Musings of a Mum: 18 months

December 30, 2013 Candace Morris 0 Comments





Hey Lady Munchkin. Dear Chicken.  Hi Baby,
Pour yourself some hot tea, this is going to be a long one.

My favorite little scientist, what have you done with my baby?  You've replaced her chubby cheeks with curiosity and spunk.  You've taken her small cry and morphed it into a loud decree of self.  You've honed some sort of sixth sense of immediately noticing items you aren't supposed to touch.  You've become less reserved on the playground, though you still seem to prefer your own company.  However, you are fully at the interaction phase, so you can play independently less and less at home.  Your toys and parents easily bore you.

Today I woke with a longing.  My being is moved, pushed into a deeper understanding and affection for life.  I missed my mother as I sat and wrote and watched you play...watched you shove books into my lap, demanding a read.  I've been struck again lately with the dual nature of life.  Recently, your Aunt Kelly received the news that her cancer had returned and our entire community spiraled into a panic.  As we endured the longest week of our lives to date, a week waiting to learn if the cancer was treatable (it is!), I began to notice how resentful I was of this suffering while simultaneously noticing how I feel entitled to pleasure and run from pain.

Later that week, I read the following from Pema Chodron:
"Pain is not punishment.  Pleasure is not a reward.  Inspiration and wretchedness are inseparable.  We always want to get rid of misery rather than see how it works together with joy.  Inspiration and wretchedness complement each other.  With only inspiration, we become arrogant.  With only wretchedness, we lose our vision.  Feeling inspired cheers us up, makes us realize how vast and wonderful our world is. Feeling wretched humbles us.  The gloriousness of our inspiration connects us with the sacredness of the world.  But when the tables are turned and we feel wretched, that softens us up. It ripens our hearts.  It becomes the ground for understanding others.  Both the inspiration and the wretchedness can be celebrated.  We can be big and small at the same time." When Things Fall Apart, page 61-62.

This hit home so dramatically.  In the wake of the inability to breath for the worry I had, I also noticed a deep softening toward others, my family, and all living things.  I was full of life.

I've also been thinking about motherhood a lot.  About honesty.  About the hardships.  About saying them aloud.  Wondering if you will be hurt that I was honest in talking candidly about motherhood.

I have to tell you that one of the factors imperative to enjoyment of motherhood is space.  It is very easy to fail into the habit of being your caregiver and only that.  Those times have their joy and pains - exhausting to say the least. It is when I step back, go for a walk alone, take time to write in a coffeehouse with other amazing women, go to brunch with your Aunties, or even sit to write you this letter that I find the clearest, most accessible picture of my love for you, a love too often hidden in the midst of cheerio-covered floors and one million "Not for you, Bowie!" phrases. In the space of necessary reflection is the deepest satisfaction with my life.  Many avoid reflection for this same reason, something inside of them knows they are unhappy.  But my dear, we must be brave.  We must face the honest selves inside of us.

What if me telling the truth of how hard it is to raise a child would never have to hurt you personally?  What if me speaking out and destroying the stigma means other women do the same...so much so that you never equate the nuances of your personality with my ability to find happiness in raising you. What if everyone was saying that it's hard, no matter the child? And then imagine the power that could have if those children's children entered into parenthood without the societal pressure to love the job, therefore freeing themselves up to do it as only they would instead of trying to conform to some sort of bull shit standard.  You don't have to love the work to love the child.

We must be brave and speak.

The other piece of advice I have is this.  Make sure to invest in your life as well as into the life of your children.  I've noticed how much easier it would be on my daily angst if I didn't try to do anything else but take care of you all day. I began to wonder if that's how so many mother's loose themselves, loosing the confusing battle of who to chose in any given moment.  "Am I being selfish?" "Am I spoiling her" Back and forth, each day and task producing a different answer.  I hear myself scream along with you, "What about meee!!!??" and a shame ensconced deeply in that voice.  A voice that says this is your formative years, it's time to be selfless, it's your time.  All these thoughts are true, but they are not all the truth.  I am still here, and I am forming you.  I want you see a mother fighting to preserve herself as a woman too.  I want you to know I can't be a good mother if I give you everything I have.

I tell you this to fill in the gaps of your childhood as you look back and perhaps have memories of me sitting, reading, writing, crying.  These were my thoughts this particular day as you played at my side.

