Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Smoosh Life - The tough stuff

One of life's cruel jokes is that right after a night with only three hours of sleep followed by twenty hours of labor, you're suddenly in charge of a tiny human. A tiny human who eats every couple of hours.

I thought I'd immediately fall in love with my baby. I mean, who doesn't? It's just not as heartwarming to imagine yourself uncertain about the creature that just came out of you. When I first saw Evan, I was overwhelmed by seeing the little person who had spent months inside of me kicking, wiggling, and otherwise making his presence known. He didn't need much convincing before he started crying, and I remember feeling compassion for the little being that was just squeezed out of his warm comfortable home into a world that's not always so comforting.

As I lay in bed with him a bit after his birth, I realized that I felt a mixture of conflicting emotions. The one that surprised me most was anger. While completely unfair and irrational, I was angry at him for hurting me during the pushing phase of labor. The rest of labor was so smooth and like exercise that the pain of pushing was something of a shock that I didn't forget for a few days afterward.

Taking care of a baby after labor was difficult. The days after his birth blur in my memory now, but I remember the challenge of pulling myself up in bed to feed him over and over again. Not only was I exhausted, but my abdominal muscles weren't quite what or where they used to be, and I wasn't supposed to scoot or sit cross-legged because I had a few stitches where they could get disturbed.

Other normal physical ailments stuck around for a few days making life feel odd. My body suddenly felt so light, but I still felt sluggish. It was disturbing to watch blood and clots keep coming as my body healed. It was frustrating to not be allowed to walk around much or do much of anything. (Doing nothing is definitely not one of my life talents.)

We have a "sucky baby". Evan loves to nurse. And as Evan frantically ate all the time, my nipples very quickly turned sore, then a little bleedy, then scabby. With some help from a nurse from the midwife's practice, I learned some ideas to get him to latch on better. However, it took some time for me to get better at them, and it's really hard to have wounds heal when they are being nibbled on every two hours.

Getting used to Evan crying took some time, too. I hated when he was unhappy, especially for more than the moment it took me to get ready to nurse. We aren't a "cry it out" household, but we couldn't do much about the fact that he hated diaper changes. He also hated being put into his sling or wrap for the first couple weeks, although he loved being in them once he got settled.

While I was bolstered by his cuteness and my compassion for the tiny human, I was often overwhelmed by weepiness, especially as the day went on and I grew more and more tired. I missed everything. I missed being pregnant. I missed him kicking inside of me. I missed spending time alone with Matthew along with the regular hugs and cuddles that seemed to be impossible to have when a baby starts crying the moment you think you have time to just be. I missed sleep. I missed being able to get things done. I missed feeling adequate and competent.

So I'd wander around the house and randomly start crying over and over and over again. And it was hard.

After a couple of weeks, things started getting better. I started only crying randomly once or not at all each day. My abdominal muscles made a comeback. I learned how to continue life while also caring for my tiny human. I learned that if he suddenly decides to scream from hunger when I'm three blocks away from home, I can feed him while walking the remaining distance. (One of my finest parenting moments so far.) He likes to look at my face now which makes me feel like he might eventually appreciate me as more than a milk machine.

Nights still are lame sometimes. Like when he won't stay latched on and screams at me over and over again because he's indignant that he's not eating anymore. (Well, whose fault is that, child?!) Or when he decides to have a three and a half hour alert time in the middle of the night when I had obtained less than two hours of sleep that night so far. (Fact: Saying "Go to sleep! Go to sleep!" to your alert baby because you are starving for sleep yourself will not actually make the baby go to sleep. The best way to deal with the situation is to make the husband hold the baby while you go eat chocolate chips and almonds because you're STARVING.)

While I have felt the urge to nurture him and the power of compassion that has helped me see how he sees things as best I can, it's difficult for me to feel love when exhausted. Even my normal emotions toward Matthew don't feel the same, and that really says something to me. However, I'm finding moments of love now. Even at night after he wakes me up because he's hungry. And that is truly saying something.

All the sweet moments with baby help.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Smoosh Birth

I feel like the Smoosh birth story actually begins two days before he was born. On Wednesday, May 7th, I woke up with some bloody show. Seeing as I had just hit 38 weeks that day, I was a little bit surprised. I looked the symptom up again, and I was told that it meant that labor could be hours, days, or even weeks away. Well, that was helpful.

