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A Tale of Two Moms

IMG_0205This is the story of how Zoey has two moms.  I should specify that she has a “mommy” (that’s me) and a “mom.”  Before I get to that . . .I was thinking last night how I need to update Zoey’s baby book and I need to start Zane’s.  He’s 3 months old and I still haven’t started his baby book!  I keep telling myself when family visits that I’ll set aside time to write in there, but I never do.  I was thinking back to how my mom wrote funny little things I said when I was two in my baby book.  Those are the stories that get retold time and time again.  Even Stephen knows them by now.  I was wondering what stories we’ll remember about Zoey that we’ll still be telling her when she is an adult.  And that’s when I smiled and thought–of course I have to write down how Zoey has two moms.

The first time I remember Zoey mentioning her “mom” was soon after Zane was born.  I asked her who her “mom” was and she said Grandma.  When I asked her who I was, she said “Jessica.”  Initially I admit I felt a little hurt that she was no longer calling me mom or mommy, but the social worker in me started to analyze what she was saying.  Grandma was doing many of things I used to do with Zoey such as playing with her and bathing her when Zane was first born.  Some kids have imaginary friends and Zoey created a mom she wished I could be.  Since then, I have become “mommy” again, but her mom is still sticking around.  Every day Stephen and I hear bits and pieces about her mom.  Yesterday I learned that her mom lives in a pink house, is a teacher, likes to paint her nails pink, and likes sauce.  Sometimes we’ll be doing an activity or eating a certain food and she’ll say, “You know who likes___? My mom.”  That’s how we learned her mom likes sauce (aka salsa).  One time we went for a walk because Zoey wanted to go to her mom’s house.  We walked around the neighborhood looking for her house, but sadly never found it.  I’ve come to accept Zoey has two moms.  I’m not sure how long she’ll keep her mom around.  She almost has me believing that one day I’ll meet her.


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25 Rules for Mothers of Sons

I wanted to share this blog post with you. I’ll never know what it’s like to be a father, but all I can hope for is that we raise our little man Zane to be as loving as his daddy is. Happy Father’s Day!

Life Out of Bounds

My dear friend, Maria, passed a blog post onto me and I had to share it with all my readers.  Have a tissue handy; maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones or maybe I am starting to grasp reality since my baby with my 5 years old in a few short weeks.

25 Rules for Mothers of Sons

1. Teach him the words for how he feels.
Your son will scream out of frustration and hide out of embarrassment.  He’ll cry from fear and bite out of excitement.  Let his body move by the emotion, but also explain to him what the emotion is and the appropriate response to that emotion for future reference.  Point out other people who are feeling the same thing and compare how they are showing that emotion.  Talk him through your emotions so that someday when he is grown, he will know the difference between angry and embarrassed…

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What Every Mother Knows

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It’s week 3 postpartum and I finally feel like I’m healing physically, mentally, and emotionally.  A week ago I got mastitis, and I was really struggling.  I read Liz Stanley’s blog post Surviving the First Three Months With a New Baby from sayyes.com and it brought tears to my eyes because when I read or hear other women’s stories of their experience of being a mother, I am comforted and reassured that I am not alone in feeling what I do.  She writes, “Postpartum is a time I’ve needed to reach out and connect with other women more than any other season in my life.” I shared with a friend the other day that it was 1:00pm and I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet, washed my face, or showered.  Zane is going through the first of many growth spurts and has been eating every 1-2 hours.  He often wants to be held in order to sleep, which makes it difficult to do basic things like personal hygiene when I’m the only one at home with him.  Most days I don’t mind.  I relish this time that he lets me hold him and snuggle because I know it will end far too soon.  My days of snuggling Zoey are mostly over.  It’s hard to get a kiss or hug out of her now.  And even on the days Stephen is here, we struggle to get basic housework done.  We take turns caring for Zane and Zoey, both needing so much in their own way.

