Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The word.

I'm trying to find a single word that best captures the essence of 2013 for me.  A few are floating around in my head.... Persistence.  Resignation. Viral (thank you, daughter who brings the germs home).  Stagnant.  None of these work, since they all carry a negative tone that suggests that the whole year was worth wiping off the calendar.  Not so!  2013 has had its highs and lows like any other year.  What's been hard for me this year, though, is the acceptance that these peaks and valleys, hopes and disappointments and changes, have been mostly beyond my control.  What it really boils down to is..... Acceptance.

Acceptance.

I accepted 5 hours of sleep a night for the first half of the year.  I accepted that spending time with my daughter means that other, personal goals of mine will need to be put on hold.  I accepted that my relationships have changed, and that my marriage is different after having a child.  I accepted that, given the choice between a clean house and sanity, sanity always has to come first.  I accepted that completing this MBA with a stellar GPA is not in the cards for me.

I am still struggling to accept the fact that we are entering 2014 in the same financial position  we were in a year ago; that the time and physical effort required to complete my goal of running a marathon in March 2014 are too much for me right now; that I will never feel on top of things at work.

The difference between "acceptance" and "resignation" (to me, not Webster) is that resignation implies some level of resentment towards your circumstances.  I can't say that I haven't been there this year - I have, and have spent more time than I'd like to admit pointing fingers and lashing out at the universe - but I am ending the year at peace.  I am trying my best, as is everyone around me, and nobody ever said life was supposed to be easy.

I ran alongside a 64 year old man a couple weeks ago, who had just started running and recently completed a half marathon.  We didn't talk too much, but just running beside him and thinking about his life and recent accomplishments gave me a much-needed jolt of perspective.  Life is short, as they say, but it can also be long.  64 years is quite a lot of time, really.  Enough time to hit rock bottom and crawl your way up again, enough time to gain everything you want and lose it all.  Enough time, even, to spend a year or two spinning your wheels before you figure things out and start moving forward again.

The whole "live every day like its your last" philosophy really bugs me, truth be told.  I understand that the message is to live with gratitude in the present moment, but it also carries with it an implied pressure to constantly be doing something grand.  And that, frankly, is ridiculous.  I'm letting myself off the hook this year, because I really feel that sometimes it is OKAY to just get by for a while.  My accomplishments for 2013 include putting my phone away in the evening to be present with my daughter, holding my tongue and being supportive at times when I felt like screaming, getting a (quick, unglamorous) dinner on the table more often than not, planting a garden, not letting the bathtubs get too gross, and making a solid effort to take care of myself throughout the year.  Nothing particularly noteworthy, but sometimes keeping all your balls in the air, day-in and day-out without dropping and/or throwing them at someone, is a real victory.

I look forward to each new year as a time to sit down with my long list of goals, pat myself on the back for every accomplishment, and set out a new lengthy list of things that I want to do in the upcoming year.  While I will still be setting goals for myself for 2014, there aren't going to be any long lists and detailed specifics.  I am accepting that, with so many things being out of my control right now, this could very well be another year of wheel-spinning.   And I am going to be okay with that.  Even if I'm not achieving my dreams, altering my circumstances, tackling exciting new projects or making a lot of life-progress this year, I will still be here. Alive.  Sitting cross-legged on the floor amidst the chaos of toys and discarded shoes, reading to my daughter with leftovers in the microwave.... and happy.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Eve.


Hanging ornaments on her Nanny's tree.
Inspecting the tree with Uncle Pat
Meeting her Great Grandma!

Because it wouldn't be Christmas unless a relative bought her a big pink wagon  :-$
We're going minimal on the gifts this year - Santa brought her a beanbag chair and a corn popper, Nanny and Grandpa supplied the train set.




 It's strange, transitioning from being on the receiving end of Christmas traditions to forming my own.  I have such amazing memories of Christmases as a kid - carols, nativity plays, lights, candles, the magic of expecting Santa, leaving out cookies and milk for the Big Man, the thrill of waking up to presents, and most of all, my family gathering, laughing, and eating delicious food.  We didn't do anything epic or special, there were no movie-worthy Hallmark moments to be captured, but it was my absolute favorite time of year, and I can't pinpoint exactly what made it so magical for me.

I haven't been particularly inspired to do much for Christmas in the last 10 years that I've lived on my own... there just didn't seem to be a point.  I know there is no Santa, I've moved away from religion, my family still gets together and cooks a lot, so why do I need to cultivate traditions of my own?

