The perpetual Lent

I need a break from Lent.

An acquaintance used that line on a friend’s post about preparing for Lent and it hit me like a load of bricks. I’m a baby Episcopalian without a lot of Lent background but I know enough to know that lasting till Ash Wednesday is not a very impressive record for waving the white flag. Bear with me. Although I didn’t grow up in the liturgical tradition, I see great value in its cyclical pattern and guided seasons. For such a time as this, etc. From my experience, Lent is about peeling back layers, about experiencing intentional discomfort to recenter yourself, and about loss.

I’ve been living in Lent. A period of time stretching back almost a year now of reorganizing my priorities and stripping back expectations that I once considered obvious and essential. I am so very hungry for Easter, for new birth. Today, crumpled on the couch, I confessed that all around me I see people in the “creation” stages of their life with baby showers, and due dates, new jobs, and exciting moves. I’m happy for them but I’m also crushed. I feel trapped in a long slow decomposition. Life hurts. I can hope that this decomposition sensation is also one of fertilization: that something richer and beautiful will grow out of it. In the moment, it just feels like an extended abrasion in which every moment stretches out another sore spot.

This week I was diagnosed with PTSD. That sounds shocking and dramatic and I want to acknowledge that there is a gigantic chasm of PTSD and I’m firmly convinced and grateful that I am in the shallow end of that riptide. Still, it’s there. It shows up when I’m driving, glance back to see my happy baby and freeze into an alternate reality in which it’s just the two of us, forever. I get nausea when my phone goes off at night and I can’t go back to sleep. I no longer have a mental setting of “I’m sure everything is fine” if I miss a phone call or can’t get a hold of Andrew. It’s exhausting. I struggle with anger because after so much it’s just not fair that I’m still hurting, I’m still scared, and I’m still so unsure.

Last week marked six months since Andrew’s last attempt. From a linear standpoint that should have been a celebratory milestone. Depression is not quite linear though and my discomfort and unease have been ratcheting up steadily for three weeks now. For most of the years of our marriage, we knew that late fall is when things started getting tough and the caution lights went on for our social interactions, our check-ins, and our speed of life in general. If we made it to spring break though, we were normally in the clear. Things would start easing up and by summer there would be a few glorious months of laughter and impulsiveness and easy connection. That pattern was significantly disrupted last year where spring break marked a steep downturn in Andrew’s depression and the spiral flew out of control throughout the summer. In my head, six months in is a halfway point but on the wheel of time it’s more like that horrible old riddle of “how far can you walk into a forest”. The answer of course is “only halfway because then you start going out”. In this case though, we’re trapped in a nightmare forest where there is no “getting out” and now there’s only a count down to the next traumatic breakdown.

To clarify, Andrew is doing really well. I’m so proud of how active and decisive he’s been about consistent medication and doctor appointments plus doing the nitty gritty self-care stuff that can be so easily overlooked when you feel bad. He’s doing much better than me at asking for help for example. :)

With political anger and abuse, mysterious medical bills, and the perpetual panic of “what-if”, I don’t have a lot of cushion right now. My students are experiencing pressure and pain in this racially charged environment and it’s showing up in behavior. I’ve lost more students to dropping out this year than I have in all my other years of teaching combined. My emotional grace and joy is at a rough low and I’m finding myself trapped in ugly cycles of apathy because I just can’t and desperation to be the best teacher ever because it’s so obvious the kids need it. A sentence I read this morning nails it perfectly. “Every day, a teacher has both succeeded and failed.” Every single day, I could tell you a beautiful moment, a breakthrough, a funny English error we learned about. Every same day I could tell you about a kid quitting, a student throwing a book, being called a whole range of things just under someone’s breath. Every day I feel a little closer and a whole lot farther away from the teacher I want to be.  This week that wound got much much deeper.

*For those who are sensitive to descriptions of violence and assault, please stop here.*

This Friday, while this post paused in my drafts folder for me to contemplate if life was really hard enough to countenance sharing it, I received heartbreaking news. Before classes started I was paged over the intercom to go to the counselor’s office. Being in mid conversation with my team leader, I must have looked confused because he proceeded to tell me, in the middle of the hallway with shocking calmness, that one of my students had died. Not an accident, not a tragic coincidence that leaves us shaken in our grief. No, my fifteen year old chickadee, my student, one of mine, had been murdered. The details as they emerged between the counselor’s whispers and my Google searches revealed layer after layer of evil. Lord have mercy.

She had been missing for weeks. I sent email after email, was told that when she was marked a “runaway” that it was now the police’s business. I had asked her friends, they said she had a fight with her mom, was living with a friend. It’s not an uncommon story with my kids. I checked with them again, she was going to a new school, probably. I remember asking if I wrote her a note if they could take a picture and text it to her. Of course they could.