Conveniently, my next appointment with the midwives was late that afternoon. When I told her about the bloody show, she said that in her experience, it meant that labor was coming sooner rather than later and that I should be ready.


I promptly went into overdrive the next day. I knew we needed groceries, so I biked to the store with our cargo bike and took care of that first thing in the morning. Most of the afternoon was spent in the kitchen preparing a month's worth of granola bars (for freezing), a crock pot full of burrito filling, and a pot of soup. I also walked over to a friend's house to borrow an exercise ball in case it helped during labor. I wanted to bake bread and cookies, too, but my body and the clock both said "no". Alas!

We set up the birth tub that night in case I did go into labor soon. It was missing the tub liner, which caused perfectionist Karen to get a little worried. (What if I needed it THAT NIGHT?) I figured that the midwives would probably bring one if needed, though, so I tried not to worry. (Something I'm really good at...) I don't remember much else from that evening except for being a bit extra cranky, tired, and somewhat crampy. In retrospect, my body was definitely showing prelabor signs. At the time, though, I wasn't sure if labor really would come soon or if I'd be waiting for another week or two. It's tough to be mentally prepared at all times for something like labor!

But it really was sooner rather than later. We went to bed around 10pm, and I slept solidly for three hours before waking up at 1am because Matthew went to the bathroom. I noticed feeling a little extra moist, and I needed to pee, so I dragged myself out of bed and began waddling to the bathroom.

It was a little more than extra moist. As I waddled, I felt liquid gushing down my leg. This surprised me, too, because I knew that most women do not begin labor with their water breaking. However, even in my sleepy state, I knew that there wasn't much other explanation for what was running down my legs. I noted the color (clear!), went pee, and then waddled back to let Matthew know that Smoosh was coming SOON.

After a call to the midwife to let her know what was going on, we began to consider my brother. Coincidentally, his summer visit to Oregon needed to coincide with Smoosh's potential birth weeks. He stays with us for most of the nights during his visits, and he knew that he might be kicked out. I went to kick him out. Dramatically. But we eventually determined that Smoosh probably wouldn't be born in the next few hours, and he could stay until morning, and he ended up leaving early Friday morning.

I didn't sleep the rest of the night. I knew I should rest, so I stayed in bed until 6am. Sleep just wasn't going to happen, though. In addition to needing to process the fact that we were going to meet our baby soon, I was also starting to have mild contractions around every 10 minutes. While they weren't particularly painful, I just lay there waiting for the next one...

After getting up, my contractions starting picking up almost immediately in frequency, duration, and intensity. After they were coming in for an hour at about 4 minutes apart and around 45 seconds long each time, we called the midwife. She said to call again if things picked up further or if they stayed the same for another hour.

In the meantime, I wanted to take some last Smoosh bump photos.

The final Smoosh bump!

Look closely at my face in the mirror, and you'll see that I wasn't emotionally ready to be done with pregnancy. While I know most people are really, really ready for their baby to come OUT, I was starting to feel cheated of my last two weeks of pregnancy. Sure there were some negative pregnancy symptoms, but I knew I was going to miss having a little wiggly one in my belly.

Babies come when they want to come, though!

 Contractions kept coming regularly for the next hour, so we called again. The midwife suggested that I lie down and rest a little since I had been on my feet for a couple of hours. She also let us know that she'd send over a nurse in a bit to see how I was doing.

I lay down and rested for awhile. My contractions slowed down, though, which I didn't really like.
I decided to stand up again and began to wander around. The thing with having water breaking early is that it just keeps coming out as your body replenishes it. Things like pants and underwear seem silly if they are constantly getting wet. A funny looking blanket skirt seemed like a much better idea!

And... Contraction. It was weird to finally be experiencing what I had been wondering about for the past nine months. For me, contractions felt like strong menstrual cramps that began low in my belly and spread up. They came like waves that increased in intensity, peaked, and then decreased.

When I wasn't standing and walking around, I tried sitting on the exercise ball to give my legs a break.

A nurse along with a student of midwifery dropped by late in the morning to see how I was doing. Unfortunately, my uterus has performance anxiety. Having new people around slowed my contractions down again. I could feel them try to start, but they stayed low in my belly and petered out before anything good happened.

