the gerunds of 2016

reading :: my Book of the Month Club shipments and selections from Anne Bogel's summer reading guide
listening to :: The Popcast and Sorta Awesome podcasts, the Inspector Gamache audiobooks
watching :: Lost, Community, The Bachelorette
sewing :: not as much as I want to, but still trying
planning :: Asher's fourth birthday party
cleaning :: bathrooms sometimes, kitchen floor rarely
playing :: at the park, with the babe, instead of checking off the to-do list
pondering :: my personal mission, my family's future, my children's needs
eating :: chocolate chip cookies and homemade bread
drinking :: Diet Pepsi and green smoothies
traveling :: to Denver, to Texas, to California, and back to Denver
baking :: cakes and donuts


faith and angels: a birth story

Few moments are as sacred as a birth, those moments when that which separates the worlds is so thin as to allow one soul to pass from one to the other. Really the story that should be told is Evelyn's; mine is that of a witness, a helper. I wonder if our own birth stories are too sacred for us to remember past infancy, too precious to be given mortal words. My account as mother will have to suffice, but let us not forget that this story belongs to Evelyn.


My water broke that Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the day, the three of us took a walk around the neighborhood because dammit I was going to walk that baby into labor. And though my efforts were actually successful, I was still in mild shock when we packed up and drove to the hospital.

When my water broke, I stood still, my mind stopping mid-thought and redirecting to assess my body. Was I having contractions? Was that actually my water? Or did I just really pee my pants? What was actually happening? In a daze I gathered up my things and waited for my friend to come and stay with Asher until Josh's parents could get there. Through nostalgic tears I kissed my sleeping Asher goodbye, my heart feeling acutely bittersweet in this very last moment with just the three of us.

Baby girl, leaving your brother behind as you, your dad, and I drove to the hospital was like leaving behind my security blanket, my comfort zone. You and I were about to start something new, and secretly, I was terrified.

Had my water not broken and had I not tested positive for group-B strep and needed intravenous antibiotics before delivery, I certainly would have waited to head to the hospital. Once we settled into our room, it was only 3:00 p.m., and any contractions I was feeling were mild and intermittent. So we waited. And waited.

This pregnancy had been different from my first--more draining, more emotional. I was eager for its conclusion. I sat there in the hospital bed (in the homemade gown my mom had sewn when I had Asher) thinking and feeling. My stomach was uneasy, my emotions close to the surface. I was in a labor limbo, waiting between my old life as mother of one and my new, upcoming life as mother of two.

In some ways you felt a complete stranger to me. Because even though I've had a baby before, that baby was his own person. And you're your own person. In so many ways I felt I was starting over.

Contractions began in earnest around 10:00 that night. The sensational memories of labor flooded back as I bent over and breathed through each intensified pain. Once again the anesthesiologist came to my rescue with needles and drugs.

Once the epidural was in force, I expected labor to slow a bit and thought I could catch some drugged sleep while we waited. My eyelids were heavy with fatigue, and the prospect of falling into hard sleep was incredibly appealing. Just as I started to really sleep, though, the nurse started coming in to check the baby. She was cheerful and reassuring, yet behind her kindness was a small sliver of worry. The baby's heartbeat was lower than they wanted; labor was hard on my babe. The nurse came back again, this time bringing another nurse. They moved my legs and body into weird positions to see if my babe's heartbeat responded. Then they called the doctor.

I was scared. It was time to push, and unlike my first labor--which was full of encouraging, "Okay, let us know when you're ready!"--this labor turned clinical fast. My doctor looked me in the eyes and said, "We need you to push, and we need you to push hard." No smiles, no gentle encouragement. This was clinical, detached professionalism, an emergent delivery looming close by. I looked at Josh, seeking his eyes for reassurance. He squeezed my hand and whispered love.

I felt you close, baby girl. You were coming, and I didn't know with certitude that you would make it into this world unscathed. Yes, the doctor and nurses were there, but in those moments, it was you and me alone. Your safe entry depended on me, your mother. My fears didn't matter anymore. What mattered was you and you alone, my daughter. So I pushed. And I pushed with all the love I had.

I pushed three times. Evelyn came out screaming, and it was beautiful. During delivery, she'd had her hand on one side of her face and the umbilical cord pressed against the other side. The stress of the contractions in conjunction with the pressure on the cord made for a yo-yoing heartbeat, and we wouldn't have been able to labor that way for much longer than we did. Pushing her out was a miracle.

