Thursday, 15 January 2015

Because You Think It Exists.

One of my favorite blogs to read currently is Dear Coquette, an advice blog whose eponymous author answers questions about love, sex, depression, racism, feminism, drug use, and everything in between with acerbic bluntness.  Probably my favorite thing about Coquette's style is that she is able to in one breath offer genuine advice and words of support to those who need it while in the other take someone to task for their shitty decisions. It's a really refreshing blog to read especially if you like advice columns and sardonic bitchery.

I'm always on the lookout for words of wisdom when it comes to anxiety since it's something that I deal with on a daily, hourly, minute-ly, second-ly basis. Sometimes I find a quote or an affirmation that speaks to me in one way or another and I just can't get it out of my head. When I first found Dear Coquette I came across a "fun size" bit of advice she gave to someone that has stuck with me ever since:

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The idea that the future doesn't exist hit me like a ton of bricks. Living my life with constant anxiety about what was to come was devoting a considerable amount of energy to something that did not exist.

I realized that in my mind, the future had already taken place and through my anxiety I was trying to "guess" what had been decided on my behalf. It's interesting that I subconsciously believe that, especially since I (obviously) do not believe in any sort of predestination. If I were to sit back and analyze myself psychologically I would guess that is has something to do with attempting to "control" that which is uncontrollable--in this case, the nonexistent future.

That got me thinking about how not only does the future not exist, it also is not promised. Every second and minute we're alive is in and of itself pretty miraculous if you think about it; we begin dying the day we are born, and though it will come at different times for all of us we can't know which second or minute will be our last. It's easy to fall into cliche here--"live each day like it's your last" and such--but in the context of anxiety I think this line of thinking can help to direct focus back to the time we are promised, the now.

Because what comes next does not (yet) exist.

It's freeing to think about shedding the weight of future worry, to acknowledge that while the future likely will exist for me for awhile, all I need to concern myself with emotionally is the me in this moment. Caitlin in the future will handle things as they come, just as present Caitlin is doing at the present moment. Of course anxiety is not a weight easily shed--one must drop the weight bit by bit and hope that one day it will be gone or at least more manageable.

And that's my waxing philosophical for the day. Now if someone could just tell me that all those embarrassing things I said or did in the past didn't exist, I'd be much obliged.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Some Freewriting about Life, Travel, and Babies

Well hey everyone. It seems another two weeks has passed with nothing here.  Turns out I suck at everything that isn't baby-related or work-related, and both of those I don't feel like I'm doing great with either.

I mean look at that photo on the right. That shit's like, 5 years and two moves old now.

I'm in Miami this week for work, my first work trip post-baby and it's been quite possibly one of the worst weeks I've had in a long time. Before Amelia was born I underestimated how hard it would be for me to travel again.  It's been hard on me emotionally but also physically--my whole body has ached for days, I can't sleep and I could easily go the entire day without eating. Part of the reason I'm so "off" is that Rob and Amelia have had an even tougher time transitioning.  Amelia has been my shadow for the last 6 months. Rob obviously helped--he often would take her so I could sleep or run errands, or would play with her next to me, along with doing 100% of the house and dog work--but by and large I would say that I've been responsible for about 90% of the baby care. Before this week she's never spent more than a few hours alone with Rob.

I'd been told by a few people in the past few months that we needed to get Rob more involved (especially when it came to sleep), and that's all well and good to say but in the moment you do what fucking works and what fucking works is nursing to sleep and mom snuggles. Yet another thing I underestimated: how often you'd do what the hell works, consequences be damned.

To be honest it's been a little rough on me, being Amelia's primary parent, or at least it was at first. I always saw my marriage as the egalitarianest of the egalitarian and before Amelia was born Rob and I even went so far as to say that he would probably be the one waking up with her at night. It just didn't work out that way when she actually came. Part of the reason was breastfeeding (and my well-documented hatred of pumping) but with my formula-feeding friends reporting a similarly uneven childcare balance I would be interested in further exploring the internalized cultural and social (and maybe biological) expectations that unconsciously "guide" us into these roles and patterns. Those are thoughts for another time.