I never wrote the note.

Logically I know, it would have done nothing. It wouldn’t have protected her from the men who held her captive, who assaulted and raped her, who killed her as an appeasement to the Beast they feared and worshiped. In a world of evil, I am so weak and powerless. But I had a chance to send her love, to share that she was worth something. I missed my chance.

Job cried out, “I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. When I lie down I say, “when shall I arise” But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till dawn.” (7:3-4)

I cannot speak for her mother, for her friends, for her little brother that she wrote me papers about. I do not know their grief and their guilt, their fear and sorrow. I can only carry my heart. I only know that I am weary to my bones. I am drowning in sand that shifts and swallows me up. I am rocked with anger. I don’t want to talk to God.

She was a child. A good reader who sassed as good as she got in a morning class full of attitudes, she made friends and was kind to her seatmate who struggled with the simplest of questions. She laughed at my exaggerated faces and hated to see her class fall behind the reading competition. She told me about fights with her mom. She walked arm in arm with her friends in the mornings before class. She was a CHILD.

I have never hated the past tense more.

In all the storms of my life, and there have been dark and terrible storms, my narrative faith has stood me well. How great the triumph after the battle. Redemption requires a certain loss. The sovereignty of God is a mighty and mysterious thing. Yet I will confess in the throes of this, I can see no brightness. I see no hope. The law can promise retribution, but no justice. The dawn will not bring a miraculous call of celebration. Her body was left on the side of the road. Her story is ended.

Lent is a long forty days and Christ who loved us sweat blood before the tragedy that it culminates in.  The suffering of this year has sapped me to the bone. I don’t know how to sweat blood. I can’t reach my hands out for grace when I picture Genesis afraid and without succor. I can’t pray for healing and strength without wondering where her Rescuer was. I don’t know how to receive the joy of Easter right now.



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Where are you, Christmas?

One of my favorite fairy tales is that of Tam Lin. There are various versions but in my preferred version, Tam Lin is stolen away from his true love by the Fae Queen. Janet, determined to win him back, intercepts him at a crossroads as he rides with the regal procession on his way to be tithed to Hell. She pulls him from his horse and clings to him while the Queen laughs. Tam Lin, you see, doesn’t recognize her. He doesn’t know the hands holding him or the voice calling him to come home. He’s deep under the Queen’s spell and she mocks the poor country girl for ever imagining she could compete with her power. Undaunted, Janet grasps Tam Lin and refuses to let him go. Mockingly, the Queen decides to make a game of it, testing Janet till she surrenders Tam Lin of her own accord and thuse breaks any claim she has on him. She transforms the knight into a writhing snake, a burning weight of iron, a slavering wolf. Terrified, bleeding, and afraid, Janet clings to Tam Lin, repeating over again, “I love him and he is my own.” Tam Lin becomes a sharp blade, a lion with stinking breath, and a rat with bloody eyes. Janet will not let him go. As the hour of dawn slides over the horizon, the Queen in fury abandons Tam Lin in his human form and leaves the two ragged and broken lovers at the crossroads.

It’s a beautiful story of determination and strength against incredible odds. Love overcomes all. But I wonder more and more, what happened after that moment? Is Janet scarred, her pretty face cut with claws and fangs? Does she start back at sudden noises, at a dog howling in the night? Will Tam Lin be able to come back into the human world, being some seven years trapped in the faerie realm? How do they go on? What does love look like after the time of testing when the weariness and healing can last dawn after dawn? Perhaps it’s a story I’ll write one day, but for now I wish someone else had written it. I want to know the ending. I want to know how many more dawns I have to go till the spell is just a memory instead of a wound.

Christmas is coming. We are weeks into the season and the music and images are everywhere. We know the magic of a comforting Christmas: it’s real connection with the ones you love, time spent creating moments of peace, and a period of reflection and treasuring up. There’s special food, and intentional beauty like a tree and sparkling decorations. It’s a holy pause to celebrate the fulfillment of promises through Scripture and remember the provisions of the year past. Artists use the image of a family curled up next to a fire to tap into our desires for relationship and tranquility. Musicians blend high formal music with melodies we can hum along to more or less on pitch for carols. Comforting Christmas is a beautiful and rich tradition that echoes the desire for all cultures to refocus on community during the winter, where work slows, the fields lay fallow, and the time to be busy grows short while the hearth hours grow long. Comforting Christmas is good and righteous.