After a bit, the nurse offered to check to see how I was progressing. Almost 3 centimeters dilated and almost fully effaced. Good news, but still much work to be done. She called the midwife, and they determined that it would probably be best for me to continue labor in privacy and call when things were really picking up.

The details get blurry in my mind here. I was told that I could go for a walk if I wanted to, so Matthew and I wandered over to a friend's house to pick up a changing pad that she was passing along to me. I had told her I planned to be by that morning, so I was a bit late, but since I was in labor I'm sure I was fully excused! I also remember taking a short nap on the couch while leaning against Matthew. I was eating little snacks throughout the day, and Matthew kept glasses of water and juice at my lips regularly. Part of laboring at home means that there's no IV, so it's important to keep up water and energy levels.

By mid-afternoon, I was honestly feeling a bit discouraged. My contractions had been staying the same as they were when I woke up that morning. Based on my behavior, I was pretty sure that active labor hadn't started, and I was worried that early labor would just keep going forever.

Oddly enough, I feel like I actually ended up making a conscious decision to let my labor progress. I finally kicked myself in the pants (except I wasn't wearing any...), and I told myself that if I was wandering around worried, I'd never let my body progress. Instead, I closed my eyes, turned within, and willed my contractions to come stronger and more frequent. It wasn't long after deciding to get serious about laboring that I felt myself withdraw into the labor. I stopped talking to Matthew, wandered back into the bedroom, and closed the curtains to darken the room a bit.

After a awhile, I learned that by swaying my hips front to back, I could encourage a good contraction to start. Swaying my hips side to side and breathing deeply in and out helped me cope with the sensation as it occurred. I walked around the bedroom doing my "labor dance" for what was probably at least a few hours. During this time, Matthew recognized the change in my behavior and called for the midwife to come. Of course this had to happen during rush hour on Friday, but the team arrived around 6pm with time to spare.

By the time the midwife arrived, I was tired of doing the dance and wanted to be off my feet. I knelt at the foot of the bed and continued rocking my hips first forward and back to get a contraction going and then side to side to ease the intensity. I was still breathing in and out deeply, and I was imagining biking up a steep hill while someone was reaching in and pulling baby down.

After getting settled, my midwife asked if I wanted to check to see how far along I was. I was curious. 8 centimeters and fully effaced! I was in transition without knowing it which surprised me because I expected active labor and the switch to transition to be more painful than it was. I didn't feel like contractions were nearly the challenge that I expected

The tub had been filling, and I was told that I was far enough along that I could go in at any time. Warm water sounded nice.

And there I stayed for the rest of labor. The team checked Smoosh's heartbeat periodically during and between contractions, and everything was looking fine.

Most of the time they let me labor alone with Matthew watching over me and continually bringing me fluids.

It wasn't until near the very end of transition right before pushing that I started to feel unhappy with the whole birthing situation. I was tired, and there finally was enough pain to get to me. I remember crying at one point as I wished for the pushing to just get going so we could be done with it. Fortunately, I knew that feeling like I was done and couldn't go on meant exactly that I was going to be done soon. It made it so that I could plow on. Knowledge is power.

After a good number of these awkward, painful contractions, I finally felt the urge to push. It was amazing the sudden difference in what my body was doing. I felt like I was having the largest, most excruciatingly painful bowel movement of a lifetime. I had watched a bunch of natural childbirths during pregnancy, and I promised myself that I would not under any circumstances be a screamer. Screamers made me cry.

Instead I was a yeller. Which each contraction ramping up and forcing my body to push, my volume level ramped up with equal intensity. Poor Matthew was there at that point holding my hands with nothing else that he could do to make things better. The midwife kept watch of the progress and let me know when important things happened and letting me know when I could reach down and touch baby's hair. The hair was all well and good, but all I really  knew is that I wanted the baby out, out, out! After around 45 minutes of pushing (we think?), the head finally fully emerged, and the body quickly followed with all of its lumpiness. Our baby was born at 8:46pm.

After passing baby through my legs and floating him up to the top, the midwife had me sit down on the tub's seat so that baby could be placed directly on my chest. Baby pretty quickly figured out that it was an appropriate time to yell gustily. We admired long fingers and toes. A head full of hair. Alert eyes. Tiny ears. It was all there. Eventually we even got around to noticing that we had given birth to a boy: Evan Oliver.

