Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Feeding my Artist

My husband and I met with a common passion for the English language.  We were both writing majors in college, though he has always been a deeper writer than I.  His writing will make your head spin with emotions and new ways of looking at the world.  When I first read his poetry I used to think, I must not be smart enough to understand this, but now I know that his poetry is not intended to be understood at the brain-level; it's meant to speak to raw human emotions.  You're not supposed to use your smarts to understand; you're supposed to let go of any attempt to understand it with your head and just experience and perceive the way the chain of words make you feel. 

Circumstances have happened which have prevented me from writing like I did when we first met.  I still write.  Boy, do I write.  I write newsletter articles, sermons, prayers, e-mails, cards, grant proposals, more e-mails, Facebook statuses.  I don't write poetry anymore.  I don't write short stories anymore.  I don't even write liturgy anymore, even though it would easily fit into my job description.  It just doesn't happen.  

Maic writes every single day.  He writes poems and short stories, novellas, fiction and non-fiction, comic strips.  He writes liturgy. 

Sometimes it's painful for me to see him write.  I'm a tad jealous of him.  While he is writing about these deep, raw human experiences in rhythmic and expressive ways, I am struggling to express myself or did deeper into understanding who it is that God called me to be.  I don't want that jealousy to be misunderstood-- I am so, so proud of him for the work he puts into his writing; it's hard for me to be disciplined enough to carve out the time for it like he has learned to do.  I yearn for that self-discipline.  

I believe that I am an artist.  I don't always make the most beautiful art, but through the act of creating, God knows how to speak to my soul.  Writing, drawing, crafting, baking, painting, and even music are ways in which I'm able to understand what God wants to say to me and through me.   

So what am I getting at? 

I'm trying to say that it's no wonder that-- when I stopped writing poetry, when I stopped drawing, when I stopped making music, when I stopped baking-- my well ran dry.  

I'm not a very confident person about many aspects of my life but there are two things I can say with confidence: I'm a good mom and I'm a good pastor.  Even when my well is running dry, I can manage to find the love to give to my church and to my kids.  I can find the words to help them see God.  I can find the energy to serve.  But you can only serve and serve and serve so long before you pass out in the middle of church.  

That actually happened to me three weeks ago.  It was a tremendous wake-up call to realize that the life I was living wasn't going to be a sustainable way of life.  I can say that it was about poor nutrition and poor sleep habits and poor hydration, and that's all true and it's all stuff that I'm working on.  But there's more to it than that.  The root of this is that there is an artist in my soul who is starving.  How can I support other peoples' faith journeys when I can't even do what I have to do to facilitate my own relationship with God?  

So it's time for a new, more sustainable way to move forward.  It's time to draw and paint and write and express myself.  I don't want to make any definite promises about writing in this blog, because obviously my consistency with it comes and goes.  But I would like to look to my blog followers to hold me accountable for feeding my artist.  Pray for me, that I will make the time to create.  When you see me, ask me how my artistic endeavors are going.  Ask me what I'm working on.  Ask me when was the last time I spent some time expressing myself.  I think that's what I need to do to make sure that my marriage, my career, my soul, are able to thrive.   

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kids' Room Transformation

When we bought this house, there were many times when I stood in this room and thought this could be a child's dream room.  And then many other times when I thought what on earth am I thinking??? 

I knew it had to be the first room that we spent time and money making over, because as it was when we moved in it was neither comfortable nor safe.  So we spent my maternity leave painting and painting and painting and painting (that wallboard seriously sucked up paint), we received a beautiful bedroom set from a church member who no longer needed it (and a headboard which will go up when we get a box spring), and the final step* happened yesterday when the carpet was installed.  Evelyn completely loves it, and it is so wonderful to be able to put Amos on the floor next to us while Evelyn plays.  

We also got our bedroom carpeted...but I'm not ready to reveal it.  It still has cardboard wood paneling...

*There's a new final step now, because when the carpet was installed the doors wouldn't fit back on the closets.  We have to saw them off a bit and put them back on.  

All right, friends.  Here it is!





More After Photos:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Saying Goodbye to the Rental House

Last night was the last night of my parents' visit and with all we've been through the past 3 weeks Maic and I decided to go out to eat on our own and leave the babes with Gramma and Grampa.  We went out for pizza at Roadhouse, a local pizza restaurant.  We were both so tired and felt so weird being out alone that we probably looked like we were on the saddest date in history.  I was drinking a margarita without makeup and without a wedding ring (lost it between swollen fingers and moving; it will turn up). Any unknowing passerby might have thought it looks like that relationship isn't going anywhere....  

