Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Christmas is a big deal in our new neighborhood. There is a one-block stretch of W 34th Street that is known as "Christmas block." Every single house on the block is decked out in a BIG way. Lights are strung across the street, and Santa sits in a sleigh, trading wishes for candy canes. There was talk this summer of a cancellation of Christmas due to an apparent rise in crime in the neighborhood, but I am happy it was just talk. I hate to criticize protest, as I think it is a beautiful and useful tool, but this really did seem excessive. We can't let the terrorists win, right? If I had a good wink, I'd be winking now. I have always wanted to be able to wink charmingly. Instead, I look like I'm having some sort of trouble when I wink. A stroke maybe, or something inhaled instead of swallowed.
But Christmas! Christmas came and went and was really lovely. We saw the lights, we visited Santa, we cut down a tree (a full sized tree!) and decorated, we ate many cookies and other delicious foods, we visited family and received so many gifts. One of my best friends, who now lives very far away (another continent and everything) visited with her husband and three kids and our children got along so well, it was bittersweet. I'm a generally impatient sort of person, so the fact that we don't yet have the very best friends in the whole entire world right here in Baltimore is something of an issue for me, but I realize how silly this is and I'm working on fixing it. Having the littles become immediate buds just solidified my not-exactly-true notion that good friends just click right away. Anyway, that was the best Christmas gift of all, which says a lot, because we felt the love from all around, every which way.
The funny thing about desiring easy friendships is that I'm not always an easy person, or at least not always at-ease, which is my heart's desire. Oh, to be easy and relaxed, to know how to ask questions that get people talking, to know how to give warm hugs that I appreciate so much when they're coming from the right people! I've mentioned before that I *feel* like that person in my heart of hearts, but so often everything just comes out wrong, or my anxiety gets the best of me. For years I've been digging out of the anxiety built up from adolescence and I felt I was making great strides, until recently. Just before Christmas, I experienced my first actual, real deal panic attack in almost twenty years. It was so awful, not just the terror of experiencing it, and the fear it will (and then did) happen again, but its terrible reminder that we are all, against our best efforts, powerless to the forces of nature. And this did indeed feel like a force of nature. I was driving, when out of the blue, I was dizzy, felt like I couldn't breathe and my numb hands curled into nasty claws. I pulled the car over (on the highway!) and begged Ian to call for help, but he somehow knew what was happening and stayed calm for me, gently helping me over to the passenger side, where my breathing slowed, my hands unfurled.
It sucks to experience a panic attack. It also sucks to feel like you shouldn't talk about it. If you've ever had one, you might be able to relate to the feeling afterward that there is something really wrong with you. And you start working backwards, trying to figure out what happened to lead to this. Something you ate? That vaccine you recently got? Delayed reaction to the move? Completely random? You talk to a few people who get it, but you also make the mistake of talking to a few people who don't and then it's isolating and embarrassing on top of being just plain scary. It isn't that I enjoy opening myself up to judgement and I really can't stand sympathy. But if you're going to experience some crazy human shit, it's nice to at least be able to connect with other humans over it and maybe learn something new in the process. Anyway, that's why I'm sharing this poorly written thing. If you too experience panic attacks, you are not alone, friend. And you are not crazy.
Other than THAT and my new habit of positively-psyching myself up and drinking chamomile tea before I have to drive anywhere, things are pretty awesome. I made the kids some beautiful gifts for Christmas and I have some ideas for tiny clothes again. I'm excited to get to work. I think that will really help.
Posted by valerie at 4:24 PM
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
I'm rarely up before these littles, so in addition to coffee and leftover pie, (thank you, Grandma Julie!) I've been researching. Well, more like Google stalking an illustrator, Betty Fraser. One of our dear friends in Brooklyn had this amazing book, A House is a House for Me sitting oh so casually on her children's bookshelf, as if it were just another, ordinary kids' book. I was asked to read it once when we were visiting and I had a hard time putting it down when the kids started to fidget away (reading at a play date never seems to last long.) You know when your heart does that little tumble and you feel like part of it has fallen out and landed in your hands? It was love.
The poem is fun to read, bouncy and musical and the subject (homes for various people, animals and things) is inspired, but what really caught my heart were the illustrations. They are wild and overgrown, colorful and carefree. They are so not-right-now (is anyone else becoming suspicious of our collective aversion to color? That's another post...) and they are alive.
So I found this book and I bought it and we read it and all enjoy it from time to time. But I want more of this magic in my life! We are broker than broke (yet another post I just almost wrote) so not only are we sticking to the "Something you want, something you need, one little something and something to read" rule for Christmas, most gifts will be secondhand or handmade. So I was excited to find another Mary Ann Hoberman/ Betty Fraser masterpiece on eBay: The Cozy Book. It's set to arrive Friday and it will take so much willpower to keep from sharing it right away, but Christmas will be here sooner than soon.
