November

Two months in and most days we still ride together as a family to drop the kindergartner off at The Angle’s one-room school house. She loves it, doesn’t want to leave afterward and calls every one of her classmates her friend. As we were getting into the truck on that first day back in early September, she was a bubbling mass of excitement and told us as she hefted her new backpack up onto the seat that it was “the importanest day” of her life.

Her papa’s eyes met mine and we both smiled.

We have only one more month of this pregnancy and solo time with her, though it often doesn’t quite yet feel real that we’ll be adding another person to the family. I hold my belly and wonder if losing a baby in the past does that to everyone. I’m in love and excited, yet I’m also well aware that anything could go wrong. Our little one isn’t out of the woods yet. I’ve also had the fleeting feeling that I should get my own affairs in order; women die in childbirth all the time and the grim statistics seem to find their way to me despite my not wanting to even think about it.

Has loss made me a pessimist? Or a realist?

Or will it make this new love for this new being even that much sweeter?

I hop out of the truck a mile from our house and get in my cold morning walk while he continues on to town. It’s not far and I go slowly, focusing on the muscles of my hips, abdominals and hamstrings. My joints and ligaments are stretched and feel loose now, ready for the birth.  I’ve been saying all along that the baby’s coming early and will see the light of day well before his December 12th due date.

Secretly, I’ve hoped he’ll be born under the Scorpio sign of November like me. But, I had also hoped once upon a time that my Iris would be left-handed like me. When she showed clear signs of right-hand dominance very early, I tempered any disappointment by remembering the myriad ways she’ll have it easier being right-handed in a right-handed world.

Still, November feels special to me. It’s a serious month, one of endings and transition, cold days and colder nights, morning skim ice on creeks and shorelines. The dark hours grow longer and the smell of woodsmoke flavors my morning walks. The fall colors are usually at their end and the temperatures plummet as the determined rifle hunters take to the trees. November ends with a focus on gratitude in our Thanksgiving holiday before making way for the mirth and merriment of the Christmas season.

Somewhere in all of that, my body will bring a baby into the world. I pray for his safety and a peaceful, easy arrival. I pray for the world he’ll be born into, with its great divides and fear-wrought masses. The bad guys are indeed winning right now, even though they’re the voting minority, but I pray that much will change before he has eyes and ears for the business of our social climate.

I pray for you reading this, that November will be a month of warmth and inner growth. That you’ll hold close the promise of spring through another northern winter. That you’ll find comfort in gratitude for all that you already have.

For me, the prenatal depression of the late summer months has lifted and the joy of all this change is finally making its way through the hardened cracks to my wary heart. I feel … Happiness, and then I second-guess myself that it could possibly even be that.

I pray for everyone’s happiness. I pray for the lifting of fear in all regards.

These are anguishingly hard times for many, and yet I know we’ll see them through. I know everything works out perfectly, even when we don’t get to define what “perfect” is.

I know this November, this cold and serious November will be exactly what it is supposed to be. And I pray for the wisdom to see it as such, come what may.

Column 108 belly photo
Photo by Sophie Butler

(Published November 6 in the Warroad Pioneer)

Focus on Love

After the miscarriage of Celia Rose last fall, I confided in a friend who had experienced the same kind of loss. She told me that through her grief, the words that rang the loudest came from her husband, who told her simply, “Focus on love.”

I wrote those words down and put them by my front door. They are now the last thing I read when I walk out of my house and the first thing when I walk in. Still, I forget sometimes. I get lost in my own fear and anxiety about any old topic, and it can turn into negativity, then grumpiness, then despondency, then anger, then rage.

It is easy to feel afraid and all the rest of it these days, especially with regards to the critically ill and increasingly evil social and political climate in our country. It’s much harder to focus on love, which is why I know that must be my chore, my commitment, my practice.

We must focus on love. Too many of us have forgotten. But, when one person remembers, even a little bit, it’s contagious. It reminds someone else.

Earlier this fall, I drove our aging pickup truck to town and the starter went out in a store parking lot. An elderly man noticed me kneeling by the front tire, reaching a screw driver up into the works of the truck, trying to jump the starter solenoid. I could get it to spark, but nothing else. He offered to help and brought a friend who drove his car around to jump the battery at the same time. They worked on my truck for a good while to no avail and then kindly advised I run over to the auto garage across the street and ask for help. A busy mechanic took pity on me, left his full garage and ringing phones and came with me across the street. He also tried for a time and then gave me the free diagnosis: the starter was shot.

