october

the poetry of leaves and ashes

i could wax rhapsodic about fall for many many posts, but i will refrain. Only barely though.

so we bundle up in our sweaters, let the last warmth of summer settle into our bones, and prepare for the deep sleep of fall. the warm bed in the cold night, the skitter and play of leaves on streets and roofs, the blustery winds that drive us to seek comfort in homes redolent of spices. the lengthening dark of winter’s approach drives us to the mountains, to the orchards, to the fields, to save and preserve the final parts of summer’s bounty.

we walk down shadowed lanes, with leaves suddenly bursting with light, as if lit from within, light coursing through the branches of the trees we stand beneath. the flickering rays of sun enter our homes, our eyes, our hearts, turning all to brightness within, and we store the light in our hands. hands that flicker with speed over knitting needles, fabric, jars, bottles and pages of books, fluttering like the leaves from the one perfect tree illuminated by the setting sun.

in cold clear nights, we gather around fires, burning with the remains of summer’s light and warmth and water. we gather our friends to us, hoarding our moments together, preparing for the long cold of the coming nights in our homes. driven together, we set fires inside each other that outlast the ashes of wood and water. eyes across the fire meet, and our hearts burst with light.

this is the last, loveliest smile. the pause between the opposing agonies of summer and  winter. the old friend who settles in to tell stories of where he has been since last you met. the smell of ripe earth, honeysweet and bitter.

appreciative nods to william cullen bryant, carol bishop hipps, stephen king and rainer maria rilke for the final paragraph.

image from: Kelsey Garrity Riley

IMG_0140

7,972

that’s how many steps we took at the highland games today. maybe more, but my phone died right after the pipe and drum bands closed out the day, and we hadn’t walked back to the car yet.

zoë, spencer and i went to the stone mountain highland games today – the first time spencer and i had been in years, and zoë’s first time ever. we had fun, and tried to do all the things that a first timer should do – watch the caber toss, eat fish and chips, walk around and hold historic weaponry, and of course – the clan tents. spencer’s family is deeply deeply scottish on both sides, and so i think there were something like 12 tents he could claim as part of his heritage. he primarily discusses and reearches the macdonald and ferguson clans, in case you needed to know – his maternal and paternal lines respectively. 

7 1/2 hours of walking, sitting, eating, dancing, listening and seeing later, spencer and zoë are passed out, and i am actually uploading pictures. woo hoo! we didn’t get a chance to go to the top of stone mountain, but i think today was pretty full as it is.

it’s funny – this was the first time, in the 4 times we’ve gone to the games that is, that spencer and i could seriously enjoy ourselves. we had far less spending money than we’ve had in the past, and because we went down with friends, we didn’t get to dictate our schedule or where and when we stopped for dinner or left the house, etc. but we were marveling at the way anti-depressants and counseling has so seriously changed our marriage. i know i find ways to stick this into every post, but i really do feel amazed when i think about our life as it was, compared to how it is. comparing our first year of marriage to this year – we’ve got something like $25,000 less yearly income, higher bills and insurance, less vehicles, and more debt now. but we’re happy. which i guess i wanted to say, just as a reminder to folks, that your fiscal circumstances aren’t going to make your life better or more stable if you’re falling apart on the inside or in your relationships. but again, i stick that into everything. money don’t buy happiness.

money, however, would buy a lochaber axe, or a norwegian stuffed reindeer or a handmade kilt at the games. you know, in case you were in market for any of those things. zoe bought herself a wooden sword with allowance money, and promptly left it in the vehicle we carpooled in. she’ll have it back soon enough, and then the highland rampages can begin. at one point in the car ride back, zoë and her friend were arguing about which clan was better – ferguson or macgregor. we had to step in, and remind them that they probably fought the english together 300 years ago, and peace was restored. 

so yeah, that’s pretty much what’s been exciting in our life – laundry, schoolwork and watching the chickens grow don’t rate as highly on the meter. a side note though, we had a parent teacher conference last week, and i just have to say, zoë’s teacher is just wonderful. full of grace and understanding for the disorganized, smart, talkative, little sweetie we have, but unwilling to let her stay that way for the rest of the school year, and willing to work with her and us to help zoë cultivate the skills and methods necessary to becoming more organized and focused. just talking to her was uplifting, and it was very clear that she absolutely loves the kids in her classroom. just another reason we’re so thankful for zoë’s school.

