February 28, 2011

A Bit of Bookishness

I like books that have been well-loved. Yellowing pages, folds in the spine, a small tear here or there, the previous owner's name written on the inside cover. And the smell of old books has always been a favorite of mine. I don't much care for writing or highlighting in books, because it's too distracting for me when I'm reading - although I do like reading other people's marginalia.

Roy sat down beside me on the couch last night and cracked open his copy of How to Practice. I say he cracked it open because it has so much water damage (from something having to do with our aquarium at the first apartment we shared together) that there is no way that book can be opened quietly. I used to hate water damage but lately I've come to embrace it. Recently my water bottle leaked all over the contents of my bag, and now this book's pages are all wavy. I've forever left my mark on that book. I will always remember how it got water damaged, what bag I was using, what leaky water bottle it was.

I like thinking about the lives of objects and how they intersect with our own. There's much to be learned by what we surround ourselves with and the damages (for lack of a better word) those things incur along the way. One of Charlie's current favorite books lost a page today. But it wasn't any ordinary page - oh no, it was the page that Charlie makes me read over and over again as he says "Guck! Guck!" excitedly. And tonight I plan to tape the page back into the book and for the rest of that book's life it'll have another story to tell: the one about the little blonde-haired boy who loved ducks so much he would always turn back to that page.

Recently I watched two movies (both adapted from books): Into the Wild and The Time Traveler's Wife. I got excited about rereading these books to see how they compared with the movies. I did reread Into the Wild and was reminded why I consider it one of my favorite books. So for a couple of weeks now I've been thinking of my favorite books, and today I decided to go through our bookcase and separate my favorites from the rest. And there are more than I could remember off the top of my head, way more.

My plan is to reread these books to see if they still hold up. I feel a little weird about doing this because some books/movies/TV shows/songs that I once loved don't stand the test of time, and I want to preserve my good memories of them. (I love love loved Cloak and Dagger when I was a kid, but Roy and I watched it about five years ago and were horrified to discover what a cheesy little flick it is.) But still, I want to revisit these books that have stuck with me for various reasons throughout the years. And maybe post about them here. Tall order, considering I am averaging about a post a week these days. Eh, we'll see.

Here are a couple that come to mind that once had a profound impact on me; these have already been reread in recent years:

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb - I read this in the midst of one of the strangest years of my life. I was 21 years old and this story of twin brothers resonated so much with me that I bawled my eyes out during certain parts of it. I reread it just a few years ago, in 2007 or 2008, and while it's still a good book, I ended up getting rid of it. It didn't hit me at that gut level it had when I was 21 and feeling so "untwinned" (a word the author uses in the book).

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - I had to have been in junior high when I read this book. It's the story of a mentally challenged young man who, by some scientific miracle, is able to become smart and have a normal life. The end of the story, though, is so heartbreaking and hit really close to home. This is another one of those that I reread in the past five years or so, and it didn't sucker punch me like it did when I was super young. Maybe because I already knew what was going to happen.

Four Past Midnight by Stephen King - I very much enjoyed reading Stephen King novels before I became somewhat of a book snob in college. Some of his books, especially the ones written in the 90s, really impressed me. This one was no exception. I loved all four novellas in this book and revisited it when Secret Window came out. Well, my love for that book kind of died when I realized that Stephen King really needs a good editor. Because you know, he just overwrites. Kind of like me and the way I do on this blog. But different, obviously, because he's probably a gazillionaire and we can barely pay our bills.

So anyway, what's your favorite book(s)? Ever reread it/them years later? Are they still your favorites?

February 25, 2011

this moment

This is what Simon looks like while he's nursing - he will sometimes pull off and flirt with me. He's totally milk drunk, completely happy. I love this face.

I was bound and determined to breastfeed Simon. After all the breastfeeding disappointment I had with Charlie, I made up my mind that I wasn't going to go through that again. In a sense, it was more important for me to have a successful nursing relationship with Simon than to have a VBAC. You know, if I had to pick one.

