the future


So: it’s been a while. I’ve missed writing, and I’m thinking about coming back to blog some again. The reasons I stopped blogging to begin with aren’t important (they’re not really reasons), but I’m finding myself with things to say and write about these days and nowhere to say it and nowhere to write about it. And yeah, I could journal privately, but I think my writing is better when I at least imagine I have an audience, and missing writing is the #1 reason I want to start blogging again. Even if blogging does kind of feel silly and self-indulgent sometimes.

So here are the reasons (I think) I’m coming back:

1. I’d like to chronicle this period of time in my life, so that in the future I can look back either nostalgically or in wonder that I ever survived.

2. I learn things by writing about them, and there are a lot of things I’d like to learn.

3. Sometimes I come across an article online that I really, really hate, and I need somewhere to go to vent my spleen. (Conversely, sometimes I read a book that I really, really love, and I need somewhere to gush. I will be doing this soon.)

4. I’d like for my kids someday to be able to read their mother’s (and maybe someday, their grandmother’s) thoughts about being a mom/woman/Christian in the early 21st century.

5. I miss writing.

I would include a photo or two on this post, but I haven’t used my actual camera in about a year (hello iPhone) and therefore I don’t have any recent pictures on my computer! (But you can follow me on instagram at @doublepointedneedles. I promise I’ll get the camera out soon, or finally upload my iPhone photos onto my computer …)

I’m still alive!

Obviously, things have been pretty quiet on the blog front, as I was reminded just today by my dear friend Melissa. That is partly intentional and partly just natural; I haven’t had too much to say lately. Truthfully I’ve always felt like my blog is the story of my journey out of grief — and now that that isn’t so much a part of my everyday life, I guess I’m not sure what the story is. So is there one? We’ll see. I thought I would stop by with a little update on how things are going.

First, there’s this guy:

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Behind him is our makeshift baby gate, which was totally ineffective once he figured out he could just push them out of the way.

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He is now 14 months old. The above picture captures him in a rare moment of repose. He is not walking yet (we are in no hurry for that milestone to arrive, honestly) but he is EXTREMELY busy pulling up, standing, cruising, pushing cars, stacking cups, and looking at the one page on his “baby’s first 100 words” book that has all the pictures of cars and trucks on it. He also now has three teeth, including one of his upper front teeth (it just poked through on Sunday!) which means soon he will be looking much more like a toddler. I know it’s very unusual to not have any top teeth at this age, but I just feel fortunate that I got to keep my baby looking like a baby for as long as I have. Soon enough he’ll have all kinds of teeth and be walking and talking — I am savoring these last few baby days for as long as I can.

This is also happening:

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Can you believe it?? In the back are two out of control cucumber plants and some bell peppers. The mass of green leaves are green beans. In the foreground, which you can’t see, are summer squash.

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SERIOUSLY out of control. We have had a very wet, cool spring which I think has helped matters tremendously, and it’s so exciting to watch the progress! I hope I’m not sidelined by any blight or blossom end rot.

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I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this.

There are also tomatoes in containers on the deck, like I did last year:

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I tried spinach in another pot, and peas and lettuce in the ground around the deck, but it didn’t take off. Too much clay and not enough sun around the deck (and, uh, too many neighborhood bunnies); poor soil quality for the spinach. Poor soil quality actually almost ruined my tomatoes, too, but a trip to the garden store for some fertilizer and compost tea helped them to perk back up. I am actually learning a lot about gardening this year and it’s been a lot of fun. I’m at the stage now where I’m realizing how little I know, but a) I’m starting to develop the resources I need to figure out the answers to my questions, and b) I also am starting to know my limits so as to not become overwhelmed. All I need to know is how to help my plants thrive this year, and next year if I feel able to, I can learn more and go from there. No need to start the urban homestead just yet. I just hope I get to eat some homegrown produce later this summer and feel like the effort we’ve been putting in has been (somewhat, at least) worth it.

Really, though, the vegetable garden has been a lot of fun. We rebuilt the raised beds (and by “we” I mean Steve and my dad) and filled it in with a mix of really high quality soil, and the difference in this year’s garden vs. gardens past is pretty amazing. Again, I think a lot of that is because we’ve had a lot of rain, but the most important garden lesson I’ve learned so far is that soil quality matters. Amazing, right?

I was unsuccessful putting vegetables around my deck, so I think I want to replace them with some perennials, but that project is more slow-going. I have made tenuous peace with the ugly bushes; we are going to replace the largest one with a hydrangea or a berry bush of some sort (anyone know of a nice, hopefully flowering bush that does well in a fair amount of shade?), but not anytime in the immediate future. One thing at a time!

The last update that I want to share is the most exciting, though. Are you ready? Here it is:

I got a job.

