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A Change in Plans

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To be an adult means to accept the awesome responsibility of constantly making choices.
–Mary Pipher, from Letters to a Young Therapist

These past two months we’ve been faced with making a barrage of choices, enough that I’ve felt–man, it sucks to be an adult sometimes! For those of you who are parents, do you remember a time when it really hit you that you alone are responsible for the well-being of your family? Awesome responsibility indeed. Well, that reality has been hitting me a lot recently–to the point of terror. But of course, one must move past the terror and do something about it.

And so the time has come for me to return to work as a social worker. I start working as a therapist at a local foster care agency after Zoey’s spring break ends in April. It’s been a long six years since I’ve worked as a therapist. I’m going down a path I thought I’d left behind only to return once again.

Mary Pipher writes about her “breadcrumb trail.” I look back on my breadcrumb trail from teaching second grade in Compton, to legal assistant at Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, to case manager, to graduate student, to palliative care social work fellow, to hospice social worker, to therapist, to homemaker, herbalist, and now back to therapist. A new season is beginning yet again.

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Remembering

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We spent Zane’s birthday morning out on our dirt road. It’s been raining a lot again here, and last night the wind was so strong it knocked down two trees that fell across our dirt road. The biggest one was right in front of our first gate.

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Thankfully my husband knows how to put a chainsaw to good use and was able to cut the tree so we can go into town tomorrow to take Zoey to school.

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A few weeks ago I finished reading a book recommended by my local librarian called The Girl From the Garden by Pernaz Foroutan. I won’t tell you what it’s about because like the math anxiety I feel when trying to add or subtract in my head, I tend to experience anxiety when trying to explain to someone what a book is about. I know, weird, right? Suffice it to say–I enjoyed reading the book. Go read the Amazon blurb about it and then you’ll know what it’s about.

My little guy turned 2 today! He was so eager to blow out his candle that he blew it out twice before we were able to sing Happy Birthday to him. We all enjoyed a birthday nap today while it rained outside. We have a reprieve from the rain for the next two days, and then it is supposed to rain seven days straight. Winter is still with us for awhile longer.

 


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A Walk Through the House

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Construction on our main house continues even with the abundance of rain we’ve been getting. I took these photos of the house last week. Our contractors have begun framing the fourth floor loft space above our bedroom and bathroom, but I don’t have any photos of that yet. So let’s take a walk through the house. We enter now through Zane’s bedroom. The plastic tarp covering the opening will be a sliding glass door.

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Next to Zane’s bedroom is Zoey’s bedroom, also with a sliding glass door.

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Walking out of the bedrooms, to the right is their bathroom with an attached laundry room. There will be a door off the laundry room which will also serve as our mudroom. Currently the roof slants down, but the lower part of the roof will be cut to extend out to give more headspace in the laundry room. Stephen would be able to explain that much better than I can, but just imagine there being a wing off the laundry room.

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Past the bathroom is the kitchen. It opens up to the living room.

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The living room will have sliding glass doors that open up to the patio below (which is above the concrete bunker) and looks out to the valley. Apparently I forgot to take a photo of that view of the living room. Below is a view from the living room looking towards the kitchen and upstairs.

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Across from the kitchen next to the stairs is our dining area. There will be a sliding glass door where the plastic tarp is currently. It was nice having that wing of the roof cut out because it brought in so much light to the house.

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Up the stairs we go to the master bedroom. At the time I took this photo last week, the loft above our bedroom wasn’t framed yet.

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And lastly, a view of the loft looking out down to the living room below. The space directly across from the stairs, which will be our bathroom, is now framed as well as our two closets and office space loft above the bathroom and bedroom.

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And that’s our house so far. I’m eager to share with you more updates about what books I’m currently reading, a funny Zoey story, and more but it will have to wait for the next blog post. So until then–winter blessings to you and a rainbow.

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Quote of the Day

As I was coming out of the bookstore today, a woman said aloud to the woman behind me, “Nice to see somebody in heels.” Wait, what? I turned around to see who she was referring to and sure enough there was a middle aged woman behind me wearing a long dress with black stiletto heels. Around these parts, it’s true, most women dress casually and appreciate the comfort of flats. Next month is my brother’s wedding, and I will not be wearing high heels. My high heel wearing days are over. My feet and back really appreciate my decision. But for all the women out there who can still tolerate wearing heels, more power to you. And may your poor little piggies not hurt.


