He's coming to get YOU

on 26 February 2010

My child is hilarious.

I just thought you'd all want to know.

What's he doing that's particularly hilarious?  Oh, I'm so glad you asked!

If you happen to be visiting Burnstopia.  And you happen to be eating anything that he thinks might be particularly good (as in, it's different from what he's eating and therefore exponentially BETTER), you may be confronted with Himself.  The Boy.  Mouth open as WIDE as it can open.  All of those pearly white chompers glinting back at you.  He doesn't speak.  There is no, "Bite?" or "Some?"  There is only that great open MAW following you where ever you may go with your little whatever it may be that is so delicious.  And he will persist in this posture until the mutely requested portion is deposited in that ever-open deposit box of a mouth.

One thing is certain.  I have to get photographic evidence of this...

500 Posts

on 17 February 2010

This is my 500th post.

Hm.  I thought I'd have more to show for 500 posts after 2 and half years of blogging.  Alas.  Not so much.

I wish I had more focus, more that was ready to share with you all.  I have a lot of thoughts shuffling around inside my head, but nothing terribly coherent.  I do, however, have a sick and crabby Boy at home.  He's been under the weather since late last week, I had hoped he would blow it off, but alas, he's gotten rather sicker than otherwise.

I have been thinking a lot about creativity.  About the act of creating something, whether it's crafty and tangible, edible or graphic, or the creation of another human being.  I keep thinking about the One whose providence creation is, and how patient He must be.  After all, it takes time to create things of great worth, human or otherwise.  And even when the Thing is created, it still requires time and patience to come to full flower.

[I am interrupted to think about our upstairs neighbors, I kid you not.  It sounds like they're having wrestling matches upstairs.  I have no idea what they're doing, and I don't think I really want to know.]

I find myself wondering, how do you know?  How do you know when a thing you have created is complete?  Finished.  How does the artist contemplate a painting and know when the last brush stroke has been applied?  How does a creator come to say, "Enough.  There.  That's it.  Any more and it will be ruined."

I read the Unknown Masterpiece by Honore de Balzac years ago, when I was reading for my comprehensive exams.  It's about a master artist who goes mad and can't stop painting his masterpiece and because of that, it's completely ruined.  It's just a black canvas.   He's added so many layers of paint to it that no one can tell what it was originally supposed to be.  Ever since I finished it, I have been haunted by this idea.

I wonder if I leave things to early, before they're finished, out of fear of ruining them by staying too long.  I love simple, practical projects that have a definite end point.  They take all the guess work out of it for my overly-analytical mind. 

But what if that's the point of creation?  What if we're supposed to...futz?  Mess up?  Toy with?  I don't know the right word, but practice playing with this balance between continuing to work on something and leaving it well enough alone.  Maybe THAT's the work our our lives, the things that we do, our education, our work, our marriages, our parenthood, they're all just the theaters in which we practice finding this balance.

I'm not sure.

I seem to be having a Funk of Uncertainty lately.  I second guess simple things and am riddled with self-doubt on the bigger things.  I spent a lot of last weekend sewing and found myself stitching things up, only to turn around and rip it out to try again and again and again.  In the meantime the fabric is becoming ragged as the stitching is ripped apart repeatedly.  Maybe I should just be leaving well enough alone, let the poor choices stand as witness of where I was when I made the choice and trust that my choices in the future will be a little bit better, wiser, more balanced, more patient.

After all, I'm not finished yet either.


on 15 February 2010

I love Sunday afternoons.

Have I mentioned that lately?

Chris is home, we're soaking up the last few quiet hours before he has the Work Week craziness.  We go for drives, out into the country or to the islands and back; we watch a movie with popcorn and our Boy; we read and cuddle and talk and life is quiet and soft and good.

Best part of my week.

How was your weekend?

Reapplying for the job...

on 12 February 2010

Back in 2000 U2 released All that You Can't Leave Behind.

The album is brilliant but not really the point of this post.

When the band toured and did interviews and talked about "reapplying for the job" of greatest rock band in the world.

I've been thinking about that a lot.  The idea of reapplying for the job you already have.  The re-application of yourself to your own work.  However mundane or routine or hectic or predictable or frustrating or awesome it might be.

