October 27, 2010

Just When I Thought I was Getting Good at This...

Lindon and I are about to reach a new milestone in our lives. We are becoming parents.

Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, Levi is really our child, and no, we are not expecting another. It's just that our roles in relationship to Levi are changing. Allow me to explain.

Until now, it has seemed that our primary goal with Levi has been preventing his untimely demise. We make sure he is fed, clothed, clean, and not putting all manner of dangerous objects in his mouth. This is not glamorous work, nor is it stress free, but we are certainly getting good at it. Each day is an elaborate dance of feeding, entertaining, and rescuing Levi, and then sneaking away unnoticed to get ready for work without Levi deciding my AWOL status is unacceptable.

This aspect of our responsibility to Levi will certainly remain. But we are also getting to the point where we must begin shaping his heart and teaching him acceptable behavior for our house. In short, we must be his parents. This new role has really been our goal all along. Most women do not desire children for the unadulterated joy of wiping a poopy butt.

But after months of concerning myself solely with Levi's physical development, shifting gears to his mental and emotional development is hard for me. My default with Levi has been to consider him an extension of myself, but this is no longer the case. He is his own little person with his own little will. He needs to learn to communicate and how to do so appropriately, and it is my job to help him learn that. He needs to learn to refrain from pelting me with toys, and it is my job to teach him that. He needs to learn how we relate to each other in this family, and that is Lindon's job. Just kidding.

But it's more than just behavior modification and psychological development. His heart that is sensitive. I cannot train him like I trained Nash. The patience, gentleness, and understanding required for this endeavor are exhausting. It's hard to seize the teachable moments and not just enjoy a few seconds without him trying to break something. In many ways the keeping Levi alive part of the job is getting much easier, but this shaping his heart part is harder than I could have imagined.

I am glad that I have Lindon as a partner in this process.

I am also glad Levi will not remember every failure along the way. Because there are many.

October 18, 2010

Post script

I was so enamored with my own thoughts in the previous post that I forgot to explain the post title. It's actually the first line from a song about Florida that I learned in elementary school. Really, it seems that every child in Florida learns this song in elementary school. Here is the entire song as I learned it:

I wanna wake up in the morning where the orange blossoms grow,
Where the sun comes peepin' into where I'm sleepin'
And the song birds say, "Hello."
I like the fresh air and the sunshine,
It's so good for us, you know.
So I'll make my home in Florida,
Where the orange blossoms grow.

This song has long resided in the echoes of my memory, but it reemerged into my consciousness after Levi was born. Inexplicably, I found myself singing it to my teeny newborn all the time, so much so that Lindon pleaded with me to stop. Apparently it got stuck in his head and began driving him crazy. When I began looking forward to our trip to St. Augustine, it became much harder to suppress the song, so it has to come out in a blog post.

I wanna wake up in the morning where the orange blossoms grow...

Florida, I love you.

I feel a sense of belonging and familiarity in the Sunshine State that makes me feel alive, more fully myself. For one who has lived in five very different states, that means something. For most of my life I have felt a distinct sense of NOT belonging, being an outsider. In elementary school and junior high, I was one of a very few people in the entire school who was not bilingual. That combined with being a head taller and five shades lighter than everyone else made for difficult assimilation in Miami. Plus, I was socially awkward and a super dork.

In high school and college I felt like a foreigner in Pennsylvania. The small town in which I lived did not mean much to me. While I developed friendships in the area and of course met my husband there, Pennsylvania doesn't feel like home. It lacks that elusive sense of belonging, familiarity, affection, and comfort. Is it pretty? Yes. Do I love seeing my family there and being connected to people? Absolutely. Is it nice to go back and see familiar faces? Sure. But is it home for me? Meh.

Then there was a short stint in Alabama and now Missouri. I like all those places and have fond, fond memories of all of them. Each place I have lived has left an indelible mark on me and can boast eccentricities that give it a special place in my heart.

Pennsylvania has our families.

Mississippi is where I was born.

Alabama has my heritage.

Missouri is where we began our family.

But Florida. There is something about Florida that is so wonderful to me. It's not the beaches or the glitz and glam. It's the rough edges, the wildness, the less-than-lovely aspects of the state that I find so lovable. To me, Florida is not palm trees; it's mangroves and pine trees. It's the Southern tint to the state that one only sees upon turning one's back to the beach and walking inland. It's orange groves and Sonny's barbecue. Cuban crackers in the grocery store. These things and countless others make Florida so special to me.

Perhaps it's just nostalgia, an aching to go back to a time and place to which I cannot return. The strange thing is that I don't particularly want to live in Florida again. Despite my love for the Sunshine State, I love four seasons still more. I just love to visit and let it infiltrate my soul, filling me with reminders of my past and reassuring me that Florida is indeed a place where I belong.

We do not make it back to Florida nearly as often as I would like, but when we do, it's so comforting. In a time of life where so much seems uncertain, Florida brought a sense of peace. No matter how my life situation might change, being a Floridian will always be part of who I am.

October 15, 2010

Since I am Always Looking for New Ways to Control My World...

Lindon acted shocked this week when he heard me describe myself as "uptight."

"I knew you were uptight," he explained. "But I've never heard you say it. I didn't know you realized it."

Nice vote of confidence there, sweetie. Thanks.

The reality is I am pretty much a spazmo.* Try as I might to pretend and fancy I am easy going and free spirited, my neuroses always expose me as a fraud. I like things to be predictable, calm, orderly, and safe. I feel happy and secure when things are this way...until I realize that I have squished my husband and friends into Flat Stanleys that I can cart around in my purse and produce for photos whenever I choose.  

So one of the ways I have learned to cope with my ridiculous need for order, stability, and predictability (which, by the way, one does not come by in bucket-fulls when looking for jobs all over the country) is by creating lists. Lists ease my anxiety and clear my mind. They allow me to sleep at night and not spend time lying awake worrying about remembering all the things I want to get done on my days off. They help me keep track of important things.  In short, I love lists. At work I always have at least two lists running, and they keep me from forgetting something really, REALLY important. But it wasn't until recently that I began making lists of things outside the office (other than grocery lists, of which I have long been a fan). Now I have a book of lists, one where I can keep all of my running lists and admire them and occasionally cross things off of them!

And I also have a new way of indulging my new passion:


Of course, I will add this link to my list of favorite blogs and websites on the right. I am one happy spazmo.

*Has anyone else ever heard the word "spazmo"? I don't know if it's a real word or one my family made up years ago. Your input would be helpful.

October 13, 2010

Today was the Day

The weather was saucy this morning. As Ingrid Michaelson might say, "The sky looks pissed; the wind talks back."

The slate gray clouds made the fiery colors of the leaves really pop. When a gust of wind sent a flock of yellow leaves skittering across the street, something in my leapt. I longed to be outside, to walk the dog or ride my bike on such a day as today. The longing to be doing something other than commuting to work did not surprise me. What surprised me was the intensity of my longing to be part of that fall scene, to let the wind whip my hair and to kick up a gaggle of crunchy leaves. To wrap a scarf around my neck or actually wear a coat.

It was in that moment that my grieving the end of summer began to subside. It still pains me to think that the weather will only get colder. But I am warming to the idea of fall.

Today was the day when I said, "Fall, I am glad you are here."