Monday, November 28, 2016

Traveling to a Familiar Place

In October our family traveled back up to Arkansas. We had taken this trip six months earlier as well, both times so Andrew could help the new Whole Foods in Fayetteville. I have always loved to travel. And I still do, but it is a lot harder with kids. Especially traveling so Andrew can work the entire time. Both trips to Arkansas involved the kids and me dropping Andrew off at work each morning, going and having some adventure basically all day long, and then picking him up with the kids already having had dinner, and often already asleep. Very long days. Probably too long for young kids. But something I do appreciate looking back on our trips is how they strengthen me as a mother. I also consider the harder parts worth it to see the good friends that live there. Plus family has traveled from Missouri both times to come see us as well. This trip was over Blanche's birthday. It was really special to have my dad and step mom there. My step mom really made the actual day special for Blanche. She brought gifts and cookies and presents to the park. As well as a "Birthday Girl" ribbon for Blanche to pin on her clothes. Blanche felt pretty honored by it all. I had hoped to get more pictures of her actual birthday, but the days often involved holding a shy Foster or Rosemary or both... which left less room to hold a camera.

Traveling is a funny thing to me. Because I do consider myself more and more of a minimalist. I want less things in my home and I desire to literally want less. But when I leave my home it becomes evident how my home is a safe place for me. I am sure most people would consider their homes a safe place where they feel they can emotionally relax a bit. It's not the things in my home as much as the ideas in my home that make it a small haven. But when I step away from that little bubble and out into the world, with small children and chaos mixed in, it can feel exposing. I think that the idea of being exposed when you travel has really been shown to me through the eyes of my children. Children act so strong sometimes but it can be pretty clear how being out of their normal effects them. Seeing my kids melt down around meal times and rest times while traveling really shows me that they miss the routine and familiarness of home. When we are in Arkansas we often visit good friends and can spend sometimes 6 hours at a persons house. Because Andrew would be working all day and we would have the car, it just felt easier to find a home base that wasn't a hotel room and join friends until Andrew was off. My friends in Arkansas are old friends, I have known most of them for ten years. And while being in their homes and feeling so welcome, it would make me ache for them to come and stay the day with me in my home. Maybe it was just the fact that we were having more than two hour playdates, it felt like with several of my friends in Arkansas I got to live their life with them for the day. So much of it common to me from when I too had lived there. Longs days with good friends revealed to me that their lives were so much the same as mine, but also different. The distance between our homes, and country verses city also played a part. And neither life is better than the other, just different. That is why I have always loved traveling to new places and old. I am never the same person as the last time I was there. I am always changing for better or worse, and going back to old friends and an old town is just like going home to family, my perspective changes. Traveling back to Arkansas twice this past year feels almost the same as when I would leave college and come back home. There were parts I missed so badly and parts of my old life I loved. There were new experiences in my mind that had changed the way I saw things. And sometimes, when when I travel back to an old place, it gets a little easier to say goodbye and go back to the life I have.

I have sat countless times to try and write something to go with these pictures. I keep getting interrupted by Foster wanting to nurse, and my thoughts really do not feel very clear. But I wanted to put up pictures of our trip; I never did post pictures from the time before that, so my favorites from our first trip are here below. The first trip we took in the spring when Foster was six months. We went hiking and saw good friends and both trips were a mixture of beauty and chaos. I have never felt like I have had two separate lives as much as I do when going to Arkansas. I see old friends and places and we just pick up where we left off. Both times it almost just felt like we lived there again. Every night out of exhaustion I just soaked in a warm bath, drank tea, and went to bed. Getting to leave the housework to room service. I thought a lot about how I wanted to homeschool, and decided to start keeping a nature journal with Blanche. I came back to Austin so excited to be home, and missing the open spaces. Happy to see my friends in the city and sad to leave those in the country. If I could live two lives at once I would. I would walk around little Siloam Springs with my kids and go to the library with my friend Joy. Or pop in at Ellen's so our kids could play and share a pizza. Or meet my friend Danielle at the kids museum or friend Carolyn at the park. It is a good problem to have, being loved in so many places.

Friday, November 4, 2016

That Time I Talked About Therapy

After writing about loneliness last week I have been thinking a lot about it. Honestly it felt so good to just write the words out, and then to receive texts or messages about others feeling similar or just saying they understood. When I was in the midst of trying to sort through so many emotions with postpartum depression, I was talking with a therapist regularly. I always feel funny "naming" a season of my life, saying it was postpartum depression. Maybe it just stems from some of the stigma and shame that comes with mental health issues, but then if so, all the reason more to use the words. Anyways, when I first started going to therapy I had wished I could go almost every day. Something about talking to a calm and reassuring person helped me to feel grounded. My life felt like it was spinning out of control so much of the time. But not in the crazy and exciting ways that the movies pertray. It looked more like meeting need after need but not my own, and feeling like I had gotten myself in over my head. There was a to do list so long in my mind, but I felt like nothing was ever done. Dishes to wash and laundry to fold, and a loneliness so deep that it caused a lump in my throat when Andrew would leave for work. My body ached and my head spun. And I took care of everyone. That was my job.

The scary thing is that sometimes I still feel that way. I feel a lump in my throat and an ache for connection. I had went maybe two or three months since seeing my therapist, the longest I had went in a long time. But last week after writing about loneliness I needed that calm again. I needed to feel grounded. Therapy is always so weird. Probably to everyone. I am always so nervous in the waiting room. I wonder what I will talk about. But then she comes to get me and I smile and we walk to her office like we are just grabbing coffee or something. And then she asks how things are going. And I can go as real as I want. That's what I have always loved about counseling. I loved going to counseling in college as well. I could start light or just start crying if I wanted. And I was never judged or embarrassed.