Afterwards we went over to the rental house to do some final cleaning before the carpet cleaners arrived this morning.  Our stuff is all moved out, save a couple of things in the basement which we'll get this evening or tomorrow morning.  We only lived there for a year, yet I sobbed while I washed Evelyn's fingerprints off the mirrors and windows.  I've done the chore dozens of times before, but it was different this time.  I felt such a huge rush of emotions standing in her empty room, thinking about the little part of her life that took place there.  I choked up standing in our bedroom, remembering pillow-talk and arguments, thinking of all the decisions we've made together.  I thought of moving here to Ripon, and how we thought we might try to buy that house because we loved it so much.  I remembered the people who have visited and all those who have supported us and cheered us on in my first year of ministry, in Evelyn's second year of life, in anticipation of Amos.

Time is going so fast now.  Evelyn's first year wasn't the whirlwind many new parents describe.  I wasn't that mom who said, "I can't believe she's already X months old" every month.  If I did say that, I didn't mean it.  The year felt slow, because it was so full and uncertain and confusing.  Now, there is some certainty in our lives.  We know we're here, in Ripon.  We know we love this place and we have good friends and we have a home that belongs to us.  Life isn't so confusing (well, life is confusing because that's the nature of it, but what we're doing with our lives is not so confusing).  This all feels right.  And so I guess that this year, as opposed to the first, has flown by.  When I see the pictures of Evelyn sitting on the floor in our rental house with her short, straight hair, still not quite certain how to get from one place to the next, I feel like she learned to walk and talk and reason overnight.  I wonder if I've paid enough attention to her, if I've soaked up every moment with her, if I'll look back when she's grown and regret anything.   

I guess being in that empty house made me think of all this.  I'm certain postpartum hormones make the  emotional deluge stronger.  But moving is emotional no matter what.  A house is never just a house; it's the place where life happens in the most intimate ways.  As excited as I am for the future of this new house (our house), there's something about that place where we spent our first year in Ripon that is so hard to say goodbye to.  I am hopeful that soon I'll love this house that much, and I know that if good times happened there, then surely they'll happen here.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Welcome Amos! An update and a birth story

Ladies and Gentlemen:
September 11, 2013 at 2:51 a.m. 
6 lbs 15 oz, 19 inches long

Amos's birth was absolutely beautiful.  Mercy Medical Center has a water birthing tub, which was part of the reason I chose that hospital.  So Baby Amos was born into the water, and my own hands were the first to touch him.  I went into labor at about 9:00 on Tuesday night, just after lying down for the night after moving into the new house.  I had been exhausted the whole day and practically no help to the movers.  As soon as I laid down, I felt my first painful contraction and in about two hours we were on our way to the hospital.  I knew my labor would go fast, so I wasn't going to wait.   

When I arrived at the hospital, the nurse put me on monitoring and Amos's heartbeat was too low for her liking.  I tried to tell her that he has always had a low heart rate (clocking in regularly at 122 throughout his appointments) but she didn't seem to care, so she kept me on the monitoring for an hour and a half.  I was getting very frustrated, having to endure contractions (every 2-3 minutes) while lying on my back in the hospital bed, which for me is the most painful way to have a contraction.  

Finally she allowed me off the monitor (around 1:00) and at about 1:15 I said I wanted to be in the birthing tub.  It was immediate relief.  At one point, I had to get out of the tub to use the restroom, and had a contraction and I could not believe the difference.  The buoyancy of the water makes contractions so much more bearable.  I labored in the tub for about an hour and the nurse told me I was 8 cm dilated.  I told her she needed to call the doctor.  She said, "He wants me to call him when you are fully dilated," to which I replied (okay, I'm a know-it-all), "Well then he's gonna miss it."  She did go ahead and call him then, and about 15 minutes later my water broke and that very second, in walked the doctor.  As soon as my water broke I was fully dilated, and the very next contraction, Amos was crowning.  He was born in three pushes-- head, shoulders, and the rest of 'im.  My doctor just let me be, watching closely but not interfering, and as soon as he was out he just said, "Joanna, pull your baby up to you!" so I did!  The doctor literally did not touch me until after the I got out of the birthing tub.  

I held Amos there in the tub for about 5-10 minutes before Maic cut his cord.  He didn't cry much.  He still hasn't.  He's a super-chill little guy, crying pretty much only when he's being changed.   