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Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

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It was 8:00 a.m., the time I am usually in the car leaving the ranch to drive Zoey to school. It takes about an hour now to get her to school on time. But this morning Stephen took her to school. Zane started to get fussy so I put him in the Ergo carrier and decided to go for a walk to get him to sleep. It was cloudy but not raining. I walked out of the house and pulled the door shut behind me. I checked the handle and realized the door was locked. Locked out of the house. No phone to call Stephen. Stephen was going to the gym after dropping Zoey off at school. I calculated I had maybe 2 hours before he returned home. I walked to the lake and sat down on the damp, wooden bench on the dock. I smiled inwardly and realized I had been telling myself I needed to start meditating again and here was my perfect moment to stop and breathe and slow down. And if locking myself out of the house wasn’t enough of a reminder–I had one more pay attention moment this afternoon. I had left the house to pick Zoey up from school, speeding along to make sure I got to her school on time when suddenly the sun broke through the clouds and rain and a full rainbow appeared in the sky over passing vineyards. I never cease to be awed by rainbows. They always put a goofy grin on my face. I couldn’t help but slow down and steal glances at it as I drove until it finally disappeared. Some days the signs are so blatant you just really have to pay attention.


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A Message to Zoey

IMG_0002When you don’t feel smart enough, remember that you have special gifts and talents that only you can share in your own unique way.

When you don’t feel strong enough, remember that when you were 1 years old you walked a mile from downtown Carmel back to our house.

When you don’t feel brave enough, remember how you’d go to the doctor as a child for your immunization shots and wouldn’t cry.

When you don’t feel beautiful enough, remember that it’s really not your outward appearance that makes you shine, but the beauty and love in your heart that makes you attractive.

We grow up and become women and we forget what we knew as a child.  We are smart and intelligent even if we don’t know all the answers and can’t solve all our problems alone. We are strong even when our arms seem to fail us, our hearts seem overburdened, and we think we can’t possible walk one more step.  We are brave even when our hearts are pounding and it seems nearly impossible to do that difficult, scary thing.  We are beautiful even with our wild, sometimes out of place hair.  Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers who are and the mothers who yearn to be.


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Guest post by Stephen Cowan

When I was a teenager and first became aware of the Beatles, I realized that some of their songs that I was listening to for what seemed to be the first time, I had actually already heard before as a little boy.   Growing up in the early 1970s, it was hard not to hear the Beatles on lots of radio stations, including the easy listening kind of stations my parents tended to tune in to.  My brother wasn’t old enough at the time to have any records, other than “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini”, so I know I didn’t hear the Beatles from him.  Maybe it was the muzak instrumental versions that would be played in the Piggly Wiggly grocery store my mom would shop at, or maybe it was on TV where their songs first came to my attention.  At any rate, when I fell in love with the Beatles as a teenager, it wasn’t for the first time.

In my ears, the Beatles were not just great songwriters, but they were great writers of songs for children.  So many of their songs are playful and colorful, with funny lyrics and simple harmonies.  Any kid could fall in love with “Yellow Submarine”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “Octopus’s Garden”, “Good Day Sunshine”, “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da”, “Hello Goodbye” and others.  Some of my neice’s first word were koo koo kachew, from “I Am the Walrus” (the lyrics are listed as goo goo g’joob, but how many 1 year olds know that?).  First thing in the morning, I love to walk into my daughter’s room with “Good Day Sunshine” playing on my iPhone, and she is always smiling when she hears it.  Granted, she has a great daddy, and will smile at me whether I enter her room playing music or not, but still, it is a perfect wake up song for kids.

Now we have been blessed with little baby boy, who also kind of looks like a little old man with a big head sometimes, but his appearance is irrelevant.  Before we had our daughter, I told my wife that I hoped our kids wouldn’t cry much.  Little did I know, no one has invented a baby that didn’t cry.  So now, with our new son, I have been experimenting with some methods to calm and quiet him down.  Guess what?  The little guy loves “Across the Universe”, by none other than the Beatles.  Playing that song for him, on an endless loop, seems to make him forget, at least momentarily, about his ravenous appetite.

So once again, the Beatles are speaking to a new generation.  Maybe when our son is a teenager, he will have deja-vu when he hears “Across the Universe”, again for the first time.