Having a daughter has changed that, though.  All I want is for her to come away with wonderful memories, and that same sense of peace, joy and magic that still comes over me at this time of year.  Childhood is so precious, and I want her to experience the best of it.  She's still too young to care this year... thank goodness.  I'm still figuring it out.  What meaning, exactly, do we want this season to have?  We do not celebrate the Christian traditions, we certainly don't want to make it all about materialism and shopping and receiving, the elf on the shelf thoroughly creeps me out, and I have a husband who, for various reasons of his own, isn't inclined to celebrate much at all.  What do we do, then? 

This year, I bought a tree and put a few sad decorations on it.  We played Christmas music on YouTube on the weekends while making breakfast.  I baked a ridiculous number of cookies and prepped a large Christmas breakfast for tomorrow morning.  We gathered at my parents' house for Christmas Eve - the same small family, even smaller and quite a bit older than I remember - to eat good food and lavish attention on Amaliya.  We visited with my only living grandparent, Amaliya's Great-Grandma, who I haven't seen in 15 years.  I set a few gifts under the tree, and look forward to her waking up tomorrow morning and seeing her new beanbag chair, which I know she'll love.  I will see my best friends tomorrow, and of course there will be laughter.  Maybe in the evening, we'll take a walk and look at the lights.

It's a start.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

On disappointment.

Oh, life.



Autumn passed us by, and now it's almost winter.  Dark.  SoCal cold (I have trouble typing 'cold' without a qualifier.  It's 80 degrees out today, after all).

I lost focus over the last couple months, for silly reasons.  An opportunity came up that, without going into detail, would have led us to move up to Northern California.  It would have meant leaving my job, staying at home with Amaliya for at least a few months while I found a new one.  But it ended up not working out, and now we're back to where we were 2 months ago before the whole "what if?" scenario surfaced.

On the one hand, I feel supremely silly for getting so worked up about something that was never a sure thing.  I am a planner by nature. When something major is hanging in the balance, I immediately jump in and start strategizing - where would we live?  Where could I look for work?  Could I work for myself?  How are the schools ranked?  Are there good running routes?  Gluten free restaurants?  I research.  I make lists.  I call.  I dream.

On the other hand, 2013 has been a rough year in so many ways.  We've struggled as a family, personally, and financially.  We've all been sick with various mild but lingering afflictions (thank YOU, daycare) more often than we've been healthy.  Our older car that's already paid off has died on me 4 times this year (and had to be towed AGAIN this morning. Oy vey).  I've felt stretched to the limit sometimes, balancing 5-6 hours of sleep a night and a non-sleeping baby, 1-2 classes at a time, an increasingly busy and stressful work schedule, working on whatever sad semblance of personal goals I have time for in my spare minutes, and a home life that, yes, is brimming with love and support, but is also the place where we decompress and unleash all our stresses.  Every single aspect of life has felt strained this year, and when we were suddenly confronted with the possibility of leaving it all behind, is it any wonder that we got a little overexcited?

It was nice to dream, for a while.  To imagine a life where I could actually buckle down and finish my master's degree without spending late nights studying after work.  A life where I could spend my days with my daughter, watching her grow and helping her learn... finally execute some of the dozens of creative projects lighting up my brain... not spend every. single. Saturday. pre-packing a dozen breakfasts and lunches for the week, so my family can eat healthily.  A life where I could make dinner FROM A RECIPE now and then.  A house, and not a dingy 2nd floor apartment, to call our own, with a guest bedroom and a yard where I could install garden boxes and start a compost heap and....

.... and, that is not my life.  I will never regret dreaming, or striving to be more, but I do have a pang of regret when I think that November, "the month where we give thanks," was spent being anything but thankful.  And yet, I am thankful.  We have so much, really.  We are surrounded by love and support on all sides, and who knows?  The next opportunity that comes up might be the one. 

It was nice to shake off the drudgery and get caught up for a while in the fantasy of a different life (the crash back down to reality was jolting, no lie) but this is why I love my little family - we dust off, and keep trekking forward.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Amaliya - 16 months

Amaliya,

My sweet girl.  You've changed so much in the last 4 months, I hardly know where to begin!