I've spent the past couple of weeks reapplying for the job of Mom.

I suppose because I've done it longer, I feel like I'm a better Wife than I am Mother.  But then, it's easier for me and Chris to stay in sync than it is for me and the Boy.  Some of that's just nature, he's constantly growing and changing and I'm grown.  I still change but it's much slower, so trying to keep up with him is exhausting in a number of ways.

But just because I'm tired doesn't mean I should succumb to apathy.

And I had.  Maybe it was the holidays, maybe it was the last growth spurt that drained me, I don't know.  But I was coasting.  Glazed over and going through the motions.

I've spent the past couple of weeks reapplying for the job of Mom, and you know the best part?  I can.  I can wake up in the morning, no matter how hard the previous day was, and decide that Today is going to be better.  I'm going to try harder, I'm going to be more patient, more engaged, more cognizant, more aware of what's going on around me.  We're going to have more fun, we're going to laugh and play, but we're also going to work and get something done.

And over the the past couple of weeks the one thing that has become perfectly clear is my absolute favorite part of the job.

It's this:


Teaching him to give Love.  To be Gentle.  To be Soft.  To be kind to others and to animals.
It melts me every single time I see it.  And I see it A LOT.  It's also got me thinking, when do we stop loving like that?  When do we become guarded and shy?  When do we start to hold back?  And I know that sometimes it's a good thing, but sometimes it's not.  And how on earth am I supposed to teach him how to tell the difference when I can't always tell myself?

He comes to me periodically through the day, just to lean up against me.  No matter what I'm doing, cleaning diapers, folding clothes, cooking dinner, yoga--he walks right up against my legs and leans heavily against them for 34 seconds and then he's off to play some more.  I love those moments.  I know they won't last forever so I'm enjoying them as they come.

I was talking to Chris the other day and I was saying how strange my days are lately.  Because I watch him run and play and climb and MESS and he's so Big.  And such a BOY.  And yet.  He comes to me when he's tired or frustrated and he climbs into my lap and leans over and looks at me and there is something in his small face that is still that baby that I held once upon a time.  I wonder if it's always like that.  I wonder if my mom looks at me and still sees some shadow of the baby I was once.  I wonder if it fades over time, if we forget and move on, if it's just a part of us like our eye color and the shape of our chins.

Lady Jane Grey and there's a story there...

on 10 February 2010

I grew up in a small town in Washington state.

That's perhaps an oversimplification.

I was born in Tennessee.  We moved to Washington when I was 9, in the middle of third grade.  I went from having the nicest 3rd grade teacher you could imagine to having this absolutely cruel, witch of a teacher.  As you can tell it has scarred me. 

Where was I?  Ah, yes.  When I was 17 we moved back to Tennessee.  It's a long complicated tale and one that we don't talk about much because it's not particularly relevant to the present.  But this particular memory I'm about to share, takes place in that fateful year in Tennessee when I was a senior in high school.

We moved in June, I think.  And we moved back to the same smallish town I had lived in as a small child.  My first week of school I kept meeting people who remembered we had this really great tire swing in front yard.

Which we did.

Anyway, a group of us kids from church had all driven over to another town for a dance and had congregated at a friend's house.  Jody.  She and I had been friends as small children and we easily picked up that disastrous pairing of personalities upon my return.

I say disastrous because we were (are I suppose) both too smart for our own good, easily bored, sarcastic and mischievous--but not in the cute, charming sense of the word.  Devilish might be a better word.  We were constantly hatching plots and scheming and making plans for trouble.  The only thing standing between us and destruction was the better sense of others.  Of course, from another perspective the only thing standing between us and world domination was the better sense (and intervention) of others.

Anyway, I'm thinking of Jody this week because at the tender age of 17 she introduced me to the film Lady Jane

I can clearly remember lounging in our pajamas in her parent's basement, eating popcorn and drinking fresca and rhapsodizing on the brilliance of the movie starring Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Elwes. 

