  8. How to accept a gift (by denying your desire to actually accept the gift)
  9. Bonus: How to make Jell-O

Monday, July 20, 2009

Swings

The weather has been cool and gray the last couple of days. While this is weather that I generally appreciate, and will probably be begging for come late September in Los Angeles, I came to Minnesota in July hoping for some heat, some humidity, and, most especially, some thunderstorms. If you are from the Midwest, you will remember summer evenings and the power and show of a summer storm, the drama of the darkening sky, the smell of rain in the air, the stillness just before the skies unleash their fury. I’d like a little weather drama, please. Los Angeles provides nothing so exciting (in terms of weather).

This evening, Aaron and Zoe and I took a walk around my parent’s neighborhood, after Haven had gone to bed, after we finished watching a movie and yet still before the sun set. I forgot how long the summer nights are here, how it takes seemingly forever for the sun to slide down the sky and how it seems to do so with such quiet flourish here on the plains. We walked in the cool and quiet of the evening, listening to the junior high kids playing around at the park, watching the younger kids bike, with training wheels, down the street yelling that they’d just seen a cat (I know, so exotic), smelling a backyard bonfire, walking past a little backyard palm-tree-themed celebration. The evening light dimmed with each turn we took through the neighborhood and when we passed by the park on the way home I noticed the last flames of magenta the sun was shooting out in the northwest sky. We stopped at the park and took a spin on the swings, Zoe whining at us to give her a turn too. My hips don’t fit in the swing as well as they once did, but it still felt good to swing, to fly in the cool stillness of the evening.

We walked the long block home after that, with my mother slowing down and waving a cheesy hello as she drove by (on her way home from the grocery store – she had to get bread as Zoe helped herself to a loaf when we were gone yesterday. Rookie mistake). The front yard trees on my street have all grown up and our neighborhood looks older. It’s not changed much, for better or for worse. Perhaps for worse. I spend the walk wondering what it would be like to live here, now, in my 30’s with a family. I don’t know.

I’ve been asked a couple times this week what I miss about Minnesota when I’m not here. Evenings like this make the list.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A new compass

Last month, Haven and I along with my best friend Joy took a road trip up to the mountains of southern Oregon to participate in a contemplative retreat. This was my third year at the retreat and I love it for more reasons that I can name or for which I even have words, but generally I walk away feeling so revived, so deeply in touch with myself, with the world, with the spirit of god. Two years ago, I felt such a deep sense that I was okay, which is what I needed, and last year I left feeling so deeply connected to the little baby growing in my belly and the image of the labyrinth ended up being a sustaining and empowering image during the delivery of Haven.

I had thought I would walk away this year with some other profound sort of nugget of wisdom, some life-giving morsel that would enliven me and keep me going for the year to come.

But I did not.

From Road Trip to Oregon


It was a much different retreat for me this year – still good, but different. I’ve been trying to unravel it, figure out which morsels I can savor, what I can write about, what I can share, what life-giving nectar I can keep on sipping. But instead of large, meaty cuts of meat, I instead am picking the meat off the bone. It’s not that there isn’t meat or flavor, it’s just coming in much smaller pieces and with a lot of hard work.

The big difference was having Haven along for the journey this year, which was great and yet hard all at the same time. While I still had the morning silence to myself, the morning silence still involved getting Haven up and ready and out the door to the (very kind and wonderful!) babysitter in time for me to hear the Jubilate Deo of morning prayers AND figure out how to fit in a nap, a shower, pumping, some time to read/write/reflect/be still and, oh, maybe a nice walk, too. Before lunch. I found myself running up against the limits of motherhood that I’ve been bumping up against lately – the diminished flexibility and the growing responsibilities and the (seemingly) never ending to-do lists. I LOVE Haven and, honestly, don’t always mind these new aspects of parenthood, but I also miss some of the old life, and I missed some of the old retreat life too – being able to have long conversations, to eat my food slowly enjoying the company around me, taking a nap here, there and everywhere, going for walks, and having just about no responsibilities for the week.

