The Beanstalk

Record of a writer, a family & an adventure.

Month: December, 2013

Resolutions, this year and next.

I love the cyclical nature of life, of the world, of God. The circle of years turns around and around, and here we are again, at the beginning of another year bearing all the weight of what we hope to be, the ways in which we hope to change and thrive. There is promise with the return of Januaries, and a sense of drive. This year, I will be this, do this, accomplish this.  Last year I wrote this post about New Year’s resolutions, how I thrive on them, how I think they’re more than just pomp.

In 2013 I made three resolutions. Here is the recap:

1. Read 20 books.

2. Learn a new form of exercise.

3. Let bitterness go.

 

1. Check plus! I finished my twenty-first book yesterday. There were times this year that I did not read anything for weeks, mostly in the time when Jack was first born and I was living in the fog of mutilated sleep patterns and deliriously staring at his small sleeping body and butter clenched fists for lengths of time. In March I couldn’t pick up books. I made up for lost time during three summer beach trips with our families, where there were grandmothers to answer Jack’s calls for assistance. Reading was the great leisure of my life this year, and though I spent the majority of the past months in a dry desert of writing, the well within me out of which stories grow and are hydrated was kept full because of the books I read.

2. Check! I wanted to try yoga, and I did, and I am hooked. This resolution success packs a particularly huge punch because I have had a somewhat dysfunctional relationship to exercise for several years. First I was obsessed, then I was hateful, then I tried to find balance and went back and forth between obsessing and hating. It was years of this, but I was always thinking, I just want to let this shit go. And then Jack was born (after a pregnancy in which I exercised almost every day) in March and I couldn’t walk properly for eight weeks. EIGHT WEEKS. You might be thinking, Ginny, that’s too much information, but I’ve really only showed the tip of the iceberg. I apologize if that makes you cringe, and I don’t think that eight weeks is normal, but that was what it was for me. For the first four I walked around like an old woman who shuffles on hardwoods in slippers and had to take periodic sit breaks, but only sit on the side of my rear end. For the second four I panicked that maybe I would never be the same and called my doctor a few times to make sure we weren’t missing something. I came around, but the point is that I did not “exercise” for eight weeks and it broke the hold exercise had held on me. A few weeks after I started feeling normal I went to a class at the Y that is a combo of yoga, Pilates and tai chi (and great music) and fell in love. I still walk with Jack on most days, and run once or twice a week, but the slow, meditative, peaceful practice of yoga is my new jam. And I am twice as flexible as I used to be.

3. Check…ing? “Let bitterness go.” It’s a big one, and I do not think that giving myself 365 days to gut-check, heart-overhaul is wholly feasible. I do, however, think that releasing bitterness is something that is a current, daily, present needed task for the rest of my life. However, this year was a huge turning point for me. When I wrote this resolution last year, it stuck in the forefront of my mind all year, a conscious awareness of myself, a returning consideration for bitterness. How do I harbor it? What is it? Why? How it relates to anger, sadness, disappointment. How it is forgiveness, and how it is not. I’m checking this one off because my heart changed this year over the sin of bitterness. There were things I was holding onto, and I released them. It reminds me of the Loi Krathong ceremony celebrated throughout Thailand, Laos and Myanmar where thousands of lit lanterns are released into the night sky in this beautiful glowing lift. There is an intense beauty in that ceremony, as well as a sense of nostalgia because each lantern contains a wish. I would like to think that releasing tokens of bitterness into the night sky, lit, somehow turns them into wishes for beauty and forgiveness and peace and joy. 

 

So what about 2014? Three new resolutions.

 

1. Read 20 books. (yes, again) But this time there is a little more structure involved in the goal. Three biographical, three nonfiction, five classics, nine of what I want. I want to read biography because I am fascinated by true history. Nonfiction is a genre with which I have waged a great battle, but reading is meant to be part pleasure and part discipline. It is important for me to read history and spiritual insight and economic insight. The classics will be a pleasure, though they’re often long, so I don’t choose to up my total quantity. I admit it: this is an indulgent resolution that I plan to make in some form every year for the rest of my life.