I don't know why I got the sudden hankering to watch Lady Jane again.  I love a period drama, as you all know, but I don't own it, it's not something I would be drawn to on a regular basis.  But I recently staged a heist of the netflix queue--I do this periodically just to shake Chris up a bit and also introduce him to a little culture.  And I impetuously added Lady Jane.  He's never seen it and I haven't seen it since I was a kid, so I thought, "Hm.  I can maybe recreate the whole thing.  We have popcorn and fresca!  This could be FUN!"

Poor Chris.  I'm pretty sure when he comes home from the hospital that LAST thing he wants to do is indulge his wife, drink fresca and watch a period drama about a young queen fated to be executed after a 9 day reign. 

Story time at the Creamery

on 09 February 2010

Greetings All!

As some of you may be aware, Whimsy is hosting Minionlympics at the Creamery this week and today's event has to do with BAD dating experiences.

I have told my Tale of Woe in the comments.  If you're looking for humorous reading material, go HERE, check out the comments and read and laugh.

Being happily married I can now chuckle at the abysmal dating experiences.

An Open Letter to my Birthday Boy

on 06 February 2010

Dear Chris,

30 years ago today you were born.

I don't know much about that since I was rather North of you and attending pre-school.  But I'm here today to tell you how grateful I am that you were born.  I'm grateful that your mother is stubborn and didn't listen when the doctors told her not to have any more kids.  She wanted you and she was having you and there was just no talking to her.  Or so I'm assuming since, as you know, I wasn't there.  I'm also grateful that she had you and that she and your dad raised you.  They are very different, those parents of yours, but I'm profoundly grateful for their differences because I think it's those differences that have helped to make you the man that you are.

I'm grateful that your brothers and sister didn't manage to kill you with their various mischief and accidents growing up.  I'm especially grateful for the role that modern medicine played in the survival of your childhood.

I'm grateful that you and Jeff and Pavel didn't manage to kill yourselves with your own various mischief and accidents throughout your adolescence.  You've told me stories and frankly, you were reckless and foolish but I'm grateful you got it out of your system then rather than now.  And I think you learned a lot and that it makes you the funner parent in our household. 

I'm grateful for your dedication, education and work ethic.  You come home, from work or from classes and are absolutely certain that you're going to be fired or failed.  And yet.  You get up every morning, you pull your stuff together and get to work.  When I think that my day is hard, when I get tired and frustrated, I think of you and your determination and I get my stuff together and get to work.  You are one of the smartest people I know, you are complicated and interesting and half the time I don't know if I'm coming or going with you.  But I'm grateful for it.  Your complexities make living with you interesting and unpredictable.

You are your own man.  And there aren't a lot of women who would be grateful for that, but I am.  You know who you are and you refuse to be manipulated into anything.  I love that about you.  It sometimes makes it difficult to be married to you, you're hard to persuade, hard to win over, hard to negotiate and compromise with, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm grateful for how you Father the Boy.  I love to see him dance when you walk through the door, it is usually the highest point of my day, it cracks me up.  And I love to see you crack up laughing at him, whatever he happens to be doing.  It is the pleasure that you and he take in one another that makes me the happiest.

I want you to know what a gift you are in my life.  You were never expected, and so every day with you is a gift.  I love the long talks, I love hearing about your day because it's so foreign from everything that I know that it sounds almost exotic.  I can't ever thank you properly for all that you have done and all that you continue to do for me every day.  I'm starting to understand why people describe their husband or wife as their better half.  You make me more and better than I am without you.

Happy 30th Birthday, Love.  3 decades in 2 centuries.  It's not a bad beginning.

Tons and Tonnes,

These Women

on 05 February 2010


On our sojourn in Santa Fe, we stopped in at this Native American Modern Art Gallery to use their facilities to change our babes, relieve ourselves and thaw out for a few moments.  

On our way out we passed a walled garden with various statues in it.  The above statue of a woman was my favorite.  It struck me in the moment and it became an image that I've come back to again and again in the past couple of weeks.

I've often felt like that.  Alone and windblown.  And yet, I've nearly always found myself wrapped up and protected by these women.  My mother.  My sisters.  Whimsy.  Samwise.  Rachael.  My Sarahs.  Emily.  Kristin.  Mary.  Mona.  Debbi.  Brett. Celeste.  These women of extraordinary kindness, of warmth, of patience, and tolerance and courage.  These women who acknowledge that I am not always the nicest girl, but they love me just the same.  These women, who if pressed, would probably admit that I make them crazy, that I exasperate, frustrate and annoy; but they stay with me all the same.