The bottom line is we didn't get Rob more involved in the bedtime routine and I still was the one putting her to sleep up until the day I left. We underestimated both her neediness and the level to which she was attached to me, and here we are, with a frazzled and sleep-deprived husband/dad and a stressed, achy, tired, faraway wife/mom.  Not to mention one confused, angry, needy baby.

Outside of all that noise...

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Miami has been nice. Definitely not my cup of tea in terms of places I'd ever want to live, but it's warm and sunny and there's food and booze, so I'm doing alright. The people are also really nice and in a lot of ways, it is nice getting to talk to adults during the day. I'm here for this week and maybe more weeks down the line. I'm hoping to hook up with a friend I haven't seen in years who lives down here and it'll be nice to get some time out and about, even if I spend all of it thinking of home.

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And that's life lately, guys. I hope you are all having a wonderful week.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Hello, 2015.

This year I've noticed a pretty big change in the social media New Year's discussions - in particular, many more friends are sharing anti-drunk driving statuses and talking gleefully of spending New Year's Eve at home, in front of the TV with a whole lot of Netflix.

Don't get me wrong--this is my favorite way to celebrate New Year's--but I guess it's a sign that we're all getting older and aren't wild and crazy kids anymore.

For our part, we spent New Year's Eve watching the SyFy Twilight Zone marathon, putting Amelia to bed 75 times (thanks, sleep regression!) and ringing in the actual new year with my dad and stepmother.  It would've been my absolute favorite if Amelia either stayed up without crying or slept without waking up 75 times. 

2014 was a weird and wonderful year for us. We moved from Santa Fe to a place where we knew no one, had a baby and slowly adjusted to it, bought a house,  and started to learn how to be parents and how to be married to each other while raising a kid. Those last two parts we're still nailing down, and honestly I imagine we will be nailing it down for the rest of our lives.

I don't have much in the way of resolutions. I've always sucked at coming up with goals in advance, which is funny because usually the issue people have with goals is that that they choose them and then can't achieve them. 

I did buy a notebook that I'd like to write in each day. I started it as a letter to Amelia so she can read it later, but I think I'll just write whatever comes to mind.  I also want to go through my photos in the coming weeks, pick out my favorites and get them printed for albums. My mother was diligent with photo albums and I treasured them both as a child and as an adult, and I'd like to share that with Amelia too. It's been tough, since it turns out that I have thousands of photos, but I'm excited to actually finish it (eventually).

Anyway, welcome to 2015, friends. I wish you all happiness, sunshine, brownies and Slankets in the New Year. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Thoughts on Christmas as an Atheist

During Amelia's worst days of colic I learned that singing helped, at least to the extent that a cup of water "helps" put out a raging fire.  With Christmas coming, when she has cranky periods I've found myself singing various traditional carols (which I know by heart thanks to my years as a band and chorus geek in high school).  Rediscovering all these songs has reminded me how entrenched religion is into the tradition of Christmas.

"Christ the Savior is born..."
"In Bethlehem in Jewry the blessed babe was born..."
"Hark the herald angels sing/Glory to the newborn king..."
"Grandma got run over by a reindeer.."

Turns out that Christmas in this day and age is considered to be a predominantly Christian holiday (who knew?!).

So how do Rob and I--two atheists--celebrate it?

Christmas is both my and Rob's favorite holiday. We both go crazy for decorating the tree, for watching a very specific series of Christmas movies (Nightmare Before Christmas, Emmet Otter, Love Actually, Christmas Vacation...if you were interested), for listening to Bing Crosby, and now for passing along our traditions to Amelia.  We buy each other gifts, we fill stockings, we will put cookies out for Santa Claus.  Though Rob could take or leave them, I love singing Christmas carols and have even (voluntarily and enjoyably) attended Christmas mass with my in-laws.

Neither Rob nor I see any of this as incongruous with our shared atheism.

