All the Updates!

Big changes coming for Mac n’ Cheese Manor!!!  We are working with the Get the Lead Out program to certify our house as lead free which will include: new windows, siding, doors (inside and out), and trim.  We’re working with MassSave to insulate!  It will likely be a few months yet, but the contractors who will bid on the work have been here to look around and after months of paperwork and phone calls, I feel like we’re finally moving forward!

I have never had a garden and know nothing about growing things, but we’re going to give a small garden a try this year.  Wish me luck, I’m going to need it, or rather, our poor plants are going to need it!  On a similar but different note, we are also planning to build a chicken coop!  I mean, can we really call it a farm, even a little one, if there’s no garden or chickens?

On the battle front, we continue to lose to the squirrels.  We have four traps (three live/one kill) and every day the bait is gone but the traps are empty.  We’ll be welcoming two cats to our home as soon as the construction work is complete and hopefully they can succeed where we are failing.

I stopped using shampoo about a month ago and I’m never going back!!!  I’ve started using New Wash which is completely fantastic, but is also quite expensive.  So when I run out, I’m going to try the curly girl method and see if that works for me as well.  I have a friend who does it and her hair looks great so I’m crossing my fingers!

As it relates to writing, I’ve changed my mind about rewrites.  As I’ve gone through it, I find that most of what I wrote doesn’t want to be rewritten;  It was what it was at the time and looks too different in hindsight for me to even know where to begin.  I’m still going to fill out the rest of my Cancer Files, but by adding to them, not rewriting them.  Everything else I’m leaving be.  There are so many new chapters to write!

It’s been a lovely and difficult winter for me.  It is so beautiful here.  I haven’t loved snow like this since I was a child.  I fall more in love with our creaky, old, farmhouse and rambling eight or so acres every day.  We’ve made wonderful new friends, and I love being home with my Sunshine.  And yet, when the anniversary of my mid-December move arrived, I felt so sad for all we’re missing by not living closer to our families and friends back West. There is a certain kind of loneliness for much-loved people and places that is unbearably bittersweet.

2018 is just going to be a big and busy year for us.  Between repairs to the house, additions to the farm, and our wild baby, we’re going to be hopping and that’s not a bad thing.  I feel like I need to be this kind of busy right now.  Lots to do, but not sooooo much to do that I can’t sneak in a momosa and some writing time here and there.   : )

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Friday Randoms

Can a farmhouse also be a beach house?  I feel like this is the question my Pinterest is asking . . .

I love the feeling of satisfaction I get after putting everything in the crock pot that dinner is done and it’s only 10am.

I buy birdseed now.  Just one more, small step toward becoming my mother.  : )

Lacing up my Kodiaks with a smile on this ten degree morning to let my horses out, haul water buckets, throw hay, and walk my dogs and baby; I am so happy to be living this life, no matter all it took to get here.

Rereading the poetry and writing of my twenties–my shame, my cancer, my life before I understood what I had already been taught about value, love, and happiness has been at times difficult, but mostly an exquisite and tender opportunity to love myself as I was then in a way that I couldn’t as I was then.

Also, even when writing about the past, my words have always carried me forward.

Well, my hour for coffee and writing is up; the messy kitchen is calling . . .

 

The Cancer Files

Some of you may remember this series from when I was actually going through treatment back in 2011 and 2012.  For those of you who don’t, spoiler alert, I’ve been cancer free going on five years now!  That said, I’ve been rereading my old posts and noting how incomplete they are.  So as practice for writing and to give my story the complexity it deserves, I’m going back to the beginning, to tell it again.

. . .

When I went to my appointment that sunny, spring day in 2011, I told my husband not to come.  He offered, but there was only a two percent or so chance that the nodule found on my thyroid was cancerous; we were not concerned.  I met with the physician’s assistant who was all smiles and he repeated what my primary care doctor had already said as he pulled up the results of the imaging I’d had the previous week;  Roughly fifty percent of women get thyroid nodules and of that fifty percent, ninety eight percent or so are benign.  Then he looked at his computer screen and was quiet a moment before turning to face me and saying,

“I am as sure as I can be without a biopsy that you have thyroid cancer.”

I will remember those words forever because they were the end of everything and the beginning of everything else.

I sat unseeing, unfeeling, and certainly not hearing while he talked a bit more, felt my neck, then had me go sit in another waiting area until the scheduler was available.  She handed me a blue folder filled with information about thyroid cancer and the surgery I would need.  In blue ink, she hand wrote my surgery date (set for three weeks later) in the upper, right-hand corner, smiled and sent me on my way.

Outside, in the parking lot, I sat staring at nothing and wondering what to say to my family.

In the end, I called my husband, told him, then let him know I couldn’t come home right away.  I needed to be alone, to think, to not be touched, to not be looked at with sad eyes.  He offered to tell my parents for me and I let him; I didn’t think I could.