2. Re-open and tackle Roma Roma. This is the resolution I fear to make. Roma Roma is the name of my third novel, and I decided that in 2014 I’m going to do it. I’m going to take it back out, read it, make notes, read it again. I’m going to edit the very life out of that piece of work, and breathe fresh life back into it. I’m going to work it down to the bones, make the writing sinewy and agile, make the plot gritty and full of truth. And then I’m going to consider publication options. I’m going to do this because I have to! I am shouting now. I must do this, for the writer that lives within me and is lazy from atrophic muscles. I am going back into the fray and I’m pretty scared.

3. Bring order to the dark places in my home. Don’t be fooled, this is not a spiritual exercise. I am talking about the attic, the basement, the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen, the shelves in the breakfast nook, all the closets, every place where the light of day doesn’t shine without a door or drawer being opened. I am going to channel my dear friend Lauren, whose singular joy in life is organization, and bring order to the chaos.

 

There you have it, my resolutions. I’d welcome any advice on books! Bring it on 2014. And just for your viewing pleasure…

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Two days after Christmas…

I guess you could say Jack’s first Christmas didn’t quite look like I had imagined it. The weekend was unseasonably warm and typically busy for the last weekend before Santa arrives, and then BAM! Monday. I got the stomach bug and I got it bad. You know, there’s nothing worse than feeling crummy for Christmas, but it is a different thing entirely to have the stomach bug. You’re not thinking of anything other than the toilet and the bathroom floor. You don’t even want to begin to consider the food you’re missing out on, or the events in which you are not participating or the movies you aren’t watching. Gutting out that kind of sick is a single-focus effort. I woke up in a fog Tuesday morning, still feeling the effects, to realize that we’d been assaulted once again. Mark was sick all day Tuesday. 

Christmas Eve. Last minute wrapping, decorating, baking, cooking, errands. Pretty plaid outfits, stockings, candles. Church, nice dinner, Twas the Night Before Christmas, a viewing of Jim Carey’s The Grinch, cookies, wine, wine wine.

Now, let the blurry edges sharpen.

Christmas Eve. Jack playing on the floor all day long while I either lay next to him falling in and out of sleep or my brother plays dad and Mark and I curl up into our various, separate, shells. No food. Minimal water.

 

And yet, we all went to sleep with the miraculous anticipation of Christmas. I find it amazing, really. That the magical quality of this sacred holiday, like mist, sort of filters in and blankets, has the ability to permeate, even now as we are no longer the “children.” In a way. We woke up to find that the big man brought Jack this amazing wooden toy with games on the five sides that move and twist, and Santa brought Mark and me a settled stomach. Miracles! We got to be with family, we could move off of the floor, we were functional. Granted, we didn’t eat much, but I will take it. In photographs we are smiling and there is a touch of color in our faces. 

I am the king of setting high expectations, and Christmas is the most prime time for it. This Christmas looked very different than any other one I’ve ever had, but I did think about the fact that the feelings of those days leading up the 25th were actually probably very appropriate for the actual spirit of Christmas. I don’t think Mary and Joseph were festively decorating sugar cookies and dressing up fancy for church when they were young and humble, forty weeks pregnant and far from home. It was their first Christmas with a baby boy, just like ours. I kept thinking of Mary this Christmas, and to be honest, I didn’t feel so bad.

 

Forgiveness.

Cold, relentless rain is less terrible when it’s Saturday and there is a pile of Christmas gifts to wrap and your cable company offered you free movie channels for two months (since they’d jacked the price of service up all of a sudden without warning and you had threatened to discontinue service) and you have a Christmas tree with colored lights and a dog that is like a blanket. This morning when I began to stir it was already raining and the sky was still very dark even though the sun should have been starting to come up. It always takes me a moment to realize that my body isn’t waking up because it is through sleeping, but because my ears are hearing a little tiny person whimpering, hungry or cold or unable to reach his pacifier. I usually lay there because this is what I am hoping: Mark will get up first.