so, the fall marches on. i’ve posted a bunch more pictures on flickr, in the album “fall 2014.” the other pictures were from a birthday party for the youngest child of very good friends. it was a sunny, perfectly blustery day in the park, and of course, the birthday boy was extremely unhappy the entire time. also, if you’re not following me on instagram or twitter, i can be found both places as @cakewife. there are always lots of quick snaps of pics and things going on, since i don’t always have the big camera on hand.

everybody needs their mr. keating…

so with the internet exploding with depression awareness posts and blogs and news, i wasn’t sure i wanted to throw my hat in the ring. i’ve already covered my own battles with the darkness, and my experience is not unique. there are so many people who have said it much better than i could, so i will let it be.

however, every time i think of robin williams, i think of dead poet’s society. and i think of my dad. i remember seeing dead poet’s society on vhs when we lived in chicago – i think i would have been 11 or 12. we all remember (those who have seen the movie) the iconic stand on the desk moment. but what resonates with me, even all these years later was the introduction to the power and beauty of the english language. my dad, who is one of the most brilliant people i know, has an intellect that is completely different than mine. he is methodical, logical, process and detail oriented, whereas i am flighty, big picture, easily distracted, and very very creative. but in spite of the very real differences in our interests, my dad found ways to introduce me to the passions i would carry into adulthood.

i watched dead poet’s society with him, and within the next 3 years or so, he bought me my first book of t.s. eliot poems. those two events may seem insignificant, but they laid the foundation for my eventual degree in english, my love of the written word, and my hope to pursue a master’s degree in modern poetry one day in the future. t.s. eliot became, and remains my favorite poet. i return to his four quartets several times a year, and without my father’s introduction to mr. eliot, my interest in modernist poetry may have taken much longer to develop.

he encouraged me to play viola, came to every concert he was able to, bought me books of poetry on out of town trips. took me and 2 friends back to chicago for my 16th birthday, just so i could see the museums and feel like such a grownup (when truthfully, i was so young.) he covers the private school tuition for zoë, since the school she would be attending is ranked 1 out of 10 on greatschools.org, and similarly ranked using other national school ranking sites. he’s lighting the way for her through his commitment to seeing her well educated, pursuing her own passions and dreams.

dad was my mr. keating. and still is, truth be told. is our relationship perfect? not by any stretch. but like any relationship of value, i’m working on it. I’m closing with one of my favorite passages from my favorite poem from my favorite poet. hahah. But there are lifetimes burning in my moments, in zoë’s  moments because of him. through the dark cold and empty desolation, there is still that light.

 

T.S. Eliot – excerpted fr0m East Coker, The Four Quartets

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

voices and voiceless and all the in betweens

i had a friend tell me recently that she missed my authorial voice. which surprised me, because i didn’t think i had one. a distinctive voice, that is. maybe in real life, where i can sing tenor fairly comfortably, but certainly not a written one.

but it got me thinking, thinking about why the blog lay silent so long, thinking about what i place value on when typing into this blank slate of ones and zeroes. i realized a couple of things.

one, that i still struggle with wanting to put on my best face, and present the most perfect me to the world. i’m still wrestling through the requirements of honesty in a world of masks, and there’s some concern there. we’re not perfect. the laundry doesn’t get done with any regularity, and spencer and i probably have tense discussions at inappropriate times. we’ve only recently started making sure the dishes are done every night, and zoë might get to eat cereal twice a day on the weekends. by her choice, of course, but even still, if it weren’t, and that’s all we could afford to feed her, who cares? she is loved, adored, and cared for, and we are doing the best we can.

i can’t pretend that i have somehow become super mom, or even a more rigorously scheduled, put-together woman with a career and a perfect house, because it’s not true. instead of coming to a realization that prozac didn’t change my most essential self, it’s been easier to just stay quiet. because of shame, and wanting to be perfect, and not being able to. and that’s what even led me down the road of needing to take antidepressants in the first place – the myth of perfectionism.