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YEAH.

I got a job working for my church coordinating the nursery! It is actually a perfect opportunity — it allows me to use (and build!) my gifts and professional skills doing meaningful work that I think I’ll really enjoy. It is a shared position, and I will be working about 10-15 hours per week, including every other Sunday and every other Wednesday during the school year. I can bring Will with me to the nursery and do the rest of the behind-the-scenes work from home. I will also, for the first time, be supervising others, so I am definitely thinking through and praying about how I want that to work.

It is a real answer to prayer, though. I’ve talked about it before, but I have struggled a lot in the past year without having any kind of professional identity or outlet for using my gifts, so I am incredibly thankful for the chance to join the working world in a way that also allows me the flexibility I want right now. To be totally honest, I often wonder whether I’ve let myself down for “opting out” when my career was in such a good place, and I still miss it painfully, so truthfully I am SO grateful for an opportunity to just continue working, treading water so to speak, while also being able to care for my child(ren, someday) and maintain my own schedule. It shows me too that God hears our hearts and that He does honor those deep desires.

Oh, and I do have a long-term plan here, I think. Since I just said above that I miss my career so much, the obvious question is, well, why not return to it? — I just think I’ve decided that rather than return directly to the workforce, I want to go back for my MSW in the next few years if it’s possible. Which is yet another reason why I’m so thrilled about this opportunity.

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Look, I just couldn’t find any picture that had a big enough smile.

 

I get so consumed with thinking about the future.

Actually, in my mind it’s not just the future, it’s THE FUTURE, all emphasis, all the time. I get so consumed with thinking about what comes next — when Will is older and he and his future sibling/s are out of the baby stage. Trying to decide about their schooling, about my career, our choices and lifestyle as a family. It gets overwhelming at times.

Just today a song on the radio reminded me of my early days in Virginia. I moved here when I was 24 — no job, no relationship, not even any friends in town! (Leah and my cousin Rebecca both lived here already, though, so it’s not like I was completely alone.) At the time none of this bothered me, but I remember later in my 20s feeling just the way I do now — unable to relax and enjoy the moment because I was so consumed with my anxiety over the future. Would I ever get where I wanted to go?

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(I think this was taken in March 2007.)

Thinking back on that time in my life is like thinking about a different person. Look how different things are now:

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And in the meantime I built meaningful friendships and a career I loved. I got where I was going to go, and I was always going to do so whether or not I spent all my time wondering if THE FUTURE was ever going to arrive. Of course it was. So why was I so worried?

I don’t want to look back on this time in my life and think to myself, why did I spend so much time worrying? Why didn’t I just enjoy it? — AT ALL.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:34

Obviously I can’t ignore the future and expect that that someday I’m thinking about will never arrive. (I’m living 20s-Amy’s someday right now, after all.) Instead, the best thing I can do is keep Future Amy in mind as I make my day-to-day decisions. Make my present look more like the future I am dreaming, rather than wishing away the present in hopes that the future will arrive sooner.

I think the reason I am clinging so tightly to a locked-down, this-is-what-will-happen-and-when step-by-step march into the next decade is that, I’ve realized, this stay-at-home mom lifestyle makes me feel like I am flying without a safety net, like I am untethered to the “outside world”. It feels terribly risky. I don’t know why, but there you go. It’s helping me to expand my definition of what life can be; I think deep down I still doubt that what I do every day is really worthwhile.

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I mean, I doubt Will agrees with that.

Letting go of my anxiety over what comes next means letting go of the trapeze and just … flying. No safety net, just trust.

Time to work this out! I need my yoga mat.

I think this is going to be a good year.

Last year I was all about setting intentions for the year — I didn’t want any concrete goals, I didn’t want to feel like I had to try and meet certain expectations when I knew my life was about to change completely come April. And I think I did a pretty good job! I mainly wanted to a) not go crazy in my new life, overanalyzing every last little thing Will did and globalizing every missed nap or bad mood, and b) find a way to maintain my fitness and activity levels post-baby. And considering I ran eight miles this morning at around a 9:20 pace, I am feeling good about the latter in particular today.

But all that’s old news. It’s 2013. New Year’s Day is, I think, my favorite holiday. I love the feeling of a fresh start, and I usually try to imbue the day with some symbolism and meaning — a yoga practice, a delicious meal, doing something that sort of symbolizes how I want to approach the year to come. I actually didn’t really do much of that this year (no yoga, no run, no indulgent home-cooked meal [we had lentils and rice, virtuous but not so exciting], no symbolic purge of unneeded possessions) but hopefully I’m still set up for a good year ahead.