Much is made in the United States of the fact that Christmas is an increasingly secular holiday celebrated even by the heathenest of heathens like us.  Each year the voices bloviating about the so-called "war on Christmas" grow louder and more obnoxious, despite the fact that you are far more likely to encounter messages of "keep Christ in Christmas" than "let's just call it 'mas'." These people are the same that claim religious discrimination because schoolchildren don't sing songs about Jesus in public schools despite the fact that they are perfectly welcome to sing them at home or at church.

The fact is, there is just as many pagan and secular elements to Christmas as there are Christian ones.  It is common knowledge that Christmas gains many of its traditions from Pagan celebrations, including Saturnalia which took place in December and was somewhat of a drunken free-for-all. The Christmas Tree and gift-giving are both borrowed from non-Christian celebrations. The Bible makes no direct reference to when Jesus was born and many early Christians didn't celebrate his birth. The Puritans banned the celebration of Christmas for a period in the 17th century, and the Catholic church was hesitant to embrace it as well.  Christmas wasn't even widely celebrated in the United States until the 1950s.

None of this is to say that there's anything wrong with celebrating Christmas as a Christian holiday. Rather, I think historically it's important to frame Christmas as what it is - a sort of holiday fruitcake (holiday meatloaf?), with various chunks from different periods in human history.  For that reason, it's okay for it to be different things for different people; someone saying "Happy Holidays" does nothing to dilute the tradition for the millions of Christians in the United States just as their tradition of churchgoing does not affect my secular celebration.

Christmas, for us, is a time to spend with our families, to drink (as our ancestors did!), to give and receive thoughtful gifts, and to connect with our shared human existence and history. For the entirety of recorded history, humans have been celebrating the end of the old year in preparation for the new, and it's possible to enjoy that celebration with or without the influence of Jesus and Christianity.

So Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, friends, however you celebrate or don't celebrate.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Currently

Watching: So many great things on Netflix! Sleep training has "clicked" so at night we have had more time to catch up on our stories. We started a new series called Black Mirror, a British show that is probably the best show I've seen in a long time. If you are a fan of The Twilight Zone/good sci-fi and don't mind incredibly dark humor, check this show out.  We are also catching up on American Horror Story: Coven, which honestly has been a pretty big disappointment to us after the first two seasons. Finally, we watched Nick Offerman's comedy special American Ham which was awesome.

Listening to: The same Pandora station over...and over...and over again. Amelia only takes naps in the Ergo carrier, and music has to be playing. Since my YouTube playlist got pretty old pretty fast, I made an oldies Pandora station. The baby naps 3-4 times a day for 30-45 minutes each, so I listen to this station a lot. I had no idea there were so many versions of "The Twist."

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How I spend most of my days.

Wanting: A new hobby. Something immersive that I can do when the baby is asleep and that makes me feel like me. I have so many plans for when she falls asleep (since when she is awake she is glued to me) but all I end up doing is putzing around on the Internet. That has value in and of itself for many sanity, but I'd like to add something that requires a bit more brainpower.

Reading: Blogs, and that's about it. It's really hard to find time to read with a baby as needy as Amelia. I started reading a book about the Irish potato famine that is really interesting so far, but I have to read it in chunks so I'm pretty sure it'll take months to finish at this rate.

Excited for: CHRISTMAS obviously. Everyone's right when they say that the holidays get so much better with kids, and Amelia isn't even old enough to actually participate yet. We got our tree the other day, bought her first Christmas ornament, got her gifts and have just generally been enjoying all the anticipation.  It's kind of fun having a little alien that you have to teach about life on earth.

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Planning: A work trip. It's my first since Amelia was born and I'm absolutely terrified. Scared to be away from her, scared that Rob will have a hard time since she is so dependent on me at this stage. I'm also scared that she'll forget about me, even though I'll only be gone for 3-4 days at a time for a couple of weeks straight.