About 30 minutes old
As quick and as beautiful as it was, this birth was harder for me than Evelyn's was.  I was so exhausted going into it that it was hard for me to find the energy to make it through.  I kept thinking about how badly I wanted to go to sleep.  Maic was also extremely tired, so I felt like neither of us was as fully present as we were for Evelyn's birth.  I'll tell you this: I plan to never buy a house and have a baby in the same week again.  
We were released from the hospital after 24 hours.  Amos is doing really well.  He eats well and sleeps a lot.  He is slightly jaundiced, but not enough to worry.  We go back to the pediatrician on Monday to make sure his jaundice levels have gone down.  

Evelyn is having a hard time with the transitions, but definitely more with the house than with the baby.  This was her face for the first half hour of seeing Amos:

She likes him now, for the most part.  Though I have to say that in the process of writing this blog entry, she did throw her stuffed cat "New Kitty" at him while he was sleeping.  Her favorite thing to do is brush his hair. 

The harder part is the house.  She keeps saying she wants to "go home" which is pretty heartbreaking.  The worst part is that I kind of feel the same way.  This house doesn't feel like home yet.  It just feels like a lot of work.  I spent Evelyn's naptime cleaning the living room (see below) so that at least I wasn't tripping on boxes.  That has helped with some of the non-homey feelings, and I am feeling much better than I felt this morning.  The other rooms, however...and the rental house...well, we have a lot of work ahead of us.  

But we also have a lot of this ahead of us:

So life is good. 

Thanks for all of your love and support, congratulations and prayers.  We have been so blessed.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

House: Before

One important thing to know about the house that we bought is that while it is in structurally good shape, it is in need of a huge amount of cosmetic work.  It took 18 months to sell, and I'm sure a lot of it had to do with the amount of work that needs to be done on the inside.  Maic and I have great dreams for it-- dreams of carpet and wallpaper removal, track lighting and the right artwork, and much more! A lot of it will take a while, but we are thrilled by the challenge. 

For now, enjoy some "before" photos.  The carpet is already almost all gone.

Front Room: 

Dining Room:

Bedroom #1:

Bedroom #2 (Office):


Kid's Bedroom:

Bedroom #3


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thoughts from a state of Pregnancy Insomnia

It's been over a week and a half since my OB doctor told me, "any day now!" which is exactly why no human being should ever try to predict when labor is going to start.  I was having early labor with contractions 8-10 minutes apart Monday-Wednesday last week, in which about 1/4 of the contractions I had were borderline painful and I was certain that I would go into active labor any minute.  Then Thursday-- nothing.  I continued to have Braxton-Hicks contractions fairly often, but not regularly and not intensely. 

When I showed up to see my doctor on Tuesday I learned that I had progressed another centimeter, putting me at three centimeters dilated, but this time he didn't give any kind of "any day now!" statement.  This evening (Wednesday) I went back to the pattern I had last week for several hours, but they still never got closer together or stronger.  Now, of course, I'm just having trouble sleeping.  It's the weirdest place to be when you are completely exhausted but can't sleep.  I remember this last time around too.  

I'm wondering, how much does early labor drain someone physically?  Sometimes I picture myself with a little energy pack floating in the air next to me (kind of Sims-style) which monitors how much energy I have, and at this point I feel like it can go from being full to completely empty in the course of a few minutes.  I wonder if the contractions, however false they may be, deplete my battery pack.  

I am also carrying the baby very low, which makes it difficult for me to sit like a normal person.  So I'm stuck in this place where I have not yet started my maternity leave, yet I have neither the energy nor the physical ability to do my work.  I also, emotionally, am hardly in the place to counsel and care for people in an effective manner, considering my own hormones are off the hook. 

I know this is quite a bit of complaining. I try to remember one of my favorite passages from scripture, the compassionate and sympathetic words of John, a man who regardless of his inexperience is, I think, accurate:
Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

On to some other happenings:

1. Tomorrow (today?) is my annual review at the church.  I am nervous, but I think there has been good open communication and I'm pretty aware of anything they might say.  I actually think I'm mostly nervous that my hormones will get the better of me at this point and I won't be able to handle any critique.  I think as long as they don't evaluate my entire year on the last week and a half I'll be just fine.

2. Tomorrow we close on the house.  I am having trouble processing that one; it's like my brain can't physically process all of these changes at once so I just kind of go with the flow.  I don't think any of it will feel real until we're standing in there together without the realtor or inspector or seller.  We have a plan to order a pizza tomorrow night and just hang out there as a family, show the house to Nos (the dog) for the first time, and just dream about what it will look like someday.  There is some work we will do right away-- the carpets need to get out of there ASAP (30 years of smoking, at least), and the drapes will go with them.  We're hoping to do this work over the weekend, with the help of some friends.  I'll be the anxious pregnant lady pacing around looking for something to do.