This year is not going to be a comforting Christmas. While writing this piece, the song “Where are you Christmas” from that cozy classic Grinch that Stole Christmas played several times. It strikes a chord:  “My world is changing, I’m rearranging, Does that mean Christmas is changing too?” There’s a deep temptation in my heart to resent the “loss” of comforting Christmas. After all, that’s what everyone gets right? It’s essentially a social right to have a time in which quiet hearts and friendships, giving and receiving, hope and joy are the by-words of the season.

This year, I’m far from comforted. I am weeping and grieving, I am raw with exhaustion and fear. I have been carrying a heavy load for a long time and the sorrow is constant. In the next week or so, I’m grading exams, final projects, and sending my kids off for two weeks into what I hope is a comforting Christmas. My apartment is undecorated and in disarray because I’m packing up and moving my little crew across town. My best friend is moving hours away. My sister, who has been living with me as amazing support, is making some new roommates the luckiest girls on earth. A late night phone call yesterday sent me into a panic attack because all I could fathom was that the psychiatric hospital was calling to let me know my husband had attempted again. I’ve spent hours this week writing and weeping as I try to get a hold on this summer. Grief is a prickly beast. This is not a time of tranquility, of easing the heart. The discrepancy between that image and my reality is stark and painful.

This is a different type of Christmas: a Christmas of courage. This summer, I thought that I might be a widow by December. I was swamped in fear and sorrow and trauma. I held onto discipline and purpose and the undeniable truth that Andrew was mine and I was not going to let him go. Dawn broke the way it does, slowly and gradually with shadows stretching forward into the day until they burn away under the light. Andrew has come farther out of the grip of this depression than I could have imagined or dreamed in these last months. There is great joy and grace in this. Life goes on and so it goes. It is good. The courage of this Christmas is facing the fact that the life is not going to self-correct into the same trajectory we were in prior to this summer. Our marriage, jobs, finances, medical needs, and fears are drastically different. There’s no restart, simply because the crisis is over. Everything has changed. Everything is rearranged. So where are you, Christmas? Are you changing too?

I think of Mary, swollen and pregnant and clambering on and off that donkey to pee every five miles. I was pregnant- it may have been every three miles. We don’t judge. I think of her going into an unknown space without the social norms to guide her. I think of her giving birth without her mom, without spaces and faces that feel like home. I remember that moment that I first held Eamon and realized that I will be vulnerable for the rest of my life. My heart lives in this tiny fragile body and I cannot defend it from all the world. What a tremendous weight that was. How much more so for Holy Mary who sees before her a road of surrendering a child that is not hers to claim, to somehow mothering and worshipping the Son of God? My God picked a woman of courage and grace because she chose at the moment of truth to praise Him instead of reject him. She took what looked like the shambles of her plans and magnified the Lord for showing her favor. I think of Hannah who wept for a child and then returned him back to God. I wept for my husband, beseeched and begged for mercy and grace. How great is the Lord that he has answered my prayer! How tight and fearful is my heart in the tension and chaos that is my desire to hold control, to protest my right to rest and certainty! Christmas is Christ in the disarray, the holy in the midst of the mess, the physical projection of love at it’s most vulnerable and most powerful. We know what it is to be loved like this: when someone opens the most precious parts of their life to you and says “look, and be welcome”.  

This Christmas, ya’ll I am a mess. I am crying, and angry, and overwhelmed. I don’t like my heart’s pain, my body after months of stress eating, my turned-up-to-eleven feelings. I am without a nest, without a five year plan, and without the energy to cover up how that makes me anxious. I am also blessed beyond measure. My husband is with me and he laughs again. My family is near and they love me. My God is good and just. This Christmas is going to take courage: strength to be grateful, support to be focused, and freedom to let go of what could have been. I figure, if I need a reminder, I can always look to Mary and Janet.

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The stagnation cycle.

As Andrew is back to work, I spend a lot of time by myself. To be specific, I spend a lot of time sitting on my couch holding Eamon and staring vapidly at my phone or Facebook or Facebook on my phone. It’s nice. There are few things that beat a small snuggly creature leaning against you with all their warm body weight. When they are asleep, it’s like having the perfect wrap-around heater- all soft and formfitting. Awake, of course, is another matter.

Generally, in between breastfeeding and coaxing him back to sleep, I’ve found myself with little mental “spark” to do anything else during the day. While he’s eating, I distract myself with Solitaire or my thousandth episode of “Property Brothers” (a fantastic show in which two brothers find terrible homes and fix them up ridiculously stylishly. I now know far more than I should about the average price of an undermount sink and the comparative values of quartz vs marble countertops.) When I get him to sleep, precariously and preciously, I don’t want to risk waking him enough to move. All of this leaves me very anchored to whatever seat I picked at whatever state of half-awake I was in when Eamon decided first breakfast was in order.