The doctor was impressed with how hard I pushed. But I know it wasn't just me who pushed you safely into mortality. Angels were with us, sweetest Evelyn, angels and grandmothers and strong women were there beside me helping me help you. Though I squeezed your dad's hand white during those moments of delivery, I myself entered a liminal space. I was neither here nor there, but in that spot between the worlds with you and our guardian angels. 

The next hours were a blur of tubes and checkups, all while I sought to comfort my newborn babe. Later that day Asher came to meet Evelyn, and my heart felt full, complete, and content. It's been almost two months since that day, and our world has turned upside down. And yet in the chaos of our family refitting and reorganizing, a raw beauty lives. This family of ours is sublime.

Evelyn dear, you were always meant to be ours.


four weeks

I held Evelyn Jane for the first time four weeks ago, and I've held her every day (almost all day) since.

Four weeks ago our world turned upside down with this babe's entrance, and every day for four weeks I've been filled with immense gratitude.

Every day for four weeks I've cried at least once from mental and physical exhaustion.

Evelyn has more leg rolls than she did four weeks ago, and with each passing day this daughter of ours comes more alive to her world.

Four weeks ago and a day, being a big brother was an abstract concept to Asher. He's spent the past four weeks coming to realize what siblinghood really is, and despite the learning curve, he's taking to it well.

Four weeks ago we went from three to four, and now our Evie is irreplaceable. Her newborn perfection has altered how we see everything.

The past four weeks have been filled with love from so many friends. I've been overwhelmed with congratulations, encouragement, and so many loaves of homemade bread. The empathetic outpouring of love from my fellow women has been a tender reminder that I'm not alone in this remaking of my family.

With each passing day I'm coming more and more back to myself and into my new self. These last four weeks have been beautiful and messy and hard and gentle. While I probably wouldn't choose to relive these weeks, I wouldn't trade them either. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart, and it also gives me more than I'll ever deserve.

Miss Evie, we are so happy you're in our lives.


year 5

These past twelve months have been some of the most difficult for me personally. Since last October, we've miscarried twice, been to doctors, conceived a baby, all followed by a pregnancy marked almost continuously with some brand of illness or discomfort. (Though it has been a healthy pregnancy, and I don't take that for granted.) I've endured many personal, emotional, mental, and physical trials since Josh and I celebrated our last anniversary.

Yet despite my individual mountains, this past year has perhaps been my favorite of my marriage so far. One particular moment stands out.

I'd miscarried for the second time the night before. In the dark hours between night and day, Josh and I cried and held each other in bed, mourning another babe who wouldn't be. Josh still had to go to work that day, and as he was dressing he said that I shouldn't worry about making dinner that night. 

"You take care of yourself today, and tonight we'll go out to eat. Let's go somewhere special," and he thought for a moment, "like Red Robin." 

Let's go somewhere special--like Red Robin

I stared at him, knowing that he really meant somewhere not teriyaki take-out, and started laughing. Just hours after we'd lost the promise of a babe, we laughed together--and we laughed hard. 

Josh Wilson makes me laugh when I didn't think I could (and even when he doesn't mean to) and loves me always. Year five proved to me that amid storms, together we can always find laughter, light, and love. Mr. Wilson, how I love you and your fancy restaurant choices. 


final days

I reach 40 weeks on Monday. Part of me says, "It's about damn time!" And the other part feels like I just barely announced this new babe. My doctor and I decided that if the baby lady hasn't come by my due date, then we'll induce next Wednesday (October 28). I am so relieved to have a finite end date, but even so, when I left the doctor this morning I cried.

When we made those definite plans for induction--a this-is-the-latest-you'll-have-this-baby plan--my heart went into mourning. I'm not sad for the end of this pregnancy. In many ways, this pregnancy has been difficult--physically, mentally, and emotionally. But the imminent loss of my daily status quo does make me sad. 

Asher and I have been this every-day duo for over three years. We have our groove. I know him, and he knows me. We're pals, partners, and friends. And a new babe will change everything. 

I am so excited for this baby lady, and I've wanted her for so long. I'm beyond happy that we get to welcome this girl into our family, and I know she'll be exactly what we all need. And still, part of me mourns these almost-gone days of mom, dad, and son only. Our family will change, I will change, Josh will change, Asher will change. 