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The Arrival of Spring

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Spring has arrived with warmer temperatures and trees in bloom.  We’ve planted a garden in our backyard at the house we’re renting.  Neither Stephen or I have grown a garden of our own before (even though both of our parents are excellent gardeners) so this will be an experiment or at least practice for our garden we hope to have at the ranch next year.  We’ve planted carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and mesclun lettuce.  Zoey enjoyed playing in the dirt and letting the earthworms crawl in her hands.

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Zoey was offering me the earthworm to hold, but I declined because I was taking photos.  Thank goodness I was holding my camera otherwise I may have had to be brave and pretend I like holding earthworms so I wouldn’t pass on my repugnance of earthworms to her.  I’ll let you know how our garden turns out.

In house building news, our concrete foundation was laid last week.

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We’ll have to wait about 10 days before framing can begin.  The concrete needs to harden so it won’t scratch because it will be our flooring in our house.  Zoey and Stephen were out at the ranch the day the concrete was laid while I was at home with Zane. Zoey had a chance to put her hands in the wet concrete near where our front door will be.  I was hoping we could all put our names in the concrete, but that wasn’t possible.  So at least Zoey’s hands will always be a part of this house.  I was remembering my visit with my aunt to my dad’s house in Old Chatham, New York while I was at Yale.  My aunt and I were on our way to the Adriance Family reunion in Poughkeepsie, but stopped in Old Chatham to see the house where my dad lived (one of the many houses he lived in growing up).  The older gentleman who lived there was very kind to let us strangers inside his home after my aunt explained she lived there as a child. He allowed us to go down to the basement to see where my dad and his sisters and brother wrote their names (or maybe it was their handprints, too? I can’t remember.) in the concrete in the basement of the house.  All those years later and their mark on the house was still there.


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Zane’s Birth Story

20140307-130556.jpgHe’s here! Zane Buckeye Cowan was born on March 6th at 6:20pm weighing 8.5 lbs. and measuring 20 inches long. For those of you who are squeamish or would rather just read about the ranch or house building, I recommend you stop reading this post here.  There should be a house building update in a week or two.  As for the rest of you brave and interested readers, this is how it all went down.

On Wednesday night, March 5th, Stephen and I went out to see a movie (The Monuments Men) while my parents watched Zoey. Throughout the movie I started having contractions, and in the back of my head I wondered if this time I was going to keep having contractions unlike the ones in the past week that had come and gone randomly. When the movie was over we came home and I went to bed early at 9:30pm. When Stephen came to bed an hour later, I got up to use the bathroom again. I was washing my hands when I felt a flow of liquid down my leg. I was suspicious that my water had broken, but it wasn’t until I was in bed lying down that I felt myself leaking more and knew my water had indeed broken. I called my doula who discussed my options with me. I chose not to call my doctor immediately because I did not want to go to the hospital right away and most likely be given IV antibiotics due to risk of infection. My hope was that I would go into labor naturally in the 24 hours that followed before calling my doctor.

I had contractions throughout the night but was not timing them. I was trying to relax and not think about the possibility of being induced again if my body didn’t go into labor. At 6:30am the next morning my contractions were coming regularly at 10 minutes apart. They continued throughout the morning sometimes increasing in frequency and sometimes slowing down. At 10:00am we went for a walk which helped increase contractions to 3 minutes apart.  But by the time we returned to the house, they had slowed again to 5 minutes apart although they were increasing in intensity.  By noon, I felt it was time to call our doula to come to the house to help me through the contractions knowing that it would be an hour before she arrived.   A little after 1:00pm, our doula arrived and I alternated between sitting on the birthing ball and squatting against the bathroom doorframe during contractions to help bring baby down.  By 3:00pm Stephen reminded me that Zoey would be home from daycare within the hour and questioned if it was time to go to the hospital.  At that point, I didn’t verbalize my feelings but was internally wondering how I could manage more intense pain during the time of transition.  I questioned whether I could handle this natural childbirth thing.  I decided it was time to go to the hospital although I  wondered at the same time if I was going prematurely.  I didn’t want to labor a long time in a hospital room.  Nevertheless we went.