Somewhere in here I also expelled the placenta. It wasn't quite as dramatic as expelling a human head.

After the cord stopped pulsing, Matthew got to cut it. Soon after that, they helped me out of the tub to the bed so that we could let Evan hang out on me for awhile and try to nurse. It took some effort, but we eventually got some colostrum in him.

He was then weighed at measured and generally checked out. It turns out that we had a healthy 7 pound 3 ounce boy who was 19.5 inches long.

Then it was my turn. When checking for damage, the midwife found that my perineum had not torn (hooray!). However, I had minor tearing on my labia. Shots, stitches, and I was ready to heal. I was then allowed to shower while Matthew continued to hold Evan. My body didn't feel like my own as I was assisted down the hall to the bathroom. Then again, perhaps it wasn't anymore.

Back to the bedroom, where I was handed our sleepy baby. The midwife and team continued cleaning up, making sure we had everything we needed, and in general making sure we were set to go. A few hours after his birth, we were on our own to begin our journey together.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Smoosh Belly

I need to write out Evan's birth story, but pregnancy precedes birth, so this story must come first.

I found out that I was pregnant in mid-September. I was at a co-op conference all that day wondering if I possibly might be. You're supposed to test in the morning, but I had already waited a few days and was impatient, so I tested that evening. Positive! Matthew was out that evening, so I had to figure out a fun way to tell him. Nothing could be clearer than having a sign posted on your back when you walk through the front door.

Well, except that it's backward when you try to read it in the mirror. But he eventually figured it out. Let the anticipation begin!

Anticipation is probably the best word to use to describe pregnancy. There are about nine months to watch a belly grow, wonder what life will be like after birth, and, of course, wonder what the birth itself will be like.

Here I am at 10 weeks pregnant. By this point we had visited and chosen the midwives that we wanted to see throughout the pregnancy and birth. The practice does home births, and it was a warm and inviting atmosphere at their clinic. It suited us. While I love that hospitals exist to help people who need help, I felt like the atmosphere of a hospital wasn't going to be the best for my personality if I wanted to a smooth birthing process without interventions. We also live a half mile from a hospital, so I knew that we weren't far from help if it was needed.

At 14 weeks pregnant, I was just past the morning sickness and exhaustion phase that started around Week 6. My morning sickness actually was afternoon and evening sickness. Nausea set in at around 2pm and didn't fade for the rest of the day. In addition to plain old nausea, I had food aversions like nobody's business. The thought of most foods made me gag. The smell of most foods made me gag. We have a CSA vegetable subscription, so healthy foods were delivered to my doorstep each week whether or not I liked it. I definitely had to get creative to find ways to prepare foods so that I could gag them down. My two favorite stories from this time involve mustard greens and beets.

I had a lot of green smoothies so that I could hide greens behind the sweetness of fruit. However, a mystery green was thrown into one of these smoothies. It was mustard greens. Weeping occurred. I don't recommend this type of green smoothie even if you aren't pregnant.

Beets also were in season at this time. I could successfully hide these in a chocolate beet cake, but you have to steam them first. Beets smell really strongly as you steam them. After gagging and retching over the sink for a good few minutes, I had a brilliant idea. The respirator!

This was taken long before pregnancy, but it gives you the idea of what I looked like as I continued my afternoon in the kitchen. Minus the hat. I didn't feel the need to wear the hat.

By Week 16, I was happily into the second trimester groove. I felt really good again. I could eat food! I was also finally telling people about the pregnancy. It was a little later than we really felt like it needed to be, but we waited until after Thanksgiving to tell most people so that we could tell Matthew's family in person. Hooray!

I thought that I would be a lot bigger by Week 20, but my abs just kept holding on! By this point, I could definitely feel Smoosh kicking around regularly. Throughout the pregnancy he seemed to morph into different animals. At first he felt like a fish in a fish bowl. Then he became a rabbit thumping his leg over and over again. I just may have named him Thumper the Drunken Jackrabbit one morning at 3am because he was kicking in one spot over and over again. Later in pregnancy it felt like he must be an octopus because it felt like at least eight appendages were punching and kicking. At the end, he felt like a human. He spent his last weeks in there with his back against my left side, so I could regularly feel his butt pushing out under my ribs as he arched his back.