We're sacrificing our comfortable and predictable life for the unknown, and even though I'm excited and happy, I'm also apprehensive and a tiny bit melancholy. The other day when I was mulling on the paradoxical state of my heart, I remembered something that Gordon B. Hinckley once said: 

You will come to know that what appears today to be a sacrifice will prove instead to be the greatest investment that you will ever make.

I don't know if he was thinking about growing families when he said this, but yes, bringing this baby lady into our family will be a sacrifice for everyone. But I also know, even in my post-appointment tears, that she will be perfect for our family, designed for us and us for her. Any day the Wilsons will go from three members to four. We can't go back. And I know that we won't ever want to.


parenthood right now

Right now parenthood involves lots of conversations about Daniel Tiger and many rounds of hiding under a blanket and saying, "Where am I?"

Parenthood is reading books and transitioning out of board books and into legitimate picture books.

Parenthood is baking cookies together and sharing the beaters. It's negotiating how many more bites to eat and enduring meltdowns when dessert is a mere two bites out of reach.

Parenthood is trying to teach toilet autonomy and the concept of privacy. It's cheering over correctly pulled on underwear and conceding when it comes to picking out what shirt to wear.

Parenthood right now is also in a specific phase of motherhood, when while being the dinner negotiator I'm also growing a new babe, a phase of continuous multitasking.

This part of motherhood is in its final weeks, and means an increasingly achy body. It means having to be so many things I don't feel I have the energy for. It means simultaneous and overwhelming physical and mental exhaustion.

Right now parenthood is full of apprehension about how our family will change when we go from three to four, uncertainty about how I'll adjust, and concern over how my relationship with my sweet boy will evolve.

Parenthood is full of hefty doses of tears and belly laughs, usually all on the same day. It's cuddles and hugs, discipline and instruction. It's full of prayers, spoken and silent and sometimes desperately cried.

Right now parenthood makes me feel inadequate and empowered. It's full of contradictions that fall into place, even though I won't ever understand how. It's full of mistakes and triumphs, grace and growth. It's beautiful and messy and I wouldn't go back and choose any other life.


clearing the table

The past couple of weeks have been weird for me. I've felt noticeably off. And there's no surefire reason for any of it, just a million little contributions: high creative energy clashing with low physical energy, my body turning the "uncomfortable" level up to the red zone, wacky hormones, a messy home, plus my grandpa's funeral on top of all of that.

Everything was building and I could feel these factors all coming to a head. The disjointedness of my mind manifested itself in my surroundings, and the tidiness and cleanliness of my home atrophied swiftly.

Last weekend I still hadn't replaced the dirty, crumb-laden tablecloth I'd had on for Asher's birthday two weeks earlier, and All the Things were accumulating on it. I hadn't really been making meals, and whenever we did sit down to eat, I'd just shove the junk piles off to the side. Sure this was seemingly a low-maintenance approach to living, but it definitely wasn't easy on my mind or soul. Everything felt so cluttered and out of place.

So on Labor Day (after an emotional and frustrating maternity shopping excursion), I took a deep breath and tackled our kitchen table. I put away items, threw away mail, and took armfuls of stuff upstairs to place in their rightful spots. I took off that dirty tablecloth and threw it in the wash. The birthday banner came down, and I wiped the chalkboard blank. And I started over.

After some thoughtful searching on Pinterest and Goodreads, I settled on an autumn-themed chalkboard design and went to work, slowly and thoughtfully drawing and lettering. Then I pulled out a new tablecloth and bought out some fall decorations. In about 90 seconds I gathered the vase, flowers, ceramic pumpkin, and metal bird, and let it all be.

All week this small space has been a mental haven for me. It's given me space to breathe and has served as a reminder that yes, I may be out of control of many things--including much of my physical comfort--but I can take care of my home. And I've learned that when I take care of my home to make it pretty and pleasing, I'm really taking care of my soul.


why I'm glad I read Go Set a Watchman

I love To Kill a Mockingbird. And I'm certainly not alone. I firmly believe that every American needs to read this novel, and I may unabashedly judge you if you haven't. (If grade school was the only time you've read this novel, I implore you to read it in adulthood, free from reading assignments and group projects.) Mockingbird could even be the keystone of American literature. Everything about it is beautiful, and I never tire of it.

