Friday, January 02, 2015

Beauty in Winter

2014 was a big year for learning things. Sad and tragic things, fun things, productive things, beautiful things, all kinds of things! As Gracie sometimes says, "Ah the wings!"

(All the things.)
I would love it if I'd already written blog posts for many of these, which I could just link to with a little summary, but 2014 has also been a hard year, and the words and stories are slow to come. They're coming, now, but I can't push them all out before this linkup. (Speaking of things learned.) So I'll write what I can and maybe add some links later, to future posts.

(Because what an epic long blog post with lots of links really really needs is even MOAR links, to other huge long blog posts. Yup.)

1. Reminders of grace are all around.

Today I put this up on Facebook:

"Pediatric intake form, I feel judged by your tiny, tiny space for medications taken during pregnancy. 
"At first I thought there wasn't much, but then I remembered all the prescription medications taken for her good. Everything from antibiotics for an infection that may have started preterm contractions, to Actigall and the induction drugs to help treat my Cholestasis of Pregnancy and lower risk of stillbirth. Phew! I'm glad you made it out okay. 
And now I'm feeling grateful for grace, instead of judged. Yay. ^_^"

Yes, today is in 2015, not 2014. But this is just one example, something that helped this lesson crystallize for me today. It was already in 2014, over and over. Moments of grace and beauty in the midst of pain, loss, change, turmoil.

2. Be careful what you say at the beginning of the year.

Okay, so not exactly. I'm not really superstitious. But I thought this one was fun, in a sort of macabre way.

On January 8th I posted the following on Facebook:

"Change is exhausting. No more changes for a little while, okay? Okay?? 
"Wait, I have a one-year-old. Crap. 
"(Er, not that I OBJECT to having a one-year-old OVERALL, mind you. Not at all! Of course not! Just kind of throws a wrench in that 'no more changes' plan. To clarify unnecessarily.)"

Little did I know I was about to experience the Year of Change, and my toddler would be the very least of it.

On the... kinda murky but sorta brighter side? Getting laid off meant I didn't have to deal with all the changes at work, anymore! >_>

3. I learned more than I wanted to about grief and change.

I learned I was pregnant, two days later I learned I was laid off, and then a month later I learned the heartbeat had stopped, and learned the term "missed miscarriage."

The unimaginable became real.

I learned about morning sickness with no solace, about pain and blood loss.

I learned sometimes your heart can't feel much even when you want it to, and that's okay. I learned the body can grieve for the heart. I learned everyone grieves in their own way, and there's no "right" way; but that at the same time you do have to be a bit careful to make sure you're not artificially obstructing the grieving process because it just all feels too hard. I learned a little bit about what it means to be "gentle with yourself," and that it isn't always what I first expect or think. (Linking to a post introducing a series which will have more on that later.)

I learned a visit to a cemetery can be a good and helpful thing, even when you have no grave site you can visit. And even if you're not sure what to do once you're there, and don't feel as much as expected.

And... I had some other pictures, including some that illustrated perspective and loss...
but they seem to be missing. Why...
And that it can put your grief into perspective, but without being dismissive or minimizing your loss. Amazing.

4. Bodies are wise.

And maybe a little horribly infuriating, too.

5. Miscarriage, especially combined with still breastfeeding an older child, can really do a number on your hormones.

I think most of the time breastfeeding is probably a helpful thing for one's mood postpartum. But there are certain scenarios where it is NOT, and this seemed to be one of them for me. A LOT got SO MUCH better after I weaned. Physically and emotionally. Praise God for a relatively easy fix.

6. Wacky crazy all over the place hormones can do wacky crazy things.

Did you know that it's possible for your hormones, or SOMETHING in your body anyway, to simultaneously say "It's time for a period," and to do everything in its power to make it happen, all while other hormones provide a brick wall for your body to slam against?

Ow, the Pain.

In some ways worse than childbirth, because: a) No hope of an epidural coming, and b) every month without fail, no end in sight. Ugh. So yeah. Crazy stuff. Thank God for weaning.

7. I learned Postpartum Depression after miscarriage is a thing.

It's a tricky thing, because it's hard to define where hormonal issues end and grief begins, or vice versa. But no matter what you call it, it's a thing.

8. Asherman's Syndrome, scarring of the uterus sometimes caused by D&C to remove "products of conception" after a missed miscarriage, is another thing.

A relatively rare thing, and a thing I don't have, thankfully. But one I thought I probably did have for a couple months there, for a number of good reasons. My heart goes out to these women.

9. I learned about a call for submissions, and I went for it, and I'm getting published!!!

10. I learned Jessica Snell is a great editor, at least on my side of things. She helped to make the editing process a pleasure.