I find myself trying to purge the trappings of friendships, tired and sad and thinking that I'd be better off going my own way.  I let go, I drop off the radar, I don't answer the phone or emails; always assuming that they'll give up and leave me.

And they never do.  For they are wiser than me and they recognize the world for what it is, a cold, hard place that is best served by good friends and warm blankets.

Sometimes we keep in touch better than others.  We confide fears and anxieties and hopes.  We cry on shoulders and laugh ourselves into headaches.  They sit back and let me ramble on and on and they shake it off when I sit in awe and wonder of their creativity and perseverance. 

I'll never understand what I did to deserve so many worthy women in my life.  I question it constantly.  I am humbled and grateful for them.  I struggle for the words to express myself adequately, and when I struggle and stammer and mutter and pull my hair they sit and wait, and sometimes fill in the gaps with their own words.

But as I emerge from on of those restless cycles, I hope that I can wrap them up and shelter them as they have so often sheltered me.  I'm resolving to try to be a better friend, a better daughter, a better sister.

Alice and Clara

on 04 February 2010

Years ago I read In the Skin of the Lion by Michael Ondaatje.  I love Michael Ondaatje, he's one of those writers whom I would read anything he's ever written.  I started with the English Patient and worked my way backwards.

In the Skin of the Lion features three...well, maybe four main characters.  Alice, Clara, Patrick and Caravaggio.  Alice has a daughter, 9 year old Hana (the English Patient picks up her story and how Caravaggio rejoins it), Patrick falls in love with Clara but then Clara disappears and Alice finds him and takes care of him.  In the midst of all of this, and before Clara takes off, he spends time with the two women together.  No, not sexually, he's more of an observer, and audience to their friendship.

Spoiler Alert!

And after Alice dies, Clara returns to take her daughter and raises her as her own.

There is a passage in the novel that I've often read and loved.  It's one of those passages that you read and feel as though you could settle for it on your tombstone (except it's a bit long).

There was a wall in him that no one reached.  Not even Clara, though she assumed it had deformed him.  A tiny stone swallowed years back that had grown with him and which he carried around because he could not shed it.  His motive for hiding it had probably extinguished itself years earlier...Patrick and his small unimportant stone.  It had entered him at the wrong time in his life.  Then it had been a flint of terror.  He could have easily turned aside at the age of seven or twenty, and just spat it out and kept on walking, and forgotten it by the next street corner.

So we are built.

I love that.  I suppose because I have my own small unimportant stones, stones that have built the walls in my head and my heart.  I have been confronted by friends who felt that the stones deformed me.  I could also have turned aside at earlier ages and set it down and walked away.  But now I find that I am built of these stones and I fear to set them down, after all, won't I crumble to dust if there is nothing hard and solid holding me together?

These walls, these small unimportant stones, they comfort me.  I feel safer with them about me, though I know they keep people at arm's length.  It provides me with my own Medea division--I know the evil I am doing to myself and yet am powerless to stop myself.  I have let people behind them, upon occasion, but I find it makes me nervous.  The walls themselves are impressive edifices, but behind them...well, there's nothing very grand.  Just plain ol' boring me.  Too many books, too much silence, too many thoughts and not enough practicality to be useful.

Her Name is Nina

on 03 February 2010

We live in South Georgia.

Please understand that other than the freakish cold snap that lasted for about a week, the Boy hasn't really needed a coat all winter.

I really am NOT a bad mother.

And when faced with packing for Santa Fe, I did look for a coat for him, it's just that with no real need for coats down here, there were none to be found.

So I figured we'd layer and wear the fleece and just make do for four days.

We spent one day in Santa Fe proper.  Marveling at the 400 year old church, walking up and down the streets, poking into silver boutiques--we were a parade of strollers.  Whimsy was looking for a turquoise ring and I was looking for some very specific silver earrings (I have been looking for them for a DECADE, I'm not sure why I thought that I would magically find them in Santa Fe).  We ended up perusing the wares of several native american artisans.

