3.17.2015

baby dreams.

Still pregnant. Moving on.

Some pregnant women have dreams about their babies. Sometimes, these dreams even reveal insights, like the baby's gender. When we tell people that we are waiting until the birth to find out the sex of the baby, some of them ask me if I have any intuition about it. I'm really not sure how that would work. Even assuming there are noticeable differences in carrying a boy versus carrying a girl, how would that be communicated to my brain? While I'm pretty confident dismissing most old wives' tales about telling the gender, I'm willing to admit that maybe I'm just not the intuitive type.

I know another pregnant lady who is about 3 months behind me. She felt that the baby was a girl before they had the ultrasound confirming her intuition. She said she had a dream about her daughter and she just loved her so much. Isn't that nice? I'm sitting here agonizing over my ambivalence towards my baby, and she has a dream where she just loves it so much.

Let me tell you about my baby dreams.

Dream 1: I drop the baby (just "the baby," not a son or a daughter, just some anonymous swaddled infant). It rolls under a table, and I can't find it.

Dream 2: The baby has weird yellow eyes. Special Agent Mulder is there, probably because the yellow eyes indicate that the baby is an alien or a part of a government conspiracy.

Dream 3: The baby is crawling and has a comically large head, like the size of a balloon.

See? Just not the intuitive type. Or maybe our dreams reflect what we're already feeling, rather than revealing any secrets. Also, no more X-Files before bed.

3.12.2015

horizon.

Last week, I hit 39 weeks, which is full term. That means the baby is basically done cooking, and now we are just waiting for it to decide that the confines of my body are not enough anymore. I can't imagine how that decision hasn't already been made, as I can feel little parts pushing outward, often at two different points, like someone stretching at the beginning of the day. I wonder if maybe the baby is trying to burst out, not knowing that the gate is down.

Before 39 weeks, the baby was coming soon, and now it's coming at any time. I hate open-ended plans, where a punctual person like me is ready at the earliest possible point, and then is forced to kill time in such a way that doesn't mess up the existing preparations nor causes me to be too involved that I can't just drop everything. Baby is not yet late, so the fact that the crib is still in pieces is fine. Lateness in this case is not even accurate, as due dates are not an exact science, and really, Baby comes when Baby is ready. But I can't help thinking that when Baby shows up in relation to the due date will be the first test of whether it is his mother or his father's child.

I am in limbo. I am ready to not be pregnant anymore. I am tired of sleeping with a pillow between my knees and having to do a 20-point turn just to roll over. I'm tired of being limited to my five maternity outfits. I am tired of getting out of breath from putting on my shoes. I'm ready for something else now.

Ready to not be pregnant, but ready to be formerly pregnant, i.e. a parent? After the birth is a horizon I can't see over. I can't imagine it. The most I can muster is to picture my life as it is now, but there's a baby hanging out in the corner. I don't think that's accurate. Maybe that's why it feels like time has stopped. Before, there was a clear distance before the horizon, where I had time: time to get supplies, time to go to San Francisco, time to read books on birth and raising children. Now there is just that horizon, suddenly very close, and then nothing, like what flat-earthers must picture coming to the edge of the world must be like.

Every night I go to bed and think, well, it wasn't today. And then I wake up in the morning and wonder if today is the first day of the rest of my life. Or rather, I wonder if it's the opposite, the last day of the first part of my life. I had a teacher in high school who talked about life changes as the death of the person you were before. Graduation is the death of your grade school selves, marriage is the death of your single self, etc. My non-parent self is dying, along with my husband's non-parent self. Is this the last time we'll hit the snooze button to get nine more minutes of quiet snuggling?

My mother-in-law tells me to treasure this time, but she is the type to say that about every period of life. Her advice is really about awareness and gratitude. I'm aware, but I'm not sure I'm grateful. I appreciate these last few days, just the two of us, but without being able to picture what comes next, I'm scared and even a little bitter that it has to end. My non-parent self does not want to die, though she is on the verge of killing my pregnant self.

This is melancholy, I know, and no one wants to hear a monologue on dying selves when they ask if I'm excited to have a baby. It's just the waiting. I just need to get past this horizon.

3.10.2015

snow day.

A few weeks ago, I said it would be really nice to have one good snow. The winter looked to be almost over, and we'd had promises of the white stuff, but nothing had happened. I like one good snow a year. The first snow is pretty and fun, but anything after that is just cold and inconvenient. So if you only have one a year, you're set.