11. The new Writer Unboxed live chat on Twitter is so much fun. And filled with such lovely, encouraging people.

12. Even if it's only a link to a review you wrote of one of his own books, it's pretty incredible when Neil Gaiman retweets you. 

And if you're not careful, it will paralyze you into not publishing any other book review ever again. :) Still, I'd rather have success paralysis than... I don't know, other kinds of paralysis.

13. Giveaway and Split.

It's little things like this that make me feel so blessed, even in the midst of this hard year. I didn't just win a giveaway, I won a giveaway of... uh, I don't even remember how many books. It was a lot. I'm afraid I haven't read many of them yet. Want to fix that, and write reviews. Split, for one, was amazing.

14. The Broken Eye

Specifically, I learned and figured some things out about that world. Spoiler warning. Go read some Brent Weeks. Well, with caveats that there is some violence and such, and starts out dark, and might be hard to read if you're highly sensitive. But so good.

15. Parenting Without Power Struggles

Went through a little webinar first, then finished reading the book. So helpful. Learned how to help my child through her grieving process when she doesn't get her way. While still being the one in charge. Who's, you know, keeping her from getting her way.

16. I learned Nickel Ducky's name. (It's Nickel Ducky.)

Don't ask me.

17. Careful the endearments and nicknames you use?

On December 31st I heard Gracie say, "Pancakes and butter, and maple syrup, and baby cakes!"
Nom nom.


18. I learned what it feels like to be a stay-at-home mom.

A stay-at-home mom in a new place, and with a longer commute for my husband. I'd had tastes of it already, I worked part-time before, and there was maternity leave, but this took some getting used to. My job before was stressful, and it was good to be away from that, but still, it was a transition.

19. Even good changes and good news can be really hard to deal with, sometimes.

See above, and also learning I didn't have Asherman's Syndrome. Seems like it was a good year for making friends with ambivalence. I had to acknowledge that even though it was good I didn't have Asherman's, that didn't mean I was fine. I was still having health problems, and even just the worry about Asherman's had been really hard, and learning I didn't have it didn't magically retroactively make that time all better.

Or maybe I could phrase this as,

Ambivalence is hard, and very important to acknowledge.

20. Moving is hard. Moving out-of-state is harder. Moving only one state over but a thousand miles away is possibly harder than that. Moving out-of-state for the first time in your 31 years is possibly harder than that. Moving AGAIN a month after that is not the most pleasant of all possible things.


At least I'd done a good bit of travelling before, including living in Mexico for six weeks. Still, living somewhere else permanently is different. But, that said...

21. I like living in Oregon.

It's beautiful. Really, really beautiful. And that counts for a lot. Even if it is drunk. Um, I had a photo to illustrate that last, but it seems to be missing, too. You'll just have to take my word for it until I can reproduce the image.

22. A new house begins to feel more like home when you go for walks and runs in its neighborhood.

23. How to drive in downtown Portland. Maybe.

And maybe how to get to my therapist's and back, sort of. I mean, I know the way, except I still haven't made it all the way there and back without a single missed or wrong turn. Sigh. It's coming. I can feel it. 2015 will be the year. :-P

Yes, I'm from the Los Angeles area. But I didn't drive downtown much, and we don't use one-way streets, and U-turns are allowed, and when a freeway is a freeway it generally doesn't stop and meander on surface streets for a bit before turning back into a freeway again. Oregon is weird.

I miss driving 70 mph on freeways.

And we haven't even started on how their bike lanes are apparently sacred forbidden spaces and none shall trespass the holy white line, even if emergency vehicles are coming...

24. I love Powell's. Shocking no one.

But I can visit without spending money. Occasionally. So that's impressive.

25. Beaverton summer programs.

Free Nature Mobile visit in the park once a week, and reading programs for both kids and adults at the library that are pretty cool. I'll have to start the adult one at the start of the summer instead of the end this next year. Gracie easily completed the one for the kids. Next time I'll have to be more on top of using the coupons and stuff they give you at the end, before they expire.

26. English Country Dancing!

I didn't master it by any means, but I learned a little! And how fun it is! (And that there's lots of spinning that makes it a little hard if you've been feeling lightheaded lately, but still.)

Kind of like line dancing, but much more English, and very bouncy and twirly?

27. Strawberries in Oregon. Pick your own. Wow. 
Small, but powerful.

So sweet, and cheap, and delicious. I mean, I don't know about ALL of the pick-your-own places, but the one we went to was great. And apparently had some kind of variety they can't sell in stores because they go bad too quickly, but which are one of the sweetest ever. Mmmm.

28. Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah FallsI love the sight of Mt. Hood on the horizon. I don't live all that far from a state forest, Tillamook State Forest, to be exact. Mmmm. We're up in Oregon! We could totally go to the beach here now!

Haven't yet, but we WILL, one of these days.