Week 24! Around this time, my bump starting bumping. For weeks I had to slow down while biking because my abs were shifting around and I needed to adjust. I rode my bike throughout the entire pregnancy including the day before he was born. People thought I was a bit crazy, but it made me feel really strong and healthy. I also walked a lot, of course, since we don't have a car. Of course I can't be sure, but I honestly believe all of this biking and walking (along with all those vegetables!) helped the pregnancy and birth be as smooth and healthy as imaginable.

We also had our ultrasound around this time. A little peek at a happy, healthy Smoosh! The sonographer called him a mover and a shaker because he was moving around so much. We opted to keep the baby's sex a mystery, so it was interesting wondering and guessing throughout. It was also doubly the challenge to think of two potential names!

Week 28 was near the homestretch that is the third trimester. I kept expecting to start feeling some negative symptoms again, but I was happily surprised to continue feeling great!

It was probably around Week 32 that some symptoms occasionally cropped up here and there. Heart burn on occasion. The incessant need to pee. Still, things were good, and the birth-day was definitely feeling closer...

Week 36! I definitely started feeling full of baby at this point! I had a few rough days at this point where I was tired of waiting and being pregnant and wanted Smoosh out. Sleep was harder to come by for the rest of the pregnancy, and other symptoms started showing up more often as well. Heart burn especially when leaning over along swollen feet and exhaustion at the end of the day. The area below my ribs started to feel numb much of the time. I also starting feeling listless as my to-do-before-Smoosh list shrank.

Even though a baby is "allowed" to come any time after you reach 37 weeks, I told Smoosh to stay in until after my Week 38 appointment because I needed to pick up the birth kit and tub at that point. Of course, I didn't schlep that tub home by myself. I took Matthew along with me that day so that we could hike to and from MAX stops together. I was carrying our two backpacks and the two tote bags filled with supplies. Matthew hauled the giant backpack containing the pool. It clearly stated "birth pool in a box" right on it so that everyone we were riding home with knew exactly what it was. I kept hoping that they'd somehow have cameras filming for Portlandia because I felt like we'd really add a nice authentic touch to the episode...

Good thing I was clear to Smoosh about waiting until Week 38 because he did exactly that. We took the Week 38 picture near the beginning of labor so that I'd have one final picture to complete the set.

And the beginning of labor brings us to the end of the Smoosh Belly story and to the beginning of the Smoosh Birth story.

To be continued!

Friday, January 11, 2013

What we've been up to...

My posts certainly have become few and far between! I thought I'd break the recent silence by posting a bunch of pictures showing what we have accomplished at home recently. Yay pictures!

First, some changes to the interior:
I made a sunburst mirror!

I solved our bathroom towel hanging problem. Our one and only bathroom is definitely a small bathroom which is fine except it isn't set up well to hang up towels.  Especially when we have a bigger family someday...  My solution to this was to take the door off of the little closet, paint the inside white, and organize the shelves.  While you can't see all of the space in the picture, we can now hang towels on hooks below the bottom shelf.  The door simply had to come off so that the towels will dry!  Problem solved!
I don't know what it is about canopies over beds, but I have always
admired them (but not the cost of a canopy bed...).  I used curtains that
were covering the close in one of the "kids rooms" and used long
thumbtacks (found randomly in a tree while landscaping at OSU) to
attach it to the ceiling.  Voila!  Free canopy! I like how it makes
our ridiculously giant bedroom look a little bit smaller, too. :)

Moving on to the outdoors... Outdoor pictures just aren't complete without chicken pictures!
Light from heaven streaming onto the lovely chickens.

Awww.  Who doesn't want to find Willow on their kitchen stoop?

Three happy, fuzzy chicken butts.

We took out a large swath of sod in the front yard to prepare  to put
in some raised beds.  We're getting ready to build them now!
Here's what used to be half of our driveway!  We rented a jackhammer,
and then we used the chunks to build these raised beds and put in
stepping stones.  All that's left is filling in between the stepping stones
with pea gravel, filling the beds with good garden soil, and setting up an
irrigation system!