A couple of weeks ago, the forecast was calling for a good snow. And then it was calling for a great snow, 8 - 12 inches. I'm honestly not sure if I've seen that much snow in my life. It was supposed to start around 8 pm. In the afternoon, I went to the store and stocked up. I can't speak for other locales, but going to the store before a winter weather event is a Southern tradition. The joke is that everyone freaks out, buys bread and milk, and then we get a dusting. I went to two stores, because Josh wanted his special mouthwash that only Harris Teeter carries. Fresh breath is very important when you can't leave the house. Food Lion was busy, but orderly. Harris Teeter was a madhouse. I bought plenty of produce and some bottled water, plus things like mouthwash that we were just out of. Thinking of having a good ole fashioned snow day, I made sure we were stocked up on pancake ingredients. I did not buy bread or milk, because we already had those at home.

Of course, telecommuting has all but ruined the good ole fashioned snow day. Our office tends to go by whatever the public school system says, so if the schools are closed, so is the office. That just means we have to work from home. Thank goodness our productivity has not been ruined by a little ole snow storm. There was a day last year when the temptation was too much, and I spent the day watching a Harry Potter marathon with my husband and brother-in-law instead of working. The next day, I had to report that I had taken a personal day. Better to ask forgiveness than permission, right?

The night the snow was due to start, I went out to dinner with some friends. The weather was, of course, the big topic of conversation. We were talking about storms of years past, and one lady mentioned how awful it was when some hurricane came through, because she was living with her parents, who were on a well. For all you city slickers out there, when you get your water from the ground instead of from the city, you rely on a pump to get the water from Mother Earth to your faucet. And when the power goes out, the pump goes out, too. This means no drinking water, no showering water, and no flushing water.

That was the first time it occurred to me that 8 - 12 inches might make the power go out. A fun snow day is when you can lie on the couch and watch Netflix, maybe go outside to tromp around and throw snowballs before coming back inside for pancakes. A not fun snow day is when there is no power. No pancakes, no Netflix, no heat.

We were asleep at the time, but the best we can figure is that the power went out at around 2 AM. We woke up, and the house was silent. We were warm, but we were snuggling under a blanket. Outside, the world was covered (only 6 inches).

Well, I couldn't work from home.

We set up in the living room, pushing the futon into position about two feet from the fireplace. With the remains of an oak tree that killed our car a few years back, we stayed comfortable, if not cozy. We snuggled on the couch and read. We played a board game. We sat and stared at the fire. The dog had to be coaxed onto the couch, and every time the fire popped, she jumped down and ran to sit in the hall. I wanted to take a nap, but I knew that we'd run out of distractions when the sun took its feeble light away, and I needed to stay up.

Lunch was peanut butter and jelly with a side salad. I had some ice cream, too, to save it from melting. We packed ziplock bags full of snow and put them in the fridge to help keep things cool.

We had our cell phones. Josh's wasn't fully charged, and so after a few minutes of use, the red light started to show. Mine was charged, but I was keenly aware that we needed to save it in case there was an emergency, like my water breaking. So I limited my use to checking the power outage map. Yup, there was our neighborhood, out of power. The first morning, it reported over 200,000 homes were out of power. I made myself only check it every hour or so to see the progress of the work crews. The number came down rapidly, then more slowly, as the big neighborhoods were taken care of. Ours had a blue dot, which meant less than 50 houses affected. It would be a while before they got to us.

We had an emergency light and radio that worked by using a crank to charge the battery. Supposedly, you could also charge your cell phone by plugging it in and using the crank. Probably this is just for emergencies, rather than web browsing, as it seems to be pretty difficult to get much juice this way. At least, that's the conclusion I came to after watching Josh attempt to simultaneously crank the handle and scroll his Facebook feed.

Dinner was more of the same. We prepared and ate it by candlelight. And then we sat on the couch, watched the fire, and alternately talked or sat in comfortable silence. It wasn't so bad. There's no one I'd rather be stuck in a powerless house than my husband. I was thankful the baby was still inside me and thus required no maintenance. Josh put a big log on the fire to last the night, and we went to sleep on the futon.

I used to sleep on that futon every night. I was ten years younger and not pregnant at the time. I would not recommend it.

Day two, still no power. The outage map showed 15,000 homes still without power. I wondered how far down the list we were. By noon, the cabin fever was setting in. We decided to find someone who would let us use their shower, and if that didn't happen, we'd go be smelly at Starbucks and charge our devices. Josh's brother was at work, but told us to feel free to use our key to let ourselves in and take advantage of lights and hot water. He hadn't lost power at all and had spent the day before watching Netflix. He'd had eggs and crabcakes for breakfast. Jerk.

