Monday, February 19, 2007

And Today's Reason to Cry

As we all know, my pregnancy hormones continue to rage out of control and I am now big enough to be quite uncomfortable when sleeping, and so...add sleep-deprivation to pregnancy hormones and you can imagine how delightful I am to be around for long periods of time in the cold dark winter.

And, to add to this, we have a new situation in our happy home which has this animal lover a mite testy. I have lately discovered that we seem to be harboring at least two, and maybe three or four cats under our shed where they have somehow survived sub-zero temperatures and blizzard conditions of the past week. Today as the temperature soared at about 40 degrees, two of them were sunning themselves contentedly on the back fence, and one was climbing one of our pine trees. I see little tiny cat prints circling the shed, and Cooper and Moses are perpetually yowling or staring pensively out windows at their newest rivals, or would-be buddies.

I am an animal lover, specifically animals of the feline variety and stray cats utterly wound me. Would that I could take them in, keep them warm, feed them tasty tuna treats and let them sleep in my bed. But, there are obvious logistical difficulties with this (especially given the protective feelings of the two male cats who shark around my ankles as I type, and the fact that others in my family do not share my neurotic cat issues).

Chances are good that the cats are feral and wouldn't want human contact anyway. Chances are that after the snow melts they'll move on to greener pastures, grateful for the shelter of the shed. They all seem to be fat, fat, fat, so they're somehow getting the food they need. But, I can't help but gaze sadly out the window and wonder whether their little paws are too cold, or whether they worry about where their next meal is coming from. And then tears well up in my own eyes and I can't help but weep a little for my three new orphans.

Pregnancy. Not for the faint of heart.

Friday, February 16, 2007


This morning we sat together at McDonalds. We have figured out the perfect way to order breakfast now. We each order a cinnamon roll and coffee (we think McDonalds has the best) and then we order one hash brown and split it down the middle (we think they're greasy, but worth it). You have named McDonalds "Our Special Place." You have no idea what this means to me, to share a special place with just you. I have become accustomed to the special places and things you share with your father, but still marvel when you want to share things with me alone.

We talked of many things, trivial and surprisingly intimate. Our conversation varied from jokes about frozen boogers in sub-zero temperatures to the latest antics of your nemesis, Johnny D. (who you always name with the last initial, as if I might confuse him with Johnny B. or Johnny Z.). But you quickly switched to a deeper level as you asked questions about what it was like for me to be a child of divorced parents, and whether or not I felt "weird" when both sets of parents were together. It is easy for me to understand you, and I know you ask me not only because I was a child who lived that kind of divided life, but also because you want me to know of your struggles as my step-daughter wanting to live into the hopes that all the adults in your life have for you.

School has been hard for you this year. Fifth grade girls can be nothing less than brutal in their dealings with one another at times. Teachers don't always understand. The pressure to get good grades is foremost in your mind. And there is a new baby coming into this family who may feel threatening to you as you ask what your role is now that you will no longer be the youngest. Your body is changing and growing and adapting. You vacillate between watching the Disney Channel and MTV.

After hiding away in the warm coccoon of McDonalds, with the smell of freshly-brewed coffee wafting between us, the assault of returning to the cold and to our respective obligations felt overwhelming. You said, "Can't we just get stuck in a snow bank and avoid school and work?" I feel helpless when I hear those words, for how I would love to shield you from any pain, to grab you and shelter you from the winds of change, and the cruelty of others, and any illness or harm that could come your way.

I am not your mother. I know this. You have a mother who loves you and nurtures you and I would not dream of imposing on her territory. But I am your friend. And as such, I will do whatever is within my power to make you feel safe, and loved, and infinitely sheltered. And I will happily schedule McDonald's dates with you for as long as you'll have me. And I will marvel with each and every one at the girl-becoming-woman who fills me with such tender joy.

And you will weather these storms, my chickadee. And you will be stronger and truer because of them. And I will stand right behind you and prop you up lest you fall. Believe it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

An Open Apology to the Cat

Dear Moses,

I am very sorry for accusing you of stealing my diamond ring from the dish on my dresser. But you can understand how it was an honest mistake, given your penchant for aluminum foil and all things shiny. And, don't forget how you like to stand on the dresser at night and wait patiently until I am sound asleep before you take your tiny white front paw and scoot, scoot, scoot things to the edge and then knock them loudly off onto the floor. And, there is also the simple fact that your curiosity for hiding Q-tips, barretts, bobby pins, tampons, bottle caps, milk jug rings, and earrings is the stuff of legend. Remember how just last month I lifted the area rug in the bedroom only to find all those aforementioned secret items squirrled away? I think it was pretty low down and dirty of you to point your paw at R. for that one. I'm not sure he'll forgive you as quickly...

But, it must be said, that I was wrong in pointing a finger of blame at you in regard to this whole ring thing. I'm sorry for all the dirty looks I have been giving you, and for mumbling all those mean things which had the word "damn" and "cat" in the same sentence. For when the ring came tumbling out of a pile of old clothes on the floor of the closet, I realized I was wrong...or wait...wait just a minute...haven't I seen you lately gently opening the closet door? And didn't I see gray and white hair collecting on a pair of R.'s khakis? And where have you been in the middle of the night when you're supposed to be reclining on my feet at the end of the bed? And haven't you been a little bit bitter ever since I moved your litter box into the laundry room? Hmm...