These days are slower with a newborn.  I have more time to think and reflect.  I’ve been thinking about my two birth stories.  Perhaps time has distorted my memory of my postpartum period following Zoey’s birth, but I don’t remember my body taking this long to recover after I had her.  I often hear my mom say how my birth was the best birth experience she had because she had me naturally with no medication.  Her story is not uncommon. I often hear women who gave birth naturally say that they felt great postpartum.  As for me, I haven’t had that experience. I’d love to go for a walk, but just walking around the grocery store is all the walking I can do right now without feeling overly tired.  And I think about how I was able to pick up Zoey a week before I gave birth and now she is too heavy for me to carry although she weighs the same.  I wonder, is it simply because I am two years older now than when I had Zoey so my body is recovering more slowly? Was giving birth naturally just too much of a strain on my body?  I am grateful I was able to have the experience because I know other mothers who wish they could have given birth naturally but it was not to be.  But since Zane’s birth, Stephen and I have agreed that we don’t want to do this again.  We are done making babies, which makes me want to be ever more mindful and present during this time, knowing it will be the last.  But it’s so hard when all I want to do is sleep and he’s fussing and crying!

I haven’t up to this point asked your thoughts about what I write, but today I am eager to hear your own stories about birthing or postpartum period.  I can only share from my own perspective as a mother, but I know Stephen has had a different yet in some ways similar experience as my own.  So dads and mothers alike–share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear your own stories about the early days of caring for a newborn.


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Knowing One’s Limits

It’s been a little over a week since Zane’s birth.  My parents returned home yesterday.  It was our first whole day as a family of four.  I’m realizing now it’s going to be a challenge, though not impossible, to find the time to write and keep up this blog.  I know mama you told me to sleep when the baby is sleeping, but I MUST write, too.

I’ve had a difficult first week even though I’ve had incredible support.  I had planned to breastfeed Zane, just as I had Zoey, for at least a year.  That was my goal.  And without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that after getting support from my mom, my doula, a lactation consultant, and other things to support breastfeeding, the pain was too great and I reached my limit two nights ago.  I started thinking about what I wrote a few posts back about mothers understanding Christ’s words “this is my body . . .given up for you.”  I sacrificed myself for a week and then I realized it was time to let that desire to breastfeed go.  Sometimes we want things so much, like our dream of living at the Santa Lucia Preserve, yet circumstances point us in another direction.  And we can do ourselves harm by resisting what wasn’t our plan and clawing at what cannot be, or we can move forward in a new direction and accept the unknown.  I’m grateful that our little guy has accepted the bottle while I continue to pump milk for him.

It’s easy to let my mind wander into thinking maybe I didn’t try hard enough or maybe there’s something else I can do that will allow me to breastfeed, but the reality is that I gave Zane my best effort and it just wasn’t to be.  And when I finally accepted that I had reached my limit, I felt tremendous relief.  I could let my body heal and be close to my baby boy without cursing and crying out in pain every time he wanted to eat.  And although Stephen may not share my enthusiasm, I am glad I am not the only one who feeds him now.  I can’t do it all by myself.  And there’s no shame in recognizing that.

It is trust in the limits of the self that makes us open and it is trust in the gifts of others that makes us secure. We come to realize that we don’t have to do everything, that we can’t do everything, that what I can’t do is someone else’s gift and responsibility.  I am a small piece of the cosmic clock, a necessary piece but not the only piece.  My limitations make space for the gifts of other people.  Without the grace of our limitations we would be isolated, dry, and insufferable creatures indeed.  It is our limitations and the trust, the dependence on others, that springs from them that saves us from all the tiny little deaths that struggle brings.
–from 
Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope by Joan Chittister

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Zoey’s Birth Story

IMG_0124It’s week 37 of pregnancy and my thoughts are on getting labor started in the next few weeks.  Last time around I didn’t want to admit I was afraid and didn’t know what to expect during labor.  I think perhaps that may have contributed to Zoey being late and having to be induced past 41 weeks.  This time around I find myself eager to feel those first contractions knowing that labor is going to be a mental and physical challenge, but welcoming it all the same because it will bring us closer to meeting our baby boy.

