Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Finding a Balance

My soon-to-be brother-in-law shared this blog post on Facebook the other day, and as I am newly back to work post maternity leave, I found this section particularly meaningful.

And in that moment it suddenly dawned on me what was taking me down. We (myself included) admire the obsessively dedicated. At work we hail the person for whom science and teaching is above all else, who forgets to eat and drink while working feverishly on getting the right answer, who is always there to have dinner and discussion with eager undergrads. At home we admire the parent who sacrificed everything for the sake of a better life for their children, even at great personal expense. The best scientists. The best parents. Anything less is not giving it your best.
And then I had an even more depressing epiphany. That in such a world I was destined to suck at both.
Needless to say it took a lot of time, and a lot of tears, for me to dig myself out of that hole. And when I finally did, it came in the form of another epiphany. That what I can do, is try to be the best whole person that I can be. And that is *not* a compromise. That *is* me giving it my very best. I’m pretty sure that the best scientists by the above definition are not in the running for most dedicated parent or most supportive spouse, and vice versa. And I’m not interested in either of those one-sided lives. I am obsessively dedicated to being the best whole person I can be. It is possible that my best whole is not good enough for Harvard, or for my marriage; I have to accept that both may choose to find someone else who is a better fit. But even if I don’t rank amongst the best junior faculty list, or the best spouses list, I am sure there is a place in the world where I can bring value.
Because frankly, my best whole person is pretty damn good.

I've been struggling with that first epiphany too. In trying to be everything to everyone, I am going to suck so much at overachieving at it all. Thank goodness there's someone out there like

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hello/Goodbye Neighbor

We are close with a number of neighbors who now love Eleanor nearly as much as we do. The bookshelf in her room is decorated with things given to her from various neighbors. She has an antique stork figurine from one, a Japanese doll from another, and rainbow beads from her "uncles." She's so lucky to have them all in her life.

Recently our 94-year-old neighbor, Kathleen, moved to Vegas to live with her daughter. She told Eleanor how sad she was that she wouldn't get to see her grow. It broke my heart a little. Her family is selling her building, so Nathan, Sarah (our summer nanny), and I have been cleaning and cleaning and cleaning to take care of all the things her kids left (such as a refrigerator FULL of perishable food)!? Nathan's even pulling up the carpeting that's been there since the '60's at least.

Maybe a third of the jars she had stored in her cabinets.
This is a full size trash can.
Emptying the huge pantry, we've found some ancient canned goods, a nearly antique box of Club crackers (1986), and lots of really fun items that I will post about later. Kathleen was in the Japanese internment camps here during WWII, so she is very frugal and careful with her things as a result. She is the ultimate recycler, keeping everything to use again and again from the netting from her onions to toilet paper rolls and EVERY instant coffee glass jar she'd ever bought.

It certainly teaches me two lessons, one about how she was able to live happily with things that were decades old, not feeling the need for lots of material possessions (I'm not sure how long that lesson will stick though-sorry Nathan). And the other about weeding out your belongings periodically so you aren't one day pulling 15 bags of dried mushrooms so old they're nearly dust out of boxes in your pantry.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Song for My Daughter

This one brings tears to my eyes every time I play it (and I've been playing it practically nonstop). Eleanor remains unimpressed by it so far.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Just a Minute: June 2013

After a (ok, not so) brief hiatus, I've returned! And here's what I've been doing this past month, during my last month of maternity leave.
Cover image from Amazon
reading...I read Hunting and Gathering for my book club. It was my sister-in-law's pick, and I loved it. I cannot recommend it enough. It's just a bit quirky and one of those books that the word lovely was made for. Finding Nouf was my pick for our next book club read. We haven't discussed it yet, but I liked it. A short mystery set in Saudi Arabia, it was not your average whodunnit and the peek into Arabic life was interesting, but the book is far from deep or meaningful.