It was nice to get out and nicer still to get clean. We dawdled a little bit to charge our phones and see what we'd missed on the internet in the last day. Spock died.

We reluctantly headed back to the house. We could only get a third up the driveway. As we walked in, something felt different. It was cold, but not as cold. And there were humming noises. Hark! The power was on. We cheered, flushed the toilets, and had a hot lunch. Our adventure was over.

3.07.2015

lentil soup.

Josh is currently doing a Daniel Fast for Lent. The Daniel Fast is based on a passage in the Bible where Daniel and the other good Jews ate a strict diet and still were big and strong and handsome. It's a vegan diet, but also no fried foods, leavened bread, additives/preservatives of any kind, and you can only drink water. I did this with him once, right before we got married, and it was totally just a way for me to lose weight. I hated it. I was always hungry, and finding something that I could eat was just such a chore. He's done it a few times. Generally, you do it for three weeks, but he's going the whole forty days. I decided that having a baby during Lent was enough of a sacrifice, so pass the ice cream, I need calcium.

Anyway. For the most part, I let him fend for himself. He eats a lot of apples with peanut butter. But Saturday soup is a standing tradition now, and so I still try to do that. The first time, I made a roasted sweet potato soup which he ate, but did not really care for (little did he know that it is improved with a dollop of sour cream). But last week, I realized that I already had a Daniel-friendly soup recipe in my binder. See? We eat healthy things sometimes. It's not all Paula Deen recipes.

Lentil Soup

My changes: Decrease olive oil to 1 T. I used a 10 oz pack of frozen spinach. I added 1 t cumin and a sprinklin' of cayenne. For the vinegar, I used balsamic. If you are on the Daniel Fast, you'll probably need to use fresh tomatoes, as canned tomatoes almost always have additives of some kind.

Do you like lentils? They're funny little things, and they always remind me of Cinderella, whose step-mother threw some lentils in the fireplace and made her sift through the ashes to find them. They're also really very good for you, full of protein, fiber, and iron. Coupled with the ice cream, that's all a pregnant lady needs.

This soup is really good. I'm sure there are excellent lentil soup recipes out there that start with some kind of pork fat, but I do not miss the meat when I eat this one. Whip some up for your favorite crazy person Daniel faster today.

3.06.2015

young people church friends.

I started attending a weeknight Bible Study at church. Suddenly, I figured out where the young people were. All the friends we've made at church have been of an older generation. Either through the couples-only supper group or through the choir, all the folks we spent our time with were just in a different stage of life. It was surreal listening to their stories and realizing they had whole other lives they'd already lived, in other places, doing other things. All their children were grown, which in my present state makes them seem like superheroes.

Sunday morning sees a pretty wide variety of ages in attendance, but there doesn't seem to be much intergenerational mingling. We saw that there were other people our age, but because we were involved in older people activities, we didn't interact with them. Until Bible Study.

Every other Wednesday we meet to discuss the scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. In the Episcopal church, we have an official three-year calendar of readings. So each Sunday, we hear something from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the New Testament. Then the priest gives a sermon inspired by one of those readings. It's a pretty good system. It keeps the focus on scripture, while making sure that the whole book gets covered, rather than the same old favorites over and over again.

And it's predictable, so we can have a meeting on Wednesday night that talks about passages that will come up again Sunday. For the record, I also go to a Sunday school class that discusses the passages again. You'd be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't, to see how much variation can come from talking about the same short excerpts.

Anyway, Bible Study is a young folks activity, for those who consider thirty-year-olds young. It's mostly couples. Actually, it's all couples, except for me, because Josh has other obligations on Wednesdays. Some of the couples have children, and for them, childcare is provided in the room next door. There are usually snacks.

It's really, really nice to be around people my age. We have plenty of friends outside the church, mostly picked up in the orbit of Josh's band. But when we started going to church again, many of them thought we'd lost our minds. Me, I'd always intended to get back into the church habit someday. I'd had a pretty good experience in the church growing up, which I know is not the case for everybody. While I've definitely outgrown my childhood faith, I still feel very at home within that atmosphere. Josh wanted to go back so he could represent himself well to the preacher who was going to be marrying us, but he got sucked in by the nice people and the cookies and the singing and what some would call the Holy Spirit. We still have our old friends, and they just know that church is something we do, like some people are into hiking or poker. None of them seem to have any interest in that area, and that's fine.