Last week I talked about life and a little about this idea of being lonely. What is funny is most of the first half of the session I talked about seeing friends and family in Arkansas. And then we chatted about my preschool co-op friends, and new community that I have found in our church here in south Austin. She even ended our session with, "well I am glad things are going so well." And the truth is they are going well. I have a lot of people in my life that love me. But there was a part in the middle, a part where my therapist mentioned how a lot of what we talked about in the earlier days was not loosing myself. And identity. This. This is such a big and scary thing. Of course there are a lot of things about myself that I do know. I know I'm a wife and friend and mother. I love people and God and feel for the suffering. I want justice and peace. I'm bigger in my head than in real life. I fight for social causes or travel the world in my head. But reality is I love turning on PBS every morning and all I really want is a cup of hot coffee. But who am I? Who is Jeran? Am I an artist? Really? An artist that never makes any art. What do I like? Do I honestly like running to target and through the chick-fil-a drive thru?? (Actually I have come to remember I am more of the farmer's market, thrift store kind of girl myself)

So, this idea of identity. My therapist and I talked a bit about this, really only a few minutes. And then we talked about people in my life. And a crazy thing clicked in my brain. All I am looking for is connection. Duh right? But as a mother it is not always that simple. As a mother I normally hang out with a lot of other moms. And often times, being a mom is what we talk about. But while that is good and needed, talking about who I am or even who I was is also extremely important. Because that's me. Sure, my kids are a part of me, but it is only a part. And before too long they will be older or even grown eventually. And then I will still be here. Jeran. That artist who doesn't make any art.

So, that's my answer for now about loneliness. Remember. You know, sort of like in The Lion King with Simba and his dad. REMEMBER. Remember who I was or what I like. Like for example last Saturday when Andrew was sick, I was going to run and grab fast food for us but then I decided to be brave and go grab tamales at the farmer's market with all my kids. Because that's a Jeran move. And you know, we had a great time. The kids played outside around the stands and we even ran into a friend and her kids.

And, if you are like me, a mother who feels a bit lonely or out of place... after you remember, then go find cool people. Put yourself out there and connect. Talk about YOU. Talk about THEM. Not just your kids. Sure, kids can play a part. But maybe, ask them if they have a hobby, or had a hobby. Even old hobbies still count. So, let's do this. Even if you aren't a mom. We just have to be human, and remember what we love and what makes us feel alive. Because for most people it probably isn't nap time schedules or the weather or politics. Just ask, and maybe we can all find ourselves.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Foster Turns One

At the end of this summer we celebrated Foster turning one. His birthday was on August 31st, and that day we had our preschool co-op (plus Gigi and Showpa) over to celebrate. I've had these photos pretty ready to post for awhile, but I just haven't sat down to write much about the day. It is funny how fast life has moved over the past several years. It does not feel like that long ago that I was decorating the bookstore on the other side of the coffee shop in Siloam Springs Arkansas, getting ready to have coffee and cake for Blanche's first birthday. And now, here we are celebrating my third baby turning one. In a few years these last few years will just be a handful of memories and pictures, made into a season of life really, my "baby days" with all these beautiful children. Life is crazy when you have babies 18 months apart. But it is full and beautiful at the same time. We have squeezed every bit of joy and chaos that we could into Foster's first year of life, so it was only fitting to squeeze about twenty people into our tiny two bedroom duplex. I nervously laughed to my friends, "Let's just pretend we are all drinking wine and in Europe... it's more romantic that way." My friend Paige said she felt like it was the 70's over Europe, and that I had done a great job making my place feel like home. That made me happy and more comfortable with being vulnerable and squeezing so many into our small space.

Foster is a lover. He always has been. Foster is more social than the girls were, and has always been blowing kisses, giving smiles, and touching people's face. I have dreams of him becoming a passionate individual, loving people and making the world a better place. It felt fitting that his first birthday was a busy blur. That's how his entire life has been. And for the most part, he is okay with that, occasionally laughing or screaming, adding to the fun.

I joke that he is the mascot of our preschool co-op. But honestly he sort of has been. So many kisses from three year old girls. And almost all of them call him "Baby Foster." When we first started attending our co-op this summer he mostly rode along in the ergo or nursed and napped. And now, he is trying to walk on the playground with the rest of them. He waves hi and shouts "bye bye!" This last week, during our Halloween party, he too had to have a sucker. And of course since I was teaching the lesson, he had to be directly up front in the ergo in my face while I read a story. But thats why I love him. Foster has always been very close. As a newborn, a month early, he wanted to be worn and held so much of the time. Foster has taught me the beauty of letting go. To learn that life is not nor never will be perfect. I will never forget when I finally decided to just give in to him wanting to be held all evening when he was little. I started sitting in the recliner, with tea and cookies, in the midst of having postpartum depression, and watching all the sessions of Gilmore Girls. I learned to not just let go, but to relax and let myself travel somewhere else for awhile... and the joy in doing that. I would rock and nurse him and I knew it wouldn't last long. That before too long he wouldn't be able to fall asleep while I watched a show. So, I just sat there, eating cookies and not loosing my baby weight, and for the most part, being okay with it.

After having two girls and then a boy, I can say, that boys love their mamas differently. There's an admiration for mama that my girls didn't have. Sure, they could be clingy or love to nurse... but Foster, well, I'm the love of his life. For now at least. And I'm happy to fill that role. I joke that if he wants to live with me forever that's okay. But, I know he has a heart for adventure (and candy). I know that just as the first year has come and gone, so will much of his childhood. Flying before my eyes. So, I will just hold him as long as he lets me. Enjoying the love he was born to give. And to smile and watch him grow into whatever wild man he will become.