From Road Trip to Oregon


And so this is why I haven’t written much about the week, because it sounds like I’m complaining about my daughter. I emailed one friend about my experience and he was kind enough to offer this response, which I think sums things up pretty well:

“the crazy thing is that we are hit with a baby suddenly but we don't suddenly forget what life was like without one. and we are so totally overwhelmed with feelings of love and loyalty and yet we find ourselves in an odd place of loneliness and disorientation because our compass from the life before no longer works but we have become so good at reading it to help us navigate life.”

I’m looking for a new compass and the retreat was more of the re-orientation that I’m in the midst of at this point in my life. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it is downright beautiful.

I do not regret the retreat – I’m so grateful to have had a week of having the mornings to myself, for having a week with my dear friends Joy and Colleen, for having a week with people who loved on and adored Haven (particularly the Aunties), for having a week in one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited, to have wonderful conversations, to meet new people and see familiar faces again, to have the space (albeit a little less space than before) to learn more about myself and to foster a spirit of compassion, and to learn once again that god is present to me even in the midst of finding a new compass – these, and more, are things I treasure.

To Oregon. To grace.

From Road Trip to Oregon

Monday, June 29, 2009

Road Trip Completed

video

This past week, my friend Joy and Haven and I took a road trip up to our beloved Oregon. It was a beautiful week. I will have more pictures and perhaps more words soon, but for now, here's a little snippet of life on the road. The mountain that comes in to view is Mt. Shasta in northern California. The music is Bruce Cockburn. You can't see it very well, but the shot of the backseat shows a snoozing baby (in the mirror).

Monday, June 15, 2009

The cutest not-flower-girl ever

Yesterday morning, after a number of days of cool June Gloom SoCal weather, we woke up to clear blue California skies. It was a perfect day for a wedding.



Aaron's sister KT married Greggles (he will tell you his name is Greg - don't believe him) yesterday, a beautiful and fun end to a wonderful (and exhausting) weekend. Aaron and Haven and I spent the weekend with Aaron's family in the midst of a flurry of wedding activities. The cake was being made at the house by a college roommate and my mother-in-law's cousins were assembling all of the absolutely GORGEOUS flower arrangements in the garage (Cousin Meg flew out from Virginia to do the flowers for the wedding!). And there were showers and rehearsals and dinners and s'mores and wine and hair dressers not showing up on the day of the wedding and the best bridal party gifts EVER (that's right, the bride sewed a bag for each of her bridesmaid - each bag was different, to match the maid/matron's personality and she only had patterns for two or three of the bags. Did I mention that she made them?!?).

It was a beautiful weekend and KT and Greggles were surrounded by a host of family and friends that love and cherish them deeply, which I think is really what this is about, the community in which we participate, in which we live and move and have our being.



I have to get to bed. We are so wiped out - and I leave later this week for the mountains of southern Oregon. I will be offline for the next couple of weeks, but hopefully once I return I will be refreshed and have all sorts of insightful things to share. Or at the very least, be able to tell you what new tricks Haven is displaying.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Yup. She's going to have a good immune system.

Evidence of their mutual make-out sessions. I say mutual because, as you will see below, Haven crawls right up to Zoe - mere millimeters from Zoe's snoot - and does exactly what you see in the picture below. Let's just call it asking for a kiss.


Kiss, please?



Zoe love.



How, tell me how, is Zoe supposed to say No to this?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Update on the dress

I think the winner is dress C - the pink and white frilly poufy one. This happens to be Aaron's favorite dress, too. My favorite is B (blue top, white skirt) but I think I'm going to go with C - how many occasions are there to dress up in frilly poufy dresses?

Dress D ended up being a keeper, too. :) Haven wore it for a bridal shower this past weekend and was pretty adorable in her summer dress. It was on sale! Why not?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bananas for bananas

Welcome to mealtime with Haven!


This is a meal of mushed banana,
as well as a little high chair tray for extra flavor.



I think she is quite pleased with the bananas plus tray.



Okay, maybe she is really pleased!
Isn't that the cutest smile ever?



Olivia, this photo is for you.
It's not a good photo at all (Aaron would be appalled),
but she is rather reluctant to let me capture her teeth on film.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Does this dress make me look cute?