I’ve found it’s left me anchored in another way too. I spend time in a dazed cycle of the same four or five websites. I glance at Facebook or Instagram, scroll through Pinterest dreaming up ideas I will totally do when I have free time ( so you know, never), giggle at silly animal pictures, and begin again. Occasionally I stretch myself by reading various articles my friends share or checkin a blog or two but in essence I tread the same mental space ad nauseum.

Not only does this leave me feeling stagnant and intellectually bloated, it also makes my conversations with Andrew rather redundant. Today I….fed the baby, changed the baby, and celebrated when the baby went to sleep….. All I can offer is a recap of whatever captivating renovation challenge was unearthed in a 130 year old home on today’s episode. (Seriously though the show is awesome, even though I cannot for the life of me understand why people buying old homes are repeatedly shocked by the fact that the house is not in prime condition. OF COURSE IT HAS BAD PIPES- it was built before the first World War!)  While absorbing in person, it makes for less than scintillating secondhand reports. I am becoming dull.

One of my favorite books is Little Women (which by the way is technically two books Little Women and Good Wives but is currently published in one volume under the more popular title name). In the latter half of Little Women, Meg – that perfect doll child- acquires some interest by virtue of having two children and being promptly tyrannized by them. She spends all of her time absorbed in their latest habits, their needs and wants, and wears herself close to sick with her outpouring of loving (if undisciplined) affection for the babies. Meanwhile, her husband goes unnoticed except as a temporary audience of Demi or Daisy’s latest skill before Meg returns to the sacrificial altar of babyhood. Not surprisingly, their marriage begins to sour. Meg complains that John is often gone, comes home late, and seems far more interested in popping over to his friends house than staying home. Marmee, in all her wisdom, points out that Meg has made John an interloper in his own home, has ignored everything but the babies, and has in essence set aside all the things that used to make her a pleasant person. At first, Meg is shocked (Marmee SHOULD be on her side) and argues that she’d doing it “for the babies’ sake” but Marmee shuts that right down and tells her the baby need a present father and a happy mother who set rules and boundaries rather than an indulgent nursemaid who gives in to every whim. *shots fired*. Meg backs down, straightens up, and turns her attitude around. (If you are a kinetic thinker, that sentence definitely counts as exercise.) She makes intentional time for just the couple, works to engage him on his daily life, and allows him into the nursery. Their marriage gets back on track and the whole family is much happier for Marmee’s words of wisdom.

That little plotline has been running through my head recently. Andrew has not ( just to be clear) acquired any of John’s evasion techniquesl I have been thinking though about how I want to invest my time. “IN THE BABY” I hear a chorus of voices ringing out. The time goes too quickly, you’re gonna miss this when it’s gone, the whole country song with bridge and backup guitar. That’s totally true! But in the moments where Eamon is asleep or eating, the house is quiet, and the choice falls to me, I want to make wise choices. So here are my daily goals to make motherhood an experience that grows all of me- not merely my ability to distinguish between 18 different crying noises. :)

1. Drink six BIG cups of water or herbal tea a day.

2. Listen to at least one TED talk a day. There’s so much to learn and a short ten minute speech is the perfect size to kickstart my brain. Today’s watch was and it was awesome. :) This will also give me new ideas to think about and to discuss with Andrew or other visitors.

3. Read for at least one hour. It’s the best brain break in the world. The only problem is that if the story is too good, I become irrationally irked by interruption- AKA Eamon. So, I’ll have to work on that…or just read lame books?

So if you come to visit, help hold me accountable! Refill my water cup, ask what I’ve read lately, or suggest your latest favorite TED talk! It’s going to keep being a good life!

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an old blog post. :)

As I’m eagerly awaiting news of my newest niece starting her trip Earthside, I find myself checking Molly’s blog even though i know she’s got much bigger things to think about other than writing a new post. :) This made me think of how much I have enjoyed reading her thoughts through her pregnancy and pushed me to get a little journal-y (although every journal I’ve ever begun has possibly 5 entries. It’s not my strong point.)

Anyways, we are at 24 weeks which seems remarkably significant for no reason that I can identify. I am definitely bumping, as my students are delighted to point out at every possible occasion. Maternity clothes are my new best friend and I’m a full convert into the passionate appreciation for stretchy pants club. Is there a club like this? If not, I’ll start one. Anyways…..