After thankfully a short 5 minute or so truck ride to the hospital, I was taken to the triage room where a nurse confirmed that my water had broken.  She monitored me for about 10-20 minutes and then moved me to a private room.  I labored again on the birthing ball and leaning against Stephen during contractions.  By 5:00pm I again was questioning my decision to labor naturally, wondering how far along I was dilated, and thinking this labor was taking too long!  Some time after 5:00pm my doula suggested I try going to the bathroom because I hadn’t gone in 2 hours and it might help move things along.  I sat on the toilet and tried to pee, but nothing came out despite feeling the need to go.  That was when the nurse decided to check me.  I was 8 cm. dilated.  The contractions started coming on stronger and closer together, and I started to feel pressure like I needed to push.  At 5:50pm the nurses decided it was time to call my doctor to come to the hospital, and a nurse checked me again–I was fully dilated.  Not long after my doctor arrived.  She confirmed I was fully dilated, and she gowned up.  They asked me if I wanted to use the squat bar on the bed while pushing and I thought–why not? I’ll have gravity help me push baby out.  I wasn’t really prepared for the sensations that followed while pushing Zane out of me.  When I pushed Zoey out, I still had some numbness from the epidural and couldn’t feel much.  This time around, I had no idea that pushing baby out would be more difficult than laboring through transition contractions.  I had heard of the “ring of fire” some women experience, but it was another thing to experience it and know there was no way out of it but going through it and coming out alive on the other side along with the gift of our baby boy.

Before I could push Zane out completely, my doctor told me to stop and lay down as she and two nurses pressed HARD on my belly.  Apparently Zane’s shoulder and arm got stuck and they had to manipulate it somehow before I continued to push him out.  I don’t recall how many pushes later, but at 6:20pm Zane was born.

We were able to go home the following night, but not before some drama ensued.  I won’t go into detail about how one of the nurses thought she heard a heart murmur while listening to Zane’s heartbeat.  The pediatrician also heard it and ordered an EKG.  He explained how all newborn babies have a heart murmur if you listen at the right time.  I can’t explain in more detail because my sleep deprived brain really couldn’t process the medical terms and explanation he gave.  The EKG was slightly abnormal so a technician came in to do an echocardiogram.  The results came back normal, but the pediatrician recommended a follow-up today at the clinic.  The pediatrician today listened again to Zane’s heartbeat and the murmur was gone.  Stephen and I have been blessed yet again.


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Learning How to Be Vulnerable

Words have been whirling around in my head, but I can’t quite capture the heart of what I want to write.  So I simply write and hope for clarity.  I’ve asked myself why I’m writing this blog.  It came to me while listening to Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast with Brene Brown as to why I need to write this blog.  I’m not writing these blog posts entirely for myself, although that is a big part of why I’m doing this, but rather, I write for my children.  At first I made the mistake of assuming I only needed to model vulnerability for my daughter.  To model for her how to have the courage to follow that inner dream that sometimes hides within us for years because we dare not share it with others or expose ourselves. To give ourselves permission to be vulnerable despite what others may say. And then it dawned on me as I listened to Brene Brown talk about her shame research, that not only do I need to model vulnerability to my daughter but even more so to my son.  I know what it’s like to grow up being female, hearing the messages our culture speaks about women and replaying those same messages in my own mind about other women.  I’ve only had glimpses here and there from the men in my life of what it’s like to grow up being male.  But I realized that if I want my son to have the courage to be the man he was created to be, regardless of what society, family, friends may say about him, then I must first model that for him.  I have to be the mother who stops hiding and has the courage to be me despite how scary it may be.

As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed.  We put on armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear.  Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection–to be the person whom we long to be–we must again be vulnerable.  We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen.
from Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown

I have my own story of learning to disappear, make myself small so I could hide my real self.  I spent most of my high school years and college years at Yale (I’ve finally moved beyond the stage of saying “college in Connecticut”) afraid to share my own opinions and thoughts because I never felt smart enough.  I know I’ve probably hurt others by my silence and acts of omission.  I  joke around that I’m only now coming out of my adolescence and figuring out how to be my real self around others.  But it’s still not easy.  It’s still terribly awkward.

So why be vulnerable if it’s so scary, and hurts, and is plain uncomfortable?  Because it’s the only way to live with your whole heart.  The only way to live your life fully.  To be able to really connect with others without the masks, just to be your real self.  And that’s what I want to teach my children.

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