You started walking by yourself on October 20.  I stood you up and asked you to walk to daddy, fully expecting you to buckle your legs and whine as usual... but instead you walked.  Then walked back to me.  Again and again, until 3 hours later you were confidently running laps around our kitchen and living room, like you'd been doing it for months.  This has made life quite a bit more complicated for me.  I can no longer sit you on the carpet just outside of the kitchen while I make dinner - instead you are hugging my legs, stealing knives from the dishwasher, trying to open the hot oven or throwing onions and potatoes all over the floor.  I'm very proud of you, though.  You were always one to sit back and observe rather than actively explore, but walking has given you the confidence to get into things, make a mess, and experience all the tactile pleasures (and dangers) of your environment.  It is so much fun to watch you delight in the world.

But OH, the mess.  It is epic.


Taking you outside is frustrating, though.  You are obsessed with stairs.  Every time we go out you only walk as far as the first staircase or curb, and we play the step-up-step-down game until I can no longer take it.  Then I try and redirect you, you throw a massive tantrum on the sidewalk, and we commence step-up-step-down until I finally drag your flailing, screaming body back into the house.

Ah yes, the tantrums.  Immediately after your first birthday you started to form opinions, and preferences, almost always for things that are dangerous, or terribly inconvenient.  At first it was mostly while we were out walking.  If we took your hand to lead you where you didn't want to go, you would collapse to the ground and arch your back, usually cracking your head on the pavement.  It was scary and unexpected.  Now I understand your triggers (but expect them to change every week), and can usually avoid a full-on meltdown, but sometimes you surprise me.  Like when you were throwing your head back and drinking out of your sippy cup with the straw, therefore taking in only air.  I tried gently to tip the cup down so you could access your milk... cue hysterics, deafening siren screams and hand biting.  That's your new thing - you scream and shove you hands in your mouth, or bite your own arm, when you're upset.  Your dad and I aren't generally frazzled by this.  We just try and stop you from hurting yourself, and let you get it out of your system.  Your brain has grown by leaps and bounds, but your English language skills have not kept up.  It must be frustrating for you, to see something across the room that you desperately want to examine, but all you can do is point and utter a vague but insistent "Da!  DA!!"  I'm sorry I don't understand you right now.



Speaking of language, though, you are learning new words every day it seems.  This is by far my favorite part of you being 16 months old.  You can say "shoes" and "fish" (though they both sound like shoosh), "hi," "bye," "mama," "dada," "banana," (sounds like 'blah') "bang," (thank you, Big Bang Theory theme song), "baby" and "house."  When asked, you can point to pictures of strawberries, grapes, balls, rings, cats, lions.... lots of things.  You shake your head vigorously to say "no," and nod enthusiastically for "yes."  You can identify your nose, eyes, mouth, hair, ears, fingers, toes, feet, and belly (which is your favorite - I ask "Amaliya, where is your belly?" and you proudly lift your shirt up to slap your round tummy).  You're still big on baby talk, though.  You babble endlessly, and hold my phone up to your ear for long pretend conversations.  You're shaping up to be quite the little chatterbox, and I love it.  Nothing is sweeter to my ears than hearing you call me mama, or say "baby!" when you see a picture of yourself.



You're just such a happy kid.  Serious still, like you've always been.  Scrutinizing.  Methodical.  Rather than throw your toys around, you grab something and purposefully carry it around and place it somewhere (not that it makes sense to me - I came in your room the other day to find my running shoes arranged on top of the humidifier - but I know it must be part of your grand design).  Your favorite things to do involve helping us.  You like to take a tissue and wipe your own nose, turn the lights on and off, check the mailbox, carry things from one person to the other when asked. It's not all work for you, though.  You like to be tickled and have raspberries blown on your neck. You laugh like a fiend and run in circles when your favorite theme songs play on TV.  You are snuggly and sweet, always handing me books, and plopping yourself on my lap so we can read together.  Despite your love of mobility, you still insist on being carried a lot of the time.  Every night you fall asleep on my shoulder while I sing you "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star."  I feel like I'm always getting little glimpses of the person you will be in 10, 20, 30 years, and it makes me so excited for the future.  I can already see, you're going to be such a loving person.  A collaborator.  A team-builder.  An intellectual.  An amazing friend.

And a silly beast, too.
I was a little sad to see the last traces of your baby-ness disappear in the last couple months.  You stopped sucking your fingers for comfort.  You gave up the bottle.  Now you're dancing and singing and answering questions with a nod or a head shake.... you're a kid now.  A big ol' stinky kid.  And I love you more with every passing day.

Keep growing, little girl.