I plan to share our son’s birth story and thought it would be nice to share Zoey’s birth story, too.  So here it is–an excerpt from what I wrote in my journal two weeks after Zoey was born:

It was around 7:00pm on July 8th when we arrived at Kaiser Hospital on Sunset Boulevard for my induction.  The labor and delivery nurse had no record of my induction time.  The woman who did the scheduling forgot to write my name in “the induction notebook,” and I thought for just a moment that I would be able to return home and let labor start on it’s own.  I had wanted a natural, unmedicated birth and was dragging my feet about this induction.  I didn’t want Pitocin, I didn’t want an epidural, and I didn’t want all those medical interventions to cascade into a c-section.  I was surprised that although Kaiser’s medical records are all computerized, the labor and delivery department relies on a handwritten notebook to keep track of the induction appointments, which means if someone forgets to write down the appointment in the book–it doesn’t exist.  

Despite my willingness to return home and count my blessings that the mistake happened, the nurse said they would find me a room and go forward with the induction.  I was in the triage room from about 7:00pm to 11:30pm. at which time I was moved to a private room and started on Pitocin through an IV.  I was hooked up to the electronic fetal monitor, but was able to use the bathroom any time I wished.  I had been expecting the contractions to immediately come on strong with the Pitocin, but was grateful that the increase in pain was gradual.  I think I may have gotten some rest that night. I was 2 cm dilated, 75% effaced, and Zoey was at station minus 3.

Just before 5:00am, I had to start breathing and focusing more through the contractions and decided it was time to call our doula to come to the hospital.  By morning I was 5 cm dilated, but still 75% effaced.  Once our doula arrived, I walked around and tried standing to help Zoey descend.  I was told that the nurse was increasing the dose of Pitocin every hour and the contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes.  By 11:00am I was eager to be checked because I had started moaning with each breath to get through the intensity of the pain.  I was hopeful that maybe I was going through transition and the end was near.  I was pleased and relieved when I saw the doctor walk into the room–she was the specialist we had been seeing due to the concern that Zoey might have an enlarged stomach found on the ultrasound at 30 weeks (hence the reason for the doctor wanting to induce).  She told me I was 7 cm dilated, 100% effaced , station minus 2.

At that point, I realized I had reached my limit.  I was mentally and physically exhausted trying to sleep in between contractions that were coming too close together. I thought–this could go on for several more hours–how would I find the energy to push Zoey out?  I knew then I had given my all and it was time for an epidural. I got the epidural and was momentarily afraid because I felt 3 more contractions after the medication was started–then the contractions became shorter until all I felt was the tightening without the pain.  My legs then became numb and heavy until I could’t move them at all which made turning impossible without help from two people.  The nurse put in a catheter and I felt nothing.  I was able to get some sleep from about 12:30pm-4:00pm.

At around 5:00pm, the nurse checked me again and I was 9 cm with Zoey at station 0.  She thought I’d be ready for a test push in an hour’s time.  By then I was starting to get feeling back in my legs, but also started to feel left hip pain.  At 6:00pm, the nurse positioned me on my back with legs up in stirrups to begin pushing.  After several pushes, she assembled “the team of doctors.”  I thought I had written in my birth plan that I didn’t want a large group of interns and residents present in the room, but that didn’t happen.  And by then I really didn’t care.  I just was focused on getting Zoey out. I’d have to ask Stephen to be sure, but it seemed like there were about 10-15 people standing in the room waiting for me to push baby out and none of them were related to me.  What felt like a gazillion pushes later, out Zoey came at 7:53pm. I had a brief moment to talk to Zoey and give her my love before she was taken to the NICU with Stephen to get evaluated because of her enlarged stomach.  I was eager to go to the NICU, but had to wait until the bag of Pitocin was emptied.  I never made it to the NICU that night because a pediatrician came in around midnight to tell me the doctors found nothing wrong with Zoey and she would be brought to me for the remainder of the night.