Aaron's sister is getting married next month and Haven needs something to wear for the wedding. I'm in the wedding as a bridesmaid and my dress is a chocolate color. Aaron will be wearing nice brown pants (or maybe his linen pants?) and probably a white shirt. Haven is not in the wedding, so there's not the need to be super fancy - just a little cuter than normal.

So. Here are the options. Please let me know your favorite(s)!


A) White and tan eyelet dress


B) Blue silky top and white tiered eyelet (I think) skirt


C) Little pink dress with red flowers - has the most pouf, is the most dressy/frilly


D) Bouquets of red flowers dress


Thursday, May 14, 2009

To get you up to speed

  1. Haven now has TWO teeth. They are sharp.
  2. Haven is, I think, a beaver in that she chews everything. Everything. I think she fears that if she doesn't, her teeth will get really large and she will look funny and not be able to build log cabins with her teeth.
  3. This chewing thing is not unlike having a puppy again, except that, with the puppy, it was all about protecting our stuff from harm (shoes, furniture, etc) and with the baby it is less about protecting our stuff (though a little bit of that) and more about protecting the baby from outlets and large, heavy, unsecured objects.
  4. Haven sits up on her own really well. My parents were visiting the early part of April and, at that time, I remember that if we sat Haven up she quickly toppled over. But now we can plop her down anywhere and she stays upright for the most part (until she gets bored with her toy and decides it is time to army crawl).
  5. Haven is THIS CLOSE to crawling and, in the meantime, has figured out how to get ANYWHERE she wants. Sheer will power gets her to the dog, sends her under the desk to the computer cords, propels her down the hall to the dog's toy bucket, draws her to the bedroom mirror where she can make out with herself (so much better than making out with the dog).
  6. Haven wants nothing to do with laying still on her back to have her diaper changed.
  7. Haven still has glorious thighs that I think we all wish were edible.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A new day

This is my first week home full-time with Haven. No maternity leave, no part-time - just pure unemployed, semi-retired, SAHM (stay at home mom). This is has been the best first-week-on-a-(new)-job that I've ever had, though our orientation has involved some activities I haven't encountered in other work: yesterday was spilling the dog's water dish all over ourselves (we HAVE GOT to baby proof the apartment) and today was refusing to cooperate with the diaper change and peeing all over ourselves while I gave in to the squirming and let her twist diaper-less while I got the new diaper ready. That's the third time this week, actually, that we've peed on ourselves during a diaper change. And it's not my diapering technique - it's little Miss Curiosity.

The decision to be home with Haven has been a long time coming and wasn't the easiest decision to make (remember this?). My job provided me with a wonderful community of coworkers and friends and that made it difficult to know whether or not it was time for me to stay or to move on. The very depressing news about the economy didn't really help me in my search for clarity, either (who leaves their job when there is double-digit unemployment in California?), but I also couldn't deny that if and when I stopped to listen, I knew the answer to my question.

And so. Here I am. Running interference between a 9-month-old and electrical sockets (we HAVE GOT to babyproof), running interference between said 9-month-old and our big hairy dog and their little makeout sessions (completely and totally MUTUAL makeout sessions), going for walks, doing dishes, trying to predict just how long this nap is going to be and will it afford me time to eat, switch the laundry, take the dog out to the bathroom, AND a nap, checking Facebook, running to the mall to shop for little dresses for little girls for big weddings, showering one out of every two days, pureeing squash and green beans (cauliflower and yams tomorrow), blogging, making to-do lists, and discovering Haven's tickle spots and listening to her giggle. The giggling is the best part.