In hindsight, I find it funny that I took myself to the mall.  I’ve never really liked the mall, particularly after working there, but in that moment, being around lots of people but not having to look at or talk to any of them was exactly what I needed.

To be continued . . .

 

100 Old Poems Rewritten into 1

Walking through old words
I see the same ones
over and over and over
just rearranged
carefully scattered
and strung again
to avoid being caught
at being the same poem
I wrote a hundred times
if I wrote it even once.

It wasn’t very good.

As heavy and slow
as the number of times I wrote
“heavy” and “slow.”
“Beating hearts” and “blood in veins”
as tired as the word “tired” became.
“Wandering, disconnected, lost,
broken, seething, pooling, secrets, unspoken”
over and over and over
and yet
I fooled no one.

If I could write it again now
it would go like this:

I am afraid
I might be worthless.

 

This Year

This year is for my writing.

He understands and gave me books to read and time alone for Christmas.

I’m not sure why now, I just know that my thirties feel complicated but without all the fire and fear of my twenties.  It’s as if I could write it all again, only thicker this time, with more satisfaction and less splattering.

I kicked jealousy out of my bed for hogging all the covers and my toes are finally warm.  My writing is much improved without the distraction of freezing toes.

This old house invites me to sit while she holds us all safe within and let my mind wander out past the field stone walls.  She seems to understand so well, I am clearly not the first writer to live here.

My daydreams are clearer, my fingers slower, my desire steadier, and my thoughts more complete than they have ever been.

This year is for my writing.

 

 

Thursday Randoms

It’s wild to think that a year ago I was frantically packing, avoiding saying goodbyes I didn’t want to need to say, and feeling so unsure.

It isn’t easy making the transition from leading others, to leading only yourself.  I miss having a team, but I also love the deeply personal pride I feel after completing a project on my own.

One of my favorite things about being home with my Sunshine is the luxury of doing one thing at a time and giving all of myself to that one thing.  Whether it’s playing with her outside, cooking, writing, chores, or anything else, I no longer spend all my time doing one thing and thinking about something else that needs doing.

Part of the reason I loved this house the moment I met her is that a writer is meant to live here and I knew when I crossed the threshold for the first time that I wanted that writer to be me.

Motherhood is amazing and fulfilling and difficult and precious.  The rest of me is still here, too, and still needs to be acknowledged, exercised, and cherished.  It’s a balance I’m still working out.

Even on our worst days, I miss her while she naps.

Time to go, the dishes are calling, and since I let that call go to voicemail yesterday, I’d best pick up today.  : )

Bye!
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Snippets

Outside, the wind is swirling so many autumn leaves so high, it’s like living in a fall snow globe.

It feels like I have a place in this lovely, little town; I’m just not sure where it is yet.

To love and care for my old dog, who loved and cared for me so very well in his prime, has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

Don’t tell my husband or my mother in law, but my daughter is reminding me of everything I ever loved about Christmas before working in retail destroyed that love.  At least I thought it was destroyed . . .

We were going to call our little farm Boldlygo, but just the other day, my sweet Sunshine brought me a book off of her shelf and we read it together.  It was a long-forgotten favorite of mine and fits too perfectly to pass up naming our place The Tomten Farm.

As it always does, fall is pulling me into myself where all the winter words are, and though it hasn’t always been a pleasant journey, I find myself looking forward to writing from that dark, silent space.

I don’t know how he is always the man of my dreams when my dreams are always changing.  I just know that every day I wake up and it’s still him.

 

 

Morning Mama Thoughts

My favorite thing about her ability to crawl and stand up is watching her choose where she would like to go and what she would like to do when she gets there.  She used to be limited to where we put her or what toys we presented her with, and now another layer of her personality is coming through.

My least favorite thing about her ability to crawl and stand up is that there are now roughly 10,762 new and exciting ways for her to accidentally maim/injure/kill herself.  I have nicknamed her “suicidal octopus” because I swear she has eight, lightning-fast arms and they’re all reaching for something dangerous!

We are getting closer to the end of nursing and I’m both excited and sad.  On one hand, I will be SO happy to be able to wear whatever I want without thinking about how hard/easy it will be to nurse in.  On the other hand, because my wild child is always on the go, nursing time has been our snuggle time and I wonder if/how she will snuggle when there’s no need to stop and snack in my arms.

I think about my parents all the time.  Having a child of my own puts an entirely different spin on so many of my memories.  Like when I was twelve and I was riding my horse bareback, with a bridle I made out of baling twine and jumping the irrigation canal/all the irrigation pipe in the field.  If I remember right, my dad was supposed to be watching me, but he had to go handle a work emergency so mom came to pick me up.  She was terrified of horses and I remember seeing her white knuckles on the fence as we thundered up the way.  I have always thought that story was hilarious.  Now I can actually imagine the worry and fear she must have felt that I would be hurt.  To my  mother’s credit, she did not punish me; she signed me up for jumping lessons.  : )

Another hilarious thinking of my mom moment came when I was exiting the restroom and passed a woman and her young son going in together.  It struck me for the very first time that my mother actually taught me to use the bathroom!!!!  Thanks, mom.  : )

I am so happy to finally be in a permanent living space.  Every situation we’ve been in since she was born has been temporary.  She’s been shuttled across the country multiple times, spent countless hours in the car while we looked for vehicles, then apartments, then houses.  She seems pretty happy wherever we are, but I think she’ll feel the difference as we get settled.