I can’t fully express what a joy and perfect miracle it was to finally have Zoey in my arms after a long labor and to know she was going to be healthy and okay without any further interventions.  We never quite understood why Zoey’s stomach was enlarged.  Perhaps it was just one of those times when we are called upon to trust God’s goodness and great Wisdom that all will be well.  Some weeks after Zoey’s birth, our doula visited and asked if I thought it was a “good birth.” I thought about it and although it wasn’t the birth I planned to have, it was a good birth.  It brought us our Zoey Jacaranda Cowan–how could it be anything less than good?


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The Push and Pull of Parenting

It’s been raining a lot this past week and more is in the forecast for this coming week.  I stop myself from complaining when I remember California is in a drought–we need this rain.  And honestly, I’ve been enjoying the rain, but wish I could get outside more for a walk without getting all wet.  I know we have nothing on you East coasters who really are stuck in your homes during winter snowstorms–so should I really be complaining about rain? Maybe not.  But what makes it doubly difficult right now is feeling stuck inside with Zoey.  There are some days where I’m in a zen-like mood and can tolerate the endless minutes of rubbing her dollies to sleep, and other times when I feel like I’ll go out of my mind.  And then Stephen heard this Fresh Air podcast with Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun who writes about the very struggles of parenting that Stephen and I are experiencing.

I remember before Zoey was born how I was thrilled that Stephen seemed to enjoy playing with his niece.  I remember thinking how glad I was that he would enjoy playing with our children because I knew then that wasn’t something I would particularly enjoy doing.  Let me do things like read, sing, cook, go for walks with our kids but the imaginative play I’d leave to him.  I also remember thinking when Zoey was still an infant that I needed to entertain her and constantly stimulate her while she was awake.  Little did I know then that she would be perfectly fine watching me go about my day without needing to have me stare, smile, and coo at her constantly.  I know there are different thoughts nowadays about parenting, and I don’t plan to discuss any of them.  I just started to realize, after talking with Stephen about our memories of our own childhood, how we don’t really recall our parents sitting down and spending most of the day being our playmates like we do with Zoey.  And after listening to the Fresh Air podcast with Jennifer Senior, I wondered why I think it’s necessary to play from morning until night with our 2 1/2 year old daughter instead of eating a snack when I’m hungry, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, meal planning, knitting, or writing.  All these everyday things I can easily do when she’s at daycare but become impossible the days she is here with us and we feel the need to entertain her and keep the peace (yes, I suppose we’ve trained her to expect us to be her playmates so that when we can’t play with her she will fuss and cry and persistently ask us to “come to her room just for a minute”).

When Stephen first told me the title of Jennifer Senior’s book, I thought–no, that’s not completely right. There are moments of joy and fun while parenting.  If it weren’t so, I don’t think we would have chosen to have another child.  But of course it’s always easier to focus on what’s difficult and challenging rather than the joyful, pleasant moments.  And right now we’re in the thick of toddlerhood with Zoey.  We tell her to go to the bathroom for tubby time–she says no and refuses.  We tell her don’t stand on the chair–she ignores us and continues to jump off her chair.  The push and pull sometimes feels endless.  But then at the end of the day, she gives us a hug and a smile and somehow our hearts melt again and we thank God for blessing us with this gift of a child and we start all over the next day.

Some will say these toddler moments are fleeting–cherish them because before you know it, your child won’t want to play with you or spend time with you and then you’ll be missing those moments of today when you wished for something else. I know. I can see that moment in the future.  So do we just accept this season of our life now? Or do we somehow strive for some balance between sometimes being a playmate and sometimes being a mama who has housework or hobbies that she partakes in? I ask these questions weeks before a new baby enters our lives.  What will we do differently this time around? And it makes us question whether two is enough or will there be a third child down the road?

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Hibernation

The moment has arrived where I have no idea what to post for this week.  Shall I talk about the weather? How we desperately need some rain? There’s supposed to be rain in the forecast this week after many weeks of warm 70 degree weather here.  I was hopeful it would be colder up here in Northern California a month ago when it snowed.  Here are some photos of the ranch with snow.

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And here was Zoey at our rental house enjoying the snow in our front yard.