Not a great picture, but we also added a contained compost pile in the
chicken run.  You can find the picture that inspired me here.  It'll show
what it looks like much better.  However, this picture is proof that
the chickens go in, each what they want, poop in the pile, and scratch
it all up.  It's a good system for us, I think!
That's it for now! I can just see in my mind all of out garden spaces lush and green in the summer with all sorts of deliciousness sprouting up everywhere. SO EXCITED!
Friday, December 7, 2012

We pray for peace

Matthew and I have been reading the book Practicing Peace: A Devotional Walk Through the Quaker Tradition by Catherine Whitmire.  The book has a compelling introduction written by the author, and then the rest of the book is essentially a compilation of quotations from throughout the last few centuries.  I checked it out from the library, read a few chapters, and I felt in my heart that I needed to own that book.  I don't know if you've had similar feelings, but as I was reading the book, I felt inspired and empowered to be better than I currently am. I certainly couldn't absorb all of the wisdom and inspiration before returning the book!  I've been mulling through some thoughts about peace, and I think I'm ready to put some of my thoughts into words.

Reading this book has made me realize that we need to pray for peace in our world and believe that God hears our prayers and doesn't cast them aside. In one of my groups of friends in high school, I learned to have the attitude that peace will never exist in Israel because of the long-lasting, deeply-rooted conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  I have let that mentality subconsciously continue for about 10 years now, and I have only recently realized what I believe to be an error in my thinking. If I believe that God desires peace in our world and that with God all things are possible, then I have to believe that peace is possible, and I have to live like I believe it.

I also have been confronted with my own failings when it comes to peace.  How many times have I harbored such frustrated, hateful thoughts toward people?  How many relationships have I soured through my own attitude?  How many times have I argued my case (because I'm right, of course!) despite the damage that my arguing was doing?

I don't think that I have to remain silent about issues that inspire passion within me, but I do believe that I can relate to people in peaceful ways.  I have often wondered, "Why can't people discuss things?  Why can't we discuss religion and politics and issues that matter without feeling ready to attack the other person?"  I am not sure I fully know the answer, but I do know that I want to be able to have these conversations while maintaining inner peace and the peace in the relationship.  Humans are never going to all agree on pretty much anything, so must not we all work on finding a way to live together in love instead of in hate despite our differences?

I am inspired by people who patiently bring about peace in our world by being peaceful and connecting to people.

In my idealistic and romantic heart, I think that I desire for my life and home to be marked by peace.  It might be silly, but I genuinely hope that people feel peace and love in their lives when they enter our house. I haven't stopped a war, but perhaps I can start by creating peace in our home and then watch it splash out into our community.

Finally, I have come to the realization that the next time our country considers declaring another needless war, which won't be too long from now if patterns from our history continue, I hope that I will have the courage to speak against it even if my position is not popular. 

I feel like this post is lacking.  Sometimes when I write I feel my logical, mathematician self typing as my passion bubbles in my chest trying to get out.  Perhaps I will try again another day to somehow spill my bubbles onto the page.  Or perhaps you can just get your hands on a copy of Practicing Peace so that you can also be inspired by the words of many throughout the ages...

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

And so we vote!

I have felt compelled to write about the 2012 election a few times either on Facebook on my blog.  Each time I start typing, my words fall short of the ideas in my head, and I worry that I will add to the drivel of election season.  Heaven forbid!  Finally, as election day has arrived, I think that I have figured out the words that I wish to add to the "conversation".

We have heard over and over from opposing parties about how awful (or wonderful!) things would be if a candidate is elected this year.  The numbers have been crunched (or made up), facts (or lies/half-truths) have been brought to the voters' attention, and speeches have been made (and then taken out of context)!  I don't think that anybody can deny that election season is messy in the U.S.

So what do I want to add to all of it?  My call to unify rather than polarize.  My prayer is that we:

  • Unify as a nation to face our problems and work together, taking time to consider diverse opinions, to solve them.
  • Bring peace to the world.
  • Use resources (monetary and planetary) wisely so as to provide a positive future for generations to come
  • Face the problem of climate change and deal with human impacts responsibly.
  • Be compassionate to those in need that we are able to help.
  • Create policies that bring justice, social and otherwise, both in our country and the rest of the world.
  • Create a food system that is safe, healthy, just, and sustainable.
  • Treat all people with equal respect and rights.
  • And..
Regardless of who wins any elections, I hope that our representatives in government succeed in creating a better country and a better world through their policies.  We are not electing "the lesser of two (or more) evils", we are electing one of two (or more) people.  Each person will have both talents and faults to share as he or she governs.