We had a lot working against us in the beginning. Since I ended up with a repeat C-section after 30+ hours of labor, I was exhausted after the surgery. Since my bladder was lacerated during the C-section, I was in the OR for longer than a normal C-section would take. The spinal and other drugs I was given made me so groggy when I was in recovery that I at first declined having Simon brought to me - I was so tired I was afraid I would drop him. I later changed my mind, but I couldn't get him to latch on while we were in recovery. So I just held him close and he fell asleep. When we were finally put in a room, I got him to latch. And he pretty much stayed attached to me the entire hospital stay. Even when I couldn't sit up due to the spinal headache from hell, Simon laid across my chest while I was reclined flat and nursed that way. Or I would turn on my side and nurse him side-lying. He was such a great sport and so enthusiastic. It was frustrating at times because I was so exhausted and just wanted to sleep. But I kept on, and my milk came in within two days and in great abundance. I was thrilled.

When I found out I had to stop nursing for a week to go on some pretty hard core antibiotics to treat my UTI, I was devastated. Simon was exactly one week old. I was in the shower, letting the hot water rain down on my lower back to ease the pain of the UTI (pretty similar to the way I spent a lot of time while I was in labor), and all of a sudden it occurred to me that our nursing relationship could be over. Stopping for even a week could have so many different outcomes: He could develop a preference for the bottle or the taste of formula. He could have latch issues. I could have supply issues. It felt like such a slap in the face. Here was one thing, a major thing, that was working out. I didn't want to lose it.

I started sobbing. Even though I hadn't gotten my VBAC, I had never really felt like I had failed until then. It was definitely the darkest moment of my very difficult recovery. I cried for quite awhile; of course my emotional pain was exacerbated by the substantial physical pain I was in. And then I dried my tears, consulted with all three midwives at the birth center plus my doula, pumped out what milk I had to give Simon right then, and started taking the antibiotics. For a week I faithfully pumped during each one of Simon's feedings and dumped the milk right after. (I am beyond grateful that Roy was home to help me, because I cannot imagine how I would have handled feeding Simon, pumping, and taking care of Charlie.) About halfway through the week, I started taking Fenugreek to make sure my milk supply was where it needed to be once I was done with the antibiotics.

When it came time to start Simon back on the breast, he went right back with no problems at all. It was like that week of bottle-feeding never happened. Things have been hunky dory ever since.

I had heard women talking about breastfeeding and how much they loved it, what a bonding experience it was, and how sad they were when it was over. To me, breastfeeding was pretty much solely about giving my child the most perfect (and free!) food available to him. I absolutely did not want to formula feed this time. The bonding feelings, though, knocked me over with their intensity - and still do. Every time Simon latches on for a feeding, I am filled with a happiness so deep that I can only describe it as euphoria. I have told multiple people that it feels like Simon and I are on our honeymoon. As weird as that sounds, it's really the only way I can describe the way I feel about him. It's so raw and primal and fierce.

I felt (feel) this way about Charlie, of course. But it took some time to get there, because in the beginning I felt so disconnected from him. And even though we did get there, I can say with absolute certainty that you can't even compare bottle-feeding and breastfeeding. They are two totally different experiences. And I'm not hating on people who bottle feed. It just makes me sad that so many mothers will not experience the joy that comes from nursing their babies. (Of course, there are some mothers out there who do not enjoy nursing at all. Obviously I am not one of them.)

For years (hell, most of my life), I have not been a big fan of my boobs. In junior high, high school, and my first few years of college, I hated them. I hated being so small. I hated that I didn't have any cleavage. I hated not being voluptuous. Some stupid boy once told me that I wasn't a real woman because my boobs were too small. What an idiot he was. I can honestly say now that I'm so grateful for the pair that I've been given, because they are what's nourishing my son.

It doesn't get more womanly (or beautiful) than that.

February 18, 2011

this moment

(a little bit of inspiration for this post)

I'm not big on Hallmark holidays, but every year Roy and I do at least a little something to celebrate Valentine's Day. Now that we have kids, we do a little something for them, too. This year I made valentines for Charlie and Simon, and presented them with those plus two books for Charlie and a hand puppet board book for Simon. My homemade valentines were kind of lame, but I am happy that I did something handmade for them. (I really want to be more of a DIYer.)