Long story short, I called in the home-team Calvary, and the starter got changed right there in the parking lot. I had sat there in my truck and cried for a time, feeling helpless and angry (and all the emotional pregnancy hormones). But people had offered their help, their love. And I immediately felt less alone.

A different time, as the same truck downshifted to slow for the upcoming border crossing, the transmission went out. I pulled the truck to the side of the road in “no-man’s land” – that small stretch of road between the US and Canadian border crossings – and killed, started and re-started the engine, the only thing I knew to do when the transmission wouldn’t engage. I was near tears of frustration again when there was a tap on my window. An officer from the Canadian agency had heard the transmission drop, left his duties and walked the distance out to us. He knew there was nothing to be done with the vehicle and so he asked my young daughter and I to please feel free to wait inside while the tow truck came. For the next forty-five minutes, he turned his office desk and computer into a Netflix viewing cubicle where my daughter introduced him to her favorite cartoon while she colored and ate his snacks. They chattered and laughed and became fast friends as I watched for our rescue vehicle.

Again, unwarranted, a stranger had offered help, love in a time of minor crisis and it made all the difference in our little world.

I left my nice, new smartphone at a restaurant in Warroad once and headed north for The Angle. I had disabled the locking mechanism, and the employee who found it used that fact not to her advantage but to mine. She texted the last person I had texted, asked them to get in touch with me through other means and a day later I had my expensive phone back in hand. Her kindness, her love, saved me an embarrassing amount of money and hassle, and I’m so grateful.

Some time ago, I ran over a softball-sized rock on the pavement in Sprague. I thought nothing of it until I reached the US border crossing. The customs agent noticed my low tire, aired it up for me and then escorted me to the tire-repair shop fifteen+ miles away just so I wouldn’t become stranded on the side of the road. The tire made it all that way but barely. Before I could thank him or even offer a smile for his kindness, he pulled back out into traffic and left.

He had simply helped a stranger; he had loved, and he needed nothing in return.

These are only a few examples of recent times in my life when people have offered love in the form of kindness and help. They had focused on love, likely without even realizing it, and it altered the course of my day, perhaps my life.

Yes, it is easier to feel afraid and angry, but it’s more natural to feel love. When we’re not thinking about ourselves and our stories, love is what naturally comes out of us as human beings. Through loss, through grief, through fear of so many unknowns, love is still there waiting to be used, to be spread, to be offered like the most beautiful gift that it is.

In every crisis, personal or national or global, I can think of no better advice than “focus on love.” It’s our superpower, and it’s time to put it to good use.

(Published in the October 30th issue of the Warroad Pioneer)

I’m Scared. And Confused. And Distrustful.

I don’t know what to do next on this health journey.

Food addiction is real. And I’m currently not making any headway on breaking mine.

I don’t have what people would normally call an “eating disorder.” But what I’m learning is that most of us truly do have a food addiction. And we can’t help it. In the name of capitalism, our whole food system in the US is stacked against us, from addictive substances being added to packaged foods en masse, to the horrors of massive slaughter houses, to fresh produce being the most costly purchase in a grocery store.

It’s a sad, sorry state of affairs. And my belly pays the price. (Not to mention my self-worth and overall physical health.) Continue reading “I’m Scared. And Confused. And Distrustful.”

Everything Works Out Perfectly

 

We sing lots of made-up songs, my daughter Iris and I. Since she was an infant, I’ve made up silly little tunes, as I’m sure most mothers do, to teach her the steps of getting dressed or to remind her how much her papa and I love her or to just keep my worrying in check.

EWOP is one of our favorites. The concept isn’t mine, but the tune is. “Everything works out perfectly,” we sing. “Everything works out per-er-fectly.” Over and over. It’s soothing and catchy and reminds me that I don’t need to control the world because however it goes, it’s going to be fine. Continue reading “Everything Works Out Perfectly”

I Will Be

A journey through the grief of miscarriage

I had the makings of a child in my womb for eight weeks and five days.

On the Friday before Thanksgiving, the pain and bleeding started, and I knew. I didn’t want to know, but there it was. It was the beginning of the end of a pregnancy I had longed for and rejoiced in. It was over before we even got to speak of it, and there was absolutely nothing I could do. Continue reading “I Will Be”