We strolled slowly down the length of the commons, and then slowly back up.  At this point we had been outside, in the snow, for several hours.  On our way back up the commons a lovely woman said, "Your baby looks really cold.  His hands are all red."  At which point I crouched down and rubbed and blew and attempted to thaw his poor, red, chappy hands.

She then stands up and pulls out a blanket that she had been sitting on.  She holds it out to me and says, "Here.  Take this, wrap him up tight."

I protested.  I offered her payment.  I flushed and thanked her profusely.  I felt humbled and grateful and embarassed that I hadn't taken better care of my Boy.  I offered her money once again.

She held out her hand and said, "Be my friend."

We shook on it and I asked her name. 

"My name is Nina," she replied with a brilliant smile.

I hugged her and thanked her for her kindness, and Samwise took our picture. 

I am continually amazed at the kindness that Heavenly Father brings into my life.  And yes, I lay it squarely at His door.  It is too much, too rich, too pointed for mere fate or mortals.

Meeting my Mentor

on 02 February 2010

The Boy and I hopped our way to New Mexico.  From Jacksonville to Atlanta, from Atlanta to Phoenix and from Phoenix to Albuquerque.

We were really lucky on all three flights, there was an extra seat next to us so I didn't have to suffer death by Toddler Wallow.  Who am I kidding, he did just great.  He got freaked out a bit when things got loud but for the most part he was just awesome.

But his awesomeness doesn't cancel out my fear of flying.

I mention this fear because by the time we got to Phoenix I was exhausted and a tangle of nerves.  I kept telling myself that I was almost done.  That the Boy was depending on me, I needed to at least pretend to be calm for him so that he wouldn't be afraid.  (I'd rather not pass down my own fears and anxieties.  I feel confident that he'll develop his own.)

They boarded us early because the Boy is under 5, so we schlepped onto the plane and stowed the backpack and settled in.

I was sitting in the middle seat and the Boy was standing/playing on the floor next to the window.  And so I took the moment to breathe deeply and people watch as the rest of the passengers boarded.

I wasn't paying too close of attention, trying to distract the Boy and myself from the inevitable flight when I looked up and recognized a fellow passenger.

It is a strange thing to recognize people out of context.

10 years ago last month I started at the University of Washington.  I was an in-state transfer student.  And that first semester I declared as a Comparative Literature major (with French as my primary foreign language).  Spring quarter I had my first Comparative Literature class.  It was Love and Marriage in European Fiction.  We started with extracts from the Bible, Aristotle and Milton and then moved on to read Jane Eyre, The Lover (by Marguerite Duras) and Woman Warrior (by Maxine Hong Kingston). 

My professor was a lovely woman, a Princeton graduate from the 70s.  She was a Francophile with a long publication record for feminist readings.  In the course of the next three years she became my mentor, counselor and friend at the University.  She wrote my recommendation letter to graduate school.  And when I had my first paper published, my first email was to her.

I had lost touch with her through the years, it wasn't deliberate neglect, I knew that she was busy and I had grown busy with husband and child.  (And I will admit that I was hesitant to admit that after a long and expensive education, I was choosing the traditional path of wife and mother.  I knew that she was a feminist, I expected her disapproval.)

You can't imagine how surprised I was to see her walking on to that flight to Albuquerque.

As I watched her walk on, searching for her seat, stopping at my row, smiling down into my face, I forgot my fear entirely.  I was all Super Fan.  For in spite of any differences we might have, I genuinely admire this woman.

I smiled hugely and said, "You're Dr. Dornbush, aren't you?"

She smiled and said, "Yes.  Are you one of my students?"

I chuckled and said, "Once upon a time, yes, I was."

I reintroduced myself, offering her my maiden name and the years that I was her student.  She smiled hugely and insisted that she remembered me!

(I shall admit, I was a bit flummoxed, Dr. Dornbush remembered ME!  It was awesome.)

We chatted through the whole flight.  Talking about the classes she had taught, she told me how much she enjoyed having me in class and how she wished she could have had more students like me (I was a work-a-holic and an overachiever), how hard it was being a comparatist now-a-days because in all comparative literature departments the film students were taking over.  We talked about her lay-off (she had never gotten tenure, instead she had signed 1-5 year contracts to teach and it left her time to pursue her own interests).  We talked about Chris and the Boy and my choice to stay home with him.