I figured I would make a valentine for Roy as well, but come the actual day of, I still hadn't done a thing. I read this post that morning, which inspired me to do something a little more fun. After bringing Roy lunch and getting the boys down for their nap, I got to work. Well, it didn't work exactly like that. I actually considered not doing anything and just trying for a nap. But I forced myself to be romantic. (I'm glad I did.)

I decided to write up five reasons I love Roy, each with a clue to a place around the house. When he got home, I handed him the first reason/clue, and so the mini scavenger hunt began. The prize was a sappy card, complete with three pictures: one of me, one of Simon, and one of Charlie, each of us wearing the heart-shaped sunglasses that I'm wearing in my blog header. I used my little instant camera to take the pictures and went through about three packs of film trying to get each one right. The pictures I ended up with weren't great, but I was running out of time. And since the pictures come out the size of a credit card, Roy can keep them in his wallet if he wants as a nice reminder of us.

After the boys went to bed, we popped a lasagna in the oven and settled down on the couch to watch The Kids Are All Right. It was great, especially because we were not interrupted the whole time. We got to sit and watch a whole movie. Inconceivable!

This quote from the movie jumped out at me:

...marriage is hard... Just two people slogging through the shit, year after year, getting older, changing. It's a fucking marathon, okay? So, sometimes, you know, you're together for so long, that you just... You stop seeing the other person. You just see weird projections of your own junk. Instead of talking to each other, you go off the rails and act grubby and make stupid choices...

Damn straight.

Roy and I have entered into the "marriage is hard" portion of our life's journey together. I can say with complete honesty that our marriage had always been easy, even through all the birth trauma and depression. Adding a second child to the mix has put a lot more pressure on things. It is totally not something that Simon is to be blamed for (imagine blaming a three month old!); it's just that two kids are a whole lot more work than one. By the end of the day we are both so tired. It's hard to connect when you're tired and just want to be alone. But we're working on it.

One of the things that Roy and I have going for us is that we are able to be unflinchingly honest with each other. I noticed over a month ago that I was getting irrationally angry at him all the time. This is completely out of character for me and certainly not something that has ever really happened in our relationship. I was tired of feeling like shit about it, so I brought it up. And just talking about it made it a whole lot better than it was. I know our openness with each other is what will hold us together when things get hard. Because when you start keeping secrets, it's only a matter of time before it all falls apart.

Roy and I took the above photo of ourselves while we were watching the movie that night. We look happy, and that's because we were. Are. Despite the piles of laundry, our empty bank account, the crying children, and the unknown stretching far in front of us, we still love each other. He's my best friend. And as he wrote in his Valentine's letter to me, "it's strange to think of my life as a fairy tale but you have added magic to everything."

February 16, 2011

Simon 365 (November and December)

This is a post for my mom, who needs to set up a Facebook account NOW. If for no other reason than she needs to see pictures of her grandchildren.

This makes me realize that the digitizing of everything doesn't always make things easier. It feels like it's a million times harder to get prints of photos than it used to be. I used to just drop my film off and pick it up and distribute the pictures as needed. I kind of miss that. Now it's upload to computer, organize, edit, upload to various websites, back up, and if I'm lucky, blog. There's not enough time left to pick which photos I want printed and then send them out via snail mail to those in my life who haven't embraced the internet. And yet the other day I got an email from Shutterfly offering me 50 free prints, so yeah, that was enough to make me get on it. Those photos are now in the mail to a lucky few.

I've been keeping up very well with my 365 project of Simon's first year. I am very pleased with some of the photos, and some have come out awful. I try to check in camera to make sure that everything looks the way I want it, but sometimes I forget and end up with crappy photos. Here are some of my favorites from the last couple of months.