Eating: Dairy again! With her doctor's blessing I've been introducing milk into my diet again and Amelia has so far experienced no ill effects. This is HUGE because god damn was I missing milk. And cheese. And cream cheese and ice cream and milk chocolate. I've also been eating way too much sugar for my own good. Anybody have any cures for a sweet tooth? Because I have a bad one.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A Christmas Wishlist

This year Christmas is really different for me for one very big tiny reason. It's not just the obvious excitement of giving her her first Christmas that makes it different; I also have had a tough time coming up with anything at all that I even wanted as a gift. When Rob told me he wasn't sure what to get, I shrugged and suggested, "naps?" I think he could literally give me a handmade book of nap coupons and I'd cry with glee.

I'm sure you could do some psychological assessment where you come to the conclusion that I've lost myself in becoming a mother and can't think of myself outside of my kid.  In some ways that might be true--putting real clothes on and changing my bra are considered major chores nowadays--but I'm going to lay the blame on a fuzzy brain and laziness instead.

Anyway last night the baby fell asleep at around 8:30 and didn't wake up again for an hour and a half, which I spent reorganizing my Pinterest boards (sounds boring but I love sitting down to do mundane shit that doesn't scream at me).  I got reacquainted with my wish list and since Christmas is in a few short weeks, thought I'd share it with all the other bloggers. In the interests of asserting my independence, none of these things are baby-related.

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1. Medical Museums: Past, Present and Future. This book isn't available through any online retailers. You have to order it by form from the Dittrick Medical History Museum at Case Western Reserve University. I thought it'd be a pretty cool addition to my collection of morbid and macabre books.


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2. Liverpool Jean Pull-on Legging. PULL-ON JEANS. Okay, maybe I am officially a mom.


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3. A box of assorted chocolate body parts. I like the assorted one but too bad you can't design your own. I mean who could say no to a box of chocolate uteruses?

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4. Anatomical heart locket. Continuing with the macabre theme, how lovely is this silver heart? Way too expensive to actually buy but I'd wear this bad boy every damn day.


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5. Birthstone ring. It's too soon for me to get a mother's ring, since I don't know if Amelia will be our only child, but I'd love to get one of these dainty rings with Rob and Amelia's birthstones in the meantime.

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6. Knee high boots. I have a lot of knee high boots but these are lovely.

So there we go. Honestly I think this list gives a pretty decent idea of who I am as a person - weird, and likes cheap boots and comfy clothes.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Our Thanksgiving(s)

Well hello, December!

November came and left with incredible speed for us. For me anyway. October felt interminable, partially because the baby was still a challenge wrapped up in difficulty, but things really evened out for her and for us in November. For the first time in months I'm actually excited for what's to come instead of only focusing on the second in front of me.

When the time came to plan our Thanksgiving, I at first didn't want anything to do with returning to Maine to see our families. The drive lasts 8 hours, Amelia is ever-changing and we can't predict what she'll do in any given situation, and since she is still breastfeeding we have to stop every 2-3 hours.  Along with all that, the four month sleep regression hit her pretty hard and she was sleeping like shit.  It all just added up to NOPE in my head. 

Thankfully (haha, because it's Thanksgiving) Rob pushed to do it even though, as I said in a sleep-deprived delirium, "I'd rather pull all my toenails out than go." We ended up having a really nice time with our families, Amelia did amazingly well and above all I'm glad that she got to spend her first Thanksgiving around lots of people that love her.

Most of you know that our families live pretty close to one another, so when we go home for the holidays it means a lot of driving and a lot of juggling. It's multiplied a thousand times with a baby. We made it work though and got to spend time with both sides, fulfilling traditions with each respective family (after-dinner Pictionary with Rob's, "It's a Wonderful Life" with mine) and getting to enjoy that with Amelia.

I think Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the food, the loud family gatherings, the late-night TV and talking sessions with our siblings. I don't understand why everyone rushes Christmas as soon as the Halloween candy runs out, because Thanksgiving deserves a lot more attention than it gets.

We're heading back in a month for Amelia's first Christmases. Even though she won't be much of an active participant in it, I'm really excited to create some new traditions with her.

I didn't get a ton of photos of the actual festivities, so these are mostly just of my cute kid. 

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