Permalink 07:44:00 am by cassie, Categories: Announcements [A]

Enjoying my kids today. One is snuggled up against me asleep, the other playing with her little farm animal playset on the floor. The Christmas tree is out on the lawn,  my kitchen once again open and no longer scattered with pine needles. Everything seems fresh, even the warm, snowless January weather outside. It's a pretty good morning so far, as those go these days. If I have my caffeine, a little something in my belly, and the kids are happy or at least somewhat occupied, I can't really complain.

    I'm reading Ruth Reichl's twitter and cracking up over her descriptions of the food she eats in the morning - "softly melted cheese," "sweet plump briny oysters," and "spicy Sichuan peppers" all feature in these tweets. It's no surprise, she was the editor of Gourmet mag for years so it's what she does, but sometimes the mental picture of her - of anyone - sitting in a breakfast nook in the mountains, eating oysters and crepes with sour cream and roe is enough to make me laugh while I'm drinking my jug of coffee and generic brand Total cereal. My tweet about my foodie morning would  often be something like this:

Cloudy New England day. Peeling bonded leather sofa. Coffee. Handful of stale raisins. Two smelly children. Already have a headache. 

I was reading her twitter, though, and smiling as I thought of her description of one of her mornings as Still and Cold. When I think of that I think of our few little mornings up in Vermont a few weeks ago. We had all been up later so Amelia slept in later than her usual 5am, and when I rolled over to look out the giant picture windows, I saw the snowy mountains, felt the coolness of the room, the down comforter warming everything but my face, and the perfect silence. No cars, no humming appliances like the ones we have in our little house, just the gentle breaths of two little and one big human sharing the room with me. I got up quietly and ate a little peppermint bark chocolate out of the gift basket left on the bed for us when we arrived to the house, a gift from our hosts, savoring the cold air and the view and the calm. I wish every morning could be like that. 

   I think of that morning there in the mountains, right before the holidays, our mini vacation with a newborn and a Terrible Two, and to me that picture in my mind tastes just like dark chocolate peppermint bark. 

Sharp. Minty. Chocolate sharply snapping with each bite. Breathtaking view. A perfect morning. 

So I guess Ruth isn't such a windbag after all. 


Permalink 07:17:00 am by cassie, Categories: Announcements [A]

I'm trying to get back into control of my life these days. Pregnancy the second time around really did a number on that. I have a few goals to complete - getting back in shape physically and spiritually, reading more books, and reading through  my professional journals - that I've been slowly working on since E was born and it feels good to make headway on them. When it was just Mark and I, work was my primary responsibility, but things have shifted since then. My home and my kids are feeling more and more like my profession.  It's hard for me to articulate, but even when I had only one kid, I didn't quite feel like a mom, partly because of the financial pressure for me to work after buying a house, a car, hospital bills, and maternity leave, and partly because, at least in my case (your mileage may vary on this one) I didn't find it to be that difficult to care for only one kid. Mills was constantly awake, rarely napped, and kept me awake all night until she was around nine months, but on the days I didn't work, we would go out for walks and she'd sleep in her carriage, we'd lounge around on the couch together, and I'd let her roll around the living room while I got stuff done. It was exhausting without sleep, but it was low pressure responsibility. 

  This second time around, I'm an even more relaxed mom, but there's less lounging around, fewer walks (it's a lot chillier in November than it is in July..), and a lot more keeping up with a two year old's schedule. There's more to do, and I think I like it. It's been nice to start to really think of myself as a mom first, nurse second. It was probably just denial about the next infinite years of my life being taken up with childrearing, but it's taken me this long to put things in that order without feeling a loss of identity. I worked hard for that RN, I currently work hard to keep educated in my profession, but I think I'm finally able to loosen my grip on it, knowing its not my most important role these days. 

  In the process of getting my life in order since November, I've also committed to a whole house cleanse. Every room except for our spare bedroom's closet has been picked through and reorganized, things we don't need given away, clothes sorted and purged, closets overhauled. My parents never would have known it when I was living at home with them in my trashed room, but I'm now somewhat of a neat freak. I'm thankful for all I have, I don't mind owning things, I just want them all to have a use and place in my home. If it doesn't fit those two criteria of (1) Purposeful use and (2) Designated home, it usually has to go. I find single-purpose items interesting, but not for me. So all this housecleaning has done wonders for my psyche. It's so much more pleasant to live and move about in this little space I call my home when I don't have to look at things I don't use lying around on top of every available surface. I was so depressed, my energy reserves completely depleted during this pregnancy, I was not able to do any of this and it only made me feel worse. It's as if a huge weight has been lifted off of me to clean my house, to have no piles of laundry, to be on my feet, to exercise, to be around friends and people again, to greet my husband at the door after his long day at work without breaking into tears and dragging him down with me into the pit I was living in. I'm back from doing more than just the bare minimum to survive. What a tremendous blessing these past few months since then have been. 

  Hindsight is enlightening. I was overwhelmed by many little things then. Some of the hardships have not gone away, but they seem much more manageable now. I think we all have our coping mechanisms, but for me, the thing that makes it hardest for me to cope is feeling as if I can't be productive, sitting around seemingly doing nothing. It's refreshing to be on my feet, caring for my family in all the many little things I do every day and being more in control of my own emotions, despite being unable to change our circumstances. To make my home a haven for my husband to come home to, rather than his second job - keeping his wife from a mental breakdown - to give that little gift to him after a long year where he carried me and the kids in addition to the long hours he works... that truly makes me the happiest. A clean home and an unhysterical wife to come home to are very small things, a pittance of thanks to that man. 