Today Simon is three months old. I took him to the birth center this morning and we went ahead and weighed him. 18 pounds! Holy crap, this kid is huge. What's funny is that he felt so tiny at birth and his first few weeks with us, much tinier than Charlie ever felt. Now he's just a chubby kid, and I love it.

Anyway, about that birth story. It's coming! I had to go to the birth center to get my midwife's labor notes because I have slept (or not slept, as the case may be) in the last three months, so I need something to jog my fuzzy memory. So I got a labor summary but not really any notes, and the notes are what I need. So I wait.

I have tried to add photos for January about 50 times now, and blogger just keeps telling me "Error 400 Bad Request." Whatever. Here are photos from November and December. Notice Simon looks really small in them. Well, let me tell you that (obviously, since he weighs 18 pounds) he is small no more.

I'll just share my favorites from January once February is over. Stupid blogger.

Happy 3 months, Chow Mein! (Oh yeah, Simon has a million nicknames now. Sigh, Saz, Sazzo, Chow Mein, Baby Noodles. Oddly, we don't ever refer to him as Burt Reynolds.)

February 11, 2011

this moment


The conclusion that I have come to is that I am unfinished. My life is a big goldfish bowl of chaos. Inevitably, I've been feeling trapped.

So the other day we escaped. We piled the boys into the stroller and walked around the neighborhood. Being outside in the world with the sunlight and the trees and the sky and my camera there to capture it all made my heart feel like it was going to explode with happiness. We talked. The boys looked around. Charlie wore his sock monkey hat, and Simon cooed. We returned home feeling untrapped.

And then last night after the boys had settled to sleep, we stood together in the kitchen and talked. And we've got a plan to make things better. It involves some chasing, but mostly just some slow-and-steadiness. And a whole lot of discipline, which is where I usually fall short. But I'm excited.

And part of the plan? I'm going back to school. It's time for me to finish my Master's degree. And I actually believe that I'm going to do it. I'll need lots of walks to help keep me centered, though.

February 4, 2011

this moment


Last week the fates smiled down upon me when Elle Moss randomly picked me as the winner of her 2000 fans contest on Facebook. She sent me a neat little envelope filled with photographic treasures, a few of which you can see in the photo above. They came in on Wednesday, and I was thrilled.

When I come face to face with art that moves me, whether it's a painting or a book or music or a photo (you get the idea), it often serves as a big reality check for me. What am I doing with my own talents? What am I doing that I feel passionately about? Obviously, my first priority is my family, but my own drive to create is not something I ever intend on neglecting.

I made myself a promise that this year was going to be the year that I stopped saying, "I want to get back to writing poetry again" or "I want to learn more about photography." It seems a little silly to keep saying those things when I have the tools (and the vision) at my disposal. Honestly, I think I compare myself too much to others and in doing so I forget that my journey is my own. I can never write or take photos or do anything else like anyone else. Because I'm me. Yes, that is an idea that is verging on corniness. Cheesy or not, it's still something I consider to be true.

Because the art that moves me always comes from a person who has a vision and has enough courage to chase it. And this week I kept getting reminders of it, not just through Elle Moss, but also through The Julie Project by Darcy Padilla, Photo of the Day by Jamie Livingston, and Nox by Anne Carson. Seriously powerful stuff, all of it. It reminded me that I've got my own powerful project that I've been working on here and there since 2003. It may be the best damn thing I've ever written, and yet it may never be read by a wide audience. But fuck it. Fulfillment comes through doing the work, not through accolades and critical acclaim. (I once thought being published would change my life forever. Surprise, surprise - it didn't. I was (am) still the same ol' insecure girl. Not to say I wouldn't gladly accept a Pulitzer...)

I think I'm at the point in my life where I've really realized that the writing career I've been wanting since I was a child may not be something that exists for me. Perhaps it sounds like I'm giving up, but this country lives and dies on the almighty dollar. And you know what? That's not something that is going to change anytime soon - but it's also not going to be the deciding factor in what I choose to do with my life. I'm going to keep on creating, and perhaps someone else will be inspired by what I do.

Yes, all of this did come from a pile of photographs on the floor.