The guy still freezes to death, but at least he tries.

In middle school our class read “To Build a Fire” by Jack London. At this time, my over empathetic self would occasionally get too stressed out to finish episodes of Full House in which DJ embarrassed herself*, so “To Build a Fire” was pretty much a quiet, prolonged panic attack. This guy in the Yukon basically gets horrible frostbite and dies. You, as a reader, go through the stages of frostbite with him.

I remember him fighting it for a long time. There was this fantastic sleep that wanted to overtake him but he just wouldn’t give in. He wanted to survive. All I could think was “JUST GIVE UP, DAMMIT! Go to sleep! End this insanity!”

I also, independently, read The Hobbit for the first time in middle school. There wasn’t a reading day that went by when I didn’t think, “Bilbo, you IDIOT. Your hobbit hole was the absolute best and now you’re just hefting about  these heavy bags on a cross country trip and you could get hurt. IDIOT.”

hobbit-movie-martin-freeman-bilbo-baggins-images-2011

Honestly, you couldn’t hook this little guy up with an elven golf cart or something?

Things turn out ok for Bilbo…not so much for the gentleman in the Yukon.

But I think it’s pretty telling that Bilbo Baggins is less a creature of comfort than I was/am. I love being comfortable. I love warm, safe things. Easy things. Pie. Things that do not create conflict or struggle. High fives and enthusiastic thumbs’ up…

Part of this is, as I alluded to, stems from anxiety. The other part has to do with being decently ok at one thing and not being forced to do very much of that which I find difficult. My ability to construct a decent paragraph served me really well through school. It also allowed me to do some ill-advised things, like completely ignore math and sports.  Also, I got away with not revising written work very much. The first drafts were pretty good, and that always seemed more than satisfactory.

Here’s where I mention motherhood for the millionth time. Sorry dudes, it’s where my head is.

There aren’t any cool shortcuts to lighten the workload.

Emmeline doesn’t care if I’m a charming conversationalist or not, or if my five paragraph essay is the stuff of ELA templates. She doesn’t care that I can lead a cool improv workshop, and she definitely doesn’t care that I really would like to develop a sleep pattern again. She is an amazing, ever-changing creature with myriad needs that I will meet – whether it’s easy or not. And it happens without question because it is the most important thing in the world to me.

This isn’t written as a post about “what I used to be” it’s written from the perspective of a writer, a mom, and a human who is learning how to try hard at things she sucks at. It’s becoming clear every day that it’s pretty important to fight through the not knowing and the not being good at. I’m learning this. I’m overcoming some anxiety, and I’m taking it slow.

All those stories about the human (or halfling) experience are written to illuminate the important stuff in life, and the important stuff is sometimes the struggle. Very sophomore English of me, I know. But it’s an ongoing discovery, and I guess that’s why so many books are written about it. I’m struggling to get better at revision. I’m struggling to improve my running. I’m struggling to become someone who can haul a heavy carseat into an SUV without looking like she’s going to bust a gasket. For me, these are worthwhile struggles.

Whether through parenthood, illness, loss, relationships, or professional experiences, I think everyone must come to this realization eventually. It may seem obvious but “Life is hard” and “Life is good” don’t cancel each other out. They exist in the same space at the same time.

Nose, meet my hilarious friend, grindstone!

*Honestly, when she collapsed on that treadmill at the gym because she had a pool party to go to? Honestly? I can’t even.

Action Words: “I do”

My cousin Amanda stood in front of the crowd with golden hair curled past her shoulders and a big, quiet smile. Her fiance Andy stood beside her. We were all there to celebrate their engagement.

After a years-long courtship the whole family was excited that they had decided to get married. A date had not been set, but there was a ring and a promise and a whole bunch of love and happy wishes. Our two families were mingling, many meeting each other for the first time while enjoying sushi appetizers and wine. The room was filled with lots of clinking and laughing.

Andy bent over to a group seated at one side, “Can we get your attention for a minute? Just a minute?”

He bent to his other side, said the same thing.

There were pockets of quiet, but for the most part the conversation continued in bursts of sound.

“Everybody!?” Andy yelled in a voice that was at once loud, friendly, and maybe a little nervous. Amanda smiled shyly, shifted from foot to foot. We quieted and turned to the couple. He said a few words of thanks, and so did she.

And then she continued:

“A lot of people have been asking us about setting a date,”

(Muffled giggles from the crowd)

“…yeah…a lot of people. And so we’re excited to announce that we’re getting married tonight.”

(The sound of everyone’s minds being simultaneously BLOWN)

A surprise wedding! Like on TV…or on the internet or something, only in real life. I screamed! I don’t think I was the only one, but I definitely screamed.