so i’m going to try to be a bit more honest – i don’t mop the floor but once every month or so. sure, we sweep, and vacuum, but mopping is not high on my radar. i make the bed about once a week. mostly on the weekends, because it is gratifying to take a nap on a made bed. we throw together last minute dinners most nights, because both spencer and i work. and he works somewhere between 50-60 hours a week, i work 40 and we’re just busy. i’m not a stay at home mom, and i’m not likely to be anytime in the future, and there was so much of a sense of failure over that fact, i went quiet. i currently have about 7 loads of dirty laundry to wash, and about 4 to hang and put away. again, necessary, but not high on my radar. i could have done it yesterday, but zoë and i went swimming after spencer went to kung fu training. the sorts of things that i am learning to embrace in the interest of self care. in the interest of not destroying myself with my own self imposed regulations that, while valuable, are not the most important.

the other thing i realized, is that my blog isn’t just about zoë. it’s about me. and spencer. and our dog, and the books i read, and the cakes i don’t make, and the chickens we keep, and the jobs we have, or don’t have and all the things that make us who we are. so if i feel like blogging about a book i read that i can’t get over (ie: annihilation – wow!) or something i am particularly concerned over (ie: world news in general), then it’s fine.

this isn’t just a method for disseminating information about zoë or pictures of the first day of school – this is a way or me to pour out on invisible paper the things that i used to journal. the flaws, failings, realness and rawness of being a person. having a voice, and allowing myself to speak. even if it’s trivial, even if it’s not big words in the face of genocide or persecution or depression or epidemics sweeping the world, they still have value. so there.

this was a missive to myself. to my feelings of doubt and failure. i needed to hear these things too. so there. authorial voice. and maybe you’ll hear from me again soon.

joining bloglovin, and claiming my blog

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/7023143/?claim=kqhaxuk7p5g”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

so yeah. there’s that. with the demise of google reader, we do what we have to. ignore the wonky formatting, i’m just copy/pasta-ing from their site.

life has been busier and more boring than it’s been in a while. life is boring without our sweet 6 year old to liven things up – she really does bring so much life into our life – our true zoë.

i’m still enjoying the heck out of my job, and i’m getting to finally cook out of my beloved ottolenghi cookbooks, and summer is not miserable (YAY!) and we’re going to athfest this weekend. one of my fave local bands, quiet hounds, is playing on one of the free stages, and i am beyond excited. ignore the crazy art on their splash page, the music is awesome! AND spencer is in town to go with me, so we will be ridiculous townies for a weekend. even though, i wish we could just settle into life with him, with her, with us, here. waiting is the hardest.

i’m trying to be patient, knowing that she is having so much fun with grammie and aunt mimi, but sometimes, it’s so hard to miss her for so long. and we’re only a month or so in. we still have another month to go, if she stays for every class and fun activity that they’ve signed her up for. it’s a fine balance, between longing for togetherness and knowing she’s enjoying every minute she’s there. we haven’t been able to skype/g-talk as much as i would like – there’s no internet at the friend’s house i am in, and so i haven’t seen her face in what seems like forever.

i’m getting maudlin, but i desperately try not to think about how much i miss her sweet face. and her joy and hugs, and incorrigible questions. it’s not as bad as it sounds, or if it is, i’m firmly in denial. she’s great, and we’re fine. mostly. :) very soon, this will be over, a moment in time that passes like a breath, and we’ll be together and settling into a healthy life as a family – not destroyed or distracted by depression or hopelessness. soon. soon.

i’ve got to get back to work, i snatched a few moments out of the work day, and it’s so busy. it’s the end of the fiscal year, so there are lots of loose ends being tied up. back to tying!

learning curve

i had about 1/2 of a post typed up. 9 days ago. since then, i have continued to get busier and busier, with today being my first moment to even remember the drafted post.

which i promptly scrapped, because wow. working and blogging is tough – everynight when i get home, i just want to cook dinner, watch river monsters on animal planet, and be in my pj’s. not on my laptop. so there’s that. couple that with the fact that zoë is visiting grammie’s house, and spencer is still in dahlonega and you’ll notice there’s not a lot to talk about.

i file reports, pay fed-ex, email people all day and drink copious amounts of coffee. i have lovely co-workers, an office (with a window!!) to myself and a sense of working autonomy that i did not anticipate. i think it is unusual these days, at least for those of us with humanities degrees AND no sweet programming/networking/IT skills to find positions where there are not micromanagers. perhaps i’m wrong… my experience has been one of less autonomy and more scrutiny in the work place. so to come into an office where everyone is treated as an adult, their opinions and ideas are valued and there is a less rigorous adherence to the letter of the law and more in terms of the spirit. don’t get me wrong, we work within very specific rules and regulations. but there are no rules on how to paper clip your files. or whether or not you can decorate your office. (more on that in the future, once all my prints arrive). and i’m even allowed to wear flip flops. WHAT?

