Small Mercies

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

–Anais Nin

Lately I find myself in the kitchen around 7:30 or 8 at night, foraging for something sweet. I’ll eat maple granola from the Pyrex dish we keep on the counter, chocolate chips from the bag I attempt to hide at the back of the cupboard, a caramel from my Valentine’s box, or the worst (but my favorite): a big marshmallow dipped in peanut butter.

I didn’t used to eat like this. In fact, about a year ago I had just finished a 21-day cleanse where I removed gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs, alcohol, and caffeine from my diet. The me from a year ago would be horrified by the me today eating marshmallows, chocolate chips, and caramels.

But here’s the truth of it: a lot has changed since last year. I found out I was pregnant. We decided to get married. We planned a wedding. We tore out nearly everything in our home and slowly put it all back together. I gave birth to our baby. I learned how to swaddle, breastfeed, cloth diaper, soothe, bathe, and care for a whole new tiny being. I’m still learning. Each and every day I’m learning.

Photo by Mara LeBlanc

Photo by Mara LeBlanc

A lot has changed.

In my first week home with Max, I grew to despise the late afternoon. I quickly learned that the evening hours brought screams and howls from my tiny baby, and a knot would form in my stomach each day as I watched the sun set. At that time, all I knew was frustration, confusion, exhaustion, and my own deep ache of postpartum sadness.

It turns out that my howling baby was simply hungry. I wasn’t producing enough milk to keep his little belly full. I worked with a lactation consultant to boost my supply, and after weeks of a regimented, ‘round the clock schedule of nursing, my little swaddled baby finally began to fall asleep in my arms after his meals.

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During those tough weeks my husband made me a big batch of cookies with oatmeal, flax, and brewers yeast. They were touted as a magic bullet for nursing moms, but honestly, I was just grateful for the soft comfort of butter and sugar. When the first batch was gone, he made another.

So began my bout with a ravenous sweet tooth.

And yet, I’m not worried about this like I would have been a year ago. I know this phase will pass. As the months bring warmer weather and longer days, I will soothe myself with walks along the riverfront. The spring breezes and summer bug sounds will gently lull me back to center. Soon enough, my tongue will crave sliced watermelon and cold green grapes. Finding my way up the steep learning curve of new motherhood during the brutally cold winter months left me craving ease and sweetness. In this season, I’ve indulged in the small mercies of a treat.

Indeed, a lot has changed.

And so, as the quote above describes, I am growing. But I am growing partially, unevenly, and not absolutely. I am harboring some unsustainable habits, but I am also learning to give myself grace during my periods of uncertainty and change.

As we endure these trailing weeks of winter, I encourage us all to extend ourselves some grace. For the perceived shortcomings, for the things we don’t yet know, for the moments we can’t muster strength. I wish us grace and peace through it all.

(I thank Kelsey from Happyolks for introducing me to this quote in her latest post. It was a perfectly timed salve to my heart.)

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Lighten the Load

Life around these parts has been feeling a little heavy lately. Not awful. Not sad. Not even terribly stressful. Just heavy.

Lots of decisions. Lots of planning. Lots of thinking. Too much thinking.

I attended a funeral last week that got me thinking about the many merits of being joyful. The woman who passed away was an absolute gem in every sense of the word. She laughed hard, loved her grand-babies even harder, shared kind words freely, and being in her company made you feel better about everything.

Following that funeral, I was going to write a post about the renewed sense of value I see in wholeheartedly living out our roles as sister, brother, wife, best friend, co-worker…

But you know what?

That felt too heavy for right now.

Spring is trying so. very. hard. to make its way to Minnesota. But, it’s still icy and snowy and I’m tired of calling 43 degrees a victory. That fact combined with everything else that’s been shaking around these days has got me throwing my hands up in defeat and saying, “Okay, life. Let’s just eat some frozen yogurt and gummy candy and have a good laugh. Sound okay with you?”

Let’s lighten the load, shall we?