Eamon has begun kicking up a storm. It ranges from butterfly brushes that I may have imagined to full-on wallops that have me fairly convinced he will be playing soccer straight from the womb. Last night he did a kick/punch combo that was both impressive in strength and surprising because it showcased just how big he is getting! It never ceases to surprise me and generally happens every hour or so. So far only Andrew and Bex have been able to catch him in action but I have a feeling by Christmas he will be kicking hello to everyone. This constant motion is reassuring at one level because it soothes the constant worry that something disastrous has happened.

On the other hand, it’s been driving (or kicking) home a concept that I often struggle with: I’m never alone. At the most practical level, being pregnant has placed me in constant community with a being that I cannot see, cannot communicate with, and can only sense when he reaches out to me. My solitude and self-dependence is gone because no matter how alone I appear to be, he and I are always interacting with each other’s needs. (I’d love it if he could work out some sort of Morse code instead of making me dizzy, nauseous, or emotional as communication but hey, that’s what all those early childhood development courses I took are for!) It’s a crowded community but he and I are making it work.

The idea of making it work combined with surrendering my own sense of self is one that I’ve been learning over and over again. I think it’s one of the more potent lessons in life and one that is directly driven by God’s plan of marriage. Even though at times I feel like I’m getting a crash course in interdependency, these are actually classes I’ve been taking for years- two and a half of them to be precise. One of my hardest struggles as a newlywed was waiting to make plans till I had talked to Andrew- from social plans, to work commitments, and school schedules suddenly became “our” business rather than just mine. I had to calculate budget and energy with a shared mindset instead of thinking that I could just push though one more thing or cut corners somewhere else. Andrew, as has been a constant pattern in our relationship, has been unfailingly patient with this whole process. Before I’m even close to be ready for the level of self-sacrifice that comes with caring for an infant, I needed lots of practice with things like weekend plans and how much to spend for birthdays.

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In which things fall apart.

Yesterday afternoon while monitoring recess, a student slammed a soccer ball not into the net but into my stomach. It was quite the shot. The ball knocked me back and I sat down abruptly. Thankfully I was with two other teachers who responded perfectly. It was late in the day so Andrew was on campus and one teacher immediately went to find him. Mia, my coteacher, helped me get up and we headed into the building. Andrew was there for his afternoon job but was able to get off of work. I was feeling mainly sore and in shock but we couldn’t get Eamon to move around so our midwife recommended going to the ER. The closest one was called Grace- a good sign I thought. :) I have to say, of all the ER places I have been, this one was the best. They gave us excellent service and attention with focused and cheerful care. They even had crushed ice for me! We were there about 4 hours before we left with some very mixed news.

The good news is that Eamon doesn’t seem to be injured, my water didn’t break, and there wasn’t any bleeding. That’s wonderful short term news. The bad news was rather staggering though. My iron levels have plummeted again which has my midwife very concerned. She will be reaching out to the obgyn that she partners with to discuss further options but homebirth is looking like a long range shot. Then it gets worse. After relooking at the ultrasound, my midwife noted a big problem. The force of the ball hit Eamon so hard that it flipped him. Instead of being head down and ready to go as he’s been for weeks, he is now feet first with his head up in my ribs. As a first time mom, a breech baby (according to my midwife) would not be even attempted to birth naturally. Do not pass go, straight to c-section. There is a slim chance that I may be able to get him to flip back but generally this close to my due date ( Monday) the baby simply doesn’t have enough room to move like that unless propelled by trauma.

My midwife told me last night that I have until Monday to get the baby to flip and then they will be scheduling a c-section. The doctor that my midwife works with is out of network for me and the insurance will not cover her at all so I will be finding a stranger. I am currently calling obgyns in our area and asking to set up interviews. My timeline is very very short. I’ve found two doctors who are willing to take me on at this point. One wants to meet me and then do the surgery on Friday. I’m praying for one of them be kind and gracious and not have any slots for a surgery for at least a week. I will also be doing stretches, going to a chiropractor, and praying like mad for this baby to turn. Today I went to Target and bought a swimsuit so that I could go do handstands in the pool. :) Yes, it apparently looked as hilarious as it sounds. Thank God for Houston weather and being able to swim the first day of April.

Andrew is awesome. He took off work today and spent the morning planning a list of things to keep me busy and distracted. We went to my favorite breakfast spot, spent an hour at Half-Price Books in the children’s section finding baby books for Eamon and wandered around Target dreaming about our new apartment and looking at onesies. He’s been right there with me sitting on hold as we sift through conflicting insurance information, search for doctors, and research any crazy thing that might get this guy head-down in a safe way. I couldn’t imagine tackling this without him.

