Dear Jude

Dear Jude,

After 3 hours of this cursor blinking at me across a blank, white page and mindless tv distracting me from this, I’ve finally found my way out of this procrastination enough to start this letter.  You see, it’s your birthday. Your second birthday! And it’ll be many years and probably a child or two of your own before you understand how bittersweet these days can be.


It’s especially bittersweet with you this year, you who might likely be our last baby.  You who, at 2, can no longer legitimately be called a baby. I’m going to anyway, though, just so you know. You are my baby–my delightful, funny, colicky, angry-elf baby, and I can’t even remember life before you came.

It’s funny, though, because before you came, I couldn’t fathom a life with a third baby in it. So hectic were my days with Gabe and Isla that by the end of my pregnancy when I was sick, everything just seemed…well…surreal. Is this really happening to me, I wondered.  I did exactly what I’ve since learned about in Brene Brown’s work: I numbed.  I disconnected from the depth of the present moment so I could merely survive through each day, not realizing that when you numb the negative, you also numb the positive.


When you were born, there was a brief moment after they pulled you from my belly that lasted a silent eternity.  You didn’t cry, not right away, and I didn’t know if you were okay. So many things raced through my heart during that moment, things that have lasted long past that day. But the biggest and most important was this–no more numbing out.  I want to be here, there, wherever I am, fully present.


This, however, has been a tall order.  Your screaming and determination and neediness made many of the present moments awfully hard to endure.  But now, you’re two! And I see a light at the end of what has been a tunnel fraught with very loud colic.  You sleep–real, legitimate naps and nearly a full night’s worth every night. You even spontaneously started falling asleep on your own recently! You play, my favorites when you and Isla “chase” each other hand-in-hand around the dining room, little laughing hyenas that infect our home with joy. And your humor–how can a 2-year-old have comedic timing? But you do! And a coy little smile and a relentless willingness to pursue the laugh. How you delight me!

I wish I could redo these past two years with the knowledge that we really would come out on the other side.  (Scathed, perhaps, but intact and pruned for growth.)  Of course, logically I knew this would be the case. The cries of a colicky baby haven’t smitten anyone yet.  But at 3AM, alone with a screaming newborn and a traveling (and, therefore, alone and asleep) husband, that reality seemed as elusive as unicorns and world peace.

But wishing doesn’t get me back these two years. So I need to put that energy to better use.

Jude face 3

Jude, you and each of your siblings taught me something about myself. You, sweet boy, taught me to be brave–and not just to be brave, but to keep being brave. You are how I know I can do this, that I can learn to revel over worry, to dwell rather than perseverate, to be here, right now, in all things.

With you–enjoying you, especially, my little wild thing.

I can’t wait to see who you become in this, your third year. I can’t wait to explore the world with you and watch you learn to master it. Thank you for who you’ve helped me to become and for how you keep growing my heart.  You are a treasure!

All my love,

What I Learned From 31 Days of Getting Things Done


Whew – October is over! I got everything done on my list!!!  Woot!

Wait…um, that’s so not true. I got, like, 15/50.  Here are the things I got done:

  • Painted fireplace
  • Painted living room
  • Painted nursery
  • Updated gallery photos
  • Hung nursery art
  • Organized nursery shelf
  • Cut my hair
  • Made a calm-down basket
  • Fixed the cafe lights
  • Took care of school meeting
  • Hung play tent in nursery
  • Finished editing photos
  • Ordered Halloween costumes
  • Scheduled doctor appointments

In addition to these, I made progress on these projects:

  • Patio
  • Living room work space
  • Happy mail package
  • Christmas blanket
  • Life Plan class

I didn’t finish any books this month, but I did stumble into a book I’m almost done with – Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.  Interesting read!

So…still a lot to go but some progress. I’ll take it.

So, what did I learn this month?  A few things I’ll take with me…

1. As a starter (rather than a finisher), seeing things through to completion isn’t my first instinct. But it feels really good to cross things off my lists.

2. I need a list, and it helps if it’s visible. This is the only way I use – rather than waste – my pockets of time.

3. I’ve mentioned this before, but for me, the antidote to overwhelm is gratitude. I can either be overwhelmed by my overflowing list or can be grateful I have the

4. I need to more carefully select my projects, and I need to consider my priorities. Otherwise, I wind up in the middle of projects which are fine or even good, but they’re not the best use of my time and energy.