It's a little different not having a paying job at an office with cubicles - I feel a little naked - and I have concerns that this new vocation pared with my tendency toward being a homebody will be a bit isolating. Nonetheless, she giggles and so far hasn't asked me about strategic planning, so I think we are good.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Extravagant

This month in Book Club we discussed the book Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It was a bit of a slow read at first but I loved it by the end and think I may very well re-read it to soak up a little bit more of its richness. On page 238 there is this tremendous paragraph, a paragraph of love, extravagant love, of the lengths to which we will go for love and forgiveness, the lengths and depths we don't have but will extend beyond for our child. I love the notion of how extravagant this is. From Gilead:
And old Boughton, if he could stand up out of his chair, out of his decrepitude and crankiness and sorrow and limitation, would abandon all those handsome children of his, mild and confident as they are, and follow after that one son whom he has never known, whom he has favored as one does a wound, and he would protect him as a father cannot, defend him with a strength he does not have, sustain him with a bounty beyond any resource he could never dream of having. If Boughton could be himself, he would utterly pardon every transgression, past, present, and to come, whether or not it was a transgression in fact or his to pardon. He would be that extravagant. That is a thing I would love to see.




Sunday, May 3, 2009

Unintentional Hiatus

My apologies, oh faithful blog readers! It seems I took an unintentional hiatus from all things web - my blog, facebook, email - and am playing a little bit of catch up.

So, I'm back. More blogging to come very very soon!



This is little Miss Haven at the beach on a very lovely warm spring day!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dear friend

I've been thinking a lot about our conversation and wondering if I could have had a better response, wishing that I knew more theology or could speak better about who god is or what our lives are about or why these things happen. I'm no C.S. Lewis and honestly have no aspirations to be and my guess is that you don't want deep book-ish theology right now. But I want to offer you something, even if it's just my own mutterings to myself.

Your situation, it's really really shitty.

And I'm not sure why the shit hit the fan now and not five years ago, and I'm really not sure why it's happening to you rather than your college roommate or anyone for that matter. I don't have the Why's figured out and I'm not sure if I will in my lifetime - the pursuit drives me a little batty and makes me wonder if god is a little monstrous. I don't think god is monstrous.

Last spring, I heard a man address a crowd of soon-to-be grad school graduates. The man was dying of cancer, a battle he'd been waging for a few years which I had witnessed only from afar. That morning, the toll of the battle was apparent. His wife assisted him to his seat at the front of the hall - he was too weak to stand for his address - and his wife was even prepared to read his remarks should he not have the strength to finish. I can't tell you the details of his address - his sermon, really - not for lack of paying attention. I was truly captivated in the beauty of the moment because he talked about that passage in 2 Corinthians, where Paul talks about being hard-pressed but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. How there is a treasure in all of this brokenness, that there is life in this death, that there is hope that we will not be abandoned, we will not be destroyed. And here was this man before me, too weak to stand, barely able to make it through the morning, battered and bruised from the years of cancer - here was that jar of clay, in the flesh, fragile, vulnerable, broken - proclaiming a hope that can face even the darkest days, that can face even death.

I don't know what all that means - again, I'm a little weak on my systematics. But the little I do know seems to indicate that Jesus of the gospels is on the side of the broken, the poor, the people on the edge. And the gospels seem to tell the story of someone willing to wade into all of this shittiness, someone who rolls up his sleeves, gets his hands dirty. Someone who will sit and have a glass of wine with you and let you spew your heart out. There is no wand that waves away the horrible awful pain of grief, of sadness, of anger. I'm not sure how to untangle the mess of despair, of loneliness, of uncertainty. I'm really not even sure if I can tell you how life will emerge from death, especially this particular wound. Who knows how it will heal?

It is my hope - beyond all hope - that comfort will find you, that hope will breathe into your soul, that compassion will wrap its way around your heart.

And in the meantime, you will not be destroyed, you will not be abandoned.

And in the meantime, this is shitty.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

late fragment
by Raymond Carver

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just a hint of melancholy

My hands feel dry, a little crackly. From washing dishes, and I'm too stuck in my chair to get some hand lotion. Haven's Lullaby list plays on repeat - I'm finding solace in the dixie chicks, ben harper, and damien rice tonight.

I don't know about you, but these days I feel like everything is coming undone, that the economic crisis has unraveled not just our economy but so many other things. Rips, tears, fissures, broken people, broken bodies, broken relationships, institutions, the earth. Things fall apart, indeed.