3. My baby nephew Harrison Gene was born just over a week ago.  He's perfect.  I can't stop looking at pictures of his little face.  It is hard to be so far from family in times like this, but I'm not sure I'll see him anytime before Christmas.  When that time comes, I'll lay our baby boy next to him on a blanket and probably weep with joy to see them together.  An image of them catching salamanders together is one of the places my mind has been drifting off to this past week. We're going to have so many amazing times as our kids grow together.

4. I've had the chance to spend a lot of time with Evelyn lately, since I haven't been "working" quite as much.  Mostly, we've been watching movies together.  I can't believe how good her movie attention-span is for her age.  We've been watching Totoro and The Cat Returns, but tonight we watched Babe.  While we watch movies we talk to each other about what's happening and she says hilarious things (her language is completely exploding).  In her mind, her world is intertwined with the characters', so there is no reason why Totoro shouldn't know who Nos is, or why her favorite stuffed companion New Kitty wouldn't be a character in the film.  Tonight while watching Babe she kept correcting the narrator whenever he would talk about the duck:  "No, s'a goose," she'd say.  It was a duck, but I could see where she was coming from.

She also has such a caring, nurturing soul, and she knows that I'm having trouble.  She rubs my arm and says, "it-otay-mommy" when I have a deep sigh.  She kisses and hugs my belly and talks to the baby, who she may or may not think is a baby dog.  She has also been really into brushing my hair lately, and she is so proud of herself, "I brushin' mommy's hair!!" she exclaims to her daddy whenever he walks into the room.  It hurts sometimes, but I don't even care.  We also have rough moments-- the ones where she throws a fit and  since my last nerve was gone like 3 weeks ago, I just walk out of the room and let daddy deal with it.  I feel guilty, but I seriously don't know that there is another option.  He is full of forgiveness with me and patience with her.

When we get some things settled in the house, I will post some photos of the interior of it for you to see.  I don't know quite when that will be.  Actually, I'm not even sure what I mean by settled... ;-)

Along with all the complaints, let me just say that not a moment goes by when I am not grateful for the life we're living.  I am overwhelmed and I am tired, but I am most certainly blessed.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Second Birthday Party

Yesterday Evelyn and Julian had a joint birthday party.  They are 3 days apart and have many of the same friends so it just made sense to combine forces.  Little did I know when I agreed to do this, Ann is an amazing party planner.  To go with our zoo theme, she had wooden signs up that said, "aquarium" by the baby pool, "rainforest" by the water table, "monkey house" by the playground, etc.  

Her sister, who teaches science experiments to kids for a living was in town and made adorable oceans in a bottle with the kids and let them touch starfish and sea sponges.  

Maic and I made animal tails to pin onto the kids (and some of the adults), and we hung some of Evelyn's stuffed animals in the trees.  

We had brats and burgers and mac and cheese, sweet and salty snacks, salads, and some amazing animal cupcakes.  And everyone who said they were going to come came!  Always struggling to understand the boundaries between work and friendship, we decided to invite anyone who has babysat for Evelyn and their families.  That included several people from the church without having to invite the entire congregation.  I think it was a good line to draw.  

Evelyn was very into the concept of presents, and Julian couldn't have cared less.  I think she would have opened all of his if he let her.  She got a lot of great presents, and among them was this tea party set from Ann, which she supplemented with some amazing handmade felt cookies and cupcakes and embroidered napkins.  They are so beautiful and she loves playing with the whole set already!  I didn't get pictures of all of the presents she got, but I did take a few.  

Erin (and Casey) made this great magnetic bear and clothing/accessory set for both her and Julian
She got a new hedgehog family to go in her beautiful hand-me-down dollhouse
And Maic and I had a great time making a board book for Julian that is about Shakespeare as a child.  Maic wrote and illustrated the book, and I constructed it into a board book by using a different board book, cardstock paper, and duct tape.  It turned out so cool! I apparently never got a finished picture of it, but I will look into doing that!

Evelyn was not sure of the candles.  She is definitely a "rule-follower" and she was very disappointed that we would put something "hot" by her.  While Julian was clapping and excited, Evelyn was going, "Hot, Mommy.  Hot."  You can see the disapproval in her face.  She did not blow out her candles, but she did eat the frosting with her hands.

Overall it was just an amazing day.  I was completely exhausted by the end of it and got rather grumpy around 8:30.  As much as I'm aware that I need to take it easy at 9 months pregnant, it is very hard for me to stay sitting when there is stuff to be done and people to converse with, so I was up-down-up-down all day.  I am definitely sore today! 

I just cannot express how blessed we are to have found Julian and his family.  They have come into our lives at such a perfect time and we look forward to so many more amazing birthdays together.  Happy TWO, you two!  

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