And now to you.  I have pages recorded of your new developments, loves, and milestones:

  • You love to be scared and laugh easily when Daddy chases you.
  • You obsess about books.  It's your first word when you wake and your last before bed.  You definitely have your favorites, requiring a read of 6-12x per day.  I will sometimes find you quietly sitting on the rocking chair in your bedroom, surrounded by piles of books you've pulled down, leafing through the pages curiously.  
  • You willingly dole out "squeezes" and are the most cuddly toddler I've known.  It's not uncommon to spend 30 min with you in my arms, sucking your thumb, gazing out the window. You are very tender, often hugging your playmates or cousins of your own volition.
  • You are SO curious.  You love to watch me make coffee in the morning.  You love to brush your teeth with the sonicare.  You want to play with my phone, camera, and xbox controller all the time.  You love to open all manner of drawers and cabinets.
  • You are rescued by the outdoors.  No matter how cranky or upset or sad our day becomes, you are restored to peace just by walking out the front door.  
  • I marvel at how much you understand.  I will give complicated directions and you will follow them exactly, shocking me a long the way.  You will make connections I've never drawn for you - like looking at a picture of a clock then pointing to the clock on the wall.  
  • You love to help unload the dishwasher and water the plants.
  • Your favorite repeated words are "Abbey" and "HiKitty" over and over and over.
  • You are so verbally aware! You are repeating accurate number of syllables and love to have me say words to you during the bath.  Your most impressive word to date is "applesauce." 
  • You are walking, climbing, nearly running. 
  • You are still a good eater and a great sleeper.
  • Your favorite toys are legos and puzzles and the tupperware cabinet.
We love you, little lady.  If you want to take a break and slow down the whole growing up thing, we'd be fine with that. Just sayin.
Momma.



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pray

December 23, 2013 Candace Morris 0 Comments

"For small creatures such as these, the vastness is bearable only through love." Carl Sagan

Though it is not my news to share
It is my existence in danger.
Not in physicality, but in every other way.
We wait on this cold night
sparkling with the stars
I've hung on my window.

I will avoid the morning,
Ever embracing the night.
Do the dishes and take a bath.
Read articles on parenting and restaurants.

I cannot help but feel everything hinges on tonight,
the crux
the turning point
the timestamp
for whatever tomorrow brings,
it will bring change.

Through worry and tears.
In the presence of my constant companion
Anxiety elbowing out any breath loitering about in my lungs.
Heart pounding down the doors of the universe.
And despite myself, I pray.
To everything
To nothing
To be spared and be returned to youth where we didn't think about cancer
Or a life other than how it should go.
Other than our plans.

And then I remember I am nothing
And everything revolves around something else.

And how many people drive in their cars to and from appointments and work and the grocery store
Tortured by similar questions and fear of loss,
Wondering what and why and how and no.
Carried by the things we do for others,
Moved deeply to express our love.

And I am not alone.
She is not alone.
The oldest roots of the ancient Redwood forest are not alone.

So we bear
witness wait
pray.

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This Week with Bowie

December 08, 2013 Candace Morris 0 Comments




Monday

A heavy typing schedule keeps me from wearing shoes


Please excuse me, I have time travel to attend to

I shall make do with this fabricated T.A.R.D.I.S for now - don't tell Daddy I can spot a fake a mile away.

Here, I think I was in a good mood

Freezing temperatures be damned!

Tuesday

Here, I am cute and innocent

Here, I am frustrated and bored
Outside is my happy place

Wednesday

I call this "The Portrait of My Father as a Toddler"

Here I managed to scale the turquoise chair

What? I am not supposed to stand on it? I shall be sure to challenge that every ten minutes - just to be sure.

Here I signal violently "HELP"

Mother does not respond favorably to my request

Nor does she respond to my anger.  Tears perhaps?

I quickly forget any conflict and head to the hallway to stomp on the newly mopped floor - but was thwarted by this offensive contraption.

Well, surely she should pick me up to apologize for caging me.

I retire to my room for diversions

Books!

They come off the shelves quite easily.

I've mastered the art of tearing pages
Thursday

I was discovered reading when Mother wondered why the house was so quiet and she came to investigate.  

Here, I shall dance for you while Mom pretends she doesn't let me watch TV when 
she's about to go insane/is nursing a hangover.


Sunday

Mother found my first adventure with snow boots to be a photo opportunity.

What is this on the floor?

I shall pick it up and try to eat it.

I found some old balloons!