But if we bicker and complain and attack our candidates and then our leaders, how are we making anything better?  How can we work together after an election if we can't be civil during one?

I end with these thoughts:  Our country, and our world, is made up of citizens.  Our government has a huge amount of power, and it can make choices that largely impact individuals and the world at large.  However, while I cannot control the choices of the government, I am left with the choice about what kind of citizen I wish to be.

I can contact my representatives to let them know how I feel about different issues.  I can stay caught up with the news even between election cycles so that I can understand the array of issues better and be as well-informed as possible.  I can choose my words wisely when discussing politics; I can speak gently instead of with the grace of a battering ram.

I can share my resources with others.  I can improve my community.  I can participate in meetings of the local government.  I can make choices with others' needs in mind.  I can volunteer.

I have the power to bring beauty and love, or darkness and hate, into the world.

I want, and will work toward, good things in the world, and no election can change that.  I simply believe that I can be a more effective citizen if I am engaged, cooperating, thoughtful, concerned, and respectful instead of whiny, uncooperative, attacking, violent, and disrespectful.

And, besides my own ballot, that is my contribution to the election of 2012.
Friday, October 12, 2012

looking back, looking ahead

I think that summer usually ends a little earlier than this in our area, but this year the warm, sunny, dry days stretched from early July to mid-October.  Today it is raining, though, and I think that we are officially tumbling toward winter.  Fall and spring both fill me with the oddest emotions.  Mostly, both of these seasons send me reeling with excitement as changes abruptly happen.  Though the seasons are nearly opposite, spring and fall bring me a sense of promise for good things.  Yet, as I feel excitement and hope, I also feel a sense of loss as I realize that another season of life has passed, never to return.

First, let's celebrate the end of summer.
These are some of my very own tomatoes.  Delicious.

What a lovely creature!  It's amazing that few months ago,
this beautiful chicken was a scrawny little fuzzball.

Never in my wildest dreams growing up did I imagine harvesting
my own sunflower seeds.  

This melon grew from a seed that germinated in the worm bin.

A blue heron surveying our pond.  The warm days and lack of rain
sure has the pond water mighty low!

While I really enjoy each season, and perhaps especially so since I grew up on the coast where seasons were less distinct, I am already looking forward to next spring when I can put the first seeds in the ground and start over again.  I am really happy with all that came out of our garden this year, and I am excited to improve next year.  Plus, we have plans to radically change our gardening space for next year.  We plan to demolish half of the driveway and tear out about half of the front lawn.  In this space, we intend to build raised beds and perhaps add some fruit trees and shrubs.  We also plan to move the raised beds from the side yard and plant a little fruit orchard there instead.  One other major addition we're planning on for next year is a grape arbor in the front lawn.  It's going to be a lot of work, and I am terribly excited to dig in and see the changes.

My professional dreams and goals have also lead me to unexpected places.  While I feel more confident with my teaching every term, I am holding onto the hope that I will have a part in starting a food co-op that will eventually have the means to employ me!  In the meantime, I soak up the days when my students tell me that they appreciate me, and I work to not let student failures bring me down.  Teaching is a good job, and I really enjoy working with my students.  There is just a part of my insides with a PASSION for bring good, healthy, local food to our city, and I also feel anticipation for how a co-op could unite people in our community to do so many good things.

And this post would be simply incomplete if I didn't mention that I love being a wife, and I still eagerly anticipate being a mom someday.  I could never express enough gratitude for the way my life fell into place.  How did I end up marrying such a wonderful person?  Matthew and my dream for our life has somehow evolved simultaneously throughout our marriage.  It is perhaps not every husband who respects and appreciates both my part-time work for money and my part-time work at home to help live our lives simply, healthfully, and with respect for our fellow humans and the world.  We are partners in our mission; he works full-time at his job so that I can have the time to use my bike to get the groceries.  Thanks to my dear husband who is simply the best, and thanks to God who inspires the passion within us and delivers the joys of our lives.


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