Emotionally I am really hurting right now. Andrew and I are both struggling to adapt to this very drastic change from the birth experience we have been imagining and dreaming together since before we knew Eamon existed. It’s hard not to let anger at a stupid soccer ball overwhelm me. It’s hard to fight back the frustration that after all of the work, research, preparation, and money we’ve invested that I’m going to most likely end up in the last place I wanted to be: the operating table. It’s a major surgery and that’s pretty scary. Many people have reached out and reminded me that the important thing is a healthy baby and that’s absolutely true but that’s not the only important thing. This is a brutal shift in the story line and it’s a painful experience to suddenly be thrown into a situation I never thought I would face. I’m deeply overwhelmed by the long lists of questions that I don’t have answers to. We will be alright and I have faith that God has a plan that’s better than mine but right now everything in my heart hurts.

Please pray with us for:        kind gracious doctors

peace that passes understanding

this baby to flip himself back around

a sense of organization and preparation

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Teaching at YES taught me.

At officially one week left at YES, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons that I’ve learned teaching here for two years and the ways that I see YES leaving a permanent mark on my life. More than anything, this has been a place that I’ve loved because it is a place that is full of love: love of learning, love of students, and a steadfast love of the potential in every human being. When people asked me why I chose a school with longer hours and higher expectations, my response has always been because it works. This system is designed to provide for needs, develop relationships, and feed hope with a steady diet of support and discipline. Senior Signing Day remains one of the most emotional and powerful experiences in my life and will always be a treasured memory but the daily victories are golden too. With all of that, here are my 10 lessons from YES, with thoughts on how it has prepared me for my next big adventure in life. :)

1. Being on the struggle bus (or driving it, or being dragged behind it) doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your destination. There will be days where I can’t remember what sleep felt like, or alone time, or finishing a book in one day. It will still be worth it. 

2. A wizard ALWAYS leaves a place better than they found it. Always. Picking up trash, moving that one thing back to where it goes, cleaning as I go will help keep the house from being a baby disaster zone (maybe). 

3. Asking for help before the ugly-crying in the breakroom is better but asking for help after the meltdown is also good. I’m going to need SO much help- might as well skip the breakdowns and get it before it’s a crisis. Pride won’t get me through like community will. 

4. Having the same heart for a mission doesn’t always mean agreeing on the method- and that’s good and healthy. Establishing norms of mutual overlap keeps teams together even when discussions get …heated. Andrew and I will disagree on how to best handle and guide Eamon. Other family members, friends, and probably strangers will have advice, concerns, and input. Calibrating intention and mutual love will allow those interactions to be purposeful instead of painful. 

5. Put it in the survey! Feedback is important but it’s even more important to have follow-up on how to reincorporate new ideas into an existing structure and to ensure that each person feels heard and valued. Relationships matter in real time not just in the vague sense of an overarching goal, so taking time to hear and interact with other’s concerns and areas of conflict should be part of an intentional discipline on my part rather than a “push through it” moment so that we can get on with life. Investing that time in communication will preserve resources and keep our community strong. 

6. It is actually possible to heat your lunch, use the restroom, and eat your lunch in seven minutes. That said- an extra ten or twenty minutes of savoring goes a long way towards sanity. Efficiency is a skill I’ve learned, and will keep getting better at. I know it’s going to be important as I try and figure out how to take care of a little one AND myself. Taking time to treasure moments of peace is also a skill that will preserve my health and patience. They are not in conflict. 

7. Simple sub plans will save your life. Even if it’s not the fantastically intricate 12 step jigsaw that you were sure would transform your student’s perception of Shakespeare, in times of need, pulling out that documentary or silent reading time still counts! Sometimes Baby Einstein or Mommy’s phone will pull babysitting duty. It’s not ideal, but it’s not a moral failure and I need to remember that I’m a person with real needs too. 

8. Structures and systems reduce stress- once they work. Investing in a set-up and solidifying how it runs keeps the minute-to-minute freestyling down and gives you attention space to catch those teachable moments. Andrew and I have already discussed sick day plans for when Eamon comes down with something- now it’s not a topic to ambush us with the first fever. In the same way, building patterns and plans may take more energy that I feel like I can muster but it’s going to be vital for me to get a routine down- even though I’m not great at them. Diaper washing- I’m looking at you! 

9. People are always in progress. It doesn’t matter the situation, age, or background, we are always learning and adjusting to things around us. Sometimes that’s invigorating, and sometimes it’s exhausting. Sensitivity to those shifts is key.  I’m going to be a new mom. Andrew will be a new dad. My parents will be new grandparents. CrayCray will be getting LOTS of day-t0-day baby time once school starts back up. All of these things are going to be interesting, draining and terrifying in waves. 