But now we have young people church friends, and it's awesome to be at the same stage of life with people and also share this thing that we do. And we still have our older people church friends, too. So many friends!

Last week during Bible Study, one of the men excitedly held up a grainy black and white picture: an ultrasound. And there was a great swarm around them, high-fiving the beaming father and asking the mother how she was feeeeeeling (I refrained from asking this specific question, but found that I had no idea what to ask. Working on that). So there was their little bean, my much larger bean, plus another infant sucking from a bottle, and one more bouncing on dad's knee. Rather than looking at our older people church friends and wondering if we will ever make it to the other side of parenting, we will be making this journey along with our young people church friends.

What's more, our children will be growing up together. I do not know why that thought makes me happy, but it does. For me, both as a child and an adult, church has largely been about community. My baby will have a community just by being born - young people church friends and their parents, plus a whole choir full of extra grandparents. Lucky kid.

3.05.2015

february 2015 books.

Three Men on a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)
Jerome K. Jerome
This was kinda fun. It's the story of three Brits taking a little boating vacation down the Thames. Nothing really happens other than various minor misadventures that happen on outdoor excursions, but the narration was very funny. There's lots of tangents and anecdotes, which makes up for the basic lack of plot. Overall, I would call it droll, which I don't get to say nearly enough.

Fun fact: The 'K' stands for 'Klapka.' He changed it later in life to honor the Hungarian general Gy├Ârgy Klapka.

The Last Temptation of Christ
Nikos Kazantzakis
I bought this book because it was written by Kazantzakis, who I like a lot. I had no idea there was any controversy about it, whatsoever. So I read it, and I noticed that there were definitely parts that some folks might consider heresy. And then I started doing a little research, and holy cow. Most of the controversy seems to be centered around the movie, which I have not seen. I found some really angry stuff from Christians, who mostly saw it as an attack by Hollywood and Liberal America on their faith. I even found a guy who blamed it on the Jews (because they run Hollywood, remember).

So, this is the story of Jesus. You know, that guy. At the beginning, he is simply a carpenter who is suffering from what we would now call mental illness. He senses a birdlike creature following him always, sometimes clawing at his head because he is not on the right path. Everyone in town is also very upset with him, because he's been making crosses for the Romans to crucify various Zealots that the people hope might be the Messiah.

One thing that struck me throughout the book was what people expected to be the Messiah. I knew they were expecting a king and a warrior, but it didn't occur to me that they were looking for someone to save them from the Romans, and by "them," they meant specifically Israel, or the Jews. Part of what was so revolutionary about Jesus' message was that the Romans were our brothers. This is probably obvious, but it hadn't occurred to me before, having grown up with the idea that Jesus is for everybody.

Finally, Jesus gets tired of this birdthing on his head, and he goes out to a desert monastery. The birdthing goes with him, but stops hurting him, so it seems to approve of this task. Judas also follows him there, with the intent to kill him for making all those crosses. But Jesus, having made peace with his birdthing, is ready for whatever, and Judas thinks he might be the Messiah, so he's gonna just follow him around until he's sure.

I really liked what Kazantzakis did with Judas in the book. I've always felt conflicted about old redbeard. He's the bad guy, right, because he betrayed Jesus for some money. But the whole point of Jesus was that he died. Someone had to play this Judas part, and then we get all mad at him for it and a perfectly good name is ruined forever. In the book, however, Jesus tells Judas to betray him because he is the only one strong enough to play this role. None of the other disciples know about it. I'm not sure if this scenario is considered heresy. It's not in the Bible, but is it unBiblical?

Jesus comes out of the monastery and starts being that guy we all know. He saves a prostitute from being stoned, he preaches about love and brotherhood, he heals some people, he talks about the poor getting theirs, he picks up some disciples along the way. There is a great scene where Barrabas, another of the Zealots, has been sent to murder him, again for that cross-building thing. He slaps him, and Jesus turns the other cheek. The nonviolence of it just stops Barrabas and the assembled crowd in their tracks.