The trouble is, primarily, that Mark sleeping is like a polar bear in hibernation in the dead of winter in northern Canada each and every night. It takes a hard thump to the center of the shoulder blades to drag him out of the quiet, usually dreamless concussion into which he so quickly falls each night. The fact is that I am almost exclusively (we were counseled not to use the words ‘never’ or ‘always’ in marriage discussions) the first person to hear the baby cry when we are asleep. I lay there as his cries grow louder and more indignant, hoping against reality that Mark will hear and jump into action, when the reality is that unless I am the one to wake him by force or volume, he won’t wake up until the child has entered full-fledge hysterical crying.

We had taken turns when the crying drew us out of bed very very early this morning, and then eventually brought the little one into bed with us because he has a hacking cough and couldn’t breathe laying flat on his back, so pitiful, and propped him up between us. In no time the polar bear was deep in sleep, but every cub cough and whimper from between us kept me alert and awake. So finally, when a few hours of this had passed and it was to the Saturday sleep-in time of 7:00 a.m. and Jack was wide awake, I shook Mark until he woke up.

“I’m going to go take Jack to play in the living room. How much longer are you going to sleep?”

“Fifteen minutes?”

“Okay… I actually want you to take him so I can go back to sleep for fifteen minutes. I can’t, I am unable to function. I am too tired.”

“O-okay.” 

He rises, takes Jack, and I immediately collapse onto the pillow and proceed to sleep for another HOUR. Oops.

I woke up again and wandered very groggily into the dining room where Mark was reading and feeding Jack spoonfuls of greek yogurt. His little baby hands beat down on the tray so small pieces of puffed cereal hopped like jumping beans around and onto the floor where the beast scrambled to eat them. I apologized for sleeping so long. He said it was okay, and seemed very sincere. And then I asked if he was mad, that he’d had to get up first with Jack, that I got to sleep the extra hour, and he said no, not mad. And I asked if he was sure he wasn’t annoyed, and he asked if I was trying to make him think of a reason to be mad. I said no and got a cup of coffee, then came back and asked again. 

He’s the best at letting stuff go. I am one of the worst. If I am wronged, I would like a sincere apology, a discussion of offenses given and taken, a resolution. Mark would rather just move on. 

When I pushed he said that he wasn’t mad. That when I woke him up out of a dead stupor he would have preferred that I just said, “Can you please get Jack?” instead of hedging around the issue. He reiterated what I already know, he doesn’t hear most of the happenings of the night unless I wake him up, so it isn’t exactly fair that I hold this unknowing against him. He said that the fact that I can be so grumpy when he wakes up because of things he hasn’t even been aware of doesn’t really make sense. The man doesn’t need passive aggression or manipulation.

Having a baby around all the time can leave you crazy and unhinged, make you think things that you would have never thought (I would like to crawl in that crib and sleep a while) and do things you would have looked upon with horror in the past (crawl back in bed at three in the morning with pee on your head), and at the core of all of it is this exhaustion you can’t quite put a thumb on. It’s like a mist hovering in the house that never quite dissipates. People told me that marriage would be the ultimate refining fire, showing me my sinfulness under a spotlight, but I am starting to think that the flame of parenting might just be a little hotter. Has this dragon always lived within me? 

I’m learning day by day that in this house we need an enormous quantity of forgiveness. We don’t need it served as finger sandwiches with afternoon tea, we need it like thirsty people need pitchers full of water, all day long, every day, because the sun is hot and we are human. This year I have learned that forgiveness – for myself and from me – is a place to remain all the time, with everyone I love. Lord, help me. It’s what I need.

You’re asking for a Christmas list.

