Showing posts from January, 2013

Everything is Already Lovely

Do you recall this post, wherein I describe the strategy of letting go of my taxing "shoulds" and instead writing down good things in five categories in order to remind myself that everything, really, is already just fine? Already lovely, even?

I keep coming back to this strategy. I leave off for awhile, when life gets unruly, but when I'm ready to come back to myself and get creative again, I know this is the place to start. I just started a few days ago, and already I'm journaling big ideas, big hopes and dreams and writing plans. When I first wrote the post, I said I might post my list on occasion, and I thought I'd start doing that. Here, my friends, is my list from a few days ago.

Everything is Already Lovely

1. Human Connections: Talking with Sam, strategizing about our lives while we cleaned the kitchen and I made fresh carrot/apple/celery/beet juice. Playing with Baby this morning before we went downstairs. Handing her one toy at a time to try them out an…

Of Jobs and Mothering, Part 2: Give Me Your Stories?

When I was in high school, my mother planted this idea in my head that I could get my PhD and teach poetry. I really liked this idea. I loved this idea, and I talked about it a lot. I remember being in the backseat of my parents' car, talking about it. I think we were driving to church, and my mother said, "But of course you'll stay home with your kids."

I was flabbergasted, incredulous, "What do you mean I'll stay home? I'll have gone to all of that trouble to get a degree and you expect me to just not use it? Why would I get a degree and then just sit on it? Can't I raise my kids and use my education?" I was a less than charming teenager, brimful of these half-angry questions, but I'm honestly not sure where this question came from. I wasn't, really, that educated. I was smart, but I didn't know much about Feminism. I didn't really know this was a question that had been asked, that was being asked, that every woman had to answe…

Adventures in Frugality

I've learned I'm really good at spending money in order to save it. You know what I mean? Buying a bunch of stuff, so you won't have to buy it later. I'm so good at that.

A few weeks ago, when I got my last paycheck, visions of Costco danced in my head, and I headed out, leaving the baby with Sam, planning to stock up so we'd have plenty when my income stopped.

This is not a bad idea, right? But somehow, though I put a bunch of stuff back at the last minute, that total made me gasp inside, and tremble. I did not intend to spend so much. It seemed too late to do anything about it, and I was so frazzled I couldn't think what we didn't need, so I handed over my card and made my way to the exit. As I pushed my cart out the doors, some customers were approaching speaking another language, and I felt like an enormous American pushing her enormous cart full of enormous food.

The whole drive home, I felt bad. I mean, this is the sort of thing I really feel bad abou…

Of Jobs and Motherhood, Part 1: Boxing it All

Last Wednesday we went into Boston so I could clear out my office. We brought Henrietta, and I met with my (former) boss and she got us a box, and I put everything in it: My notes to myself, my pictures of Sam, my lemon pepper for my lunches, my purple velvet ballet flats I used to change into after wearing my snow boots into work, my framed prints. I threw out stale walnuts and old soup and dozens of sandwich baggies and grocery sacks I'd kept just in case I needed to bring something home on the train.

My coworkers gathered around the door to my office, there to see the baby and say hello. They were so kind and asked nice questions about Henrietta and said how pretty and alert she was and Sam told them about our new house. I cleared out all of my files while Henrietta fussed, and Sam held her, telling her we were almost done, it was almost time to go home.

It was cold that day, very cold. My car temperature said it was 12 degrees outside when we left home, and it felt colder in t…

Concerning Introductions

I've been thinking about a day over a year ago, when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. I'd later lose that pregnancy thirteen weeks in, but mostly when I found out, I was terrified. I mean, I was excited at first, but on the heels of that excitement came the holy-wow-what-on-earth-am-i-doing feeling. They say when you have a baby your life is changed the instant you give birth, and that's true of course, but in a way my life changed then, the first time I found out.

I almost instantly felt eclipsed, like I was disappearing, like I'd never be "me" again. I worried about the baby, about the things he or she would have to go through, about all of the sadness and struggle involved in a normal human life. I worried I wouldn't know how to help, or that the sadness of his/her sadness would overwhelm me beyond my capacity to function. This wasn't an unreasonable fear: incapacitating sadness is something I'm familiar with, and there have been …

I'm in a love affair with kale.

We eat a lot of kale around here. Tonight we sauteed it using more or less this method, then put it over rice and pinto beans with a bit of sour cream, and, friends, it was an awesome meal.

Lately, about once a week, I make an enormous kale salad, and, miraculously, it lasts and lasts. The salad I make is inspired by this one. I stay pretty true to it, but I'll walk you through what I do, because, seriously, if you want masses of veggies to get inside of your body, this is a salad worth making.

Let me back up to say I recently went through a phase of thinking I didn't like salad at all. I was perpetually disappointed when ordering them at restaurants, and though there were some salads that other folks made that had me heaping my plate high, I couldn't seem to figure out what the common denominator was, and I was getting discouraged. And you know what I think? I think I love salad, but I'm extremely picky. And one thing that will kill it for me faster than anything els…

My Baby Makes me Brave: On the Thoughts of Strangers

On our way out to Utah, Sam and I stopped to eat in a restaurant in the Boston Logan airport. As we walked in, Henrietta was fussing a little, and I tried to decide if this meant she was hungry or tired or wet or what. I suspected she was hungry and this was distressing because we were seated at a table right next to a couple having a quiet meal, and they seemed to be glad to be having their quiet meal, and I somehow got this vibe that they would not be interested in having me feed my baby one seat over.