Posted by valerie at 2:49 PM
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Here we are in November, neglected blog.
I didn't mean to skip October. Something happened and I joined Facebook again, after (maybe?) a blissful year away. It's funny how some social media outlets are just inherently better than others. Like, Instagram never makes me feel bad to my core the way Facebook can. Why is that?? Something about FB just depresses me. I would very much like to be rid of it again, but I had been having difficulty connecting with local parents and all the local parents seem to...congregate? No, aggregate over there. People here seem less interested in Google and Yahoo groups than in Facebook, so I thought, "when in Baltimore..."
I regret it. What a waste of time.
Anyway, I don't mean to whine. Here we are in November, with lovely leaves all around us, bread baking and stew stewing and there should be no room for nonsense of the depressing variety.
One of Baltimore's treasures that we have discovered, thanks to a field trip Alden's class took, is Cylburn Arboretum. Such lovely grounds, with little nature trails to crunch about, and quiet resting spots to sit and nurse the 20 month old who wants to nurse every five minutes. And it's free for all. Just drive in, park and wander. We live about a ten minute drive away, which makes it feel almost like our own, giant, perfectly landscaped back yard. I love it.
I blog so infrequently these days, when I do I tend to ramble...perhaps more than usual. I could go on and on right now about schools and living in the south and children's fashion and mice. But. I have some laundry to fold and a glass of wine to drink. And a tired Ian who brought ice cream home and who won't be awake to chat with for much longer.
Posted by valerie at 8:52 PM
Friday, September 26, 2014
It's no secret that I've been guilty of blogging-while-down. I suspect it's not uncommon for people to spend more time online when they're generally unhappy, which actually, makes the proliferation of so many relentlessly cheerful blogs sort of surprising. Shouldn't those happy people be out doing fun things?? Except that eventually it becomes tiresome to feel married to the bog and so one must press on and toot their cheery horn on the interwebs, just to remind this side of the world that they can, indeed be happy. It's true! It's all about saving face now, isn't it? No! But, I digress...
Let's talk about toys, in addition to bad feelings. That's fun. Or maybe, about toys bringing on and then getting rid of bad feelings. A week or so ago, a blogger I admire posted a beautiful image on Instagram of wooden toys, artfully arranged with some choice silks and mentioned (or maybe implied) something about the superiority of such things. I agreed wholeheartedly and felt both a kinship with her and profoundly judged by her. I wondered how she was able to keep such a remarkably well curated selection of toys with actual children in her home and so I asked. And then felt extremely foolish and troll-like for asking. To family, I have gently suggested that I prefer non-plastic toys for the littles and my preferences have been sometimes taken into consideration, but over time I felt it was a losing battle and it was more important to me to model gratefulness than perfectionism. I don't say that because I think I chose the better path. If I felt good about it, I wouldn't be trying to have this discussion.
The fact of the matter is that I don't want to be the control freak I feel compelled to be, but I also want to feel good about what we purchase and why. I do not share the die-hards' belief that plastic toys are as corrosive to the soul as they are to our planet, but I do feel a bit of my own soul being pinched off when I think of the islands of garbage taking over our oceans and my own complicity in this. So. So we love Legos and we love Calico Critters/Sylvanian Families. We love to build! We love tiny, anthropomorphic animals in charming dress! I also love eBay, where I realized I can find all sorts of tiny, plastic wonderfulness that needs a new home.
I recently scored a huge box of these critters and their accessories. It is such a large collection that I've sent a few off to our dearly missed Brooklyn friends, distributed a few for play now, and set the bulk aside for Christmas. I love the idea of giving pre-loved toys as gifts. A few years ago I was given a huge secondhand collection of Duplos that is still serving us well. Actually, that collection is how I am able to type this right now! Alden never knew or cared that they weren't in a box. If a box and brochure is there, he will definitely be more into those than the toy anyway, which is always kind of a bummer.
The possessions are still an issue and still a work in progress. I am against simply throwing out (donating) their toys, as is usually the suggestion and as I have done in the past. Alden has a remarkable catalogue in his mind of everything he has ever owned and still eyes me with suspicion when something is missing. It feels cruel to make judgement calls on their "friends" but I am hoping that soon he will be mature enough for a real discussion and understanding of our choices and the impact they have. Right now that just feels way too heavy.
Posted by valerie at 3:01 PM
Friday, September 12, 2014
Skills to master this/next week:
- Quieting the inner and outer voice
- Stop commenting on strangers' Instagram feeds and/or blogs
- Stop feeling judged by every human and animal, plant and mineral on the planet
- Focus on these two/three (sorry for cropping you out, Ian. The ice coffee cup was harshing the vibes.)
- "Gratitude is about having a great attitude" (thank you poster on the wall in Williamsburg. If I ever get a tattoo, this will be it.)
Posted by valerie at 10:36 PM