I wasn't the president of the Garfield Spy Club for nothing, mister. I'm beginning to think my apology might be premature. But nevertheless, I'd hate to incur your wrath anymore, lest you find some creative place to relieve yourself. So, we'll just call it a day. Me with my long-lost ring on my finger, you with some savory catnip between your paws. And we'll just pretend this never happened, Thief-Boy.

Your mother

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Nook of One's Own

Coming of age when I did, being raised by a 1970s feminist mother who kept a copy of Our Bodies Ourselves on the coffee table in the living room, I was taught early on that a woman needs a space to herself. A room of one's own if possible. Virginia Woolf's feminist ideal.

I was an only child and my room was my safe haven. From green polka-dotted bedspreads, morphing into the pink princess dream, and then being clad in rainbows and unicorns in my pre-adolescent years, and finally settling into a classic blue with beautiful cherry furniture when I turned fifteen, my room reflected my identity. And I spent hours there, listening to music, reading books, writing in my diary, sitting in my bean bag chair, playing with my dollhouse.

When I went away to college, I was startled with how much I resented my roommate's things--the detritus of everyday life. I adored my roommate, loved the late night talks and shared confidences, but having to share a dresser, and a closet, and a refrigerator, were difficult for this only child to handle. I remember when sharing with a college boyfriend my struggles with sharing space his comment, "Geez, Miller, you're going to be hell to be married to some day."

As soon as I graduated from college I got my own apartment, and while I was afraid this would be a lonely thing, I embraced it with a freedom previously unknown. The tea cups in the kitchen were mine, the towels in the bathroom were folded the way I liked them folded, the sheets smelled like the detergent I chose to use, if I wanted to swig Sprite from the two-liter container in the middle of the night I didn't have to worry about anyone else's germs.

When K. and I were married, living in a tiny brick cottage, I had a sun porch of my own, but it offered little privacy, and smelled of cat pee. While I loved the sun streaming in its windows, the books on my bookshelves were quickly fading, and in winter it was unbearably cold. It was with a sense of relief, even as it was tinged with sadness, when I reclaimed that home as my own.

I carried that sense of entitlement to one's own room, that deep need for private space into my marriage with R. and thankfully we had a home big enough that I could have my own room, which quickly became christened as "The Sanctuary." I painted it myself, a soothing blue. The furniture were all heirlooms from my family, the chest of drawers from my grandparents, the mirror which hung in my great-grandparent's home, the dresser which my parents purchased at an antique store before I was born. I adorned my sanctuary with candles, and incense, framed photos of those I loved, and icons of holy women. I spent countless hours in my chair, my feet propped on the ottoman, my prayer shawl draped around my shoulders, a cat on my lap.

Today was a turning point for me, as I packed up my books, and took down my photos in preparation for my sanctuary to become Grayson's nursery. Necessity requires that this room now be passed on to another, and while I celebrate the little one who will sleep embraced by its blue serenity, I mourn my sanctuary. I know that I will change as I become a mother, that I will yield and have to give in ways previously unimagined. But, it doesn't come without a bit of worry. Will I lose part of my identity, as I am losing part of my space? Have I forever forsaken the woman who craves her solitude and space?

This evening R. and I moved my reading chair into our bedroom, next to the window so I can look out over the pine trees in the backyard. Wonder of wonders, the blue upholstery matches with our light green walls quite nicely. R. gave up his top drawer so I can keep my pens and notecards next to my reading chair, and more importantly offered me the safety of our bedroom as private space whenever I need it, allowing it to shift and become more mine than his. I found a shelf upon which to place my candles and photos in an altar of sorts. And there is comfort in knowing that while I have had to sacrifice my room, I have gained a nook. And small spaces have their comforts too.

I'm only beginning to learn what motherhood entails. And I don't want to lose the Christen who seeks solitude in the process. I sense this is only the beginning of the journey.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

In the meantime...

Writing and updating and essaying will happen soon...I promise. But in the meantime, be sure to check out this essay by Real Live Preacher, one of my favorites.

And the reason I cry when I read it is absolutely not hormone related, it's because RLP is the real thing.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Fantasies Not So Accurate

I have a secret confession to make. And here I am, professing it to the world.

I always thought bedrest would be sort of fun. When I heard of other women in pregnancies who needed to go on bedrest I imagined fluffy bed jackets and bon-bons. I imagined a perfectly coiffed woman resting on over-stuffed pillows while she caught up on all the latest Booker Prize awards, or who dutifully finished that baby afghan she'd been quilting, content in her little nest.

And then, yesterday, sweet Dr. S. said, "To bed, or to the couch, with a heating pad and Tylenol around the clock and don't get up until Monday." And I thought, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, what will I do on the couch." Nevermind the fact that R. has perhaps the largest DVD collection in the tri-state area, or that our library is filled with unread books that I keep sighing and saying, "If only I had the time..." as I drape my fingers across their glossy covers. Nevermind that it's only four freakin' days and certainly not the weeks and weeks that some women have to endure. Nevermind that it's mostly for my own comfort and that I have no need to worry about the health of the baby.

All in all, I'm pretty damn lucky that it is what it is (a terribly pulled and inflamed side and back brought about by a minor fall). And I do have a tremendous new empathy for my sisters in the world who are confined to their beds for months and weeks on end.

But, it's sort of lonely here in this house during the day (even after only two days). And I haven't been able to teach the dog to play dominoes.

I suppose my Polly-Annaish side would remind myself to just lie still and count my blessings, but the hormonal third-trimesterite who runs my mind lately would rather curl in a ball and wail.

It is what it is. And there it is.