And as the plane landed and we disembarked, she turned to me and said, "The best part is that you have the choice.  If you want to stay home, that's great.  If women want to work, that's great too.  It's great that now we have a choice."

I talk a lot about my choice to stay home.  I feel guilty, for having this extensive education, for the academic gifts that I've been given, staying home feels like selfishness, it feels like I've quit, like I'm disappointing the sisterhood of women who have worked so hard to be taken seriously.  And so I have kept that door open in my mind.  The PhD.  The academic career that I had planned for so long.  I have been hesitant to shut the door and walk away.  After all, what happens if something happens to Chris?  What happens if I HAVE to go back, if I HAVE to work?  I need that door open as my insurance policy against grief.

But as I talked with Dr. Dornbush, and as I thought things through that week in New Mexico, I felt that door quietly closing.  She set me free from that insurance policy.  Her and Whimsy and Samwise, they helped me to realize that nothing is a waste.  They helped me to see that I have made my choice.  And that's what Dr. Dornbush and so many other women were fighting for.  I'm always going to worry.  It's a part of who I am, as a woman and as a mother.  I'm going to lay awake at night and stew about what I would do IF something bad were to happen.  But it's time to close the door and walk away.

It's time to have a little faith.

Swiper no Swiping!

on 01 February 2010

I have a confession.

My best Girl Samwise, I'm horribly jealous of her boobs.  Her rack.  Her Mams (as in mammary glands).  And do you know why?  Because that girl is making COPIOUS amounts of breastmilk.  See, I am one of those delusional girls who thinks that SIZE matters.  And so, I was a bit arrogant going into the breast feeding thing, I thought me and my D cups would have no problems feeding my wee babe.  Alas, it was a humbling, frustrating and sad, sad experience. 

Whereas my best Girl Samwise, she is the FOUNT of all Nourishment.  Her freezer is stocked with tidy bags of frozen breastmilk, enough to make breastmilk ice cream!  She nurses AND pumps!  And her wee daughter?  She takes BOTH!  Boobs and Bottles!  It's nothing short of a miracle to me.

And as if I wasn't feeling small and dry and pathetic enough.  On our first full day in New Mexico, Samwise was packing up wee London to head home and the Boy had followed her over to where the car seat was parked.  While Samwise's attention was diverted strapping in her wee babe, the Boy plucks up a bottle and before any of us can take it away from him he starts swigging on it.

Honestly, I wasn't really paying attention, I was a little fried. I looked up when I heard this loud, "MMMMM!" 

And there stands my Boy, bottle of breastmilk in hand, looking for an escape route with his bottle of bootie.

And there I am, completely MORTIFIED that my child has resorted to SWIPING my best friend's breastmilk!

Apparently, it's delicious.

Needless to say, the bottle was removed from the swashbuckling pilferer, returned to the appropriate authorities along with man, MANY embarrassed and profound apologies.

Blogging about Blogging

Sorry for the Silence. 

I've tried to explain it to Chris and to Mona and to a few others.  I feel like I have only so many words in me and I've felt a little dry of late.  As if there's some sort of drought in my mind of words to speak or to write.  I have trouble expressing myself well and end up stammering "I don't know." over and over and over again.

I've had writer's block before, but this isn't it.  I've had periods of silence where I don't think out loud, where I don't talk much, don't communicate, don't tell stories.  I read a lot.  I do yoga.  I go for long walks and sit and think.

And after the past week o' silence, I've come to the conclusion that I need more of that in my life right now.

I'm not going to delete the blog.  You're all right in your own ways, this is the story that I'm telling right now.  And it's far from finished.  But I need more time to myself, time to read and think, time to work on other things.  My dad and Chris keep hassling me to write a book but I only have so many words to write and most of them have been going here lately. 

So I'm going to cut back on my posting here, in the hopes that I'll be able to redirect some of that flow of words into other projects.  If you're hungry for more information than I'm giving, please email.  I will try to be more communicative in private means to make up for the lack of public offerings.