5. A few well-planned chunks of time create momentum. I’d love to have multiple chunks of hours each week to accomplish what needs to be done, but that’s not my current life phase. One or two chunks can feed the need and create momentum in other areas.

I decided to keep my list hanging on my wall a little longer. I’d like to knock out a few more things before I turn my energies to the holidays. Namely the patio. I’d really like to get the patio done before it snows.  You know, so I don’t have a giant mud-and-sand pit in my yard this winter…

It’s All In How You View It


On one hand, this weekend I painted the nursery, the living room, and the fireplace, and I finished up a photo project, started some laundry, got new lights for the basement, and had a fun family afternoon on Saturday.  On the other hand, I fell off a chair, fell down the stairs, and twisted my ankle in a pothole.  So, you know, a little accident prone.   But I’m just trying to pretend that last stuff didn’t happen. Even though my left leg is actually swollen and black and blue…

Maybe next year’s project should be 31 Days of Learning to Be Graceful? 😉

Getting Things Done – The Weekend Edition


In theory, the nice thing about a weekend is the ability to blend getting things done and relaxing. In actuality, though, my weekend life doesn’t lend itself well to this.  I still expect it to happen, but then I’m anxious when it’s Sunday afternoon at 2 PM and I’ve barely scratched the surface.  You’d think I’d learn!

This weekend, though, my parents took Gabe with them for the weekend, which left us one kid down. You’d think it would be the younger two who prevented us from getting things done, but it’s not. It’s the combination of the three. Or, rather, the combination of Gabe with Isla. Together, they have an energy that requires…um…managing, shall we say?  Gabe with Jude is fine and Isla with Jude is fine, but Isla and Gabe together is very consuming.  So this weekend was nice for everyone–Gabe got a little one-on-one attention from the grandparents and it was calm enough to knock a few things off our list.

When I say “a few things,” I’m thinking namely of the patio. We laid about a hundred bricks on it, and although it’s still not close to being done, it felt like it took a sudden and substantial leap forward.  We’re stopped right now because we have to cut some concrete and build up a step of sorts, but hopefully we’ll get to that this week so we can continue the good fight.

Also completed were a haircut for me (although I did it myself…) and we finished updating the pictures in the gallery walls. I’m really happy with how they turned out!  I do need to reconfigure the arrangement in the dining room, but that’s a project for another month. I don’t have my head around that yet.




On Dreams and Concerts and Stores and Photography


(I’ve been meaning to write this post for nearly a month now and have just never found the time. What better time than during my month of Getting Things Done, right? Interestingly, after some completely unrelated experiences this week, I realized I hadn’t written it yet because there was more to the story that hadn’t happened yet.  All this time, I’ve been feeling like this post was just one more thing on which I was behind, but really, it was right on time.  Go figure.)


I fear I will have morphed into a 14-year-old girl with this post, but I can’t help it. I went to an Ed Sheeran concert last month and it changed my life.

To defend myself and my slide back into crazy tween fandom, I have to say I’ve never really been to a concert before.  Unless you count Ray Boltz.  Or Jim Brickman.  Do you count those?  Um, no. Please say you don’t.  I mean, Ray Boltz. For real???  That’s only worthy of the term “concert” if you use it with air quotes.

So.  A few years back, I made this list of 40 things I wanted to do before I turned 40. One of them was to go to a real concert.  Earlier this year, a whole slew of my Maine Facebook friends went to an Ed Sheeran concert out east, and my Facebook feed was filled with their rave reviews. It sounded like an amazing concert, and since my first choice isn’t touring right now (P!nk), I decided I wanted to see him.

Lucky for me, he was coming to Summerfest in Milwaukee this summer. Unlucky for me, I never got around to getting tickets.  Summerfest came and went, and once again people had a great time seeing Ed Sheeran in concert and I was not one of them.  Bummer.

When I found out he was coming to Chicago, I jumped at the chance.  I had actually purchased the tickets before I knew what day or time the concert was.  I may possibly have an impulse problem…Maybe…

Anyway, Christina Perri and Passenger appeared with him, and then he came on for the main show. The concert was amazing, the songs were crazy, the arrangements actually blew my mind…Through the whole thing, he (and Passenger, although traffic was bad so we missed Christina Perri) poured their heart into their music.  They took risks, they worked hard, they performed creatively, and all I could think was, I could never do that!