watching...Catching up on my Dexter, True Blood, and 
Game of Thrones before I head back to work. I will miss my quiet laundry folding time (while Eleanor naps) interspersed with diving toward the remote to lower the volume due to a suddenly violent scene when I'm back in the office. I knew there was some sort of shocker at the end of Game of Thrones Season 3 so I spent the entire 8 episodes trying not to like any of the characters very much so as to limit my devastation. I think it helped a little, but it was still pretty awful.
Cover image from Amazon

listening...Our girl loves her music. She seems to especially enjoy my favorites: Of Monsters and Men, Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons, fun., and Freelance Whales. Lucky me! Although I imagine Nathan thinks she especially likes his favorites which are more in the electronic music category. Guess we're just going to have a musically eclectic kid.
sewing...Eleanor's morning naps mean that I finally
have time to myself. Poor thing hasn't herself benefited from my recent sewing, but sooner or later I will get around to making her a dress. I've spent most of my sewing time making baby gifts for my friends...man, this is certainly the year of the baby!

Photo via Saveur by Todd Coleman
cooking…I've been cooking sometimes, though my favorite meal these days is one that Nathan made. The marinade and salsa in this recipe are fabulous on skirt steak but equally delicious on any kind of steak. So, so, so good. We've had it three times already since he discovered the recipe.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Clever Little Time Waster

Something clever and fun I discovered via one of my favorite blogs, How About Orange...

Recently, The New York Times developed an algorithm that automatically detects haikus within the paper's front page articles. A computer scans each article in search of them and then they choose the most delightful ones to publish daily at Times Haiku.

This one just rung out to me as some sort of real life truism, though I'm not entirely sure what it would translate to mean. Perhaps something like sometimes it takes a big effort to find a place to fit in. Any better suggestions?

Monday, July 1, 2013


It's a pretty heavy thing being wholly responsible for the life of a human being. You literally hold that little baby's life in your hands (and never do I feel that more than when I'm holding my slippery wet baby over our bathroom's marble floors-I can vividly picture the awfulness of dropping her there.)
At three in the morning I never disliked something as wholeheartedly as my crying baby...only to feel overwhelmed with such an intense love for her a mere three hours later. In the beginning, Nathan asked me a number of times why anyone would ever have a second child. "I will never forget this," he vowed, as she lay shrieking inconsolably in his lap. It's really hard to be a parent. No one tells you that until you're already knocked up; clearly it's a conspiracy.

But now she smiles at us. Big, wide gaping mouth smiles that make her already chubby cheeks puff out as she gurgles a hello to her daddy when he arrives home from work. And I can literally see him forgetting. Everyone tells us that as soon as we begin to feel like we have this parenting thing figured out, when we've developed a routine, that's when everything changes again, so we're just waiting for hell to break out again.

Now I count success as a day with only one incident of spit-up on my shirt, only one outfit change (hers or mine), and 2 hours of freedom while she naps. We're sleeping mostly through the night, breastfeeding is as easy as such an odd thing can be (I am attaching a human to my chest where she gets her entire nutrients from my nipples, a body part that until now has been basically decorative.), and she spends her waking moments staring, wide-eyed and awed, at everything around her.

She can almost hold herself in a seated position, nearly roll herself over, and almost laughs at peek-a-boo, and now I have to leave her. Someone expects me to be able to head back to work and actually work instead of wondering if she misses me as much as I miss her. Someone expects me to be okay with pumping milk into sterile bottles every weekday for the next 10 months instead of cuddling my snuggly daughter as she eats.

But, as awful as all that sounds, I'm actually looking forward to being back at work, to talking to adults other than my husband, to eating lunch with the use of both hands and no need to shovel everything in before my daughter starts to cry, and to being appreciated for my mind rather than feeling like I've lost it as I make up ridiculous words to "Splish Splash I was taking a bath."

It seems that ever since I went off to college, being an adult has meant being torn in half, never being entirely satisfied where I am. In college that meant that I was homesick at school and missing friends and my freedom when I was at home. After college, it meant the word "home" referred to my childhood home and to my apartment. And since having a baby, I look forward to returning to work nearly as much as I am dreading it.