10. Shout-outs matter. Choosing to celebrate others is an active step in declaring that the world is good, that hope is at hand, and that Mondays can be redeemed. You never know who really needed those two claps that day. Active gratitude and an eye for celebration invigorates both the giver and the receiver. If I can be looking for good, it leaves a lot less energy for focusing on the bad. It costs me nothing to give genuine thanks for the things that others do. 

BONUS. Making people is hard. It’s okay to be tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, and desperate for the weekend because it is actually bonebreaking, mindmelting, spiritsucking work- unless you do it out of love. Taking time to love a student, a coworker, a curriculum first will sustain you through the jarring reality of how difficult it is to change lives.

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Home Free!

Today marked an exciting moment in our pregnancy journey- so of course it involved tears, comfort baking, and terrible directions. This morning we had our official home visit by our midwife who delivered the tub, a bag full of tools and attachments, and the last stamp of clearance for getting this party started.

It definitely was not a guaranteed  approval though and I’m spending a little extra time in praise and processing this afternoon instead of watching the Barcelona game with Andrew. Throughout my pregnancy, I’ve struggled with low iron levels. Matched with my inability to take pills and keep them down, this anemia threat has been consistently discouraging and a tiny monster drifting out of the shadows of my mind. Andrew has been a champion- grinding up supplements and hiding them in smoothies for me, encouraging me to keep cooking in the cast iron, and sacrificially agreeing to steak for dinner. :) Despite all of this, every test I’ve taken has shown dropping levels of hemoglobin. What was meant to be my last test several weeks ago put me severely in the anemic camp and raised warning flags for the safety of trying a home birth. At that point, the risk of hemorrhaging was significant enough that we discussed other options but my midwife had faith that my levels could rise. She kept reminding me that everyone’s levels dropped at that week as the baby was busy building his own blood supply and that it would bounce back in a week or two. (We’re studying alliteration in school next week- did you notice?)

Last Saturday, we took another test hoping her optimism would be reflected in the numbers. It had been a rough week with both Andrew and I home sick from work at the beginning. I had been fighting nausea and fatigue all week as Eamon had temporarily decided right up under my rib cage was exactly where he needed to be. As a result, much of my appetite was gone and only rice crackers and ice were even slightly appealing. Neither of those are particularly rich in iron. We went off to get the tests done and then I went mostly offline for the next few days, working on resting and enjoying the amazing mini babycation Andrew planned for us.  (I plan to post pictures from that soon!) Imagine my dismay when I opened my email Tuesday night to find a concerned email from Nanci telling that my levels had dropped AGAIN.

To be honest, I was crushed. I often struggle with identifying success in my life and having this area where I was consistently and metrically measuring short is a quick fuse to a box full of other self-doubts and fears. Knowing that I had already been in the grey area for a homebirth, I was filled with fear that another dip would sent me straight to a maternity ward. At this point that was triggering a whole plethora of fears, including the simple calendar truth that I’m a mere three weeks away from my due date. That’s simply not enough time to research and enter a practice that would let me try for a completely natural birth in a hospital setting let alone that also takes my insurance. The logistical nightmare meshed with the concerns I have about feeling pressured and manipulated into practices I don’t feel are necessary made last night and this morning a fairly emotional affair. There was a lot of anxiety not only about what the future might hold but also tied up with the sense of failure that I had about these low levels.

This morning I woke up intent on feeling purposeful and successful. My body may not be reaching every goal I set it but I’ve carried Eamon for over 8 months and we’re solidly in what is considered in some practices full-term. (Other more rigorous definitions require 39 weeks to be considered full and would consider us at 37 weeks as “early term” which means that Eamon would most likely be fine but that a longer gestation would only improve his health and well-being.) Andrew and I braved the torrential rain to go grocery shopping- the first time I’ve been in weeks! Andrew has been so amazing about easing so many of my household jobs without a single complaint but it was a lot of fun to be able to shop together. Wednesday night is game night at our place and this weekend we’ll have a houseful of guys hanging out for the fantasy baseball draft so it was great to plan out food and look forward to some social time with good friends.

Even a short grocery trip taxed me to the edge of my energy though. Fatigue, the sort that feels like I’ve run a mile with a big dog on the front of the leash, has been a constant companion the last several weeks but hey, ain’t nobody got time for that! The midwife was coming at eleven though and I was determined to have a hold on my emotions by then. The obvious solution was baking so I started in on a batch of blackstrap molasses cookies. While working on them, I threw on Pandora for some background sound. This song ( Blessings came on and whoosh I was gone. It was such a strong reminder that faith means leaning hard when it’s hard and having the hope to see things that shake me as an opportunity for good- either through learning or by unexpected grace. Lots of tears. Bless that woman!