So when Harper Lee's publisher announced the publication of a new novel, I was mostly excited. And as the time approached for its official release I steered clear of reviews and opinions, because I wanted to read it cold. I know the issues surrounding the novel, and I didn't want my experience to be informed by disillusioned readers or pedantic newspaper reviews.

Today I offer you a few guidelines for your own reading of Go Set a Watchman, followed by some thoughts that will contain spoilers. (But I'll let you know when that's coming, so you can quit reading if you want!)

First, Go Set a Watchman is not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird.
And you can't read it like one. Think of Watchman as a companion to Mockingbird. Some articles I've read say to consider it as an alternate reality of sorts, but for me I don't think even that was necessary. Watchman is different, and if you know going in that it won't be necessarily a sequel, then I think your experience will benefit. The best way to not pigeonhole Watchman as a sequel is to--

Know the manuscript history.
Few books really require you to know its origin and its authorial context. But you really do need to know the context of Watchman's genesis and publication. Harper Lee wrote Watchman before she wrote Mockingbird--before. She submitted Watchman to a publisher, and her editor asked for more content about Jean Louise's childhood. That led to To Kill a Mockingbird.

The manuscript for Go Set a Watchman's 21st-century publication was lightly edited. It did not undergo rigorous substantive or developmental edits, and in many ways could be considered a first draft of Maycomb and its inhabitants. Knowing how Watchman came about greatly informed how I read the book. I found myself asking questions about Lee's experience with Maycomb and Atticus and Jean Louise and how she might have written things differently had Mockingbird actually come first.

But Mockingbird didn't come first, and that's really important to understanding Watchman.

Read critically.
Don't read Watchman if you're looking for straight-up entertainment, because this book begs to be read critically. Your experience with it will be greatly enhanced if you ask questions along the way and think seriously about the story. Strive for empathy with the characters, and remember that we are reading this on the other side of civil rights, most of us having grown up post-1950s and '60s. Perhaps history books make it easier for us to understand the right/wrong of civil rights better than the good-at-heart white Southerners who lived it and had their entire worldviews challenged. That would be hard, and I think we really aren't in a position to judge Atticus, Uncle Jack, or Hank. They underwent a massive cultural shift, and I don't think many of us know what that feels like.

When I closed this book, I was filled with the truth that good people--even great people--aren't perfect. That perhaps even Atticus--arguably the greatest American literary hero--is human and fallible. Good people are imperfect, and imperfect people can still be good people. Maybe American literature has propped up Atticus as a too-perfect beacon, and I may love him even more than I did before after reading Watchman.

Don't read Watchman with emotions only--use your brain.

Spoiler time--I'm eager to share some of the specific experiences I had while reading Watchman, and those include some spoilers. So if you want to stop here, please do, and come back after you've read it!

:: I really wonder what Harper Lee would have done with Jem if she'd written Mockingbird first. You find out early on that Jem died young (in his twenties) of sudden heart failure. And I was devastated. I had to remember that for Lee, Jem was already dead when she wrote Mockingbird, and I'd love to know about her experience developing Jem's character in Mockingbird knowing the fate she gave him. Jem's death blindsided me.

:: If Mockingbird is Scout's coming-of-age story, Watchman is Jean Louise's quarter-life crisis. I love the Jean Louise of Watchman and admire her passion and empathize with her idealism. Later in the book she recognizes her figurative color-blindness, and while that's a wonderful quality, it also prevents her from being able to easily see the civil rights issue from another's perspective (like Atticus's and Uncle Jack's).

:: I love Dr. Finch (Atticus's brother). His character was my favorite next to Jean Louise. He's obscure, but insightful and helped me understand the issues in this book better than I would have on my own.

:: I don't hate Atticus, nor am I disillusioned by Watchman's rendering of him. I found his fallibility refreshing more than anything and also wondered who he might have been had Watchman undergone more serious edits, or if Mockingbird really had come second. I would love to hear what Harper Lee has to say about these two books, their relationship to each other, and her relationship to each of them.

:: In many ways--and despite Atticus's beautiful championing of justice in Mockingbird--Atticus is still a man of his time. In his 70s, he was witnessing a turbulent rebirth of his homeland and social systems. I truly don't believe his involvement in the segregationist movement was born of hate, but rather his attempt to reconcile his values and worldview with an imperfect and evolving social system. I wish readers today would give him more grace.