For the first time since Haven was born, I am feeling the loss of time to myself. She is wonderful, don't get me wrong, but I'm craving some space, just a little solace to mend my hands, to feed my soul. And that is the challenge these days - the moments are rare when I feel completely alone, or even if alone, free of responsibility. I trust that this is a phase - that life with an infant is particularly demanding compared to other times in parenthood. But how do I do that now? Even when she was younger, I had long quiet nursing sessions with Haven that allowed me some time to think and reflect. She is now much more active, alert and has finessed the art of nursing to a brisk 15 minutes. How do I make that time for myself - time that is quiet, slow, allows for that space of reflection? Especially now, especially at this time.

Time to remember that not all things are falling apart. There are engagements (yay Olivia and Chris!), there are new discoveries (like left feet and rolling over), there are citrus blossoms, walks with good friends, long conversations, and good food for dinner.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A foot in the mouth

I'm amazed with the speed at which Haven is developing. It seems like each week, if not each day, she adds a new skill to her repertoire.

Take the progression of hand to mouth coordination. At Christmas time, when we were home visiting my family, she was just beginning to hold on to something if it came in contact with her hand. As the new year started, we watched as she gradually learned how to grab things, usually with both hands. By the end of January, she was pretty well accomplished at holding onto something with both hands and very carefully maneuvering the object to her wide open mouth. In February, she worked at picking up the speed of her hand to mouth coordination and a couple of weeks ago finally showed some interest in the rubber squeaky blocks that my sister gave her for Christmas. She now loves the blocks, loves to grab them with both hands and then just gnaw the squeak out of it. She is also now able to grab things with one hand, rather than having to use both, and she is extremely proficient - and now surprisingly quick - at putting ALL objects into her mouth. Amazing!

Her latest discovery, and most entertaining, has been the discovery this past week of her left foot. It began with just simply finding the foot, grabbing on to it, hanging on for dear life as it kicked away. But I think even more exciting than finding her foot has been the discovery that she can grab her foot and insert it, just like everything else, into her mouth. Such great fun, I tell you!


We are now waiting for her to discover her right foot. Not sure when (or if) that will happen, but I'm sure it will be just as exciting for her when she realizes that she has more than one of these appendages.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

First hint of spring

Yesterday afternoon, Haven, Zoe and I went for a walk around the neighborhood with our neighbor Laura and her baby Everett (Haven is four weeks older than Everett). I'd been struggling with a headache earlier in the day and was craving a nice long nap (which I wasn't afforded by Mis Haven), but the walk seemed to help clear my head and perk me up. Laura was great company - it's nice to have another new mom nearby so we can talk shop. It also serves to reassure me that what I'm going through is quite normal.

As we were coming back toward home, there was a wonderful sweet scent in the air. We looked around and I spotted a citrus tree that was starting to blossom in the yard we had just passed. Oh, I love the smell of citrus trees in the springtime! Trees are starting to flower and blossom - there's a stick tree (meaning, a tree that has no leaves) near our apartment where the blossoms are just beginning to emerge. A few small round buds, a few white flowers - it will be full and beautiful soon. I love springtime in Los Angeles!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just call me Lightning

Does anyone remember those things called Rollerblades? I do. My brother had them at our 1990 Johnson Family Reunion and I remember what a novelty they were, how new, and how cool he was zipping around on those weird rollerskates that looked like iceskates but didn't require ice. That was nearly twenty years ago.

I had rollerblades in high school. I loved them because they used the same motion as cross-country skiing, a motion that makes me a feel a bit like I'm flying. I'm sure I was a sight to see when I was out rollerblading - skinny bow-legged legs anchored by big bulky black shoes with wheels, and most likely a bulky baggy sweatshirt to balance out the whole ensemble (bulk-twigs-bulk). Oh, and wrist guards. My friend Marchell insisted that I wear wrist guards, lest I fall and break my wrists. I wore them faithfully, as I'm pretty sure she told me a gory story about someone snapping their wrists.