Mt. Hood is like one of the beautiful churches in Venice, you never know when you're going to come around a corner and see it.

29. It's exciting to get to live through "picture book seasons" for the first time. And turns out to be really meaningful right now, too.

I've visited other places in winter before, but it isn't the same. Don't get me started on my rant about how Southern California DOES have seasons, they're just not the same ones as some of the other places in Europe and the United States (but really, seasons HAVE to be specific to each place, otherwise we'd need way more words for them, and people in places like Alaska and Siberia would laugh uproariously at any of us calling our coldest season "winter"), but regardless, I like the fall and the winter here, where I am now.

30. Freezing weather can take a vine REALLY fast from "thriving" to "no apparent life."

There is life, though. Symbolic, much?

31. Marian Call songs work so well for soundtrack of my life.

Hmm. Maybe I should put in requests for some more happy songs in the future... :-P

32. My sister's voice is gorgeous.

Also, acoustics and context and stuff matter. I LIVE with her, and she practices, but I learned this at a concert.

33. Never underestimate the impact of beauty on an INFP. Or pain on an HSP.

Why hello, 2014.

34. Interstellar. Wow.

I'll, um, have more to say on that later. Or just collect some things I said on Facebook. Something.

35. Personality theory that uses cognitive steps is actually really useful and helpful and good and I like it a LOT.

My dominant cognitive function is introverted feeling. But it isn't just about feeling, per se. It's the step that gathers data through feelings, to find beauty and meaning all over, in specific details. It's pretty awesome, actually. My Fi (introverted feeling) and I are becoming better friends these days. I also like my second step, Ne (extroverted intuition). It is also awesome. ^_^

37. I learned about and joined HabitRPG.

Aww, who's my little avatar?

Fi likes it. Let us indulge Fi. Shh, don't tell her I'm getting useful things done!

38. And WorkFlowy, and the Pomodoro Technique, and this list.

Well, I learned about Pomodoro. And I found a free ebook by its developer and read it. Conclusion? It's rather skewed towards academia and intellectual work, and away from parenting small children and housework. Still, with modifications, it seems helpful.

And that list? So helpful. For me, in particular, it helps tame my idealism a bit. Only run one major change through the list per day, Marcy. Yes, this is an improvement.

39. I really really like my new Kindle Paperwhite.

I like to hold it and love it. It's my precious.

40. I also really like our Chromebook.

So much of my computer time is spent online these days. And it's so nice and little and light. I sit with it on the sofa or at the dining room table, eating oatmeal and drinking tea.

41. Speaking of which, mmm, Peach Black Tea.

I've taken to drinking it every morning instead of Irish Breakfast. I know, I'm sorry Irish Breakfast. It's just so good!

42. Prayer of Examen

I'd heard of it before, but I only started ever using it recently. I'm a fan. Thanks, Rachel! It's a similar practice to Tuesdays Unwrapped, but from a different angle. And older.

43. My blogging is important to me.

::blush:: Don't go!

I could go on (yes, still), but best not to give you an exhaustive list. Probably even best not to spend time poring over notes from the year, making sure I remember everything important and creating the BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE LISTS. Remember, self. Just because I don't write about something from 2014 here doesn't mean I can't write about it later. (Calming mantra for an INFP tyring to make decisions: It's okay! Your options are still open!)

Because I'm trying to learn to hold things more loosely, and offer what I have, as is. Show up.

Though I still kind of cheated, by publishing the post in time to squeak in before the linkup closed, and then updating approximately one gazillion times to fix things, add more links, etc. etc. Um.

::innocent whistling::

I hope you enjoyed reading this almost as much as I enjoyed writing it, but reading it didn't exhaust you as much as writing it exhausted me. Happy New Year!

This was for a linkup hosted by Emily of Chatting at the Sky. Here are other people's beautiful posts about things learned last year.


Jessica Snell said...

Aw, thank you!

(and I'm jealous of all the Oregon beauty.)

Marcy said...

You're welcome! :)

(And I don't blame you. :) I have some more thoughts on that I need to blog. Part of me kept thinking at Multnomah Falls, "I can't complain about anything ever again." And while in some ways that isn't true -- beauty doesn't negate real evil and suffering in life -- it's a thought worth teasing apart and unpacking, I think.)

Marcy said...

Speaking of #22 ("A new house begins to feel more like home when you go for walks and runs in its neighborhood"), Sunday I learned that if you get up and run before dawn on a foggy morning (which isn't hard here in winter, trust me, dawn is only a little before 8), your neighborhood will be transformed into something from a horror film, or maybe Buffy. Still beautiful, but OY.

Though on the bright side, if you really do get up early, not just before dawn; you'll be the only one crazy enough to be out in it. No one with you, not even scary people.