This post is a smattering of joyful tidbits I’ve collected on my camera over the years. There is no coherent reason why I’ve chosen any of these except that they make me laugh or smile to look at them. I don’t know why the photos seem to get smaller the further down you scroll. Sigh. Oh, well.

Sometimes life doesn’t make any sense. This is my salute to the nonsense.

Cheers!

My love preparing the Christmas tree lights.

My love preparing the Christmas tree lights. I know the photo is blurry. I don’t care.

A rocking chair in a dry creek bed in Colorado.

A rocking chair in a dry creek bed in Colorado.

Tulips. I'm still waiting for these, too.

Tulips. I’m still waiting for these this year.

That's me driving a ginormous moving van.

That’s me driving a ginormous moving van.

A gummy worm in the peanut bulk bin.

A gummy worm in the peanut bulk bin. Weird.

Peonies outside the co-op. Last year. I'm still waiting.
Peonies by the co-op. I’m still waiting for these, too.

Shirley has her own pen. I think that's awesome.

Shirley has her own pen. I think that’s awesome.

This is Barbara! She introduces me to all things outdoorsy.

This is Barbara! She introduces me to all things outdoorsy.

A dinosaur in with the graham crackers.

A dinosaur in with the graham crackers.

A lovie note on my bike before I left to run a race in 106 degree heat.

A lovie note on my bike before I left to run a race in 106 degree heat.

The most perfect strawberry. Ever.

The most perfect strawberry. Ever.

Dancing in the Idaho farmland at the wedding of two dear friends.
Dancing in the Idaho farmland at the wedding of two dear friends.

That's my sister. She's going to be so mad at me for posting this...

That’s my sister. She’s going to be so mad at me for posting this…

My amazing yoga studio.

My amazing yoga studio.

A scooter I wanted to steal parked by the farmer's market.

A scooter I wanted to steal parked by the farmer’s market.

What’s making you smile or laugh these days? Please share with the rest of us!

Sabbath

I recently had a Sunday that was as close as they come to perfect.

No alarm clock. Coupon clipping with my lovie man. Brunch with my bestie girl. Lake walk with a sorely-missed-co-worker-turned-trusted-friend. Homemade dinner with Mom and Dad.

I went home after my jam-packed day feeling nourished, loved, rested, and so happy.

It was like I went on a mini-vacation for the day, returning renewed and refilled. You know… how you’re supposed to feel after a weekend.

During our afternoon walk, my friend revealed that many of her recent prayers have been asking for strength, fortitude, or were simply a plea to, “just help me get through this!” Her solution? A commitment to observing the Sabbath on Sundays. She was a few weeks in, and said that she was really enjoying it.

Sabbath: A time of rest.

“When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest – we are on war time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms.”

-Wayne Muller, Sabbath; Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives

 

Whether or not you align yourself with any particular religion: you are human, which means you need rest. We all do. It’s one of the very basic needs that unites us all. And the notion of intentionally setting aside one day each week for rest struck something deep in me.

I asked my Dad about it while we were making our turkey meatballs, saying how lovely I thought it would be to truly set aside one day each week to relax. He said that in other parts of the world where the Sabbath is held on a more cultural level and more engrained in how the society functions, the Sabbath day is simply used to get together with family, worship, play games, and enjoy meals.

Eat, talk, play, be loved? All day? Umm… Where’s the sign-up sheet?!

We all cultivate, through our choices, the type of lifestyle that we want for ourselves. We make time for the things that we value. We prioritize X over Y, and life spins its yarn accordingly.

Pete and I are pretty different people, but we share one huge thing: we are very good at making ourselves busy. It’s the lifestyle we’ve created. We’ve made commitments to our community, to learning new things, to taking on new challenges, to maintaining our health. These things take up time, and they require continual maintenance. I can’t really imagine letting any of it go, but I’ve also got some big changes headed my way, so naturally I’ve been digging deep to figure out what I need to do in order to make room for the new adventures. I’m also thinking about what shifts I will need to make to my current way of living and, sadly, what I need to let go of.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I am an introvert. I treasure space, quiet, and peace. I also value uninterrupted time with the people I love, taking care of my health and wellbeing, and contributing my skills in ways that feel authentic. In looking ahead to the what’s coming my way, I realize that theses are the things I value most of all, and these are the aspects of my life that I can’t imagine willingly sacrificing.