One of the disciples that starts tagging along is Matthew, who takes it upon himself to write all their adventures down. He has an angel over his shoulder, guiding him and telling him him what to write. And some of the stuff that he writes is not true, but the angel told him to write it, so he does. At some point, Jesus reads some of it, and gets really mad that Matthew is making up stories about virgin births and Bethlehem and Magi. Matthew defends himself with that old chestnut, "an angel made me do it," and Jesus says okay, whatever. It's implied that the angel does this to align Jesus' birth with prophesies in the Old Testament. I've heard that the gospel of Matthew was likely used to speak to Jews to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah, and therefore there is a lot of stress on fulfilling prophecy. This seems to be actually controversial to me.

At some point, Jesus realizes that he has to die, as he says that death is the door to immortality. He sets up the betrayal with Judas, gets arrested and tried. Meanwhile, Barrabas has also been arrested for killing Lazarus. Kazantzakis apparently wondered whatever happened to Lazarus after he came back from the dead. It wasn't pretty. He's all brittle and decayed and smelly. He seems to be recovering slowly, but Barrabus kills him to prevent him from walking around and being a living reminder of Jesus.

While Jesus is on the cross, his guardian angel comes to him and takes him away, saying that God is rescuing him because he did the right thing. He is swooped off to Mary Magdalene, who is a sort of childhood sweetheart figure for Jesus. They make sweet love before she is killed by an angry mob, led by the hunchbacked Saul. Jesus is not overly upset about that, but goes to Mary and Martha, where he marries the pair of them and lives a normal, happy life as a carpenter and patriarch.

This whole life is a dream that the devil (the guardian angel) has set up for him to tempt him to choose a normal life as a man, rather than dying young to save everybody else. This is the last temptation of Christ. We have a title, folks!

During this life, he is visited by Saul, now Paul. Jesus gets kinda pissed off that Paul is telling everyone that he died and was resurrected, but Paul tells him that it doesn't even need to have actually happened, because the story is working anyway. Again, this part seems pretty controversial to me, but more people seemed to be up in arms about the sex with Mary Magdalene.

Finally, when he is an old, old man, he is visited by the apostles, who are also very old and very sad. Except Judas, who is royally pissed at Jesus. Judas held up his end of the bargain (betrayal), but Jesus did not (dying). And this is what makes Jesus realize that it's all been some kind of alternate history dream put on by Lucifer. He rejects it and immediately his nice life disappears and he's back on the cross in agony.

And that's the happy ending.

The parts that I found controversial were not the parts that the greater public got upset about. I can see people being offended by a movie sex scene featuring their savior. But as far as I can tell, people were mostly up in arms that Jesus would've rather had a nice, simple life with wives and children than die in agony in his thirties. Seems pretty relateable and also biblical. Jesus prays the night before his arrest to please let there be another way to save humanity, because this way sucks, Dad, c'mon.

Being tempted is a part of being fully human, which is again, the big deal about Jesus. He goes to the desert and the devil tempts him. Maybe it's a misunderstanding of the word. Like, the devil could hold out a nice juicy cantaloupe to tempt me. But cantaloupe is gross, so it would not actually tempt me. I could reject the devil and his cantaloupe, no problem. It's not being tempted if you don't want the thing, and it's not a virtue to reject it. The importance of Jesus being sinless was not because he never wanted to sin, it's that he definitely wanted to, just like the rest of us.

I dunno. I'm sorta having to glean what I can of what the controversy was, so maybe I am not representing it in its most coherent light. I liked the book, is what I'm saying. Sorry about all the plot summary.

Animal Dreams
Barbara Kingsolver
You know, when I think back about the plot of this book, I'm sorta at a loss as to what I liked about it. A lady goes back to her home town, finds redemption and forgiveness and belonging. It's set in Arizona, so there's lots of Native American spiritualism. None of that would appeal to me particularly, but somehow in Kingsolver's hands, I am always sucked in.

Part of it is her actual prose. As Josh says, I read like a scientist, which means for content rather than form. I really have to make myself slow down and notice the individual words and how they interact. A few times while reading this book, I found myself noticing a really good metaphor. It'd be great if I had written one down for you to see, but I did not do that. Kingsolver does a good job of conveying a feeling by comparing it to something more relateable. Apparently, I'm into that.

Her books also have a very strong sense of place. The characters visit a reservation and a couple of old Pueblo villages. The landscape seems dry and mostly red-brown, yet the people make it vivid and beautiful.

And there are peacocks. I'm pretty sure they're symbolic peacocks.

Josh says it's not important to be able to pick out individual literary devices; that you just read, and you'll feel them intuitively. I am skeptical of this. I am sure it's true for him, but he has some kind of special relationship with words. But Kingsolver makes me think it could be true for people like me, too.