Soon after that my sister showed up and I was so grateful for the chance to talk through all the plethora of changes Andrew and I are planning. In the next three weeks or so, I’ll be leaving my dream job and 80 some kids that I love dearly and be tackling one of the more challenging physical activities commonly experienced by the human race. We’ll be figuring out parenting the way everyone does- half asleep and totally terrified. :) Of course, we should also throw in job-hunting, apartment searching, and moving across the city.  Andrew is convinced it is a Minick quality to never do anything halfway but I think with this one we may be taking it on double-strength!

Andrew arrived from his quest for Sonic ice (thanks Jill for having particular ice preferences because he didn’t even blink when I insisted it had to be SONIC! Well- trained! :) )  and brought the midwife with him. I’m glad we do homevisits because her address for us was off by one number and her phone number for me was also off a digit- definitely NOT a situation to discover when I’m in labor. She kicked off the meeting with a bang by telling me that my iron levels are so low that she’s not sure “how I’m still functioning”. For context, most healthy people hover between a 12-13. Anemia is a score of an 11 and many pregnant women get close to this score at about 28 weeks but then bounce back. I started at an eleven. Currently I’m barely holding onto a 10. Nanci explained that if I dropped below a ten, she’d probably recommend a hospital birth because she’s worried I simply wouldn’t have the strength to safely make it through a homebirth. I was stricken. It must have showed because she quickly told me that thankfully, even though my hemoglobin levels were drastically low, my platelet count was still in a decent range. Apparently this is not common as they tend to correlate but it’s great for me because low platelets increase the risk of hemorrhaging- and with two strikes I’d be out! Nanci started listing off bonus supplements- yaaaaay. So now, I’m cooking in the cast-iron, rocking the red meat, and stocking up on raisins while Andrew sneaks desiccated liver into my smoothies. Um yuck. But here goes everything we’ve got because the time is running out! Otherwise it was a great appointment. Andrew gets to fiddle with the cords, hoses, and attachments as we do a dry run of setting everything up later this week and Sofi was a great addition to the fun as well as giving me a much needed hug.

Everything is in place and ready to go more or less. :)

How far along? 37 weeks! With a green light from the midwife, I’m drinking pregnancy tea that is supposed to “tone” the uterus and telling Eamon about all the awesome things in this world. I’ve got two weeks of teaching left and then come on baobao! :)

Maternity clothes? Ha- are there any other kinds? I’m so big that I keep running into things with my stomach- ouch!
Stretch marks? Got my first set two days ago. I’m working not to be too bummed about it but I was so close to getting out without a mark!
Sleep: I’ve always been good at sleeping. It’s probably a superpower or something. Most nights I’m still getting my 8 or 9 hours but occasionally Eamon decides to work on some martial arts and I spend a lot of time practicing keeping my temper.
Best moment this week: Escaping for a couple of days into Houston with Andrew. We went to the bookstore, the art museum, and simply had a delightfully peaceful pause in life.
Movement: This guy is fully active. The midwife asked me to keep a two hour log to make sure he was moving at least 10 times in that time period and I may have laughed out loud. If I’ve gone thirty minutes without him making his presence known, it hasn’t happened in months! I think he’s getting so big that the students will be able to see him rolling around.

Food cravings: Rice cakes- which reminds me I need to get another bag! Sonic ice. Sonic ICE. All the time. Ice always.
Anything making you queasy or sick: Ugh the smell of coffee is still rough at random times. That’s pretty much it though!

Belly Button in or out? Pretty much just flat. The oddest looking thing in my opinion!

Wedding rings on or off?  Definitely on- no major swelling yet! My ankles are fine too which is super nice.

Prayer requests: Iron. Iron. IRON. Energy is going to be important on this sort of mission, quest, thing. :)

I’ve been really praying to hit active labor where things might get loud during the day while my neighbors are at work/school. It’s a minor detail that I know I don’t have control over but God does and he cares about the little things!

I’m SO grateful that home birth is and continues to be an option for me and I’m praising God for this chance. Please pray for wisdom for Andrew and I and our midwife Nanci. As she ALWAYS reminds me, the goal is a healthy baby and not a homebirth. I know that she will be fierce in placing me in the best possible situation and I’m blessed to be in her care but we both know and celebrate the fact that before I ever met her God knew me and my heart and story. He has control and power and grace in abundance.

Please, as the days pass on, and God brings us to mind take a moment to shoot a text or call. This is a staggeringly large adventure and we know we will need support from our dear community.

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