My favorite rollerblading story is from my church youth group days and involves a slow afternoon, a large hill, and some rollerblades. Our youth group had taken a trip up north to Duluth, a small city on the shores of Lake Superior, to perform a week of Vacation Bible School for a very small church perched on the top of a lovely green hill just outside of town. Duluth, unlike the rest of the state of Minnesota, is in fact hilly and we, at the end of our stimulating puppet-laden day, were waiting to head back to our cabins for the night, loitering around the Big Red Van while a few people finished up at the church. This is when Tim had the brilliant idea to rollerblade down the large hill. Why not? There was time to kill and there were brakes on the rollerblades. Christy and Rachel decided to join in and the rest of us, well, we watched. What would be the harm in cruising down a large hill, down a street that ran perpendicular to the highway? And so they were off. We watched as they laughed and shouted to one another, speeding along the ashpalt, sparks beginning to fly from the back of their rollerblades, their brakes wearing out. Rachel, with laughter in her voice, peeled off to the ditch first. Tim continued about half way down the hill before realizing that, with upcoming traffic, his best bet would be to crash in the ditch as well. But Christy, well, she saw the cross-traffic on the highway and, admittedly, panicked a bit. She was flying down the hill, trying to determine the best way to stop and rather than seeing the soft green blanket of grass to either her left or her right, she instigated a crash-landing right there in the middle of the street, on the rather unforgiving asphalt. In the end, Christy was okay - a leg full of road rash, indeed, but no major injuries. And she had a pretty kickass story to tell, as she was the only one who made it most of the way down the hill.

For this reason, however, I prefer flat surfaces, or brakes, or skis and a bank of snow.

And tonight, I broke out the old rollerblades, the big bulky black ones that say 'Lightning' on the back, and took the dog out for a (reluctant) run around the neighborhood. It felt good to glide again (though I had a hard time convincing Zoe how exhilirating it was). I didn't have my wrist guards (sorry Marchell!) and I'm sure I was still a spectacle - big rollerblades, tiny jeans that I can't yet quite fit back into, big grey sweatshirt from college, and a dog that drags her heels. Yes! Just call me Lightning.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

This might show up on trivial pursuit one day

This is from the little facebook ditty that everyone and their cousin is filling out on facebook. But I like my list, so I'm posting it here as well.

1. I love to iron clothes. I find it very satisfying to smooth out the wrinkles.

2. I have a Newfoundland dog named Zoe, who I think is the best. She's big and gentle and has starred in a (homemade) music video.

3. One of my dreams is to raise Newfoundlands, though I think it would require involvement in the dog show circuit, which I don't really want to do. I basically want to live somewhere a little more rural and have a pack of Newfies. We will have to invest in a turbo-vacuum and super-mop if this dream ever comes true. I'm also not sure if anyone would ever come visit us.

4. I think Warren is a great name for a big dog. It happens to be my father-in-law's name, so I think that idea is out.

5. Despite his lifelong goal to make me cry, and despite the fact that we are SO VERY different from one another, I think my brother likes me.

6. I like my brother.

7. I like my sister, too, which I think is evidenced by my lifelong habit of copying everything she does - the same glasses, the same instrument in band, the same cross-country ski team, and even, just like she did, delivering my firstborn child a month and a half early during the third week of August.

8. When I think of things of beauty, I think of playing the oboe, or cross-country skiing on a beautiful, quiet winter day.

9. Winter is one of my favorite seasons. I think there is something so magnificent about witnessing a snowfall.

10. March is my favorite month in Los Angeles - the hills are green, flowers and trees in bloom, the sky is clear, and the air is warm. It's really lovely.

11. March is my least favorite month in Minnesota. It's cold and gray and cold and gray and soggy. And gray. And cold.

12. And, in case you haven't noticed, I love weather. I attribute this to a) growing up in Minnesota, where the local news weather forecasts are like mini-lessons in meteorology (I know the difference between a bow echo and hook echo on a radar map) and b) growing up in a household where catching the forecast from all three local broadcasts was a sport.

13. I've lived in California for seven and a half years, and while it's kind of growing on me, I still consider Minnesota home.

14. Things I like about southern California: avocados, In-n-Out Burger, Trader Joe's, the fact that it's flip-flop weather most of the year.

15. While I consider Minnesota home, I'm convinced that my soul lives in Oregon.

16. I love Oregon.

17. When I'm overwhelmed, or melancholy, or need some space, I long to be near the ocean and to watch and listen to the waves.