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I’m taking an online class from Heather Bruggeman at Beauty That Moves called Hibernate.  I think I signed up for the class when we were enduring colder, freezing temperatures that lasted for a greater part of the day.  It made sense then, but now it seems ridiculous to be taking a class called Hibernate when just a few days ago it was warm enough to wear shorts outside. And yet, hibernate is exactly what it feels like I’ve been doing.  I’m getting closer to that nesting period in my pregnancy where all I want is a clean house and to organize the mess that has accumulated.  But at the same time, despite my desire to have a clean house, I’m lacking in energy to do much of anything these days.  All I want to do is eat and sleep. Although the days Zoey is here and not in daycare, she makes sure I am busy at work helping to put her dolls to sleep, or “deeting” her toy groceries.  In case you’re wondering if I made up that word “deeting”–it’s Zoey’s word for the sound at the grocery store when the checkout person “deets” your groceries.  Listen next time you’re at the grocery store and you’ll know what I mean.

I should be getting things in order for baby’s arrival.  Stephen is making a dresser or bureau, or as Stephen might say “chest of drawers” for our baby boy.  (Have you taken this quiz from the NY Times about what words you use predicts where you are from? It wasn’t very accurate for me or Stephen. The quiz thought this Southern California girl was from Modesto, Fresno, or Salt Lake City and my Texan husband was from Baltimore or D.C.) I have a large plastic bin full of baby clothes to wash. A friend with two boys gave me them before Zoey was born, and I didn’t realize how many boy outfits I have. I have yet to tour the hospital where I’ll give birth.  I called the hospital two weeks ago waiting for a call back from the nurse who schedules group tours called “Tea for Two.” I called again today and was told the same nurse will call me back to schedule the tour which most likely will be February 19th.  That will be week 37 of my pregnancy.  I asked about other options, like the one day childbirth class that offers a hospital tour–the next one is March 9th, two days before my due date. I could show up at the hospital for an individual tour by a clerk, but was told they couldn’t answer any of my questions.  So there might be a good chance I’ll see where I’m birthing for the first time when I go into labor. Or, I told Stephen, maybe I’ll just hop on over to the hospital in the early stages of labor and check it out and then return home.  It’s thankfully only about a 5-10 minute drive from our house.  We’ve hired a doula again with the plan of having a natural, unmedicated birth.  That was our plan with Zoey, but I ended up being induced after 41 weeks and 3-4 days of pregnancy.  I am hoping this little guy is ready to come out a bit sooner than that.

Stephen reminded me that we haven’t seen any snakes, mice, or bugs out at the ranch during these winter months.  My eye is still trained to look for them when walking through the tall grass.  Better to be safe than sorry, right?  The only animals we’ve seen recently are the wild pigs.  Here’s a distant photo Stephen took just outside our neighbor’s main gate.

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More on the pigs in another post.  In house building news, we submitted the guest house plans to the county last Friday.  And now we wait some more.


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Embracing the Beauty of Dirt

IMG_3188As a child we are closer in time to the Creator.

-Kevin Kling

 

I wish I could say I’m at ease with dirt.  I know, we’re moving to a place with abundant dirt, how could I not be okay with it?  I wish I could say I don’t mind getting dirty.  Stephen and I like to recall our third date when after we went hiking on the 4th of July (and I felt dirty), he invited me to spend the day with him and see fireworks, but I declined because I couldn’t stand being dirty all day.  My response seems absurd now, but at the time seemed perfectly reasonable.  The truth is that I’m a happier, more pleasant person when I’m clean.    My 2 1/2-year-old daughter Zoey fortunately, I suppose, doesn’t have the same dislike of dirt that I have.  That’s her in the photo above reaching down to pick up some dirt seconds before she threw it on herself and the ground while holding her “Strawberry baby.”  She’s teaching me to let go of my need to be clean all the time and just to enjoy this natural world of our ranch.  So we sit down on the ground, in the dirt, on the rocks, on the grass.  And the amazing thing is how free I feel just enjoying being in the dirt.  Zoey has taught me how to put my issues, concerns, worries, anxieties, hang-ups aside and just be present in the here and now.  I’m still a work in progress.  I haven’t completely embraced dirt.  I still want a clean house without traces of dirt all over the floor and furniture.  I still cringe when she picks up hawk feathers that in my mind may be diseased or the walnut shell that appears to be rotting.  But I keep these things to myself because I want my daughter to be free of those irrational fears of “dirty things.”  To Zoey, things just are.  A feather is a feather, dirt is dirt. Neither good or bad.  She sees things in their natural state–just as they are.  I imagine that’s how God looks at us–in our natural state–seeing us as we really are, not the person we pretend to be.