A lovely friend sent me a lovely book (The Magic of Motherhood) and though it’s hard to find time to read, my favorite line from the early chapters is, “Your body will be a home to your children.”  How very true.  My body doesn’t look or feel quite the way it did before my Sunshine came along but there is no place where she feels as safe and comfortable as my arms.  No other body will do, it’s only mine that gives her such peace and security–how beautiful is that?

She is swinging in the living room, fast asleep while I sip coffee and write.  Occasionally, I look up and her face swings into view.  If I had known before getting pregnant just how much I would feel as a mother, I might have chosen another path.  It’s frightening sometimes, the depth and breadth of it.  What I know now that she’s here is that I’d feel it all a thousand times for just one of her sunny smiles.

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Fear and Love

My daughter is now eight weeks and three days old and, miraculously, alive, well, and thriving.  I say miraculously in the truest sense of the word.  I am awestruck at her growth and progress.  From the moment she was born, two emotions stood out head and shoulders (if indeed emotions had heads and shoulders) beyond the rest: love and fear.

The love is not really love the way I usually mean it, but since this is English and I have so few words for love to work with, I’ll try to describe it better.  I can hear her breathing change in my sleep. Her cries are like words to me now, and each new sound is carefully considered until it’s meaning can be discerned.  Every time she smiles my heart hurts. Every time someone else holds her, I become a bear-hawk–watching closely with eyes sharper than my pre-mama eyes, ready to unleash a superhuman degree of hurt or just take her back should things start going south. And I love her with the usual kind of love, too.  ; )

The fear is intense, often unreasonable, and it never goes away.  It can roar to the forefront at a moment’s notice or hum at the back of my mind but it is always present, soul deep, and seemingly impossible to shake.  I’ve been afraid many times in my life before, really afraid, but none of that fear even touches this feeling.  I believe it to be the source of my new-found superhuman awareness of my tiny human.  All of that said, it is just like any other fear in the sense that the only way to live with it is to confront it head on.

In our case, due to our demented plan to live apart for three months starting two and half weeks after our baby was born, I ended up having to face the biggest boatload of fear I’ve ever confronted in my life just four weeks in to new motherhood.

My husband started his new job on the East Coast and we knew we couldn’t do three whole months apart while he worked and I finished packing our things up.  The only option was for the baby and I to fly across the country and join him for a time.  So we did.

At two months, our little girl had already flown across the country twice, traveled through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, and lived out of hotels for nearly three weeks.  I was terrified every minute, but every minute also added to my confidence in my ability to care for her under just about any circumstances. At this point, I can safely say there’s nowhere we can’t go together.  : )

As my mother promised it would, having a baby has changed my life forever.  There are already parts of my life and self before that I miss, but I miss them the same way I miss anything I enjoyed that has come to its natural conclusion.  My daughter has opened a new chapter which means closing the one before, just like going to college, moving out, and getting married each held endings as well as beginnings.

Since the morning she was born (an early riser, like me : ), I’ve found the love to be so much bigger and more than the fear. Every time we step into new territory (a near daily occurrence!), our bond becomes stronger, our confidence grows, and I find another mom or dad or sympathetic stranger to share a knowing smile or nod, offer a helping hand, and generally remind me I’m not alone in this wild adventure.

My life has been touched by an angel (who will no doubt grow into a hellion!) and I’m glad.  : )

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Where to Begin?

I truly have no idea where to begin writing about birth and new motherhood.  Words don’t seem big enough.  This little list is my warm up.  : )

Someone wonderful (I don’t know who, there was no note!) sent me a beautiful necklace with a pendant that has the word “Mother” engraved in several different languages on it.  I burst into tears when I realized what it said. Until that moment, I hadn’t actually thought of myself as a mother.

I can’t always sleep when she sleeps because I love to watch her sleeping.

My belly button is back!  I missed my belly button.  : )

Watching my husband love and care for her is even more sweetly beautiful (and sometimes hilarious) than I imagined it would be.

Oddly, while I never had a single craving throughout my entire pregnancy, the day she was born I started needing almond/toffee Symphony bars as if my life depended on them.  So strange and it hasn’t gone away yet! I’m just saying, there may or may not be three, king size Symphony bars in our refrigerator right now.

She is delightful and exhausting and I have never felt so much so fiercely.

And I think she may take issue with my morning breath . . .
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