18. In high school, my mom let me paint my bedroom whatever color I wanted, as long as it matched the red mini-blinds and red throw rugs. I painted it mediterranean blue filled with very colorful fish and painted the trim work - all of it! - red and yellow and blue. I wasn't smoking anything when I did this.

19. I just realized that my grandmother's kitchen was once painted orange and then later seafoam green. Perhaps bright colored rooms are part of my heritage.

20. I find dreams fascinating.

21. I like personality profiles. I'm an ENFJ (Myers-Briggs), NF (Kiersey Temperament Sorter), Four (Enneagram), and my strengths are Input, Empathy, Harmony, Intellection, and Adaptability (Strengths Finder).

22. I once thought about being a veterinarian. I also thought about being a feminist theologian. And an English teacher. And a homeopath. And a doula. And a pastor.

23. Two years ago at the Minnesota State Fair, I watched a cow give birth. It was one of the most powerful and amazing things I've ever seen.

24. I love the Minnesota State Fair.

25. This past summer, I gave birth to Haven. It was one of the most powerful and amazing experiences of my life.

26. I love Haven.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

5 Months Old



Accomplishments of the week

1. Eating salad everyday for lunch for the second week in a row. Miraculous.
2. Mopping the floors for the first time in, oh, 8-12 months. I don't really remember. And it may not sound like a big deal but when you live with a hairy, slobbery dog that can carry upwards of 15 pounds of dirt in her fur at any given time, the floors they get dirty. This week I've been walking around in white socks, marveling at their cleanliness.
3. Keeping my shit together. Aaron's out of town this week and it's just been me and Haven and I've done REALLY WELL. Everyone is alive and kicking, well-fed and in clean clothes. Mostly. I'm rather proud of myself for flying solo. 4 months ago I think I would have had a panic attack at the prospect of me and a baby alone for a whole week but so far so good.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Accomplishment for the Week

Eating salad. And not just once, but at least 3 times this week. We can credit my healthy eating habits to my foresight: Sunday evening I cut up some carrots, cut up some green peppers and put them in little containers and placed them in the fridge next to the bag o'salad. Voila! Salad in 30 seconds or less!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Bowl Empty

This evening, as the sun was setting on a rather warm day, Haven, Zoe and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. It was a perfectly pleasant walk - light but not bright, warm but not hot, easy but not slow. I've been nursing the dull end (hopefully) of a headache all day and it was nice to finally make our way outside for some air and leg stretching. It was just enough.

This summer I came home from the contemplative retreat with a ceramic pinch pot called a beggar bowl. I can't quite as eloquently describe the purpose of the bowl as my friend Sarah can, but it has something to do with holding the emptiness of the bowl, as a beggar, and trusting that god will fill your bowl with just enough for the day. Since Haven's arrival, I've held this bowl often and usually my prayer, along the lines of Anne Lamott's please please please prayer, is something of a 'just enough.' When Haven was in the NICU, the just enough came in the form of being able to hold her, having a great nurse on duty, enjoying a night with relatively few alarms, or producing milk. Today, it came in the form of a pleasant walk. This past week, it was all the wonderful people who have watched Haven while I've been back at work.

Last week I was going to blog about my three day tension headache on the eve of my return back to work, but the headache went away and I did my best to let the tension rest. But as much as I try to keep my mind from it, I'm like a moth to the flame and seem rather consumed with trying to figure out what to do with my life, with our lives as a family. Sometimes, which is really all the time, I wish for clarity. And sometimes, which is often, I wish even for an inkling, just some hint of what to do, what I'm called to, what is calling me, what is the best decision. Even last spring, when I was trying to sort out the midwife/doctor/homebirth/hospitalbirth questions, I had a sense that I knew what I wanted, that I just needed to listen. But, for some reason, I don't have that sense now - I feel blocked, or as if there is nothing to hear for all of the straining I may do.

And so the bowl. I think it is time to hold my beggar bowl once again and ask for just enough. And if you are of the bowl holding persuasion, or are a praying type, maybe you too could ask for just enough on my behalf. Or some clarity. Or even a faint whisper in my ear.

Haven is awake.