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Last week I started Andrea Scher’s online photography class Superhero Photo.  Her class today was about “elevating the ordinary” in order to capture the beauty of ugly things.  I can’t quite figure out why the dead winter grass at the ranch appears to be more worthy of a photo-op than the dead winter grass in our backyard where we’re renting.  Why do I see the beauty of the ugly reeds lying beside our lake yet shudder to look out our kitchen window at the place we now call home?

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I think perhaps I can tolerate the dirt and the seemingly ugliness of winter at the ranch right now because of the spaciousness–there’s room to breathe out there.  Here at the house we’re renting, I feel closed off to nature even while being outside.  Andrea’s prompt to see ugly things with new eyes reminded me of a little story I read while on retreat in college.  It goes like this:

“Where shall I look for Enlightenment?”
“Here,” the Holy One said.
“When will it happen?”
“It is happening right now,” the Holy One said.
“Then why don’t I experience it?”
“Because you do not look,” the Holy One said.
“What should I look for?”
“Nothing,” the Holy One said. “Just look.”
“At what?”
“Anything your eyes alight upon,” the Holy One said.
“Must I look in a special kind of way?”
“No,” the Holy One said. “The ordinary way will do.”
“But don’t I always look the ordinary way?”
“No,” the Holy One said. “You don’t.”
“Why ever not?” the disciple demanded.”
“Because to look you must be here,” the Holy One said. “You’re mostly somewhere else.”
-from “The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages” by Joan Chittister

That’s the challenge, isn’t it? Really seeing things as they are and being present in the moment without judgement.

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Waiting, Wishing, and Being Still

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We’re in the in-between-times right now.  I suppose if I’m honest, it’s felt like that for over a year now.  A year ago at this time, we sadly realized we would not be able to build our house on the land we thought we’d raise our children on.  A year ago at this time, we had already spent a whole year working with architects to design a main house, caretakers’ house, and guest house only to never see those house plans come to life in real buildings.  And we moved on, letting that dream go so that we could start anew on this ranch.  And now we wait some more.  Waiting for the county to approve our house plans to begin the building process.  But nothing ever takes as long as you think it will take in house construction; it always takes longer.  And so we wait.

I’ve been reading Emily P. Freeman’s new book  A Million Little Ways.  In one of her chapters she writes about “the pain of letting things grow.”  I’m 7 months pregnant now, but  I want to be 40 weeks.  I remember last time around how slow the process of pregnancy is from conception, to wanting my belly to show, to the final days of entering labor and giving birth.  And so I wait.

I’m well acquainted with waiting though I’m not very good at it.  I waited a long time  until I finally met my husband at age 29.  There were no other male suitors in my life before then.  I mean, yes, there were dates here and there, but no relationships.  And then I waited another two long years for my husband to propose to me.   It felt like a really long wait.

It’s easy for me to wait and be still and be stagnant and feel like nothing will ever move forward in the way I want it to.  But I think Emily is spot on when she writes about “learning to move while you wait.”  I have to hope like the daffodil bulbs we planted last month that my in-between-time will be fruitful.  That though my movement may be “so small it feels like stillness” that I will live fully in these moments of waiting and keep moving forward.  Maybe it’s slowly, but life can’t be put on hold merely because we’re waiting for something better to arrive.

It’s the last day of 2013.  I thought it was time to begin what I’ve been wishing and wanting for some time now.  I’ve decided to make 2014 the year that I show up and dare greatly.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.
–Rilke’s Book of Hours, I, 59

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