I'm a discrete breastfeeder, dedicated to using a cover, but still. You know this vibe? This sort of stiffening in the room when you walk in with a baby? I mean, there are rooms I've walked in that I can instantly tell are full of moms, or people who understand kids, and I feel like whatever goes down is going to be okay. But when I sense that stiffening, when I can tell people are eyeing my baby like it's only a matter of time before she ruins their meal, it makes me nerv…

I Dream of Jiro: A Movie Recommendation

Have you seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi? I watched it the other night while I was getting the baby to sleep, and it was such a lovely film. It's a documentary about an 85-year-old man in Japan, Jiro Ono, who has dedicated his life to making the perfect sushi. He has a small restaurant (just ten seats!) and it's ranked as one of the best in the world. It takes three months to get a reservation, and a meal there costs $300. He obsesses over quality ingredients, over how long his assistants massage the octopus to make it tender, over the seating arrangements of his customers.

And this is what gets me: he is so happy. He says all day, as he makes sushi, he's ecstatic. He says the way to live your life is to find something you really love doing and dedicate yourself to it. I wonder if that's so. When I first watched it, I thought he was right, and I wondered what on earth I could give myself to with that much ecstasy, but then I read this review by Roger Ebert, and Ebert asks s…

My First True Mom Moment

I don't how it is for everyone else, but I definitely had that feeling, when they sent us home from the hospital, that maybe it wasn't a good idea to send the baby home with me. I mean, I liked her well enough, but I wasn't a mom. I was just a person who had a baby.

And while that identity has been slowly solidifying ever since, I really think I became a mom--or at least gained some confidence as one--in a single moment when she was about three weeks old. This is how it went down.

Sam had been on a work-related trip for three days. Well, one full day and two half days, but it felt like three years. She of course screamed most of the night the first night he was gone, and I only got her to calm down and sleep by taking her out to my car at one a.m. and driving around until she zonked out. I spent the next day--literally, all of it--going to Target, getting her a motorized swing, getting the swing back home and assembling it one-handed while I held her, realizing it needed …

On Her Name

I've gotten questions about Henrietta's name, and I thought I'd officially answer.

Her name is Henrietta Plum Ruddick, and we'll start with the last name, which is indeed Ruddick, not Plum, as some have assumed. I wouldn't have put it past us to give her an entirely original last name--one neither of us share--but the truth is that we're more traditional than we seem. Though I've toyed with going back to my maiden name (and I do publish under it), now that she's here I rather like that we're all Ruddicks, and I doubt I'll ever bother to go back.

On Plum. This is honestly a product of dozens of very lengthy (and fun (bordering on tedious)) conversations between Sam and I while I was pregnant, trying to settle on her name. We'd suggest whatever would pop into our heads, whatever we'd see out the window or put our finger to in a book:

Me: "Stopsign Ruddick. Stop Ruddick. Spot Ruddick. Hester Spot Ruddick."

Sam: "Book Ruddick.…

Ode to Routine, Part 2 (Keeping It Real)

I wrote that post last night, after a sweet day when it all worked, you know? And then, of course, I couldn't sleep until after midnight, even though she had gone to bed obligingly around eight. She generally sleeps well, but last night was a doozy--up at 1:30, then 2:00, then half a dozen times between 2:30 and 4, at which point I brought her to bed with me, hoping to just survive the night.

Sam took her in the morning so I could sleep in, but there was no such routine today. When Sam left for a meeting on campus, I put her in her swing and curled up under quilts on the couch, but no sleep came. And all day I dragged. It snowed hard, and we went out for Pho, and when we came back I tried to rally myself by going on our afternoon walk, but it literally felt like I was dragging my own body behind me, and I turned back home early.

At which point the despair set in: my house is messy and how will I ever make dinner and she's never going to sleep again and I feel lousy and so on. …

Ode to Routine

We're developing a routine, the lady and I. Would you like to hear a slice of it?

Though she wakes up at various earlier points, she's generally ready to join the world around eight, and she cries to say so, and I creep into her bedroom and peer over the side of her crib, where she's flopping around like a green fish in her green swaddle. And at some point in her flopping and wailing she'll see me standing there, and she'll stop, and she'll look up at me and grin and flex her legs in joy--the full-body smile, my dad calls it. Obviously this is the most significant world event of the morning, this smile.

I scoop her up and feed her and change her and pick out her outfit--another favorite task--and bring her down to the kitchen. She kicks and talks to me (so to speak) from her throne--a baby seat I put up on the kitchen island--and I tell her about the day ahead, talking her through the ingredients of my green smoothie and details of my toast-making, and then sh…

Thoughts on Her Blessing

Two days after Christmas, my family and a few very close friends gathered at my parents' house and my father gave Henrietta a blessing. She wore a dress that Sam's mother wore, and Sam wore to be christened, and it was the most beautiful article of clothing I have ever seen. She was the most beautiful baby, and I sat in front of her as she was blessed, sneaking glances at her enormous wide-open eyes and her kicking feet. When I welcomed those who attended, I tried to say a version of what I wrote below, but I was pretty emotional and I'm not sure how clear I was. So I record it here, on the first day of 2013. 2012 was a good year. A very good year. 

A few years ago, I was working on gaining a sense of God's love. I was taught from the time I was a little girl to recognize the evidence of his love--the tangible, physical manifestations of it, the hand he played in blessing me and my family. But I confess: I'd never felt it, never experienced or gained a sense of it …