About a half hour later, they did it. She went to get changed into a gorgeous white gown and descended a staircase to meet her fiance in front of a minister. The crowd gathered around the stairs and tried to capture bits of it the ceremony at strained angles on camera phones. She cried a little  and glowed a lot, and he looked like the happiest guy on earth.

They just did it. They just got married with everyone they loved there. No seating chart. No registry. Just the verb, the action, the wedding.

There’s something so incredibly inspiring about this, and I think the takeaway is simple: Got a goal? Make it happen.

Yes, I felt underdressed. Yes, I did include a fun “bridal planning” notebook with my engagement gift that seems ridiculous and out of place now (I’ll give her the receipt). But wow. It was beautiful and they are MARRIED  and it was something we’ll never forget.

Congratulations to the magnificent couple.

Yay for action. ACTION!

The Voice of Thrones…or Game of The Voice. Whatever.

Yeah. This is happening.

This summer I’ve been following two shows closely. They are miles apart in terms of genre, style, quality…pretty much everything. But I’m going to go ahead and draw connections anyway. Presenting:

The Voice/Game of Thrones CHARACTER COUNTERPARTS.

BLAKECOACH: Blake Shelton

Robert-Baratheon-game-of-thrones-20187351-1280-720King Robert Baratheon

I love watching Blake relax into his perpetual state of happy-drunk as he gives loving guidance and praise to his team. Much like the good King Robert, though, he could use to stiffen up and pay attention sometime. Just because you won the throne (or you know, the vocal competition) last year DOESN’T MEAN YOU ARE SAFE.

Adam+Levine+2011+Logie+Awards+Arrivals+QHjsS-Os5ADxCOACH: Adam Levine

renlybaratheon Renly Baratheon

I don’t think it requires a whole lot of imagination to envision Adam having someone make a super fancy crown for him. The mild arrogance, style obsession, and (perhaps misguided) confidence links these two dandy fellows. Also, there’s a sibling rivalry between Adam and Blake that’s similar but just a little more jovial of that between Robert and Renly.

MTV Video Music AwardsCOACH: Shakira

DANIDaenerys Targaryen

DUH. Right? I mean, duh. They even dress the same. I don’t think Khaleesi’s hips lie either, sooo…

usher_black_tshirt_silver_chaCOACH: Usher

aqen_H'gharJaqen H’ghar

Usher is a man of few words, like our faceless friend. He just kind of gets the job done. Usher kills it on stage and Jaqen H’ghar kills people like it’s his job. ‘Cause I think it is. Both of them are super cool.

THE CONTESTANTS

sasha-allenSEMI-FINALIST: Sasha Allen

stark-sansa-1x04-01_FULLSansa Stark

Both super beauties a little lacking in the personality department – a coincidence? I dunno.

Michelle+Chamuel+u6hl1gcd6t4mSEMI-FINALIST: Michelle Chamuel

Arya-arya-stark-31112801-500-650Arya Stark

You didn’t see either one of these firecrackers coming. Arya has turned into (in my opinion) the most interesting character on GoT, and Michelle is way way waaaayyy more interesting than anyone else on The Voice. Both are initially awkward fits to their given circumstances, rising up and kicking so much ass.

Amber-Carrington-Im-Gonna-Love-You-Through-It-The-Voice-4-622x349SEMI-FINALIST: Amber Carrington

Jorah-Mormont-house-targaryen-29560158-800-450Jorah Mormont
Okay, this one might be a stretch, but hear me out. Jorah does a great job. I haven’t read the books, but so far he seems like a good guy (though you never know with this ridiculous show). He’s served Khaleesi well and is so obviously in love with her. He’s got all the skills. But guess what? I don’t think he’s going to win. It’s just not in the cards. That’s how I feel about Amber. She’s great! But I’d bet my hat, my big dumb hat, that she’s going home tonight.

danielleliveplayoffsSEMI-FINALIST: Danielle Bradbury

Margaery-TyrellMargaery Tyrell

I think both of these smart chicks are playing a perfect role. Danielle is the lovable, cute, talented Texan lass who is fresh as a daisy and can’t help how naturally gifted she is. She just popped out of the womb with a Crest white smile and baby doe eyes. Margaery’s got King Joffrey wrapped around her little finger, playing coy and silly when it’s right, and making smart, canny moves when no one is looking. I think she could win this whole game. OF THRONES. Ditto for D. Bradbury.

And you’re like, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SWON BROTHERS?? That’s what you’re like when you’re reading this. I know. Well, I thought long and hard. I thought about maybe Jaime and Ceresi Lannister. Or maybe the brothers of the Night’s Watch. But no.

NUP_152770_0221_620x350SEMI-FINALIST: The Swon Brothers

C_Merry_02Merry and Pippin

Because some people don’t belong in Westeros. Some people belong in the Shire. I think the Swon Brothers would have a really good run at The Prancing Pony.