I shall stare longingly out the window.


djkfsdfhalkjsdhflkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkdfaealjkvcfdaljndf,
Bowie

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Merci

November 28, 2013 Candace Morris 0 Comments

Hey Birds,
What have you got cookin' in that thankful cooker of yours? Pour moi:




Creature Comforts: I've been struck by this quite a bit lately.  My warm house, my lovely antiques, my wine budget, my car with heated seats, my heavy quilt made my Joel's late grandmother, my nail polish collection, my cozy couch, my large TV, my access to any information I may want to know, my computer and internet access, my jadite mug, my gorgeous books, my proximity and ability to acquire some of the best coffee in the country, my stroller, the lake one mile from my house where Bowie and I walk, the donut shop two blocks away, my large cardigan and shoe collection, my hot baths, my peppercorn candle, our cooking salts collection, my access to quality food, the neighborhood where I can get almost anything I want within 10 miles, my smartphone, my important camera.



Privilege: That I have the luxury of time to reflect upon my life. I do not take this for granted; this has been affecting me profoundly of late. That my birth, race, income bracket - all of these things merge to support my dreams.  The advantage is large, and I am eager to share it well with others through self-awareness, charity work, time, money, community service, education, and teaching my daughter the same.



Therapy: For the healing power of speaking into secret, shadowy places. Though nothing may be fixed per say, an immeasurable amount of relief and release results in speaking without a filter to an objective party.




Written Word: The words that compile my inner dialogue behave like caged children clawing to get out of the classroom for recess, scratching at my eyes and hands to be released of this suffocating, limiting mind.  That I have the means, the working hands, the brain function, and the talent to express myself  - I really am supremely thankful.  I believe I would have died young without it.



My Mother-in-Law:  Last Monday, a few hours before Joel would be coming home to help, I reached a scary point with Bowie.  She was frustrating, demanding, teething, not listening, and otherwise being illogical.  I was maxed out on being a Mother.  In order to combat this, I had already a self-date in place for Tuesday, attending my writer's group.  Joel's mom agreed to watch her, so I was prepared to drive 45min 4x that day, for a total of 3 hours driving. I do this a lot, they watch her so I can keep sane and I am happy to do it.  A few minutes after I experienced ultimate frustration with Bowie, I got an email from Jean saying that she wanted to drive up so I didn't have to - just to love on me.  This action, though small, changed my entire outlook.  I heard the cosmos say through her, "You are not alone."

Sentient Mind and Physical Health: I like my mind, that it is self-aware, that it can look up and ponder its own existence.  I appreciate the gift of physical mobility and health.




Quality of relationships: To have met and shared a reciprocal love with people who crave the same depth of relationship as I is very, very rare. To have physical reminders of their love - letters, words, texts, emails, gifts.  It's overwhelming - especially when I think of all the humans suffering in loneliness and isolation.  If I persist in these feelings, it is of my own doing - not because I am truly alone.





The feeling of Bowie intentionally hugging me: When you give your body, soul, spirit, resources, career, energy, sleep, mental health, time, and patience to a small being that continues to suck it out of you day after day, it can be hard to give yourself the personal rewards necessary for continuing.  This was Bowie's first year of life.  But as we progress toward toddlerhood and she stops to hug me, wants to cuddle with me, pats me gently in the dark night while I hold her, sighs with utter relaxation and security - this is a feeling like I've never known.  It feels good.  She is bright, charming, clever, and pensive.  


For Phoenix: This peanut kills me.  So perfectly sad and bright and smart and independent...for the healing she has brought to her parents.



Happy Thanksgiving, Turkeys.


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Reminder To Self

November 15, 2013 Candace Morris 0 Comments


 Writing is Confession.
Let Them Judge.



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Diary of a Journal

November 11, 2013 Candace Morris 0 Comments





Dear Diary,
My owner wrote with a black pen today.
I spent the evening awaiting her relieving scribbles
Sharp and fast. I should probably tell
her that no one can read it.
I feel best when I can get fresh air on my pages.
But I shouldn't complain,
She takes me everywhere and tells me things
that would make you blush.

Until Tomorrow.