So 2012 was all about intentions. I think I am ready for some actual goals. I love a good goal to give me something to work toward, and this year I figured I would divide up my goals into a few different categories — spiritual, home, kitchen, wellness, and self.

spiritual: Complete the read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan I’ve been working on, by December 1, 2013.

home: Transition away from using toxic cleaners. Purge unnecessary possessions (asking myself if it’s useful or beautiful) so that we don’t feel overrun with stuff in a little house. Ruthlessly organize my bedroom. Figure out how to organize baby/toddler toys and books.

kitchen: Start cooking with dried beans rather than canned beans. Can my own tomatoes (and chicken stock, and jam without refined sugar, and chili, and pickles …). Bake bread regularly. I might even render lard!

wellness: Complete the 10 miler in March. Learn how to do a headstand. Reclaim my abdominal muscles through a combination of yoga and home strength training. Attend at least one yoga workshop.

self: Read at least ten books. Use my time wisely, mindfully and efficiently. Remember how my everyday actions will help me — or not help me — be who I want to be.

Whew! Some of these are, of course, really more intentions than goals, and they’re not very specific or measurable (how will I measure how efficiently I’m using my time?). But my overall goal, and the thing I want all of these smaller goals to work toward, is to get into a flow state. I want to feel settled. I want my house to run like a well-oiled machine, to be in a rhythm of life. A lot of the things I want to be doing — like cooking with dried beans instead of canned, getting (and keeping) myself organized, using my time wisely — require me to plan ahead more. I’ve never been great about planning ahead and I want 2013 to be the year where that stops being weird and uncomfortable. I want it to be second nature. What I ultimately I want is, as Gretchen Rubin did too, to be happier at home.

I learned in 2012 that happiness, like yoga, is both a practice and a discipline. Meeting the above goals will, I hope, bring me closer to that flow state, and help me to be happier at home, in both small ways and profound. Home, by the way, being both my actual physical house … and also my spiritual home, my physical body, my self.

And because this post hasn’t had any pictures yet …

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Will loves his new Little People Nativity!

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to 2013.

 

Tomorrow will be my last day at work for a very long time. This is a day I’ve anticipated to some degree or another for years — whether I assumed I’d come back to work after having a baby or daydreamed about staying home.

I’m of two minds about it right now; in a theoretical, big-picture sense I am really sad about saying goodbye to my dream job. But in a practical, day-to-day sense I know it’s the right choice for me. I just find myself wishing that it didn’t have to be.

Today I took a few pictures of my office, just to remember the view I’ve enjoyed for the last few years.

In case you can’t tell from this picture, my office is about the size of a large broom closet, and it has no windows. I usually tell clients it’s just “cozy”, but it can get kind of cramped in there. The blue ball is an exercise ball I’ve been sitting on off and on for the last few months — very comfortable! Opposite the desk is a large bookshelf with all my files on it and the wall with the lamp has two more chairs for clients and visitors.

The view over my desk. I like it. I’m going to miss it.

As you can see I am a big Pandora fan. Baby and I are going to dance around a lot to my Britney Spears station when we’re at home together.

As much as half of me has looked forward to stopping work the last few months, the other half of me has been in denial about what this really means. For a long time, I put a lot of stock in my professional identity; when I wasn’t working in the social work field, I struggled with really feeling like I knew who I was professionally, and I have really felt at home in this job. I truly love being a social worker and hopefully one day I’ll be able to have that as part of my identity again.

I feel especially fortunate that what has turned out to be a very tumultuous few years in my personal life have overlapped with a really wonderful time in my professional career. While I’ve never been the kind of person who feels like work is what keeps them sane, this office has been a really safe place for me during some really difficult times. I always knew what to expect when I came to work (usually some variant on the unexpected) and that never wavered, even when everything outside these walls became unfamiliar. So I am really sad to be leaving that behind. I am not a workaholic at all, but work has, in a sense, been an escape for me in these last few years and I will really miss that.

One thing these last few years have taught me, though, is not to make what I do who I am. I may have been employed as a social worker, but I am much more than that! Still, it is really weird to think about leaving not this job, but leaving the workplace. Obviously there are things I won’t miss — right now the big thing is packing a lunch; for some reason I really hate doing that — but in the end, that list is pretty short. Maybe one day I will come back to the workforce, and if I do I am pretty sure I know where I want to wind up.

With just over six weeks to go until baby Huffman arrives, I’ve found myself consumed with thoughts about the future. I know this is in large part so that I can feel an element of control over what’s about to happen to me, and by putting contingency plans into place, I can feel better equipped for what’s coming. But still — I think that planning for the future here isn’t just an example of me trying to wrest control over nature; on the contrary, what I am really trying to do is prepare myself to relinquish control without feeling so out-of-control myself. (Finding this balance, by the way, is a huge part of my personal happiness project, and it’s one thing that has helped me cope with a lot of the grief I’ve experienced in the last year.)

