Thursday, 21 February 2019

Wee Hours

There’s a bleary line between nighttime and morning. The clock and the sun wrestle over the boundary line every day, and this time of year it’s usually the digital timekeeper that wins. Most winter mornings begin before dawn.

When I was working in the kitchens at Camp Mini-Yo-We, my mornings began at 4:30AM on the regular, starting work at 5AM to feed people who had to leave by 6AM. I was gifted a fancy-pants sunrise alarm that Christmas, and it was a huge blessing to wake up naturally in a basement apartment in the wee hours. That season of making breakfast for the off-site crew was precious to me. I got out of bed with purpose, and my efforts were always met with appreciation.

We still set that sunrise alarm every morning, but it doesn't often wake me up anymore. Instead, just down the hallway lives another, more assertive alarm clock — with lungs. We have not yet figured out how to reliably set that one.

Somehow getting up to feed and care for my child at the crack of dawn (or earlier) feels harder than I remember it being five or six years ago, for those folks at Camp. Maybe because my commitment to that schedule only lasted a few months? Maybe I’ve just plain gotten older? Maybe I am too dependent on positive feedback, and when I don't get the praise often connected with service, my selflessness is too weak on its own. The fact is, my feet swing over the side of the bed every morning because of duty, not delight. But duty still gets the job done. Last year I picked up a very helpful self-evaluation tool from the lovely Jenn Martin, at a women's retreat. It wasn't the focus of her talk, but it was a golden nugget that I have revisited a great many times since she shared it. Goes something like, "while there are many bad reasons to do something good, good reasons can vary and be categorized into: duty, discipline, desire, and delight. If your heart is sitting in one of those places, you can act with a clear conscience."

The original context for this rubric was regarding Christian spiritual disciplines, but I think the principle can apply more broadly. Is it something you must do? Is it something you should do? Is it something you want to do, or that you simply love to do? Obviously, the amount of pleasure you get from fulfilling a duty is rather less than pursuing a delight -- but both are good reasons to do good and healthy things. And, hopefully, the things you faithfully slog through will also bring moments of joy, over time. When I got home from retreat this year, I truly wanted to spend time with my kid. I'd only been gone a day, but I'd missed my needy little dude. I'm happy to report that feeding generally has been much more delightful since we went full-time formula! But when our little wiener wails at 4:30AM, it is duty alone that drags me from the cocoon of my blankets. I rouse because I must; I soothe and reassure him, and change his diaper, and do what I can because I'm his mom, and I love him -- even when I'm not loving the job of it. Even long before sunrise.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Corrective Lens

I don't remember exactly how old I was when I started wearing glasses but I remember the day, clear as anything. The trees outside suddenly possessed an unbelievable definition. Leaves! It was possible to actually see individual ones! Maybe I'd have remembered something different if I'd gained them in winter, but the leaves have stuck.

Funny thing is, "blurriness" is such a vague concept before you look through corrective lenses. Even now I can spend much of a morning without my glasses and get by alright with close-up work, but then I look up at the clock and realize I can't see a thing. I'm currently writing on my laptop, and though it's only a foot away, I need my specs to read the screen.

I can't see things well at a distance, physically. But spiritually speaking, I think I might be far-sighted. Only with the passage of time or the perspective shift of stepping back from a situation can I see the blessings of God. Up close? In the moment? All too often I find myself squinting and frowning in frustration, trying in vain for clarity and missing what's right in front of me.

My husband also wears glasses. Our little one has little hope of 20/20 vision where his eyeballs are concerned, but I hope he takes after his dad in light of this visual metaphor. Ben is so much better at seeing the positive sides of any situation. He subconsciously counts blessings all day long, and it comes out in the way he speaks to others -- especially at home. He is gentle and kind, patient and generous. We can live through the exact same day, full of crying babies and burned quesadillas and water on the floor, and a messy house, and a list of things left undone, and he can smile at the end of it. His list of what happened would be totally different after a day like this. He might not even mention that our child threw up in his beard tonight, which is both horrifying and hilarious because it was not me. His positivity is baffling, and some days it's the only blessing I can see without help.

I need a new prescription. I need reading glasses for my soul. Suggestions? How can I tint my pair rose-coloured so that I can start seeing the good things around me? How can I sharpen my attention and soften my heart? Time for one last feed of my little -- maybe tonight a prayer in the moonlight will help me see him a little more clearly.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

1000+ Diapers

In the first few weeks of a newborn's life, everything needs to be tracked: weight is monitored every few days, feeds need to be timed (and if supplemented, measured), and you have to count up all of the wet and dirty diapers you go through. I bought the "Awesome Baby Tracker" app to help me sort all of this information, and after the first few weeks of detailed record keeping had passed, the habit stuck. I've found it helpful to know how much my Little is eating, when we last gave him a bath, if he's taken medicine, etc -- and because of all that, I happen to know that over this weekend we hit one thousand diapers.

My guess is that I've changed about half of those personally, but I'm happy to credit the whole team with this rather odd achievement. We have ohhh so many more to change before this wee crapper is grown, but it's a milestone.

So what has 1000+ diapers taught me?

First, I'm glad we went the disposable route. I know that people have strong opinions on both sides of this debate, but as for me and my house, we will use the garbage. And occasionally, we will use those extra garbage bag tags that the city mails out every year, and it will be fine.

Second, I am grateful for other people's Costco memberships. I don't want to get my own, and I don't feel bad about piggybacking on family and friends. If you don't piggyback sometimes, we all get tired feet, right...? (Same goes for Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions. Yes, I'm one of those people. Please don't report me.)

And third, indoor plumbing is THE BEST THING. It has been snot-freezing cold outside this week, and if I had to run to an outhouse or pee in a chamberpot all the time, life would be pretty miserable. I can't wait until we can teach this kid to poop in the toilet. (How early can you start that, anyway? Is six months old considered too soon?)

All that to come. For tonight, I've got one more diaper to change, and one more feed to match. Sundays are always a bit of a rough go (our church is a balm for the soul and a curse upon the schedule), but right now my boy is sleeping soundly and looking pretty close to angelic... but he doesn't smell all that heavenly, and I know that if I don't feed him now, I'll hear about it around 3am.

Time to be Mom.