::  I loved this quote from the book (spoken by Uncle Jack--Atticus's brother--to Jean Louise):

Now you, Miss, born with your own conscious, somewhere along the line fastened it like a barnacle to your father's. As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man's heart, and a man's feelings--I'll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes 'em like all of us. You were an emotional cripple, leaning on him, getting answers from him, assuming that your answers would always be his answers.

How many of us fastened on to Atticus when we read To Kill a Mockingbird?

I would love to talk more about this book one-on-one, over Starbucks cocoa, Facebook messenger, in a book group, or in one of my old literature classes. Yes, it's different, but it makes you think if you let it. No, it's not in the same revolutionary, canonical league as Mockingbird, and that's okay. I read a library copy, because I didn't know if I'd like it enough to own it, and now that I've finished I want to buy a copy for my library. Go Set a Watchman does have something to offer if you can set aside your Atticus-worship for 278 pages.

Have you read it? Will you read it? What did you think of the book?


on thinking differently

I certainly wasn't surprised at the SCOTUS ruling last week, and I also don't believe that every governmental act needs to align with my own personal values. That's one of the things that makes this free country so beautiful, that we are free to think differently.

But that's also what concerns me most about the Supreme Court decision. I'm not worried about same-sex marriage, but I am worried about how I will be able to express my own personal dissent in future. I'm worried about how schools will teach my children about this moment in history. On Friday my social media feeds were flooded with celebration--which I do not object at all--but it also contained noticeable doses of snark, gloating, and derision toward those who disagree with the principles at hand.

I've written before about my feelings regarding sexuality and marriage (see here and here). While I cringe over the tactless and unkind expression of my stance from my adolescence, I have spent the entirety of my adulthood seeking to find a balance between defending values and doctrines that are important to me and still treating everyone with kindness and compassion.

My opposition to same-sex marriage does not stem from hate or bigotry; rather I understand gender, sexuality, and marriage differently. I don't expect others to share that view, and that's why I'm not sulking about or bemoaning last week's historic court ruling. I understand that we all come from different places and that I can't expect people to see things the same way I see them.

So when I see posts and links that ridicule my sacred books, marginalize the opposing side, and throw around accusations of bigotry, I hurt. I hurt because I know how hard I've worked to find balance and kindness and understanding. I know how much I've thought about why I see matters differently and how much I've strived to cultivate empathy in my heart for those with whom I disagree. And I also know that not once has anyone come to me to ask how I see things, how I understand these essential tenets of personhood and love.

Because I do have a differing approach, one rooted in doctrines of my faith that, if discussed, could at least give explanation to an opinion that's too often labeled hateful. If I ever express my views to someone on the "other side" it's because I volunteer them in a medium like this one, not because any individual actually sought out a discussion of understanding. Perhaps liberal tolerance isn't always as far reaching as the media would have us think.

I don't want to argue or debate--I want only mutual understanding and respect. For those of you celebrating this ruling, I encourage you to celebrate because that's your right. We all should feel comfortable to rejoice when values close to our heart are validated, especially when it happens in such an official and public way. But please don't be a sore winner. I have to believe that mutual kindness and respect really are possible in an environment wherein disagreement is inherent. I have to believe that this country can continue to afford me the freedom and safety to think differently. I have to believe that even with all that makes us different from one another, that there's a world in which we could all shout from the rooftops that love wins.


ice cream for lunch

I had actually already planned on having ice cream around lunchtime. But our plans suffered a twist. This morning I lugged my toddler, my sewing machine, and my serger down to Portland's Alberta Street where I dropped off my machines at my favorite local Bernina dealer for some quality TLC. (These babies work hard--they deserve some spa time, right?)

I reached into my bag for my wallet. And then I started pawing through my bag for my wallet. But it wasn't there. And I didn't know where I'd left it. So not only could I not shop in my favorite independent sewing shop, I also couldn't treat Asher and myself to Salt & Straw or the Grilled Cheese Grill where you get to eat your sandwich a school bus. So many things wrong with this situation.

With Asher buckled in and the AC blaring, I called the last place I remember paying for anything: Costco. And they had it. So back to my Portland suburb I went, ice-cream-less but soon-to-be wallet-carrying. Some good soul had turned in my wallet, complete with credit cards, cash, and identification. In celebration, Asher and I shared a full-sized swirl frozen yogurt for lunch. Asher thought it was spectacular, and I couldn't help but agree.
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