Of course, I could never do that.  The music, the guitar, the way he masterfully used technology to become his own live band, the rapping, the dancing, the crossing genres…none of those things are in my skill set.  But in a more general sense, what a very intimate thing, to strip yourself to your creative bones in front of thousands of people and just put it all out there!  What courage it must take to be yourself, to take risks with what you love, and to do both those things in a very public way.  It was that I was thinking of.  I could never do that.

That made me really sad.

When the concert was over, I remembered how at one point in my life, the world was an oyster for my confident, eager self.  I believed in my passion, believed in possibilities, believed in hard work.  But somewhere along the way, I lost my brave.  I lost my myself.  I don’t know if it happened in the busyness of raising children or my chronic lack of sleep or the heart-wrench of infertility and miscarriage, or the simple passing of time without appropriate self-care.  Now, I question my value rather than standing in it confidently.  I apologize and defer and sacrifice to my own detriment. On bad days, I hardly remember who I am, my identity seeming ambiguous and irrelevant at best.


This week, I visited a friend’s soon-to-open store. It’s been a dream of hers for some time now, one I heard in bits and pieces while she did daycare and I tried to get pregnant and we held each other up through the struggles of heartache and the daily grind.  I couldn’t wait to see how she’d arranged her treasures in her site, and when I opened the door and the sheer beauty enveloped me, I felt a lump in my throat.

Partly, it was so stunning, it left me speechless.  I literally had no idea what to say.  Everywhere I looked was a feast for the eyes, her signature all over the biggest themes to the smallest layered details.  My friend is so naturally gifted, and to see this display that had so obviously overflowed out of her abundant gifts left my head spinning.  She wasn’t performing in front of a massive crowd a la Ed Sheeran, but in her own way she was doing just what he did, stripping herself to her creative bones and laying her passions on the line publicly.


But I also felt this tiny and unexpected twinge of anxiety, and it caught me off guard.  It happened so fast, just as I walked in the door, that I almost didn’t notice it.  Huh. What was that? I wondered, but I tucked it aside so my excitement over my friend and her store could dominate.

When I left, I thought back on that fleeting emotion.  Anxiety?  Why? I wondered. All of a sudden, several seemingly unrelated parts of my life converged–a friend’s store, the Ed Sheeran concert, anxiety, feeling like I could never do that…

It was all about dreams.

As a young person, I had a lot of dreams for my life. As an adult, however, not a lot of those dreams have come true, or at least they haven’t come true in the way I expected them to.  Partly, that’s a very good thing.  Childhood dreams are fantasies constructed of childish desires. I’ve matured since then, thank goodness.

My adult self dreamed new dreams and better dreams, but when I lost my brave, my dreams shriveled.  I stopped being brave enough to share myself with others.  I stopped believing that my dreams were worth pursuing. I stopped believing I could work hard and accomplish things that mattered. The “justs” slunk into my psyche–I’m “just” a stay-at-home mom, I’m “just” a part-time employee, I’m “just” a piddly blogger.


A photography forum of which I’m a member had their annual conference this weekend and they live-streamed the event.  I caught a few of the sessions, and one was by internationally acclaimed portrait photographer, Sue Bryce. Her session was all about dreams and who you are as an artist, and she began by asking us what we wanted. I immediately thought, I don’t know! And then she went on to say that a lot of us probably answered, “I don’t know,” and she explained that we really do know, but when we’ve lost touch with ourselves and our dreams, we can’t own it.  She encouraged us to mull over that question and then to bravely state our answer, because no one ever achieves a dream they aren’t willing to own.

I’ve been thinking about that. I’m not entirely sure what my dreams are.  I know they’re not to perform in front of thousands of people or to open a store or to have an international photography business–although I love that the world is rich with people who are living their dreams as examples and inspiration.  But the prospect of finding them again makes my heart beat faster and leaves me a little starry eyed and breathless.

You know–much like the way 14-year-old girls feel when they hear Ed Sheeran sing.  But for entirely different reasons. 😉

It’s funny to me the way things all come together. And as tangible proof of that, one of the things I bought from my friend’s store–before I had figured out any of this– was a beautiful necklace that says, “Brave.”  Go figure!  I think it’s time I got the message!

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