so in terms of job satisfaction, i’m super happy. i accrue 3 weeks of vacation time a year. i have benefits, and i am getting paid a very decent administrative support salary. why am i going on and on about this? because it is so unexpectedly awesome. we had given up hope on moving back to athens – it just didn’t seem possible. it is incredibly difficult to get into staff positions at UGA, and i certainly did not expect to be here.

while i am busy, and certainly enjoying my downtime, i am looking forward to our family being reunited, and moving into a family home together. it will be a little time before that happens, and i will likely not be posting much as i re-enter the working world. there’s a lot of juggling that i have to do, that i have not done for a long time. i think it is really good for me though – i feel stretched and energized, taking on all these new things. and the best part about the job is that the learning curve doesn’t stop. i will master check requests, and travel and fed-ex and all of that, but there will likely always be something new to learn.

i’m going to get back to my lunch now – i’m enjoying a leisurely one hour lunch break these days, but cold food is no good.

luck be a lady…

so i’ve never really believed in luck. i mean, sure, i had my silly rituals as a kid – don’t step on the cracks, heads up pennies, fingers crossed – but i never really believed in it. so now, whenever i say things like – fingers crossed and wish me luck – in the back of my head, there’s a little voice that reminds me that i’m being foolish. there’s no such thing as luck.

i don’t know where fate falls into things, i’m not a strict calvinist, so i’ve had a hard time believing in my life being chosen for me. but i still have moments of nervousness – i don’t want to tempt fate. or really, God. because i have a hard time not attributing a capricious nature to the God i claim to follow. i know it’s not scriptural, and sometimes i truly believe in His goodness or faithfulness. but a lot of times, i have a Jonathan Edwards type view of God – i’m a sinner, and He’s angry. and though i know that sermon is really about the grace of God, my head tells me that grace is for someone else.

so what does this have to do with luck? the other day, i mentioned a possibility that i was excited about. i was hesitant to mention the details, because there was this fear that if i told everything too soon, then it wouldn’t work out. foolish, right? but somewhere in my heart, i was afraid. afraid that a capricious god would hear my hope and decide i was unworthy. afraid that a trickster god would fool me, afraid i was somehow unworthy of blessing. notice how the g is not capitalized? that’s because it was a god of my own making. fear of being unworthy. of not being enough.

and in answer to my fears, i was blessed beyond expectation. i applied for a job at my alma mater on monday of last week, after hearing about the job opening on sunday. by thursday i had an interview, and this week – monday, to be precise – i signed my name to the offer letter and sent it in. i have applied to many, many jobs at UGA over the past few months, and never even got an email response. let alone an interview. let alone a job offer. let alone a start date.

so now, we’re on precipice of moving back to a town that has felt like home for 4 years. this year away has been hard, illuminating, and absolutely necessary. i was seriously broken in so many ways, and spencer and i were in bad shape. depression wrecks a family, ruins their ability to be whole – cohesive – not shattered, and i certainly wasn’t present for zoë. so when this year started, i was not in a place to recognize the loss of job, house, and familiarity as a blessing. as grace. instead, there was a hint that perhaps God was angry at me for being so broken. that my depression was my fault and everything that happened afterwards was because i was a failure.

do you see where the fear of tempting fate comes from? the belief that every painful thing, every failing, every disappointment was my fault, because i was a failure. so if something good was going to happen, i better not screw it up. better keep my mouth shut. and not tell anyone, and certainly not tempt God.

and yet, i was offered a position anyway. we have an apartment tentatively lined up, anyway. zoë will be returning to her beloved school, anyway. that regardless of my ability, or my lack thereof, or the luck i don’t profess to believe in, i am taken care of. we’ll have health insurance again. spencer will finally get his debilitating back injury repaired (he’s looking at surgery, or at least intensive physical therapy, not even including the week he will be out with his dental surgeries – which is why i was interested in the position at all).

and more importantly, i think i might have learned something. that luck isn’t a lady, and fate is no longer a trickster, or three women spinning yarn and forever cutting it, or that grace is not reserved only for the damned. that once again, the god i feared showed me He is a God who loves me. even when i don’t believe that about Him. even when i fear Him.