   So I open up the shades every morning, the sunshine coming through so warmly even though I know it's freezing outside, and I feel just like the weather, crisp and bright and shining. I find myself stopping to thank God periodically throughout the day for restoring my joy, not in circumstances, but my joy in him, and it spills out into life at large and fills this little badly-decorated house in the suburbs and makes it warm and beautiful to me again. 



Permalink 03:42:00 pm by cassie, Categories: Announcements [A]

This Christmas has not felt very seasonal this year. Perhaps it's the newborn exhaustion stage, the toddler exerting her independence about everything, the lack of sleep, or the lack of snow or true cold winter weather so typical of our usual experience. Whatever the case, as I have never considered Christmas one of my favorite holidays anyways, my Christmas Spirit (whatever THAT is) was on the low side of zero this year. The day came without notice, it seems, sandwiched between being huge and pregnant and depressed and the promise of a new and fresh year to come and put behind our family this rather dreadful 2011. I had clinically prepared my list of people I needed to send gifts to and struggled, as I always do every occasion requiring a gift, to come up with something that would represent the love we had for each individual. The fact that I have no talent to craft and no creativity to buy something that does represent that love makes it so difficult for me that I often resent the whole experience. There is no gift I have ever given materially that has given me a true satisfaction that the receiver felt the love and appreciation I have of them through it. I make up for this deficit in the loving wrapping of the items and cards filled with words of warmth and friendship, hoping this makes up for the disappointment of opening up another dud of a present.  

   Perhaps it's only my guilt about my poor skills of gifting on command, but I have never loved Christmas. Besides having pagan origins and people having a fit on either side about whether we should or shouldn't call it a "Christmas" or a "holiday" tree, I would rather we just separate from things altogether. I love celebrating the birth of Christ, my Messiah, the excitement of reimagining Mary's anticipation of her child, not fully understanding the miracle that it was. I just wish all that wasn't stuck with all the other dumb things like Black Friday, Santa, and the stress of making everything perfect for one day. I even like Santa, and Rudolph, and Burl Ives. I just sorta wish we could do Christmas and the celebration of Jesus' birth separately. One, a secular but happy family holiday to eat good food and give thanks, the other, a sacred one with singing and happy reflection on a very solemn but joyful occasion such as the coming of the God-man. 

    I stifle my cynicism now with beautiful songs about His birth, enjoying the thoughts of the angels saying "Glory to God in the highest!!" The weight of those words pulls my heart heavy to my feet, then lifts it back up as I remember that Jesus lives and is coming again. I redeem the ugliness of the holiday for my own purpose - to have a Season to remind me to think on that amazing moment where our own Redemption came to live on the same Earth I occupy now. That's worth celebrating to me. 

     As I sit now enjoying the gifts I was given this season - a warm candle to freshen my house with the smell of pine, lotion to soften my cracked and sore hands,  coffee beans to wake me up - I can be thankful for even this hard year of our lives. We are nearly at the end of it and I have my marriage, my eternally patient and giving husband, the calm and steady to the storm of emotion and feeling that's inside my head. I have my daughter, already a person of her own, full of personality and silliness but so much like me that I worry for her. I have my son, healthy and giant and happy despite the terrifying minutes of his birth when I thought maybe none of those things would be true for him. I have these things and more - warm house, health, clothing, food - than I could ever use or need at times. I can't say this year has been perfect. I spent many days of it in tears, frustrated and depressed, but it has been perfectly orchestrated by God in ways that are only visible to us in our own little home. This year has been the epitomization of Life with a capital L, that state of being that describes all the sorts of things that happen to frustrate our plans in a way that's perfectly personal, but not unique to the human condition at large. I guess what I'm trying to articulate is that the happenings of Life are not what make it bad or good (as I've experienced that life often has more sadness than anything else), but the resources to cope and move within those situations are what I can be thankful for. A moment when I'm in despair and my kid asks me to make them something to eat, taking me out of my private sadnesses and into the present where life doesn't revolve around only me. When Mark and I get an extra unexpected moment to be together and talk. A day of warmish fresh air to open the windows and clear the stale air of indoors. These are my precious blessings. 

   I have no illusions of deserving any of this. I have none that these things will last forever. I can't think about that too much. But I can be thankful for them right now, and I surely am. Welcome, New Year. 


Permalink 06:31:00 am by cassie, Categories: Announcements [A]

Wear pants sans elastic band.

Get up from a sitting position to standing without making this sound: "Urghhgmmph."

Sleep on my stomach.

Buy this shirt in a non-XL size.

Help to lift my patients at work again.

Go for a jog.

Not talk about labor and delivery stories.

Drink far too much coffee.

Go more than an hour without a pee break.

....May it ever be so, amen.


Permalink 12:34:00 pm by cassie, Categories: Announcements [A]

See title. Any and all effects of my previous two years of awesome fitness have been wiped out by my weeks of rolling around on the couch, trying not to puke and attempting to sleep away my entire first trimester. Not really a possibility with a near-two year old in the house.

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I like to multi-task: wife, writer, nurse, Christian, ne'er do well. I do all with equal gusto.


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