Signs of December. The tree is up, glorious and slightly tacky with its colored lights and ornaments from 1984. The tree was purchased on Saturday night when we rolled into town from a 7 hour drive back from Pittsburgh. Baby and dog in the car, we pulled into Food Lion, bought a tree for $29.99, slung it on top of the Subaru and drove home, Mark holding the tree onto the roof with his hand. Last year’s wreath is on the door. Christmas cards, finally purchased when a 30% off coupon code came into my inbox, are waiting to be sent. Decorations are down from the attic, which is a step in the right direction. Most gifts are bought and stowed in Jack’s closet. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, fa la la la… I love it all.

 

I love presents. I love to give them, I love to get them. I love to surf the internet and pinterest and browse all of the catalogs that come in the mail throughout November and December to find perfect things for specific people. Usually by December I have come up with at least few items that I want and when my mother in law or my brother asks for ideas, I’m ready.

 

This year, for whatever reason, I’ve had a hard time “making a list.” Dora, my trusty MacBook purchased in 2007, is suffering from Dementia and arthritis and will die at any moment I’m sure, but you can’t go asking for a new computer. And I sideswiped a cement pillar in DC this summer but it doesn’t seem very appropriate to ask someone to foot a Body shop bill.  I did come up with a few things for my mother in law, and I thought I was finished!

 

Yesterday this e-mail came. It’s written by my brother. He is 22, a senior in college. It was written to my parents, my sister (29, 3 children, generally crazed these days), and myself.

 

Let this be a place where we make known our Christmas wish list…if anyone is still shopping:

If you need an idea for me, I would like the third Hunger Games book on tape.

Merry Christmas (21 days)

 

Okay, first of all, my mom usually finishes Christmas shopping in like September, so this is obviously directed toward Hannah and me. Second, he wants the third “Hunger Games book” (Mockingjay, to be specific. I would know since I have read them). He does not know that because he has not read the first two. He has seen the movies. Further proof of this is the fact that he wants the book ON TAPE. He doesn’t read. I laughed at this.

 

His email was followed by one from me saying that giftcards are nice, or a Venturi wine aerator, or new rainbow flip flops. Then this, from Hannah:

 

This is fun 🙂

Sobon zinfandel

Borsao grenacha

Bogle petit syrah

or a total wine giftcard

Or that stuff mom uses as a base coat to keep her nail polish on

 

I had to read it twice – the words? The confusion, the odd grammar, in the last sentence. The second time I read it slowly and busted out laughing. She was asking for WINE, or a giftcard to a WINE warehouse, or nail polish. I’m still laughing about it, re-capping it to blog. I just pictured us sitting around in PJs on Christmas morning and Hannah opens bags of wine. Her life is hard, I get it.

Then this, from mom:

 

Work out clothes(no laughing please), cute socks, PICTURES OF MY GRANDS

Sent from my iPhone

 

My mom does not work out. In the eighties she got on board and taught aerobics (she wore leotard suits, folks). When she wasn’t teaching anymore she wasn’t working out. When she got a new dog a few years ago she started to take him on walks. She has dabbled in things, but historically avoids all gyms, sports apparel, sweating and groups of women exercising. Maybe the aerobics scarred her? Anyway, she just joined a gym, and now she wants clothes for it. Cute socks, ha. And pictures of her four grandsons. If there is ONE thing that my mother has in plenty it is photographs of her grandchildren. Not to mention the fact that for the most part, they all look the same. Round-faced little boys. Sent from my iPhone. Lady’s got sass.

My dad said, Socks and Underware, JK. He actually typed “JK.” And then when I said, in another email, “How would you feel about me blogging this email chain?” he said,

 

Well, in that case…

I just want want the opportunity to show my love by serving each of you in ways that edify you and glorify God…

 

 

So there you have it, my family’s collective Christmas list.  Feel free to use any ideas you see here, I’m sure your siblings and parents would love Young Adult Fiction in audio, booze, workout gear and socks too.