In letting go of some things, I’m beginning to see the value in adding a day of rest to the schedule. It might just be the perfect time to start giving a little more time to the people and things that fill me up and enable me to give back that much more. It might be time for a little more intentional rest and retreat, if only to come back into the world more ready and willing to take on whatever is in store.

What are your thoughts about a weekly Sabbath? Does our culture support it? Is it unrealistic to think it’s possible in today’s world?

Introversion

Perhaps it’s the weather. Or maybe the moon cycle. Possibly hormones. I don’t really know.

Moon Rise

I’m feeling introverted these days, and showing up to write anything that will be shared has felt quite daunting.

The truth is: I am an introvert. I need quiet, calm, and space in order to feel balanced and fueled up. Crowds of people, loud places, busy schedules, meetings, expectations… all these things drain me. When I feel myself getting drained, I sneak away and retreat for an evening, or sometimes for a whole weekend if I can be so indulgent.

Turns out, my introversion translates over to my writing life as well. Right now I’m feeling shy, at a loss for words, and a little stubborn about sharing the personal stuff. Maybe I’m a little vulnerable from the slow moving winter months, or maybe I’m just being selfish. Stubborn and selfish are two qualities I don’t ever hope to retain for any long periods of time, so I’m hoping for a swift pass of this phase.

In the meantime, will you be patient with me?

I’m going on vacation next week, and I hope the warmth and time away from routine will get me back into gear.

We’ll talk soon, I promise.

How do you gather your energy? What is your favorite way to recharge when you’re feeling rundown?

The Beastly Month

Winter comes in gradually where I live. Early autumn brings hazel colored light, long shadows, blazing red and yellow leaves, and a crispness to the air that feels most welcome after a summer of heavy, sticky heat. By Thanksgiving, the ground is (hopefully) frozen and mornings arrive with a soft frost over the grass and bare branches. The sky, when it’s clear, turns a milky blue, and the chill of the wind strengthens it’s bite. By Christmas, we (usually) have snow, and the heaps of white reflect the glow of streetlights and helps to make the deep darkness of the evenings feel a bit more soft and gentle.

January is when the hammer drops. January is a cold, hard, beast of a month.

As a lifetime Minnesota girl, I’ve come to know this cycle well. Yet, only over the past few years have I started to learn how to relish the stillness and peace that come with winter, particularly after the glitter of the holidays has settled.

On the coldest days, when the sun is shining, it’s like you’ve never seen the anything so brilliant. Standing in it, drinking it up, is like pouring water down into the thirstiest part of your soul.

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I got home from work a little early today, just in time to catch the sun as it crept out of the clouds on it’s way to a pink sunset. I live close enough to the Mississippi River to walk to it’s bank, one of my favorite places in the entire city, so I scrambled out the door to get there in time to soak up the last bits of light.

You know what I realized on my way?

The days are getting longer.

I didn’t need to scramble. I didn’t need to rush.

I lingered on the bridge, on the highest point of the arch, where the fierce river wind was whipping but the sunshine was strong. I stood there for awhile, taking turns looking down at the half-frozen water, upstream towards the city skyline, and back to the sun, whole and wide in the January sky.

I couldn’t have asked for anything more satisfying.

Back down by the bank of the river, shielded from the wind, I stood on the frozen spaces between the rocks. The ice creaked and moaned. The city sounds were muffled. The light had faded to a pale grey.

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These moments are the generous, comforting, soft pockets that get me through the raw Minnesota winters.

There’s a Canadian front coming in next week, and we are looking at highs of -3 F. I’m praying for some sunshine.2013-01-16_1358376035

Do you live where it’s cold during the winter months? What’s your tonic to the winter winds?