A mummy master list of must-have STUFF

One of my dearest friends is pregnant. Actually, two of my dearest friends are pregnant, but for one of them it’s the first time. Yesterday she asked me if there was anything that I would suggest she get. I could not get the words out of my mouth fast enough.

It occurred to me that this is useful stuff, stuff I know I’m going to forget over the next few years. So, here is a list of the unexpected things I’ve found most important over the past few months.

(It starts with some frank nursing talk and then branches into more standard baby-gear things)

Breastfeeding:

Stretchy tanktops, like the kind from Old Navy. Lots of people wear nursing tops and love them, but I was too sensitive for that kind of constraint for the first 3 months or so. The stretchy tank tops are a good alternate.

Bobby pins or headband. If your hair falls in your face while you’re wrestling with the baby at 3am it might just be the thing that makes you scream cry.

Coconut oil for healing and soothing. Also, the Lansinoh is good too! (http://www.lansinoh.com/)

*A tip from a friend – she took a super soft old t-shirt and made breast pads out of them.*

Some kind of pillow(s). Boppies must work for a lot of people, but didn’t for me. I just liked the flat/hard pillow to lay the baby on. Figure out what works for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment! If one kind of thing doesn’t feel right – don’t force yourself to keep using it.

A huge plastic cup with a straw that won’t spill if you’re trying to one-hand it. Mums get super thirsty when nursing, it’s like immediate and severe. You’ll want water next to you!

Electric pump to make bottles so you can be away from the babydoll for more than 2 hours if need be. Also, a manual pump so your boobs don’t explode if you are away from the babe for more than 2 hours. Just find a public restroom and go for it.
I love the Tommy Tippee bottles (http://www.tommeetippee.us/) They are slow flow so that it’s not such a huge shock the first time the baby has a bottle instead of you. I think there are a lot of good bottles, but I love these.

An understanding that this will be physically exhausting at first but it will get better. Also, an understanding that you need so many more calories than you used to. So, ice cream, mac and cheese, bring it on.

I have been bad at this, but take your vitamins.

Other baby stuff:

The woombie (http://www.woombie.com/) is something I’d get for the next time. It’s a swaddle that just zips up. No loud velcro, no wrestling with manual swaddling in the middle of the night. Sounds pretty good!

The Rock n’ Play – our babe loves sleeping in this simple rocker.
(http://www.fisher-price.com/en_US/brands/babygear/products/51903)

Pack n’ Play  w/ Bassinet and changing table. It’s got everything you need for a baby station in the house.
(http://www.toysrus.com/family/index.jsp?categoryId=3225353)

A wrap. We use the Moby Wrap. Yes, it’s a carrier, but I’ve got the most value out of it when she was very small and needed to be close. Sometimes when she was very upset, it was the only thing that would calm her down. I think it reminds them of being in the womb.
(http://www.mobywrap.com/mw/Home.htm)

A big exercise ball. This is another good way to soothe the angry babe. Just hold tight, support the neck and bounce bounce bounce.

Yoga pants, many. These are for you, not the baby. Although, that would be adorable.

Play mat with lots of colors for tummy time.
(http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2266983)

Burp cloths/Swaddling blankets/Any kind of blankets: I thought “oh god, too many blankets! But guess what, we’ve used ALL of them. Aiden and Anais is the best. Super soft, kind of expensive, but worth it.
Car seat stuff:
They have little pads that cover the strap that is by baby’s neck. I just found these like, two weeks ago and I wish I did sooner.
(http://www.amazon.com/JJ-Cole-Collections-Strap-Graphite/dp/B0013IGZIE)

The RoSK is SUPER USEFUL. Really warm and waterproof. I love it. Also, it can go over the Moby.
(http://www.rainorshinekids.com/)

The Pad-a-lilly that helps you not break your arm when you carry it around.
(http://www.padalily.com/)

A good mirror so you can see baby while you’re driving.
(http://www.amazon.com/Jeep-Back-Seat-Mirror-Black/dp/B004V2AGIE/ref=zg_bs_2237472011_6)

Clothes: People will buy you clothes. You’ll probably be ok. But it’s good to have both newborn and 0-3 sizes on hand for the first few days/weeks. Who knows how big or teeny baby will be?

Camera! Take pictures and pictures. I’m already super nostalgic for when she was little. And she’s still little.

Other stuff, like the baby bath, baby wash, wash cloths (i love Circo), dipes, wipes, the whole shebang — there’ll be a thousand things you figure out you need. But these things were keys for me.

Maybe most importantly, patience, with yourself , dad, and baby. Willingness to ask for help. Tons of love. You’ll figure out how strong you are and WHOA, you are strong.

And OMG look what you get!!

emmie super smile