As those Johnson & Johnson commercials remind us, having a baby changes everything. It’s easy for me to feel one of two ways about this — the first being utterly terrified in every way, convinced that I will never have my life, my body, or my sense of self back. I will spend the rest of my days frazzled and overwhelmed, sticky with apple juice, wiping dust off pacifiers and looking for sippy cups under the seats of my dirty minivan. The other extreme is that I will become SUPERMOM, and that Johnson & Johnson is, in fact, wrong — having a baby doesn’t have to change a thing. I can plan to run my first half-marathon a month after birth, I’ll effortlessly float into my first headstand and I will, in fact, school everyone in boat pose — because, of course, I’ll be in yoga class every day. My baby will be “good” and “easy” (or, rather, invisible) and motherhood will transform me into the serene, blissful, and wise person I aspire to become. I’ll be the kind of person who smiles beatifically and says things like motherhood makes me feel so complete.

This is why I spend so much time trying to manage my expectations for motherhood: I know I am in for a lot of surprises, but I’ve had a lot of rude awakenings over the last few years and would really like to minimize the shock of these upcoming changes. So to that end, here’s what I’m trying to do:

  • expect the unexpected. Is that just another term for don’t have any expectations? Maybe. More than anything I want to be flexible in my approach to motherhood and not feel like things have to go a certain way every day or I’m a failure. Know that it’s not going to be all sweet baby giggles and new milestones — this baby will, in fact, sometimes cry. I want to not be surprised by a bad day.
  • don’t compare my experience to anyone else’s. This one will be a big challenge for me, I think, because as a first-time mom I rely a lot on the wisdom of the experienced mothers I know. But I want to know, and really internalize, the fact that my experience is my own, not anyone else’s, and that just because Friend A’s baby was a champion sleeper or Friend B’s breastfeeding experience was magical doesn’t mean that mine will be. Likewise, just because Friend C struggled with her adjustment to motherhood doesn’t mean I’ll go through the same thing in the same way. (The same goes for body issues as well.)
  • this phase won’t last forever. In other words, I won’t always feel clueless and anxious about being a mother. Soon it will all be second nature. The baby won’t be up crying every two hours for the rest of my life — even if at the time it feels that way, this moment isn’t forever.
  • everything will change. I think this is the hardest one for me. Adjusting to the lack of freedom in my life will be tough, I’m sure, because I’ve never had to do it before. Going from being able to rest when I want to, go out when I feel like it, and basically set my own schedule to suit my own preferences to being completely beholden to the whims of a tiny infant with whom I can’t really communicate … I don’t really know how to prepare for that, and I don’t think I can, so the closest I think I can come is to understand that everything will change. And to just work on accepting that.
  • … but I can still be myself. I can still set and meet my own goals. I can still pursue my own hobbies. I can still have the same thought processes, the same likes and dislikes, and the same sense of humor and taste in music. I can still knit, run, do yoga, bake, read, spend time with my friends, wear makeup, buy new shoes, listen to cheesy pop music in the car [just a bit more quietly] and care about what goes on in the world. Motherhood doesn’t have to make me into a different person. My life will be different, but the same person will still be living it — I’ll just have different priorities.

Different body, mysterious new piece of furniture, but the same person!

Keeping myself focused on managing my expectations has really helped me feel more prepared for motherhood — or, at least, as prepared as anyone can be. This waiting period is hard, too, because generally once I want to make a big change I like to get started on it right away rather than spending hours and days and weeks and months just thinking about it. But God designed motherhood differently — I suppose for a reason! I feel good about where I’m headed, and hopefully my more introspective prenatal preparations will pay off in just a few short weeks.

Last January, after my second miscarriage when I was so devastated I couldn’t think, I spent an evening going through my Bible and identifying every verse I could find that brought me comfort. I wrote them out on index cards and taped them up all over the house — on mirrors, over light switches, even inside the fridge. This was so that no matter where I looked, I would be reminded of God’s promises to me.

Throughout the year I’ve taken some down — first the ones in the living room (when we had people over who weren’t familiar with this chapter in our story), then later on I would take one or two down out of the kitchen or pick one up that had fallen down. Even so, I had four or five still taped around my bedroom and in my bathroom, serving as an ongoing reminder that there was wonderful joy ahead.

Saturday afternoon while I was cleaning and organizing upstairs, I took the rest of them down. It’s not because I don’t feel like I need to be reminded of God’s promises; it’s more that I no longer feel like I need to identify with that aspect of my grief anymore. God’s Word and his promises to me have kept me afloat in the last year, and I feel good now to be learning to swim, so to speak.

I look forward to that wonderful joy …

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