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The End of an Era

November 10, 2013 Candace Morris 0 Comments


It's officially over.  I've watched all the Star Trek TV there is to watch, save for a few gaps to fill in (3-5 episodes in TOS and the first three seasons of Voyager).  Last night, we finished Enterprise and I may have cried.  Star Trek is so much more than I thought it was, and it has become vastly more meaningful to me than I ever imagined.  For the future vision of humanity birthed in the creative mind of Gene Roddenberry, for the understanding of who we are,  and for what we value and the impossible decisions we have to make. In a myriad of lessons I learned through watching ST, one pervades my thoughts today.  And I have enough artist friends to know that they need to hear this.

Les Artistes,
You can change the world with one vision.
-mme.


One story, one painting, one song, one design, one photograph, one invention.
There's something there just terrifically inspiring.





I also sense my time as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) is nearing its end.  I've been job hunting/applying/interviewing for a year, as it was never "the plan" to stay home with Bowie.  However, it's been wonderful and I feel terribly lucky.  Momentum has been building the last 6 weeks with several interviews and leads.  Additionally, I am working hard to get a freelance technical writing career underway.  I am midway through my first assignment, and while I underestimated how challenging it would be, I also feel thrilled to be learning so much...not to mention the much-needed respite from motherhood brain.

Did you know that the majority of women report significant drops in self-confidence when they became SAHMs.  It makes perfect sense to me; it's such a different skill set, raising kids versus out-of-home work.  Both are grueling, but I am one of those women who needs to know she is good for something other than:

  1. Wiping little faces 4-8x/day.
  2. Refilling the cat's water.
  3. Laundering vestments.
  4. Vacuuming our annoyingly show-everything carpet.
  5. Meal planning, shopping, cooking, and dishes. 
  6. Try to be aware of gender biases I might unconsciously be communicating.  
  7. Arranging play-dates.
  8. Researching best practices for discipline - making sure food habits, manners, values, behaviors, and language all align with our principles while simultaneously full well knowing that she's going to be who she is no matter what.  Even IF I take pains to introduce her to an array of foods, she may not be an exotic eater.  Little battles we must approach, fight, and then ultimately let go of.  Impossible.
  9. Think about future schools.
  10. Help herself discover the world and others safely.
  11. Observe her without labeling and limiting her.
  12. Keep her safe, but let her take risks.
  13. Teach her to communicate well, and at her pace.
  14. Knowing her pace!
  15. Allow her to experience the full range of her emotions without always trying to comfort or distract her from them.
  16. Clip her fingernails.
Of course the list could go on and on, just like any job description: you are hired for one thing and end up performing a myriad of additional, unpredictable duties.  





So I am busy now, trying to arrange babysitting for job interviews and writing deadlines...not to mention prepping for interviews, applying for jobs, and teaching myself how to run my own business AND learn the business.  I told a friend last night over wine, "I feel like taffy.  Pulled in every direction." 




In other things coming to an end, my baby is nearly gone.  She toddles about the house in her Frankenstein way and her interest now lies ONLY in what I am doing at that moment.  She demands something new from me every day, but where once I could honestly say that I didn't enjoy the work ( I feel obliged to present a whole, honest picture of my motherhood experience), I now feel the pleasure of the age she is at.  It's a scrumptious stage, despite an extra dose of spicy behavior the last few weeks (MOLARS?!).  She's a brilliant baby who would do nothing outside of eating, reading books, tinkering with electronics, and being outside. Kind, patient, sweet, snugly and painfully curious - she's mine and I adore her.  

But every day, I walk into her room and this CHILD pops up out of the crib with her big head and adult-like expressions and speech. "You look different than yesterday," I tell her.  She grins toothily and reaches up to me. It's happening too fast; I consciously make myself enjoy it.




Last week, Kelly hosted a "Dia De Lost Muertos" party.  That morning, I was in my writer's workshop and we were instructed to write on "honoring the dead."  I always collect leaves on my way to class to stick into the pages of my notebook.  I wrote Denise's name on one of those leafs and from that moment on, I was thinking of her, pondering her absence, mourning Jessica's unnameable, repetitive loss in her mother...and that evening, poured her a glass of Chardonnay and lit a candle.  I placed her mother's ring by it.  I also brought a picture of Sylvia Plath and some soap - as is tradition...so the dead can clean themselves from their journey.





Despite its macabre reputation, DDLM is actually a celebration of life.  To remind us that the dead are alive and well with us, that they are happy, that they are to be remembered. 



The leaves are ending.  The stupid wind just blew them all away.  It's really the saddest thing to happen to me in a while.  The cosmic plates are shifting, the terroir is crumbling from tremors, and the chill of winter begins.  May we all be ready.

Amen,


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